My students have more fun!

  Vocal Lessons

Imagine being able to sing both high notes and low notes with clarity, and moving between them without a noticeable break between two very different sounding registers.  Or being able to sing without strain for long periods of time without getting hoarse and losing the ability to sing high notes.  Imagine taking singing lessons and not being morphed into an opera sounding singer.  Imagine sounding like you, only better.

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY:

Nearly all the other voice teachers in this valley teach in a classical style.  I teach contemporary.  There is a lot of overlap between classical and contemporary vocal instruction if both are both taught properly.  The basic principles of singing are the same no matter what is being sung: proper breathing and support, elimination of strain and tension, muscle isolation, vowel placement, intonation, etc.

However, there are significant differences between classical and contemporary.  Classical (i.e. opera) technique was developed over the last three centuries for one purpose: to project the sound to the back of the hall, so that the voice can be heard over the top of an entire orchestra, without microphones.  Contemporary is based on the idea of a more natural sound that can be amplified with a microphone and PA system.  This is a significant difference with huge implications.  Contemporary is not dependent on huge amounts of diaphragm support (some support, yes; in fact, quite a bit -- but not as much as classical).  Nor does it require jaw, tongue, and larynx placement that is designed to make the entire body into a megaphone.  It does not utilize vowels are wide open to the point where they all sound so similar that most listeners need subtitles in order to understand the lyrics (even when the song is sung in English).  To be successful in contemporary, tone must be mainstream, consonants must be used differently, vowels must be understandable, and vibrato must be controlled and much narrower in pitch width modulation than with classical.  In rock, there must also be an element of distortion or graininess to the tone.  In pop, the mix voice with a smooth transition from chest to head is critical.  In country, vowel placement and diphthongs become part of the sound.

If you want to sing opera, don't come to me.  If you want to sing pop, rock, country, folk, R&B, big band, jazz, musical theater, or gospel, I can help you.

METHOD:

I teach using principles and techniques taken from the "MIX" singing method and the "Speech Level Singing" method.  These amazing techniques have been used by many famous artists, from Michael Jackson to David Archuleta.

The MIX and the Speech Level Singing methods are quite different from classical voice lessons.  Instead of training you to force your voice with enormous diaphragm support and unnatural open-throat positions, they train you to release restrictions on your unique instrument, to unleash your huge untapped singing potential.  Freeing the larynx of tension allows the voice to stay connected and consistent through passages of low and high notes.  I actually teach you how to sing high notes without going into falsetto or "head voice", with no strain, and also how to slip into falsetto gradually, without a noticeable "break" point.

My methods make practicing fun.  My students do not spend a lot of time singing scales or suffering through breathing and posture exercises.  I won't tell you to "lift the soft palate", or sing "in the mask", or "smile" on high notes, and you won't end up with an uncontrollable vibrato or with jaw problems.  You won't have to choose between a "chest voice" and a "head voice" that sound different from each other, and being embarrassed by the break when switching between the two.  No more strain, trying to belt out the sound on high notes to avoid breaking into falsetto.  Getting rid of the break boosts confidence and helps each student to reach his or her potential as a singer.  Most importantly, I won't teach you to sound like every other opera-trained singer.  You'll be able to keep your own unique, natural voice.

RESULTS:

You'll develop a wider and smoother range, better pitch accuracy, and a richer, more natural tone.  You will expand your vocal range and be able to sing high notes with less effort and without breaking.  You'll eliminate discomfort, physical pain, vocal fatigue, and vocal cord damage.

You will see improvement whether you're a beginner or even if you've already had years of voice lessons or professional singing experience.  Often, the improvement is quite dramatic and rapid.  One student told me, "When I went home last weekend my mother said I have made more progress in two months with you than I did in two years with my previous teacher."

PROBLEMS WITH CLASSICAL VOCAL INSTRUCTION:

I am not trying to "pick a fight" with classical vocal teachers.  I have no problem with classical vocal instruction... IF you want to sound like an opera singer.  However, classical training can cause problems for contemporary singers.  For example, on Season 8 of The Voice, there was a contestant named India Carney, who arguably had the best singing instrument of any contestant that season.  But she sounded too classical to most ears to win.  With Christina Aguilara's coaching, she became better as the season went on, but she was constantly fighting with her classical training, and she ended up in 5th place in the competition.

A young woman of my acquaintance has the most beautiful voice I've ever heard in my life.  Her tone is like velvet, and her inflections and musical interpretations are reminiscent of the very best singers of the 1940s.  Upon graduation from high school, she went to the university and majored in vocal performance.  She was so good that in her first semester as a freshman, she was invited to be a member of the most exclusive choral group, the Chamber Singers.  (Normally, only upper classmen and masters' students are allowed into that group.)  But she soon found that she didn't fit into the vocal performance major culture.  After four years of frustration caused by the opera-only philosophy being forced down her throat and refusing to change her voice to please her instructors, she changed her major to economics.  She later told me, "I didn't want to be an opera singer."

Sometimes, classical vocal instruction can cause physical damage.  Some years ago, I knew another young woman with a beautiful voice.  When she was in high school, whenever I heard her sing in church, it was a delight to hear her.  When she graduated, she also went to the university and majored in vocal performance.  Unlike the other young woman, she did what her vocal teachers told her to do.  The next time I heard her sing a couple of years later, I didn't recognize her voice.  Her vowels were not understandable.  Her vibrato was a mile wide.  Her voice was louder, but it was no longer her voice.  The sweet and beautiful tone was gone.  I also did not recognize her face.  Her mouth was open so wide when she was singing that a truck could have driven through.  A year later, I heard from her mother that she had developed jaw problems and could barely open her mouth enough to speak and eat.  Needless to say, she did not end up with a successful career in singing, nor did she even end up with a voice that people wanted to hear.  Her voice teacher had destroyed not only her voice, but also her jaw joints.

Obviously, not all classically trained singers end up with jaw problems.  But most of them do end up with a strong vibrato, hard to understand vowels, and a stiff musical demeanor that fails to entertain because it does not connect emotionally to today's audiences.  With a few obvious and notable exceptions, very few people who are classically trained successfully make the transition to contemporary.  Classical teachers who have been trained by classical teachers who have been trained by other classical teachers do not possess the skill set and knowledge, and don't even know they don't have it.

STUDENT QUALIFICATIONS:

I accept students of all levels of singing experience, and all ages from high school to senior citizens.  I generally don't teach girls younger than 14 or boys younger than 16.  In my experience, most pre-teen and early teen children are better served by developing their musical knowledge and skills on other instruments.  I especially recommend piano, but guitar is also a good pre-vocal instrument.  Orchestra and band instruments are also good.  Any instrument except percussion and drums will help the child to learn the basics of melody and harmony, and how to hear pitch.  Children who love to sing should sing to their hearts' content at every opportunity.  Singing along with songs on the radio in your home is good for them.  Singing in school choirs is excellent.  Joining the church choir is also good.  The Cache Children's Choir is a fun organization that provides valuable opportunities to sing in public.  But based on years of observation and experience, my opinion is that for most kids, formal private vocal lessons are better put off until they have their adult voices.

INSTRUCTOR:


Dr. Irv Nelson has 40 years of vocal performance experience, ranging from choral to stage musicals to folk to pop to rock & roll... you name it; I have sung it.  I am a tenor vocalist who has performed in many choirs, as well as on stage as an actor.  I am also a choral conductor.  I have sung in bands for decades, and am currently a member of The Fender Benders classic rock band, Relic Acoustic Band, Cristina & Irv vocal/piano duo, and Brandon & Kenzie Lee's concert group.  I also fill in with many other artists and groups on occasion.  I am a composer and arranger, whose pieces have received widespread acclaim and have been performed by elite choirs ranging from the Utah State University's Chamber Singers in Logan, Utah to Real Colegio Escuelas Pias' Coral Veles E Vents in Gandia, Spain to a chamber choir named Duodecimo in Manchester, UK, as well as many other groups all over the world (Indonesia, New York City, India, Canada, etc.)  My hymn compositions and arrangements have received widespread acclaim and are available for free download at IrvNelsonMusic.com.  I have studied music theory, vocal pedagogy, and choral conducting, as well as educational psychology, at the university level.  I hold a Ph.D. and have many years of teaching experience in a variety of settings.  I have published peer-reviewed, academic articles on how students learn and how to structure the learning environment to help them learn better.  I love music and I love teaching, and I couldn't tell you which of the two is my greatest talent or which I love more.

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