In this post, I’m advocating for you to learn the keyboard. The piano is the foundation instrument for western music, and the more we get our hands on it the better off we will be as musicians and, dare I say, human beings.
There are only 12 distinct notes to deal with, people, and when you gain both a clear picture and auditory relationship of these notes then the sky is literally the limit. It astounds me that we are still creating new music every day based on these same 12 notes!
The possibilities and inspirations are seemingly endless, but first we need to notice the relationships between the keys and use our ears to corroborate what we see.
The title of this post is strongly worded because I’m interested in getting your attention. Did it work?
Several years ago I heard someone put it this way: “you can put a group of saxophone players in a room. They will talk about mouth pieces, reeds, horns, music, and have a great time. Put a group of voice teachers in a room, and you’ll have a war.”
This may be a huge exaggeration, but there is a shred of truth in there somewhere.
One of the most powerful tools I’ve found for addressing jaw tension and teaching jaw-tongue muscle independence is holding the jaw. I learned this tool from Thomas Blaylock, and he learned it from Joseph Kline. It allows the voice to phonate without engaging the masseter or swallowing muscles. In fact, there is a laundry list of skills you can learn while holding the jaw and doing vocal exercises. It works.
To hold correctly, gently open the mouth so it feels open and relaxed but not hyper extended. Then, using the index finger and thumb of one hand, keep the jaw in that place. From this position, you can teach vowel integrity, vowel modification, and efficient airflow. At least, that’s what I’ve found with holding the jaw.
I’m sitting in the most elegant, retro-Hollywood hotel lobby, typing out this blog with 2 fingers on my iPhone and wondering how I got here. How did this past weekend come to be? And, most importantly, what were the juiciest moments?
Since I’m typing on my phone, this post might be rather short, and perhaps rightly so because I learned a few, beautiful lessons all over again. They don’t need many words. Like the best things in life, these lessons are simple.
I’ll lay this one on ya: the best of the best are also often the nicest.
Take it in. Cause it’s true.
If you’ve never had the honor of meeting someone who is a master at their craft, at the top of their game, a true genius at being themselves, then I wish that for you.
Years ago I was driving to work and something wonderful happened.
It was early, before the start of first shift which began at 7:30 am. The sun was rising softly so the sky was full of light blue and dusty pink. I was driving past the military cemetery with it’s stone walls, majestic trees and neatly ordered, pure white grave stones rolling across little hills into the distance. Nothing in particular was happening. Traffic was moving gently, and the light had just turned green.
In one moment, I had a feeling and thought pass through my body. And all at once I knew . . . this is the moment I’d always been waiting for. Always. Been. Waiting. For. It felt like I was taking a breath for the first time, or had been let out of jail. This moment was everything I’d ever wanted because I was alive and well and happy. I also felt relief. Deep, sweet relief.