How to provide awesome photocopies for your accompanist (Part 1)

I can usually play an entire day of vocal auditions and encounter only one or two singers who don’t provide music in a binder. Loose pages can fall off the piano, and books rarely lie flat, so binders are ideal.

Pro tip: If you frequently use an anthology book, I highly recommend taking it to a copy shop and having them replace the glue binding with a spiral binding. My shop does it for under $3.

Laying out pages to minimize page turns is by no means necessary, but if you’re striving for a perfect audition, it’s one detail you can take care of with minimal effort. You know what they say: “Happy accompanist, happy life!” (OK, I made that up.)

Two pages

Lay out pages side-by-side, not back-to-back. You laugh, but it’s happened.how-to-copy1

Three pages

Tape pages 2 and 3 together with scotch tape.how-to-copy2

Four pages

There are two possibilities for four-page pieces. The first option eliminates page turns entirely, but occasionally this layout doesn’t work if: a) the music stand isn’t wide enough, typically on an upright piano, or b) the piece requires playing at the extreme ends of the keyboard.how-to-copy3

The second option is acceptable as well. Pages 2 and 3 should be double-sided or taped together. how-to-copy4

Five+ pages

Anything more than four pages should be double-sided.how-to-copy5

Stay tuned for Part 2: The best way to mark cuts!

Notes from vocal masterclasses

© Eileen Huang 2014

Jayne West working with Lawson Daves, with Tim Steele at the piano. Jayne is my teacher, so all my notes from her are filed away in my head — sorry!

I have a lot of notes from masterclasses this summer scribbled here and there — in the margins of programs, the back of sheet music, and even my phone — and thought I’d share them while I organized them. My intent is to share advice that singers can apply broadly, so these notes are not comprehensive nor representative of what each clinician taught during the class.

Kayo Iwama and Alan Smith

Practice tips:

  • Practicing speaking, then singing, each phrase in one long sigh.
  • Practice runs from the end to the beginning, e.g., sing the last 4 notes, then the last 8 notes, then the last 12 notes, etc. That way when you sing the run normally, you are always moving towards something more familiar.
  • Establish a vocal warm-up routine for every performance.

Auditioning:

  • Always offer an aria in your native language.
  • Your face is your theater. Keep your hair off your face.
  • Never sing your biggest challenge in an audition. Demonstrate what you can easily do now, and leave the jury wanting to know if there’s more.
  • Present your repertoire list in columns (composer, title, larger work) and sorted by category (opera, song, oratorio, theater).

General good singing:

  • Lead with text, not sound.
  • Breathe with emotion.
  • Be careful with gestures. Don’t mime.
  • Support messa di voce with emotion and thought, so it’s not just an exercise in dynamics.
  • Motivate the idea across rests.

David Kravitz

Five tips for a successful career:

  • Know your music.
  • Take every gig seriously.
  • Be nice to people. Everyone.
  • The recitative is often the first impression you make. Spend as much or more time preparing it as you would the aria.
  • Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t.

Additional advice:

  • Plan how to get out of each gesture, e.g., if you raised your arms, when and how do you put them down.
  • Everyone gets bad reviews. If you want to believe the good reviews, you also have to believe the bad reviews.

James Maddalena

  • Breathing is not phrasing. Breathe where you need to, as long as you maintain the line.
  • Sing the A’ section of a de capo aria as though you’ve experienced something during the B section.

Ryan Turner

  • Use the inflection of words to guide your phrasing.
  • Don’t rush after cadences and periods in recitatives.
  • Think dramatically. Every phrase needs a character.
  • No appoggiaturas on one-syllable words.

 

Giving vocal advice as an accompanist or coach

A colleague of mine asked me recently if I ever give vocal advice to singers during rehearsals, since I’m also a singer.

Generally speaking, I do not. Vocal technique is the realm of the voice teacher, who has more training, experience, and a greater understanding of each student’s vocal progress than I. I will occasionally comment on basic principles, for example, “You’re slouching,” or “Your shoulders are rising when you take a breath.” Beyond that, although I definitely have ideas and opinions, I run a risk of saying something contrary to what the student has learned or introducing a concept that the student isn’t vocally ready to approach.

I do accompany students of two voice teachers whom I’ve personally studied with, and whose lesson I attend weekly. When I’m rehearsing with these students, I’m more comfortable speaking up if the student reaches a technical impasse. Instead of tackling how to fix something, I remind them of what they already worked on at their lesson. “Remember you worked on that vowel last week?” “What are you supposed to do when you sing that interval?” “No sausages!” Consider me a glorified Post-it note.

Thus far I haven’t had any conflicts with students or their teachers, so I think I’m adequately treading the line between pianist/coach and teacher. Although I need to be wary of when to bite my tongue, being a singer helps me truly enjoy collaborating with singers.