Podcast ep 3 – How We Learn A Song

The third episode of our new This Is A Voice Podcast arrived on 15th July. Gillyanne and I are discussing how to learn a song, and we discuss having a “feel” for where a certain pitch is in your voice, even if you don’t have perfect pitch. We also chat about four different ways to learn a song from scratch, how to use YouTube to learn a song successfully, why it’s not so easy for singers to change key, and why teaching singers the melody from the piano isn’t a good thing.

Below is the transcript of the whole episode – you can listen on your favourite podcast platform including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher and many others. Or jump to our dedicated This Is A Voice Podcast website on https://thisisavoice.buzzsprout.com/


Announcer 0:12
This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.

Jeremy 0:23
Hello and welcome to episode three of our podcast. This Is A Voice.

Gillyanne 0:27
Fantastic on number three already. Yes.

Jeremy 0:30
So what’s the topic today?

Gillyanne 0:31
Ah, well, the topic today is something that gets discussed a lot on our singing teacher training. And also it’s a question I think that comes up a lot from working singers, which is what’s the best way of learning songs? And for us teachers, what’s the best way to teach songs?

Jeremy 0:49
Okay, that’s good.

Gillyanne 0:50
And I think at the moment because so many people are working, you know, with social distancing, you know, via the internet. There are additional challenges In terms of how we teach remotely because of latency and all of that, you know, you can’t accompany your students on the piano, you can’t note bash on the piano with them in the way that perhaps you would do when they’re in there in the studio.

Jeremy 1:14

Gillyanne 1:14
Okay. So I’m going to start by talking from a singing teacher and singer point of view, which is, there’s a term that we singers use, which is I’ve got to get that song into my voice into my voice.

Jeremy 1:32
What does that mean?

Gillyanne 1:34
Yeah, exactly what do we mean by that? And we also often use this word muscle memory. Now, of course, our muscles don’t have memories. We know now that really this is a neural memory and neural patterning that we have, it’s it’s like, I often talk about it with my students that you have a kind of a roadmap in your head of where the song goes. And that’s really what we’re building. When we’re learning a song, and when we’ve got it there, it does stay in our memory. So you know, I can still sing a song, not just remember the words, but also the feel of the song. And I’ll often sing straight in on the correct notes, even though I don’t have perfect pitch from stuff that I was performing 30 years ago,

Jeremy 2:21
I think, I mean, let’s just digress for a moment. Because that’s fascinating, the whole business of having a feel for the pitch. And I know, violinists have the same thing they know where that particular note is on the neck of violin, and cellists and stuff like that. And I think it’s really interesting for singers that you have a feel for, what key you’re singing in and where it is, you know where it is in your voice and what it feels like and what the sound feels like. Which is a really weird sentence to say. And if you don’t have perfect pitch, you still know approximately where it is in your range. If you do have perfect pitch singing in a different key’s a nightmare

Gillyanne 2:59

Jeremy 3:00
Because you have not just a physical memory, but you have a visual and an auditory memory as well. And you’re almost having to rewrite the song in your head, which is I don’t have perfect pitch, I have very good relative pitch. And I have come across that – a little digression. I was auditioning for the Swingle Singers as the low bass years ago. In fact, I’ve done it twice and got through to the final rounds. And..

Gillyanne 3:23
Just saying

Jeremy 3:24
Just saying, and CLANG. And we were doing this wonderful piece, it was a fantastic arrangement of Fool on the Hill. And I knew it that it went down to B1? Which which B, is it? A4, A3, A2, A1

Gillyanne 3:42
Oh don’t ask me, I’m having one of those moments.

Jeremy 3:45
Yes, it’s the B below bass bottom C. And basically the whole piece ends on that and it’s a very, very, very long held low B. And I knew it was coming up and then they gave me the start note to to start the piece. We were singing from memory and they gave me one and I went Hang on, that’s not the right note. Oh my god. And it was, I think, a semitone down. And I don’t know whether they were doing that deliberately whether they’d given me the music in B minor, and then just decided that they were going to do it down a tone to see.

Gillyanne 4:17
I bet they were impressed.

Jeremy 4:18
I Well, the thing was that I didn’t

Gillyanne 4:20
You weren’t because…

Jeremy 4:21
I wasn’t, I was terrified because I literally had to rewrite everything in my head because I knew exactly where everything was. But I did manage to hit the low B flat and sustain it for about six bars, which was… that was the bit they were impressed with.

Gillyanne 4:36
It’s very interesting, you talking about the reframing because I think you know, a lot of singers, irrespective of whether we have this, you know, really perfect sense of pitch. If you put a song up or down a tone, we really feel it.

Jeremy 4:54

Gillyanne 4:55
You know, we don’t have – what’s the thing that you have on a guitar?

Jeremy 4:58
A erm, Oh gosh, don’t ask me things when I haven’t got a brain on. Hang on. What’s it called? Not a ligature.

Gillyanne 5:07
No, the thing you put on a guitar?

Jeremy 5:09
Just to change key, right. Slap it on the neck of the guitar

Gillyanne 5:12
That’s going to be an amusing moment.

Jeremy 5:14
Yeah, let us know what it is. That’s gonna drive me nuts.

Gillyanne 5:17
Um, we don’t have one of those. So, you know, if you’re a jazz singer, and suddenly you’re working with a group of musicians that maybe you didn’t rehearse with, previously, and they’ve got, you know, the song set in the keys that they like to play in, they think as a singer, well, you can just change key Oh, no, we can’t.

Jeremy 5:35
Well, this is really interesting, because essentially, let’s assume that a singer has a two and a half octave range. And the idea of when you’re a guitarist or a pianist, or or whatever is that you’ve got those notes in front of you and you can play them. And a few keys are slightly more difficult than others. But basically, you can play any melody you can play in any part of that range. As a singer that doesn’t work like that because there are certain parts of your range that are more comfortable. There are certain parts of the range where you can sit really easily. And then there are certain parts of the range where you’ve got those notes and you can pop up and down to them, but you can’t sit there, it’s too tiring.

Gillyanne 6:13
And so there are adjustments that need to be made. Because that voice is a physical thing. In the physical body, you know, it’s not as easy as clicking a switch. Yeah, or putting a kind of clamp thing on

Jeremy 6:25
we’ve sort of come away, we’ve popped away from the topic a bit, which is what we normally do

Gillyanne 6:29
I had a little rant there, a little rant.

Jeremy 6:31
Okay, what do we… So how do we – how do we learn a song?

Gillyanne 6:35
I’ll talk to you about my process. When I’m working with a singer. My aim with a singer is to tailor the song to the individual voice, and that might include the key, I might even need to make adjustments to certain notes depending on the genre that I’m working in. So let’s assume I’m working with a client that I know quite well. I know their voice quite well. And I know their pitch range quite well, you know, I know where their gear changes are where their voice sounds best. I know where their money notes are. So I will look at the pitch range of the song and start to create exercises, warm up exercises around that pitch range, and help the singer to kind of ease their voice around the notes that they’re going to be singing. And then we might take some phrases from the song and sing them and kind of play around with that. That’s one of the things that I do. I personally, I’m not keen on teaching line by line. I mean, I’ve done loads of that in my career, but I actually find it quite boring. And to be fair, most of the singers that I work with either learn the song auditorily come into a lesson with the song already learned in terms of notes and rhythm, or they are music readers, and we might want to talk about that process with people who who don’t read and how to learn. But for me as the trainer, getting the song into the singer’s voice is about working it around the pitch range, the volume, also looking at breath patterns, you know, where are you going to breathe, maybe breaking down the rhythmic pattern of a song and working it on buzzing or chanting, which I think you’re going to talk about more later as a song learning process. So those are all things that I would do to help a singer get the song into their voice. Now, I would love you to talk about, you know, you have people coming to you. I’ve got to sing this song tomorrow in the audition.

Jeremy 8:45
Yes, yes.

Gillyanne 8:46
Sometimes you have to teach it from scratch.

Jeremy 8:49
Yeah. And that’s an interesting situation where you know, you’ve done your audition for the role and you are, your agent says, Oh, yes, they want to see you. They want see you tomorrow they sent me the music just now I’ll email it over. And you have 12 hours, and that’s most of that’s overnight, to learn a song. And I’m… I do actually wonder sometimes whether companies do that deliberately where it’s like, we’ll see what whether you can learn the song in 12 hours. I don’t know whether they do or not, but it happens so often. Anyway. So people tend to come to me. And sometimes it’s been they’ll, they’ll have a 10 o’clock lesson, and they’ve got the audition at 12. So we really have to learn the song. And I have a sequence that I use, which I’ll tell you about. And then I’ll tell you about a discussion that I had with four or five teachers on the Online Singing Teacher Training course that we’re just doing right now. And we had a conversation two days ago

Gillyanne 9:45
I’m going to have a hydration moment, excuse me

Jeremy 9:47
You’re welcome, on this whole business of how do you learn a song and how do you teach a song and I’ll come back to that in a minute. So, my sequence is and this is particularly for musical theatre. You do the lyrics first, you read the lyrics like a script so that you know what the concept is, you know what the context of the words is, you start there. Then you read the words again, but you read them out loud in rhythm. And what that means is that you have to elongate all the vowels that you are then going to resonate on when you sing. And it’s very useful because not only do you have to elongate the vowels, and some of them, it’s very easy to elongate an E because it’s a long vowel. It’s very easy to elongate an Ah because it’s a long vowel. But if you have to elongate the word if, which is an ih, and ih is normally a short vowel, so you have to do iff. And of course, I’m thinking of if I loved you say got the uh of loved as well rather than lovved or lived or lawved. If I lawved you, that’s very nice. So you first of all, you elongate the vowels and find out what you have to do to make those vowels last the entire length of that note. The second thing that you have to do and this is all happening automatically is you discover where the consonants come. And it’s up to you whether you bring the consonants in early or late or on time, entirely up to you. So if I took if I loved you, I could do let’s take the F of if, you go, if I love you, all of those consonants are very, very late. And right on the moment where you change to the next vowel

Gillyanne 11:40
That’s very classical isn’t it

Jeremy 11:41
It is very classical. That is one of the goals of classical singing is that you hold the vowel for as long as possible, because in the classical world, the vowel carries the tone.

Gillyanne 11:50
Can I just interject here? Yes. That’s one of the bases of legato isn’t it? Did it did you not a book exactly about this? Let’s just pop that in shall we?

Jeremy 11:59
I did. I did. I wrote a book called How to Sing Legato because I was so fed up with the rubbish that is talked about singing legato. There is so much nonsense out there about singing legato when it is so straightforward if you know the rules. So and this is one of them that you leave the consonants late, or sometimes you don’t. And the interesting thing is legato is not just continuous sound, because we have words we can’t do continuous sound. So the moment you accept that, then it means that you can put gaps in the word and still keep the legato. But you’ll have to read the book to find out more about that. So the next thing that you do is decide whether you’re going to put the consonants in early or not because of the meaning. And if I take if I love to you, it’s not everybody goes for if I loved you because that’s the one of the highest words in that phrase. It’s one of the most important words everybody loves the word love. But in fact, the sense of the sentence is if Love you, then I would behave like this. But clearly I don’t. That’s the whole premise of the song. So if you bring an F in early if I loved you, which is rather nice

Gillyanne 13:16
If we didn’t have that if word, the main theme of the musical just wouldn’t happen.

Jeremy 13:24
So interesting, because obviously the you know, I love to you is what everyone goes for. But in fact, it’s if so that’s great. And so then that, by the way, this is just step one. I’m just going into a little more detail than I would normally do. So in step one, what you’ve done is you’ve spoken the words in rhythm. You’ve worked out where the consonants come, you’ve worked out what vowels you have to extend, and whether there are some unusual vowels there and if there are what you have to do with them.

Gillyanne 13:51
As you said, a lot of that is happening instinctively, rather than you kind of nitpicking or what do I do with this vowel? Where does it go?

Jeremy 13:58
Yes. Okay. And then the second thing is to forget the words completely and to sing the melody by itself. Now you can hum the melody, you can n the melody you can m the melody you can ng the melody

Gillyanne 14:11
You could SOVT the melody

Jeremy 14:13
You could SOVT, you could get your straws and a bottle of water and you could bubble your way through the melody, it really doesn’t matter. And the whole thing for me on humming the melody or doing whatever you’re doing with it, is that you slide between the notes you do not sing it as a melody. You’re singing it as a whole – It’s a sort of hiatus slide. So you slide around and then you hover on the note that you’re going to

Unknown Speaker 14:37
we talk a lot Don’t we about how in terms of managing pitch and changing pitch. The voice is a sliding instrument. And I think that’s important even though as Jeremy’s just said, when we… obviously have rests in the music anyway, but if we have a consonant that is unvoiced or a plosive consonant, then the breath stream the flow is interrupted slightly or changed.

Jeremy 15:02
yes. The reason that I get people to slide around if you think about what vocal folds have to do to change pitch, they have to speed up and slow down

Gillyanne 15:11
micro movements

Jeremy 15:12
They’re micro movements. By sliding around, and I’m going to do a demo in a minute, by sliding around, what you end up doing is travelling through every note that you need to find. And it enables your brain to create the pathway much more easily, much quicker, and ironically, more accurately. So if I do a slide around where I don’t hover, and I’m doing if I loved you – mmm. That’ll do.

Gillyanne 15:46
Ha! Every musical director is…

Jeremy 15:50
Cursing! Excuse me, I’m a musical director, I know I’m doing. So that’s just the sliding around if you then slide in hover or what we call gliding and landing – mmm. Then you decide whether you’re going to glide fast or slow. Mmm. I’m actually still gliding but it sounds like I’m stepping,

Gillyanne 16:17
Because your voice isn’t a piano.

Jeremy 16:19
No, it is not a piano. So that’s that. And then you put…

Gillyanne 16:24
what’s your next step?

Jeremy 16:25
Next step is to put the two together. There is an interim step if you want it, and I’m not using it so much now. The interim step and I write about this is called mirroring, which is a combination of singing and mouthing, sirening and mouthing. And what you do, if people are watching on the YouTube video are gonna love this because you’ll see me doing it rather than just hear me. You are doing an ng at the back of your mouth and you are making all the consonants and the shapes at the front. So you have a constant stream of ng, but you’re making shapes at the front and it actually helps you separate out your tongue and lips. Okay, so if I loved you would be, mmm. All you can hear if you’re listening on the podcast is just a slide with occasional ft ft ft ft going on.

Gillyanne 17:18
I will say…

Jeremy 17:19
That just sounded like Silence of the Lambs. That’s a weird combination. I never thought I’d put together – Silence of the Lambs and If I Loved You,

Gillyanne 17:25
We’re gonna be banned! I will say that as a vocal trainer that is quite an advanced technique

Jeremy 17:34
It is.

Gillyanne 17:35
It’s the sort of thing that professional actors will work well with. And sort of, singers who are trained to be professional singers. It requires a lot of coordination. So I don’t use that very often now.

Jeremy 17:48
I find I don’t need to,

Gillyanne 17:49
Can we go to the place now where we’re doing call and response to teach because this is something that people are using a lot on zoom now because you know for those of you (Excuse me) For those of you who are trainers, and may be used to using a keyboard to note bash? First of all, it’s not a very good way for singers to learn notes.

Jeremy 18:10
Okay, why…

Gillyanne 18:11
Because they won’t hear the harmonics

Jeremy 18:12
Thank you. I was gonna say, why is it Why is it not great to teach a melody from the piano or from the keyboard?

Unknown Speaker 18:19
Well, that’s another podcast.

Jeremy 18:20
Well, no, it is not. No, no, this is a very straightforward answer. The harmonic structure of a piano note is not the same harmonic structure is a voice. Yeah. And sometimes people who have very sharp hearing will not hear the fundamental frequency, they won’t hear the note that you’re playing they’ll hear a harmonic and try and tune to that instead

Gillyanne 18:39
because of the way the piano works.

Jeremy 18:40

Gillyanne 18:41
And also, I think, when we hear somebody’s voice singing, and it doesn’t mean that you have to have a fabulous voice as someone who’s teaching a song, but there’s something about the harmonic structure of the voice that helps people to process the pitch when they’re hearing it.

Jeremy 18:56
Yes. Assuming that you’re singing the right one. Yeah.

Gillyanne 19:00
So over zoom, whether you’re doing a bit of choir leadership, or if you’re doing regular singing teaching, don’t be afraid to use call and response. I think you’ll find it enormously helpful.

Jeremy 19:14
And this is where this conversation that I was having a couple of days ago with several leaders, choir leaders and singing teachers comes in because we were talking about how do you teach a song, and that was the topic of the conversation. And the first person said exactly what Gillyanne said, which is called a response. So I sing part of the melody and then somebody sings it back. And we’ve actually seen this done. You sort of assume that people are going to do that in and it’s a very good technique, by the way, in community choirs, where people don’t necessarily read music. It’s one of the best ways of getting people to understand not just melody but harmony as well. So that you sing and they repeat, and then you sing, they repeat and they embed that way. We saw it somebody’s teaching a lesson. One of our Australian teachers teaching a lesson where she did it for Schubert. And I thought that was wonderful.

Gillyanne 20:06
And we’ve also had people using a loop pedal for harmonies.

Jeremy 20:10
new pedal, oh, we’ve just been introduced,

Gillyanne 20:13
We are getting envy about that

Jeremy 20:15
Loop pedal envy.

Gillyanne 20:16
And I think a useful thing about the loop pedal is it’s gonna save your voice. Because there’s a potential issue with teaching via call and response. Actually, it’s something I experienced when I was first working in drama schools. Because many of the actors that I worked with didn’t read music and actually were – you know, there’s a whole fear thing about singing anyway, with many actors or there certainly was in those days. So I would have to encourage them by singing it. Singing a line, they would sing the line. Now you teach the same song for an hour. In four hours of classes back to back. You get vocally tired and it is an issue that many choral trainers have particularly those working with community choirs that they’re singing line by line to teach them – to teach the song. And then they’re singing with the choir to encourage them and they get vocally tired. So it’s something to be aware of.

Jeremy 21:17
If you haven’t come if you haven’t come across a loop pedal and how it works. Basically, the loop pedal is just it’s a record, you can record your voice and you record any phrase you like press a button, and it will repeat exactly what you’ve just done. So not only can you sing a phrase and then press the button and repeat it and which means you don’t have to sing it every time to your your singers. But you can then overdub, so that you lay that track down, and then that repeats and then you lay another track down and you can record that and that repeats. And so you can build up massively complex harmonies without actually using that much vocal energy.

Gillyanne 21:54
Now, this is something that you do as kind of from your rehearsal coach days that I think is very helpful. This is if you are going to use the piano

Jeremy 22:05
I have no idea what’s coming next.

Gillyanne 22:06
Don’t play the harmonies to teach line by line

Jeremy 22:10
Oh yeah

Gillyanne 22:11
Will you tell us about that?

Jeremy 22:10
okay so people will sometimes say to me Look, I can’t get to you can you do me a rehearsal track because literally I have this this audition in, you know three hours time and I can’t get to you. So what I will do is I’ll get the music from them and play them two versions of it, I’ll record them two versions. And the first one is the melody slowed down, because what they need to do is to work out what the intervals are. And I will do just the melody very, really quite strong. And really sort of sketch a very quiet harmony underneath them just in the left hand just chords so that they can hear harmonically because some singers don’t think harmonically and some do. They just hear the harmony that’s going on underneath the melody so that they can at least tune to the bar. And then I’ll do them a second version, which is the accompaniment at proper speed. So that they get used to singing whatever is going to be being played, whether it’s backing track or a live pianist in the audition itself. So two versions,

Gillyanne 22:40
very important.

Jeremy 22:41
Yeah. And the reason that Julian says don’t put loud harmonies underneath and don’t play two parts, or three parts or parts or anything like that, is that when you’re listening to a track, very difficult to separate out what your melody might be, if you’ve got banging harmonies underneath you,

Gillyanne 23:36
unless you do something to feature it, which of course, you can do nowadays with recording equipment. Yes. Okay. Now, so far we’ve talked about really just the the basic parts. I mean, you talked a little bit about the intention in If I loved you, yes, I want us to talk about the other things that go on in a song The the Musical backdrop of a song in terms of what’s going on harmonically and also about the shape of the melody. So I’m going to share with you, I’m really digging into the archives here. Something that I used to do with my actors. And again, I’m thinking of, you know, the actors on a community theatre course who singing was kind of something they did not want to do. And one day I went into class and I took with them. I’ve never been in love before from Guys and Dolls, which I knew they’d hate. But I wanted them to learn a little bit about lyrical singing. So I didn’t give them the words. What I did was I simply played the melody for them on the piano. And then I played it several times and I said, Do you want to just move around to this melody? You know, how does it make you feel you know, maybe you want to hum along with it. Sometimes. And then they had to write down the feeling that it gave them and one of my favourite ones was Wheee, you know that really that sense of expansion. So we did that first so that I got their emotional response to the music. And then the next thing I did was I made them work in pairs and write lyrics

Jeremy 25:23
Ooh fun.

Gillyanne 25:24
So that they had to fit the words to the music. And it was extraordinary because lots of the lyrics that were written were not about love. Some of them were, they wrote totally different things. By doing that, they learned kind of intuitively how to fit words with the melody so they were learning rhythm. And then when we got the actual text and looked at it, it kind of made sense to them and they had found a better way of making the song their own. And that was something that I came up with because as a musician, you know, we’ve got this This massive catalogue of emotional memories that fit with the music that we’ve been used to listening to. And if somebody presents us music from a completely different culture, we can, sometimes we can respond really well and go, Wow, I’ve never heard anything like that before. It’s fantastic. Or sometimes we go, yuck, that’s different. I don’t like that. Or simply in terms of the language of music, it doesn’t make sense to us,

Jeremy 26:29
so we can’t place it.

Gillyanne 26:30
So I think that’s something that’s really worthwhile doing with your students, that those that kind of whole listening thing and the emotion and getting into that backdrop, and I think it’s very important working with teens who sometimes because of peer pressure are very resistant to working with music cultures that don’t seem cool. Yeah. So I wanted to share that.

Jeremy 26:54
and immediately I’m going off on two tangents already. The first one is it’s a sort of simple version of what you’re talking about, which is to take the lyrics that you’re singing, and rewrite them in your own words. And so often I will use text speak, I’ll use slang or use whatever, whatever it is, you know, look at him he’s fit or, you know, GSOH or whatever, whatever. because it brings the lyrics and the story and the the action into your own world rather than you putting yourself into what is sometimes quite a sort of stylized or idealised world. When you actually put it into your own language. It makes much more sense to you.

Gillyanne 27:40
well, it gives you ownership

Jeremy 27:41
it does.

Gillyanne 27:41
And then you’ve got the intention. And then you can you’re more you’re more in tune with the purpose of the song, which is you have something to communicate, and I like that a lot

Jeremy 27:53
It takes me beautifully into one of the other people that I was discussing, having a conversation with a couple of days ago who said I always start with the story and the emotion and the context. And we will actually talk about even even learning a song, I don’t start with the notes and the rhythms or I start with the words and the context and the emotions. And I thought that was really fascinating. Because in a way, I found it quite challenging because as an MD, normally, I have a very small amount of time to get people accurate on the notes. And that’s all I have. But I thought about we actually had quite a long discussion about it. And I thought it was really fascinating that what you’re doing is giving people the context in which this thing happens. And I love that I can try that out.

Gillyanne 28:36
There was someone else in that conversation who was working mostly in the Gospel genre.

Jeremy 28:42
Yeah. And he immediately starts with the level of energy that you need. Because gospel is normally high energy. It’s a high high outward energy or high contained energy. And so the first thing he does is gets the singers into that energetic level. And I thought that was actually a fantastic way of dealing with it. And we were looking at where these, these modes of learning might fit best. And obviously energy is gospel without question, story and context and words is musical theatre and call and response is really community choir. And obviously there are variations and you can use any one you like. But it seemed to me that they fitted so beautifully and, and then my thing which is learn the words in rhythm, and funnily enough, obviously musical theatre, but funnily enough, I’ve done this with the recitative in Opera in classical music, and that works really well too is that suddenly the recitative you start to understand what that is about and what the shapes are, so ironically, even though I’m doing rhythms and something that’s actually quite specific, what I’m really doing is teaching shape. I do love teaching by shape. I sightread by shape as well.

Gillyanne 29:53
I would like to guide us towards the finish line by

Jeremy 29:59
I didn’t know we’d even started, I thought this was just the preamble!

Gillyanne 30:01
Yes. By talking about copying.

Jeremy 30:07

Gillyanne 30:07
Now, when I was training as a young singer, the idea that you copied someone else’s performance was an absolute no-no.

Jeremy 30:16

Gillyanne 30:16
You did not go there. And it’s something that I hear singing teachers talking about a lot. You know, for instance, somebody singing one of Adele songs, and whoa, they’re copying her sound, they’re copying her performance. This is really, really bad. Well, yes and no, because first of all, we share with songbirds, a song learning gene

Jeremy 30:43
we do

Gillyanne 30:44
and we learned to speak by copying using our mirror neurons. And there is really nothing wrong with learning a song by a degree of copying. That’s how we learn melodies. It’s actually one of the best ways so it’s not wrong. I think the Important thing is how we manage that. So for example, if you have a student who maybe it’s more often a teen student or to be fair an avocational singer who wants to sing like one of their icons, because that’s what’s inspired them to do it in the first place. And you know, they will actually very wonderfully copy every nuance that that singer has done, and they will model their voice towards that singer. And sometimes that’s inappropriate for someone of that age or someone of that level of skill. And you may then need to modify Well, fortunately, YouTube can help you here, because there are always at least half a dozen other recordings of somebody performing that song, and not necessarily studio produced because there’s a whole thing about how we use EQ now, to change the sound and to compress the sound And that takes away some of the acoustic signals and acoustic richness of a real voice. So encourage your students to listen to several recordings, discuss them, and then play around a bit more with that, you know, the idea of, of modelling it in different ways.

Jeremy 32:18
YouTube is so useful because for exactly that reason, because people find things they find songs that that really appeal to them, and they go, I love this song. And the next instruction you need to give them is fantastic. Find another five performances of it. Because otherwise you I mean, there is one there’s one situation where you do need to copy exactly what that singer did. And that’s if you’re doing a cover band, which is really it’s like a tribute band. And then really, you want to sound as close as possible to the singer, but most the time, I mean Well, I have to say one of my favourite lessons to give is when somebody comes in and says I have five different singers singing this song. I really Want to sound like all of them? Can we find out what they’re doing? And I go, yeah, you know, play the track, let’s find out what the signature style features are. Let me get you to do them in and then we’ll find your voice and your version using those style features.

Gillyanne 33:15
I would love us to do a podcast on that sometime, because I think finding the flavour of the song is something that you’re especially good at. And it’s a great way to help people who maybe come from a more traditional music literacy background. Those of us who trained classically originally to understand different genres and to use our musicianship for that purpose. I think that would be a great podcast.

Jeremy 33:42
And we do have we have to fit an AMA in and I really do I know, I know.

Gillyanne 33:47
We’ve talked a lot.

Jeremy 33:48
Yeah, we’re over half an hour already, but there is an AMA that’s relevant. Ama here is the tin. so pleased with this Tin, here we go. So if you’re on if you go on the YouTube channel, you’ll see me manipulating the tin

Gillyanne 34:16
We’re going to get complaints about its pitch inaccuracy.

Jeremy 34:21
And so this was a question that came in, came in online, and 10 minutes to rehearse a song help. If you only have a short amount of time audition or whatnot, what should you focus on? Great question, and I do this all the time.

Gillyanne 34:35
I’m handing that over to you

Jeremy 34:35
It’s one of my things. Right. First thing is, I’m just going to pull from my mind various situations where this has happened. Wonderful example where somebody had a film audition for a film musical. And she she was into the woods, the film and she was up for One of the leads, and she said I really need to learn this song. She’d sort of learned the notes and she’d sort of learned the rhythms and what do you focus on? And I thought, right.

Gillyanne 35:10
And since it was Sondheim we’re not talking about an easy task here,

Jeremy 35:14
not an easy song either. And so we we spent seriously, we spent about six minutes going okay, any rhythms that you’re not sure about any entries that you’re not sure about? Yeah, there were quite a few of them. So we just very quickly went over those and then the last few minutes, I went, I understand that you want to get this accurate. But you’ve got to remember that this is film musical and film musical rules are very slightly different. It’s not about accuracy. It is actually about portrayal. It’s about portrayal and really specific emotions and making sure that your storyline is absolutely crystal clear.

Gillyanne 35:51
Is it also in that kind of a situation as it often is in a musical theatre audition, that they want to see you in that role? So you have to be able to give them a flavour of how you would interpret that role by that song.

Jeremy 36:04
Absolutely. So I said, we’re just going to go through the song, and I want you to play the story and I don’t care if you make wrong entries. I don’t care if you make wrong notes that is absolutely not the focus of this audition. This is a film audition, and they want to see you doing this. So that was really interesting. And in fact, she was successful in that audition. She decided in the end, she got down to the final two and decided not to do it. She did something else instead.

Gillyanne 36:31
Please, please, please. Yes, pretty please. Could we do a podcast sometime on what is practising?

Jeremy 36:38
LOVE to do that.

Gillyanne 36:40
Wouldn’t that be cool?

Jeremy 36:41
Okay, if you want us to do a podcast on what is practising and how do you practice? Let us know. And add in the comments. send us emails bombard us with stuff because I’d love to do that good. One more thing, which is what do you focus on? It really honestly depends on the context, that was the film context. If you’re doing a musical theatre audition context, it’s similar. We really want to see you and this character, we want to see what this character does with a song. So you’ve got, in a way, it’s sort of two focuses, which is, can you as the actor, live in a song? Can you actually work a song? Can you? How are you at the language of song? Because obviously, most actors are highly experienced in the language of words. But can you actually can you sell a song? That’s the first thing? The main thing in a way for musical theatre auditions is what is this character going through? We want to see this character story. So in a way, it’s very similar to film although film is much more heightened, in a weird way. We really want to see the character so again, I would do storyline I would check any wrong notes, but to be honest, less Less bothered about those than actually getting somebody up and running. If this if I’ve only got 10 minutes, I am not going to go into Oh, by the way, you know, this is an E flat instead of an E natural. Okay, not the focus.

Gillyanne 38:12
We’re so going to get kickback for that.

Jeremy 38:15
Listen, if anybody wants to give me kickback…

Gillyanne 38:18
That’s what rehearsal is for.

Jeremy 38:19
…listen to the context we are talking about. And everything on earth is context. So here’s the context. Yeah, it’s very interesting. It’s all about character and how you do it. If I’m doing an opera audition, totally different.

Gillyanne 38:34
Well, you take more than 10 minutes.

Jeremy 38:37
Well, virtually every Aria is more than 10 minutes. But if I’m doing an opera audition then and catching for an audition, then it’s very much about sound, and shape and phrasing. It’s less about characterization. It’s more about musicality, and phrase shape and emotion portrayal. And so now I would get more accurate with somebody who wasn’t doing a right note anywhere because it’s so important. Will that do?

Gillyanne 39:06
Should we go away and look up about guitars?

Jeremy 39:10
What is it called? I still haven’t got it.

Gillyanne 39:14
Alright, so that just tells us that the brain doesn’t multitask.

Jeremy 39:18
It doesn’t, not at all, it task-switches.

Gillyanne 39:18
We look forward to hearing your thoughts people. Remember if you have ideas for podcasts that we haven’t brought up today, yeah, please put them in the comments.

Jeremy 39:30
Oh and there’s something I’d like for you to do. If you want us to answer a question. If you want to submit to an AMA the way we really want you to do it is to go to SpeakPipe.com/VocalProcess and record your question so that we can actually play it

Gillyanne 39:47
you can appear on our podcast!

Jeremy 39:49
I’d love to have that I would love to have other people on the podcast and we are already planning guests. But in specifically, I want people to submit their AMAs as audio files. So go to SpeakPipe.com/Vocal Process and record on for us. I think that’s it.

Gillyanne 40:06
Are we done?

Jeremy 40:07
I think we’re done.

Unknown Speaker 40:07
I think we’re finished.

Jeremy 40:08
Yes. Thank you very much. We will see you next time. Bye

Gillyanne 40:12

Announcer 40:24
This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher