I’m a full-time, professional session singer, and it has been WAY too long since I’ve had a proper voice lesson. I’ll spare you the full background but I used to take in-person lessons with an amazing teacher in Michigan, but never picked it back up again after I left. I found Ramsey Voice Studio and contacted the owner for a private lesson. I’d like to show you how it went and give a full review, as well as an interview with the owner, Matt Ramsey.
Skype Singing Lessons
I’ve always been wary of online vocal coaching. There are lags and freezing video, poor audio quality, and chances for error that aren’t present in live lessons. However, I’ve yet to find a live teacher I can work with, and I absolutely hate leaving my house for any reason, so online lessons seemed like something I should at least try.
While we did have Skype issues, overall the streaming was fine. My computer, however, did not record the entire lesson. We had over an hour of lesson that I was excited to share with you, however my computer stopped recording after 15 minutes. Here is the lesson if you do want to see it and follow along:
Overall, I really did enjoy my lesson!
After the video cut out, I figured out the scale, we did some work on strengthening my bottom notes and giving more power to my top notes, and we worked on one of my songs. “Brother” has always been a challenge for me, so much so that I never sing it live. Matt was able to determine that the chorus, which is powerful and belty, is right in my vocal break. By moving it up a key, I was able to easily sing it with no difficulty. I think I would be comfortable performing it now, and I’d honestly like to re-record the song!
An Interview with Matt Ramsey of Ramsey Voice Studio
Since the video didn’t come out the way we planned, I have an interview here that I hope you’ll enjoy! I loved Matt’s answers and I’m so grateful to him for sharing all of his knowledge!
Let’s start with the basic/obvious question: How did you get into voice teaching? I know you graduated from the Institute for Vocal Advancement, what led you toward coaching?
Surprisingly, I never thought I would be a voice teacher. I always wanted to be a professional musician; writing, playing and recording my own music. But one day in the middle of a lesson my voice teacher told me: “Hey! You just figured out what I’m doing. Have you ever thought about teaching?” and that opened the door to trying out teaching.
So I started off by teaching a few of my friends for free. And that’s when I realized that I absolutely love teaching. These days, I focus very little on my own music and almost completely on being the best voice teacher I can be.
How did that lead you into forming Ramsey Voice Studio?
I formed Ramsey Voice Studio as a way to give back all the gifts that music has given me. I wanted to spread my love of music with the world, one student at a time. The reason I teach voice rather than other instruments is that I love the mystery of the human voice. There’s so much to teach and learn with each student.
What “type” of student do you feel learns best? Are there certain personality traits that makes someone a better or worse vocal student?
I think there are three traits that help a student learn to sing more quickly.
1). Auditory Learning
Voice is one of the very few instruments that’s not visual. I can’t point to a piano key in my voice and know that if I hit it, it creates a high C. But with almost any other instrument, I just put my finger in the right place and the note comes. So much of learning to sing is being able to learn by hearing what’s right and what’s not. But for the more visual and tactile learners, hope is not lost! It’s important to find a teacher who can communicate about sound visually. That’s one of my strengths.
2). Excellent Imitation Skills
Many auditory learners are also very good at imitating sounds and voices. Most of the time, I can’t tell a student to engage their thyroarytenoid muscle in order to sing stronger. But I can demonstrate that sound so they can find that feeling in their own voice. So being able to imitate is like a short hand for finding the right way to sing faster. Of course, that’s assuming that I’m good at demonstrating the right sound for the student as well.
3). Willingness to Take Risks
For better or worse, sometimes it’s important to make some funny sounds when you sing. We even did that in your lesson. In order to get the vocal cords to do what we want, sometimes we make funny noises that can be a bit embarrassing for the student. But if a student has a willingness to take a risk on not sounding “good” or the way they think I want them to sound, they’ll actually progress more quickly.
Have you ever worked with students who were completely tone deaf? Do you think that anyone can learn to sing or is it just what you’re born with?
I have definitely worked with some students who would be classified as being tone-deaf (or having amusia). While they may not be going on tour or releasing a record after one month of lessons, most students with enough time and practice can learn to sing in tune and in rhythm. Usually that means that we work with a lot of ear training exercises to match what they hear with what they’re singing. Working with these students has totally convinced me that ANYONE can learn how to sing.
Do you have any incredible success or reform stories you can share? I know you said you’ve coached people with massive vocal hemorrhages before, that’s incredible that you’ve brought them back!
I’ve had the fortune of working with students from many different backgrounds. Some of my favorite success stories are the students who come to me after working with an abusive teacher–teachers who convinced them they’re terrible singers, or that they’ll never sing correctly.
I love proving those teachers wrong.
I’ve also worked with students who have had big health problems with their voice. I always make sure to get them checked out by an ENT before they come take lessons, but once they’re cleared to sing, we can get right back to work. It’s always inspiring working with these singers and helping them learn what they can do with their voice again.
Can you tell me a little more about the IVA technique you use? What sets this apart from other vocal coaching techniques?
The IVA technique is set in the 17th and 18th century principles of singing developed by the Old Italian School of Singing. This was an era where beautiful singing was the standard and different systems of vocal instruction developed. More recently, contemporary techniques like Speech Level Singing and the IVA Technique have built on this standard of maintaining beautiful singing, even with the demands of pop and rock music.
In the IVA technique, we believe that in order to maximize the potential of the voice, the voice must be relaxed. Using this vocal balance as a baseline, we can expand vocal range, hit high notes without falsetto and gain control of our voice.
I think it’s a common myth that you only need singing lessons if you want to improve your skills, but it’s so much more than that! What else can singers get from regular lessons?
You may be surprised, but it’s not just beginners that need voice lessons to learn how to sing. Many professional singers take lessons all the time in order to maintain their voice. Part of the beauty of having my level of experience is that I can hear issues even in really fantastic singers that are holding them back. But most students taking lessons will see an increase in vocal power, overcome their vocal break and improve vocal control.
I’ve had some remarkable success with students who take lessons with me for a while and people can barely believe how much more powerful their voice has become.
You give Skype lessons as well as in-person lessons, do you tend to have more of one than the other? Do you have a preference?
The percentage of Skype and In-Person lessons vary at any given time. The longer I’ve been teaching, the more regular students I have in different parts of the world who take lessons. But Austin is a great music town, so my in-person lessons keep me busy as well. As far as preference, Skype and In-Person lessons are equally beneficial for the student. But I can work a bit faster in-person since I can play piano as the student sings.
What are some simple things singers can do every day to keep their voice in good shape? Do you have a daily regimen you follow?
Lip trills are a fantastic way to warm up your voice and they tend to work for pretty much everyone. I make sure to do them every day before I teach so that I can sing my best for my students.
Here’s a list of 10 vocal warm ups that will help you sound your best.
In addition to vocal exercises, it’s important that you get enough sleep, hydrate and stay away from foods that affect your voice such as spicy or fried foods.
What do you hope students will gain or learn from your lessons?
In every first lesson with a student, we talk about their goals and what they’d like to achieve with their voice. So everything that we work on in lessons is a direct result of what the student wants to achieve. But in general, I like to help my students sing from the very bottom to the top of their voice without breaking or straining.
Can you name any current or popular artists who use terrible singing techniques? Or, can you name any who have great technique?
First off, it’s really easy to throw stones and trash a singer with bad technique. For example, there’s a pretty broad consensus among teachers that Adele doesn’t sing with good technique. But even singers with great vocal technique can still have issues if they’re over performing, not getting enough rest or straining their voice.
Just look at Sam Smith. I think he has marvelous technique, but he needed surgery on his voice because he was performing non-stop.
More than anything, I think that the demands on a singer to be constantly on tour and performing are what’s causing most of the issues we see in singers today.
As far as great singers to emulate, here are a few favorites:
- Freddie Mercury
- Michael Jackson
- Stevie Wonder
- Sam Smith
- Lady Gaga
- Aretha Franklin
Let’s talk about the “Master Your Voice” course – what is the difference between that and regular lessons with you?
Master Your Voice is my complete video singing course. I created the course after having taught over 500 students at all different levels. My biggest challenge with creating this singing course was to give vocal exercises that would work for almost any singer. I looked at some of the most popular courses out there and many of them wouldn’t help anybody because they’re not based on good technique.
I wanted my course to be different and really help people.
So I turned to the notes and recordings that I’ve been keeping on each student over the years and looked for common patterns in the exercises that worked for everyone. Now, since I released it last year, I’m sure than ANYONE can learn to sing using this course! I’ve been very lucky that students have rated it so highly. My biggest thrill is getting emails from students telling me how much the course helped them. Just for fun, here are a couple reviews.
My in-person lessons, on the other hand, are laser-focused on the individual students’ needs. If you have to go on tour or do a big gig, that’s when having the one-on-one help of a singing teacher is totally necessary.
Lastly, who are your favorite and least favorite artists?
I know this sounds like a cop-out, but I try to find something about every artist to like.
But here are a few of my favorite artists:
- Delta Spirit (and Matthew Logan Vasquez)
- David Bowie
- Sweet Spirit
- Bob Dylan
- David Ramirez
- Amy Winehouse
- Elliott Smith
Thanks so much for the lesson and sharing all of your vocal knowledge with us, Matt! I really appreciate it! If you’re interested in voice lessons, please check out https://www.ramseyvoice.com/. You can also find him on Facebook or YouTube!