Announcing a Breathing for Singers Workshop this Saturday, 2/10/18, from 11am-12pm, at Swallow Hill Music Association (71 E. Yale Ave, Denver, CO). This workshop is both an excellent introduction as well as a insightful refresher to the notion of breathing as it applies to singers. We'll delve deeply into how it all works. We'll also work on numerous exercises that will get you feeling and controlling your breath support! Follow the link to register.
This summer has been productive! Although my family had to temporarily sacrifice our vegetable garden due to moving, I would say that my musical garden has been robust!
I was honored to be asked by CBS Denver to give Wednesday's Child LeShea a voice lesson. LeShea was so earnest, sweet and hard working that it was a pleasure to work with her. I wish for her to find the family of her dreams. Anybody would be lucky to have LeShea in their lives. Watch the clip that aired on the morning show on channel 7.
I've also been busy working on a deeply personal musical endeavor, The Molly Growler Project. What started out as an outlet during a difficult time has morphed into a three-piece band. I'm the primary songwriter, something new for me, but the other band members have powerful musical voices to contribute. We played our first show as a full band recently and it felt empowering, uplifting and communal. All the good stuff about putting a band together and just getting out there with it. Check out the bandcamp page for recordings.
I also put together a little jazz duo that consists of myself and guitarist Aaron Summerfield. It's a mellow, stripped down sort of jazz that's been really fun to perform. We played a few gigs at the ModMarket in Highlands Ranch and I made a short video of it.
The full jazz band (which is now between band names) I've been singing with for a few years finally finished mastering our demo. Crazy how these things can take a while to complete! Two of my favorite tracks are loaded on the sounds page of this here website. Here is the direct link. Listen to the tunes at the very top.
If you would like to catch any of my performances be sure to check the regularly updated calendar. Be sure to say hi when you stop by.
I'm feeling especially grateful for all these opportunities that have come my way recently. Many friends, students and family have come out to support my performances. I feel all warm and gooey inside thanks to them. It makes me want to keep on keepin' on.
This week I'm preparing for an upcoming gig at La Cour Denver Art Bar. (Click here for more info.) While I do so I'm immersing myself in some new tunes. Here are a couple that I've been deeply studying.
A folk tune from Cuba, "Lagrimas Negras".
And this entrancing ballad, "A Timeless Place (The Peacocks)". Which is also a part of my Happy 2016 Mixtape. You can watch the playlist, and read my comments, here.
Now, back to my practicing!
Let me know what you thought of the tunes in the comments below.
Or better yet, come watch me sing them on March 23 at La Cour Denver Art Bar!
This week we're gonna talk about how brilliant Santigold is.
Ok, I'm not really gonna go on a diatribe about her artistic merit, but I will say that her newest album, 99¢, which came out 2 weeks ago, is a really fun descent into pop mutations. Frankly, it's been my only jam for the past week. Carribean dancehall meets 80's pop meets contemporary hip hop. I hear everything from Siouxsie Sioux to Erykah Badu. Intrigued? Buy it here.
What I do want to talk about is how wonderfully Santigold uses the full range of her voice in this album. In fact, she gives us clear examples of the spectrum of her registration.
Let's talk registration for a moment. Loosely, this refers to head voice and chest voice, high notes and low notes, respectively. Oftentimes singers blend these registers, singing in neither register exclusively. However, Santigold has sections where she fully lives in each register, letting us hear the unique colors each register has to offer. It is this type of tonal play that makes pop music so infectious and interesting to listen to.
In her song "Chasing Shadows" she layers to separate vocal lines during the chorus. The primary one is sung in a chest dominant register while a head voice only line is superimposed on top. The contrast between the two registers happening simultaneously creates a dynamic sound and helps to heighten the song overall. Then, she comes in on the second verse singing, again, in an exclusively head register. Her voice sounds very pretty, for lack of a better adjective, and the vocal line has an opportunity to float over the bass and drums. Check it out and let me know what you hear:
The track, "Before the Fire", opens with a darker sound than much of the rest of the album. The lyrics hint at personal struggle, be it in romantic love or life's purpose. To accentuate this, she sings in a full, heavy, chest voice registration. On the chorus, with its held-out notes, it becomes almost a full belt. This song has serious feels and it comes through because of the choice she made for vocal placement. What do you think?
Conveying artistry and emotion as a singer is often about making smart choices in how we use our voice. I appreciate vocalists who give us a wide range of vocal colors and textures, like Santigold. Listening to how our favorite singers use their voice will help us to create dynamic, emotional music that reaches our audience.
Who are some dynamic singers that inspire you? Let me know in the comments.
I'm taking a cue from students this week. My students teach me as much about music, arguably more, than I teach them.
This week was the Swallow Hill graduation, where all of the group classes culminated with a performance for each other. I had several classes perform. The songs spanned Joni Mitchell, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra. I must say they all performed fabulously.
One of my students performed with a class I was not teaching - a fingerstyle guitar class with fellow instructor Jeff Rady. Her class performed "Colorado Girl" by Townes Van Zandt. I'd never heard it before, but it was just breathtakingly beautiful. The original version ain't too bad either.
Down a similar steel-stringed acoustic vein, my student Shannon has been persistently telling me to get in touch with the style of Western Swing, specifically Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. When I mentioned it to Dustin - who has never before this moment displayed any knowledge of country and western - he was like, "Oh yeah, Bob Wills, he's the best." Apparently you can't grow up in the Texas Panhandle and not know about Bob Wills. So much for me, I grew up in Kansas!
I'll share two tracks. The first one is instrumental, although you'll hear a lot of hootin' and hollerin' going on in the background. The YouTube video comes with a thorough introduction to Mr. Wills:
This little ditty is charming my cowgirl boots right onto the dance floor. A couple of listens will have you singing along. It also includes a pedal steel solo that Jeff Rady would probably be proud of. Shannon, I hope I chose well!
Last Sunday, seeking some fresh sounds in my record collection, we made a family trip to Black and Read in Arvada - one of my favorite record stores. I had some albums in mind, but then again, it's part of the record store experience to just browse and see what pops out.
I love going to the record store the way some people like going out for a nice dinner. And I'm training my toddler to enjoy it as well. Thankfully the employees at Black and Read are cool with him jaunting up and down the aisles. They even opened up the candy machine just for him. Well, maybe that wasn't such a good thing in retrospect.
I ended up bringing home "Black Messiah" by D'Angelo and the Vanguard - something I had been searching for - and "Adore Life" by Savages - something that popped out while I was browsing the punk section.
I'm behind the curve with D'Angelo, I know. While I was checking out my purchases, he was winning Grammys in real time. And although "Black Messiah" was critically lauded for all of last year, he's actually been around since the early 90's. In fact, Erykah Badu got her big break by opening for him on tour. So what took me so long? One thing is that I absolutely had to have this album on vinyl. No mp3, no CD, would do. Having it on vinyl is worth the investment because this is an album you must sit with. You must be patient and let it be a complete composition from start to finish. And you must read the liner notes. D'Angelo breaks it down for us, "We should all be a black messiah. It's about ..... every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. ... It's a feeling that collectively, we are all that leader."
The album is difficult and brilliant - but you probably already know that! It delves into different musical territories, but the track I was jamming out to this week was the final track of the album, "Another Life." Remember, you have to sit in it.
What could possibly connect the jazzy R&B fusion of D'Angelo with the brash, disjointed punk of Savages? A call to action and self-proclaimed manifesto, that's what. Savages' "Adore Life" has one too. In part, it says, "[This album] is about the power to change .... metamorphosis and evolution ... being the solution, not the problem .... showing weakness to be strong ... the parts and the sum of the parts ... the music and the message. But most of all it's about love, every kind of love. Love is the answer." You can read the full manifesto here.
There are punker sounding tracks on the album that I've been thrashing to in the living room (my toddler super enjoys this), but I'll put this track up because I think D'Angelo would feel it.
The rhetoric of our political "leaders" can be overwhelming and impossible to parse out. I believe that artists have always had an edge on leading communities towards progress. I hope that you enjoy your listens this Sunday and that their calls to action inspire you to also create positive change in your community. Be your own black messiah, because love is the answer.
Let me know if it does in the comments!