What I Offer
I am a teacher of singing, speech, and a voice therapist. As a teacher of singing, I teach all styles of music. No matter what the style, if you wish to sing healthily, there is only one way to sing. The particular style you wish to sing is then built on top of that healthy foundation.
As a voice therapist, I work with people from all walks of life: performers of all types, teachers, lawyers, ministers, etc. who are referred by otolaryngologists, speech therapists, or colleagues. They have abused or misused their voices to the point where they have developed conditions such as throat fatigue and/or pain, chronic laryngitis, vocal fold nodules, vocal fold polyps, bowed vocal folds, and less common disorders.
Sometimes the line between therapy and pedagogy (that is, voice technique) is quite blurry. Simply put, the techniques that are used to rehabilitate an unhealthy voice are identical to the techniques used to develop a voice that is healthy.
The most important things I can give you are
1) A general knowledge of how the voice—anyones voice—works.
2) A specific, in-depth knowledge of how your voice works, so that when something doesn't feel right, whether you're practicing or you're onstage, you know the right questions to ask yourself in order to troubleshoot your problem(s).
The Technique I Use
I teach what many people call The McClosky Technique. The technique is not dramatically different from the approach that many voice teachers use (the days of truly wacky voice methods seem to be long gone, thanks to scientific research). The primary difference lies in the fact that the basics of the technique are outlined as a very simple set of actions to do and muscle groups to concentrate on. You, the student, are constantly focused on those actions and muscle groups. You learn to develop and use certain muscles and to relax other muscle groups.
You learn that breathing (called "breath support" or " breath flow") is the most important aspect of healthy singing. More specifically:
Diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing
The importance of rib cage steadiness in breathing.
The importance of proper body alignment and how it affects breathing
Of almost equal importance is throat relaxation. You learn to identify and then release tension in the various muscles surrounding the larynx. In the McClosky Technique, these are called The Six Areas of Relaxation. They are:
The facial muscles
The supra-hyoid muscles (the swallowing muscles between your jaw bone and your larynx)
The muscles surrounding your larynx
The neck and shoulder muscles
By relaxing these muscle groups, you allow the voice more freedom and flexibility. It is not enough to tell a person to just relax when they sing. Each of us has a different concept of relaxation, which may or may not be adequate for free-flowing singing. You progress more quickly when you have a specific set of guidelines—a checklist—to follow.
The approach is very simple, very straightforward. If you sense a problem with your singing or speaking, it can be traced to either of the above two areas: breathing/posture or extrinsic muscle relaxation. Most students soon realize that, more often than not, their problems relate to breath support.
There are other technical aspects that are important for women who wish to sing in chest, belt, or belt-mix voices. But believe it or not, the above represents about three quarters of the technique that you would be learning.
What You Will Learn, and When
For most students with healthy voices, lessons follow a standard pattern.
Lesson #1: We meet and chat for a few minutes. Then I listen to you sing a few simple exercisesmaybe a song to get a general sense of how you sing and where your problems may lie. Then we experiment with the six areas of relaxation while you make some gentle sighing and singing sounds. This is to make you aware of areas of habitual tension on which we will be focusing.
Lesson #2: Review of relaxation techniques and then lots of work on breathing and posture. Introduction of two or three singing exercises. Discussion of basic practice techniques and patterns.
Lesson #3: We begin to follow the normal pattern of voice lessons. We start with singing exercises and then move on to a song. Assuming you are progressing well, your first song would be an easy, middle range, ballad-like song; nothing too intense or taxing. In short, a song that allows you to focus on your breathing and relaxation.
In subsequent lessons, we choose more difficult songs as we see your abilities improve; songs that present challenges but not stumbling blocks!
Our goal for the first few months is not interpretation (that is, making songs into beautiful finished products), but to use the songs as vehicles for developing good singing technique.
Enhancing the Healthy Speaking Voice; Rehabilitating the Damaged Speaking Voice
I will assume that you are interested in improving your speaking voice for one or more of the following reasons:
Your voice lacks power and projection.
Your throat tires quickly and hurts after speaking for a while.
Your voice sounds thin and weak.
Your voice sounds nasal or harsh.
Your voice becomes progressively huskier as the day passes.
You have chronic laryngitis or a more serious clinical condition (nodules, polyps).
People can't understand you and tell you that you mumble.
You speak too fast.
Your speech sounds boring and monotonic and you want to develop a more expressive speaking style.
Even though you are primarily interested in the speaking voice, the techniques that you need to learn are virtually identical to those that a singing student learns. So I encourage you to peruse the various singing-related topics. You will find much that pertains to you.
For both healthy singing and speech, the ideal is to let the sound out rather than forcing or making the sound come out. In order for this to happen, we follow the same basic approach that a singer uses: throat relaxation and, most importantly, proper breath flow ("breath support" is the term used in singing and speech).
Though your focus is speech, the quickest way for you to produce a healthy, dynamic speaking voice is to learn a little about singing. Now, many people react to my saying this with, "Oh, Ive never been able to sing! I wouldn't know what to do." But I guarantee you that if you can recognize a song when you hear it without the words, then you are NOT tone-deaf and you CAN sing!
Our goal is not to make you an accomplished singer, but to take simple techniques that you learn through singing and apply them to your speech. For most people, the transition from beginning singing exercises to speech happens within a month to six weeks. But we still incorporate a few singing exercises into most lessons, even after transitioning to speech work.
We then move on to work with exerpts from a variety of sources: exerpts from books and newspapers, monologues from plays, poetry, selections from pre-existing speeches, or speeches which you have given or will give in the future.
Your speech habits are just about the most automatic habits you posess. Not only that, each of us has a different degree of awareness of our speech habits and an unknown potential for further developing that awareness. For many people, change does not come easily. It's one thing to know what youre supposed to do; it's another thing to do it!
The process involves consistent practice, getting you to the point where you can do the right things in controlled situations. Then you incorporate those newly learned techniques, a few at a time, into your everyday conversation. In the truest sense, every time you open your mouth to say something, you are practicing.
As with singing study, no one can predict how long the process will take. Unfortunately, there are no quick tricks. You should anticipate on spending at least four to six months at the process—quite possibly longer—before you can reasonably expect to see changes in your spontaneous speech.
I don't say all this to discourage you, but to make you aware that new speech techniques, while easy to understand, take time to absorb and become automatic. And the chances are, even after you are functioning well, you will have to monitor yourself on a somewhat regular schedule for the rest of your life, if you expect to retain what you have learned.
I advise you to ponder how important—really important—it is for you to change your speech habits.
1) Are you just vaguely unhappy with your voice? If so, from my experience, its doubtful that you will be motivated to practice enough to make a long-term difference in your speech.
2) Does your job truly depend on having a well-produced voice for presentation purposes, or speaking for hours a day without your voice giving out? If so, then you may posess the needed motivation to change.