Hello everyone! Welcome to my brand-new blog for FolkWorks’ shiny new website! I’m thrilled to be part of this spectacular new site launch, and I hope you enjoy this new twice-a-month blog feature!
As the title implies, this “folk diva” will be imparting views on everything folk singing, with guidance for the professional and non-professional alike. I’ll bring in topics on study and performance, including backup resources such as links to instructional or demonstration videos or further study articles.
As a bit of background: Last spring when the pandemic hit us hard, our group had planned a year-long concert series to be held once a month at The Coffee Gallery Backstage we called The Woodshed Sessions. Of course, this project went the way of all live performance at that time, and had to be canceled. After some head-scratching, we ventured into the “livestream-asphere” and plunged into Facebook LIVE for concerts from home (a safe at home couple’s duo) with special guests livestreaming from their locations. Also during that time, looking for another way to contribute, I turned my focus to teaching.
Since May of 2020, I’ve developed a roster of students, many of whom live far from me, necessitating remote teaching, and providing us with a pandemic surprise silver lining. Also in that time, I developed a running weekly newsletter for my students, encapsulating my concepts of vocal production and offering related resources, audio and video clips and other educational supports. These newsletters have become the main source for what this new blog will be about: a folk diva’s guide to the galaxy!
This first blog will introduce my basic concept for all good vocal production, no matter the genre, age or gender of singer, a concept I call The ABC’s of Vocal Production.
What Are the “ABCs of Vocal Production?” You Might Ask?
A. The Breath Is the Beginning! All singing tone rides on a column of air. Start with a breathing exercise to see what I mean. This exercise will isolate the lower abdomen as you send air into the lower part of the lungs. Breathe in through the nose for six counts, hold for two counts, breathe out through the mouth for six counts. Repeat three times. As the air moves down into your lower lungs, feel the abdomen expand, while keeping the shoulders and upper chest still. To further feel the isolation of this abdominal breathing, lie down on the floor with your hands over the belly, take in a deep breath, letting the belly rise and fall while the rest of the body is relaxed. Try to isolate the belly and not involve the chest or shoulders or neck. This is a process called Diaphragmatic Breathing.
Here is a great short article from the Cleveland Clinic about how this works and how it benefits the body.
Here is also a great instructional video on how to: https://youtu.be/0Ua9bOsZTYg
B. Let Go and Drop! Drop the Relaxed Jaw and Open with Every Vowel! Just as musical instruments have resonating chambers in which the tone rolls, the human body has these same chambers that are used to create sound, whether sung or spoken. Loosen and relax your jaw muscles, face and mouth while singing to gain access to the resonating chamber behind your sinus cavity and throat. Release tension in the jaw and mouth!
To ready your physical mechanism for singing, stretch and drop your jaw muscles, feeling the hinge of the bone move right beneath your ear. Every vowel you sing can be sung with a relaxed jaw, giving the tone a place to roll! Run a vocal warmup exercise on the vowel “doo” and then run it on the vowel “ah” and hear-feel the difference in the natural, open jaw of the vowel AH. All vowels can be open! Each vowel you sing is another opportunity to open!
C. Get to the Heart! Emotional Connection in Performance. Use your imagination to visualize the scenario of your song and consider the emotional content within it. Make it vivid! Then connect to the characters in the song, what happens to them, what the journey of the song is. Feel it for yourself and let the feelings drop in. You are engaging with the story of your song, even if it’s not a plot-driven “story” but simply poetry. Songs reflect the human condition in all its glory, and when you feel for the characters, you are becoming a true communicator and troubadour.
See you next time for a discussion of how to memorize songs, performance anxiety, applying dynamics, authentic emotion and more!
Thanks for joining me!
Blessings and love,
Award-winning recording artist, Broadway singer, journalist, educator and critically-acclaimed powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called “one of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today” by Roz Larman of KPFK’s Folk Scene. LA Weekly voted her ensemble Best New Folk in their Best of LA Weekly for 2019, calling Susie “an incomparable vocalist.” “A flat out superb vocalist… Glaze delivers warm, amber-toned vocals that explore the psychic depth of a lyric with deft acuity and technical perfection.” As an educator, Susie has lectured at USC Thornton School of Music and Cal State Northridge on “Balladry to Bluegrass,” illuminating the historical path of ancient folk forms in the United Kingdom to the United States via immigration into the mountains of Appalachia. She is a current specialist in performance and historian on the work of American folk music icon, Jean Ritchie. Susie now offers private voice coaching online via the Zoom platform. www.susieglaze.com