Yuri Sabatini Singing Teacher

Yuri Sabatini Singing Teacher
Voice coach in London

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

My wish for the pedagogy of singing

Art and technique can and should be looked upon and used by the Teacher of Singing in equal measure and in the clearest way possible in order to not incur in scientific absurdities on one extreme, misunderstandings in the best of the cases, and in mysticism at the opposite extreme.

Art and technique of Singing. The Singer's job is to use the voice to engender emotions. That of the Teacher is to help the pupil to use the voice. Let's leave the listener to feel the emotions and to the aesthete and the critic the job of telling us what's behind it - which if for them is at the foundation, for others could be only a retrospective invention.

Let's remain open to learn from each other, let's find the desire to communicate, let's not judge a priori and let's aim to a brighter future for The Art of Singing and for the Pedagogy of such a phenomenon.
May we start in 2011!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

I've never seen it snowing, like it did today, in North London!
For everyone else, particularly those who had to travel, this snow represented a bit issue... Not for us though!
In the morning, I brought the kid out for a family craft morning at the Church and it was already snowing heavily.. three hours later it was still snowing and we went out to play snowball to their greatest enjoyment!
When we came in, I made them some hot chocolate and then we had lunch together.
Later on, I pointed out of the window at some birds: the children realized the birds would have to face hardship in this climate, so we took some home-made bread, made it into small crumbles and went out again to leave it all over the garden (and on the roof of the house as well) for them to eat. I think the birds liked the present, and I noticed how the children were more serene and more cooperative than usual afterwards.
The thought that the act of giving and taking care of someone else makes always us feel good struck me once more. Life is a great thing not when you get, but when you give, in every field this principle applies equally.
I find this is true when I teach: it is not about me, it's about what I give to my pupils. And of course, the same is true when you sing.
Ahh, what a blessed day, today! I look out of the windows and marvel at how wonderfully quiet it is out there, all the trees, the garden and the houses covered in snow: a great landscape!
I'm sorry for those of you who were troubled by the snow, included my wife who went to work - coming back will be problematic, I know. But, for the three of us this is what Christmas is supposed to be like! Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The shield any student should have

The pedagogy of singing is like a big, steaming cauldron of various ingredients, different sorts of advice and techniques... one has to be careful, as not all of the ingredients you may find are good for you.

I recently was called to step in and prepare a teenager girl from a wealthy family for the grade 7 ABRSM exam.
I certainly wasn't prepared to meet a girl with a perfectly healthy speaking voice but affected by problematic technical faults in her singing voice, voice which could not for the world be ready to tackle any of the repertoire expected for a grade 7 exam.
She produces a breathy sound that she can't carry, for obvious reasons, in the higher part of her voice. Dinamycs are denied, and the tone lack warmth and roundness. Pity, really, considered she tries to sing with emotion.
When confronted with the issues heard and seen in her singing, she admitted that she was taught by her previous teacher, with whom she studied all her life, to pull in the abdomen when singing. She came to like this tone of hers, even though she confessed she was aware of the fact she couldn't use her voice as she was supposed to. Obviously, she was defensive. No one likes when somebody criticize indirectly the teachings of someone you came to like and be dependent on. Alas!

The big point, here is one. And one only.

When one studies singing, during the journey one is bound to be asked to put in place coordinations, or to attempt manoeuvres, or to make sounds that don't adhere with what is physiologically efficient and correct, least with the aesthetics of beautiful singing. If one has a minimum of anatomical, physiological and acoustics data available, one can promptly measure what the teacher advocates against this available-to-all knowledge, thus becoming less of an easy prey for unhealthy
and nonsensical advice which can be highly detrimental and hamper a voice for years - or for a life time, unless someone is never so lucky to meet a good teacher or not humble enough to accept that the problem is at the very base of one singing!

Don't trust everything you are told and don't rely on the use of disjunct information in a teacher studio.
Arm youselves of the shield of factual information, available everywhere and not at all complicated for an average brain, to avoid to be hit in a way that's way too costly for your voice, your self esteem and your future career!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Eating... nowadays

The next time you try to work out just why you can’t think straight
and get everything you need to get done completed, consider
blaming your food.
It’s a scary concept- that our thoughts and ability to succeed can be
so affected by what we eat, but for millions of people around the
globe it’s a day to day war their body and mind pit against each

Even on very simple terms, we need the fuel form food to survive.
While fasting can be used by some to clear the mind during certain
events, as a general rule, our brain needs feeding. And it needs the
right kind of feeding to do well.
We get plenty of health and nutritional advice all the time. In fact
in many ways it’s thrown at us from every direction. Even the fast
food giants now tell you exactly what’s in their products.
However it appears that the more we know about nutrition, the
more we studious avoid the facts. In less than ten years, nearly
three quarters of the western world is on the path to being
classified as overweight (or worse, obese or morbidly obese.) The
numbers of people looking to pharmaceutical relief for depression
and addictions is growing and our energy levels are collectively at
an all time low.
It might feel like we know a lot about food, but are we using that
knowledge? And how can we be sure that what we are putting into
our bodies is health, strength and energy?

For most of us, the sorts of foods we eat now are very different to
the foods we grew up on. There weren’t constant ads on TV on
how to lose ten pounds in ten weeks. Takeaways were a real treat
and no one did home deliveries. Mothers tended to be at home,
where they cooked often plain but also pretty nutritious food (meat
and two veg anyone?) There was probably home baking too, but it
was made with natural ingredients and didn’t have things like corn
syrup and fancy chemicals to keep it fresher for longer.
Supermarkets were not open twenty four hours a day. We had to
walk down to the corner shop to get bread, and that is all we got,
because everything else was so expensive. There were less impulse
buys on junk food. Fathers tended the home veg garden, and there
were sometimes fruit trees too.
It wasn’t all food utopia. We ate lollies. Rather a lot of them
sometimes. Pocket money seemed to go a long way. But it wasn’t
an every day thing. It was more of a once a week as soon as I got
paid treat.
Fruit was more expensive. If it wasn’t straight from our own tree, it
was metered out. We didn’t have huge portions of meat, and the
fill up food was generally a cheese sandwich.
But we weren’t obsessed about food either. Those were less
stressful times in more ways than one. These days on top of
worries about finances, jobs, family issues and stress, we worry
about food.

The old adage we are what we eat has never been truer than when
talking about our ability to focus and work. With our heavy use of
computers, cell phones, and televisions we don’t move so much.
We spend our days behind the wheel, behind the desk and then
behind a cushion when snuggled up on the couch. Not only are we
expending less energy, but we’re filling our bodies up with so
much more food and treats because we feel we deserve it.
We need food. It refuels us, gives us the energy we need, works
with our bodies to keep us alive. We use any nutrients we eat to
create new cells, growth our hair, and repair our bodies. If all we
give our bodies is junk, is it any wonder that we’re not feeling the

The best sort of diet we should have is not so much about making
sure you eat an apple a day, and never touch another chocolate bar
again. It’s about basing your diet around three things: balance,
quality, and output.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Richard Miller

Do you know this gentleman?

Many people got recognition for their work, in many fields of human progress. He deserved it much more than others in the art and disciplines singing, yet to many he is unknown.
Not that this surprises me, after all the teaching of singing is one of the more confused and less structures pedagogies, an area in which ignorance and false assumptions reign above all.
It is incredibly rare to find a voice teacher who knows his subject. Everywhere you see "singers or musicians who teach" what they know or what they do, some after taking a course or reading a book that give some information and show some exercises which supposedly will help you improve your technique, others relying on what they "think" is right. Too often, those are erroneous or incomplete information, but the many novices, the less informed students (alas!, even the "professional" singers can be count in this statistics) fell prey of these and pass it on.

A good singing teacher, above musical preparation, ought to have a good vocabulary - based on a sound knowledge of acoustics, phonetics, physiology and anatomy - with which he/she can deliver the message to the pupil in plain words. Knowledge makes you free. And capable. Yet, amongst "singing teachers" there's the belief that you should away of it, by sticking to what you've been told and "works for you".
Like in any other case, beneath such convictions there's fear. Fear to discover that the method you adhere to may be wrong, or not the best solution.

I see many teachers teaching the same thing day after day... if a student doesn't improve, it's his/her fault and not the teacher's!
Too often I hear the most absurd affirmations.
Too often a see students not understanding what their teacher means.
When specific problems arise, those teachers can't really tell what cause them or how to sort them out. They keep insisting that their way will cure the problem with time... and the result is another talent, another talent, another voice, another possible career ruined.

Well, believe me: one who reads the books of Richard Miller is exposed to the "real world", to make a parallel with "Matrix": you take the red pill, and he shows you how deep the rabbit hole goes...

He left us in 2008, after dedicating his entire life to research and to study the techniques of singing... His legacy puts us in the position to be of real help to those who want to improve their singing and their knowledge of how the voice works in cultivated singing.

I would have loved to meet him, to thank him.
His work made me a competent, professional singing teacher. Moreover, he helped me free my voice, he taught me to sing and how to do it better and better through constant study.

May he get recognition, cause much help is needed in any college of music and in too many private studios around the world where the situation is, let's put it like that, improvable!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The simple things...

Simple things do make the difference.

A student of mine, 71 year old David - great voice, you wouldn't believe it at his age! - told me this story: some ten years ago, he had a problem with his eyes. They were always dry. So he went to be seen by a supposedly good specialist who said that there was nothing he could do, it was something related to David's aging and he could only try to alleviate the discomfort with artificial drops.

David remembered that, years before, his wife Lia was losing her hair.
They went to see a tricologist. The man asked if Lia was eating properly. She quickly answered yes. But David reported that his wife, busy running her saloon, often jumped her breakfast and at work she used to eat poorly, a bite of something between one job and another.
So the doctor, to make himself clear to Lia, used this parallel: "your body is like a car in a way, you have to put fuel in it. If you don't put enough of it, your body has to decide where to direct the available amount of nutrients. Of course, hair is not vital, like nails, so those are the first things that you'll see being cut off".

Powerful image, isn't it. She started eating more consciously, and the hair loss stopped.

Well, coming out of the expensive studio where he had just been seen, David remembered those powerful words the tricologist told them in the past, and started to think what could have been caused this dryness.
You guessed it! He realised his intake of liquid was near to zero, with him usually not drinking at all during the day. He started to drink more water, and his eyes got back to normal!

Busy as we are thinking of living our lives, too often we forget that we are what we eat and that our cells, in order to function well, need vital nutrients. Water is the first element they need. But our body needs good quality proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibres, good fats... every day... possibly with every meal!
The lack of these elements may not be evident in a day, or in a month, but everytime a cell reproduce itself, the new one will be a bad copy of the original and its vital capacity reduced, until something will go wrong in the system.
Be aware that 70% of the reasons that bring people to the doctor are a consequence of their diet!
Malnutrition is not only for those who haven't got enough to eat, in the Western world we are all likely to suffer from it given the style of life we lead and the kind of food available on our plates, refined and processed and ultimately deprived of their nutritional value.

If you are not using nutritional supplements yet, you'd better consider where and how you could be in years time. Medicines may ease the symptoms, but at the root of an incredible number of ailments is the lack of good, proper nutrition. And sometimes medicine arrives when it is too late. I've seen many examples of this sad reality.
Get yourself a better start. Use good quality supplements. Everyday.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Biology applied to Society

My last post mentioned a thought I wanted to share.

Recently, thanks to Bruce Lipton, I realised how the truths that applies to a biological system applies equally to a human community.

Long ago, only one-celled forms of life existed.
The condition of a cell is affected by its environment (the same is true for individuals). In order to improve their possibilities and to better face the environment, million of years ago, cells formed group of cells, multi-cellular organisms (we humans do the same). Each of them, brought it's skills and awareness to the community: what a cell experiences, say, on the upper surface of the organism, is communicated to all the other cells.
Can you see the parallel with our society? Each of us contributes to the awareness and the knowledge of the entire system. Each of us has a very important, decisive role within the group. The implication is this: in order to survive and thrive, all the cells in the organism obey to a superior intelligence, to a central government. If all the cells started to behave how they wanted, the common purpose would be lost and there would be chaos, not organised life. We should see the parallel with our reality...

Even more fascinating, and this is very important, if a cell perceive a kind of danger or threat, it alerts all the system and the system acts to face it. Energy is employed to sort the problem and -that's the interesting thing- IF THE SYSTEM IS IN PROTECTION, in defence, IT CAN'T BE IN GROWTH, in prosperity.
If a cell is going in closure, is protection mode.. it can't grow in the same time, the growing process is shut down. Now, we as humans are a community of cells: if we are scared, if we perceive a threat, we are trying to survive by reducing all our growing behaviours. We as a Nation, like a community of living organisms, do the same thing.

SO, let's put it this way:
the more we perceive the world as a dangerous place, the more we close away from it, our immune system shuts down! And you can see also how, if the government is putting efforts and money to tackle illnesses within the population, efforts and money that could be used to grow and flourish are lost. Where are those efforts and money taken from? From positive ( in the sense of opposed to negative, defensive) mechanisms.
Every living form has a sort of bank account: if you keep using the money in a way, eventually you'll run out of cash! SO you'd better chose well where do you want to spend your money!!

The point is this: instead of trying to work on the symptoms one sees for example, following what I mentioned in my previous post, focus on what the problem is, focus on the education system, make aware the students -the cells of the organism- of their belonging to a community, work on the education system! If a cell goes crazy, it's a cancer. DO they want to be cancers for the organism they are part of? Awareness, ethics, good education, good quality training are the tools.

And don't forget that in nature what goes madly inside a body is expelled by our immune system. Effective punishment is the last resort, BUT must be used for the common good. If you don't let consequences manifest, you are teaching them they simply can carry on doing it.

Now at least now it's clear why I don't read newspaper and don't have a TV: I don't want to be affected by the negative perception they cause in our unconscious mind.
I want to spend my time happy, most of the time, positive and open; I want my mind and body to flourish and grow.
And maybe that's way people can't quite understand why I'm always grateful and gentle and many out there are so closed, wary and serious!!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Thoughts after reading the local newspaper...

I feel sad after reading my local newspaper.
I don't usually do it, following news. I am a believer of the impact of the News today on our thoughts, ideas, views and ultimately on our behavior.
But by chance I did, and had to notice -once again- that except one column, the others are all about bad news.
It gives you the impression that violence is everywhere.

1st: A school is considering the introduction of guards to curb antisocial behavior by pupils. They play truant and cause disruption to residents. Their unruly behavior (smoking, throwing litter, spraying graffiti, shoplifting and being sexually active) and complete disregard for the area is intimidating especially the more elderly or vulnerable people, who won't come out in their presence. I'd try to avoid that too..

2nd: a teenager has been attacked on the upper deck of a bus while coming back from college by two others teenager. First they mugged him and then hit him on the face with a bottle, repeatedly, leaving him with horrendous facial wounds. While this happened, all the passengers moved downstairs. None intervened. The criminals got away with this senseless attack.

3rd: a teenage girl on a Saturday night threatened a group of partygoers demanding money..

4th: two thugs gained entry in the flat of a vulnerable man and beat him severely... and got away with few months in prison.

Now, isn't it sad that only this facts are reported? How about the many good things around us?
Certainly this bad things happens, and they must be faced. Which is a waste for everybody... a waste for those who cause them, for those who suffer them, for those who try to sort them out, for those who try to prevent them, for those who report them, and for those who hear about them. It's a waste of time, of energy, of resources, of life force.

I want to share with you a thought... but family commitments call me back. I will put in on my next post.
Hei, I'm getting the hang of it...

May be all be blessed with your lives,

Getting started...

There's always something new out there.
It's up to us taking the disturb to try and know about it and learn how to use it, or dismissing it and keep ourselves clear of it... as if didn't exist altogether.
Well, this is true for me and a "blog". Aged 35 and not really at ease with computers and technology it may be a bit daunting to have a go at it, but I want to take on the challenge as I'm sure there will be lots of things to learn, many surprises and hopefully loads of new good friends.
Yes, I've got a positive feeling about it. Let's enjoy this journey!