This Is A Voice

Consonants, false vowels and "I have so much more space"

October 24, 2022 Jeremy Fisher and Dr Gillyanne Kayes Season 6 Episode 8
This Is A Voice
Consonants, false vowels and "I have so much more space"
Show Notes Transcript

Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher chat about putting their flagship vocal training course fully online for the first time, and describe the amazing content on each day of the course.

And this episode they focus on consonants and false vowels, with an incredibly simple vocal technique to create more resonating space for awkward consonants, allowing you to match resonance more easily while singing words

Discover why Jeremy says there isn't one way to breathe. And the thing you shouldn't do when practising breathing for singing (5.02)

Check out the process for vocal diagnosis that we've been using for years but have only this year shared with our teachers (8.48)

Why we think academia and singing teaching don't really mix (10.23)

Our definition of nasality (we created an entire DVD on voice techniques for nasality) and why it's confused with "forward tone"

And why the Creep Challenge in our episode on ventriloquism sparked an interest in false vowels (and how to make them easier)

They describe how the Pandemic was a positive influence on their teaching, and what it's like to work with a group of people from completely different backgrounds.

More instant vocal coaching from two of the best vocal trainers

The 5 Days to Better Singing Teaching course online, with all these voice techniques and a LOT more, is here

For more information on nasality check out the Vocal Process Learning Lounge - 16 years of vocal coaching resources (over 600 videos) for less than the price of one private singing lesson. Click and scroll down the page for the free previews

For real 1-1 attention on your own voice, book a voice coaching session in the singing studio with Jeremy or Gillyanne

If you want to discover if our singing teacher training programme works for YOU, message us - we can share the process for joining Cohort23.

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Hello and welcome to This Is A Voice, Season six, episode eight, the podcast where we get Vocal about voice. I'm Jeremy Fisher. And I'm Dr. Gillyanne Kayes. Okay, so today, we're talking we mentioned in episode seven, the 5 Days to Better Singing Teaching Course, and we want to sort of expand a bit on that because people have been asking us about it. I think the first thing I want us to talk about is why we decided to transfer our 5 Day Online Singing Teacher Training to a self-guided course. Why did we do that? This is because we've run this course for a couple of years. In fact, since the, the beginning of the pandemic. Yeah. Um, we run it live online. And what we found as people went back to work, as the pandemic, uh, situation started to change, started to die down, um, if it has died, then uh, what found was that people got more involved in the work that they were doing and they couldn't commit to two hours a day, five days in a row. And so we decided to put it online so that it, it is now a self-guided course. And the funny thing was then people said, But we miss the live with you. Mm-hmm. People want the face to face. It's really important. It is. And so we've done a bolt on that you can add on, which gives you, uh, live time with us. And you can talk about your voice or your singing teaching, or your students, or, you know, going through the course. If there are any questions for you, we've added that on as well. And there's another aspect, which is the community. I mean, what was so wonderful and very precious about, which is an odd thing to say, re the Pandemic, but it was very precious about those times that we were able to have, you know, with 20 people in the room, the zoom room, What, I dunno, we ran it five or six times, didn't we? More I think, yes. In the first 18 months was that sense of, uh, community and collegiality. Um, and people really felt very nurtured in that space, which was important. One of the things that I think we do really well is we get a group of disparate people together, group of people who have completely different backgrounds, but they all have the goal of being better singing teachers, of supporting their students more. Mm-hmm.. And what they find is that they're in a community where people are very positive and empowered and empowering, and it's a very powerful situation to be in where you suddenly find that you have colleagues and friends who support you. Mm-hmm. rather than the colleagues and friends who try and undermine you. I mean, I think plus you know what can happen when you have face to face and you've got a group of people is that if you know how to help them share their ideas, which is something that we are really very good at, then you learn from each. Yeah. And for that reason, with this course, because it is self-guided, we also set up, uh, a special platform on our circle, circle dot so community. Yeah. Which is wonderful. It's not Facebook. It's not like Facebook. You can do a lot more on it. And also we own it. Facebook doesn't own it. Yeah. Where everybody in, uh, in the group can go on and discuss and we guide the discussions. It's what we call, you know, curated peer learning. And they share the joys. Yeah. They ask the questions, we give them answers. I mean, there's a lot of discussion that goes on, which is really good. They upload videos of themselves trying things out. They ask questions about their, their students and their clients. And so you get that sort of additional experience, which we think is super important. And we want people to have that experience when they work with us, don't we? We don't want that okay just chucking the information that you off you go. No, no. I think it's as close as we can get to being in the room with them, without actually being in the room with them. So we thought what we do, there's a, there's very much a focus. Um, we get our focus on day four because day four has lots and lots of really interesting stuff. We talked last week about, um, consonants, and that is also part of day four, but in fact, day four contains a lot more stuff. Mm-hmm. What I thought I'd do to start with, if you haven't come across our 5 Days to Better Singing Teaching course, I'm just going to run through what each day covers. Oh, okay. Off you go. Very quickly. Okay. Day one, what Vocal exercises actually do. Because it's all very well having these lovely Vocal exercises that you give to everybody. But what do they actually do? You know? Do you have a belief about an exercise, which isn't really there? What's, what's the difference between an exercise and a test? That's a really interesting question. And exploration. And we have real life exercises, uh, real life examples from real singing teachers. Mm-hmm., uh, day two, how breathing works for singers. Breathing is such a big topic and, and I know I seem to remember recently somebody on Facebook going, I don't teach breathing to my singers, and I'm going mm-hmm?, Oh, yes, there was. I mean, it was very interesting. I think people got very engaged cuz um, I don't know if people have seen this, It's on the YouTube short and it's on Instagram. Right. Uh, which I called Why I teach Breathing for singing. And I talked about the factors that are involved. And then I noticed, um, a, a, a very, you know, nice colleague posted why I don't teach breathing. And I think we were in, in exactly the same place, but going from different angle. Um, what's so fascinating is, is, and I completely understand this because what's so fascinating is people go breathing. Breathing for singers, we must have breathing lessons. It's my breathing that's the problem. Everyone, we must do breathing, and I'm going, Don't do breathing without singing. Don't have breathing without phonating. Yeah. And also teaching it in a prescribed way can be problematic. So if you haven't seen that short, go and check it out. It's like, um, you know, this is THE way to breathe. Mm-hmm. As far as I'm concerned, there is never THE way to do anything, because everything that you do has to lead to the context that you're in. We talk about context a lot. So we in, in that, um, part of the course, we're banging on already. That's all right. Um, in that part of the course, uh, we guide you to the understanding of how the respiratory mechanism works and, and the different options. And then also get you to explore different ways of teaching your students how to manage patterns in breathing. Because in singing, It's all about patterns. It really is. Yeah. Breath management, timing patterns, how you control, breathing, all that. All of that stuff is coming in day two. Day three, how the Vocal folds work. Um, how they vibrate, what the vibration modes are. There are four different ones. Understanding Vocal registers, what they are, how you deal with them, how you can highlight them if you want to. Um, and we analyze industry performances. So we actually take the performances, the people who are out there doing it. We take their, their videos and we start to analyze what they do. So if you are someone who's always been bemused by the whole register conversation, and let's face it, it can be very contentious and maybe the head, chest, mix, middle thing. Mm-hmm. I think you'd find this day super useful. Mm-hmm.. , Day four, which we're gonna come to in a moment, is all about resonance. So we're talking resonance shapes, we're talking tongue positions, we're talking vowels and consonants, mapping your tongue positions, finding how vowels and consonants work on you, on your voice, in your throat, as it were. And then, uh, we've also got examples of an MRI video so you can actually see what the tongue, the soft palate is doing. I have to tell you, when people see what the soft palate does when you're doing different consonants, it is mind blowing. Love that bit. Yeah. There's lots of myths about the soft palate. Do we want to talk more about that or are we leaving it? In a moment. In a moment. Okay. Jeremy, can I just say to them, we're talking about day one, day two. You will not be sitting there for the whole day doing your self guided work. I mean, you can, if that's what you've done. You can if you want to. Roughly how long is each video? The whole of each day is two hours plus and everything is broken down into videos between I think 3 and 20 minutes. So you can drop in, drop out. Also, you don't need to complete everything in five days. The point is, we called it the 5 Day Course because that's what it was, and each day is distinct from the previous one. But if you want to spend a week doing day one, you absolutely can. Absolutely. And anyway, it's a snappy title, isn't it? Yeah, it's great. Um, and day five, your job, your lesson structure, the just one thing rule. So in day five we actually talk about lessons, how you build them, how you deal with them, the dealing with the student in the room, dealing with the person in front of you, communication skills, lesson plans, analyzing real lessons, and the brain dump method, which we have actually been doing for years, but we only really refined it last year. So we introduced the brain dump method for the first time, and you've missed out something super important, which is we actually walk our talk. Yes, we do. Which is we teach two students online. We do. And they're not our own students. We've never seen them. So, um, I think it's really interesting by the way, that is important because there's another level that you can get from this course, which is because we are teaching what we do, You see whether we do what we talk about. You know, you see whether it works for us or not. And so you see all of these things in process. There's a whole other level that you can go into. And I think the thing about the content of that day, day five is that, you know, you, you, you will have learned quite a lot of information. You will have also learned strategies by that point. That's assuming you do it in sequence, which you don't have to. I think you don't have to, you do not have to. You could reverse engineer and go straight in with day five and the masterclass if you wanted. It shows you application because information ain't worth much without application and without an understanding of how you apply it in your context as a teacher, which has got to include the student in the room. There is an enormous amount of information. I mean, quantum amounts of information, uh, out there on the internet, in, in, you know, out there in general. I mean, I'm frightened by it, let alone anybody else. I think the important thing is information is just technical or it's, um, theoretical, until you, yourself know how to apply it, you, yourself know what to do with it. And the thing is a, this is a very interesting thing and I'm so pleased that education in general is going in this direction. Because I'm reading just yesterday about the difference between, if you like, academia and, um, the, the sort of what used to be called in my, in my youth, what used to be called the technical colleges. Where you learnt to go and, I don't know, strip a car or do woodwork or, or, you know, become carpenters. They weren't as good as the grammar schools. That was the whole thing, is that the grammar school, if you like, was the whole academia route. And the thing about academia is that it is important. It is interesting. It's fascinating. Mm-hmm. But academia's purpose is not to make things practical. It doesn't really occur in academia. The whole point of academia is to get you to do more academia and to build theory. Yes. So what we're talking about here, there's, there's this nice term, isn't there? There's declarative knowledge. I know these things. And there's procedural knowledge. I know how to carry it out. And guess which one is the most useful to us as singing teachers. As teachers. Absolutely. Otherwise, what you do is you just share a whole lot of theory with your student and they go out of the room going, Wow, you know, so much. I have no idea what to do. And we've seen some lovely well meaning teachers who've worked very hard to gather that information. Absolutely. And then they, they give it to their students. Anyway. Um, I'm gonna climb down off my high horse and talk about day four because there's so much in day four that we wanna talk about. Um, tongue positions, vowels in particular. We talked about consonants last week and we talked about, uh, consonants and tongue twisters three sessions ago, three episodes ago. Um, let's talk about vowels. What's a vowel? Oh, Dr. Kayes's mind has gone blank. You know, you, you type it in. Let us know when, seriously, when you think about a vowel what is a vowel? What is a vowel? Mm-hmm.. What is a vowel? And how many do we have? And anybody who says five, Fails. But I mean, to be fair, you know, if you are working with a choir group, community choir group, and you talk about vowels um, in the uk, they will say, Oh, it's a e i o ooh. And not realize that A, you got three diphthongs in there to start with. I Oh, yes. I, I, yeah. And of course that happens with kids as well, although kids do learn phonics now, which I think helps. Yeah. So yes, I mean, Yeah, I'm not, I'm not gonna tell them. Or should we say no? Absolutely not. What's the difference between a vowel and a consonant? Go away and think about that. Absolutely not. In fact, I did tell you, um, in the previous episode. So what do we do on, I mean, you know, day four, day four is really interesting. The first thing we start with, because in a way it's one of the most important things for a singer, is nasality. Mm-hmm. You know, what is nasal? Cuz nasality is part of resonance. Mm-hmm. So what is nasality? And um, and people have such different opinions about this, you know, and, and the number of people that I've heard, um, listening to somebody singing, going, Oh, that's nasal. And I'm going, It's bright, it's thin. If you like thin, if you want it richer, darker, fine. But it isn't actually nasal because our definition of nasal is it comes down your nose and that means air coming down your nose and if the air is coming down your nose, it means that the soft palate is slightly dropped or fully dropped or partly dropped, and therefore there is literally air going into your nose and it's so easy to test. Mm-hmm., I mean, we did an entire DVD on Nasality in the soft palate. Yeah. And in Learning Lounge, I don't really want to keep back referring to other podcasts, but we did, when we came back from PEVOC, we talked about the newest research into Nasality. We did. I, you know, if you are interested to know what it is and isn't and what the new research is, then uh, go check it out. So fascinating. We'll put it in the show notes, which episode. Yeah. So what is it you want to say about this Jeremy? One of the things that we do on, on the, on the fourth day, on day four is to separate between the sound of nasality and the sound of forward tone. And if you have any form of classical training or are involved in the classical, um, solo world, opera world, chorus world, whatever, forward tone is a sort of big holy grail. You know, we need the tone to come forward. We need it to be dark and rich, but we also need to be forward. And ultimately, it's one of those phrases that everybody uses, but you go, what does it actually mean? You know, what does forward tone actually mean? So we do share that with you. Yeah. Um, and then we start talking about the tongue because one of the clues is that, um, it is the tongue mostly that makes the vowels, otherwise ventriloquism wouldn't work, would it? We demonstrated that beautifully last week in season six episode six. You wouldn't be able to make all the vowels um, without moving your lips, unless the tongue was the main player. Yeah. And that sometimes means for singers getting rid of tongue root tension. Yes. And that's something that is often misunderstood. You know, where is the tongue root? Mm-hmm., um, you know, is it at the back like you see on some diagrams or is it down here? Which is, is the, I'm putting my finger, my thumb under my chin. Everybody . Um, Which is the functional root of the tongue and understanding about that. And then starting to look at how the tongue helps shape the vowels. And we help you navigate through. A lot of people dread the vowel quadrilateral. They look at it and they go, Yeah, but what does that mean? Well, we show you how to place that alongside your mouth and understand, And it's an enormously helpful tool. It is actually, if you've never come across the vowel quadrilateral or the vowel box before, it's a phonetic thing. Yeah. It's, it's a phonetic language, uh, indicator if you like. And uh, it's basically if you think of a little square, but then you put the top line longer so it becomes a, It's not a parallelogram, it's a trapezoid. It's a trapezium. Yes. The vowel trapezium at sometimes Okay. On it are lines that tell you they sort of. I'm gonna say bisect the mouth, but it's more than that. They cut the mouth up into sections, uh, the mouth space, up into sections, and then it depends, and I'm gonna quote "where you put your vowel" where it goes on the chart or vice versa. And as singers, we often will experience that as placement. We will experience things as more forward and more back, which is actually mostly to do with the tongue position. And then we're also looking at, is the tongue close to the roof of the mouth or is it far away from the roof of the mouth? Do you know what's so interesting is that I do find in general that people have when they sing, people have a sort of tongue position that's like a default position. Mm-hmm.. Um, and it depends if they've had training, it depends if they've in, in whatever genre. It depends if they have have a good ear and they imitate people. Um, but you usually have a sort of default tongue position and that can work very well for the genres that you are in. But the moment you start to change genres or change styles, you may need to change that default tongue position. And it is absolutely fascinating when you do that. I think it can also depend on how your, um, you use your tongue in your habitual speech. Things like accents and dialects often have tongue positions that are part of that. And in some cases, when you move into singing a particular genre, you may need to change that. Do you know what I think is so fascinating is that everyone speaks in an accent. Yeah. There are no wrong vowels people. There are just the vowels that you use. The, when it becomes, this is a really interesting one, and we, we don't, we don't tend to use right and wrong that much because it, like, like I usually say it's contextual, but what we do say is appropriate and inappropriate. And what you can find is that the vowels that you, or the, Yeah, the vowel shapes and resonance shapes that you use in your speaking voice, in your ordinary, everyday speaking may not work for whatever genre that you are singing in. And I think it's really interesting, um, getting people, one of the exercises that we do is this reverse engineering where you get someone to sing in their usual genre, and then you get them to hold the resonating shape that they're, they're using and then speak as if it was normal and vice versa. It's so revealing. Yes, people, some, if you are not really very aware of what's going on, it can be quite tricky to work out what shapes you are holding and this is such a great exercise to discover what it is that you do when you sing or when you speak. So discovery. And we also show them the power of the bede booed bored bard sequence. Yes. Where you are surrounding the vowel with the same consonant each time, so you can really, um, just be working with the tongue. And that's very helpful as well, because usually when we're singing words, we will have a vowel in the middle of the syllable. Or sometimes it might be at the beginning, but we have a mix of vowels and consonants. So if we want to process that learning about tongue positions for vowels and how we feel the placement, we need to use words. Can I, um, hope that made sense? It did. Can, can I do a quick shout out for false vowels. Because we talk about false vowels in the breakout session that I do, um, on day four, uh, W, Y and R. So When, Yes, and Red. And uh, what was so interesting is that that completely, it's almost by accident. When we did the ventriloquism episode, which was season six episode six, three episodes away? Two episodes? Two two episodes away. Yeah. Season six, episode six. And one of the things that, um, we discovered when I was doing the ventriloquism version of Creep, I knew about the bees and the s because they are bilabial lips, both lips, and you can't move your lips. So they are known problems. But the first word I had to sing was when. And the thing about a w is it's also a bilabial consonant in that you need to move both lips, but they don't close. And so the difficulty with a w is that it can close down the, the exit, if you like, the, the front of the mouth. And when you are singing a w that closure becomes more obvious. It's much less obvious when you speak because it happens faster. Um, when you're singing, you often have to sustain something like that, at least for a bit. And so we talk about false vowels because they are classed as consonants, but because there's not a complete closure anywhere, you can replace them as a singer with a different vowel. And that makes them much easier to sing and much easier to sustain the pitch. The number of times I've heard singers do where, where, where, and they under pitch the w. They scoop, Yeah. Yeah. The scooping and sometimes in some styles scooping is fine and in some it isn't. Um, but they under pitch the W because of that closure. If you replace the W with a double O, ooh, when, Ooh, when it's much easier to pitch. It is also what I ended up doing as a ventriloquist because I could not move my lips., You might have heard people talk about semi vowels, and it's the same thing. It is the, the official word for these consonants, which we're describing within the context of also being vowels, is that they are approximants. Yeah. So the airflow isn't stopped, It's not fricating, um, it's not nasal, um, it's just the flow is being slightly changed. Yeah. Um, this is one of these pieces of information that you really need to try out for yourself. So if I said to you, Sing when, when, when, and replace the W with a o. When and when, when we still hear the word. But the double O is so much easier to sing, It's so much easier to pitch, and you get a very similar resonance to the vowel that you're gonna go onto. So the replacement for a w is a double o. Do Yes. And you or something like that. Yes. Yes. Now if I do a proper quotes proper w a. Correct. W you're doing a Y. Oh oh. Why? Correct. Y thank you. Yeah. Brain's gone already. Um, if I do a correct Y, actually the back of the tongue is very high. Ye it's almost touching the soft palate. Yes. And you hear that there's a sort of explosion onto the vowel because suddenly I've made that resonance space much bigger to drop onto the vowel. And my sense is that your gripping slightly holding onto that yeah. Absolutely. If I replace that Y with a double E or even a different vowel that I'll tell you about in a minute. Mm-hmm. Yes. Yes. You still hear the word yes. Mm-hmm. But my double E and the air vowel that I then go onto match much better. So I don't have a little sort of push explosion. I don't have that sense of tightness. It's much easier to pitch higher and they match so much better. And also it's to do with context again, isn't it? You know, because we know that word. If we're um, uh, an English language speaker, we're likely to process it still as a Y. Yes. Um, what about Hang on before we go on? Yeah. There is a, another possibility, which is actually the one I use. A double E, a proper double E really for me is too tight. And that's because I have quite a narrow dental arch, um, and quite a big tongue. So it's a problem to fit all of that in, especially on high notes. Especially on high notes. So what I end up with is almost the same tightness that I have on a proper Y, which is ye ye yes. I definitely do not wanna do that. There there dear. So one of the things that I do is I go to a sort of ih as in kit. I maneuver it a tiny bit. If I do you the difference with the word yes. The first one I'm gonna replace with an EE vowel, and the second one I'm gonna replace with a sort of slightly bright ih vowel, I think you'll hear the difference. Yes and yes. Yes. Now it probably still sounds like an EE vowel out there, but I am very definitely doing ih. It's warmer. I have so much more space. Mm. I have so much more space. It's so much easier. I have so much less back pressure because of the tightness of the tongue. Yeah. When I do an ih vowel I have all the space I need. Mm. Are we going to do the other one? R We gonna do like maybe red, red, uh, red. Red. Okay. If I do a proper R, Correct R There's actually a lot of tightness in the tongue. There's also something going on at the back as well. All of which again, interrupts the airflow in a way as a singer, you don't really want. Yeah. And we're not talking about tapping or trilling here. No. We're doing a kind of a more mainstream, um, British English red. Yeah, red. Uh, if I changed the R to an uh, red red, it's much, much easier to do again. So much easier to pitch, much easier to pitch higher. I don't have the feeling that something is tightening in there. I still get a very similar airflow between the consonant and the vowel I get a very similar resonating space. So much easier. Try it out. If you haven't come across this before, it will make such a difference to the way you sing. Mm-hmm., Just those three consonants. Go off and target those consonants in songs you're working on or songs you're teaching. Yeah. Or songs you're choir leading. And, uh, see what you've come up with. Yes. Good. Are we done? I think we're probably done actually. I think that was plenty! Yeah. If we, uh, if we have whetted your appetite in any way, we will put the link to the 5 Days to Better Singing Teaching in the show notes so that you can go check it out and drop us line if you've got any questions. Yes. So we will see you next time. Bye.