An acclaimed vocal performer with a three-and-a-half octave range, Dr. Daniel K. Robinson believes that “It is the birthright of every human being to sing.” His greatest passion has become helping others claim this birthright. Over the past two decades, while maintaining his own performance career, Daniel has instructed thousands of voices: from beginners to touring professionals.

We were surprised by the sometimes unconventional vocal wisdom that Dr. Dan offers on his website, Djarts. We saw that his mission fit in very well with what we’re doing here at Easy Ear Training and Musical U, and asked him to share his more about his music and teaching.

Q: Greetings Dr. Dan, and welcome to Easy Ear Training. We have been awed at the scope of the work you’ve been doing online to reach out to singers. Can you please tell us a little bit about your own musical background and training? At what age did you start singing and performing?

dr-dan-fifth-chairI have been singing for as long as I can remember, but my first professional gig was touring with a band the year after I finished high school (1991). I was eighteen and I thought I knew virtually everything there was to know about singing and performance, but 10 months on the road soon taught me a few things about my voice… and how little I actually knew.

A few years later (1994) I enrolled in a music degree at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and started the long road of my vocal education. I am thankful for the many singing teachers that have shaped the singer (and singing teacher) that I am today.

Q: It seems like you’ve gone beyond teaching to becoming a “Singing Voice Specialist.” What is the difference?

A “Singing Voice Specialist” is an experienced singing teacher that has done further training to work in team with speech therapists and laryngologists, to assist in the rehabilitation of the damaged voice. Essentially a Singing Voice Specialist is a highly qualified singing teacher!

Q: Fantastic. So what then is your philosophy on teaching vocal technique (in a nutshell, if possible!). Do you subscribe to a certain “school” of singing?

I don’t subscribe to any one “method” of singing pedagogy. This being said, I do consider myself to be a technically focused teacher. As a Singing Voice Specialist, it is not my job to teach my student songs. It’s my job to teach them how to sing.

I believe very strongly that there is a significant difference between classical and contemporary technique; and that your vocal training should be task specific.

Q: So what is your advice to singers seeking to perform multiple styles of music, e.g. both classical and pop?

I don’t personally believe you can learn to do both classical and contemporary simultaneously, to a professional standard. So my advice is: choose one and pursue it with every fiber of your being.

I explain this further in the following video: Classical singing technique versus Contemporary singing technique | Can you do Both?:

Q: Fascinating. Back to the Singing Voice Specialist, I’ve heard about detoxing your body, but you’ve mentioned detoxing the voice. How do you “technically detox” your voice?

The concept of a “technical detox” is explained by simply stripping away all the fancy stuff that we often encounter online about singing technique. Some of the fancy stuff is good… but a lot of it is just fluff! Sometimes it’s good to just return back to the basics of singing: e.g. good alignment, well managed breath flow and healthy singing habits like regular disciplined warm-ups and cool-downs. I offer a free 7 Day Vocal Detox here.

Q: How do you maintain your own vocal health?

My own vocal health is extremely important—given that I am singing all day, every day (mostly with my students). I do my best to remain well hydrated [stops to sip water], I eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly so as to keep my body (my instrument) fit and healthy.

Q: You have a 3.5-octave range and Tenor voice, yet you sing contemporary music. Why did you not choose a career in opera? What made you choose contemporary music instead?

This is an unusually worded question, in that it suggests that there is no contemporary music that requires a 3.5-octave range. This, of course, is not the case, and I have had many opportunities to apply my anatomical range to some wonderfully challenging contemporary repertoire with extremely difficult and demanding melodic ranges.

As to why I did not pursue a career in opera: I simply couldn’t relate to the genre. Classical music has never resonated with me. I talk more about this in What Kind of Singing Voice Do I Have? | Nature and Nurture

Q: In your opinion, what is the hardest repertoire for a singer to sing?

I think there are challenges to be found in every vocal genre. For example, the melismatic phrases of the baroque era are no more challenging than many riffs and runs in modern pop and R’n’B. Singing four and five full sets in a pub is no less challenging than singing full-length operas. It’s all contextual, and one must identify what are the known challenges of their chosen style and then train accordingly.

Q: What makes a good singer? A bad singer?

I don’t buy into the concept of good and bad singing! Every voice has value and deserves to be heard. We are all on a journey of vocal development… and the “quality” of our singing is often relative to our wider life story. I know that society has decided that some voices are regarded more highly than others, but I personally (and professionally) believe that it is the birthright of every human being to sing.

dr-dan-believes

Certainly, some voices may appeal more widely than others, but no voice has universal appeal. This then leads me to acknowledge that even those voices that have limited appeal (according to society) still will find a receptive ear that appreciates their singing.

Q: Speaking of appeal to society, many shows like The Voice have become almost a cultural standard for singers. What advice do you have for singers interested in competing on these types of TV reality shows?

For the vast majority of singers, these shows should be avoided at all costs. I have an entire YouTube series dedicated to the review of the 2014 and 2015 seasons of “The Voice Australia.” called The 5th Chair. I eagerly encourage those who are considering auditioning for a TV Talent Show to watch The King Arthur Syndrome; if not the entire series!

Q: You have reached out to such a wide variety of vocal genres. Your doctoral thesis was about nineteen distinctive features that distinguish the Contemporary Worship Singer as a unique vocalist. How are worship singers different from other vocalists?

It’s impossible to summarize an eighty-five-thousand-word doctoral thesis within the scope of this interview. However, as one example I would note that the Contemporary Worship Singer is the only singer in western society that needs to perform their task without drawing attention to themselves. This is a cultural requirement and can lead to some interesting challenges for the psyche of the singer.

Q: Please tell us about your own album, “Fly”, and about any other projects you are excited about at the moment!

voice-essentialsI’m really proud of my independent release “Fly.” This being said, it’s nearly ten years since I recorded and toured it. For those interested you can hear “Fly”, as well as my EP “If You Believe”, here.

However, these days I am most passionate about my teaching and helping my students to realize their full vocal potential. I also have a growing YouTube channel—Voice Essentials. I’m uploading new videos most every week.

Fantastic, Dr. Dan. Thank you so much for being with us here today at Easy Ear Training. And thank you for sharing your experience and teaching with so many singers worldwide.

Are you ready to find our own voice and learn how to express the music that lives inside? Rather than one-size-fits-all pronouncements, Dr. Dan’s Singing Voice Specialist approach works with your own body and your own goals. There’s lots of free resources on his website and YouTube channel. And he’s always keen to connect with other singers—so if you want to say, “G’day,” you can contact him directly through his website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Instagram, and Periscope.

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