Marty Heresniak, B.M., M.M

voice teacher

79 Hudson Heights
Ithaca, NY 14850-3869

voxnaturalis@alumni.ithaca.edu

607-272-2892

member

National Association of Teachers of Singing

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What's New Horse Hockey and Hogwash!
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the Physiology of Stress
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Carl Gutekunst Are We Forgetting Something?

CHANGING THE STANDARDS
ALTERNATIVE TEACHING MATERIALS
Marty Heresniak, M. M., NATS and Christopher Woitach


This paper was originally presented in a shortened form
during the Poster Paper sessions
at the 2000 NATS Convention in Philadelphia.

It is the result of a seven-year collaboration which began with a team-taught voice styles class and grew to include review of over 1,500 songs for pedagogical applications - the result of which is the 26 American Songs - No Arias. The authors also collaborate to present the day-long workshop Vocal Style and Performance Practice in Jazz and Swing.

This text is an abstract of a longer version which appeared in the Journal of Singing, volume 58, no. 1, September/October 2001. JoS now holds the copyright on the full text, so research a copy in your local music library if you would like more complete information on the 26 American Songs.



A wise selection of repertoire is an important factor in the progressive growth of the solo voice . . . appropriate selections can develop enthusiasm, and, at the same time, assist good tonal production. They can conserve and beautify the quality of each individual voice . . . inspiring the love for singing that will last through a lifetime. An unwise selection can destroy interest, impair good voices and thwart the desire for enjoyment of singing. 1

SCENARIO

A student enters a voice studio seeking to improve technique. The student is in a band or wants to study musical theatre. The teacher assigns one of the Twenty-Four Italian Songs and Arias and, perhaps, several Vaccai exercises. After a few lessons the student ceases study.

REACTION

Many teachers would say this was not a serious student. We would disagree. This was not a serious teacher. Those trained in the philosophy of education understand if a teaching strategy fails, it is the teacher's fault. The teacher must find a way to teach to each individual student's needs and particular logic.

THEORY

It is the how of singing, not the what that will improve or undo sound technical practices. Choice of repertory does not make for good or bad technique. There is no inherent quality to a song which guarantees technique will improve by singing it. Nor will a specific song necessarily be detrimental to good singing.

Granted, much of jazz, swing, musical theatre, and popular singing is atrocious. So is a lot of classical and operatic singing. Just as we would not dismiss classical singing due to less-than-competent practitioners, so, too, we should not condemn non-classical styles as harmful or "bad" singing due to the unfortunately low standards of production. If we don't like the singing we hear in nonclassical styles, we should not dismiss it, but help improve it. This help need not include requiring the student to change styles. Classical training need not necessarily involve training in classical literature.

VOCAL CONVICTIONS
  • We believe all good singing is essentially the same. There may be differences in performance practice or stylization, but a healthy voice act is universal.
  • We believe the best vocal technique is free of muscular tension.
  • We believe in analyzing individual aspects of singing, correcting production, eliminating tensions, and then resynthesizing the whole.
  • We believe mastery of fundamental concepts is far more important than mastery of repertory.
  • We believe "to be able to sing really well in one language is certainly a greater achievement than to distort several". 2
  • We likewise believe to sing comfortably and well in a portion of the vocal range is far better than to tax both the voice and the listener by reaching for notes which cannot be produced with freedom and grace.

In choosing our tools, i.e.: the songs, for this project, we first established pedagogical goals in keeping with the vocal convictions above. Those aspects of singing which most often require attention are inhalation, initiating tone, breath maintenance, articulation, developing a connected and sustained style, ear training, and accuracy in vocal agility. 3

We follow a philosophy of achieving one goal at a time, moving on when mastery has been achieved. In keeping with this philosophy, we have chosen our teaching strategies and our tools so that each naturally focuses on a single aspect of singing, to which the student may devote undivided attention. The concentration and simplicity of each of the strategies leads to an ease of success, often within the first few renditions of the song, supporting a positive learning attitude. We work toward singing at peak efficiency with minimum effort while training the mind in new habits.

PEDAGOGICAL GOALS

INHALATION
  • Develop a eupneic,4 low, abdominal, "at rest" breath, the standard for voice study.
  • Banish the dyspneic4 breath, with its fight-or-flight, panic reflex closing of the glottis.

INITIATING TONE
  • Begin tones freely, without local control of breath in the throat, whether it be glottal stopping, hard onset, left-over effects of a dyspneic breath, or other throat/tongue constrictions.

BREATH MAINTENANCE
  • Maintain breath energy through continued engagement of torso musculature during voicing.
  • Maintain openness of airway and vocal tract.

ARTICULATION
  • Produce vowels with required tongue position changes only and without allowing the tongue to become rigid.
  • Allow only the minimum tension necessary to form eachconsonant.
  • Coördinate articulation with breath maintenance that the former does not interrupt the latter.

CONNECTED & SUSTAINED STYLE
  • Maintain breath energy throughout phrases.
  • Master a consistently even and uninterrupted flow of tone for all vowels, pitches, and volumes.
  • Develop a minimally-interruptive consonant articulation.

EAR TRAINING
  • Master pitch matching. 5
  • Learn standard chord structures and derivative melodic patterns of repertory styles.
  • Play and sing chromatic melodies and harmonies.

VOCAL AGILITY
  • Navigate "breaks" in the range without singer-induced production changes.
  • Master broken chords with knowledge of underlying theory.
  • Vocalize leaps and octaves with consistent tone and accuracy.

IMPROVISATION
  • Explore improvisation techniques as appropriate to repertory.


In all projects one must know the job to be done before choosing the tools to use. Tools must be chosen to match the nature of the individual job. A mechanic must know whether to use English or Metric tools when working on domestic or foreign vehicles, even if the work to be done is essentially the same. Different teaching situations and different students may be best accommodated by using different tools while teaching lessons that are essentially the same.

Teachers trained in the classics may know neither the repertory, nor the styles, nor the performance practices of non-classical styles. If called upon to train non-classical singers, do you have the right tools for the job? Many classical teachers depend on their students to provide the repertory for jazz/swing/popular/musical theatre study. Unfortunately, most students interested in these styles are familiar only with the songs they have heard from the most recently opened shows and CD releases. These songs are not necessarily right for their voices at their particular stages of development. A teacher knowledgeable in the repertory can make informed decisions, matching a song to the particular vocal needs at hand. But how does the teacher become informed?

Please come up with some ideas to help people 'go where they have not been, and learn to teach what they formerly did not know.' And share your ideas... 6

For those teachers with students for whom it is appropriate, we offer a way to change the standards of voice pedagogy, from the Twenty-Four Italian Songs and Arias, the standard (some would say obligatory) studio instructional materials, to our 26 American Songs - No Arias, all jazz standards, while maintaining the accepted standards of vocal technique conforming with efficient bio-mechanics.

SONG CHOICE PROCESS
  • The songs were chosen according to our stated pedagogical goals. Many songs answer to several goals. Refer to our Formulary for a list of typical vocal goals and which songs may be suited to teaching those goals.
  • All the selections avoid extremes of vocalism. The widest ranging song spans only a sharp eleventh, with twenty of the twenty-six falling within the compass of a ninth.
  • All the selections are true standards of the repertory, known by the average jazz musician. Thus students attending weddings, bar mitzvahs, or other family functions may be prepared for the dreaded "Oh, you're studying singing, go sing something with the band."


While there are sundry collections of jazz tunes and musical theatre songs, we have not yet seen a collection chosen primarily for pedagogical reasons. We offer this double baker's dozen to voice teachers that they may approach their non-classical students with tools appropriate both to the students' tastes and goals and to the basic precepts of classic singing technique.

We, the profession of singing teachers, are responsible for the technical, musical, and artistic growth, development, and maturation of the students in our charge. Different students have different needs in performing different music styles and different repertories. Our responsibility is to research and become familiar with the pedagogic and coaching skills and materials which will give our students the skills they need to perform in any style suited to their voices.

26 American Songs - No Arias

Selected and annotated by Marty Heresniak

Due to copyright limitation, only the song titles and composers are listed here. Refer to the Journal of Singing for complete text of the article with my annotations on how to use the songs in the studio.

AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'
FATS WALLER, ANDY RAZAF, HARRY BROOKS

BLUE MOON
RICHARD RODGERS, LORENZ HART

BLUE SKIES
IRVING BERLIN

BUT NOT FOR ME
GEORGE GERSHWIN, IRA GERSHWIN

BYE BYE BLUES
FRED HAMM, DAVE BENNETT, BERT LOWN, CHAUNCEY GRAY

CAROLINA IN THE MORNING
WALTER DONALDSON, GUS KAHN

CRAZY RHYTHM
JOSEPH MEYER, ROGER WOLFE KAHN, IRVING CAESAR

DARN THAT DREAM
JIMMY VAN HEUSEN, EDGAR de LANGE

EMBRACEABLE YOU
GEORGE GERSHWIN, IRA GERSHWIN

HEART AND SOUL
HOAGY CARMICHAEL, FRANK LOESSER

HONEYSUCKLE ROSE
THOMAS "FATS" WALLER, ANDY RAZAF

HOW HIGH THE MOON
MORGAN LEWIS, NANCY HAMILTON

I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT YOU'RE IN LOVE WITH ME
CLARENCE GASKILL, JIMMY McHUGH

I CAN'T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE
JIMMY McHUGH, DOROTHY FIELDS

I GOT RHYTHM
GEORGE GERSHWIN, IRA GERSHWIN

I'M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT
HARRY JAMES, DUKE ELLINGTON, JOHNNY HODGES, DON GEORGE

LOVER
RICHARD RODGERS, LORENZ HART

MEAN TO ME
FRED AHLERT, ROY TURK

MY FAVORITE THINGS
RICHARD RODGERS, OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN

MY ROMANCE
RICHARD RODGERS, LORENZ HART

OH, LADY BE GOOD
GEORGE GERSHWIN, IRA GERSHWIN

'S WONDERFUL
GEORGE GERSHWIN, IRA GERSHWIN

SOME OTHER TIME
LEONARD BERNSTEIN, BETTY COMDEN, ADOLPH GREEN

THERE'S A SMALL HOTEL
RICHARD RODGERS, LORENZ HART

THIS TIME THE DREAM'S ON ME
JOHNNY MERCER, HAROLD ARLEN

UNDECIDED
CHARLEY SHAVERS, SID ROBIN




Song Formulary

For each pedagogical goal, the songs listed may be useful as études.

INHALATION - DEVELOP EUPNEA

Blue Moon
Blue Skies
Carolina in the Morning
Darn That Dream
How High the Moon
There's a Small Hotel
This Time the Dream's on Me

INHALATION - BANISH DYSPNEA

Crazy Rhythm
Heart and Soul
I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me
I Got Rhythm
Lover [up-tempo]
Mean to Me
Undecided

INITIATING TONE

Blue Moon
Embraceable You
Heart and Soul
Honeysuckle Rose
I Can't Give You Anything But Love
I'm Beginning to See the Light

BREATH MAINTENANCE

Darn That Dream
Honeysuckle Rose
Heart and Soul
How High the Moon
Lover

ARTICULATION

Carolina in the Morning
I Can't Give You Anything But Love
I'm Beginning to See the Light

CONNECTED & SUSTAINED STYLE

Blue Moon
Carolina in the Morning
Heart & Soul
How High the Moon
My Romance
There's a Small Hotel
This Time the Dream's on Me

EAR TRAINING - CHROMATICISM

Darn That Dream
How High the Moon
Lover
Mean to Me

EAR TRAINING - CHORDAL

Ain't Misbehavin'
Blue Skies
Bye Bye Blues
Carolina in the Morning
How High the Moon
I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me
Oh, Lady Be Good
'S Wonderful
There's a Small Hotel

VOCAL AGILITY - BROKEN CHORDS

Darn That Dream
Honeysuckle Rose
I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me
Oh, Lady Be Good

VOCAL AGILITY - LEAPS & OCTAVES

Blue Skies
Bye Bye Blues
Embraceable You
Heart and Soul
Mean to Me
My Favorite Things
Some Other Time
This Time the Dream's on Me

VOCAL AGILITY - NAVIGATING "BREAK"

Blue Moon
But Not for Me
Bye Bye Blues
Embraceable You
Honeysuckle Rose
How High the Moon
My Favorite Things
Oh, Lady Be Good

SYNCOPATION

Crazy Rhythm
Honeysuckle Rose
I've Got Rhythm
Lover
Undecided

IMPROVISATION

Ain't Misbehavin'
Blue Skies
Bye Bye Blues
Honeysuckle Rose
I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me
I Can't Give You Anything But Love
I Got Rhythm
My Favorite Things
My Romance
'S Wonderful

Refer to the Journal of Singing for sources for all the songs listed.

ENDNOTES

(1) The High School Student and the Singing of Grand Opera. American Academy of Teachers of Singing pronouncement, November 1963.
(2) The College Student and the Singing of Grand Opera and Recital. American Academy of Teachers of Singing pronouncement, 1967.
(3) N.B.: In keeping with the general idea that we are dealing with American, English-speaking singers in an American repertory, we avoid, as much as possible, use of Italian terms. Thus you will read breath maintenance in lieu of appoggio, connected and sustained for legato, etc. We see no benefit in teaching a student a foreign word for these simple concepts, thus putting another level of symbolism to be translated between the word and the concept. Such terms can make the concepts themselves seem foreign.
(4) Eupnea: easy or normal breathing, from the Greek eu: "good" [euphoria, euphemism] and pneu: air or breath [pneumatic, pneumonia]. Dyspnea: difficult or labored breathing, from the Greek dys: "ill" [dysfunctional, dysphonia].
(5) For those working outside of academia, teaching pitch-matching to young-adult and adult singing students is not uncommon and part of the practice of voice pedagogy. Often a deficient elementary music education never solidified ear-training. In some cases the vocal technique is so poor there is insufficient breath to produce tone where the ear would place it. Some otherwise talented singers often miss the fine-tuning of chromaticisms.
(6) Teaching Something You Don't Know, James McKinney, Journal of Singing, Volume 54, No. 4, page 2, March/April 1998.