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On this 51st episode we have Dr. Meribeth Dayme talking us through voice training with the ancient, the old and the new techniques to get the best experience in singing. Stick to the end, as Dr. Dayme has a generous offer for you!
Dr. Meribeth Dayme of CoreSinging
Meribeth has had a long and varied career as an academic and voice teacher. Her early years incorporated lots of dance and movement, and her college years were spent training in music and singing. At college she had a wonderful teacher and they would spend hours comparing and discussing singers and voice training pedagogy.
Meribeth managed to chew through every pedagogy book in the college library, including lots of material from the legendary teacher and writer William Vennard. That inspired Meribeth to enrol on the University of Southern California’s vocal pedagogy course, and then on to their doctorate course where she worked under Vennard.
From there continued the passion into anatomy and physiology, which combined dance, twenty years of Alexander technique and a little Feldenkrais work. It also started a journey into learning from what sports science has discovered and bringing that into voice work.
But it didn’t stop there! Meribeth went on to study in a post doctorate at the Royal College of Surgeons in London for two years. In that time she wrote a book called the Dynamics of the Singing Voice which has been a cornerstone book for so many.
Despite that being a heavy dose of anatomy and medicine, her interests were also wandering into complementary medicine and energy work. Think Tai Chi and Chi Gung… you name it, Meribeth has looked at it. It turns out, these ancient practices do a lot for singing!
It takes a lot of experimentation to find out that these seemingly disconnected parts of medicine and energy have a benefit to singing. For teachers today, having permission to be creative and experimental is essential for vocal pedagogy to move forward from old thinking.
Ancient Eastern concepts, western traditions and quantum mechanics – Meribeth’s unique fusion
First of all, if you need to Google ‘quantum mechanics’ before we carry on then go for it 😉 We did.
The brief explanation of the combination here is that our whole world is made of particles and we are all connected, therefore there is not an empty space between us. We are a quantum field made up of these particles and we extend far beyond where we would normally extend! Combine that with Eastern thinking, where the mind is said to control everything. Your intent, the way you think, sets up the way you live your life. If you get in touch with that, a quantum field with intelligence like ourselves is going to be able guide our lives in a better way. But that is harder work and involves a lot of self-development. The Core-Singing course brings in a lot of these self-development concepts to improve the progress of singers through their careers.
Western traditions have their basis in classical pedagogical teaching. But don’t be confused! Meribeth keeps the good stuff and leaves the not-so-good stuff. It’s common in todays teaching world to refute the old myths but forget that there were some incredibly useful and relevant teachings from the same period that will still benefit teaching today. Even for the contemporary artist!
With all of the theories and non-theories, how to do you organise that into Core Singing and how does that help people?
Meribeth experimented a lot of Core Singing. It’s not a method. It’s an approach that provides a foundation for teachers to modify, customise and underpin their choices as a teacher. However, there are some fundamentals that will benefit any style. For example, everyone learns better when it’s fun. Despite that, teacher after teacher will start a lesson with “Here’s the anatomy of your larynx”. There has never been a tennis coach who has demanded a player know the anatomy of their arm before letting them hit a ball. Instead, they play games and have fun which puts it in your energy field in a much better way.
It also needs to be a partnership, rather than a guru or hierarchical structure of master and pupil. One way to do that is to make a video of the singer, because that’s a good way of saying “hey, don’t take my word for it. Here it is for you to see!”
Another rule of Core Singing is avoid ‘self criticism’. The moment you start to analyse you block everything. Sing out and review it, rather than stop instantly because it supposedly ‘wasn’t right’.
What can any singer or vocal coach extract from Core Singing to try at home?
There is a little video on the Core Singing Facebook page about this, and it relates to posture…
“The more aligned with gravity we are, the less energy we need to sing, to breathe, to speak, to be. Principles from Chi Gung can help you to use your imagination to establish postural balance. Current research is suggesting that the brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, so using your imagery is still an effective tool in some scenarios.”
One helpful basis for posture is to stand with feet forward, like an 11. NOT turned out, as that can perceptibly weaken a singing voice and feel weaker, physically.
Once you have your feet placed correctly, it’s time to imagine lines emanating either directly up or down from different areas of your body. The sacrum, the upper back, the sternum, and the elbows. Imagining these lines helps to align many parts of the body into favourable positions for singing and living. Another alignment trick for the teachers to help with students raising the shoulders is too ask for them to place their elbows in your hands. Much like the were really heavy. When the singer vocalises, ask them to leave their elbows in your hands at all time.
See the full podcast above for a full guide on this postural technique from Meribeth. We also presented some listener questions to Meribeth during the podcast….
1. “Do you use anything like balance boards or yoga balls to help your clients find their core strength and physicality?”
I have use those tools in he past and it does help the students to get balanced and to provide some much needed distraction occasionally. It’s when they get off that board, they need to stay balanced. Sometimes, the teacher fails to bring what they achieved on the balance board into the singing. That missed opportunity can also be on the part of the student. For example, you ask them to do something and they do it perfectly. You say “let’s go straight to song” and they go back to their old ways! The teachers role is to make whatever adjustment work in the singing, and not let go of it when you leave the exercise.
2. “I’m a husky singer and I want to get though my passaggio and increase my range”
I’d want to know if the husky tone was deliberate, for stylistic purposes. I would also want to know if there was a clear sound somewhere. If the sound is not clear anyway in the range, maybe when singing different styles or vocalises, I would want an ENT to have a look at the larynx. As a teacher, I’m looking for a clear tone somewhere.
There’s a little bit of a culture in the US these days where if a coach here’s one little bit of hoarseness in a voice they go straight to the ENT! The ENT’s must be so rich (and the singers, so poor!).
You can play with voices to see if there’s something clear in there without visiting a doctor. Is there a clear tone when they laugh, for example? if you have good ears, you’ll be able to spot what’s stylistic huskiness or a vocal pathology. If after trying to find a clear tone I still have questions, that’s when I refer. I DO NOT make a diagnosis.
If, for a minute, we were to presume the voice was healthy then we could lay out the options on the table. What do you want your voice to be described as? Which styles can we mess around with to see where the best sound and function arrives? If there is a clear voice possible, would that singer be willing to experiment with it? That way, all options are on the table and progress can be made easier.
An offer for anyone interested in Core Singing…
One last thing to add is that Meribeth runs a unique training course called Core Singing. It’s usually a five-day intensive group course, but she is offering it to you as a personal mentoring service incorporating:
- 13 x 1.5hr personal sessions with Meribeth over several months
- Certification upon completion
If you mention The Naked Vocalist, you will receive a $300 discount on the full price.
It’s designed to work as an approach for both singers and coaches, and lots of info can found through their Facebook page and through coresinging.org
If you have any questions about Core Singing you can email Meribeth on firstname.lastname@example.org A Skype chat is also available for anyone wishing to discuss whether the course is suitable for them.
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