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Inside Job

Arden Kaywin’s 1 Tip for Accessing Your Full Vocal Range

Arden Kaywin’s 1 Tip for Accessing Your Full Vocal Range
Photo Source: Adam Hendershott

As a former recording artist, opera singer, and musical theater performer, L.A.-based ARDEN KAYWIN draws from her experiences to help actors and singers hit all the right notes.

When did you start privately coaching?
As I approached my 30s, I was gonna start a family and I didn’t want to be on the road anymore. And because of my history and all my training, and because Los Angeles has a very large community of private coaches and schools, people started sending me [their clients]. They understood that I had both sides of the coin—I have the technical background but I also have the stage background.

Can actors be taught to sing?
Yes. With a good teacher, as long as you can match pitch, anyone can become a better singer than they already are. How far you can get with that is dependent on what you’re born with. There are people who are born with innate musicality who love singing but don’t sound very good because they don’t have the proper tools.

What is the most common problem you see?
Ninety-nine percent of the people who come to me say, “I can’t sing high,” and it’s mainly because they just have physical tension—physical habits that are getting in the way of them freeing their voice and having access to their full range. In a first lesson I’ll often say to a student, “Can you just pretend like you’re an ambulance and do a siren for me?” And after they just told me they can’t sing high, they’re [making siren noises] way up high. So if you can do that, you can sing up there.

The way that I work is by helping students to become aware of what these physical or emotional habits are and then slowly peeling away those layers of the onion to get to that free mechanism that we have, that we’re all born with. I have an 18-month-old, and anyone who’s been around infants knows that they can cry and cry at the top of their lungs for hours on end and never get vocally tired or hoarse. Why? Because there are no physical or emotional habits yet. There’s nothing getting in the way of the production of sound; but as we grow up the layers start to pile on.

What is an example of a physical or emotional habit?
I was working with a tenor who was really, really, really tall. He was 6 feet 5 inches tall or something, and he had always been the tallest kid in his class. So [because] everyone else was lower than him physically, his head was always cocked down. So when he came to me—he was in his mid-20s at the time—his physical habit was to constantly have his head cocked down. In the back of the neck in the cervical spine area, and in the front near the collarbone, there was just this huge block of energy. Singing is an energetic thing; you need to be open for the flow of energy through the entire body, because your instrument is not just your voice—it’s your entire body. So just by becoming aware of that habit and making that slight shift of pretending somebody was grabbing him by the hair made a huge difference in his sound.

What makes a great audition song?
People often think they need to go in and sing something really hard that’s gonna impress the auditioner, because it has that high note no one else can hit. I always say, pick the song that you feel the best singing, not the song you think they’re gonna think is the best. I do a lot of Sondheim and it’s not easy to sing at times. It’s complicated, but I could just as easily go into an audition and sing “I Could Have Danced All Night” [from “My Fair Lady”] and show the same ingénue spirit, the same range.

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