This Is A Voice

Coaching Austin Butler for Elvis & training teachers - Irene Bartlett returns

November 07, 2022 Jeremy Fisher and Dr Gillyanne Kayes Season 6 Episode 10
This Is A Voice
Coaching Austin Butler for Elvis & training teachers - Irene Bartlett returns
Show Notes Transcript

What does a movie musical vocal coach do?
Singer and pedagogue Irene Bartlett is back to chat with vocal trainers Gillyanne & Jeremy about coaching Austin Butler to sing Elvis in the latest movie, and how she works with singing teachers in the Pedagogy Programme at Griffith University in Brisbane.

What was the first thing Irene needed to do when meeting Austin (or any singer) for the first time? (3.00)
What is she listening for when working with professional singers? (6.53)
How do we know whether a singer has real tension or whether they're adding it "for effect"? (12.00)
How do you teach singing teachers to become BETTER singing teachers? We're all in agreement, but on what? Jeremy clarifies (22.40)
Why might "the 5 note scale" be a problematic exercise for singers? (24.00 and 25.40)

It’s an honest conversation between vocal trainers separated by 10,000 miles but together in spirit.

Baz Luhrmann's film Elvis with Austin Butler is here https://amzn.to/3E2pWFA

Liz Lerman's Critical Response Process book is here https://amzn.to/3t4Jti8

The 5 Days to Better Singing Teaching course online, with voice coaching techniques, vocal articulation exercises and a LOT more for the up-to-date singing teacher is here https://vocal-process-hub.teachable.com/p/5-days-to-better-singing-teaching

For the best self-guided learning 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
https://vocal-process-hub.teachable.com/p/the-vocal-technique-learning-lounge

For real 1-1 attention on your own voice, book a voice coaching session in the singing studio with Jeremy or Gillyanne
https://drgillyannekayesjeremyfisherinspirationsession.as.me/schedule.php

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

Sign up for the Vocal Process newsletter https://vocalprocess.co.uk/build-your-own-tilting-larynx/

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Irene:

I have to say Austin was amazing. He just was such a work ethic. Um, he really wanted to get this right. So I followed my instinct, my normal instincts. I didn't go, "This is a star and I've gotta get him to sing Elvis". I just went, I've gotta get him to sing efficiently and then I've gotta get him to sing in style, the style he wants and needs, and I have to analyze the style. So I was doing a lot of listening on my own, you know, What is Elvis doing there? What sort of tension is he bringing in?

Jeremy:

This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher. This is a voice. Hello and welcome to, This is A Voice, Season six, Episode

Gillyanne:

10. The podcast will be Get Vocal about voice. I'm Jeremy Fisher. And I'm Dr. Gillyanne Kayes.

Jeremy:

And she's back again. Yeah. We're back again with Dr Irene Bartlett. Hello Irene.

Gillyanne:

Thank you so much for coming back again because we felt we had so much more to talk about.

Irene:

Oh, it's a pleasure. Thank you for asking me.

Jeremy:

So we're gonna jump straight in with something that's only just been released.

Gillyanne:

Yes. Now we know that you are a very modest person, so don't hate us. This is from an article about You. Okay. About something that's recently been, um, released and coming to the news. "Since beginning her academic career at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University in 1996, Irene has been an ever present, if humble and largely hidden figure behind the careers of generations of talented singers."

Jeremy:

Now that comes from Griffith News, and that is about a job that you completed earlier, which is Vocal coach for Elvis, the movie. Do you wanna talk about that?

Gillyanne:

Yeah. Tell us a bit about it.

Irene:

Yeah, I can talk about it now, um, because it's been released and, um, and it's now okay to do that. It was just one of those things that, that popped up. I got a phone call from the, uh, principal musical director to say, you know, would I coach a star for a movie? Didn't tell me what it was all about it or anything. the bottom line was that, um, I ended up accepting the job and, um, I got permission from the university to let me do that, and I would go down there on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday as they needed me. So I,

Jeremy:

And what was the job I,

Irene:

you haven't told us? It turned out to be Elvis, the movie. Um, and I was the Vocal coach to Austin Butler, who's the fabulous star of the show.

Jeremy:

Great. And you basically had to work with him to find out how he was gonna take his voice and sing Elvis material as Elvis.

Gillyanne:

Yeah. That was something I was very impressed with in, in the article that you, you, you stated that you didn't want to clone the er, you know the Elvis sound. You did something. How did you work around that?

Jeremy:

Yeah.

Irene:

Well, so first of all, the very first meeting I said, I said to the musical director when he asked me about this, and I said, Yes, I'd be interested. I said, First thing, first, I need to meet with the singer and I need to make sure that he's comfortable with me and I'm comfortable to work with him because it's gotta be a two-way street here. Um, and I didn't know at that stage how long this was gonna go on for. Um, but basically, um, then once I got down to the studios and the brief was. You know, we, we, it's Elvis and we are covering everything. Like Elvis had a 22 year career.

Jeremy:

Mm-hmm.

Irene:

And, um, and his voice changed dramatically from the beginning to the end. Um, primarily, I mean, age is always a factor as we know, but, um, you know, with the, the settling of the larynx and the, The vocal factor, uh, the Vocal. I'm, I've a baby brain. I've been looking after babies all day. Excuse me, I'm with my grandchildren. Um, yeah, the Vocal FRA compliance, the Vocal tract compliance. I'll get this right. Um, and uh, yeah, basically with the Elvis, you also had the problem of later in, towards the end of his career, massive drug intake. So he was, he had damaged his body, let alone just his voice. So yeah, so, you know, we had that conversation early in the piece. Um, Austin was in his late twenties, and so he had a, you know, young larynx and, um, could already sing. But it never sung the sort of heavy material that Elvis does, so with the belting and everything. So it's male belting. So, um, yeah, I basically worked on, I said we'll start with the, the early stuff, whether Elvis was younger, and we work with that and, uh, we work with Austin's voice, see what his voice does on those songs, and then we'll Get his voice um, we could build the stamina and get the resilience in his voice, and then we'll put on the effects, the Elvis effects. So I was very fortunate in that I have to say I was part of a team, a fantastic team. Musical director was amazing and completely, um, supportive of anything that I did. And he sat on every session so that he could make sure that when I wasn't on, on set that the, um, that the exercises and that were still being done continuously. Although I have to say Austin was amazing. He just was such a work ethic. Um, he really wanted to get this right. Um, but they also had a speech voice coach and they also had a dialect coach. So there, there were a few of us working on his voice. But my job was to put all of their work with his accents and everything into his singing. Mm-hmm.

Gillyanne:

I mean, fantastic experience and obviously he was very lucky to have you and your ability really to collaborate with other disciplines and, and create it into a whole for that particular singer. And you've helped a lot of artists develop, haven't you? I, I know that.

Irene:

Yes. Um, so, but usually in that I like working in a team, so the Vocal idea of a vocology team, which we, we know is still quite American. Uh, not so much taken up in Australia or, or in England, although we do it without putting a label on it. Mm-hmm. So teams with speech pass ts, um, you know, physios all that for ages. And so this was nothing different for me. And, um, yeah, it was. I decided right from the beginning my job was to address what we said last time, function of the voice, and get that working, get his, get him happy with the own sound, accepting his own sound. And um, I have to say, Towards the end when we had to get some quick stuff going, I really did, um, connect him to his primal sounds, um, because I'd already done a lot of work on his breathing and that. So, you know, it sort of seemed to be the way to go and it worked.

Jeremy:

You talk a lot about the, the sort of style features that Elvis had and it's, I think it's really interesting that you were working with, as we do, you work with the singer in the room first? So you find out what that voice does, what, what that larynx is like, how it reacts, what you know. It's the whole business of the singer in front of you.

Gillyanne:

And checking the function.

Jeremy:

Yeah. Mm-hmm. . And then you start to add the style features. Talk to us about the style features.

Irene:

Well, first of all, can I just go back one step and say, What I tend to do with professionals is note the tensions. So, Cause there are always tensions with performers, they're on. And, and so I wanna, is this physical, is this in the larynx? Is it just a psychological mindset? You know, what, what, what tensions am I working with? Once I get that done, yeah. So once the voice is functioning and I believe it's functioning efficiently, so efficiency is the big thing for me, that this voice is working efficiently. And again, this harks back to the last time we spoke, um, because I grew up in a, in a big family and I was the youngest, um, my youngest brother, who's seven years older than me, was mad on Elvis. So I grew up hearing all of Elvis, and so when they put the repertoire in front of me, I went, Oh, yeah, I know that, I know what that sounds like. I, I know what that is. So basically, once the voice was working, then with the musical director, I just worked on the fine detail around how did Elvis make that sound? You know, because Elvis did use constriction. He did use tension, but he, this was an, an, you know, an amazing voice and he was able to switch it on and switch it off. And as we know, that is good singing when you're able to manipulate the larynx, but always be able to come back to a place of, I call it neutrality, where there's the voice has some downtime. So that was, that's how I worked on the style, was looking at each song because I'd go down, we'd work on a song, that he had to have ready, you know, to go into the studio and then take it on stage. Um, by the way, he did sing, um, about 15 of the songs. He sang all of Elvis's pre 1963, I think, um, for the whole thing. And then, they say very clearly on the, any interviews and in notes that basically, then they spliced Elvis's voice into whenever it got to a point where they needed that really heavy sound, especially later. So even in some of the later stuff, he starts the singing. But when it gets into the really heavy belting, they splice Elvis's voice in, and the musical director Elliot Wheeler did the most amazing job. And just a magician, you know? Um, so yeah, so that's, that's, that's how we went about it, basically function first, which is, so I followed my instinct, my normal instincts. I didn't go, "This is a star and I've gotta get him to sing Elvis". I just went, I've gotta get him to sing efficiently and then I've gotta get him to sing in style, the style he wants and needs, and I have to analyze the style. So I was doing a lot of listening on my own, you know, What is Elvis doing there? What sort of tension is he bringing in? You know, what sort of constriction do we need or what sort of release do we need? Because Elvis was using his Vocal tract in both a, um, the pharyngeal spaces were manipulated across those three areas. You know, the superior, middle and inferior constrictors. So there was a lot of manipulation going on, which we all do in all speech and singing, but it was specific to Elvis, so I had to find out what they were, and then I sort of helped him with that.

Jeremy:

I love this because basically we, again, we're on the same page. What you're talking about is the singer in the room, you're talking about the style that that singer, particular singer has, has to sing in. And you're also talking about context because that context in that film was absolutely specific and you had to work with that context. Love that.

Irene:

And with that voice. And have that voice, um, you know, last, the distance. Um, yes, because the young, a young man with a sterling career in front of him. And the last thing you know, I wanna do with any of my singers, I say to them, One gig is not worth ruining the rest of your career for, you know. So, um, as we had all those conversations upfront, even though he wanted to go gungho, like all singers, he wanted to get to the meat of it, I went, No, no, this is the way I work. Are you happy with this? You know, we're gonna. We're gonna do some voice building before we ever get into the style, but I'll always tell you how, I'll show you how to use the exercises within the context of the song, primarily without words at first, and then we'll lay words in on top of that. But, um, and then we'll get the emotional. So I tend, I know some teachers get, get good results. I'm not, I'm not criticizing, but I don't like to go for emotion first because I think it turns on too many, um, un uncontrollable tensions.

Jeremy:

Yes.

Irene:

Um, I can't, I can't tell them how to sob cry or whatever. However, once the voice is stabilized, then I can use those tools and go, How would you, how would you complain? How would. Wh how would you whine, you know, Um, but not just whinge, whine, sob. Because that's likely to undo something.

Gillyanne:

That is a very interesting perception, I think, about getting a sort of, it's a bit like, um, and I, you know, none of us in this room think that there's only one balance. Mm-mm. But it's a little bit like getting a, you know, a physical alignment, physical balance from which you can move into other positions.

Jeremy:

Well, this is essentially the neutral that we talk about, and we talked about it for years and it's not even, it's still a dynamic thing. I mean, what you're talking about is, is it's almost like you want to find that person's Vocal balance around this style before we put any of the features on it.

Irene:

That's a great way of saying it. Yeah.

Jeremy:

And there's, um, there was something also that you've said because you're listening for tensions that already exist. Which I love, love that. Haven't heard that before. Really like it. And that's actually what we do is we listen for is the tension that somebody is carrying appropriate for what they they need, can they switch it on and off? Which is massive, that, just that point at all. Can you switch that tension on and off if you can, then it's serving you. If you can't, you are serving it.

Irene:

Exactly.

Jeremy:

And we need to do something about it.

Irene:

Well there'll be consequences. And we all know that young voices are resilient. We've all been young. We all know what that's like and recover quickly. But you know. When you're working with professionals in the industry, music theater people, film people, whatever, you know, my gig singers, basically, I want them to have as long a career as they wanna have.

Gillyanne:

Mm-hmm.

Irene:

So I'm, you know, I try and teach them all the time to, um, to not need me. So I, like I was doing with him, I was giving, I was training him exactly same way I would train my three, four year, five year university students and only I didn't have that amount of time, but I, I, I avoided going off-piste and trying to create something, you know, for this particular thing. Cause he was a movie star and I went, No, no. He's a student standing in front of me. I will teach him the way I teach. I've got time. It wasn't, you know, it wasn't a three week fix. It was, I had weeks with him and then of course, Covid came, shut it all down. And then we started up again as soon as Covid lifted. And of course we had, we were pretty lucky in Queensland. It was, it was quite easy for us to open up again. Um, so, and um, yeah, so that's, that's what happened. And, uh, yeah, it was a very enjoyable experience. He, the crew was phenomenal. They, they were just, the whole team was just, everybody was interested in what everybody else was doing. So the voice specialist or the voice coach, um, came and sat in on lessons, just said, Would you mind if I watch what you're doing? And then I went to watch her work with him in a acting position where he then had to sing. So, you know, I could watch what she was doing and then build on that. So it was this lovely conversation between the two. All of us actually.

Jeremy:

Mm-hmm.

Gillyanne:

I mean that that's, I mean, it just sounds like an ideal model, doesn't it? When you are in that situation where you've got to coach the staff for a specific thing, that it's the collaborative work and also the patience, you know, saying, This will take time. Yes. Because it's not like doing a take, you know, it's not like we're gonna do a little micro thing on this note. It was a full run

Irene:

every time. Doesn't work. And it was a full visual run as well as say, um, it's the way Baz Lurhmann works. It's visual and voice. It's, it's, he doesn't like to cut and paste. It's, it's basically what it is, you know? And so, yeah, that was, it was, it was terrific. Anyway, that's, um, that was, that was that. But I said to people, people say, Oh, you really worked on Elvis? I, it's another job. You know, it was, it was what I do. It's what I've been doing all my life, basically. Well, not all my life, but I've been doing for the last 30 odd years. So, um, for me it was just a, it was very interesting to go into that world in a studio situation, because I had to be at the studios all the time when I was working with him.

Jeremy:

We're gonna bring you back to, um, the world that you normally inhabit, your day to day job. Um, we wanna talk about the pedagogy program that you run, because we have taught on it and both of us thought it was unique and brilliant.

Gillyanne:

Yeah. I mean, why did you do it and how did you go about setting up something like that? Tell us more about that.

Irene:

Okay, so I, I first started teaching into, there was a pedagogy course that was being run by, um, a wonderful classical teacher called Adele Nesbitt who's retired 10 years or more now. It was basically a classical voice course. It was part of the classical voice and, um, jazz voice sits under the jazz umbrella. I think I said that last time as well. Mm-hmm. Whereas classical voice is independent of classic orchestral music, you know, it's a separate entity. So anyway, um, what happened was, um, all of a sudden, um, Adele came to me and she said, Look, we are getting applicants who are contemporary singers. And at first it was two, you know, mostly it was still classical. There might be, you know, eight classicals and two contemporary. It was that sort of number. Um, and, um, she said, Would you come in and do a, a couple of lectures? So I started just by doing a couple of lectures in a trimester with everybody in the, in the space. Um, but it was interesting that, uh, another story, but the, some of the classical, um, kids as you know, I call 'em kids, students, um, the arrogance of youth, you know, they sort of said to one of my students about realizing she was one of my students, um, you know, why is, why is this pop person teaching us, you know? So that was truly, and my student came back and told me, so I made mention of it in the next lecture, which was, uh, and I have to say the credit to that, was a young man, he came up to me at the end of the second lecture and said, I have to apologize to you because I, I thought you were just a pop teacher. So that was interesting. Anyway, that's how it all started. Um, and then what happened? It's the times we live in more, more contemporary teachers. They were hungry. They were hungry for, you know, either to start teaching or you know, they'd been teaching from what they knew from being gig performers and wanted their background knowledge. Um, so we start and all of a sudden the balance started to shift. And so eventually Adele, I were team-teaching, because we had such a huge mix, and at first it was almost half and half, and then it started to tip towards contemporary, you know. Um, and so when Adele retired and she, you know, God bless her, she gave me notice that, that she was gonna be retiring. So I started to rewrite the program based on what she was teaching, there was nothing wrong with what she was teaching. The, her, her knowledge of anatomy and physiology was fantastic, but I was starting to gear it more towards how do we, um, reconcile style if we've got majorly different people, uh, singers in our, in our space.

Gillyanne:

Mm-hmm.

Irene:

And so, yeah, that's the first thing I didn't, I I was writing that while she was still in charge. And then when she retired, I became the head of pedagogy. So in that first year, it was sort of a wish and a prayer and I put, I threw everything I'd written into this program just to see. And, and luckily it worked. So because it could have been a disaster, but it wasn't. And, um, we're at the point now where we have, more than two, no more than three quarters of our students are contemporary based. I'm talking, sorry, with contemporary, music theater, which we said we'd call a separate genre, but they're singing all styles from rock through to jazz, music theater, um, everything in between. And then we've only got only ever in each year got, you know, maybe three, four classical, because last year we had 24 people enroll. So it's, it's in demand. Um, but the, the ratio has changed. So do you want me to go on with this? Because I say what happened then was the development was when I realized this was happening. Um, I didn't then want the classical students to feel the way the contemporary ones did originally. Mm-hmm. I was determined that wasn't gonna happen. So, um, so Ron Morris came on board then with me and um, in the first year basically. I said, This is the program I've written. And he said, Great. Looks fantastic. Um, and because he's a voice scientist as well, so the two of us just put the underlying program and took it away from one-to-one teaching type tuition because a lot of our people are already teachers. They know what they're doing. Yeah. Um, we don't want to teach to recreate the wheel or, or or put them off side because we're telling them that something they know is, is probably not right. You know? So we've got to, in another way, we went to it through voice science. So the first pro, the first course they do is anatomy and physiology of the voice. And that is mind blowing for a lot of them because they've, they've read, they've been to conferences and, you know, but to get that a whole trimester of, you know, really intense work. On. And the second, in our second trimester, that same unit, it's Ped one, Ped two, is acoustics. It's fully acoustics. And they learn to understand and be able to work on spectrograms and, and phonograms. And apart from just doing perceptual analysis, which we all do, um, they've gotta be able to do that as well. But we, we show them the science, the real science side, and they get very excited and they have to do a lot of research.

Gillyanne:

I think it's really important for people to hear this because one thing I was very aware of when we came was there was a very strong sense of inclusivity. I mean, you know, we came in and, and did, we did two pedagogy practicums, didn't we? The first years, the second years, and the way that people were able to discuss things and the way that you and Ron Morris also guided. So it's very much curated discussion, particularly the first years, um, in terms of what is that exercise for, how is it applied? Where, where does it come from? You know, the understanding of that. So there was never any sense that one genre was better than another.

Jeremy:

Mm-hmm.

Irene:

And that's what the main thing, um, the feedback we get, um, from the shoes that when they graduate, and it's every, just about every course someone writes, my mind is so open now that I, I just understand that we just all teach music. We all teach singing, and that one style is no better than the other. It's just what the student wants and needs. Um, and so basically, yeah. So the other thing that Ron and I can do, um, as a, as a duo so to speak, is, you know, he's fully classical I'm fully contemporary in terms of performance. we demonstrate if they ask us, Well, how does that work on a classical voice, that exercise, or how does that work? We can make the same exercise work on any voices. Yes, yes. We just adapt, adapt to, to octave of course, um, to, um, register whatever you wanna name it. But basically the lower register, the upper register, um, and, uh, yeah, so that works brilliantly because they get, we give, all of our students get one-on-one lessons in addition. So they don't just get the coursework, they get one-to-one lessons. So the idea is they go to the lectures, they gain this theoretical academic knowledge. Okay? Scientific knowledge. Um, in practicum they then put that into practice for. But in the meantime, they've, they have their one-on-one lesson as well where they have to be the student. So all of a sudden they, they step out of the role of the teacher and they have to know what it feels like to be the student in the room.

Jeremy:

I love that. You are, you are basically, you are hitting three targets, which is wonderful because you've got the knowledge gain, but the knowledge gain is simply intellectual understanding with no practical application. And I, um, feel very strongly about this, that people just gather facts like they're bricks and then try and build a, a house without a plan. Yeah. Um, the second thing is the, the pedagogy aspect, which is how you teach it to other people. And for me the difference between a singer and a teacher is that the singer is always working on their own voice and the teacher never works on their own voice. It's actually, they are always working with someone else's voice. And it's a completely different set of instructions.

Gillyanne:

And also a, a lot of teachers process, you know, their understanding via their own voice.

Jeremy:

Mm-hmm.

Gillyanne:

So, for example, one may not be a great belter, but if you understand how to approach that sound and what it feels like in your voice, then you have a much better chance of being able to help someone else do it. And you know, it's not just the theory that will help you

Irene:

Exactly. But I think that underlying the understanding of what you're asking from the instrument, even with basic exercises, I say to my teachers, my students, What are you asking someone to do when you ask them to warm up? What, what are you expecting them to be able to do muscularly, psychologically, um, their neurological processing? When you say sing a five note scale.

Jeremy:

Which five notes please?

Irene:

But it's easy. But it's easy. And I said, Well, actually it's not easy . No, it's not. Because you, you know, we have to, What a good teacher has to be able to do is to get rid of as much inference as possible. We have to know that when we are asking a student a question, they're receiving that question the way we mean it to be received. So you might have to ask a question three or four ways before you actually understand the way the student is, is processing that question.

Gillyanne:

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Irene:

We have a, in the third trimester, they do, um, internship. And, uh, one of the things I do is we, um, I was fortunate enough to do the critical response process. Um, um, and I did that in Finland, I, I was completely confronted myself. It was a week at Sibelius Academy at the retreat uh, so I now teach them, I take them through that whole process and say, you know, this is a process of listening, of knowing how to ask an open question rather than a closed question. So what I'm trying to say is we, there's so many ways to, so many ways to skin a cat, basically. And I love cats, so I shouldn't say that, but there's, there's so many ways of, of getting someone to under getting you sorry, yourself, to understand how they're receiving the information you're giving them. Yes. Otherwise, it remains information. Yes. It never gets used.

Gillyanne:

Yes, so the critical response process will put that in the notes, and I think there are a couple of YouTube videos about it, aren't they?

Jeremy:

There's something I want to pick up on, which I think is really interesting, which is what you are talking about is your own hidden beliefs and your own hidden understandings that you don't even know they're hidden, so you don't even know they're there. Yeah. And so when you ask a question or, I mean, my favorite one is sing a five note scale. Yeah. And I'm going as a classical singer, the five note scale is absolutely embedded in your training. But as a pop singer, age 16, Yeah. Which five notes would you like me to sing? It's not even a pattern that I recognize.

Irene:

Five notes from a pentatonic? You know, because that's what, they don't know that, but that's what they're hearing, you know? Yes. Or is it a diatonic scale or whatever. But, so yes, straightaway, Jeremy, you, you've hit the as you always do, hit the nail on the head. Um, you know, the, they can be thinking any of those things and. Even if you play the single notes on the piano and you say, I want you to sing this diatonic five note descending scale. Um, then I say to the first thing I say to my singers when they've sung through I go, was that all in pitch? And they stop and look at you as if no, I said, You know, did every note was, every note you sang was, was every note in pitch? And they'll go, Oh. Maybe the third wasn't, and I go, No, you're right. The third wasn't. So should we do it again? Because every time you practice that wrong note because you think it's an easy scale that is going to become, you know, processed and and endemic to what you do when you sing, every time you hear that note, you might sing it sharp or slightly flat, you know or something. So it's just, yeah, Five note scale is. I start with 'em all the time. I go, You've gotta nail these first before you do the grand opera scale. I'm sorry.

Gillyanne:

I think that's very interesting because, um, as you've said, you know, the five notes scale, the up and down or just the down, It's absolutely ubiquitous. And I mean, with our, um, you know, our Five Days To Better Singing Teaching, that's the first thing we do on that course. We ask the participants to share an exercise and they teach an exercise to someone else. They don't tell them what the exercise is for. They just walk them through it. And then we get together afterwards and we say, Okay, what was your experience of that exercise? What do we think it was for? And it's amazing, absolutely amazing what people think it's for, and the kind of the words they come out with in absolute good faith. Um, you know,

Irene:

they have, they formed their own inference from very straight what you think is a very straightforward direction. And that's, And you know what, I think that's the exciting thing about teaching people. We're not teaching machines and, you know, and just finding that way through and going, you know what, they understand me now. They understand what I'm asking from them. But first of all, they've gotta understand they've got not to be, uh, not to be affronted by me asking them to do maybe a three notes scale. Mm-hmm. But I wanna hear those three notes backwards and forwards in pitch. I think I said this last time. With the more advanced singers and these, um, pedagogy people are, um, basically acapella. I say they all wanna run over to the piano. And I go, I'm sorry, where is your instrument? Why you, why do you need that? Why do you need that manmade thing? When you are dealing with the most amazing instrument that no one can replicate, scientists cannot replicate. They can blow in as many tubes as they like and you know, through pigs' larynxes and whatever, but they never can quite get the sound of a human producing sung or spoken speech, uh, spoken sound. So sing, sing, acapella, get, be reliant on your own ear, and, and then go to the piano to, to check. Check in. Yes, absolutely. But don't rely on it.

Jeremy:

So I mean even

Gillyanne:

that's very interesting.

Jeremy:

Even that is so interesting because, um, pitch is contextual again. Context is everything. Um, pitch is contextual. So if you sing and you're singing your three notes and you're in tune and you go to the piano, you're then tuning to piano pitch, which is not orchestra pitch, which is not band pitch, which is not guitar pitch.

Irene:

And who knows if that particular piano is actually even in tune, right? I mean, if there's a keyboard, it's more likely to be one would think. But who knows, You know, who knows who's bashed on it last, especially in a university situation. But, you know, pianos go out of pitch, go out of tune so fast because students are banging on them and playing on them, and, and they're being left open and, you know, the air con gets them. And so I say, No, no, you, this is, this is. This is your best tool.

Jeremy:

And even, even then, um, you look at classical coral tuning and you look at barbershop tuning and they are so different. Yes, absolutely. As we in fact found out, one, one workshop we did, we had a hundred people in the room and 50 of them were classical and 50 of them were Barbershoppers and the tuning was all over the place.

Gillyanne:

We got them all to sing together and it was, it was very, very interesting.

Irene:

You should have, actually, Jeremy, I never know you to miss an opportunity. There was new music in front of you. This was contemporary. Whatever it was. Classical, I dunno.

Gillyanne:

Fusion.

Irene:

There you go, Yes fusion pitch. Um,

Gillyanne:

Irene, there's one thing I I want to draw out of you because I sat in on some of your lessons at the con. Thank you for that. You actually ask two students to do lesson observation while you give a lesson to a third student. and then they go off and discuss together. Tell us about that, because I think that's a really powerful process.

Irene:

Look, this comes a bit from my own, well a lot from my own experience when I told you, when I started to really look at, you know, trying to understand voice science and really, apart from, you know, in real with real people rather than out of a book. Plenty of books out there, but basically, um, The way I learned fastest and was able to make educated arguments in my own head about what I was seeing and not just taking it on as, Oh, that's a professional, they must know what they're doing, but rather questioning, um, was to observe. And the more people I observe, the more confident I became in my ability to assess what was going on. So I, that's something I did write into the program so that, um, they basically, I think they might three, you know, we, according to how strong the student is that's being taught. Because they have to, by the way, they have to agree to have people sit in, but they become part of this cohort and they know that if they let people sit in on theirs, they can sit in on theirs. There's a, you know, there's this quid pro quo going on. And so, um, so, you know, not in the first couple of weeks we, we settle them in. But then after that I say, Look, your prerogative to say no, but then don't expect somebody else to allow you to do this either. Um, so yeah. I remember when you were there, there were a couple, but they could be up to four people sitting in. And the idea is that the, the group taking notes the whole time, I tell them to be critical. And critical thinking is not critiquing someone. They're certainly not critiquing the student. If anyone, they'll be critiquing the teacher, which is me and I'm, I'm, you know, I've been around a long time. I'm happy to discuss anything they don't agree with, not in front of the student, but with me on my own later. But I asked them to go away and talk to each other. Go have a cup of coffee now and unpack what you saw and you know, you all took notes. Compare notes. See if you picked up on the same things. See if you disagree about certain things, and all of a sudden they get very excited about that because all of a sudden they're, it's no, there's no rote teaching. It's all about understanding and knowing that they can question. A lot of them have come through conservatoire training, and especially if they're classical singers where they were never allowed to question. Whatever, you know, the master said was, had to be, right. Yeah?

Gillyanne:

Mm-hmm.

Irene:

And, um, and so I wanted to undo that master apprentice, uh, thing to a point, you know, obviously you've gotta have, um, to deliver the sort of in depth information that we given the program. There's gotta be some, um, discipline in the way we manage the way the students

Gillyanne:

guidance

Irene:

interact, and the guidance. I say to my students, by the time you get into third by sometimes it's second trimester, we're actually mentoring you.

Gillyanne:

Mm-hmm.

Irene:

It's mentorship because you, you know, you come here, you bring with you so much background as a performer and or a teacher, or you might be a performer who's just starting to teach. Or you might be a teacher who's just actually not done a lot of performance. So we can all learn from each other and Yes. So that what you saw is very common. Um, let's say it's got to be the student who's being taught has to agree. And they can actually say, Look, I'd really like a. On my own today. And it's usually cause they're a bit fragile about something. But, and then we just, and everybody's fine with that. They Oh fine. Okay. Can we come another day? Yes.

Gillyanne:

Mm-hmm. Very powerful process.

Jeremy:

I think what's really interesting about this is, is, um, one of the phrases that you just said, and you sort of threw it away, but it's so important, is that people come with their own background. Mm. They come with their own level of skills. They come with their information, they come with their knowledge already. And the thing that you don't do is on the first day, you don't say everything that you've just learned is nonsense. We're going to instill you. You know, or, or you don't do that.

Gillyanne:

You don't, you don't rip up the book. You say, Great, so you're coming from a particular place, and then you can help them reframe if necessary. We think the reframing things the same as you, that. If you're teaching already, you've got skills, you've got skills, you're already good at what you do.

Jeremy:

The reframing is important because, um, and it's exactly what we've been talking about, which is you are uncovering beliefs that you have and checking out whether they're actually going to serve you in the future.

Irene:

Yeah. Yes. That's beautifully said again, Jeremy. Um, cause I just think that, um, it's not my place to tell anyone that what, that somebody else is teaching. When I know myself, sometimes students will go out and do their thing and they'll say, Irene Bartlett taught me to do this. And I went, Well, I never taught you to do that. You know, I know that I didn't, because I would never do that. Um, so I'm, I'm very, you know, to my colleagues, I don't ever wanna say, Oh, that teacher teaches really badly. I'll go if anything, possibly the message that they were trying to give the student didn't quite hit the spot. You know, it was misinterpreted. Um, and that can happen. That's okay. I asked them whether they've had classical or contemporary or music theater, always said three, um, training where it's their principal training been. So I know that's when I listen to their singing, if they're, you know, if they're very CT dominant, cricothyroid dominant, that's more likely to be a classical underpinning even. And I said, Do you know what, I don't ask teacher's name. I say, Do you know what your teacher's training background was? Mm, Oh well she was a great opera performer. That says it to me straightaway. That's fine. Um, or you know, or you know, they, they get loads of gigs. So I went to them because I wanna get gigs, you know, and I go, and then somebody will say, Well, I know that my teacher went to a lot of conferences. So you can sort of, without asking personal questions, you can get that. And then basically I listen to them sing and I go, Yes, I can see where the work's been done here and where it's either hit or it's missed, um, or where you didn't understand. And so it's my job then to take you back to those things. So let's, let alone what's working for now.

Jeremy:

Mm-hmm!

Irene:

Let's not do anything with that. And let's, let's work on the things that are missing and then we can gradually put the, the jigsaw puzzle back together again. But without criticizing anyone, certainly not criticizing the student. It's not their job to make sure they understand everything that you've said to them. It's your job to make sure they've understood. Yes. That's my, yes, my philosophy. Mm-hmm. . Jeremy: Um, this has been amazing. Um, it's been so interesting listening to you describe the process of setting up and the process that you go through with the teaching. Loving it. And we have to stop. I think. Yes. Yeah. That's, that's felt like it's been really short! I mean, I'm glad you're happy.

Gillyanne:

Feels like there's a nice full stop there.

Jeremy:

Yeah. So thank you very much Irene. Thank for talking to us and we will talk to you again.

Irene:

Thanks for having me back.

Jeremy:

Bye. This is a Voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher. This is a Voice.