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How to choose a voice teacher

This blog entry is spot on!

And I always offer a trial lesson for those who ask, and I audition every private student who wishes to study with me, just to ensure fit and compatibility.


How to practice effectively

This NPR story is worth a listen:

Song choices

Spring 2017 song choices for the acting and musical theatre students in my studio:

  • Take me away, Scott Alan
  • Oh is there not one maiden breast, Pirates of Penzance
  • Mister Snow, Carousel
  • Spark of Creation, Children of  Eden
  • Neverland, Scott Alan
  • Fair House of Joy, Roger Quilter
  • Jason’s Song, Jeffrey Carter
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in the Sara Bareilles rendition
  • Mira, Carnival
  • Winter’s On the Wing, The Secret Garden
  • Love, I Hear, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • Accident Prone, Laurence O’Keefe and Kirsten A. Guenther
  • Little Susan Lawrence, Big! 
  • Where did we go wrong, Kerrigan & Lowdermilk
  • Watch me soar, Scott Alan
  • Time in a bottle, Jim Croce
  • John Wellington Wells, Iolanthe

Teaching singing

Our Webster alumnus Derek posted this on Facebook today.

The anonymous author speaks truth!  Every lesson is different, and many feel like therapy, sometimes for me, but more often for the person taking the lesson.


Thanks, Dr. Bastian, for this wonderful introduction to the anatomy of our voice!

No head voice

We’ll call him Walt.  Teenage male.  Fifteen years old, and a sophomore in high school.  Voice changed more than two years ago.

Well-developed falsetto, with easy access.

And when we tried to sing lightly in upper register, his muscles switched him to an octave high in falsetto.

So Walt and I tried to sing together a slow glide up from a3 to d4 on /u/, and at c4 his voice just jumped up a fifth to a4, and in falsetto.

Clearly the upper passiggio is a problem!

So what to do?  The slow glide up should work, no?

We tried to shorten the length of glide, from a3 to c4.  And that worked.  We sang this on /u/, /e/, /a/, /ɔ/, and /ɛ/.

Then we moved up to a#3 to c#4, and then to b3 to d4, running the same series of vowels.

And bingo!  He was able to sing through the passaggio.  Now he repeats daily for several weeks to gain muscle response, strength, and flexibility.

Eden’s Rs

I have a student, Eden, who somewhere along the way picked up a great deal of tongue activity and tension on the retroflex R sound at the end of words (and sometimes at the end of interior syllables).  She doesn’t speak with the a tight R, so this is clearly a habitual event that is now part of the overwhelming muscle memory.

Aside from customary exercises attaining space and freedom and ease on the inhalation, I gave Eden a series of words to sing, slowly and with care.

On a descending 3-2-1 pattern, sing ‘rot.’ Repeat.  Sense the tongue activity that quickly disappears into the vowel.  Then on the same pattern sing ‘tore,’ saving the final R for the instant of release.  This is challenging when the tongue wants to starting seizing up into a lugubrious R sound two pitches early!


Other combinations:

  • rid/dire
  • crack/car
  • rent/tear
  • road/door

Words with initial R sound that are safe for vocalizing:

  • rum
  • rank

Words with multiple R sounds, where the student can be mindful of producing the final R the same way as the initial:

  • rear
  • dreary
  • roar
  • radar
  • rover
  • rare

Another exercise I gave Eden was to mindfully sing word combinations with R at the end, but with alternating fricatives and nasal consonants at the beginning:

  • fire/mire
  • fore/more
  • fear/meer
  • far/mar


And another exercise: on the same pitch, sing a long tone on the word ‘foe,’ then sing the same long tone, now doubled, on the word ‘forest’ or ‘foreign,’ keeping the R out until it’s the initial consonant of the second syllable.


IPA samples

Over 1000 art song lyrics were researched to find phrases that contain a frequent occurrence of the vowel and consonant sounds as introduced in the Lyric Diction Workbook Series. Each video includes IPA and highlights prominent Italian, German, and French artists.

Thank you for visiting the website!

Kind regards,


Cheri Montgomery
Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University
Author of the Lyric Diction Workbook Series and Co-author of Exploring Art Song Lyrics (Oxford)

Check it out!