English Transcript of Video:
Hi, I’m Dr. Marc, and I’m gonna help you sing and perform more like the top artists around the world. I’m a professional voice teacher, performance coach and Opera stage director. I’ve helped thousands of singers around the world learn the techniques and methods that got the top singers to where they are. Today, let’s learn from the Diana Ankudinova performing “Wicked Game”. Here we go.
♪ The world was on fire ♪ ♪ And no one could save me but you ♪ ♪ It’s strange what desire ♪ ♪ Will make foolish people do ♪ ♪ And I’d never dreamed that I’d need ♪ ♪ Somebody like you ♪
Okay, few things here. First and foremost, this whispery sound. Try it, try speaking on a whisper. Hi, how are you? And then start trying to sing on that same whisper, and see what happens.
♪ ♪Hi, how are you? ♪ ♪
That’s one way to start figuring out how to get that kind of whispery, softer sound with a lot of air and aspiration in it. Other tool you can learn right now, how does she get this really rich, warm tone that we’re hearing? Well, there’s a lot of different factors involved, but what you can do today is try this exercise. What I’m gonna have you do is I’m gonna have you take your hands like this and point back this way. If you can see, I’m pointing back to the back of my throat. And I want you to imagine that this is a number five, four, three is straight up, two to your eyeballs. One is straight forward here out of your mouth. And try to sing to each of those spots. Imagine that you’re sending your sound in that direction. Five, four, three, two, one. Just by imagining where you are just gonna send that sound it’s gonna help a host of other little micro things that have to happen to adjust, and get unique sounds. So what’s going on here? Well, we have this kind of four and five type of placement, if you wanna experiment with that, which is getting this warm richness, this tall sound. But the second part of this exercise is I want you to imagine that now you’re gonna do two of those numbers at once. You’re going to do, say, like a five with the two at the same time. Meaning, your first priority is gonna be sending it to a five, but you wanna keep it balanced out stretched to that two at the same time. Yeah, does it sounds strange a little bit? Maybe does it feel a little odd? Maybe, but give it a try and see if it helps you as a tool, as a way of thinking about getting new, unique sounds.
♪ I’d never dreamed that I’d meet ♪ ♪ Somebody like you ♪ ♪ No, I don’t want to fall in love ♪ ♪ I don’t want to fall in love ♪
What are the things that really make us react strongly to what she’s doing? Sure, it’s a great voice. It sounds nice. It’s a unique sound. That’s great. But what we’re looking for, first and foremost, is what is it that makes us feel and think. What transports us to a new place? To me, her voice does this. I think it really sucks me right in, and transports me to the world of the song. Which is what makes it so exceptional, to me. And when I see these judges pushing at these buttons, that’s what I think is probably the biggest indicator of what would make us as an audience member feel like we could push that button. What is it that’s doing it? Yes, with her body language, with her performance skills. She is living in this imaginary world that the song creates for her, and showing that with her body and her face. But what I wanna talk about more about is the musicality side of things. There is something about the way we use our voice that will draw someone into the story that we’re telling. A definition of musicality that I really love is this. There are no two notes side by side that are the same dynamic level, or the same duration. Which means, if you can imagine a measure that has four equal quarter notes. Imagine that the words are, I like to sing. They’re all equal quarter notes. And that the dynamic at the beginning is listed Mezzo Forte. Most people will look at that and think that, consequently, if I was to sing it not on any specific pitch, but just on one pitch, it would be, I like to sing. I like to sing. That they each get the same dynamic, and that they each get the same amount of time. This is not the case. The case is, of this phrase, I like to sing, What are the most important words? Like, sing. Of those two words, is like more important or sing more important? I’m gonna choose sing. So that means sing has to be the loudest. And again, are there exceptions to this? Yes, there is other ways around it. But for now, the easiest way to think about it is sing is gonna be the loudest, like is gonna be in the next loudest, and then the other two are, definitely, gonna be somewhere underneath that in terms of dynamic level. In terms of length, if sing is my most important syllable, it’s gonna be the longest, and like is gonna be the next longest. Hopefully, what you’re thinking is, if this is the case, how do I keep a steady beat? Well, the way we keep a steady beat is, if we have this phrase where they’re supposed to be all equal quarters, that means whatever I’m going to add, however much I lengthen the words like and sing, I’m gonna have to steal that same amount from I, to, so that it balances out. So that whatever I steal, I get that same amount back, so the overall sum total is the same, and that beat stays steady. So if I’m talking, I like to sing. Oh, now it doesn’t sound so robotic. It has kind of a musical element to it. I like to sing. Notice, I say those words louder, and they’re longer. It makes it easier to hear and listen to. What you’ll notice here is what makes this artistry, what makes it believable, what helps us to understand it, and engage with what’s going on, is this ebb and flow. This rise and fall, both dynamic, and this length of the important words too that is constantly shifting around this ever-present, ever-steady beat. I love what she does here, she is so articulate. And she lets this ebb and flow happen in a way that is so engaging, makes it so musical, lyrical. These words that we describe, that are often used in kind of this mythical, magical way, they are mythical-magical, but we can be deliberate about it, and we can, definitely, identify what we need to do to create a musical phrase. And she does a great job here.
♪ What a wicked game to play ♪ ♪ To make me feel this way ♪ ♪ What a wicked thing to do ♪ ♪ To make me dream of you ♪ ♪ What wicked thing to say ♪ ♪ You never felt this way ♪
For right now, this moment, to get the sound that she’s getting, with our previous exercise of 54321, it sounds to me like she is sending the majority of her sound in a four direction. Is this a technical term? I want you to sing in a four direction? No, again, like all these tools, they’re ways of conceptualizing, of thinking about how to sing and make these sounds, ways of giving our body our subconscious cues to give a much more complex reaction in this vocal mechanism to get a specific sound. So play with it, see if that way of thinking about how to make this sound, helps you make it, helps you create a similar sound. The other thing I wanna point out here is the amount of vibrato she is using. I want you to pay attention to when she is using vibrato, when she’s not, how consistent it is, and the level of clarity in the voice when she does use vibrato. What’s always surprising to me when I’m listening to a pop singer, is how much vibrato there actually is. For, somewhere in my mind, and maybe you’ll be the same, when I think about pop, I don’t think of vibrato. When I think of vibrato, I think of Opera and these big voices, and maybe even a kind of over-accentuated, wide vibrato that we can imagine with Opera. Well, no, actually, even in the best Opera singers, that vibrato is nice and shimmery and bright, and it’s not overly accentuated. And here, we have this really gorgeous of vibrato that likes to come out when she is making these clear tones, and it’s really lovely. A cool way to think about creating straight tone that helps things from getting tight and rigid, is imagine that even when it is straight tone, when we’re not hearing any vibrato, mentally you imagine that there’s still a little bit of that shimmery vibrato going through that straight tone. My experience has been that when students think that, it helps release some of the tensions that like to creep in when we do just sing straight tone without any vibrato. It’s a treat to let your body release of the tension that might have crept it.
♪ What a wicked thing to do ♪ ♪ To make me dream of you ♪ ♪ And I don’t want to fall in love ♪ ♪ No, I ♪ ♪ No, I don’t want to fall in love ♪ ♪ Ooh ♪
One of the big questions here going through my mind is with this warm rich, darker sound, I would have expected, especially towards the top, to have her lose some of the flexibility in her voice, some of the flexibility to maneuver through the ornamentation that she’s singing here. But it’s not. What is helping her doing that? Well, the consistency of airflow definitely helps. Two, is that she’s not pressurizing the vocal folds from breathing underneath, she’s not pushing at it. what she’s doing is she’s keeping that space really tall, really O kind of shaped and back. And by back I mean behind these back molars in the oropharynx, and she is relying on that to generate the sound and not pressured force.
♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ Aah ♪ ♪ Aah ♪ ♪ Aah ♪ ♪
My other question is, with all this warmth, ♪ this four at the back, this place where we’re talking about, this four in the back, why isn’t this sounding swallowed? Why is it still sounding present and forward and consistent, and still, how is that stuff, that buzz in it? Well, if you watch here, this upper two smile. It’s not just the four, it’s this additional two, or even, sometimes, what it sounds like kind of this one position, where it’s still really speech-like and forward, even though there’s the shape, this tallness in the oropharynx. Consequently, we get this really rich sound, but it still stays present and speech-like, it doesn’t sound so swallowed.
♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ The world was on fire ♪ ♪ No one could save me but you. ♪♪ ♪Nobody knows where.♪ ♪
Finally, for me, what I love watching here, just like all the other videos of her, is the intensity, the commitment to the story, to the communication. It doesn’t matter that the crowd is going crazy, that she’s hearing these things buzz. Look how nuanced her face is, how nuanced her gestures are, and how much is, clearly, going through her mind. Not in terms of, “Am I doing the technique right?” But in terms of really living in this imaginary moment that the music calls for, and that she is creating here, and that the lights and sets are creating. She is really 100% in that moment. And the intensity, the amount of focus she has of living in that imaginary moment, wow, it makes for an absolutely stunning performance to watch. And ultimately, like all the most captivating performers, her voice, her body language, everything she’s doing, is a tool to communicate, and tell us a story. In the moment, does it seem like she is worried about if she’s doing it right, if she’s doing it correct, if she is going to please other people? No, she is just 100% committed in this moment. She is obviously done her work, and worked really hard to build the muscle memory, and the technique and the abilities to have this really professional gorgeous sound, but not focused on that in the moment. Take those times to shut the judges off, and 100% live in the imaginary moment that that song requires. If you want a voice lesson, a performance coaching, or you want me to work with you or your group to help you sing easier, perform at a consistently higher level, book a with me at MRperformingartsstudio.com. I look forward to working with you online.
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