Teaching Practice (Singing) — Bryan teaches in NW London
Students have appeared in professional productions of Opera and West End Musicals as principals as well as ensemble. Technical help and advice given for those with vocal problems and problem voices. Exact pronunciation of foreign languages. Extensive knowledge of repertoire from classical to musicals, and of Phonetics and the International Phonetic Alphabet. Fluent pianist and sight-reader. Grade Examiner for Guildhall and TrinityGuildhall Exams from 2001-2007. Conducted singing master-classes at the Dartington International Festival, and taught singing at a number of London Drama Colleges. Head of Music at Peterborough & St Margaret’s School, Stanmore from 2000-2011.
Practising: Plan and practise your breathing for songs so that you always breathe in the right places. But if in performance you realise that you will not make it to the end of a phrase, for goodness sake, breathe. Even if it’s in the middle of a word! The audience will certainly know you went wrong, but it’s better than running out of breath before you get to the last note.
Baritones and Basses (and Dramatic Sopranos and Mezzos). Do you try to make yourself sound more impressive by singing with rich sounds? If you do, your voice will sound very impressive in your own ears, but less so in the ears of others. If you are twenty years old, then allow yourself to sound as if you are twenty years old. If twenty-five, sound like you are twenty-five. As you get older and the voice matures, keep the sound youthful and never sound like you are more than thirty. If you make a sound like a mature singer of forty when you are twenty, chances are that when you’re forty you’ll sound sixty. A healthy singer of sixty should sound like he’s thirty.
For Basses and Altos especially. The lower you sing, the brighter and lighter vowel sounds should be.
For Tenors. Try not to approach higher notes from a semitone or so below. Some do this several times in one aria. It’s not stylish and it’s certainly not bel canto. It is, however, an annoying affectation which is imitated from the recordings of the less able in the mistaken belief that it is good style and (worse) good technique. Listen carefully to a recording of yourself, and if you hear a suggestion that you suffer from this complaint, try to eliminate it.
For pianists accompanying singers. Remember that you are half of a partnership with a soloist. Play with a light (but not feeble) touch. The downward movement of the fingers onto the keys should not be too hard (unless that really is the desired effect) or the percussiveness of the piano sound will drown out part of a singers words, and spoil the effect for the audience. Think of an upward movement as the fingers make contact. A sense of direction of movement will often help the flow of a piece. Even a piece which should be played fairly strictly in time needs flexibility and shape; it is as if your hands breathe as you play. Attend to the detail of the musical score — in particular all complex rhythms. Have a sense of period style and make sure that you understand all foreign lyrics. A singer will feel safe with good support from a pianist, but sometimes it is the piano part which must lead.