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Singing teacher's view - Helena Shenel

A singing teacher's view on training people to sing well in the recording studio.


People whom Helena Shenel has helped with their singing include Paul Young, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel and George Michael.

Using the voice correctly

"I don't teach people a style, I teach people how to use the voice and the muscles involved in singing correctly so that they don't strain anything and get the best possible development out of their particular voice."

Screaming heavy metal singers too?

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"They are all using the same instrument. I show them how to use it without damaging it."

Why do top singers go to her?

"To make sure that they do nothing to strain the voice. They might be going on tour or have a heavy recording schedule, and they would ask me ways of strengthening the voice and making sure that it doesn't get tired."

Singing out of tune

"That's a bit difficult. A student of mine first came to me saying that he really really wanted to sing, but I had to ask him if he realised that he couldn't sing in tune. Added to that he made a noise which was akin to something between a bull bellowing and a donkey braying - painful. We persevered for about three years and he eventually became a very good singer. It is amazing what you can do with someone who really wants to do it, but you need patience. Sometimes people can't sing in tune because they are pushing and forcing the voice beyond what nature intended it to do. One of my most important things is that you can't pronounce words the same way as you would speak them because you run the risk of singing out of tune."


"Breathing should be as natural as possible. I never give people special breathing exercises. I teach them how to sing not how to breathe. You can breathe very well and be a long distance swimmer, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can sing well."

How many lessons?

"It depends so much on the individual. A young man singing with a band came to me for an hour long consultation. I told him about putting his head and neck in the right position, opening his mouth correctly and all the various things. At the end of the lesson he said "I can't believe it, it's absolutely amazing the difference it makes". A few days later after a gig he told me that his voice felt so much stronger, it didn't get tired or hoarse and the band all thought he sounded better. That was after one lesson. It depends to a large extent on whether the person has an open mind and is willing to accept my ideas. I do occasionally get a bit of resistance if people are unwillingly sent by their managers or record companies, but generally I find that people with the most outrageous public personae are really very nice people with a very good professional attitude."

By David Mellor Tuesday February 1, 2000