Category: Questions From You

Category for all posts that use a user question as the title

ask the vocal coach

How do I encourage my team to use the resources I gave them?

Meggan leads her praise team at church and she has given them Vocal Coach CDs to work with. But she is having trouble getting them to do their homework! Believe me when I say I’ve been there.

Your Question

Hi. I recently purchased the complete vocal coach package. I am having trouble with my praise team at church… getting them to use it. Where is the best place to start? Are the vocal exercises intended to be done all of them in one go? Or should one select a few to use at the time? I guess I just need a game plan to get them excited and started using the program. At a loss. Thanks!

Answer

I think all of it at once can be overwhelming and that may be part of the problem right now. I’m curious about what makes up your team. The ages, skill levels, experience, etc may affect the following advice. But generally, it would be great to just use some of the Group Warm-ups from the Choir warm up or a favorite or two from the Warm-Up CD to start. Make it a part of the weekly routine and then slowly start integrating some of the others.

Breathing is a great one to help build stamina, control, and really challenge each other on making strides. Each week members could try to go a bit longer in breathing exercises than the past week. Members can begin to notice some gains in just a few session.

Tone would be a great one to introduce in a month or two. Also – since you have the Daily Workout you could opt to have members borrow a copy each week or buy their own and report back to the group anything they may have learned.

As a fellow worship leader I have found that it’s important to challenge the team and to give small goals and have some expectations. Once they start to hear improvements in their own voice and in the group, this will hopefully give them the motivation to dig deeper on their own. I applaud you in your effort. Let me know if you have any other questions.

p.s. We offer bulk discounts if you would like to buy copies of our CDs for you group members. Email contact@vocalcoach.com for more info.

Piano Teacher

Question From a Piano Teacher Starting to Teach Voice

Pamela is an experienced musician and teacher, but is new to teaching voice. She asked me for some advice as she embarks on this new venture. I am only to happy to help. Over the years, I actually have had many students who were teachers themselves. I guess that makes me a Vocal Coach’s Vocal Coach!

Your Question

I have a BME from years ago, with voice as my major instrument. I eventually went into a different field, but continued singing sporadically throughout the years. My voice has never been easy, as I have a rather big range but a significant “break” area that has been hard to manage. Most likely it is due to irregular practice habits. In any case, here I am at 56, back into choir singing and wanting to enjoy my voice. Additionally, as I have been a private piano teacher for years, I am now embarking on teaching voice. I have my first student this evening, an eleven year old girl. I would love some suggestions on how to start with her. Thank you!!

My Answer

Thanks so much for your questions. First, most people are able to smooth through the “significant break” issue you mention but it’s a process and takes some time. It also takes the right concepts and exercises. Otherwise you end up trying to trick, rather than train your voice. Our Complete Expanding Your Range is a very, very good tool for this.

Second, regarding your new voice student: After 50 years of teaching I have rather strong opinions regarding how to lay the foundations for a student—and it isn’t by having them just sing songs. Many piano teachers who also happen to teach voice don’t understand that and just end up being accompanists with a little coaching. I believe you absolutely must start with a fun, practical approach to posture (not the “pull your shoulders back” approach which is totally unnatural and unhelpful), breathing (not the “breathe from the stomach” which is a digestive organ) and tone. The most thorough, tested and fun approach to those areas are… no surprise… Vocal Coach CD’s. You can download the foundational series like Vocal Coach Singer or just a few like Breathing and Tone, and Expanding for yourself in a matter of minutes from our store. This is an inexpensive and proven way to train yourself and your students. I’m also available via email to answer teaching questions along the way.

And speaking of Coaching Coaches, I encourage all voice teachers to have regular tuneups with a good professional voice teacher. This can be someone local, or take advantage of our Online Vocal Training.

I really hope this helps and I applaud you on venturing into this new area!

Where should I begin?

Best Order for Training CDs

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge! You want to have a better voice, you are willing to do the work it takes, and now you have the tools and exercises to get there—but there is one thing holding you back—where should you begin?

This week’s question is about how to get started with our flagship product Vocal Coach Complete, which contains all of our adult training CDs (also available as a download) in one set. While I address this in the included intro CD, it is certainly worth reiterating. Just like with any athletic activity, learning the fundamentals and using them throughout your training is key. Without understanding how your body works you are likely to be building bad habits instead of good technique! Read on for the details…

Where should I begin?

Your Question

Hey Chris! After months of looking for a new vocal coach since we have moved back to DFW, I decided to go with the tried and true Chris Beaty CD method. I just re-purchased all of your workout CDs in the VC Complete product. I am looking for some advice on how to proceed with a regular workout that incorporates all of the workouts (Breathing, Tone, Diction, etc.) throughout the week in somewhat of a systematic method. Do you have any recommendations on how to approach a daily workout that uses the full compliment of workout CDs?

My Answer

Here’s what I suggest. Though all of our training tools are stand-alone products, there is an ideal order of flow based on how one technique builds on another and a certain natural priority of importance. For instance, breathing and posture is fundamental to everything; warming up is vital to any vocal session; having a big range is less important than having good tone etc.

Honestly, the specific times and sequence of your daily and weekly vocal workout sessions is less important than the establishing the proper fundamentals and maintaining them throughout. And, a workout regime can be a very personal thing that is best addressed in personal lessons. Review the list below and spend some time with each vocal area—being sure to grasp it before moving on to the next. Once any vocal area has been introduced, feel free to focus on that, but also continue to go back and use the previous exercises to make sure you are working on top of a strong foundation.

Here Is the Official Best Order for the Training Areas:

  1. Complete Breathing
  2. Complete Warm-Up
  3. Complete Tone
  4. Complete Expanding Your Range
  5. Complete Diction
  6. Complete Performance
  7. Daily Workouts
  8. Group/Choir Warm-Ups

I would stay with the exercises on Breathing and Warm-Up before launching right into Daily Workouts. It’s critically important to do every exercise correctly and efficiently rather than risking reinforcing bad habits. After a month or so you will be ready to launch into the Daily Workouts, but even then you should continue to revisit the earlier teaching sections of Breathing and Tone. You can also use the Group/Choir Warm-Ups as general warm-ups. They give you the added flexibility of jumping to different parts for variety and putting them in your comfortable octave so there’s no straining.

I hope this gives you some structure. PLEASE let me know as questions arise. Remember that keeping a log/journal of questions and observations is great for review and for your next vocal coach session!

Interview

Chris Beatty Interview with High Schooler Danni

I was recently approached by a fine young high school student named Danni who asked if I would be the interview subject for a class project. I did it gladly! And, I think there ended up being some information in the interview that I haven’t shared here in my blog. So, I thought I’d share it with you as well. I hope you learn something new. If you have any questions for me, let me know via the form on our blog.

Interview

Here Is the Interview:

First what is your name.

Christopher Beatty

What Is Your Job Title?

President of Vocal Coach LLC. Vocal teacher and coach.

What Is Your Job Description or What Do You Actually Do?

I have been training singers around the world for over 50 years, including all levels from award-winning professionals to beginners. I train singers, speakers, actors, voice actors (do voiceovers for commercials, movies). I also create curriculum and training materials that are used by all levels form homeschool to colleges. Hard copies and downloads have sold over 2,000,000 around the world. I regularly work with all ages from kindergarten to professional adult.

What Schooling or Training Did You Need for This Position?

At the least, formal training in vocal pedagogy (how to teach voice) and performance. Also, music theory, basic piano and some acting.

Where Did You Go to School? What Did You Study or What Was Your Major?

I was a voice major at Roosevelt University in Chicago, but much of my most valuable training came from working with exceptional classical and pop groups including the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera, recording studios in L.A., and singing all over the world doing contemporary music.

How Did You Get Interested in Your Career?

I was brought up in a musical home. My mother was a voice teacher and my uncle, Samuel Barber, one of the most-played American composers in history. He was a friend of President and Jackie Kennedy and showed me the power and influence music can have.

What Do You Like About Your Job?

Everything! I get to help people, young and old, discover their voices. I help them explore the possibilities of expression which will help them an communicators for a lifetime.

What Are Some Disadvantages About Your Job? What Would You Do if Anything, Differently About Your Career?

The challenge with being an independent entrepreneur is you are forging your own way. I did my training and then sort of made it up as I went along with lots of brilliant mentoring by those who knew more than me. With no business or marketing background my wife and I created a highly successful publishing and training company. We give all credit to God.

What Is the Average Starting Salary/Wage of Someone in Your Trade?

The starting salary of a voice coach is zero and hopefully goes up from there. I had no guarantees and worked other jobs for many years until it could stand on its own. It’s not an easy way for most people to make a living. You have to be “called” and inspired.

How Many Hours Per Week Does Your Job Require?

We traveled the world for 20 years, 10 months a year which took all our time. I was also writing and creating materials and composing music during this time. So, doing what I did took all my time, but it was with my wife so it was fun. A beginning, part-time teacher can do as little as a few hours a week.

What Is the Most Difficult Part of Your Job?

The biggest challenge, which is also the biggest blessing is that it all depends on me. I’m self-motivated, so that’s good, but there are times when I look at someone who just goes to work 9–5 then comes home and can forget it all and I envy them. But not enough to change anything.

What Advice Do You Have for Someone in a Similar Career?

Don’t let the commercial aspect of music override your primary job of making every singer the best they can be. It’s up to them to then use that as they want. Don’t push for “professional” as that can potentially take all the fun out of singing.

What Kind of Future Do You See for This Career?

There will always be a good future for gifted, inspirited and well-trained teachers and coaches. That doesn’t necessarily mean big buck, just lots of satisfaction. (You didn’t know I like to write so much, did you? Okay, here we go on the other questions:)

What Does Singing Do for You in the Aspect of Health?

Great question. Singing is very healthy in a number of ways. It feels good and allows expression of emotions. It promotes good, upright, aligned posture which is good for the entire body, excellent for sports and just for life. Singing exercises control breathing which is especially good as we age. Strong, efficient breathing muscles are life-giving. Finally, good singing promotes clear diction which often helps with clear speaking.

Can Anyone Sing or Is It Only Gifted People?

Anyone can sing, but not everyone has accurate pitch. An ear-brain-larynx connection is necessary to sing exactly the right pitch. The majority of people do this naturally, but some must work on ear-training exercises and still others never master it. It’ like fine art. Some people see something and can draw it. Others, like me, see something and better have a camera handy because drawing it just isn’t a gift.

Does It Take Practice to Become Good or Are You Automatically Great at It?

The voice is a physical, mechanical and acoustical instrument. Like sports, singing is a matter of muscle memory and right technique. Some do it somewhat naturally and easily and others need to work through every detail with skilled teachers and coaches. Again, just like sports.

What Was the Earliest Form of Singing?

Humans have always sung. Babies play with singing sounds from the very beginning and all toddlers make up songs. We were created to sing.

What Advice Would You Give for People That Want to Pursue in Singing for a Living?

Singing as a career is a multifaceted undertaking. A total preparation involves not only the obvious part, like singing, but also other aspects of music like music theory and basic keyboard or guitar skills so you are musically literate and can communicate with band members etc. Then, there’s the business part, and publishing and copyright law and marketing, touring and all the rest. There is a lot involved in a singing career, but it all comes down to two key elements: Inspiration and Preparation.

Question About a Cracking High Note

I recently got this question for a reader. I’m sure that all of us have dealt with voice cracking before. read on to see how I address this common vocal issue.

Your Question

How can I stop cracking when holding a high note? Sometimes I crack and sometimes I don’t. It’s frustrating.

My Answer

First, when the voice “cracks” it can be due to a number of factors. Here are just a few:

  1. Pushing too much air, more than is needed. This may be due to adrenaline or fear.
  2. Sticking the chin out and lifting the head causing an unnatural, inefficient position in the larynx.
  3. A range that is just too high for you to sing in for a long time.

Here’s what I do with my singers to try and overcome this situation:

  1. Lift your hands straight up over your head to find an aligned, efficient posture. Going up on your toes helps even more since if you get out of alignment you will start to fall over and automatically correct yourself.
  2. Make sure you are able to sing the high note on the lip trill (lip buzz). This lets you know it is at least potentially “there” for you. Not everyone is a high tenor. I’ve included a demo of the Lip Trill below.
  3. If you can actually sing the song, and especially the higher phrases on the lip trill, with good posture you are well on your way. If not, you need to work up to it by getting solid with your posture and breathing and understanding your tone.

Here’s an article with some good posture/breathing tips. Ten Steps to Better Breathing

And, here is an example of the Lip Trill exercise I mentioned above:

I hope this helps make you a smarter singer so you can be all you can be. Remember: The voice is a physical, mechanical and acoustical instrument. It also uses posture, breathing, acoustics, articulation and expression. There’s a lot to it. But, if you take it one step at a time your journey will be a great one. Please remember that all our training materials as well as our online training are geared to take you from where you are, to that next step.