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BWW Blog: Voice Lessons Online? How Can I Do That?

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BWW Blog: Voice Lessons Online? How Can I Do That?

With the current happenings in the world studying the performing arts has been completely flipped on its head, the once completely in person lessons and rehearsals are now completely online using video chat and email. At the beginning of the global pandemic I was in my final semester in my associate degree program at Dutchess Community College. I had voice lessons, piano lessons, I was costuming designing a show and in an acting class. Now I had to switch from late night rehearsals to looking at my iPad in my bedroom. Although there was an adjustment period it was a very useful skill to learn and with the help of my vocal coaches Denise Summerford and Erin Stewart. I'm hoping this will also help you navigate any challenges and really get the most out of your online platform. The adjustment from the in person lesson structure to online, can be very different. Both ways do have their perks and using those to help you be most effective in your work can really let you take the most from the new structure of learning.

I interviewed Erin Stewart, a Broadway performer and vocal coach, also my vocal coach at school. To get some tips and tricks from the people on the other end of your call. Let's talk about the elephant in the room technical difficulties, we all have them and with the online platform they are bound to happen. I've found its best to record a video of you singing or warming up in the exact setup you use for your lesson, although this won't help with any connection issues it will give you a visual of what your vocal coach is seeing and what is translating through the camera. In order to improve the sound quality try the setting section of whatever app you are using sometimes they will have a sounds or volume section to improve the quality. Erin's tips and tricks, make sure your camera is at eye level and at least from the waist up. Check your lighting make sure you're well lit on camera, also think about your background and what you're framing. Arrange for a quiet environment and have your karaoke or backing tracks ready and nearby for easy access.

I also interviewed Broadway star, Actress, Mentor, founder of Broadway Arts Collective, Vocal coach, and also my personal vocal coach, Denise Summerford. "The biggest challenge in moving to online lessons was having all of the right devices and sound equipment needed to be able to hear and see my students as well as being in person with them. Audio is always an issue because of the delay. Once that was all figured out, it really was an easy transition and all my students are thriving." (Denise) So figure out what set up works for you and don't be afraid to ask your vocal coach or teacher what they think will help. If not, here's some help from Denise: "Some tips and tricks that help with online ZOOM voice lessons is making sure the audio settings are adjusted so there's no distortion or sound canceling. Also, it is a must that the student play their accompaniment on their end and not through the same device that they are using for ZOOM. Another device is needed to play the music through and a Bluetooth speaker is great."

If you're wondering if there are benefits I can personally say that continuing my training has been so beneficial. It gives you something to focus on and makes sure you won't regress through this break from performance. "Being able to connect with my students in a new way. We are seeing each other in our homes! This adds another level of connection. Also, the focus becomes very specific. The camera only captures our faces, there are no other distractions coming into play. So I, as a teacher, can really zero in on other things I might miss in person." (Erin) "The biggest pro for me personally has been the ability to extend my reach to students all over the country and in some cases other parts of the world. That has been incredible."(Denise) This can work for both students and teachers. There are so many great online classes and workshops now being offered from people all over the country and the world with training backgrounds in almost every aspect of theatre. Overall online voice lessons may be tricky but once the learning curve is navigated there is no stopping you.

Online lessons and in person lessons are two peas in the same pod. Although there are pros and cons to both methods and its important to be able to navigate both. Although it's a different process, Erins says it's important to get exposure to new mediums and to continue to do great work within those mediums. We can't replace in person lessons but we can adapt to the new set up. "The online method is any better or worse than working in person; it's just different. I personally like to be in the room with my students but working on line allows me to see them up close and sometimes I can see things that I wouldn't normally see in person. I get a real close look at what they are doing physically with posture and breathing as they are facing me." (Denise) two peas in the same pod. It has an adjustment phase but the online platform is a perfect way to navigate the new life challenges.

Staying motivated is hard but lessons can help with giving a task to focus on and put energy into. If you are having trouble staying motivated here's some advice and tips from Erin and Denise. "Staying motivated can be tricky when you're feeling isolated. Accountability may be an issue for many who normally would benefit from the structure of meeting in person. Find a system that works for you. Maybe it means having a group of friends/ classmates that you check in regularly with to help keep you on track (one idea is to create a private facebook group to check in with). You can also use a habit tracker (a tool like calendar, a spreadsheet, list, etc that you use to track/ cross off habits you want to do daily) as motivation and a means of accountability. Planning ahead is something I have found to be very effective. If you wake up and hope that you will spontaneously do things you want to get through, there is a lot of room for error in that system. Planning ahead and thinking through the day beforehand gives you a better shot at following through with your plans. Also making sure you are taking care of yourself physically and emotionally will put you in a better frame of mind. Make sure to get 8 hours of sleep a day, make sure you are drinking enough water, move your body for 30 minutes (go for a walk!), and find quiet time for your mind. Meditation is a practice that research has shown to have a number of positive benefits, including making you happier, help with focus, decrease stress levels, help you to feel more connected with people and can even make you smarter. Self care is really important, especially right now." (Erin Stewart)"It is hard to stay motivated while working at home while having to stay on top of other classes and studies. That said, your vocal cords are muscles and if you don't use them you lose them. A proper, well organized vocal warm up should really only take 5 minutes a day. This is why I love SOVT ( Semi-occluded vocal tract) exercises. They are efficient, gentle and quick and keep your vocal cords flexible and strong and literally take 5 minutes a day. If you are serious about your singing 5 minutes a day isn't too much to handle. You need to make it a part of your daily schedule. Do it at the same time every day, while in the shower or driving in your car. You can even break it up into a few 3 minute warm up sessions a day. Remember somebody else is doing the work during the time in "pause" and they will emerge from this prepared and ready to go get their theatre jobs. Don't get left behind. This is a rare gift of TIME that you might not ever get again. Use it well." (Denise)

Ultimately the new platform of voice lessons online is going to be a totally new perspective on your lesson and performance. Getting the most out of the new change to online voice lessons is a lot easier just with simply giving yourself time to adjust. With the guidance of both Denise Summerford and Erin Stewart I navigated the platform and I know their advice will help you too.

See you next time, Ben

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From This Author Student Blogger: Benjamin Simonetty