My voice is always under construction

20130828_140159Included in my bucket list for this year is to enroll in Philippine Opera Company. I took voice lessons last July.  See I told you, there is power in making a bucket list.   I wanted to sing opera. Because I did not have much background in classical singing, I thought learning  from an institution for opera would be a good idea. Here are some of  little things I learn in voice lessons that have practical value.

It’s so difficult to breathe

Breathing is what we do most but it’s not an activity that all of us have mastered. When you are learning how to sing properly, that’s the only time you become conscious on how you breathe. It is difficult for me to learn how and when to breathe but it’s easy for me to learn how to stop breathing. I just look at the person I don’t like then I stop breathing (LoL)

Walking helps you relaxed while singing

If you are too tense in singing like me, you should walk, and do some movements to distract you from thinking too much on how to produce the right sound.

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There is an inner ear

I knew I had an inner voice, inner self, inner goddess but that was the first time I heard I had an inner ear. Sometimes when you try to listen on how you sound, you think that it does not sound  good enough but it can be your inner ear discouraging you. Hence, if you want to learn how you sound, you really have to have someone who can listen to your voice.

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There are so many things that happen in your mouth and in your body when you sing.

Who says singing is easy? It is not as easy as it sounds.

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Grunting is positive

It gives you support in singing

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Be grounded.

By pointing your fingers down while singing, it reminds you to use your entire body and to get some support.

Music knows no age. 

Jackie Evancho and Charlotte Church makes me feel embarrassed because I am only learning how to sing opera in my adulthood. But according to my voice teacher, it’s not recommendable to let kids sing classical or make them sound like Sarah Brightman. It can destroy your voice later in life. Anyway, my teacher is three years younger than me. Sometimes you learn more from those who are younger than you (#truestory) It’s never too late to learn something new.

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Your voice is unique.

opera1We often think that imitating your favorite singer’s voice is a measurement of a great voice. While I was rehearsing some classical songs, I listened and watched performances in Youtube and I ended up frustrated. I just couldn’t sound like one of them. I had a thin voice and it was different from how my teacher sounded. She had a thick and rich voice while mine was small. But she said the thinness of my voice is a distinctive quality of my voice. I have to love my voice and accept all its flaws and learn its advantages. By imitating, my voice sounded unnatural. By being true to my voice, I felt lighter and at ease.

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Note:  All photos are taken in Philippine Opera Company

Opera Haus 3657 Bautista St.

Three Minutes of a Dream

I have a lot of big dreams. Almost all of my dreams are beyond my reach. And even I have ten lifetimes or a hundred, I will never have them. But it’s alright. Our big dreams may not come to life, the way they appear like movies in our minds but we can always have small versions of our dreams.

One of my small dream versions is to perform in Alberlardo Hall of UP College of Music. I think performing in a place where the most talented musicians in the country are made is a validation that I can sing. In truth, you don’t have to be a performer or a musician to be on Alberlado Hall’s stage. As long as you can afford to rent the venue or to enroll in the college extension program, you can be on stage.  That’s my small version of CCP Theatre or Araneta Coliseum.

I read my voice teacher’s text message a couple of times. At first, I overlooked the venue of my voice recital. The second., I slowly read Al—be–lar—do Hall. Then read it again. How I was going to sing in a large venue? Can my voice occupy this hall?

Am I enough?

Within my fourteen sessions of voice lessons, I realized I was tone-deaf. I needed a regular ear cleaning. Like any music course, I had to learn through hearing. It would have been easy if I could listen to my teacher sing and copy the way she did. But for the entire semester, I haven’t heard her sing, not even a single note. I had to rely on what she played in piano.

For my recital piece, I was ambitious enough to choose Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Think of Me. For people who have been taking voice lessons, the song is amateurish. But for newbies like me, it was already challenging. I thought I could give it a try because the song was for middle range voice. The only problem was the last notes were complicated and terrifyingly high. My teacher scolded me a couple of times including my last rehearsal. On one session, she said that it was stupid for me to repeat the same mistakes. It was a relief when she told me that was the hardest part of the song and that some students would let the pianist take charge of the last part. It was supposed to be sang in a cappella. But my teacher was a purist and she pushed me to sing the way it was written in the music sheet.

It was hard. I know that that is an overstatement. But for someone who can’t read notes, it really was.  Aside from the fact, I had no one to imitate. Emmy Rossum did not sing the complicated notes. Of course, Sarah Brightman sang it perfectly but Sarah Brightman had a lot of inflections in her singing. It was difficult to follow which notes she was singing.

The day came. I wanted to sing but at the same time I wanted to disappear. A few minutes, before the show I saw a familiar face.

“So, it’s your recital?”

He flashed his Matinee idol smile.

“Good luck.’

Then he tapped me on the shoulder and my heart grew wings. If my song was based on real life, he would be my phantom and I would be his pupil. I was going to say that “my teacher said you were such an adorable boy.” But swallowed those words thinking that it was actually me who wanted to say he was adorable.

As we waited for the pianist to arrive, my teacher said:

“Did you practice the four notes? You should sing it correctly.”

With the serious tone of her voice, I felt the pressure. I was willing to take the risk of singing the wrong note. Then I thought of my pianist, how professional he was and how small I was compared to his music genius. I could not just sing any note. I had to sing the right note. I have liked him since the day I watched him played the jazz version of Bahay Kubo.  I did not want him to Think of me and think of my mistake.

I entered the stage. I wish I could hide the tension in my voice. It was almost a dream. I could not see the faces of my audience. My contact lens were failing.

The vision was hazy. It was a small version of a dream. I sang a song that I never thought I could ever sing. I sang a song with a man whom I could never have but within three minutes of our lives we were united.

It all ended.

As I lay on my bed and started to create new dreams, I turned on my phone and read: “Congratulations, Jackie. I was waiting for the wrong note. You sang all beautifully and correctly. I’m at 116.”

Your First Voice Lessons

Nobody wants to have a boring life. Some go to parties. Some go to malls. My way to escape boredom is to learn new things and to see what else I can do. Recently, I enrolled in UP College of Music Extension Program.  I was so giddy about it as if it were my first time. For the past few months, I haven’t done anything to feed my appetites except my stomach appetite. So, I try to find satisfaction by taking a voice class.

Here is a note to myself. I keep forgetting the things I need to prepare for my voice lessons. Here are some reminders if it’s your first time to take voice lessons.

Wear Comfortable clothes

Dancers are not the only ones who should wear jogging pants, loose shirt during rehearsals. Singers should also wear comfortable clothes.  Usually, a voice teacher will just let you vocalize every meeting. But my present teacher asks  me to do a lot of things which cannot be done if I wear miniskirt or skin tight jeans. I lay down on the floor, kneel, and jog. Remember, comfortable clothes are equivalent to free body movement.

Exercise

Source: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/7942

You may  think that the only the instrument we use in singing is our mouth or our vocal tract but we actually use our entire body when we sing. My teacher asks me to do some warm-up exercises every meeting.  For someone who is not physically active and who spends eight hours everyday sitting on a chair, it is painstaking. After my first session with my teacher, I experience some body pain. It lasted for three days.  I even took some pain killers. Regular exercise can help you avoid sudden body pain such as those you experience from voice lessons.

Bring face towel 

For a lady like me, it was quite embarrassing not to have a handkerchief during our first session. My teacher asked me to bring a face towel. If you don’t have a face towel, expect to wipe the floor with your face. She will ask you to face your right then your left on the floor.

Buy Pei Po Koa

Pei Po Koa is a Chinese herbal remedy used to cure sore throat, cough, and loss of voice. My cousin recommended this candy to me. He and his a capella group have these candies in their pockets before they perform in concerts. Pei Po Koa helps you avoid strained singing voice.  When you lack sleep, you have a  tendency to run out of voice.  In these instances, Pei Po Koa will be there for you. I haven’t been singing a lot nor taking a lot of Pei Po Koa. I cannot really validate all those said-effects. But whether it’s placebo effect, at least it gives you some confidence.

Use contact lens instead of eye glasses

Eye glasses can be very distracting especially when you do a lot of body exercises. My eye glasses keep falling on my nose bridge  and I need to fix it every now and then. For someone who has poor vision, contact lens are preferable.  Not only because glasses are obstruction but you need clear eyesight.  A voice teacher will always ask you to look in the mirror and observe how your face and body move. Eyeglasses somehow give you limited eyesight. You can only see well when your eyeglasses are in place whereas you can see everything with your contact lens.

Prepare music sheet of your dream piece

A voice teacher normally will ask you what song(s) do you like to sing. Sometimes, your teacher will give you the freedom to choose whatever song you like. Then you will rehearse it every meeting. Sometimes, you have to know what song you like and what song you can sing. My dream music piece is a semiclassical song titled “Pakiusap ko sayo.”  Most music students (as in authentic music students) sing this song for their recitals because the song shows the strength of the singer. The song is very challenging with too many flying high notes. On my part, it will take me a lot of effort, practice or even a lifetime for me to sing that piece. For now, I have to exclude it  from my song wish list.

So these were the things I forgot to do during my first two meetings of voice lessons.