How I Teach

ken-helman-studioIt begins with a conversation. I want to find out about you – your background and musical experiences – so I can get a better sense of who you are and where you’re coming from. I ask a lot of questions. What kind of music do you like? What do you listen to, regardless of what you sing?

What do you want to work on? What do you think your strengths are? Weaknesses?

Then I ask you to sing. A song perhaps, or some vocalizes. I want to hear what’s going on, give you some immediate responses, and chart a course, together.

Technique is a means to an end, but essential. Alone, it’s not art, but allows you to communicate your heart and soul. In the end, that’s what the listener wants from your performance.

The larger components of my work in voice training begin with posture and work with the breath – essential to healthy vocal production. This lends to more facile technique (support, control) and musicality.

The vocalizes I work with vary for men and woman, but the intention is for ease of production, less laryngeal constriction, more upper (mask) resonation, acoustic alignment, evenness/smoothness of registers, head, mix, belt. Increasing vocal range, flexibility, corrections and adjustments to phonation, tonal color, articulation, pitch, and energy. Vocalization with ease, and power without muscling.

Everyone is different, and has specific requirements. We all have habits and quirks that only an outside listener can perceive.

I work with song repertoire, both for musical thoughts and ideas, and employing the techniques that we’re striving for.

It’s very important to be as connected to the lyric as possible. Words matter. They inform much of how you treat the material, both technically and interpretively.  I spend time having each student working toward that connection in the deepest way. It lays the groundwork for how to phrase the material, convey the meaning, and bring your personal stamp to the song. Only then, have you accomplished the work at hand.

In order to make “the magic” happen, I feel a safe space needs to be created to experiment, to risk, and to feel the freedom to try new things, without fear or inhibitions. That’s how you find your voice. That’s how you get results.

I love to teach as well as to learn. I’ve been teaching in one form or another for 38 years. I’m also a perpetual student, always studying, taking classes of some sort, as well as a student of yoga for over twenty years. In addition to performing and writing music, this has been my life.

One of the great opportunities in my teaching practice lies in the relationship that can result from collaboration – not only musically, but personally. My interest and love for mentorship is vast, and I always learn from whomever I’m working with. One of my earliest music teachers said, “Laugh a lot, don’t take yourself too seriously, and do good work.”

A prescription for success!

What My Students Say:

“Have you ever tried writing music?” One simple question that changed the course of my life. When I met Ken Helman, I had given up on music. He encouraged me and pushed me, strengthening the range and flexibility of my voice, opening my mind to other musical possibilities and restoring joy to my singing. But most of all, he recognized that I had a hidden talent for songwriting and worked alongside me to develop it. Thanks to him, I discovered my passion. With one EP, World of Should, under my belt, and a full-length CD planned for 2014, I’m proud to call Ken one of the most important influences on my career. A true mentor, collaborator and friend. Thank you, Mr. Helman.

Janice Kirkwood

Ken Helman is a kind and generous. teacher. I have always wanted to take singing lessons but felt intimidated. After my first lesson with Ken my fear was replaced with jubilation. Ken’s musical genius coupled with his playful sense of humor always made the lessons a joy and a challenge worth showing up for. NYC’s loss is the Bay Area’s gain.

Lizzie Donohue
New York, NY

My work with Ken has been instrumental in my growth as a vocalist, musician, and performer. The improvements in my technical ability, comfort on stage, and artistry have surpassed anything I dreamed of when I first stepped onto his doorstep. It’s been an absolute pleasure and privilege working with Ken — I would recommend him to anyone.

William Rutter
MIT Boston

Working with Ken Helman was an amazing experience. He taught me how to breathe — sing from my body and my heart. I am clear that our work together laid the foundation for the amazing reviews my work has gotten.

Dave Rudbarg
Student & R&B Vocalist

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