By Corey Fournier
Roger Love is one of music and cinema’s most sought-after vocal coaches. His talents were featured this summer for a national audience on the ABC TV show Sing Your Face Off, in which celebrities were challenged to transform themselves each week and perform as some of the world’s most iconic singers. It’s one thing to don a wig and wardrobe to make a visual transformation, but to take on vocal characteristics and deliver a convincing performance is no easy feat. That’s where Roger comes in—along with coaching superstar singers, he’s been helping actors access their inner vocalist for years.
The Oscar-winning performances in Walk The Line were part of Roger’s handiwork, as he coached Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix for their roles as June Carter and Johnny Cash. Roger also prepared Jeff Bridges to sing for his Oscar-winning performance in Crazy Heart. Most recently, Roger coached Keira Knightley for her role as a singer/songwriter in the hit film Begin Again, a process that was detailed in an article in the L.A. Times.
Whether his clients are gearing up for the silver screen, an arena tour, the recording studio, or a club stage, Roger’s tools of the trade are the same: a technique that allows anyone to access the entire range of their voice, and a commitment to recording lessons for his students. And when Roger records lessons, he uses the Roland CD-2u.
Taking a few moments from his busy schedule, Roger was kind enough to invite us to his studios in Hollywood to tell us about his teaching method and introduce us to a couple of his students. Check out the following video to see Roger in action and see how he makes the most of every lesson, which his students take with them on CD thanks to the CD-2u.
Why is recording so important for voice students?
Sound is very different coming towards you or going away from you. If I’m a singer and I’m singing, sound is coming out; I think it sounds a certain way because it’s attached to the way it feels in my body. [But] that’s not true! I might feel all this really thick, strong vibration in my chest or wherever I feel the sound, but that doesn’t mean that you feel all that vibration when you listen to me. So it’s imperative that students listen back to recordings so that they know exactly what they do sound like—not what they sound like and feel like to themselves.
Your studios are in the heart of Hollywood, and your clients range from A-list actors to music superstars to up-and-comers. How do you accommodate the diverse needs of your students?
In my studio, I have access to any number of recording options. But for sheer speed, simplicity, and sound quality, I use the CD-2u to record all my voice lessons. I like the “stand-aloneness” of the CD-2u because it’s right there. It’s contained [and] I only have to think about that. And when I’m done with it, I’m done with it, and that’s it. I’m a big believer that stand-alone products that do a specific thing should be used to do that particular thing. That’s what I like about the CD-2u—it’s a stand-alone that actually stands alone and does what it’s supposed to do. It’s a one-stop solution that lets me give my students a professional recording of their lesson that they can take with them.
How important is sound quality in recording lessons?
It’s extremely important for students to hear an accurate recording of their voice during lessons. One of the things I like so much about the CD-2u is that it has phantom power. So I can plug-in a studio-grade microphone if I don’t want to use the internal microphones that are already built into the machine. So now my audio quality is limitless because I can attach any microphone I choose.
Why do you record each lesson with your students on a CD?
When a student comes in for a lesson, it’s very important that they have something to leave here with so that they can practice every day after they leave the lesson, and give themselves a lesson. So I use the CD-2u to record every single thing that happens during the session. I have other studios where my associates work and teach, and each of my studios has a CD-2u.
“That’s what I like about the CD-2u—it’s a stand-alone that actually stands alone and does what it’s supposed to do. It’s a one-stop solution that lets me give my students a professional recording of their lesson that they can take with them.”
Many of your students are also great instrumentalists. Do you encourage them to accompany themselves while they warm up their vocals?
When you’re doing vocal exercises you really need to focus on exactly—only—what you’re singing. You have to think about breathing, every sound that’s coming out, what your jaw is doing, what your tongue is doing. Is the sound going too much into your nose? Is there pressure anywhere? Even with the great musicians that I have [coached], I never let them play the exercise themselves and sing along because they get distracted. They start playing and that translates into whatever song they have in their mind, and all of a sudden they’re done thinking about their vocal exercises. So I force even the greatest of musicians to put the CD on and do it as if they were right at the lesson with me.
With time being such a premium for you and your students, how do you optimize recording time during the lesson?
I’ve used many devices for recording lessons over the years, and the reason I use the CD-2u is because of how quickly it finalizes the CD. It’s only a matter of seconds from the moment I stop recording to when I hand a student their CD, so I can give them maximum value for their time. I don't want to waste the student’s time waiting for the CD to finalize and burn. So when I’m done at the lesson, I press Finalize and boom—in 20 seconds that CD is ready for them to go out the door. With other CD burners I’ve used over the years, it took about two minutes for the CD to finalize and that’s a huge, big deal.
Do you ever have a student go back and listen to a particular CD to hear their progress or reinforce what they’ve learned?
We record every lesson and I tell students to keep each CD that I give them so that they can go back and listen. This way they can monitor their progress over time and hear exactly what has changed or needs more work. Now, sometimes students come in and they’re in amazing shape and they do a great performance of the lesson. They hit the highest notes they’ve ever hit, they hit the lowest notes, they have the least amount of pressure—and that’s a great CD for them to have. And maybe they’ll use that one more often when they warm up their voices away from me. But sometimes, they come in and they’re not feeling great; they have a little sore throat or their body is not at a hundred percent. And then we learn to use the technique and create great sounds when you don’t feel great. Then that CD becomes incredibly valuable as well!
Roland and Roger are offering FREE online vocal lessons! Go to rogerlove.com/roland and sign up for this special series of videos to help you unlock the full potential of your voice.