The human voice is an essential vessel of communication used primarily in speech and singing. As far as singing is concerned, keeping the voice healthy and making continuous improvements to their vocal aspects for practice, auditions and performances is extremely vital and should be tended to with utmost care. We spoke to piano, voice coach and language teacher Stephanie Parker recently and covered numerous topics related to her practice and how she uses Forbrain with her students in her vocal coaching practice by equipping them with techniques to enrich and protect their unique voices. Her love of learning always motivates her to develop new vocal skills in others and polish existing ones at the same time.
Forbrain Team (FT): Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Stephanie! What is your primary area of expertise?
Stephanie Parker (SP): I am a piano and voice instructor, as well as a language instructor (Spanish and English for speakers of other languages).
FT: How long have you been working in the field?
SP - I have been working in my field for around 40 years now!
FT: How long have you been using the Forbrain headphones in your practice?
SP: I first came across Forbrain 2 years ago and have been using it ever since.
FT: How are you using Forbrain in your practice?
SP: I use Forbrain to help students pay attention to how they sound in order to make the proper adjustments with their body in order to acquire the desired effect, such as pronunciation, pitch or timbre.
FT: How do you think Forbrain plays a role in helping your students?
SP: Forbrain definitely promotes an awareness in the student of the changes he/she can make by adjusting their body to elicit a new effect. Once there is an awareness of what needs improving, we then experiment with the body in order to see what works! This can be as simple as improving the posture or be as complex as lifting the crown of the head while dropping the chin and relaxing the chest and breathing through the diaphragm.
Many times, students will hear changes in their voice simply by increasing the speed of air while they speak or sing. This is achieved by asking them to speak or sing with “more energy” as if they are excited about something. Once they accomplish this and can hear through the Forbrain how clear their voice can sound, we take note of all the changes we made and then make them into good habits for permanent change. For specific issues with speech/pronunciation, we focus on the facial muscles, the palate, lips and tongue positions, making minute changes until the Forbrain lets us hear ourselves do it correctly.
We continue practicing in this manner until a new habit is formed and the student can remember what changes are required to consistently produce the proper sounds. This is a fun exercise, as we focus on all the different ways we can hear ourselves instead of trying to correct defects. Once the student has success with the changes we are looking for, we then work to replicate the desired effect without the use of the Forbrain.
Benefits and results observed with Forbrain
FT: What would you say are the main benefits of using Forbrain with your students?
SP: To raise their awareness of how they sound. Most students are so focused on performing their work, that they do not pay attention to the details, such as pronunciation, pitch, timbre, body position.
FT: What would you say are the main benefits of using Forbrain as a professional?
SP: I love that it is a wonderful instrument that can be used as a fun tool during the lessons. As the teacher, I am confident in using it for results, and the students happily comply since it is interesting and they can hear themselves in a new way.
FT: What are the most prominent results you have witnessed from using Forbrain with your students?
SP: I have seen speech impediments improve and have heard voice students’ timbre greatly improve with its use. I have also seen students grasp new techniques on the piano more easily when they are using the Forbrain.
Using Forbrain with students in singing sessions
FT: How do you determine if the student is a good candidate for Forbrain use?
SP: I will use it on anyone, for any reason, as long as I am confident that they don’t experience migraines or seizures.
FT: How do you recommend the use of Forbrain to your students? How do you explain to them (in simple language) the concept behind the device?
SP: When using it during lessons, I will just use it “at will” and explain to the student that this will help them hear how they sound and then we will experiment together to change the sound, if needed. Most of my students are children, so I do not go into the scientific explanation. I always do the first session as an in-studio orientation. I find appropriate material to read/perform while using it and demonstrate the proper way to use the Forbrain, such as how to position the device on the head, how to position the microphone and then how to position the body for the best technique. I also demonstrate how to charge and store the Forbrain.
However, I do let the parents know the basic science behind the Forbrain by explaining that the child will hear their own voice through bone conduction and that their voice will activate their brain to process information more effectively. Then I let the parents put it on and try it out.
FT: What activities do you recommend with Forbrain?
SP: I do not prescribe at-home use of the Forbrain; I use it in the studio sessions only. I believe that serious students of music and language would benefit greatly by following a daily protocol of practicing with the Forbrain at home. If they used it during the first ten minutes of vocal warm-ups or technical exercises on the piano, I feel their practice sessions would be more productive.
FT: What are your students’ typical responses or feedback to using the Forbrain?
SP: Most students think using the Forbrain is fun. Teens and adults typically don’t like how they sound to themselves. Overall, students say that it is fun and easy to use!
FT: What advice would you give to other therapists/educators about using Forbrain?
SP: I would say, “Don’t be afraid to try this for any situation.” I had a student recently who was making me gag with the way his tongue was working outside of his mouth while he was playing the piano. I put the Forbrain on him and he was so focused on hearing himself play the piano through the microphone that he stopped working his tongue. It was fascinating! You never know what the brain is needing in a situation, and sometimes the Forbrain can just activate new areas and create awareness where there was none.