I recently attended a vocal workshop in Tokyo organised by P. A. Tokyo. The course was taught by Amanda Flynn and Rob Rokicki and was conducted in English with a Japanese translator. When the course was announced I was keen to attend as I do like to watch experienced teachers work with students.
The people taking part in the workshop got to sing one song and then have this reviewed. The focus of the workshop was on vocal technique and on the acting components of presenting a song. The amount of time that could be spent with each student was short, and I was interested to see which aspects of each performance they would talk about.
Breathing was talked about for quite a few of the students. Not only trying to get people to use the right breathing technique for singing, but also the importance of breathing in acting. Nerves can make all of us rush in to a song, and it really is best to breathe first. They also made suggestions for words that you can breathe after and suggested that people go through their songs and know where they plan to breathe.
The suitability of the chosen song was also talked about. And the suitability of the key. For a couple of singers the chosen key was a little too high, making them struggle particularly towards the song climax. There was also one person whose song was a little low. They sang it well, but there was no excitement in the song as at no point did they get close to any of the limits of their voice.
Having a more conversational tone during some of the songs was also talked about. Many of the songs were very wordy and sometimes singers become choppy when singing these songs instead of having a more legato conversational sound. The songs sound much better when phrases are connected.
Mouth shape was talked about, as a big difference can be made if you change your mouth shape when attempting to sing falsetto or if you are belting. Amanda got a number of singers to sing through phrases in their songs with one finger between their teeth and their mouths mostly closed. Demonstrating that at times we use mouth wider mouth shapes than we need.
Some things were not talked about. At no point did they talk about pitch or tell anyone that they were out of tune. This would be a hard thing to fix in a short session and it could be an issue that people are sensitive about and would not really benefit hearing about in this sort of workshop. There is no doubt that the teachers were working on being positive and trying to a avoid using terms like "mistake". I liked their positive, encouraging approach and would certainly be happy to attend a similar workshop in the future.