Tag Archives: stone cold

Teacher Feature: Lina M.

Teacher Feature: Lina M.

Our newest voice and piano teacher, Lina, has performed all over the world, including the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, and a wide variety of other venues in both America and throughout Europe. She won first and second place in two separate NATS competitions, one for contemporary music and the other for musical theatre. She won the contemporary music category conquering the infamously difficult “Chandelier” and “Stone Cold,” and for that has our undying respect! We’re so excited to have her as part of our team.

MM: What instruments do you play, how did you get started with each one, and how long have you played them?

LM: I am a vocalist and play the piano. I started singing in church choir when I was four years old, and I’ve been singing ever since! I started teaching myself to play the piano during college and have fallen in love with the instrument.

MM: Who has inspired you musically?

LM: As an artist, my main motivation is to speak to my own experiences and connect with others who resonate with the sentiments expressed in my music. For this reason, I find my biggest inspiration is artists who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable in their music. Twenty One Pilots and Sia are two artists whose vulnerability inspires me. They both fearlessly address their struggles with mental illness and use their music as a platform to reach others struggling through similar experiences. As a creator, I hope to find the same strength in vulnerability with my own music.

MM: What are your favorite musical genres, and why?

LM: Some of my ultimate favorite genres are soul, gospel R&B, alternative, hip hop, atmospheric rock, modern orchestral, musical theatre and dance music. I love each of these genres for unique reasons, but they all share a deep emotional expression in the music. I also love music that lends itself towards dancing, as I’m a choreographer.

MM: What are your current musical projects?

LM: I’m currently writing and producing my own music. I’m working on expanding my musical knowledge by learning to play more instruments (guitar, drums, and more) and reinforcing my musical theory background.

MM: How do you practice, and how do you balance music with some of your other life goals? How do you help your students practice?

LM: When I practice, I set aside a specific amount of time each day and plan to work through a few specific tasks. For example, if I’m going to be performing a piece for a recital, I’ll plan to work through the diction of the piece for an hour one day, review the trouble spots the next day, and so on. In order to make sure my time is well-balanced, I write out my short term and long term musical goals and decide the most efficient way to work towards those while also granting time for my other time commitments.

I advise my students to treat music practice like they would studying. You shouldn’t throw out your voice practicing all in one day, but instead plan to practice consistently for shorter time periods. I also encourage students to make practice fun by incorporating it into your daily routine in unique ways–that way when it comes time to practice you’re excited for it.

MM: It looks like you’ve performed in quite a few places! Do you have any favorites (country, venue, etc.)?

LM: I’ve performed numerous wonderful places, but one of my favorites was in Vienna, Austria. My choir and I performed in a small church called St. Peterskirche. The beauty of the architecture and artwork inside of the church was unparalleled by anything I’ve ever experienced, and the acoustics and atmosphere made the performance feel ethereal.

MM: I heard you won first in the post-collegiate contemporary music category and second in the collegiate musical theatre category for the NATS competition—congratulations! Tell us about the experience! What did you sing? What was the process like? How did you prepare?

LM: I competed in the Bay Area NATS competition in the contemporary music and musical theatre categories. The experience was wonderful. After consulting with my vocal teacher, Donna Olson, I competed in the Spring and Fall competitions of 2016. I was required to select three diverse pieces to perform, fitting within the parameters of the competition’s official guidelines. After selecting my repertoire, I worked tirelessly to perfect the musicianship and performance of my pieces. Each category was performed in front of a different judge panel of 3-4 NATS members, who scored your performance based on technique, style, stage presence, and preparedness.

For the musical theatre and contemporary music categories I performed a selection including “Breathe” from In the Heights, “Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato and “Chandelier” by Sia, and “Once Upon a Time” from Brooklyn.

My first NATS I placed 1st in the Collegiate Contemporary Music Category, and at my second NATS I was lucky enough to place 1st in the Post-Collegiate Contemporary Music Category! It was an amazing experience seeing all my hard work paid off.

Hard Songs to Sing: "Stone Cold," by Demi Lovato

Hard Songs to Sing: Stone Cold, by Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato; The Neon Lights Tour (Belo Horizonte), by João Bicalho, under CC BY 2.0

Without a doubt, “Stone Cold,” by Demi Lovato is one of the hardest hit belt songs to come out in the last couple years. It’s extremely rangy, swinging between an F3 on the low end and a belted (or at least hyper-forward resonant) G#5 on the high end. As if the range of the belt doesn’t make the song frustrating enough for singers, it’s full of very challenging runs and sustains. If you’ve tried to sing this song and, like many singers, have given up on it halfway through, try some of the tips in this Hard Songs post. Most importantly, give yourself some time and don’t come down too hard on yourself. Along with Listen and Chandelier, “Stone Cold” is arguably one of the hardest songs I’ve written a tutorial for.

Why is This Song Hard?

1. It’s a High Belt

Let’s just start there. The G#5 is really high. Even if you leave that note out, the way Demi does in some of her live versions, the song still takes you up to an F5.

2. The Runs are Rough

First off, the chorus runs on the word if, (for example, the one at 2.20 in the video), go from low to high, something that tends to take more control than starting high and dropping. Secondly, they’re just flat-out long and high, spanning an entire octave, Eb4 to Eb5.

3. The Song Register Jumps a Lot

The jump from a belt to a breathy head voice between stone cold at 41s and baby at 43s takes an immense amount of support to be convincing.

Instant Gratification

Get Twangy

The best advice I can give you for this song is to get comfortable with the “a” (as in cat) vowel. Try to make it so forward that it’s piercing (think of a duck or a cackling witch). Then, once you have that crying point (or twang) open your mouth as if you’re biting an apple in order to open up the resonance. When you attack that G#5 on her at 3.09, instead of singing the actual word, just tack an “h” onto the thinnest, most piercing vowel (you can try “a” or “i” as in kick) you can find. It’s unlikely you’re going to get a very chest-heavy mix that high up, so think forward and in your face rather than thick and heavy. While the G#5 is the most extreme example of this, you can use this technique throughout the song. Luckily, there are plenty of words with “a” vowels, like am, can’t, and understand. Each time you sing one of these words, take a big bite out of that imaginary apple in order to drive the sound forward while lifting your soft palate enough to make a bigger sound.

Use Plenty of Support

I hate using the word support without explaining it well, because it’s one of those terms voice teachers tend to throw around a lot and expect singers to understand without instruction. If you don’t know how to find your support, try sitting on a stool, and grabbing the bottom of it, pulling up with your hands. Feel what that does to your body? These are some  of the muscles you’ll need to engage during passages that require a lot of support. When you sing that breathy baby, exhale through the note more than you normally would, but make sure you’re still using your support muscles and making the apple-biting face so these sections still sound controlled and well connected. Make sure to use these muscles for the runs as well, keeping the if light and buoyant and resisting the urge to shout up to the top notes in order to get more sound.

Be Lighter Than You Think

I said this once, but I think it’s worth repeating. Most people’s tendency when singing “Stone Cold” is to just go full throttle and push as hard as they possibly can. But if you carry too much weight (i.e. if your vocal folds are too thick), particularly through the upward runs that culminate in the word happy, you’re probably going to cap out and not make it high enough. You’ll have the best shot at making it if you (like Demi herself) use some sort of mixed belt instead of slamming into the notes with all your might.

Not-So-Instant Gratification

You’re going to want to develop a boatload of twang to accomplish this song. Regardless of which passages you’re belting, you’ll be a lot more convincing on the song if you can narrow your epilarynx and pharyngeal space (don’t worry. You don’t need to know what that means to learn how to do it). Try these vocal exercises, going up and down your range with them.

“A” Tongue Exercise

I use this one a lot, because it’s a good one for so many of these hard songs. Stick your tongue out, and use a gentle glottal onset (to understand what that kind of onset sounds like, try percussively exclaiming “uh oh”). Now say “a, a, a” (as in cat.) Now try arpeggiating on the “A” sound, making it sound nasty and witch-like.

“A” Tongue Exercise Sustained

If you want any shot at making that G#5 Demi sustains at the end of the recorded version of “Stone Cold,” you’ll need to figure out how to sustain a twangy sound.

Na Na Octave Jump

You’re going to want to do more than twang on this song. For at least some portion of the song, it’s best to try belting it. Try belting an octave jump on “na.” Don’t push too hard at the top. You’ll have the best shot if you just throw the sound, like a call.

Have any comments or suggestions for the next Hard Songs to Sing post? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!