Private Coaching – the Inside Gen

So, what actually happens when you undertake private voice coaching with Being in Voice?  Well, first of all, you get my undivided attention, addressed to helping you to achieve your goals.  I provide you with a personalised program of exercises, beginning at the foundational, basic level, ensuring that you understand – first and foremost – what your voice ACTUALLY is, and how it works, so that you may undertake the exercises with full awareness of what you are doing, and how it relates to your achieving your goals.

As you become comfortable with the exercises, we extend them into more and more challenging areas, so you know that you are progressing, that your voice is becoming more powerful, more open and more available for the creative expression you are looking for.

Once we’ve got you established with a healthy, sustainable program for your voice, we begin to integrate the specific skills training you are looking for, whether it is for performance in theatre, film, tv, radio, or radio broadcasting, public speaking, voice overs, seminar presentation, or just to be more comfortable as a human being capable of communicating and expressing your thoughts to others.

You learn each new set of exercises on the floor, doing them with me, experiencing the physical reality of what your whole body is doing, and how your voice is sounding in those circumstances.  After your class, I write up my notes on what we did in the class, and email them to you, along with handouts setting out the exercises.  I also place these in your very own Dropbox folder, along with some mp3 files in which I talk you through some of the exercises.  These are available to you for 6 months after the class.  (At some stage in the next few months, these will also be available as an iPhone app).

Any questions?  Feel free to add your comments below.

New Tricks for Extending Vocal Life

Recently, I was invited to run some workshops for 4RPH, Radio for the Print Impaired, to give their volunteer announcers some advice on how to avoid vocal strain, improve their clarity and generally help them to get the most out of their voices.

We were absolutely delighted with the large number of people who committed three hours of their time – as well as all the hours they devote to the actual broadcasting – to learn some new tricks.

Of course, there are no tricks involved. And a little knowledge is no dangerous thing. On the contrary, helping these wonderful people to understand exactly how their voices function is the first step to helping them realise more of their vocal potential.  They are mostly my age, and older, with a few young sparks in the mix.  Some have been broadcasting for over 20 years, others quite new to the profession.

I was able to demonstrate to them how they can regain some of the tone they may have lost over the years, ensuring that their voices are healthily maintained for many years to come, and also help them to access more range and colour in their voices with some very simple posture work, and vocal exercises.

Here are some comments from participants:

I enjoyed it very much and have a much better understanding of how my voice box is made up and how vulnerable it can be when used incorrectly.

Pleasant, engaging leadership. Participant involvement.Well worth while : excellent PR for the station : makes volunteers feel valued.

Your demonstrations of voice properties explained the theory clearly. The distribution of the concise fact sheet after the workshop reinforces the tuition process well.

Keeping Busy

You may notice there are some changes here on the website.  That’s because I’m keeping myself busy with house-keeping admin stuff while I wait for my thesis dissertation to come back from my supervisors – hopefully for the last time.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for improving the design here, I’m always open to suggestion.

The image at the side is of MFA students at Arizona State Uni taking part in the Archetypes Workshop last year.  I wish I knew how to make the caption visible!

Early Morning Voice Warmup

Oxley at 6.30 am

Such a beautiful day, the autumn air here in Oxley on the south side of Brisbane is soft and cool.  The sky is totally blue from every angle, and the birds are taking turns at singing its praises.

So I thought, why not join in?  Here’s a podcast I created to share with you. I am doing my early morning vocal warmup, just to get some blood flowing to the larynx, warming up the vocal folds so that I can give them a bit of a gentle stretch.  It’s a fun way to bring your voice from that scratchy, croaking sound it tends to have first thing in the morning to a more full-bodied sound that you can take into your professional day.

[powerpress]

Have a listen. Sigh, hum, brrr and aaahhh along with me (and the birds, planes and trains). Let me know how you find it. Too easy?  There’ll be more sustaining (and demanding) stuff to follow.

Doing it anyway, in the face of fear

Just watched a very disturbing Ted Talk, in which the speaker proposes that if we all lose our fear of failure we can change the world – and that’s all you have to do. She’s speaking from the position of working with one of the world’s best funded Defence research institutions, where the failure concerned doesn’t seem to have any personal consequences other than the odd night of disturbed sleep.

As for the rest of us, especially performers, fear of failure generally involves more than that. First and foremost there is the fear of looking like an idiot in front of an audience. There’s the financial cost, the time and energy lost as well as the disappointment that can be caused to friends, colleagues and loved ones when a project fails.

So let’s look at what ‘failure’ means, in the artistic sense. As a general rule, it means that the aim of the project was not realised. Either it was not well enough executed, or well enough promoted, or well enough realised in any way, shape or form to be well received, or well remunerated, or both. Maybe the originating idea was doomed from the start, being not well enough developed.

How can you tell, before you start, whether an idea is well enough developed?  The simple answer is, you can’t. So here I agree with Ms Dugan, that fear of failure is not a good enough reason to not go ahead with developing an idea. However, let us look at the underlying assumptions that she fails to mention. What factors are essential to have in place, to justify attempting some “impossible” task or dream:

1 the necessary skills and training to be able to understand why you have failed

2 the necessary resources to at least take the project far enough to be able to learn something useful from the attempt

3 TOTAL COMMITMENT

And of course, it is No 3 that she is wanting to inspire in her listeners.

No disagreement there.  I speak as someone who has lived most of my life with fear of failure.  Then one day I found myself performing, just for a tiny fraction of a second, with TOTAL COMMITMENT. It was shocking, exhilarating and revelatory.  It took me another twenty years to learn how to have those moments with something approaching consistency, and I ain’t there yet!

So I agree, it is not failure that is the problem. As Ms Dugan proposes, fear of failure is the problem.  For a performer, holding back, just a tiny little bit, will almost inevitably ensure failure. And by failure, I don’t mean that you won’t get work, that you won’t create interesting work. I mean you won’t be working to your full potential, and you will miss out on the satisfaction and the thrill that goes along with it, and you’ll be short-changing your audiences.

David Mamet points out in his little book True and False : Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor. (1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 1997) that what audiences really respond to is the courage of the performer.  That doesn’t mean we should show them how brave we are. It is not our job to make them admire us.  Our job, as creative artists, is to share our innermost selves, in the act of communicating whatever text or action the production requires, with total honesty, and to allow the audience to make up their own minds about what we are sharing. If they don’t like it, or respond to it, that’s their prerogative.  Performing with skill, imagination, intelligence and TOTAL COMMITMENT is our job. When we succeed in doing that, there is no failure.

So fear of failure is pretty much a given in our line of work.  Doing it anyway is our job.