For those of you who are unfamiliar with me, let me introduce myself. My name is Brian Vollmer, and I have been a singer for most of my life. If it weren’t for studying Bel Canto however, I would have lost my voice years ago due to singing improperly. Luckily for me, I was introduced to the technique of Bel Canto very early in my career by a great man called Edward Johnson, and it saved my voice.
Although Bel Canto is a classical technique, it works equally as well whether you sing rock, pop, country, jazz, whatever. True Bel Canto has been described as “…the maximum effect with the minimum amount of effort…” I say “true” Bel Canto because the term is widely used today as many voice teachers realize it’s the magic word when trying to recruit potential students. Sadly, most of them only know bits and pieces of the technique, if anything at all. What I teach was researched thoroughly by my teacher, Eduardo Johnson, the youngest member ever of the New York Metropolitan Opera at the time. Ed produced many successful singers as a voice teacher, a good indication he knew what he was talking about.
Bel Canto is the only way to sing effortlessly with the voice, as it is the only technique which involves “inhalation.” All other techniques require “pushing”, “belting”, or “throwing” the voice. This all takes muscles of the throat to do, as there is no way to “belt” or “push” without using muscles. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Very early in my rock and roll career, after only a couple of years on the road, I developed “nodes” or “polups” on my vocal chords, and was told by an ear/nose/& throat specialist that if I didn’t give up singing right there and then that I wouldn’t eventually even lose my talking voice. I was crushed, because all I had ever wanted to do my whole life up to that point was sing.
My manager sent me to Ed, who taught out of a church in Hamilton, Ontario. Ed had quit the opera when his wife died of cancer, returning to Canada where he eventually began teaching broken down rock and roll singers. For this he was “poo-pooed” by the classical community, to which he replied, “…If anyone needs to learn how to sing properly, it’s rock, pop, and country singers...”
I’ll never forget my first lesson with Ed. After telling him what the doctor had told me, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry. Just do what I tell you to do and your nodes will go away. But you have to be patient-they didn’t get there overnight so it’s going to take awhile to get rid of them…”
I took to heart what Ed told me and after a year, without taking any time off from singing, my nodes went away without surgery. This was an incredible feat considering that at that time I was on the Canadian bar circuit singing three to five sets/night, six to seven nights a week, sometimes with a Saturday afternoon matinee!. Over time not only did my nodes disappear, I started developing a much better tone, better control, and a much larger range. But it didn’t happen overnight…
Eventually I went on to tour the world with my band Helix, garnering four gold and two platinum albums, as well as having a Number One album in Sweden. We’ve sold over two million albums and performed with some of the greatest acts in the world of rock. Not bad for a guy who was never supposed to sing again at the age of 21! Today I’m 54 years of age and I can honestly say that my voice is in better shape than when I was 18, all due to learning the Bel Canto technique. Today there are very few teachers of “true” Bel Canto left in the world. I was lucky enough to have been taught by the best, and today I carry on where Ed left off. Incidentally, Ed taught not only me but many other people in the business including Daniel Lanois, Beverly DiAngelo, Andy Curran of Coney Hatch, Gil Moore of Triumph, and a host of others to numerous to mention here.
I feel it is my duty to pass along the knowledge Ed bestowed upon me. I hope it proves helpful to all of you who aspire to sing correctly, without strain or sore throats.