Saturday, January 29, 2011

Indian Musical Instrument Seller Recommendation: ExoticHub

It’s not always easy, having the leap of faith to trust a seller you have never met. That is why it is so important to go off of the recommendation of someone you trust. Therefore; when looking for a seller of Indian musical instruments from whom I could purchase multiple items I trusted my voice teacher’s referral (Guru Haresh Bakshi of ) and went with Exotichub on eBay.


Since my first purchase of an Esraj almost 3 years ago, I have gone on to buy harmoniums, dilrubas, various percussion, more esrajs and most recently – jori (Sikh pakhawaj).  I have placed a total of six separate orders with them and have never been disappointed. In fact, I find their business practices to be among the most ethical on eBay. 



They have considerable customer service skills and communication is prompt and always polite. They ship with lightning fast speed and their quality is the best you can find without spending at least five times the amount they charge. In short; if you have never purchased an Indian instrument before, or are looking to expand your collection, I highly recommend Exotichub

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Recommended Vocal Study Product: Singing Success

Brett Manning's Singing Success 12-CD program is the one that constantly comes up in search engines when looking for “learn to sing” methods. There is no shortage of testimonials for this product and the website itself boasts some of the most hard to believe before and after recordings. Other review sites in general have given this approach an overwhelming thumbs up. Although, most other review sites tend not to go into too much detail on the manor or types of exercises you will be doing, which is what I would like to do presently.

The Good:

The program sets out a few major goals and delivers masterfully on them. The first ambition in the course is one that I as a voice teacher hear students desiring all the time. Namely: increasing the range of the voice. This was something that I as a classically trained singer was extremely skeptical about. Not only had I struggled with high notes for my entire adult life, I was under the assumption that one is born with either a high or low register voice.

The technique the program employs is known by some in the pedagogical world as vocal “damping.” It is not uncommon to hear chanters of Byzantine music or Hungarian folk singers use this method for singing extraordinarily high (often the opera singer Pavarotti is sighted as an example of this style). What is unique about the Singing Success program is the step by step process in which the student learns to “damp” whereas in the aforementioned cultures, students simply learned by rote from very young childhood. Essentially, Mr. Manning's method seems to approach the voice from different registers building strength in each and then blending them together (for instance; from a vocal “fry” to a “damp”). Another secret to the program's success is that the exercises are simply more demanding which challenges voices to rise to the occasion. This is probably the aspect of the program I most enjoyed.

For an example of vocal "damping" please listen to the phrase beginning at 1:40 and ending at 2:01

Brett Manning demonstrating some of his methods

Singing Success also sets out to achieve greater vocal flexibility. As mentioned above, this is largely due to the demanding nature of the exercises. What is beneficial about this is; the newly flexible voice is put into practice doing simple blues runs and other highly desirable ornaments in modern popular music. Once again, there is a step by step method for approaching these outcomes, building on simple, easy to achieve skills and then expanding.

Some Minor Drawbacks:

(note: I have been in contact with the Singing Success crew while doing research for this review and they have told me that a new updated version of the program is in the works, so it is entirely possible that these issues will have been addressed in the upcoming version.)

The biggest complaint I have about the program is that there isn't a male and female version (or at least male and female sections on the CDs) rather we are expected to come in during the exercises when it enters our range. This makes for a somewhat frustrating practice because once your portion is over you must either wait an inordinate amount of time for the pattern to loop back around so you can come back in, or fast forward and hope you don't miss your entrance. If you play piano you can simply learn the exercises and play them for yourself, but of course, not all singers play piano.

A much smaller complaint I have about the course is that it does very little to tackle intonation issues. It does however; not presume to be an ear-training course, and the Singing Success website links to outside methods for ear-training.

In Closing:

I don't know if we will ever reach a point where the private voice instructor will be rendered unnecessary. In that vein; I can't see the Singing Success program replacing the need for a private teacher (note: private lessons with Brett Manning trained instructors can be set up through the Singing Success website). I do, however; see the course as an invaluable tool for students looking to supplement their learning, as well as educators who want to expand their knowledge of teaching popular music. The program does deliver on everything it promises which is why I have given it the recommendation it be used by students and voice teachers.

There are many options for purchase including a payment plan (with a nominal service charge) broken up over several months. This enables even the most frugal voice student to have access to this wonderful resource. 

The program can be purchased at: Singing