The Broke Singer’s Best Friend
March 20, 2012

Guess who’s coaching me in Czech for my upcoming recital?

The interwebs.

I’m doing a joint recital with friends in May, and I’m tackling Dvorak’s ‘Song to the Moon’ in its original language.  And before I tried to track down someone who knows Czech, before I went looking to pay someone to coach me in the intricacies of this unfamiliar language, I did a Google search.  Up came pages in information: Czech pronunciation tables, YouTube videos, and sites with audio pronunciations of Czech words.

It seems that all I need to sing the language correctly (and translate it, too) is online.  Is this a shortcut?  Maybe – it’s cheaper than paying a coach, that’s for sure.  But I’m going to spend just as much time researching and listening (and re-listening) to the sources I find on the internet as I would with two or three coaching sessions, at least.  I’m approaching this as a journalist would research a story – I’m looking for three sources to verify the pronunciation.  If an online Czech translator, a YouTube video of Anna Netrebko, and my favorite – a recording of a native Czech speaker all show ‘příbytky’ pronounced the same way, I can assume I’m on the right track.

Youtube is especially awesome for research as a singer.  What a gold mine!  There are so many live performance videos of the operatic elite performing any given aria, it’s almost as good as coaching with the stars.  To watch Renee Fleming or Kiri Te Kanawa sing in a tight camera shot is a clinic in technique and artistry.  Those women are quite different, to be sure – one artist’s performance is not going to match another’s – but to see the variety of techniques used by those who are paid millions to sing gives a starving artist like myself lots to ponder and experiment with in the practice room.

Nothing can completely replace good old fashioned, person-to-person training in something so physical an art form as singing.  It is vital to have a coach see your mechanics as you sing to correct things you cannot notice.  But as a research tool between lessons, nothing beats the world wide web, in my book.

Gotta go make sure I’m singing the word ‘postůj’ correctly!