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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Vocal Coaching At Home

I am a singer.

It is hard to just state that, without some sort of I don't sound conceited.

But, I sing.  I love to sing.  I don't think that I have done anything special in life to be able to carry a tune.  I believe that I have a God-given talent.  I am not the best singer in the world, my town, or even my house.  But....

I am a singer.

But, even God-given talents need to be tweaked and can be improved on.

So, I was lucky when I grew up that I was able to take some voice lessons, some from my regular choral teachers and some when I was older, at my own expense, at the Macalester College of Music from a very strict Ukrainian teacher. 

As homeschoolers with six children, and living on one income, it is a bit tougher to give your kids extra things like music lessons, including voice lessons....even if they have a God-given talent themselves.

That is why I was actually excited when we got the chance to review something called Vocal Coach.

It is a way to take voice lessons at your own home.  We needed this.  I have a few wannabe singers under my roof.

I had been trying to be a coach for my girls, using what I remembered from my own voice lessons....but, some of the things I was worried I was doing wrong or remembering wrong.  Sometimes, I would talk about "tone" and try to explain what I meant when their tone needed to change....and got blank stares in return.  I didn't want them to turn into opera singers with crazy vibratos....but I wanted them to breathe right and support their voices, not sing through their noses, and, well, I wanted them to sound good.

But, I didn't quite know how to get them there.

Vocal Coach has 12 CDs that run through just about everything you would need to become a better singer.  The amount of information they give is about the equivalent of $2,000 worth of personal coaching time.  Voice lessons are not cheap.

Everything from breathing exercises to control, diction and yes, even, tone.

This is a product that I think fills a need.....and, in the words of Chris and Carole Beatty, the husband and wife creators of this program, " long as you are not tone deaf, we WILL help you become a better singer."

The Beattys have been giving voice lessons for about 40 years, so this program uses all the tricks and tips that they have developed through the years.

This video doesn't really have anything to do with how this program works, but this is a really interesting little trick to try so you can hear what you sound like to others. You know how when you accidentally hear yourself on an answering machine or voice mail....and that what I really sound like?  Yup.  It is and in the video, Mr. Beatty explains why.

(I am sure Mr. Beatty is pleased as punch that this is the picture that shows up for the clip!)

This just gives you a little glimpse into how much the Beattys know.....and proves that they can explain it in easy to understand ways....even if you aren't a singer.

This program includes 7 training CDs and 4 workout CDs, and 1 CD which has the lead sheets (more on that one later) which are super full of information and exercises to improve your voice. 

By using these CDs, my girls.....and I.....learned better posture, better breathe control, and how to listen to ourselves.

Here are my girls working on their posture, pretending that there was a string pulling them up from a string through the middle of their head.  Some of the exercises had us giggling because we looked or sounded funny....but they were effective.  Again, one of the advantages of working on this stuff in the privacy of your own home!

Here they are laying on the floor working on their breathing, to make sure the right muscle groups engage.

I did have a few issues with the program though.  I didn't like the packaging, because when we got ours, the CDs had fallen out of their little clicked in spot during transit, so I didn't really have any idea if there was an order to the CDs or not. 

There is a small instructional book that comes with the program that helped a little bit with where to start.   It told us to start with the Getting Started CD, which we did....but we still weren't sure what to really do next.  I am afraid that this might scare away a true beginner.....because there is so much information available....they might be overwhelmed.

The Instructional Guide states that most singers find 45-60 minutes is a good length of practice time for routine work.  But, I didn't know what all to include in that 45-60 minutes....or, should we practice that long for kids.  I wanted to know things much should be spent on breathing much should be spent on warming much should be spent on much should be spent on diction.....or should they all be combined?

See what I mean? 

The  Beattys do a great job teaching and I learned lots of new things, and was reminded how lazy my breathing and posture has become when I sing.  They were able to explain things that I had been trying to get through to the girls, but, we will all admit we are sort of stumbling through and just putting CDs in willy-nilly and trying things.  But, even if we aren't doing things in exactly the correct order, we are becoming better singers....just slightly confused singers!

When we were working on the warm up and breathing exercises, they moved really fast and I had a hard time remembering the melody line of the exercises.  I thought, they should have the sheet music for this so you could sort of follow along.....if you can read music, that is.  I can.

Well, one of the CDs we randomly put in one day, had sheet music for all the exercises.  To me, "lead sheets" are for actual songs, that you would sing way down the road, not the vocal exercises.  But, that is what they are for....all the exercises.  I wish it would have been made clear somewhere that these were there and to go ahead and print them before you started the CD.  We are much more successful now that we know the words we are singing and what melody the exercises follow.....or just at least if we are supposed to be heading up or down on the scales.

It says on the CD, under the word SINGER.....Printable Lead Sheets for Exercises, Progress Journal, and Song Evaluation Forms.

But, I hadn't seen that small print before I put it in.

I would have liked a precise instruction sheet that said, first put in the Lead Sheet CD and print out exercises 1-5, then put in CD #1, do the first 3 exercises, then move onto CD #2, and pick 3 get the idea.

I also wish that the instructor would have kept on singing throughout the exercises so you would know more clearly if you were on the right beat, singing the right words, etc. 

Overall, we really liked this program, because we learned a bunch.  But, we just sort of felt that we were never sure if we were doing things exactly how we were supposed to and how long we were supposed to do them.

I really liked that the Beattys sounded so upbeat and encouraging, with little nuggets of wisdom, like "Practice makes permanent...not perfect."  They have some free resources available on their website, like their free Vocal Coach Blog where they answer questions and give helpful tips.  They also have a free newsletter and are on Facebook.....look for them at Vocal Coach with Chris and Carole Beatty.

If you have any future singing stars or public speakers (this could really help speakers with breath control and stamina) in your household, or just want to be a better singer for yourself, Vocal Coach Singer really can help you get there.  You can get the 12 Vocal Coach Singer CDs and program for $119.99 or $99.99 for Mp3s.

Check out what the other future singers on the TOS Review Crew thought.  Some of them got to try a program created just to Teach Kids to Sing.

Disclaimer:  I received Vocal Coach Singer for free, in exchange for an honest review.