Thursday, February 2, 2017

Vocal Coaching Lady Gaga

Ok, I admit it, I get a lot of my cultural news from the Wall Street Journal. Weird, huh? Today's piece is about Don Lawrence, the vocal coach who has been working with Lady Gaga this week to get her ready for the Superbowl on Sunday.
The most experienced coach at the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 won’t be worrying about his team’s passing game. He will be making sure his star student hits her high notes.
Vocal coach Don Lawrence is prepping pop powerhouse Lady Gaga this week for her performance at the Super Bowl halftime show—music’s biggest marketing moment, watched by more than 100 million television viewers.
“I’ve been planning this since I was four,” Gaga says in a halftime-show preview video. The 30-year-old singer never lip-syncs or uses backing tracks for her vocals, which has become common for high-profile events. Last year, when she belted out a blistering rendition of the national anthem at Super Bowl 50, CBS wanted an emergency backing track just in case. Gaga refused, Mr. Lawrence says.
I discovered Lady Gaga several years ago and actually liked a couple of her songs. She seems not only to be a real musician--no lip-syncing--but also a creative one. As someone said recently, when did it become ok to do mime in public instead of actually, you know, performing? Here is a little hint as to Mr. Lawrence's method:
At the heart of Mr. Lawrence’s approach is a centuries-old Italian technique called bel canto that he and his father modernized for pop singers. With the technique, Mr. Lawrence expands a singer’s vocal range, adding to the performer’s arsenal. For instance, instead of automatically switching from a chest-based voice to a head-based voice for higher notes, Gaga “has learned to take the ‘chest voice’ up—to high F or G above high C,” Mr. Lawrence says. That makes those higher notes more resonant.
So, I think that we would call his method "vocal technique" or what classical singers have been doing for a very, very long time. After all, technique is technique and if you want to use your instrument to its best, there are certain anatomical facts that are important. I suspect that a lot of pop singers have never really worked on things like breathing and how to use the diaphragm because they grew up using microphones and never learned how to project. My knowledge of singing is fairly limited, but I did study voice with a few teachers when I was young and have actually performed Schubert lieder in public.

There have been a few golden ages of singing represented by people like the castrato Farinelli who was employed by Philip V of Spain to sing the same three pieces every night. Then there was the age of Bel Canto as mentioned in the article, for whom the composers were Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti.

This is Renee Fleming singing one of the most famous Bel Canto arias, Casta Diva from Norma by Bellini:

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