I first discovered Eric Arceneaux on youtube. At the time I had already had a vocal teacher, however I did not feel as though I was making progress. So while online seeing what the universe would send me I discovered The AA Approach. Now whenever I have the time I just go on my Udemy App and do the exercises in Eric’s videos. I’ve noticed a greater change in my vocal health and ability. So I decided to reach out to Mr. Arceneaux to see what his advice would be for other aspiring singers?
R|A: To start thank you so much for taking this interview, I’ve studied your approach for a few years and only regret that when I lived on the east coast I wasn't closer to Maryland. So in your earlier lessons you had a physical warm up before singing. Why is exercise necessary before vocal rehearsing?
E|A: It’s so important that we keep in mind that the entire body is the instrument, not just the vocal folds. A common misconception is that vocal injury is a problem isolated to the throat. But the root causes are often excessively tightened abdominals and shoulder muscles, or overly contracted glutes and inner thighs; this kind of excessive tension restricts the diaphragm, throws the body out of alignment, and places undue strain on the vocal folds. Bottom line: strengthening the voice means liberating the entire instrument.
R|A: How often would you recommend an artist do vocal training?
"A good singer has to be a great story teller."
E|A: A professional vocalist or even an aspiring professional must train daily; there’s just no way around it. It’s like being a professional athlete - talent and natural coordination are merely a starting point. To compete in the professional arena amongst other professionals, your body must be exceptionally well conditioned. Talent alone will not provide vocal longevity or protect against vocal injury, however proper daily vocal exercise will work wonders.
R|A: What key elements in your opinion make for a good singer?
E|A: Freedom is number one. No one wants to hear you struggling for control or straining for high notes; it makes your audience uncomfortable, if they can hear that you are vocally restricted. Number two… A good singer has to be a great story teller. Good singing is acting. Many aspiring artists - even those with wonderful voices - fail to achieve the career success they desire simply because they get too caught up in their sound. They obsess over tone, riffs and runs, range, etc. Don’t be so self indulgent and self conscious. Just tell the story!
R|A: What advice would you give aspiring singers?
E|A: Hard work, in real life, happens in slow motion. I meet singers every day who beg me to take them on as students. “I’m such a hard worker!”, they say. But the reality is that they seldom have any sense of what hard work actually means. I blame movies. lol. Movies romanticize and trivialize hard work via the use of montage - a collection of scenes that make the effort look intense but brief, with immediate payoff, while an inspiring song plays in the background. In real life, however, the hard work happens in slow motion. It is frustrating at times. It is often inconvenient. It requires a level of discipline from you that may not be required of your peers. And that can be challenging. You want to be “normal” and go out and drink and party, but you can’t do that if you have a studio session the next day. You can’t eat that pizza, if you want your voice in top shape for that audition. You don’t sing without doing a proper vocal warmup. …stuff like that.
"Bottom line: strengthening the voice means liberating the entire instrument."
R|A: Now some artist are consistently performing, how do you maintain good vocal health, teas, tonics…?
E|A: All the teas, tonics, and sprays can be a nice cherry on top. But, without question, the best way to maintain a strong and healthy voice on the road is with healthy technique. Perhaps most important of all is a daily breathing exercise/vocal exercise regimen. Singing professionally is an athletic feat. These are muscles. Your diaphragm can be strong and flexible or it can be tight and weak. Same with your vocal folds; they can be strong and flexible or tight and weak. They need proper exercise in order for you to perform at your best, consistently, and to avoid vocal injury- vocal injury is just so avoidable, if you’re willing to discipline yourself. I develop a customized daily breathing exercise/vocal workout regimen with every one of my professional clients. It’s crucial.
R|A: What is the biggest vocal health issue you experience with your students?
E|A: Nodules… Artists often seek me out after being diagnosed with nodules. They are the most common vocal health issue amongst professional singers. But here’s the thing: The body always give you a warning - chronic hoarseness. Hoarseness means that you’re doing something wrong. Unfortunately, a poorly trained singer will just try to “push through”. Eventually, the body decides to protect itself, and the vocal cords develop callouses a.k.a. nodules. Nodules wreak havoc upon a singers range, freedom, and consistency, because the vocal cords are then unable to close properly.
What bothers me the most is that it’s all so very avoidable. And honestly, it’s often a matter of ego. Pride is definitely a factor. I meet countless singers who tell me things like, “I KNOW how to use my diaphragm. I KNOW how to sing properly- I’m ANOINTED. I trained with so and so… ”. But I’m like, “If you already knew everything you need to know, then you wouldn’t have nodules right now!” You can’t ignore your body for the sake of your pride.
Vocalists have to understand that powerful singing does not come about from brute force. No. Vocal damage happens that way. Powerful singing comes from balanced & concentrated force. A big part of my job is to teach students what it really means to derive power from the diaphragm and its surrounding muscles, as opposed to leaning on the throat. Suffice to say the most prevalent vocal health issue I see amongst students is a lack of understanding in regards to applying balanced force to the voice and misinformation on what it means to “sing from the diaphragm”.
R|A: Most newer singers sometimes have a bought with stage fright, how do you recommend they move beyond that?
E|A: It depends on the root cause of the stage fright. For some, the fear is due to the fact that the instrument is unreliable. In those cases, training alone will build confidence as the singer develops a better understanding of how to use his/her voice consistently. In other cases, I find that it results from self consciousness and fear of being judged. In those cases, I recommend that you stop making the performance all about you. Instead, focus on telling the story. If you’re worried about impressing people with your voice, you’ll likely sound amateurish anyway (even if your voice is amazing). A professional singer knows that telling the story is of paramount importance. That’s the mission.
R|A: Why did you start the AApproach?
E|A: I was tired of the confusion. Growing up in the church, I was given so much harmful advice from choir directors, musicians, and other singers. And even during my brief career in opera, there was a great deal of confusion; I realized that there was no agreed upon consensus amongst classical singers in regards to what constituted a healthy technique. Each classical voice instructor had a completely different methodology, and these methodologies were usually based far more on tradition than on any scientific principles. I guess, more than anything, the AApproach was born of my desperate need for clarity. I wanted to know concretely how the body worked.
Also, I wanted to empower people. Growing up, there was this pervasive idea that the ability to sing was a gift given only to a few. Furthermore, if you failed to be “chosen”, there was no hope for you. But I had gone from being laughed out of choirs and laughed off of stages to then being offered major label record deals and enjoying a successful full-time career as a vocalist. It was the training that made all the difference, and I knew that if the training could work for me it could work for anyone.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the underdogs and the outsiders, for anyone who’s been told “you can’t”. The AApproach is a resource that supplies artists with the skills necessary to pursue their dreams and to thrive. As human beings, we just have so much more power than we think we do.
R|A: What 5 key rules would you say are important when singing?
E|A: 1. Warm up. Singers who don’t warm up regularly will find themselves at the mercy of all sorts of circumstances: weather, lack of sleep, nerves, sinuses, etc. A healthy warm up routine will mitigate the effects of all those variables and make you consistent.
2. Allow yourself to breathe, but don’t force it. Breathing should be effortless. Filling yourself up with air is not the key to vocal power. Heaving large amounts of breath will only wear you out. If you feel like you have to fight or work to get a satisfying amount of air, then your diaphragm is weak and restricted. Contact me.
3. Don’t sing AT the audience. Instead, communicate with them. Singers often feel pressure to show everything they’ve got (belting, riffing/running, screaming) right out the gate, in every song, even if it makes absolutely no sense for that particular song. Just tell the story. Be honest. Be vulnerable.
4. Accept your instrument. Appreciate your instrument. We don’t curse the violin for not sounding like a trumpet. We appreciate each instrument for its unique beauty. Don’t abuse your voice in an attempt to make it sound like someone else’s.
5. Allow some of the character of your speaking voice to come through your singing voice. Vocalists often feel that they have to create the perfect tone, but singing is in essence nothing more than elongated speech. Utilizing more of your speaking voice qualities will make your singing sound more distinct, nuanced, and professional.
"Singers often ignore these warning signs, thus creating and worsening problems instead of fixing them."
R|A: One thing that stuck with me from your lesson was that “practice makes permanent, not perfect.” I think that’s a powerful statement, how does one practice perfectly? How do you know if what you’re doing is the correct way of doing it?
E|A: Your body will always let you know if you’re on the wrong track, I promise you. But you have to be willing to listen. It’s so important that we tune in to how things feel. If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right. The vocal folds do not operate under the same principles as other muscles in the body, in the sense that it’s NOT like working out at a gym. Pain is never ok. Burning is never ok. Soreness is never ok. Singers often ignore these warning signs, thus creating and worsening problems instead of fixing them.
R|A: Where can people find you for vocal classes?
E|A: My website - www.AApproach.com - has it all, including info on how to take one-on-one lessons with me (Skype, FaceTime, or in person) and info on how to purchase my lessons on video. Of course, I’m also on Youtube, which is how a lot of people find me. www.Youtube.com/EricArceneaux