A friend of mine messaged me on Facebook, asking if I had heard of a certain vocal coach on YouTube. I had seen him and looked at the videos. The vocal exercises are like SO many on YouTube including some of the ones in my warm-ups (i.e. bubbling.) But they all fall short to vocal building and I’ll tell you why.
When one decides to teach voice, they usually begin by teaching what they know from their own studies with a teacher. If they encounter issues with students who don’t progress they have two options: 1) treat the student as if they can’t follow your directions or 2) study to learn why there is an issue and work with different exercises to help that student progress.
Option two has always been my choice.
I also had a two-fold reason. I want to improve my own voice. I still perform and I want my students to fulfill their own performance dreams as well. This has taken me to…almost…the ends of the earth and learning every imaginable exercise used to help a voice.
Well, when I discovered Gary Catona’s Vocal Building, I realized something very profound. Bad teaching (knowingly or unknowingly) has made teachers have to bend over backward to fix issues that are ONLY created by bad teaching.
For instance, a student is asked to sing on a relaxed open AH. Since they have been taught to sing from their diaphragm, they do not focus on what their vocal cords are naturally meant to do and develop issues that tense their tongue causing the vocal folds not to close and thereby creating a breathy sound in their mid-range that creeps into their top range eventually cutting off all upper notes.
An exercise to counter this are
1) creaky hum sounds on each 5-4-3-2-1 note and
2) goog or gug on a 1-3-5-8-8-8-8-5-3-1. going into the mid-range/middle voice.
If a student was taught proper vocal building techniques with their vowels, they would not have that issue to begin with.
A HUGE bit of my time as a teacher is breaking bad habits. These habits stem from the teaching that WE (vocal performance majors) were taught would work.
Using the Vocal Building exercises, you naturally begin to align each vowel (you tongue position and vocal tract movement) to produce beautiful tone and the sustainability of that tone on any note.
One important teaching is having a student understand the difference between a natural open position (by enlarging and stretching the vocal tract) without pulling on the PCA (Posterior CricoArytenoid a.k.a. the “sniffing” muscle) which should NEVER be used while singing. I do not believe Catona even realizes that particular benefit.
Can a student use these exercises without a teacher, sure. Do I advice it? No. As with any technique, you will have questions and issues. Having a teacher guide you will help you work much more efficiently and you will improve faster.
Now, on the exercises that I posted from my teacher Bill Bauer. His exercises helped me and continue to do so, because they address issues students with formal training have when they want to sing styles other than classical and opera. It helps a classical singer feel the placement of singing like you talk. Now, if someone does not have those issues, these exercises help them as well, by lining up their consonant vowel combinations.
**Not everyone agrees with Mr. Catona’s method (even though is has been scientifically proven) and years ago I was initially very cautious, but I used it on my own voice and the change was dramatic! I NEVER use a new exercise method on a student until I have tried it myself for an extended time period.