Singing Pedagogy and Chakras

Lord knows I’m not Luciano Pavarotti (may he rest in peace), but I’ve studied singing enough to know that it was probably the most difficult things I’ve ever tried in my life. I used to take singing lessons with a Russian opera singer and I remember in one of my voice lessons, I excused myself to the bathroom and started to cry. After slapping my self several times (because real men are not supposed to cry), I came out and continued my lesson with red, teary eyes. It was the most difficult thing to learn how to sing without straining my vocal chords. Even though I was taking vocal lessons a year before, with another teacher, I realized that singing was much like learning how to walk after acquiring your driver’s license. It just didn’t make any sense! The only thing I did learn was that somehow I was supposed to project my voice using my diaphragm muscle, my lungs, my soft palette, my car keys and my brain tissue.

Fast forward 4 years later, I was practicing singing in the Cal Arts practice rooms and that’s when it hit me…I remember my Russian teacher telling me “Gustavo, School of Breathing, School of Signing”, my Yoga teacher telling us to go into Shavasana (sleepy yoga pose) and to concentrate on our breathing, and then previous research on chakras from new age videos on You Tube. Then flashes of vocal training jargon from my new signing teacher started to percolate: chest voice, head voice, lightness, stretchy taffy, and rainbows? I had an epiphany and it had something to do with singing pedagogy and chakras.

Could it be, (I’m probably not the only one in this discovery), but could it be that when we are learning how to sing, we are actually learning how to use our chakras to project and shape our voice?

I’m not going into too much new age mumbo-jumbo (you can do that for yourself), but I’m gonna give it to you raw. Check it out.

First/Root– (base of spine) this is to become grounded as a singer.

Second/Sacral– (baby makers) this is for engaging emotions.

Third/Solar Plexus– (diaphragm) this is for projecting the voice. (Chest voice)

Fourth/Heart– (heart) this is for connecting with the music and the audience.

Fifth/Throat– (throat) this is for communicating well. Diction, pronunciation, etc.

Sixth/Third Eye (center of forehead) this for balancing everything together and not shitting bricks during a performance.

Seventh/Crown (top of head) this is for that brightness and fast vibrato. (Head voice)

When these seven chakras are being engaged and utilized properly by the singer, you get an amazing a singer with some serious pipes. That’s why opera singers sound different from most pop singers. It’s because they were trained to engage all their chakras while singing, but specifically their crown and solar plexus chakras.

Namaste.

Chakra-Chart

From Idea to Sheet Music

From Idea to Sheet Music: The Writing Process of GAU

Movement I: Conception

Sometimes when people find out that I write music, they get super impressed.  “Wow, you must be a genius to write music, I could never do something like that!”

And they’re right, I am a genius, and I wouldn’t wish the gift of music composition on my worst enemy. Some composer’s have a romantic notion of creating bliss from sound, but to me, writing music is the biggest pain in the ass.

Why then, do I choose to write music? Why did I spend over ten years of my life studying it? The answer is simply…

I literally shit music out of my head. Yes that’s right, I literally shit music out of my head and I can’t turn the faucet off. Weather I’m walking to the grocery store, taking a shower, watching a movie, or trying to sleep, a melody will zap into my brain and within milliseconds: unfold, develop, and transform into music that doesn’t not shut the fuck up until I hum the melody into my iphone. If I’m not near a piano or I don’t have my phone on me, I will put the music on auto loop until I am somewhat confident that I can recall it later. Often times, a recorded melody will magically reappear in my head, even when I forgot I recorded it in the first place. It’s really weird.

Sometimes, when I listen to music, whatever it is, if I’m not instantly engaged, I will improvise the melody or motif in my head until I am satisfied that my internal version is a significant improvement over the offending noise. I know it sounds very narcissistic, but I cannot help it unless I make a super conscious effort to turn the Gustavo-button off.

Movement II: Development

After the melody or motif is transcribed into a scribble on manuscript paper, a love-hate relationship begins with the mother of my music child. ‘This is what separates the men from the boys’ as they say, which is sculpting this little sperm-let of an idea into a behemoth gladiator which can slay the doubters and woe women’s hearts. A series of questioning begins including: What instrument is this for? What is the concept behind this idea? What is the global structure of the music? How long is this piece going to be?

After I figure this shit out, then my music compositional training kicks in and then I go to work.

Step 1: Make coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. If on a time crunch, get a Red Bull, Rockstar, or any other energy drink that will hurt my liver when I pee.

Step 2: Make a visual or mental diagram of the piece.

Step 3. Take a break. Take a shit.

Step 4. Actually write music down. This process actually varies on the type of piece and the time deadline. Ideally, I like to sketch near a piano, and then put the music in the computer notation program. Also depending on the piece, I might sketch a skeleton and fill the details later or I might draft section by section. The music will unfortunately be on auto loop in my head until the final draft is produced.

Step 5. Show the drafts to other musicians for feedback. Critique on form and instrumental logistics are discussed to make sure the piece is on the right track.

Step 6. Revisions, editing and proof reading. Even though by this point I am really sick of looking at my music, I still have to make sure that everything looks right and is legible. This is ironically super-tedious and it might even take longer then drafting the actual piece.

Movement III: Performance

This is what they didn’t teach you in music school, but the most important lesson when studying music is dealing with other musicians. Yes, when trying to get your music performed for the first time or rehearsing new music, it is just as political as anything else.

It really depends on the musicians, but usually it ends up like I’m standing in front of an execution squad. A barrage of fully loaded questions about notation, expression, and entrances will be fired at once, and I will have to somehow tap into the Matrix and load my kung-fu, diplomacy, and helicopter piloting programs to somehow respond with a seemingly look of confidence. The trick is to not loose my temper and pretend like I know what I’m talking about. I really just make it up as I go along, but don’t tell anybody I said that.

The truth is that I really do know what I’m talking about, but I know that the first couple of performances are usually going to end up being train wrecks anyways. Of course, it makes sense that new music is probably going to have to be recorded and released by various musicians into mass consciousness before actually played “correctly”. And don’t get me started on how to play the piece correctly, because it really takes a musician’s memorization, appreciation, and rehearsal for a year to get the new piece played convincingly to an audience. Unfortunately, musicians might not have enough time to spend on a new piece because of real life constraints.

Movement IV: Conclusion

Every composer and instrumentalist will have they’re own ideas and ways of doing things, but it is the nature of unexpected performance that is one of the most scariest and interesting parts of writing music. Sometimes the performers do something that was not originally perceived when writing the piece, like a different tempo or interpretation. When I actually hear my music being played sometimes I cringe, get embarrassed or wish I did not write it in the first place. But, sometimes I get goose bumps and a nervous joy in my body. A feeling something like sexual bliss that rushes through me and gives me a sense of crying. It is when my little hatchling of musical shit becomes a swan and gets released. Fly, my little bird, fly and meet the world.

Teardrop.

GAU genius