Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Hi all! This is my first official blog post and I’m going to be sharing my review regarding my recent singing lesson experience with Singdaptive's one on one vocal coaching program called Exchangely where quite literally you exchange singing videos with an established vocal coach in exchange for actionable vocal feedback/exercises.
Singdaptive had reached out to me back in July to see if I would be willing to try Exchangely out for free as a “Singdaptive VIP”, which to be honest, I’ve never really been an official VIP at anything so how could I turn that down?
Keep that voice fresh and strong!
Anywho, it’s also been over 4 years since I graduated from going to school for music and the idea of freshening up on some vocal lessons was pretty appealing especially as gigs have been steadily picking up again.
So! If you’re a singer, you’ll want to keep reading because I think the details of how this platform is structured and my personal experience might just interest you…
To get started, I first created a free online account on Singdaptive’s site and I signed up for the premium version of Exchangely where I filled out a short questionnaire about my singing goals. Because this was a text box form, I also included additional info about my influences and the type of music I sing on the regular when I gig around Nashville, genres ranging from country to rock to blues. I’m glad I did this because I think it spearheaded the personalization of my exchanges from the instructor I was paired with- Kathy Alexander.
Kathy began by introducing herself, sharing about her singing background, and then she shared excitement for me to try her recommended exercises to help me meet my vocal goals which were to increase my vocal agility and improvisation skills. Immediately in Kathy’s personalized response, I felt understood and seen in my vocal needs- so onward to the vocal exercises!
What’s in a Singdaptive Exchange? A lot.
On top of her intro video, Kathy also provided a Singdaptive lesson video featuring another Singdaptive voice coach by the name of Laura Clapp who provided a lesson video and three different piano tracks to practice the improvising concepts introduced in the video over the top of.
After finishing the lesson, Kathy took this lesson to the next level and asked me to use those same tracks to improvise on top of with different rules/constraints for each. The exercises were challenging, but I found myself enjoying the process.
Exchanges come in many forms- personal videos from my instructor, Premium lessons, tasks – and a lot more…
When I was completed with the lesson, Kathy asked that I film myself singing one of the exercises back. This part was vulnerable because to be honest, I didn’t feel like I 100% mastered any of the exercises but after 3 or 4 tries, I felt like I gave it my best shot and I proceeded to upload my video to the site. Fun fact! If you upload something that you aren’t entirely happy with you can then replace it with a different video prior to submission- I was happy about this because I ended up resubmitting with take 5 :)
Now you might be wondering how long this process has taken so far and to be honest probably about 40 minutes. It could absolutely go faster, but I personally appreciated taking my time with the lesson and the exercises to get the most out of it.
Now, still in the first exchange, Kathy also provided a riffing exercise video from London vocal coach Juliet Russel which was intended to help improve my vocal agility and ear training. In the video, Juliet sings a very long soulful run and then breaks it down into smaller segments. I definitely dug this one as really quick runs and such have never come incredibly naturally to me. At first the run seemed impossible but after completing Juliet’s lesson I was able to sing it! A total personal win!
After I marked that I had finished this portion of the lesson, Kathy asked me to sing for her and provide some feedback on the lessons so far so she could personalize our next exchange even further! She said I could pick an exercise or just sing a verse and chorus of something and speak freely at the end of my video. I decided to choose a song that I’ve recently started performing- “I’m the only one” by Melissa Ethridge. When I finished a verse and chorus, I shared the feedback that recording myself felt very awkward at first and it was odd to watch myself and discover head movements and other expressions that I made while singing. After recording/uploading, I tapped submit and voila! My first Exchangely exchange was officially completed!
So what next?
Nail biting and 3 days later I received a response for round two which I just completed before writing this.
Round two consisted of the following:
Personalized feedback on my singing
Kathy celebrated my vocal expression/emotion and my song choice! Woohoo! Yet, she also emphasized the need for me to work on isolating movements from singing so that I can control each of these independently on the stage with freedom. She additionally wanted to give me even more vocal improv exercises with a blues focus to support me in songs in this genre or related genres.
A lesson on Scatting from Emily Braden
Here I learned to come back to the core melody of a song prior to improvising and after I am comfortable with the melody it was recommended I sing the melody using only syllables to create freedom that isn’t tied to lyrical content. This approach was extremely helpful and I really appreciated that there was an example song to try this exercise with. The one thing there is that I was unfamiliar with the song so it took me a second to learn it prior to trying the syllables. I looked up the lyrics to make learning the melody easier, but once learned, I was able to practice with the provided guitar track which was extremely helpful. It kind of felt like I was in a live lesson with a live accompanist.
A blues inspired exercise Kathy created just for me!
Here Kathy went up and down the blues scale but started each exercise at different reference points within (i.e. starting on the 1 and then starting on the b3 then starting on the 4 etc.) This was extremely challenging but I found it was helpful to use my fingers to help connect my voice with the scale. One thing that would’ve been additionally helpful would’ve been to see the piano as Kathy played so I could have an immediate visual connection too, but small potatoes! The exercise did what it needed to. It reminded me that there’s still room for me to grow in my ear training and comfort level with each note of the blues scale in different parts of my range so I will be adding this to my practice.
Another singing request!
Just like before, Kathy asked that I sing an exercise or a song. I decided to choose another song I am working on “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, but prior to singing it I applied the syllable technique from the Braden video. This approach freed me to be more creative on this song and surprisingly helped me fight old melodic habits and come up with new ideas in places that I have been singing the same way for years. This bit of progress as a result of an easy to use approach was pretty encouraging and I honestly think I will be using this syllable/scatting exercise frequently in the future.
Singers, if you’ve made it this far in my review, I hope you’ve gathered a pretty detailed process of how Exchangely works and I hope that it was helpful in the case you decided it is a good fit for you and your needs.
A friend of mine recently asked me how it compares to in person lessons to which I replied with the following:
“What I like about Exchangely is that I can choose to do my exchange when I am in a good mental and vocal state. There’s no scheduling, just a ‘ready for you when you are’ lesson. Over the last decade I’ve had quite the handful of in person lessons, and especially while at school and in the middle of late nights and stressful course/job schedules, sometimes I wasn’t mentally or physically prepared for my voice lessons which in many ways just felt like a waste of time and money because I couldn’t give them my best shot. With Singdaptive’s Exchangely, I can set aside a half hour to an hour on any given day or time and try the exercises without having to drive anywhere or work around another person’s schedule.”
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m pretty hooked on this platform and I’m probably going to continue my vocal journey on it with or without VIP status.
Additional questions? Hit me up!