Leading vocal coach, author and session singer Jaime Babbitt shares essential insights for all vocalists.
Show of hands: how many people out there love Regina Spektor as much as I do?
What? You guys, c’mon. Yes, you know her!
If you watched one episode of “Orange Is The New Black”, you’ve heard her gorgeous, Grammy-nominated theme song, “You’ve Got Time” over that awesome collage of faces:
Now you get it, right? And wow, Regina is something else:
born in Russia to musical parents, came to the Bronx, NY at nine speaking no English but already playing mad classical piano.
She started composing songs as a teen, got a record deal in her mid-20s, opened for Kings of Leon and The Strokes…
I could go on, but you have the Google for that. For now, let’s key into all the fabulous pointers we can pick up from her:
1) Play the heck out of a chordal instrument.
If you’re my student, you’re soooooo tired of me nagging you to learn piano or guitar STAT, aren’t you? (If not, become my student. I’ll nag you like your mom on steroids!) Why do I do this? Because it will train your ear like nothing else will. Playing bass is great and flute is lovely, true, but they’re not chordal instruments.
Learn them after you’ve gotten one of these others down. I’ll even go so far as to insist that every singer have rudimentary knowledge (at the very least) of piano more so than guitar (or do both). Why piano? The “notes” are in front of you and you can benefit from establishing hand/eye/muscle coordination and memorization of the patterns more easily than on the fretboard of a guitar.
2) Use your voice to its fullest advantage, even if you feel wacky doing it.
Being such an accomplished musician has opened Regina’s eyes to all the sonic possibilities. She will make strange sounds, percussive sounds, whatever’s necessary to enhance the instrumentation and convey her creativity and passion:
But she will also tug at your heartstrings with her plaintive delivery and fluidity of movement. Some singers, like Sara Bareilles, Donny Hathaway and Regina Spektor, can make moving from chest to mix to head register an absolute joy to behold.
Check out how seamlessly she flows in “Samson”, one of my all-time faves:
And how can you use your voice to its fullest potential? Study voice. Study voice. Study voice. Did I mention you should study voice?
3) Understand the power of words and know how much they matter.
Whether or not you decide to write your own songs or sing other peoples’ songs, remember this: You’ve heard that old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? It’s BULLCRAP! Words hurt, words heal, words save and words destroy. Words matter. Words hold tremendous power. Use them wisely and sing them reverently, playfully, joyfully…all kinds of fully, just as Regina does in this incredible song about class struggle and social injustice:
So please support this fine artist and give her a listen, or buy a ticket. She’s truly inspirational, and so unlike anyone else…and isn’t that what we all aspire to be, when you get down to it?
Jaime was a Musical Director, coaching voice and performance for Disney and wrote “Working With Your Voice: The Career Guide to Becoming a Professional Singer” (Alfred Publishing). As a session singer, she ‘jingled’ for Coke, Pillsbury, Folgers, Chevrolet, and hundreds more. She’s sung on thousands of live gigs (covers and original music) and toured for years with Leon Russell and Sam Moore. Jaime sang BGVs live and digitally with George Strait, Barbra Streisand, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Webb, Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus, Johnny Mathis, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Willie Nelson and others. She performed off-Broadway in “Search: Paul Clayton”, toured nationally with “Old Jews Telling Jokes” and presently coaches students in voice, performance, beginner guitar/piano, studio singing, songwriting and auditioning in NY, CT, LA, Nashville and virtually. For bookings: www.workingwithyourvoice.com