The Singer’s Road to Mastery

by Daniel Weiskopf

I often get asked how long it takes to get your voice to a state of competency and mastery.  The answer is…. you get to determine the rate!

The type of training provided here *is* the shortcut.  Proper balanced bridging technique, a scientifically backed voice training strategy, is the direct route to your success.  Unfortunately, this form of vocal development is typically known to industry insiders.  The fact that you are here means you have brought the “secret weapon” of the stars to your field of potential.  Most of your favorite vocal artists have done training under balanced bridging technique, popularly called “speech level singing,” “bel canto,”  and “Mix.”

Once you begin the training, there are a handful of factors that determine your rate of results:

1. Amount of ingrained singing habits (good or bad) that you arrive with

2. Willingness to let go and try new things

3. Trust (in the technique, the instructor, and your body)

4. Focused, dedicated practice time

5. Current demand of performance and use of voice

Let us look into each factor in more depth:

Amount / Degree Of Ingrained Singing Habits

People come to train their voice which has been used, in everyone’s case, since birth.  Depending on your age, how much you have used your voice, and who you have mimicked or learned from, you have developed vocal habits both Good and Bad.  I capitalized ‘good’ and ‘bad’ because when it comes to vocal habits there are those that enable vocal health and those that put it to risk.  The quality of your voice could sound great and exactly the way you like it, but your habits are either going to give you a healthy voice for a lifetime or lead you to breakdown and the medical help and rehab that ensues.  Case in point; while many people love Adele’s singing, she was doing things to create her sound that were not efficient and healthy.  Her underlying Bad habits made her cancel her tour due to vocal hemorrhaging and undergo a long process of vocal rehab.  Even successful vocalists need Good technique.  Michael Jackson had his favorite vocal coach, one of my mentors, go on tour with him to warm up and rebalance his voice every day, twice a day.  The only tour in his career he had to cancel was one where the producer would not allow him to bring that teacher along..  Also, many assume that because they sing with a “Classical” background that their technique is good.  All Classical singer training guarantees is knowledge of foreign language diction, musicianship, and the ability to read music.  Classical singing does not guarantee vocal health and balanced singing technique. Opera singers often damage their voices, too!

A habit is simply something that is familiar, not something that is healthy.  For example smoking is a habit that feels good to a Smoker (one who has smoked for a long time), but it is certainly not a healthy habit.  As humans, we have a tendency to hold on to what is familiar and avoid change.  We resist new habits because they are uncertain until they prove themselves, which, paradoxically, cannot happen until they become ingrained; habit forming takes time.  Many students who are experienced performers and talented musicians take the longest time to let go of their old Bad singing habits. They therefore have a longer road to vocal mastery.  Other students who have come to me with little to no prior training or performance have few (if any) ingrained habits to negotiate and overcome.  While they have the quickest available path to mastery, they also don’t always stick it out because they have never been challenged by singing demands yet.  They have the advantage of a clean slate, but do not have a clear idea of where they are, where they want to go, or when they get there.

I, personally, am an example case of the experienced musician/singer that came to this technique with heavily ingrained Bad habits that I developed from many years of :”Classical” training.  It did not matter that my training came from a prestigious international music conservatory.  

Willingness And Openness To Try New Things

Many students are overly  self conscious about their voice, and judge every sound that comes out of them.  They don’t want to sound (what they judge to be) bad, funny, weak, or unbearable.  However, the initial exercises we do to gain deeper vocal knowledge, competency, and eventually mastery REQUIRES sounding bad, funny, weak and annoying!  We literally have to make annoying brat-like sounds to discover and strengthen the Cricoarytenoid Muscle; this is the muscle that gives you vocal endurance and stability.  We need to make funny cartoon-like sounds to release a high larynx; otherwise you will shout for high notes which damages your Vocalis (muscle).  We also need to find and except the weak or awkward aspects of our voice to uncover what underlying habits need work and iron out your technique.  Here are some examples of self-consciousness in a lesson:

  • I have had some students who laugh almost the entire time during their lesson, which limits their advancement.  I invite humor and make jokes in a lesson, but while therapeutic for a second,  continuous laughter in vocal training becomes self-sabotaging.
  • I have had students who literally refuse to do the exercise they are being shown because it sounds bad, when that exercise is pivotal to their vocal progress.  When they go into an exercise with resistance, they do it sloppily and noncommittally which puts them at risk of potentially doing damage.
  • Conversely, I have many students who are afraid of doing exercises because they believe it will take away their “unique voice” and that they will lose their signature sound.  All the exercises do is show you an alternative route to producing sound more efficiently and you can decide whether or not you keep your sound with Good new habits, or Bad old habits.  If you are a talented soccer player, will massage therapy and yoga cause you to lose your soccer playing ability?

Trust

You have to first trust your body is fully capable and has all the same muscles that other bodies do.  You have to trust that I am experienced and knowledgeable of just about every vocal affliction out there, having developed hundreds of different voices as well as my own. You have to trust the technique being taught through me which is the most sought after and scientifically validated technique available for every type of singer and voice.

Unless you have vocal damage or other health issues interfering with the muscles in your voice, you can safely try any exercise I employ.  If you have vocal defects or damage, I will notice that right away, and treat you the way I treat people who need vocal rehabilitation.  If the damage is really bad I will recommend you see a doctor.  I refuse to do anything that will harm your voice or your body.  And I know how your body and voice works, short of a major genetic mutation that sets you apart from all other humans.  You have the same gear as everyone else.

Another reason you can trust me and the technique is because I can demonstrate with my own voice 4+ octaves of range in full voice, a seamless transition, clear/strong/smooth tone–all of which I developed from balanced bridging technique and training.  Prior to this training, all I had was 1 and 1/2 octaves and a falsetto which I cracked and flipped between.  I also had an overly forced tone from “pushing” (unbalanced diaphragmatic pressure, which classical voice teachers mistakenly teach).

Practice Time

If you merely come to your lesson weekly or monthly, you will definitely notice a change in your voice.  Think of me as a voice chiropractor; after every exercise, an adjustment has been made.  As with a chiropractor, every adjustment improves your body’s alignment and health, but if you go back to the bad habits and lifestyle that got your body out of whack you will need to go see your chiropractor more often.  You have to practice better posture to improve upon what he/she does to you.  Likewise, you have to practice with your recordings from our voice lesson together.  The more you methodically run your exercises and apply what you learn to your songs, the more rapid your success and eventual mastery will be.  If you don’t practice methodically, your voice will still improve from this training, but you will require many, many more training sessions than if you did your homework.

Current Performance Demands

Some students/clients are active singers professionally, or scholastically.  If you have performance demands in the early stages of your training with me, you might not feel comfortable using new habits in your performance.at first, which means you will use your old familiar habits ,thus reinforcing them.  Until you commit to the new habits, you will not progress as rapidly as you are capable of.  The most ideal training window is if you have a break of at least a couple of months before your next performance or audition.  That way, your new habits are getting the attention and reinforcement they need before performance.  If you are a student with a high performance workload and you have that break, cram as much training and practice into that window as possible, to get yourself on the right track.  Trust me, it is worth the investment!  If you don’t have the benefit of a break from performance, do your best, and be patient with the pace you are developing at which may be slower than the ideal.

Now that you understand the primary factors at play on The Singer’s Road to Mastery:

SET IT AND FORGET IT!

Each adjustment, and discovery that comes from the exercises we do is a sneak peak of the big-transformation-to-come.  Each exercise is a simulation that shows you a new way of using your vocal muscles.  To make your new mechanical ability a habit takes time, whether or not you practice.  I don’t have an equation of the exact number of hours of practice required to make a new habit gel, but I can report what I have observed from many years of training voices: Without fail, every student, no matter how much they practice or improve, has a tremendous  breakthrough in their singing every 6 months–I mean next level breakthrough.  What this tells me is muscle memory takes roughly this much time to form.

I can get some of my students to experience vocal competency in a lesson or two.  They will say, “wow, that made singing much easier,” and will notice improvements in the songs they sing.  After six months, everything becomes easier without thinking about it.  This means every six months you will reach a new threshold in your singing, because what you worked on to that point will become reflexive muscle memory.  The more abilities you work on and time you practice, the BIGGER the six month transformation will be!  When you first experience vocal balance, you have to really focus and work at it to maintain it in your singing.

As I said earlier, mastery is an ongoing process that I, too, am still navigating and improving within.  What I consider the onset of the Mastery Stage is when vocal competency, muscle memory, and confidence merge.  Mastery is attainable, young Jedi–just stay the course, and make sure you are in the right hands!  Some people take much longer to reach the onset of Mastery, and others get there with dizzying speed.  I can’t tell you for certain what your path will be like, but mastery can be reached by ALL that truly desire it.  Dabblers never master, and, as one of my teachers liked to say,

Good is the enemy of Great! ”

 

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