Today’s guest is Meredith Colby.

Meredith Colby is an author, teacher, speaker and the creator of Neuro-Vocal, an approach to teaching singing for popular music styles based on brain science.

In this episode, Meredith speaks candidly about her professional career, the demands of the CCM industry for singers, the lack of formal training for the styles she was performing and the vocal issues she encountered as a classically trained singer working in a touring rock band. She firmly believes that the many years of classical training she received did not give her the tools she needed to sustain the styles she was performing and ultimately led to her vocal burnout. These experiences inspired her to research and write her book, Money Notes, in which she introduces Neuro-Vocal, a fast, effective training approach that encourages healthy singing habits for microphone singers and is based on nuero science.

Neuro -Vocal teaches students to steer changes in their brains and to be guided by these changes as they occur. Meredith breaks down her approach which has been proven to achieve remarkably fast results and puts the student in the driver’s seat. Not only that, but equips singers with tools for a healthy voice that will last for a lifetime? There is so much to unpack in this episode and I know you are going to love all the information Meredith has to share with us.

In this Episode

04:11 – When did she start singing and her background

09:16 – Frustration for not being able to sing loudly

12:18 – Kind of music Meredith was performing

13:01 – Classical music experience

17:48 – Ignoring her voice’s health warning signs

25:50 – How did you hear your voice?

26:43 – Talking to a Laryngologist and avoiding surgery

30:53 – Aha moment from Cyndi Lauper and Patti LaBelle

31:22 – Transitioning to being a voice teacher

34:50 – The Neuro Vocal Method

40:25 – The Alexander Technique

54:17 – Being a Vehicle for the Composer’s Intent

1:00:49 – Helping people find their own voice

1:01:50 – Training program exercises

1:14:23 – Greatest piece of advice for the singing voice community

Find Meredith Online

https://www.meredithcolby.com/

Class page info:

https://www.meredithcolby.com/nvm-certification

Paperback book: 75% off with code MONEYNOTES

https://itascabooks.com/money-notes-how-to-sing-high-loud-healthy-and-forever/

Ebook: 60% off with code EBOOK

https://www.meredithcolby.com/online-store/Money-Notes-E-Book-p153635065

Intro to NV Intro Course: 50% off with code NEWFRIEND

https://moneynotes.teachable.com/courses/introduction-to-neuro-vocal-method

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NEW CCM BOOK

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith is excited to announce the release of her new book “Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles: A Pedagogical Framework” published by Compton Publications UK. Marisa offers this book as a starting point and as CCM markets continue to evolve, she encourages that we, as a voice community, continue to evolve, debate and communally add to this framework.

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YOUTUBE PLAYBACK

Visit the A Voice and Beyond Youtube channel to watch back the video replay of this guest interview or to see my welcome video.

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Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:00

Hi it’s Marisa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include health care practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialized fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  01:15

Our guest this week is author, teacher and speaker Meredith Colby, who is the creator of neuro vocal, which is an approach to teaching singing for popular music styles based on brain science. In this episode, Meredith speaks candidly about her professional career, the demands of the CCM industry for singers, the lack of formal training for the styles she was performing, and the vocal issues she encountered as a classically trained singer working in a touring rock band. Meredith firmly believes that the many years of classical training she had received did not give her the tools she needed to sustain the styles she was performing and ultimately led to her vocal burnout. These experiences inspired her to research and write her book money notes, in which she introduces neuro vocal, a fast effective training approach that encourages healthy singing habits for microphone singers and is based on neuroscience. Neuro vocal teaches students to steer changes in their brains and to be guided by these changes as they occur. Meredith breaks down her approach, which has been proven to achieve remarkably fast results and puts the student in the driver’s seat. Not only that, but it also equips the singer with tools for a healthy voice that will last for a lifetime. There is so much to unpack in this episode, and I know you are going to love all the information Meredith has to share with us. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:20

Welcome to A Voice and Beyond, Meredith Colby. It is such a pleasure having you here. How are you?

Meredith Colby  03:28

Thank you. Thank you for having me. Marisa. I’m really looking forward to being here. I am well, I am happy to Chicago.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  03:37

And you know what? I love Chicago. I had Laurie Sonnenberg on the show last week. Yes. And she’s from Chicago also must be Chicago month, perhaps. But it is my one of my favorite cities to visit in the US. And I can’t wait to go back there. And now I have two friends to hang out with.

Meredith Colby  03:59

Yes, you do.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  04:01

And, we can. We can probably get up to a lot of trouble in Chicago.

Meredith Colby  04:05

I imagined we could. And see some good theater, and eat some good restaurants. It’s a great restaurant city, isn’t it?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  04:11

Yes. I had beautiful food there. And I also saw Hamilton in Chicago. Yes, it was so good. Now. It’s about you, Meredith. We’re, we’re all about you today about me. Don’t you love that? So you are a vocal coach, a voice expert and author and creator of the neuro vocal method. But let’s start with young Meredith. When did you start singing? And was that something that was encouraged in your family?

Meredith Colby  04:48

Yes, it was encouraged in my family. My mother played piano, and I would sit next to her on the piano bench and she taught me old standards. Right. So play and we would sing together.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  05:00

Oh, that’s so cool. And was that the music that you were growing up with? Was that sort of jazz standards?

Meredith Colby  05:08

Yes. The records we had were folk, mostly folk music. And, and then the jazz. Of course, Ella Fitzgerald. We worked that one out. And then we sang at the piano together. And that was fairly frequently. Yeah. And then of course, I did probably what every singer does in school or most singers. I was in all the choirs and auditioned for all the solos, my earliest memory of doing a solo, I think I was 10 years old. And I sang Thoroughly Modern Millie, I remember there was a lady in the front row, and she was an older lady, and she was laughing, and I being 10 years old, and taking myself very seriously imagine that she was laughing at me. And now of course, I realized I was 10. I was probably really cute. Oh, I’m sure, right, because it was Thoroughly Modern Millie. That lady was probably alive in the 20s. And she probably thought it was hilarious to hear a 10 year old sing Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:08

But definitely, very, very cute. So they were your inspirations. And when did you become? When did you start your formal singing training?

Meredith Colby  06:20

When I was 14.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:23

And was that in classical? 

Meredith Colby  06:25

Yes. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:27

Okay.

Meredith Colby  06:27

I, you know, my parents had not had formal training. My mother had piano lessons when she was a kid and a teenager. But not that she hadn’t had any singing lessons, although she was a singer. And my father was a minister. And so he’s saying, of course, you have to sing when you’re the minister. And I, they did not know that there was a difference. And even if they had, they would not have been able to get me any training in contemporary styles, obviously, at the time. So it was yes, they just got me voice lessons and voice lessons, by definition meant classical lessons. So yes, I had classical lessons from 14 years old all the way through high school. And then I had a year off while I was traveling. And then I did some performing at that time. And then I went back to college and had five more years of classical lessons. And then I went on the road with a rock band and trashed my voice. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:26

Okay, so let’s back a bit here.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:37

So, we’re having these classical lessons. Did it feel strange to you? I mean, were you singing classical music outside of those lessons?

Meredith Colby  07:48

No. I had no experience with classical music at all. I mean, church, you know, church choir music. And I guess the choir, the high school choir, you know, they give you some classical pieces, of course. But I would not listen to anything I listened to. I didn’t have an ear for what it was. Where the nugget of it for the heart of it. You know? Yes, I didn’t. I didn’t understand what it was. And, and none of my teachers asked me to listen to it. Okay, he just taught me the songs.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  08:22

And but when you were at home, in your bedroom, in your own space, were you singing those songs? Or were you still going back and singing those the standards?

Meredith Colby  08:33

I was singing standards. I was singing along with Natalie Cole and Denise Williams.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  08:40

Who I love both. 

Meredith Colby  08:41

Yeah, and The Cars and Alan Parsons Project.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  08:46

And but how did your voice fit when you’re having classical training? And then singing those standards? Could you not hear that there was something going on that the training was not matching? To me it would be like having baseball lessons and then going to play tennis. You still hitting the ball? You still have a racket in your hand. But it’s a different game. Did you have that feeling going on? Or were you none the wiser.

Meredith Colby  09:16

But I remember, Marisa, is being feeling very frustrated that I couldn’t sing loudly. Oh, because this was this was during the time in, in the most I think probably I don’t know, a good number. Good percentage, if not most of classical teachers believed that to sing in chest register would be intrinsically bad for a singer a female singer, estrogen influenced voice. And so yeah, so they would everything I saying was in had register. And so of course, you know, if you don’t have any familiarity with your test register, as soon as you’re at a four, you start to get very very, very quiet. Yeah, and Of course, everything Natalie Cole sang where I was singing along with her was in that range. So I remember, I just remember feeling frustrated because I didn’t understand what was happening. People don’t when they’re just starting or so I just remember feeling frustrated for years and years and years about not being able to sing loudly.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  10:19

Yes. And then you started your performance career. Do you remember your first gig, your first pay job?

Meredith Colby  10:29

Oh, my first paid job.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  10:30

Yes, your first paid job.

Meredith Colby  10:33

I do. Actually. I do. I was surprised I got paid. It was with my friend, Tom, who we were. We were strumming guitar in a pub together. And yeah, and being ignored and stuck in the corner. And I think we got paid 20 quid.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  10:51

I think I got paid $20 for my first job. And I was thinking about that this morning. That’s what inspired the question. My first gig I was 15 years old, just turned 15. It was my very first band. And my very first song was the start of a floor show. It was in the days that we used to do floor shows, which essentially was a show on the floor, walking around to all through all the tables and being like the headline singer, and singing Killing Me Softly, which had the Roberta Flack version that had that first part. That was ad lib. And it was, you know, it was no accompaniment. And that was my very first song in my very first paid gig on the floor, walking around tables. And I thought really how scary that must have been. But I don’t remember it being scary. I think I was just such a diva.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  11:58

I was like oh look at me go, I was so amazing. At the ripe old age of 15.

Meredith Colby  12:05

What could go wrong when you’re 15?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:08

Yeah, Killing Me Softly.

Meredith Colby  12:12

Showstopper, for sure. So I was eating what I was saying.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:18

So when you were performing during your performance career, what kind of music were you mainly performing?

Meredith Colby  12:26

Mainly? I was two people during my performance career overwhelmingly 90% 85% I was freelance singer jukebox with legs, whatever you want. That’s what I’m singing. And the other 15% I was Meredith. And those were jazz standard gigs. Because yeah.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:46

Okay. And did you not perform any any classical music at all? Did you have a classical career?

Meredith Colby  12:53

No, no, no. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  12:55

Okay. 

Meredith Colby  12:56

I never wanted that. I had no eyes for classical ever not been for one minute. Well, actually, now, okay, I have to take that back. When I got out of college, when I was graduated from the studio music and jazz program at the University of Miami. I had had zero training in contemporary styles. I had taught myself some things from Cyndi Lauper and Patti LaBelle specifically. Okay, they were they were my teachers. And yeah, so I was graduated, I auditioned for some things, and was not selected or anything. And then I auditioned for the greater Miami opera Guild, and I was selected to be in their course for that season. So I was a yes, I that was my eight months of being a paid classical singer.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  13:52

Okay. Out of like, probably, how many years of performing you had? And yet, and yet you had years and years of classical? Yeah, it’s the roles are very reverse T and the training is very reversed. I want to know what’s wrong with that picture. So then, I know that you had a very poor experience when you were singing in a broad band.

Meredith Colby  14:25

Yes. That is how I find — that’s how I finally got to be a rock singer that, you know, be the pop singer I wanted to be. But again, I hadn’t had any training, I figured out certain things for myself. And so I in those days, in the olden days before the internet, you were able to get jobs with a cassette tape. Yes. And photograph. Yeah. Which I had. So I was hired by a road band that was touring the western United States and I Did that for nine, just about nine months, almost to the day. And almost to the day I got in my car and drove home because I had zero voice left, I had no voice at all. Because the gigs I mean, it was, it was either five or six nights a week. And it was either three or four hours a night, night after night after night. In Amplified situations, you know, you know what it’s like the bass stamp is on your right side and the guitar amps on your left side and the kick drums in your 18 inches from your body. And the monitors are on the floor by your feet, but the sound is going up over your shoulders. You can’t really hear very well. Yes. And so yeah. And so even if I you know, in retrospect, I wonder even if I had had some training, would I have survived to that any better? I don’t know.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:52

Mm hmm. Now that’s really interesting, because your story sounds very familiar to me. And very similar to my own experience, when I was touring in a rock band, and an all male band, except for me as the chick singer, and no one listened to me. I had no voice in that band. Literally. When I spoke up and complained that I couldn’t hear myself. Nobody listened. I had to lug the equipment alongside the guys, when we didn’t have the money to pay for Roadies. soundcheck would be spent predominantly on the drum on you know, every every part of the drum kit was miked up, I’d get test 123. Great. Yes. And then when you had an audience, and you had the ambience, that would all change again, of course, but no allowances were made for that. But the lifestyle on the road was really difficult. And that’s where I get really cranky. And I talked about this with Laurie Sonnenberg. You know, the shaming that we have in our singing voice community for people who sings CCM styles, predominantly, Brock, that there is a stigma attached to the styles themselves being detrimental to vocal health. But if people knew the lifestyle that you live on the road, especially as a woman, it is not going to help your cause in terms of vocal health. And I totally empathize with you. I totally get it. And I’m glad that you talked about that. So with your voice, you had no voice? What were the warning signs leading up to that? Or did you have any? Or did your voice just cut out?

Meredith Colby  17:48

No, I definitely had warning signs, which I chose to ignore.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  17:52

But as we all do,

Meredith Colby  17:56

you know, the big one was, I didn’t have a voice until four in the afternoon. I started saying, you know, but in the morning, nothing.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:05

Well, and did that become that it was taking you longer and longer to recover from the gig from the night before?

Meredith Colby  18:13

I think so. Yeah. Yeah, I don’t remember, specifically, because I did not keep any sort of a journal about it. And it was a long time ago. And also I’m, I tend to be sort of a, you know, sort of a Protestant stiff upper lip stoic kind of person, like if I just keep going. And also, I think what you’re talking about in terms of being the only woman in the band, which is true for most female singers, you know, not so much really young people now, but it certainly sort of any of us who are north of 30 we were typically the only female in the band. And and so we were loath to complain or, or do anything that we considered whining or or bitching, right? So, yes, we just suck it up.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  19:03

And absolutely, but also to with the industry, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

Meredith Colby  19:09

And then there’s that. And then well, that was part of it. I remember, I had to sing for two weeks while they were waiting for my replacement. Because he had gigs booked for a year. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  19:21

Well, I had to sink for further three months because I was I was bullied into continuing to perform. Oh my goodness, yes. They told me that if I didn’t honor the gigs that we already had, that I would never work again, they would see to it. My management said they wouldn’t see to it that I would never work again. So I had to continue singing. And by the end of it, I was a hot mess. I mean, not just vocally but emotionally, physically. Psychologically, the trauma was it was incredible, but anyway, this is about you.

Meredith Colby  20:02

No, but it, it’s that is also about me. And that’s, that is what you just described, Marisa is literally the reason that I put myself out there, because I will be honest, I am very uncomfortable putting myself out there, I would rather not be in any sort of the public eye, I would rather just sort of quietly be doing what I’ve been doing for the last 30 years, just working with pop singers and helping them but it just seemed like I had something that would help that situation that we just described, and that nobody else seemed to be doing. And I felt compelled to share it. And so that so I do, and it’s because of that, because I don’t want to see another 14 year old girl, putting classical lessons with a teacher who thinks that pop is bad. You know, who’s not trained to teach Bob and and just begin this journey that’s going to end up or could not going to, but has the potential to end up just shaping this person’s life and self image and inviting trauma in their young adult life. I, if you can tell although we wound up not, but —

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  21:17

great, but we need to speak up. And this is the perfect place because there’s no judgment here. And I’ve learned to be courageous in the past 12 months with this podcast, and I’ve spoken about things I’ve never spoken about. And it takes courage to do that. But it’s so liberating, and it’s empowering other people, Meredith. So absolutely get worked up because we need to shout from the rooftops.

Meredith Colby  21:47

Yeah, well, that’s sort of my as I’ve had to really explore my own values around this so that I can stay anchored when when the wind blows, you know, is I, I want to share confidence, I want people to feel confident, I want people who have come from a classical background, but who teach. And let’s face it, if you are somebody who teaches voice, and you have been teaching voice for more than five years, you’re someone who’s going to keep teaching voice because you have found something in that that serves your soul. And it is it’s very, it’s a very unique line of work. And the kind of people that do it are quite extraordinary. In my experience, in my experience, yeah. And so I want that person to feel confident as as she goes in to empower another young musician or another walk doesn’t have to be maybe young, another musician. Mm hmm. And then I also want those people to leave her studio feeling confident, because art is scary. Art is about taking chances. We are performance artists singing is about art. So if we don’t feel confident, we won’t explore our medium, we will just stay safe and make this what I used to call the singing like sound, you know, we will that’s where we will stay, then why do we have it? Why do we have the art? Why are we spending all this time and energy and money and love and passion on pursuing excellence or even competence in this particular art form? If we are not going to then have the confidence to explore the art form? Yeah, because we’re afraid of doing something wrong. You know, I so anyway, I have a very strong value in the need for confidence in art. And so what I hope in sharing what I do share is that I am sharing that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  23:48

It sounds like that is going to be your legacy.

Meredith Colby  23:52

I hope so, yes. I want 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  23:55

well said too. you articulated that so beautifully. And and you’re so right in what you’re saying. And I wish everyone had that attitude. Because I do believe and this is unfortunate that there are a lot of teachers though that do teach for the sake of money. And they don’t have empathy for the sounds that they’re listening to. And they do it because they have to to put food on the table. There are teachers that don’t like the sounds that their students are creating in the voice studio and they don’t truly understand how they’re made, but continue to take the money and don’t receive the proper training that they need to to under have the understanding they require to teach those styles in a sustainable manner.

Meredith Colby  24:40

And you are talking about popular styles specifically I’m guessing?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  24:43

Yes, yes. And specifically pop rock, anything, a spoon, not all CCM styles but I would say predominantly pop and rock and dare I use that dirty four letter word belt I use that dirty four letter word. Wow. When when I first went to study formally was in my late 40s, I was accepted as a postgraduate student, I didn’t have a bachelor’s, and I was studying vocal pedagogy. And I was in a room full of classical students. And I did not, I didn’t know belt was was the thing. Like, I just I just belted and I just, that’s how you sang. And I had thought I could belt really high and my voice was really healthy. And, you know, never had drama with my voice, except for that time in the rock band. But dare I tell people that I belted? Honestly. You what? Yeah, felt? Good. Don’t we’ll in this, this is what we do in now, when you sing those styles, but anyway, with I’m gonna run this back end. I want to know, okay, greater rein her in. Because I want to know, how did you hear your voice?

Meredith Colby  26:13

Whoa, oh, yeah, that was a very sad year. So I got a day job. Although, in my day job, I learned computers. So that was good, because computers were not that old at that point. So it wasn’t a normal thing to be fluent at them. So that was my day job. And then I took piano lessons. And I saw a laryngologist and a Reiki practitioner.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  26:42

Love it.

Meredith Colby  26:43

And, yes, what I remember about that was oh, this is so funny. You’re dredging up all these memories. For me. I remember that part of my therapy from the laryngologist was that I had to not speak for six weeks. He said, If you want to avoid surgery, and I don’t want you to have surgery, he goes, You have to just not speak for six weeks. I did not speak for six weeks. And it was one of the most interesting times of my life, the way people respond to you. When you do not verbalize in their direction is extraordinary. I remember my father, sitting speaking to my sister, I’m sitting, you know, three feet away from each of them. And my father telling my sister to tell me something as though I couldn’t, people would assume that when I wrote something on a piece of paper that I was also unable to hear that and even my father.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  27:42

But did he thinks that that you discriminated that you couldn’t hear a dad, a dad voice, but you could hear a sister voice?

Meredith Colby  27:52

I have no idea. I just remember sitting there thinking, well, that’s odd. But it’s so odd. It was so interesting. I sometimes think I would like to do that again, and actually journal and see what happens. But yeah, that was so that was a year of of healing. And then I moved to Chicago because I had friends from college in Chicago. And at the University of Miami. Basically, we just talked about going to New York, Chicago or LA. And I didn’t feel like LA or New York would be a good fit for me. So I moved to Chicago and sort of got going here as a freelancer. And that’s where I found my first singer, teacher of popular styles. And so that was, that was when I first first really started to feel like I was singing instead of just making the singing like noise.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  28:45

Yes. You were allowed to actually be louder.

Meredith Colby  28:49

Well, yes. I mean, by that time, I had figured out my own way to access my, you know, chest register, phonation. I had figured a lot of it out. But But yeah, he taught me he was teaching me how to mix and giving me the space to play around with styles. And yeah, it was just good. It was very good.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  29:10

And now you brought up Cyndi Lauper and Patti LaBelle, and that you had some, your training was through those two singers. What did you learn from them? That is so interesting that you mentioned those two names, and they’re very different singers.

Meredith Colby  29:26

It’s those are my, I’m sure there were more but those were my strong memories. The I have a strong memory of being in my car and listening to Girls Just Want to Have Fun and copying her. And that was the first time I remember accessing my chest register. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  29:42

Well, that’s through mimicking. That’s how I first learned to sing. Based on pop and rock styles I was mimicking.

Meredith Colby  29:51

Well, we all do, don’t we? I mean, singers are mimics. And if I hadn’t been shuttled off into lessons I probably would have done just as you did. Uh, but and then Patti LaBelle. My memory of her is sitting in the college cafeteria, and there were TVs on and no sound. So it was just watching the show and Patti LaBelle came on and I, of course was like, Oh, there she is. And I was watching her sing and watching her. Oh, okay, what she was her mouth was just hanging up all time. Yes. And I went, Oh, man, I spent the next day. That was my senior year. And then I spent basically that whole year in the practice rooms, practicing in the mirror with my mouth open like that. It wasn’t anything anyone was teaching me. I just figured if Patti LaBelle did it, it was worth figuring out and that opened up all kinds of new things I could do with my voice. And I remember thinking, this should not have be a secret.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  30:53

What was the main thing though? You said it opened up a whole bunch of things. Can you recollect what was the biggest aha that you had from watching that?

Meredith Colby  31:01

Being loud. Being able to sing loudly. Yeah. Because I was I was head voice girl. I remember one of my companies in the jazz program, turning to me and saying, Can’t you sing any louder? I was so ashamed. Because the answer was no, I cannot. I do not know how.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  31:21

Wow, things that we go through. I mean, our singers were pretty messed up at the best of times, we’re so in our heads. We’re at worst enemies, most of the time, just criticizing everything that comes out of our mouths. So to have even more pressure on you, that would have been so traumatic. How did you transition into teaching then? Was it something you fell into by accident like most of us

Meredith Colby  31:50

No, I was very intentional about it. I was an evangelist, I, after about two years of studying and so when I’m, I’m studying, but I’m, I’m not just taking lessons, I’m gigging every weekend. So I’m gigging between one and four, three our jobs every weekend, some of them with bands I already knew some of them were I’m just walking into the performance and shaking hands and meeting the band and then performing for three hours. So yes, the life of a freelancer right?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  32:22

Yes, I’ve done done all that. I did that for years, yes.

Meredith Colby  32:25

Yeah, so well, because it pays, right? I mean, that’s — So I’m taking lessons and I was thinking, and I was so very aware of the changes that are happening in my ability level. And I started to get very excited about two years, I said to my teacher, I want to start teaching to and he said, Great, first do no harm Meredith. Why don’t you take a year to do it level graduate level vocal pedagogy. With the guy in Chicago, he was the guy that everybody took pedagogy bet, right? So I went and signed up and kept taking my lessons with my teacher, and took the pedagogy class. And then when I started teaching, at the end of that this kind of makes me choke up to think about it. I had a teacher and I had a coach, and they were both studio Chicago studio singers. And I asked them if they would observe and give me feedback. And they both of them, sat in on some of my lessons, and then sat and talked to me afterwards about how I could be better. And I mean, just so much generosity, and wouldn’t take money for it. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  33:35

That is incredible. 

Meredith Colby  33:36

Isn’t that incredible?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  33:38

That was the center of service too, they weren’t just singing teachers, but but they had they were serving the community as well.

Meredith Colby  33:48

Yes, yes. They were just such beloved people in the community in the music community here. So then when I few years later, when I was working at the Center for voice that was part of the culture there is if you’re, if your student cancelled, you would just walk next door and sit in on somebody else’s lesson. And so we got to watch each other teach. And there was a lot of, you know, good natured thievery going on and discoveries, and it was a great environment. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  34:15

That’s the best way to learn. And we have to be bowerbirds, that’s what we call them, those birds that go around and grab a little bit of everything to build their nests. You know, they just grab every bit of stuff that they can and then put it together and the next thing they have a beautiful nest. Yes. And then you wrote a book, money notes where you introduce and you had that behind you for our YouTubers. You have you have yet good on you. Introduce your Neuro Vocal Method. So tell us about how the book and the method like what came first and what what is it all about?

Meredith Colby  35:01

Okay, I love to talk about this. But I do have to tell you that recently and not least encouraged by your question as to me of a month ago. I’m just calling it neuro vocal. I can’t with the method thing, because when I said, but I call that no vocal method. See, I’m not an academic, right? I don’t hang out with academics, although people, some people, my family or that, but I, you know, I don’t work at a college. So I had no idea what that is all the baggage that came with the word method, I was using the dictionary term, not the music department term. So anyway, so I don’t want that to keep people from me. So I’ve just dropped it. I’m just calling it neuro vocal for popular styles. The end.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  35:49

Well, so is th after our conversation, it

Meredith Colby  35:53

was well, but you were sort of the straw for me that broke the camel’s back.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  35:57

Yes. Because yet people think of a method as something that in week one, we all do this, no matter what your issue is, as a student you come in, and we all have to follow the same training, whether it’s something that needs fixing or not, is usually–

Meredith Colby  36:15

So, there is that piece, and then there’s also the guru piece. So those two pieces together, we’re just like, so neither of those are me. So if that’s the connotation people have with that word, gotta go. Yeah, so off it went.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  36:29

So you call it Neuro Vocal Training. 

Meredith Colby  36:33

I could.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  36:33

That would be another word, as well,

Meredith Colby  36:36

I could, but that people have attitudes about that do

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  36:40

Oh my God! Too many attitudes for my liking?

Meredith Colby  36:45

So anyway, I’ve just dropped the descriptor and just got neuro vocal, which for most people, has no meaning.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  36:54

Let’s give this Neuro Vocal a meaning. Okay, let’s fly the flag for neuro vocal.

Meredith Colby  37:01

Fly the flag. So, I mentioned earlier that the singer of populous does in an amplified situation. And by the way, that’s why I call it microphone music or popular styles. I personally do not love the term CCM. And I’ve heard you talk about this too. You don’t love it either. For the same reasons that I don’t, which is that not all the music is contemporary, not all the music is commercial. So it’s another one of those things. So, but for me, the connecting thread is that we sing into microphones.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  37:33

Yes. And can I tell you that I can’t remember what year it was, but I think it was around perhaps 2014 or 15. At a European conference, whether it were was P VOK, or ICVT and Ingo to talked about those styles as maybe we should call them microphone styles. 

Meredith Colby  37:57

Ah, really? Now, I feel so fancy right now. Me and Ingo were like this. 

Meredith Colby  38:07

You really are? 

Meredith Colby  38:09

No. I wish.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:13

You should send him a copy of your book. And then you will,

Meredith Colby  38:17

I should he’s, I’m a I’m an–

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:19

Oh if he’s listening. Ingo, if you’re istening can you please make friends with Meredith?

Meredith Colby  38:27

I’m a fan girl.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  38:29

Okay.

Meredith Colby  38:30

So, so here’s, here’s the thing. So here we are, we’re in these situations where we cannot hear ourselves. Mm hmm. And our training is for situations where we can hear ourselves. So our our training teacher probably is classically trained. And so, her training came from an acoustic situation acoustic reality, and then we Train one on one in an acoustic environment. And we practice at home, in our shower in our bedroom in these acoustic environments. And then we step on to stage and we are in an amplified environment and everything changes, all the things you have been using to control your singing are useless. And that was something that became very, very clear to me. So that was that was part of my reality as a working singer, as I am discovering popular neuroscience, which this so this is the 90s popular neuroscience is starting to come into being right you people, regular people like me are able to get books written by neuroscientists. Yeah. And, and so I’m discovering this and and starting just eating it up thinking I did not put it together for for singing at all. I just, I was just thinking, this is fun. It’s interesting. I am a closet science nerd and and kind of always have been. And so, and also it’s making my teaching, then all of a sudden, I’m like, Oh, I could start applying this to my teaching. And it’s a lot more interesting in that. So now, okay, that’s fast forward to now I’ll just tell you what the thinking my thinking is, and the way that I find that works really, really well. So our brains, our brains are predictors. So if you have ever had Alexander technique, you have experienced your your body predicting what your brain is telling it to do, and your brain is predicting before that. So every time you end this, I’m just going to keep this in motor activities, right? Every time you are about to initiate a motor action, so a motor or open a motor memory in my classes, I cannot open the file. Because because we have these fairly complex motor memories that are for specific things that we are accustomed to doing, we have practiced over and over again. So for me the thing that I used to demonstrate because this is very universal, and you could try it now to try it. Yes. Do you have a pen right now? Do you have a pen or a pencil nearby? Yes, I have. I have one in my hand. Do you do okay? So use your pen to be a pretend toothbrush and brush your teeth. Brush your teeth. Okay, easy peasy. Right? So now you with your toothbrush, you could walk around your house and pick the socks up off the floor and pet the cat and check your texts and you could still be brushing my cat. Right? Easy peasy.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  41:31

Charlie doesn’t like being patted while I’m brushing my teeth.

Meredith Colby  41:37

You’re getting swiped. You’re getting virtual toothpaste on him. Okay, so who you are brushing your teeth now. Okay, so your brain has a very strong motor memory for brushing my teeth with my right hand. Yes, yes. Okay, sweet chant. Now try both of a different color. Isn’t it feels very different. Feels very different. Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  42:03

Even holding it? I’m not sure, though. Yeah. Had my pink up, my pinkies up on my right hand. And on my left hand, my pinky is not.

Meredith Colby  42:12

Yeah. Because you don’t have a motor memory, no unified motor function for brushing my teeth with my left hand. Okay. Okay, so and I and that’s universal there if you have a lot of lot of things that you do every day. So for singing, those of us who teach singing, our people come to us, if we were teaching guitar, or piano or really any other instrument, we would have a certain percentage of our studio come to us who has never touched that instrument in their life. They don’t have any old habits to break. But for singing teachers, 100% of the people that come to us are people who have practice for hundreds or 1000s of hours, this thing that they want us to teach.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  42:53

Even if they’re just singing in the car, they’ve sung. Or they’ve they’ve sung Happy Birthday, that everyone’s sung.

Meredith Colby  43:03

Exactly. So, So then they want us to teach teach them how to sing. But they already know how to sing. So we have two things happening here. One is we need to be cognizant of the fact that if we are teaching singers of popular styles, which I am, I need to be cognizant of the fact that they are going to be in situations where more often than not, they cannot hear themselves well or at all. And two, you already know how to do the thing that you’re asking me to teach you how to do. So with those two things in mind, then we we need to circumvent the predictive brain. Because as soon as you imagine your singing Mersa your brain starts singing before anything else has happened in your body, your brain, I call it open the singing file. Do you have a very solid if you think brushing your teeth with your left hand was weird. Try singing differently. Yeah, yes, I do. It’s it’s virtually impossible. Yeah, because if you think you’re singing, you’re going to sing the way you’ve always sung. Yeah, and if not, if the way that you’ve always sung is in some way, limiting or not serving your purpose. Or in in the case of my students, a lot of the time to our gigging singers is making it so that you are experienced fatigue. So if I take a gig on Friday night, I then cannot sing on Saturday night, we can’t have that, right. So because we have to be able to sing two nights in a row or three nights or four nights in a row. So if one of those things is happening, that means that your singing file is not meeting your needs, it is not serving your ends. It is not as as an artist, as a creator as just the motor action of singing is not being as efficient as it needs to be. So what do we need to do about that? And this is where, what what I teach, which is that we need to end to where two things are happening. One is we’re interrupting that motor memory by asking the brain to do something different and In most voice professionals, a bag of tricks where they interrupt the motor memory. And they may not say it in those words, they don’t know what they’re doing necessarily in that neurological framework, but they are doing when somebody isn’t getting their head voice. And someone will say, well make it sound like a siren going down the street, that’s you interrupting the motor memory, the existing motor, right. So, so most of us have that kind of thing. But then additionally, there’s the level of, of concept and about singing, I mean, the feedback loop. So when I, if I rely on my ears to teach singing, there’s a couple of things getting in my way. One is that I, my predictive brain is always trying to catch up with what I just heard. And what I heard, by the way, is suppressed because when you sing your auditory cortex is somewhat suppressed. And I’m hearing it in a way that only I hear it, because the vibrations that I’m creating are being accentuated through my jawbone and through the water in the tissue of my face and to your you and I are not hearing me the same way. I’m hearing it in a way that is exclusive to me. So those two things, the auditory cortex being suppressed, and then also once that, once that sound goes into my ear, my brain has to process it makes sense of it and decide what to do with the next sound. Now happily, in neuroscience, time is measured in hundredths of a second. So we have that going for it. So things do happen very quickly. In neuroscience. However, we as humans, and especially as artists, when we are singing, we also are conceptualizing as we move forward. So scientists talk about this, the effective circle, so and your effect, your physical aspect, is just about arousal, and pleasure. So anything that you so it’s your high arousal, low res allow arousal, your it’s pleasant, or it’s unpleasant, that’s your affective circle, everything that you do beyond that, is you conceptualizing. Right? Right. So you so if somebody says, brighten your sound, Marisa, that’s a concept, right? Now, if you if your concept if I if I as a voice teacher, listening to teach you, right, if I say right near sound Mercer, and you share your concept of right in your sound, and it doesn’t match what I wanted from you, then I might sing so that your brain can make sense of that concept shown in a nonverbal way. Because you don’t want to know the last five years of my vocal pedagogy classes, right? You just want I just want you to make the sound. Yes, hopefully. So but that’s, but when we are when we’re using listening and concept than we’re standing in between just a really basic healthy efficient phone nation. So not singing just phone nation. So healthy phone nation can live in the effective circle, the circle of aspect, right? It does not have to be part of your conceptual system. Right? So healthy pronation is just about your physical feeling, which by the way, you remember I talked about the feedback loop of the aural information, right, the feeling information doesn’t go out and come back again and run through all your conceptual system, it just goes I have an intention for a feeling, I reach for this an effect that is free of judgment that is free of concept. And and I am experiencing a balanced arousal in balance, pleasant or unpleasant. So I’m staying in that physiological circle have an effect, I’m not going into the other spaced. And so once I have understood that, once I’ve taught my body how to reach for that, it will remember and so and this is the thing that is so fun for me whenever I work, especially with teachers, because teachers are so smart. I mean, when I teach my teacher classes, those are just thrilling for me because people get it so quickly, you know, my students get it but not they get it a very physical level, not at an intellectual level. So when the teachers get it intellectually and physically at the same time, it’s really delightful. So anyway, so we do some a little bit of work around finding that aspect, which initially really feels like you’re on a tight rope, and then ultimately feels like how did I ever not do this? And and that allows the singer in a situation where she cannot hear herself. It allows her to reach for the feeling of healthy foundation and allows her to sing in that way, so that she can then sing again tomorrow. On the stamina that people experience when they start to sing in this way, when they make the transition, and it’s eaten for most people, it takes a while, you know, anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but when they start to sing in this way, they’re astounded at their stamina, because it’s so efficient. And it’s so free of judgment. And so that’s really fun, that is a really fun thing to do, then, when you enter that world of just looking at the physiology of it only, we’re not seeking a particular tonal out, um, because that’s the other thing, Marisa, I — do you mind that I’m just going on and on like that?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  50:37

No, this is great, I learn how to talk.

Meredith Colby  50:41

But I like when you talk. But the other thing is, if you have been trained for a classical or any kind of like acoustic training, you have been trained for a particular Sonic outcome, that’s part of the deal. It’s not bad. It’s what the genre is, right? It’s, you have to is there’s a framework and that framework for and that’s not just classical singing, it’s all classical art, every classical art that there is, operates within a framework, and that defines the genre. So there’s a particular Sonic outcome that’s expected and needed in order to meet the demands of that genre. Fair enough. That’s not our world. No, you do not live in that world. So we do not There literally is not one single musical value that you can tell me that I can say their name you five famous singers who didn’t have that, and people loved him anyway. It just doesn’t matter, right? Yes. So we and all these things like you mentioned belting. So belting is a is a volume and texture, right. So we use volume, we use texture, those are things that we do. And and we don’t have to get, we don’t have to learn supported breathing in the same way that a classical person does. Because we can break up a phrase in the middle of a word, if we want, we don’t get fired from our jobs, you know, it really doesn’t matter. So that the other thing about when we teach popular styles, and if a teacher is understanding what the values of popular styles are, then it allows them to approach the student in a way that says, Let’s discover about your voice instead of trying to help you meet a particular preset Sonic outcomes, tonal outcomes, right? We get to just discover what it is about your voice? And what is it about your singing, that makes you what you are. And if you want to play around with copying other people’s singing and seeing what words from their stylistic vocabulary, feel good to and sit with you now. And that’s the other thing that’s really fun. It’s a now thing, because in five years, you might be a totally different singer, or Yes, or a different singer at any rate. And we have, we can then be in that space that just allows for discovery, and a discovery artistically. And personally, because as you were talking about earlier, you know, in the voice voice, our voices our identity in far, right. So if the way that we treat our voice, the way we hear our voice, the way we interact with our voice, when we use our voice, those things are going to reflect back in our into the experience of our lives in a positive, negative or neutral way.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  53:30

Yes. And one of the things that you were touching upon there, you were talking about having that expectation in terms of sound when it comes to classical thinking, whereas in I will use the term CCM here just for the sake of consistency within our our teaching circles, that in CCM styles that uniqueness cells, and and a lot of the uniqueness in the individual singer comes from their little imperfections, absolutely can have imperfections. People want honesty, they want an honest, authentic performance across those styles. And that’s what sells

Meredith Colby  54:17

There is a very fundamental thing that I thought everybody knew. And that it seems like very few voice professionals are aware of and I’m going to say it right now. Hopefully some people who hear this will go, Oh, I knew that. And some people will go Oh, and that is this. When you sing classical music, actually, when you are involved in any classical art form, right, whether it’s theater, dance, or perform well, classical performing arts, right or music. You are a vehicle for the performers intent. I mean, sorry, the composer’s intent. You are a vehicle for the composer’s intent. So you are the translator, you are not the creator, can you bring us some of your own creativity into it? Yes, you can, when you have earned it. But that’s not your job. Your job is to bring the composer’s intent to life as a popular singer, or musician, or any performing art. That’s not the deal. No, we are the creator. So we are the ones who are people don’t care if it’s perfect, because we’re not being compared to anyone. We can’t even use the word perfect. You know.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  55:35

Yeah, you’re so right. Because I know when I was in the midst of my performance career, I had songs that I would sing night after night after night. And were they the same every night? No, because how I felt the night before was different how to how I was feeling the next night, either physically, I was feeling differently, emotionally, whether I’d had a stressful day, whether there was something going on, I’d had an argument with my husband. So the delivery of the song was different. Every performance, I could never say, Yes, I, I this is how I sing it, and then replicate it night after night after night, because I felt different each night. And that’s how we are as human beings, our feelings can change by the second.

Meredith Colby  56:26

Yeah, I mean, our feelings or just decisions, decisions to try something new. I’ve been singing this damn song every night for the past month. If I don’t change it up, I’m gonna kill myself. But if you Yeah, dramatic, but you know, I must absolutely be dramatic. But I, you know, I feel the need to bring something new to this.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  56:48

As far as how long, and if you’re emotionally connected to a song, it’s going to be different. Because your story will be different, according to how you’re feeling in that moment in time.

Meredith Colby  57:01

Yes, if you are emotionally connected to the song, but there are a lot of people that are out there, I wasn’t emotionally connected to most of the stuff that I sang. When I was working singer. I was just singing. So sometimes it was just like, what would make this more fun, or I want to try this new skill that I’ve been working on? Or, you know, I just artists are expensive by their nature. So they want to expand outward, even if it’s risky. And that’s again, that’s why I talked about being confident, because taking a risk is scary. And satisfying. Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s one of the things you know, when I when people this is and this is so interesting, one of the things that I’ve noticed, and I, I would love it if I could find a study on this, because I don’t think there probably is one, but it’s so interesting, what I see in people who are trying to adopt these new behaviors. So I asked them for these new behaviors. And they they have this, so let’s pretend it to a voice teacher. So she has a lot of skill level. She’s She’s intelligent, she’s experienced. She’s been a singer. She’s been a voice teacher, she knows what’s going on. She’s willing, she is doing great. She’s doing exactly what I’ve asked her to do. She can feel in her body. Yes, I’m doing the thing. And then meanwhile, and I do this, because it’s always in the background. She feels something not good. She feels scared or frustrated or annoyed with me. Or, or right. So there’s a there’s some kind of like negative feeling going on back there, even at the same time, that she’s having a positive experience. And she’s completely willing. And it’s so interesting to me. And I kind of think my theory about this, which could be a total malarkey. But what I think it is, is that when so our brains are really good at giving us what we asked for responding to our intentions. If you if you ask your brain to do something new, it will figure out a way in the moment. Yes, yes. Right. But you’re very aware of the fact that it’s new? Well, that’s because you don’t have a neural pathway for that behavior, because it’s brand new. So when we are you you’re creating this ad hoc neural pathway that on on the fly because it’s a new behavior. So I think that when these new these behaviors, especially motor behaviors are brand new, and we don’t have an existing neural pathway for them, and we’re really stimulating the neuroplasticity. We’re really like poking at our brain so to speak, we feel uncomfortable emotionally. We have a sense of some kind of discomfort that then we may or may not categorize. And then as people are able to predict, I know that what is this is going to feel like I know what the outcome is going to be. Well then that then that filing that buzz in the background just goes away.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:00:01

Yes, yeah. So I think it’s probably a little bit of self doubt. Because most of us don’t like it. When we can’t predict the outcome. We have a fear of the outcome, and it’s probably that little bit of self doubt. Am I going to be able to do it?

Meredith Colby  1:00:19

That’s definitely one of the manifestations. I’ve seen a lot of different manifestations, self doubt is definitely in there. You’re absolutely,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:00:27

yes. With your training. Now, it’s specifically for microphone singers. Do you teach it to classically trained singers? And musical theater singers as well?

Meredith Colby  1:00:41

Sure, if they want, if they want to learn, I’m happy to help them.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:00:45

I’m very can be applied to those singers, too, is what I’m asking.

Meredith Colby  1:00:49

Sure, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s about helping people find the voice that they want. And sometimes someone’s been seeing for a long time. And now they’re, for whatever reason, because they’re at a certain age, or because they want to sing more frequently than classical training allows them to sing. Or just because they felt like they were roped into the pipeline. And then they, and they never necessarily, you know, that wasn’t the music of their heart. So for any number of reasons, people will come to me and say, is, is this a safe thing to do? Can I find a way to do this? And I think I don’t you? I think absolutely, everybody wants to have a voice.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:01:32

Yes. And with your training, then, where do you typically start with a new student?

Meredith Colby  1:01:40

Where do I typically start? Like, typically start by finding out what they have in mind? What their, what their vision is for themselves?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:01:50

Yes. And do you have exercises that you’ve created as part of your training program? Or do you use —

Meredith Colby  1:02:00

Oh, yeah. So the way that I did I do this, I have principles, right, these physiological neurological principles that are pretty darn reliable. And then I have exercises that I have found over time, make it possible for people to understand both intellectually and physically, because we’re singers, we have to know what it feels like, right? So intellectually, and physically understand these principles. And then once people understand them, I say, have at it, if you find something that works better, you know, one of the luxuries of being a one on one private voice teacher, is that we can respond in the moment to the person in front of us on that day. So, so if the thing that I gave you isn’t working, and you have a better idea, go to town, give it a shot. It’s not brain surgery, no one’s gonna die. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:02:51

Can we do a little bit of that? I haven’t killed anyone yet. This maybe some I might have liked to have killed? No. So no, tell me. Yes. Let’s do a little roleplay.

Meredith Colby  1:03:09

Do you wanna do one? Okay. I’m gonna ask you to do the thing that I call in my teaching classes, I call it moving the big rock, because it is the smallest and the biggest thing to win that is to shift your awareness from what you are hearing to what you are feeling. Which is such a simple thing to say isn’t it? is so simple to say, say that? Yes. Yeah. So easy to shift your awareness from what we have going for us is it’s very difficult to pay attention to two things at once. And if you think you are, you’re not actually you’re just shifting back and forth. So if it is your intention to focus on a single thing, your brain will help you out with that job. So we’re going to try to keep you there. Okay. Okay. All right. So will you please just hum just hum for me? Any old pitch comfortable pitch? Okay, so you just the humming sound you just made was on an M like Marisa, right. Yes. So I would like you to now do that same thing on an N Like, Nancy. So did you notice that there was a slight difference in the way those two things felt?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:04:22

Yes. And that the end was slightly more unreliable? And yes, but okay. Yes. Okay. My voice is a little unreliable at the moment, because I through lack of sleep, I’m going through a little bit of a grieving process. So yes, yes. My voice. I’m a little bit. Yeah.

Meredith Colby  1:04:45

Well, you also have, you also have stress. You also have hormonal chapters on your vocal folds. And cortisol is a hormone. So maybe Merci, we could we could pick a slightly lower pitch. Do you want to try it on a lower pitch?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:05:02

Yes, much better.

Meredith Colby  1:05:03

Yeah, that’s better. Okay, good. Let’s stay with that then. Alright. So do you know to let you do your M like we’re done and like Nancy, 

Meredith Colby  1:05:11

so there’s a slight difference between those two. Yeah, yes. And I’m in from the sound of it sounds to me like the end is slightly more present to you.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:05:24

It is and it’s slightly more comfortable.

Meredith Colby  1:05:27

Slightly more comfortable. Very good. Okay, so now will you please. And if you want to close your eyes to help you with this, feel free to do that. Bring your attention to the front of your face and then hum on that end like Nancy again. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:05:49

Yeah, I’m trying to feel it less. Okay, in the throat. And, and, but it’s sucking vibration,

Meredith Colby  1:05:56

I will help you don’t worry, like so all I want you to do is just hum on in. And that’s all I’m asking. I’m asking you. With your attention on the front of your face. Can you feel anything?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:06:06

Yes, I can now.

Meredith Colby  1:06:09

Very good. Okay, so the thing that you’re feeling? Is it a something that you can point to? Or is it more a generalized feeling?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:06:16

No, I can actually almost feel like a vibration here. Okay, very good around the note.

Meredith Colby  1:06:25

Perfect. Great. I’m glad it was so specific for you. So now will you close your eyes again? And do that again. And this time before you make the sound? Marisa Will you please anticipate that feeling that you just described to me? Okay, good. Okay, perfect. So now you notice about that sound? It’s it’s not a pretty sound. It’s a very plain sound. Yeah. And it forced you to, to really pay attention to what your body was doing and how that felt too, right? Yes. Okay. Okay, so we’re gonna move this around a little bit. Okay, so here’s the here’s where it gets a little bit tricky. As soon as your brain hears me hitting keys on the piano, it will go, Oh, yay. We’re singing.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:07:11

Yes. That’s my students. Okay. That’s why we do a lot of work without music.

Meredith Colby  1:07:17

Yes. So what I’d like you to do is, really each time I play a pitch, you can hear the pitch in your brain, reach for that same feeling. Okay? And then hum. Right on the end. On the end, yeah. Great. So take an easy breath, know what it’s gonna feel like that good. You find a great, easy breath. Anticipate the feeling. Okay. Here’s your pitch and just know what it’s gonna feel like, just reach for the feeling. Okay, let’s do one more. Great. So as you move through those half steps, you notice that each one feels ever so slightly different. Yeah. And you knew, but you’re not creating that difference. You are allowing for that difference.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:08:21

Aha. And that’s where we have to see. And I was having a little moment back here thinking, Am I doing this correctly? It feels different. There was a time when I was getting about because I was thinking am I doing? I was I was questioning whether it was correct or not, because it felt different. Every time I was feeling change. Yes. 

Meredith Colby  1:08:47

But you were allowing for those natural changes. So what you just do, we just went up a minor third, we bought the lowest note was a G highest note was a B flat, which is not very far on a piano, but it’s significant in a voice as you know. And so each half step, you were not creating a change, you are allowing for the change in sensation. And you notice as you’re doing that, and if you want to try again, we can touch on this and do it one more time. But you notice as you’re doing this, that you are aware of that buzzy feeling in your face, which again, you know this this is a component of all popular styles, right? Yes, that that placement, right, whatever. Yes, whatever word people use, and that you your larynx was very relaxed, like you didn’t have a sense of it being engaged, because you were very competent at tricking it out of singing. You were just in that effective circle of arousal and pleasure. Right? So you were right in the middle of your like you had enough you were in that balance space, yet enough energy that you were creating the bus, but not so much that you were working hard or trying to be loud.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:09:55

Exactly. I wasn’t thinking about anything else other than what you asked me to think about,

Meredith Colby  1:10:01

Which also set you free of aesthetic judgment? Absolutely. I imagine that if you’re if you’re using this way of approaching things, that as you get into those higher notes, where singers often struggle with aesthetic judgment, because it does sound can sound pretty bad up there in a high chest blend, especially when they’re not accustomed to it, when when we’re able to shift back to looking but how does it feel right? And step away from this the sonic outcome and just say, what is it feel like, it helps people get past those, you know, bridging the brakes, as they like to say, and whatever, you know.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:10:41

Whatever, whatever people’s, whatever people say, so.

Meredith Colby  1:10:48

So you can see Marisa, I’m kind of like, I’m very nerdy, I’m I’m way outside of the box here. And —

Meredith Colby  1:10:55

See, this is what I love about your podcast, you always say stuff like that. But it’s true, though, you like when people color outside the lines.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:10:55

But if it works, it works. And I think this is where people need to stop being judgmental, there’s more than one way to achieve an end result. And if something works, and you’re creating healthy, sustainable technique with your students, Well, isn’t that a fantastic thing doesn’t matter that it’s different to what everyone else teaches? And who has the right to say that it’s wrong?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:11:28

I do love I do. Like, I can say that I learned something from every guest that I have on the show, everyone teaches me something. Because we’re all what we’re doing is valuable. All of us what we’re doing is valuable. And people are coming together with new ideas, new concepts, new training, it means that the pedagogy keeps evolving.

Meredith Colby  1:11:54

Yes, it’s so fun, isn’t it? 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:11:57

we have in across CCM, or popular music styles, we have an ever growing landscape of music styles. And we have to be able to keep adapting the training to compensate for that growing landscape of music styles. And so what you’re teaching you feel that will, you can adapt. And for those styles, it will it will serve across a number of styles.

Meredith Colby  1:12:27

It helps everybody I say that it’s for popular styles, because that’s my deal, right? I’m not qualified to say I teach classical. But there’s classical teachers who have taken my class have to the person said that it has positively affected their classical singing as well. Well, so again, I would never put that in my copy on my page, because I just, but if somebody says it, I will. Yes, I will share that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:12:56

Yes. Now we’ve got to start wrapping this up. So we’re getting to the last few questions. And by the way, we’re going to share your links to your ball, your website to whatever training you have coming up in the future. If you have any teacher training that’s coming up, we will share everything with our listening audience in the show notes. 

Meredith Colby  1:13:19

Well, my book is 75% off now because I’m starting to write the next one.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:13:25

Good on you see, continually evolving, that’s what we do. Yes. What can we do better to ensure that we meet our students needs as teachers?

Meredith Colby  1:13:38

Oh, that’s such a good question. That is such a good question. I had not planned on that question. But I will tell you what just leapt into my head. Yes, please. Humility is to be humble and to be a servant.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:13:53

I love that. I totally agree with that. I think yes, it’s not about us. It’s about our students. And we we need to listen to them and listen to what their needs are, in order to best serve them.

Meredith Colby  1:14:07

Even when they don’t know what their needs are. Sometimes we can help them find that but we have to be very careful not to impose our agenda on them.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:14:15

What we do is we have to leave our biases at the door.

Meredith Colby  1:14:20

Which is easy to say.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:14:23

Alright, last question. What is the greatest piece of advice you would like to give to our singing voice community?

Meredith Colby  1:14:33

Oh my I am not I’m not qualified to give advice.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:14:38

You so are. You’re an experienced nerdy, amazing teacher. What would you like to share with them?

Meredith Colby  1:14:49

I guess Okay, well, I’ll tell you, I guess I’ll respond by when I read the forum’s sometimes, I guess the things that that I never respond to because I just, I just don’t have a space in my brain for it is when people get very rigid and rule bound. Even in classical music, we wouldn’t be able to say this is the way something absolutely must be. I want people to remember this is art. And as teachers, we are servants to artists, were artists ourselves. I’m not diminishing that at all. But yeah, being being rigid doesn’t serve anyone. And so I just guess I wish everyone would be able to be flexible and open and interested in other art forms and look for the beauty and the differences rather than what is right and wrong.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:15:43

That is a brilliant answer. Thank you. That is an absolutely brilliant, beautiful answer. Thank you. And I agree with you. Definitely.

Meredith Colby  1:15:54

I agree. Everything I know you love all kinds of music.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:15:57

I do love all kinds of music. Yes, I’m very open to listening to everything. Now, Meredith, you have been so generous with your time, I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared with us. I want to thank you. And good luck with everything. And I’m going to see you in Chicago. So I’m not going to the States this year. I’m meant to be in Detroit for a conference, but I’m going to present virtually at that one, I would have come to Chicago otherwise, but look the best of everything to you. And I look forward to catching up with you sometime soon in in person, and wish you all the best with all your work that you’re doing is fabulous and very much needed.

Meredith Colby  1:16:45

Thank you. Thank you Marisa. Thank you so much for having me. I feel honored to be part of this great community you’re creating.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:16:52

Thank you for being on the show. Thank you for sharing. Okay, take care. Bye. 

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  1:17:01

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of A Voice and Beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag #AVoiceandBeyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of A Voice and Beyond.

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