Dr. Darden Purcell is a jazz vocalist and the Director of Jazz Studies at George Mason University.  Joe McMurray and Aaron Sefchick have a wonderful time talking with Darden about her musical journey, her duties as a “Director of Jazz Studies,” how to transition to singing jazz music, and specifics on vocal technique and practice.
Part 2 of 2 is packed with useful information and tips regarding vocal technique and practice (applicable to all styles of music!).  Darden tells the guys about vocal habits such as speaking and singing on vocal fry, scooping into pitches, and falling off at the ends of words.  There is a discussion about the short careers of some singers resulting from poor vocal health.  Darden talks about how certain food and beverages affect your singing voice, and she emphasizes the importance of sleep leading up to a performance.  It is important to understand that your vocal range changes depending on the time of day and how far into a performance you are.  This is incredibly useful when choosing the keys of your songs and planning your setlist.
Darden tells Joe and Aaron about her favorite gigs, ranging from performances with symphonies to jazz gigs with great audiences.
Finally, Darden gives a ton if information regarding vocal practice.  She stresses the importance of singing with the piano and a metronome, critically analyzing the music you are singing, and keeping a practice log.  She addresses proper breathing for singing, singing long tones, singing with lip trills, and a couple other exercises to master pitch control.
 
Find out more about Darden at http://www.dardenpurcell.com/.  Find out more about George Mason’s music programs at https://music.gmu.edu/.
Welcome back to another episode of Fret Buzz The Podcast. Hi! I’m Aaron Sefchick
and every week together with my co-host Joe McMurray we focus on how we
musicians and professionals approach our craft, giving insight to help us all
become more informed and better musicians. Let me first start off by
saying this episode is vocal gold. There is so much information jam-packed in
this episode it’s amazing. If you want to improve your vocals, this is the episode
to listen to. Definitely be sure to check out Where the Blue Begins by Darden
Purcell as well as her husband has just released a CD called Symmetricity by
Shawn Purcell. And quickly before we start the show, I am gonna ask two small
favors. Head on over to YouTube and give us a subscribe, and head on over to
iTunes and give us a review. And that’s it. Let’s jump into part two with Darden
Purcell on Fret Buzz The Podcast.
There’s that and then I also try to work with
the solo singers in the studio as well to as learning instrumental solos and
putting their own scat syllables over those solos as well too and that’s we’re
gonna be getting of doing a lot of that this year because that’s going to
challenge them orally to number one learn the solo and now number two you’ve
got to come up with what’s comfortable syllable wise in your mouth for you to
do this oh and by the way you have to try to work it in every single tempo
slow tempo and then faster tempos too just to make sure that do I really have
this the muscle memory in my mouth right right I remember when I was back at Penn
State that I took a linguistics class and laughs all of this stuff you know is
incorporated in terms of how where your tongue is and how you mouth certain
words and I’m just thinking about you know speed and how what you’re seeing
certain lines and sixteenths or trying to match a Tambor or something like that
that that’s all part of using your mouth as an instrument and
knowing exactly how it works yeah absolutely no absolutely and that’s
something that I’ve struggled with quite a because I have a little bit of a list
and so throughout my life I’ve never been able to or I’ve never really gone
to a speech pathologist but I do have a little bit of a list and so these these
horn lines I think I really like working those lines or the guitar lines because
it really works at the challenges it and an addiction with singers is so
important and that’s probably one of the good things about scat singing there’s a
lot of good things about improvisation as well too but for a lot of singers boy
they come and sing in some pretty jacked up scat syllables it’s a it’s all wide
mouth like singer lines versus more horn lines which is more kind of consonant
face I guess and that of course works addiction so we we start to see who has
issues with ours who has issues with ELLs who has an issue with an S you know
we start to kind of see that more interesting so there are key places
within any singers range that they may have issues with or just parts of their
diction absolutely some people are very lucky they come in and that’s fine
everything’s working fine but we have certain kind of exercises we can work on
that shows what consonants are getting tripped up on a little bit more than
others and every single one is different do you find that there is an area that
more students fall into no I haven’t yet okay so I haven’t found that it yet yeah
because I think I would have thought it would have been more esses because
that’s what I concentrate on so much but no that’s not the case a lot of my
singers you’re just fine with your s’s it’s other other consonants that they
just haven’t quite worked on yet you know interesting yeah it is it’s kind of
crazy little wacky yeah yeah it’s it’s I mean obviously there are millions and
millions of different vocals out there and each one of us is unique in our own
way I’m sure you as vocal teachers you come across a lot of a lot of
differences and a lot of things that they’re just kind of like oh okay
yeah yeah I would say oh okay it’s a good huh that’s interesting yeah well
you know it’s singing is so it’s so I don’t want to say it’s the most personal
musical thing that you can do but it is so personal because it’s it’s our voice
was given to us you know it’s we can’t change it we can make it better but we
cannot change the voice that was given to this and so much of it is just based
on our own Anatomy you know the structure of our face that plays into it
quite a bit also and I was just at the camp I was talking to some singers about
the su is that we begin singing before we begin speaking so you know when we’re
babies we’re not having conversations or kind of cool and cooing and you know and
then at that time also we learn how to speak by mimicking we’re mimicking the
people around us so now we’re picking up habits from very very early on and as
soon as you get into voice lessons you usually have to start adjusting these
habits you know because maybe it’s fine for a regular speech but it’s not
necessarily fine for maybe vocals and what we want to do and so with a lot of
the singers when they come in one of the analogies I use is when you listen to
the news newscasters have a very certain voice and it’s a voice that you cannot
tell what part of the country or world they’re from right it’s this very kind
of neutral sounding voice because they only want you to hear the story they
don’t really want you to hear their voice so that’s what we kind of need to
get with some of the young singers as well too is that we you know this
obviously your voice is going to be individualized to you because it’s your
tone and it’s your Tambor but the way you’re shaping these words needs to make
sense to the audience and and a lot of them come in listening to some of the
pop singers now that are just doing some I’ll just say interesting things with
the way that they are forming words and it’s because they’re trying to create
your own sound unique sound with forming this word my personal approach is I want
the word to sound as natural as possible because then your inherent natural
of your voice comes through rather than I’m singing 18 different syllables
through this one word to make it sound unique or like I had a singer this year
this is great he’s wonderful he’s an incredible singer really incredible
natural talent and there’s this one part in the song and he’s singing in a
British accent and I stopped him and I’m like do you know – is there a reason why
you’re singing with this accent and he said well I kind of like it and I’m like
well are you British says no like so then why are you singing with a British
accent I I didn’t understand that I’m like I know that that’s like a big thing
now but I’m like but you’re not British so doesn’t that seem a little weird to
you like it seems to me a little fake sort of you know I’m like I don’t I
don’t understand this you know and even with him – I’m like even a lot of the
British singers especially early on when I was listening to them they don’t sound
British they sounded like they just didn’t sound like they were from that at
all so that’s it’s an interesting time I’ll just say that yeah yeah yeah I know
the I mean you say that I think of Green Day right away but I mean I even now I
know there’s a couple people well this one specific person that I know that
does throw these syllables into their speech and I’m like but that’s not
that’s not natural I can tell that you’re not not that’s that you’re you’re
trying to do something different and although that’s kind of cool at the same
time that’s not that’s not really who you are
exactly I know it’s effective you know it’s an effective approach it’s not
natural it’s you’re I don’t know I just for me I think the most natural approach
is the best and like I said especially for the singers just like the beauty of
your own voice speak for itself you’re kind of covering it up you’re
masking it up with all this stuff you think you need to do when it’s really
just just sane and people are gonna like it or not like it you know yeah you had
mentioned a little bit ago about habits could you talk to us a little bit about
bad habits certainly yes can’t work on a lot yeah that would be very beneficial
for a lot of people because I know it’s very I you see things like you know
American Idol and what I like that and I always point out to a bunch of people
that you know you have literally tens of thousands of people applying for the
show and it always comes down to like the top five shows you that there are so
many people out there who think they can sing but they really can’t but on the
other side of that what does that actually mean in terms of people who
think they can sing and they can’t because you have the classics like Bob
Dylan or any one of these other guys that’s that people say oh yeah they you
know so it is it’s this gray area that we kind of talk about what the music is
well we get what you’re saying um well I’m not even going to start with talking
about the competition show so because that’s another whole podcast and I like
them and I don’t like them at the same time so we’ll just kind of
move on to the the I guess the vocal technique part of it yeah you’re right
there are a lot of people out there who have had incredible careers and are
still out there performing and have had their own special kind of vocal
technique and that works for them but the reason why it works for them is they
had a lot of other things together at the same time you don’t I’m saying like
a Bob Dylan you know he could play he could write songs and so that he was
spending the whole package or is the whole package that goes for a lot of
them for some of these singers going on these competition shows they’ve got one
thing they’ve got that one thing and that’s their voice and so that’s why
it’s even harder for them because they’re not songwriters they’re not
playing they’re not you know they don’t have other things that can help accent
or help them um one of the things that’s really drives me crazy
right now with singers and it’s not their fault because they don’t even know
there but it’s speaking on the vocal fry’ and
this is something that has happened because a lot of the reality shows I
feel out there that every single girl talked like this she like pops really
low because it’s supposed to sound like really casual and laid-back like I’m so
like not into this conversation so did you hear how low in the voice that was
so we’re doing that and that’s one of the worst things that you can do as a
singer or even as a speaker is speak solo and your voice like that so even I
would with some of my young singers that come in there speaking on a vocal fry’
and I know coming on the vocal fry’ like well through I don’t think that’s my son
all right I can’t get it to stop okay my phone’s on airplane mode yeah well
they’re speaking on the vocal fry and then they start singing on their vocal
fry because they don’t even realize they’re doing it and that’s just that’s
just a big no-no you can’t you should not do that as well my my big goal with
these singers is to try to teach them how to speak and sing healthily so they
can do it for decades that’s that’s my huge thing so but the vocal fry I tell
quite a few of the young girls sometimes even young guys although I find it’s
more of the young females because they want to sound older and maybe sexier I
think that’s what’s happened with the fry is that they they don’t want to have
light girly voices they want to have this lower voice and it’s just
destroying the chords so I basically just tell them you need to speak on
pitch so if I were talking right now my regular voice it would probably be like
this which is kind of monotone and low in my range so when I speak I add a
little bit more pitch to it it’s a little bit more higher up and I’m not
really thinking about doing it on purpose I’m just thinking I want to
speak on a tone I just I don’t want to let it fall flat that’s one thing the
vocal fry is a big thing and you can really hear it as soon as you start
hearing it you’re gonna hear it all over television I can’t stand it on some of
these news shows you have these young female broadcasters
one every time single time she comes on I have to start it off because you are
your career is going to be done in about ten years because of your your voice and
it’s almost to the point where I’m like I think she’d just go see someone
because it’s so it’s so hard to listen to it’s got to be hard for her after a
while scooping is a big thing scooping is a habit that happens all the time and
it’s a lot of it is thought of is a stylistic element where they’re thinking
oh this is cool I’m gonna do this you know and it’s it’s gonna make this one
word or line sound really cool all it really does is just accentuate the fact
that you can’t sing in tune that you’re not hitting the note where you need to
hit the note so you’re kind of sliding up to it right and then what happens is
that people start doing it again and again and again and then it’s just kind
of a mess you know after a while you I have a hard time listening to the story
because I all I can hear is scooping and every single word fall off is another
thing that they’ll get to the end of a word and uh kind of fall off the line
again it’s these are all what I call stylizations
so these are all stylings that I think vocalists do because they want to sound
a certain way and they just don’t really realize that they don’t they just don’t
need it they don’t need it at all just sing a lot of times what you can do is
you can sing a melody just on like a lip trill and that kind of helps to solidify
the pitch and the intonation and the line as well too all those like little
habits and stylizations really obscure the fact of how well are you singing in
tune and how well are you making these words sound and a lot of times when you
can strip away all of that that’s when you get down to intonation how are you
forming the words does it make sense the way you’re forming the words are you
singing in a British accent that does not make sense cuz you’re not British
you know just little little things like that and then what I tell them all to
I’m like these are not other than the vocal fry’ and like these are not
horrible habits these are not things that you can never do again but you need
to be conscious that you’re doing them and then you need to do it where it
makes and then you have control over it and it
does not have control over you and that’s what a lot of I mean you can do
this on every single instrument you no matter what we have certain things that
we can control and other things that we don’t even realize we’re doing because
it’s controlling us yeah well that’s that’s I was just gonna reiterate this
is that most of the time most of the time you have no idea that you’re doing
it right unless somebody points it out to you like you were talking about the
dipping thing I was guilty of that probably 10 years ago until the director
at the point at the time actually came up to me and said he was laughing I mean
I was like why are you laughing because every week even you sing that same song
I hear you dip that no and I was like I had no and since that’s happened I’ve
been very conscious of how I approach usually the it would happen at the end
of phrases mm-hm so I’ve always just been conscious of that now but like you
said it’s it’s not something that you would know unless somebody approaches
you and for millions of people out there who are just singing on a day-to-day
basis or maybe it’s a guitarist singer songwriter who doesn’t take vocal
lessons that’s not something thing about that
they are thinking about right so yeah it’s it’s for all musicians I really do
that’s why I’m kind of asking is this because I think there’s a lot of people
out there who don’t take a vocal lesson who would benefit tons from it just
maybe sign up for a month worth of vocal lessons find out where your range is and
kind of see where the points of you know correction that you nee would need to
make to kind of make you that better singer and so people can kind of
identify with you a little bit more yeah no absolutely and to me that where you
can really tell all of that like you said if somebody tells you that big
recordings as soon as you hear yourself back on a recording I can pick out about
five things that I’ve done that I’m like oh I got a not data next time I’m not
doing that so much yeah no it’s I think I think everyone can benefit from
lessons really on any instrument I think definitely I’m just seeing this
a lot more and I think it’s because of the pop music the this fry and certain
the pop music of today the certain elements that are being used for style I
guess that that I do think it would really benefit some of these young
singers to get in early and see what’s happening I feel like right now there’s
a lot of unhealthy singing going on there’s a lot of pushing there’s a lot
of bad keys and I think we’re also kind of in an era where which kind of scares
me a little bit for young people where we don’t expect people to have
decade-long careers artists and now I feel are a little bit
more expendable and I think part of it is in my mind because of these
competition shows every single year we just start the cycle over again we
create a star and the star gets a record deal the next year the record deal is
gone BAM we’re on to the next show and the next round of people in the next
round of people we’ve kind of created this expendable society and and part of
that that goes with that is the music that some of these artists now have to
perform or have to sing after a while you know you start hearing about people
that have to cancel dates on their tours because they’ve got vocal issues they’ve
got you know just they’re just being pushed in a certain way because the
timeline of their career is probably going to be so much shorter which when
you look at some of the other singers even when you look at Whitney Houston I
don’t know if you guys were when you Houston fans but yeah Miku I mean I grew
up on her it’s like that’s the her star-spangled banner is still the best
national anthem I think ever sung and you know she passed away when she was 48
years old and if you listen to her voice from early career 248 that was a big
that was a big difference now granted that was still about probably 30 years
of saying that she was able to do but that was she was doing some hard singing
there a lot of belting and that was at the time when there was a lot of really
strong singers out there Chaka Khan and Whitney and Celine Dion and people they
were just powerful vocal powerhouses you know that lasted decades Chaka still
singing Celine still singing and I still heard her she sounds incredible so but
it was a different time you know and now it’s it’s just it’s different and I
think singers have to be careful and that’s why with my singers I tell them
I’m like I’m not trying to be mean to you I’m not trying to say that you don’t
sound good I’m just saying that if we can adjust some of these things that
you’re doing you’re gonna be able to sing for way longer than you might even
want to you know I think a lot of people don’t realize the dangers of singing
wrong I think that’s not even something people even comprehend is that if you
just the fact that you know if I sing wrong that’s not even
it’s just singing how can you say I’m wrong there is potential for some real
damage there was a guy in my hometown who sang a local bar scene and I don’t
know if he still does it or not we’re talking 40-plus years of doing just this
thing where you know he would when he started off his career he had a decent
voice but he never took a vocal lesson and just pushed himself night after
night after night and now you don’t even really recognize a voice because that’s
he didn’t didn’t do what you’re supposed to do I mean he there was no warm-ups
involved there were no exercises involved there was no no there’s no
concentration on how to actually sing right so yeah that there’s a real you
know you can do some big damage right well and another thing I tell on my
students is we’re not just singers were vocal athletes
we’re vocal athletes all players on any instrument is an athlete you know there
is a certain physicality to what we’re doing as well as of course the
intellects and the emotional aspect but there’s every single any single player
in music they’re they’re an athlete of some point and everything we’re doing is
based on muscles right every single thing is based on muscles that’s why
guitars can get tendinitis and vocalists have issues because the muscles start to
break down after a while and so the earlier that you can start to preserve
and find techniques and the proper way to do it to help
your muscles it’s just better in the long run you know and for these singers
too I mean both we we are at a little bit of a detriment I think every single
person is on their instrument even you look at brass players brass players by
the end of their life they’re not going to be playing as high as at the
beginning of their life right that’s just not gonna happen
the same thing is true with singers the key start dropping you know I even
noticed that um Celine Dion I just wanted to go see her in Vegas this was
like a bucket list dream of mine and Shaun got me tickets for my birthday and
so I got to see Celine so and she did saying that my heart will go on from
Titanic the big hit at the end and I believe that it was her when she used to
sing it I can’t remember what keys I think the normal key that was back in
the whenever the movie came out was like a flat now she’s a half step down from
it because I remembered hearing and I’m like oh what’s that note you know and
then I went to the piano I’m like ah she’s a half step down but so even with
someone like her who has spent her whole life really taking care of her voice has
the best technique you can imagine Caesars Colosseum when it was built for
her it’s like perfectly humidified to make sure that her voice is it’s still
the Rangers are gonna drop as years ago because the muscle just breaks down also
for singers too there’s there can be bad vocal technique but then there’s just
bad living you know a lot of vocal damage that’s done is not sometimes it’s
by singing a lot of times it’s by illness you know if you get sick and
then let’s say you perform while you’re sick that can do some damage it can be
from yelling and screaming it can be from I just talked to a friend of mine
on the phone the other day that was talking about a little buccal glitch as
I like to call and she said she did this because she she yelled there was one day
she yelled and she heard it kind of go No and it’s now she’s got to deal with
it for the rest of her life so you know I think people just need to be smart
smart about what they’re doing and and honest I think that’s another really
important thing I don’t think people are always honest about what’s happening
because being honest means you have to tackle something that’s difficult for
you and but if you do it you’re going to come out much better on the other side
if you let it go then at some point I think
for all of us it’s just a done deal you’re kind of done what do you suggest
because I’ve seen on actually podcast forms and vocal forms in terms of drink
like lemon water or coffee or eating an apple beforehand or I’ve seen all kinds
of tricks out there what what what are your what your
thoughts and tips well every single person is different you know and every
single body is different I saw I can just tell you what works for me I drink
a lot of water I think a lot of water is good but water is just good for us in
general you know so I’m always telling my students you need to always have a
water bottle with you I’ll go through usually in a day like a water bottle
that has basically three cups I’ll go through like three of them a day so it’s
about nine to twelve glasses of water a day
so water is really good it kind of depends on like the situation right
before I sing I don’t have any dairy of any kind no cheese no dressing on salads
nothing like that because it just creates phlegm and so then I spend the
whole time like trying to get this phlegm up or down I like apples I like
apples a lot I just like apples to begin with I usually eat an apple every single
day but I like it because it fills me up and it doesn’t have anything that kind
of gums up the throat I try not to eat anything acidic to acidity like tomatoes
or orange juice because again that kind of breaks down the phlegm and then your
body’s trying to move it in one direction or not caffeine is not
supposed to be good for the voice so you know Coffee anything like that I’ll
drink tea but it’s usually decaffeinated tea like a chamomile tea or peppermint
tea they have some teas out there that are like throat coats and you know
different kind of things that you can use for that alcohol is also not
supposed to be good for your voice because it can be like a drying agent
same thing with nuts I typically on every single gig I do I
have a glass of red wine I like red wine you know I feel like it kind of loosens
me up a little bit not necessarily vocally but mentally probably it just
so that those are things that work for me
sleep sleep huge huge huge huge I cannot stress sleep enough my students come in
they sound terrible and the first thing I ask them is how much sleep did you get
last night well I was writing a paper and I got four hours of sleep well
that’s why because when you sleep that your body is regenerating that is your
body’s time to heal itself and if you only give it two hours to heal itself
then it just starts to again break down day after day you’re gonna get sick
because your body just hasn’t had enough time to get better you know I averaged
eight to ten hours of sleep every single night I know I’m a baby I love it and I
don’t do very well after under seven hours of sleep I don’t I don’t do real
well so yeah it’s a big thing I know it’s pretty women Oh kids just don’t
allow that I am lucky we do not have children so our hats in the morning but
yet it’s Laurie she should try it love to some day ten hours of sleep would be
phenomenal feeling well when you think about it I mean people when you do get
that when you’ve been going really hard doing whatever and you finally get that
good night’s sleep the feeling that you have in the morning after good night’s
sleep there’s nothing better and that’s because your body has told you okay I’m
ready I her covered ready for the next day you know there’s a lot of truth to
that there really is yeah I’ve found that the drinking water thing is has
really really helped I I try to keep in my notebook where I log what I’m doing
all day I keep a tally if I try to have a glass of water a pint of water every
hour yeah you know you don’t always get that but you at least strive for that
and sometimes you know you just you do it feels so much better singing I’ve
also found I used to my I would pick keys that were too high
and I’ve brought lots of my repertoire down because I play these gigs where you
know it’s three three-and-a-half hours tonight’s three hours that’s the regular
the regular length of time first you know standard bar gig or live on
Atlantic kegger right the town center stuff they want three hours you just
can’t even if it might sound better a little higher in the short term I can’t
sustain it right well that’s so smart of you because the majority of pop keys and
my mind are just they’re always way too high they’re way too high and you know
for some of these people now like you said you know these stars they get out
and they sing their one hit and then they’re done but for the musicians that
are working three and four hour gigs yeah you gotta maintain you know you
have to maintain yourself from the beginning to our one to our four and so
if you blow it out at the beginning you can’t do that I even find I used to do
that I used to pick keys that were way too low for me and be and I found out I
was doing that because I was picking the key early in the morning so I get up and
I’d had my coffee and even right now my voice is lower than it will be later on
tonight when I’m singing I picked these keys and then at 10 o’clock at night I
would wonder why don’t I have these low notes
I thought we’ll dummy it’s because you weren’t your voice was in a different
place in the morning so it’s anything what it can fluctuate but even songs now
that are low in my range lower in my range I’ll do them at the beginning of a
gig because I know by the end of the gig I don’t have those notes as well as I
would like or tunes that are more felty I’ll stay for later on because then I
feel like if I kind of blow it out on this one I’m okay because I’m towards
the end of the gig hmm so so yeah being smart about that’s really good I love
that point I it is weird how you get up there sometimes I wonder if it’s because
it’s I have wondered if it’s because it’s well it’s these these songs that do
get low at night at the bar I can’t sing him as well and I guess it’s because
what you’re talking about but I had just thought it was the different room or
something being a microphone it doesn’t come through as much in it maybe I’m
singing the same but I can’t hear it oh yeah the thing about it is that yeah I
do I I think each person is different you
know I definitely know my low notes and when the tunes that that okay this note
is gonna be low and I’m probably not gonna have it I’ll have it later on but
it won’t feel as good and it won’t sound as good but I think another thing that’s
really difficult for singers is every single day is different for us every
single day feels different you know every single day have we slept happily
do we have stress in our lives stress plays a lot on our on our vocal folds
sinus issues drainage allergies you know hormonal stuff that’s going on I mean
it’s really the the inner workings of the voice every single thing affects it
so I’ve had some nights where I’m thinking man I really don’t feel well
today I’m gonna sound terrible tonight and it’s a better gig for me and then I
have some days where I do everything perfect and I get there you know perfect
during the day and I’m working out I’m drinking my water and I had my Apple and
then I get to the gig and I’m like what’s going on here so it’s you know I
think it’s having good what’s the word I’m thinking of I think it’s good to
have a good methodology but then be flexible in that methodology of what
you’re doing because every single situation is a little bit different and
you have to adjust on the fly you know well um I want to I want to move to
something else and I’d love to know what shows you’ve played that you’re most
proud of like what what are your most the highlight gigs of your life and do
you have any dream gigs for the future that’s a good question um I think one of
the well I don’t know it’s hard I don’t want to upset anyone here
the symphony gates to me are amazing being able to sing in front of a
symphony have really incredible players is that’s wonderful because it is it is
what it is and just strings and a whole Orchestra behind you that’s pretty
special I’ve really been grateful and honored to be able to do that for jazz
gigs I pretty much I’ve had a couple of gigs where the audience was just
incredible you know where the audience was really great
there was a gig in Illinois at a place that we played at quite a bit called the
iron post and we’ve had some pretty special gigs there and that was just
because of the energy of the audience the audience was so wonderful and just
it’s just one of those nights nights where people were really listening and
paying attention and enjoying it my last CD release that believe Sally was pretty
incredible we just had a wonderful wonderful crowd and it’s just a special
it was a special night things went well I think we all know as musicians that
every single gig is not perfect you know there’s some there’s always something
that’s not exactly the way you’ve wanted but then there’s other things that go
well you know so I think maybe those gigs were the gigs that the majority of
things went well so it just felt good as far as gigs coming up I don’t know I
mean I just love to continue doing what I’m doing in as many different places as
I can I mean there’s always you know Shawn’s releasing his CD and so he’s
trying to book some other gigs so and out-of-town gigs so I think that’ll be
fun just trying to bring the music to different places and hopefully finding
new and different audiences yeah that’s probably be about it but you
know it’s interesting because maybe I should have more aspirations of
greatness but some of my favorite gigs are my local gigs that I do with
musicians that I enjoy playing with you know I’ve had I’ve had some performances
I’m like it’s gonna be incredible and I’m I’ve been waiting to do this and
then it’s kind of like me and then you have another local gig with you know a
guy that you’ve been playing with for a long time and you just have a really
beautiful musical moment and it’s like okay that was cool you know so I don’t
know it’s it’s it’s hard I just feel like I’m very lucky to get to do what I
love to do and I hope I hope the phone keeps ringing for a while that’s what I
hope I was thinking about I would love to see a garden Purcell YouTube live no
it’s funny I don’t like a lot of live stuff I’ve never really done a live
performance we just had one in a Pittsburgh and I didn’t even know it was
being live streamed until that when we were actually there I live makes me
nervous it’s kind of I don’t want to know that
it’s live because I’ll start overthinking it yeah
I’m not enjoying it as much but that night when we heard it was live stream
we were all just kinda like okay well whatever whatever is gonna come out is
gonna come out yeah you know yeah yeah yeah well do you have any other
questions in the last thing that I would would ask is that when I get students in
and this has happened year after year after year and I will ask a vocal
student specifically did you practice and they will say yes I practiced and my
next question is always how did you practice and they always tell me always
I sang along with the song and that is their practice
what are your pointers for practice how would you actually let a new singer in
terms of letting them know what the a good routine is I always tell them
obviously to sing with the piano in terms of a vocalist that the number one
thing for me my recommendation would always be to have a piano at hands at
any one point that way you can match a pitch in getting this idea of what an
interval really is because a lot of people their sense of interval is
different some people’s is a little bit shorter some people is a little bit
larger so they’re a little bit out of key sometimes so having that piano next
to them and being able to sing a scale or just a series of notes is extremely
important that you start to get that recognition what else would you kind of
steer perspectives in right well I agree with you about singing along with it
singing along with or playing along with anything it’s
great and as soon as you take away that recording though it’s not so great you
know at least that’s what I found in my life or it’s like oh wow I sound amazing
singing along next to Shaka and then I removed Shaka and it’s a whole different
ballgame yes so yeah I think I think that’s good for one respect but when you
remove it you can hear yourself a lot more and you can hear your trouble spots
when you’re singing or playing along with anyone you’re you’re hearing what
they’re doing which is good usually that’s why you’re singing along with
them so it kind of tends to mask what the the singer or the players should be
hearing that they’re actually doing right I agree with you 100% piano is
huge piano that’s the probably the one regret
in my life I wish I’d started piano early on I couldn’t start piano early on
because we moved around a lot so weight allowances didn’t allow for that and
this was back in the 80s where you know digital keyboards were thousands of
dollars and huge so that was not part of my upbringing for all my students now if
they well luckily and Joe you know this on the music school we’ve got about two
full years of keyboard skills everyone has to take to be able to learn how to
play piano I also have all the vocalists take on top of the keyboard skills they
have to take lessons with weight Beach our piano instructor to try to learn
more jazz voicings so they at some point can sit down at the piano and play
through a song and sing along with it themselves I think that’s incredibly
important yeah piano you’re right that’s the big thing they have to get out of
this they have to get out of headphones they have to get into a practice room
they have to record themselves record themselves just them singing with a
piano or them singing with a backing track you know but not singing along
with what they’re trying to do and then they can actually start to hear
themselves performing and figuring out okay this area doesn’t sound great I
need to work on this maybe it’s a little too high in my range maybe something’s
going on there and my mix or my switching registers it’s not quite
working or this area is fine because it’s in a part of my range that’s you
know strong and I don’t really need to worry about that but yeah they need to
they need to critically analyse themselves and they
have to do it they have to put themselves in a position where they can
really hear themselves and hear what they’re doing metronomes are huge – I
know for players pretty much on every single jury sheet that I write every
single year get with the metronome play with a metronome please it’s gonna help
your time you know because again when you’re singing along with something or
playing along with something everything is there for you everything is there the
time is there everything is there you’re just kind of going along with it and
when you remove all those elements that’s where you really start to think
you know and I think also being honest about your practicing again I I don’t
think for singers especially when we can’t practice four hours a day I would
never tell my students get in the practice room and sing for today they
grow in their voice but little increments is good to find 20 minutes
here find 30 minutes here find an hour here you know it doesn’t have to be at
one time every single day if your schedules flexible or fluctuating you
know 30 minutes in the morning and maybe find 40 minutes in the afternoon or
something that works log sheets I know this year I haven’t done this before in
the past sean has said that he’s gonna make his students this year fill out
practice log sheets that he wants to see every single week it’s pretty obvious we
all know when a student comes in and they’ve worked on something I can tell
within like two seconds that they’ve gotten better they’ve gotten better you
know that’s the thing I love about some of them I’m like who do you think you’re
fooling it’s like it’s you’re actually you’re fooling yourself yeah you know if
you’ve gotten better it’s obvious you’ve gotten better if you’re struggling
through something and within five minutes of working on it in the lesson
it gets better then that shows that you haven’t you
haven’t practiced so I think it’s just being honest with yourself and really
deciding number one I’m gonna do this and number two I’m the only person who
can do it that’s another thing too I think sometimes people want they want a
quick fix sort of you know or they want it to be easy and the fact of the matter
is practicing is not easy it’s not it’s the grueling part of it but if you don’t
do it then you know it just doesn’t work journey not the destination yes make
sure there is a there’s a great like mean
there I don’t know if it’s a post or when it comes from but it’s it’s one of
those things where it says you know the path to success and what people think it
is and it’s like a straight line and what it actually is and it’s just a
jumbled huge mess of lines and I’m like so true it’s not it’s not easy but
nothing worth it is so well I love practicing it’s my favorite part of my
life I can’t stand it I really have to force myself to sit
down and work on stuff you know but it’s good I in terms of for me when I first
started taking voice lessons I took a few before I took voice of lessons with
you and the first thing the teacher did with me was breathing exercises and then
you immediately reinforced this that was where I saw my largest improvement was
just even at the beginning of each session working on my breathing and then
my singing was better the whole rest of the session
right so do you have breathing exercises and can you expand upon the lip trills a
little bit more for our audience sure yeah well for the breathing
exercises you just have to make sure they say you know a lot of vocal coaches
they breathe from your diaphragm right which you can’t breathe from your
diaphragm the only way that you can breathe and take in air is through your
lungs but the diaphragm is a muscle that sits underneath the lungs and so
basically what every voice teacher out there is telling people is you need to
take the deepest possible breath that you can and fill up your lung capacity
as much as possible the majority of the time we take very shallow breaths when
we’re speaking because we’re not thinking about now I have to take a
really good long breath and now I’m gonna speak until the breath runs out
and now I’m gonna do it again that is so weird and we couldn’t do it so all day
long we’re taking these little shallow breaths because we’re speaking in these
little fragments shallow breaths so it’s kind of getting people to really figure
out 99% of vocal issues intonation issues are typically support issues they
just don’t have enough breast support right because it’s the breath that
creates the tone and so if the breath is running out then what’s happening to the
tone the tone is being compromised basically so and also I think the
numbers are something like 95% of the world sings flat only about 5% of the
world sings sharp which again is totally linked to breast support so for some
breathing exercises I honestly I have to say I was kind of lucky with breathing
and I think it’s I swam competitively for 10 years so I might hold my the only
sport that I ever did was swimming and of course that that being able like
swimming a 50 length underwater with one breath I think that taught me very early
on I learned quickly that I needed to take in a lot of breath in order to make
this swimming so I think for me it comes very naturally just because of the
swimming um but I’ve done exercises where you can inhale for a count of 4
Joe I think we did this you hold for a count of 4 and you exhale for a count of
4 but and then you can go up incremental II up to like 24 16 or 24 if you’re
doing and in counts of 16 that’s really only four bars when you think about it
and a lot of the phrases that we sing in our four-bar phrases two-bar phrases or
four-bar phrases the thing that’s that’s hard about breathing that a lot of
people don’t think about it’s a consistency of breath from the beginning
to the end that’s what’s and that’s what that exercise is good for especially in
the early parts you have to suck in that air very quickly and accounted for then
you have to expel it very quickly at the count of four same thing is true when
you get to longer periods of time if you are inhaling for 16 counts you can’t
suck all the air in by count eight and then you’re not doing anything 9 through
16 it’s that continuous air flow it’s
making sure that the air flow from the beginning to the end is always
continuous and that especially goes with exhaling because with the exhaling
that’s where you’re creating your tone so you know you run out of air singing
the beats into it and you’ve got another four beats ago that’s when people start
going out of tune because they’ve run out of air and you can just hear them
running out at the end so that breathing exercise can be really really helpful
I think singing long tones you know a lot of horn player
they’ll play long tones because again they’re trying to strengthen the
capacity of the air their stamina but for lip trills you can do the same thing
so a lip trill is an exercise it’s a warm-up exercise I start all my all my
lessons with this and it’s just so it’s basically you know your your lips are
together they’re vibrating and you’re creating pitch and you’re singing
through them the interesting thing about this and the reason why I lip trills are
so good is that instead of doing a you have no resistance against that with
electro because your lips are closed you now have a resistance but even as you’re
going through the lip curl even with that when I was coming back down again
I’m beginning to run out of breath so now I’m really conscious about my breath
at the end because of course at the end is where everything starts to go flat so
lip trills can be kind of good you can make them longer you can make them
shorter that was at eight counts and you saw that right at count eight I’m
beginning to kind of run out of air a little bit so doing some exercises like
that would be really good I always tell my students at the ends of lines which I
think kind of helps their breath support is to release up that’s another reason
why I don’t like fall off is because fall offs everything what’s the word I’m
thinking about everything is just kind of falling off the breath is falling off
the tone is falling off the phrase is falling off everything is just kind of
falling off but if you release up if you think about it you’re releasing up it
keeps the intonation up it keeps the energy up and it gives it just gives a
listener a sense of well it’s release but it’s not lazy release does that kind
of make sense so sometimes with breath support issues we can like sing a line
with it and then we can really fall off at the end and then we really have to
work the line and pull that last little bit of air in in order to release up and
I think that kind of helps with the phrases because I know all of a sudden
people realize how much they’re running out of air
and and if they can just conserve a little bit of air at the beginning of
the phrase and then use that little bit of air at the end to kind of push up
that’s why they have breath releases too so for phrases that don’t have
consonants you do a breath release at the end that’s you are literally
releasing that breath at the end as a form of punctuation but I think it also
helps with the support basically just realizing did I have enough support for
that because if I didn’t then I have to work on that could you give us an
example of releasing down versus releasing up sure see what song should I
do okay darn that dream did you hear that or it’s kind of hmm down a little
bit now I’m gonna really suck darn that dream oh yeah you hear the difference a
little bit yeah subtle darn that dream darn that dream it’s something different
yeah you’re right okay good it what did you the pitch is just up a little bit
there were Lisa’s up a little bit you know and that’s why that mm-hmm huh that
happens at the ends of phrases it’s a stylistic thing but all it’s
doing is pulling it down and then when it’s pulling it down what the singer has
to do afterwards is they have to reset themselves to start up again so it’s
kind of keeping everything level and lift it up that way when you’re lifting
up and you’re just kind of coming back down again for the next phrase and then
lift up work for me no I bet during the recording process if you’re recording a
CD or anything like that all of that helps tremendously yes yeah it does and
it makes you extremely conscience of that was a good entrance that was not a
good entrance that was a glottal attack I didn’t do well there you know yeah
it’s because you got to think about that and it’s the breath the breath does it
all do I’m also very physical you know when I when I breathe as well too like
so some people you know every voice teachers a little bit different but I I
really am working my core quite a bit and pulling I’ll be saw my student you
know pull that stomach that’s fine cuz I just for me that’s
what has worked for me it’s like I said going back to that vocal athlete thing
it’s like you’ve got to have that strong core you know if you’re in good shape as
well – you’re gonna breathe better you know so doing certain exercises that are
just kind of helping with the breath control that helps you not smoking
smoking bad type all this exercise like keep on envisioning gwen stefani on
stage doing like push-ups got a pretty awesome core and then you know you have
a lot of singers too that are just naturally great singers and they just
they’ve got huge breath support they just kind of can can do it naturally
without even thinking about it you know so that’s that’s always helpful to this
this has been awesome I love the actual getting into the details of vocal
workouts and vocal training yeah I think this isn’t for anybody who was thinking
like I don’t need any vocal lessons I think just seeing what actually goes on
in a vocal lesson having a just a little bit of a look at some of the things
might be enough to tweak people’s interests didn’t get them to actually
act you know do something about their singing yeah well I hope so I mean I
would I would love for as many people as possible to to do this you know um I
think it’s important and it’s to me it’s just like any type of workout you know
just have to want to do it it’s very satisfying yeah yeah
the singing just in general is very satisfying and people your general
population I find I could do the coolest thing I’ve ever done on the guitar
played the best guitar solo or whatever and people would be like when are you
gonna sing yeah like like I appreciate that you like singing but I I feel a
little like you just you know did you didn’t appreciate what I spent the
majority of my training right
but yeah I needed I need to put more and emphasis on singing and I think that
some of doing these breathing exercises would be helpful because they don’t I
don’t think that’ll fatigue my voice as much yeah I tend to I tend to get done
you know I’ve had three shows this weekend and then like Monday I’m I don’t
want to sing I don’t want to practice singing I feel like I need to rest my
voice but I feel like these breathing exercises might be a way to do something
helpful without exhausted you know actually in the vocal chords the left
rows will be really good for you yeah lip troubles are really good
because they’re they’re a nice way to warm up without you know really warming
up you know but three shows a weekend that’s a lot of shows Jo I mean that’s a
lot of singing and I specially if it’s four hours that’s a lot of singing for
you what usually three but no no three average that’s a long time to be singing
even if it’s a couple breaks you know and the one thing that I do tell my
students all the time is listen to your body listen to your body and trust your
body if your body’s telling you it’s tired and worn out listen to it give it
a break you know because once it’s damaged it’s
hard to go back you know I I do play a lot of extended instrument hook pieces
cuz I couldn’t I don’t think I could sing the whole time I’d be exhausted no
I’ll have a three-and-a-half hour duo gig tonight I’ll be tired and I’ll be
with a great guitarist he’ll solo and you know do all his stuff but even after
three and a half hours yeah I’ll be I’ll be worn out yeah well we want to be
respectful of your time and I know it’s it’s Saturday and it’ll be a Thursday
when this episode is released but it’s been absolutely wonderful having you and
we would love to for you to put out and put it out there your website and where
people can find you and anything else that you want to plug you know George
Mason the university’s jazz department anything like that oh thank you so much
I’ve had the best time talking with you today I’m so happy that we got the the chance.
and I’m happy that we got to reschedule it too because I think the first time
when we were doing it was a crazy busy time so I’m so happy that we had more
time to chat today so yes so what it is your website DardenPurcell.com that’s
it mm-hmm can you spell it for everybody oh sure it’s a Darden da rdn Purcell P
as in Paul you are CE ll see where can people find out more about the Mason
jazz department if they go to music that G mu edu and just search Jazz Studies
will have everything listen well thanks yeah thank you for coming on today okay
Bye!

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