Good mood, bad mood, calm or frenzied, there’s a song that can inspire or elevate that feeling for us all. There’s a reason why every great movie has an equally great soundtrack! Singing is something that can be intensely personal but can be experienced with people of all ages and cultures. But what about the mechanics of singing? How can we easily try to fit more music into our family lives without it becoming a painful process or without the rolling of eyes (child and parent) over song choices? Well, we may not be able to fix the rolling eyes but on today’s podcast Janna and her guest Richard Fink, IV chat about music and singing and how to create a space in our lives for musical enrichment.
Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm your host, Janna Koch, and Booksharks' Community Manager. In today’s episode, I am bringing on an expert in a gym. Don't worry, you're not going to have to feel bad about not working out, and there's no need for tennis shoes. Richard Fink IV is actually the co-creator of the C, we're going to be talking about finding your voice and having the beauty of music in your home with your children. Richard, thanks so much for being here.
Thank you for having me. This is exciting.
I am very excited because first of all, when I think about a gym, I automatically have negative associations and guilt of all the things I should be doing Oh, no. But you're going to be bringing such a positive experience in this podcast about what we can be doing with our voice. We had titled this podcast finding your voice. And I think that has so many connotations. But before we get into all of that, let's just give a little bit of background about who you are, and how this all got started.
Sure. So I'm a vocal coach I've been teaching for about 25 years I actually started out as a drummer when I was eight years old. And I would play drums in all sorts of rock bands and make lots of noise and be really loud and hit hard. And my senior year of high school kind of entered the world of singing and songwriting kind of, say relatively late, but its my senior year of high school, I joined the choir, because there was a girl that was in the choir that I wanted to get to know a little bit better. And so I joined choir, and I just fell in love with this idea of moving the voice and, just connecting in a completely different way musically than what I was used to. And the challenge for me was that I was terrible at it, I was running out of breath, and I couldn't find the notes. And the teacher didn't know what section to put me in because I kept changing my voice and trying to up here or try down here just all over the place. And eventually, they kind of settled into the feeling of expressing the song, even if it wasn't that great technically yet, and I just fell in love with that idea. And after a few months, I quit my band, I sold the drums, I bought a PA and I started to write songs, it was just this massive shift for me. It was probably the only thing my parents didn't actually encourage. They always encouraged the idea of pursuing my passion whenever I was excited about which is a really special thing to grow up with. I know that's not always the household philosophy. And singing was the one thing they're like, ‘Are you sure we we'd rather hear you, you know, play your drums to Metallica, then you sing a Broadway show’. Um, that's how bad it was. But I just knew intuitively there was something there that was magic and interesting. So I started buying books and CDs. And of course, this is before YouTube, I couldn't just, you know, ask Alexa to hook me up with some voice lessons on YouTube and take care of it for me. I had to just do some hard reading, I tried a lot of different teachers. But I ran into a lot of conflicts with that too. One teacher would say this is the only way to sing. And another teacher would say no, you should always do this or you're going to hurt your voice. And so I kind of came became a little paranoid and worried and how to do this because I liked singing rock, which is what I started off with playing drums. But I also love musical theater. So I, you know, I be pulled in these two different directions. And I wanted my voice to be able to express both without causing any harm. So I found a teacher in New York City, I lived on the other side of New York, Western New York, she was like six and a half, seven hour drive, I would save up money during the week, I drive seven hours apart, I spent all my money for that one hour lesson drive back, because that was we didn't have the internet or, you know, zoom to connect with anybody like this at the time. So he encouraged me to look at the anatomy of the voice. And that just opened up everything. So I started studying the physiology and the neurology and the psychology behind how the instrument works, the science behind it. And it just allowed me to connect all these ideas that these other teachers were trying to present to me in more abstract ways. And it all started to click. And so I built my own technique called the Thorogood technique in the seven dimensions of singing, based on the anatomy of the voice and when you look at the science behind the singing, you start to realize that anybody can do it. Anyone if you can speak you can sing. And it's just like learning to play guitar or learning how to walk. And you have to coordinate muscles. You have to fall down 1000 times before you figure it out. And some kids figure out how to walk right away. And other kids, they're three years late. And same thing with the voice. And so that's what I do. That's what I'm passionate about as far as the homeschool connection. My wife taught, she had her own performing arts school like an after-school program for years up in New York, in 2019, we moved to California, for my then 12-year-old daughter to pursue acting, she got an acting gig and management. And we started homeschooling her and my five-year-old, and then the pandemic hit, and everything shut down. So we were homeschooling there for as long as we could, excuse me. And then we moved to Florida. And now we're homeschooling, or we homeschool here for a little while. And then so it's just been back and forth, East Coast, West Coast lot of experience with homeschooling in a short period of time, especially with the pandemic of course. But it was during that time that I realized, there's like no choice for singing at home for these kids who may be interested in the theatre arts, or maybe parents, maybe they encourage it, maybe they don't maybe they don't know, they don't have a background in music. So didn't know really where to begin. And there are music appreciation courses, there is some singing, you can take online private lessons, of course, there are things out there, but nothing that was really focused on the development of the voice at home. So that's what we spent the last three years putting together something we call the Vocal Gym. And now it's out and we're connecting to amazing people like yourself and talking about it. So that's, that's my background. That was quick, and hopefully not too long.
I think it's great, I kept thinking like, bless, your parents for going through 10 years of the drums. That's impressive
They didn’t have electronic drums like they do now it's a lot easier to deal with.
Yes, they, let's say they really loved you.
And they really didn't want me to sing
I love this topic on so many levels. I'm personally just growing up in theater and having a musical family. It it definitely resonates with me and having my own children, one in particular who is interested in musical theater, and getting her involved in that. But I think you've hit something that most people don't even recognize is that your voice is a tool. And what I love about singing is that it is body, mind and spirit, right? You can use it to talk for intellect, but then emotionally like you, you know, we're gonna talk about it. And there's so much talk now in psychology about finding your voice as we're, you are reading through like childhood trauma and, and all of these different aspects of psychology, it's like find your voice, find your voice. And so in finding our voice, now we are going to create a legacy, hopefully with our families to be able to move to the next part was like, now you can speak your truth and talk about your feelings and stand up for yourself. And that's kind of like the basics, right? Like you get your food and you're getting what your physiological needs are, we get to go to the next level, which is finding your voice for singing. And so well, how do you define that? Like, what would be the benefits of somebody coming in and realizing that you don't have to sing on key to sing?
Well, that's been proven at the Grammys every year. Right? So you don't have to I mean, it's funny and sad, and you know, a little mix of both. But the reality is, is that there's very little difference between speaking and singing. So let me throw that back at you. What do you think the difference is between singing something versus speaking?
But personally, if I'm, if I'm singing, we have a joke in my house that if I've asked my children to do something several times and then it moves into a sing-song, it means my emotions have been heightened. So singing is emotional. We're talking sometimes is not necessarily emotional. It's more informational. But to me singing is emotional.
It absolutely will. And it can be sometimes it's just kind of a depending on how someone sings it, they may sing it with a lack of emotion, it just becomes kind of a technical want to call an obstacle course of notes kind of thing, right? You're not really into it. They don't care if it sounds good or whatever. And that's fine. It's still expression on some level. But the conversation is like that to. Mechanically if it's something we are emotional about or passionate about something we want to communicate. There's going to be a movement in our cadence in what's called porosity, which is the melody in speech. So, if I were to ask you, What is your name?
Janna 10:06: Janna.
Richard 10:07: Okay. So I know your name, but I wanted to hear you say it. So you went Jana. So where are we on the piano? Your Janna, Janna, Janna, Janna Janna, right around here speaking voice. So if we look at that for a quick second. So right here is, Janna, for those of you who are listening to not watch it, it's kind of brought up the pianos, we can kind of see what's happening here. But there are notes very similar to when you said your name, Janna, right? You had that there. So when you speak, you didn't think I want to sing. I'm gonna say my name and Janna you didn't like make it into a musical theme. But there's still vibration that's taking place in your instrument, your vocal folds are vibrating at a certain speed that can be identified in an instrument. Now piano is very specific notes, as opposed to like, a violin, which is a fretless instrument, and there's more play of what the notes might be. But there is rhythm, there's volume, there's cadence, there's pitch, there's tone, there's storytelling, there's conscious and unconscious events that take place, even when you just said your name. Like when you went to say your name, you're thinking, doesn't he know my name? And then you have to say your name. And then you said it with like a question mark attached, there was subtext built in. So when we speak, it is a very musical experience that we tend to not really pay attention to it is very subtext. But like you said, if it starts to turn into a song, kids do your chores, right? We know something's building. And that becomes, like you said, it gives them like an emotional intent. But you can hear when someone's sad, you can hear when they're happy, you can hear when they're angry, without them telling you that. In fact, they don't even have to say the words I'm sad, or imply something that said they could be like, love you, mom. Like if they say it with a tone, they said, I love you, Mom. Oh, that's sweet. But then you're like, wait a minute, tone, like something’s going on. And that's what we're taught to listen to first. And that's the nature versus nurture in our voice. When we first start to mimic speech when we're kids, we’re mimicking mom and dad and siblings in the music around the household to try to communicate, and we make up words, and there's gibberish, but there's tone and inflection and all this cool stuff that I wasn't conscious of as an infant. But as a dad, it's just like, I'm like, Well, let's try it higher, and then we'll remove the voice around and get them to play. That's such an important thing that we do as parents is get them to play and explore their voice. Because that is how it's nurtured. There's this idea that someone has to be born to sing in order to sing well. And obviously, not everybody listening to this is necessarily going to be a singer or aspire to be a singer. And that's not what this is about. Singing is just a very well-intended or coordinated musical intention of speech. Because as we already pointed out, speech and singing are actually very similar. The only difference is going back to the question I asked you, the only difference is intention. I intend to have this word on this pitch, I intend to have this rhythm that goes along with the chords and the music that's in play for this particular song. So, the intention changes with the instrument is exactly the same. The muscles you use to speak is exactly the same as singing. And if you're brought up with the idea or had this illusion that you have to be born to sing in order to sing well, you're missing out on a lifetime of expression, exploration and development even as a speaker by not exposing you or your kids to the idea of play and exploration of singing for that reason. You can develop more like you said, What did you say there is your becoming emotional right when singing starts to come in because that's at some point. That's the only way you can communicate your feelings without just throwing something right?