Notes from her MasterClass on singing
Christina Aguilera loves singing very much. That is the biggest takeaway from her $90 MasterClass in singing, which comprises 23 video lessons and spans what I originally thought was 35 hours but was actually 3.5 hours, thank god. The other big takeaway is she curses!
To give you some background on Christina Aguilera: she is the singer Christina Aguilera with whom you are very familiar. She’s been famous since she was a child, and she was a judge on “The Voice,” and she probably has so much money that it’s crazy. Imagine if we had just a little bit of Christina Aguilera’s money. I know it’s crude, but still — imagine.
This is her MasterClass’s description:
Christina teaches you how to expand your range, find your voice, and master the techniques that have earned her six Grammy Awards. You’ll learn warm-up exercises, breath control, vibrato, her signature growls, and hear Christina break down her biggest hits. There has never been a singing class like this before.
Did I think I‘d be able to learn how how to sing and growl from videos online — videos unlike any other singing class videos that have existed since the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep?
In the introductory video to Christina Aguilera’s MasterClass, she sits in front of a piano vocalizing to a soulful interpretation of her song “Ain’t No Other Man.” She goes, “mmMm, ooOooooh, yeah yeah,” and sings, “Ain’t no otha, ain’t, ain’t, no otha looovah,” pausing to explain that what you’re hearing is just what the chords are doing to her soul. This is a big thing of Christina’s: staying true to the music in your soul and singing your truth. Doing so demands you throw away your rule book, which is another big thing of Christina’s. “I want to impose on you the fact that I don’t believe in a rule book,” she says, immediately. Her rebelliousness put me at ease, as I am also a rebel.
Our shared rebellion is just one of many things I found out I had in common with Christina Aguilera over what felt like the 100 hours we spent together. Other things: we were both army brats, we both like flowers and candles, we both like room-temperature water, we both hate sexist double standards, and we both have incredible vocal ranges — far more incredible than the average singer’s vocal range.
YOU: 3.1 OCTAVES
CHRISTINA’S RANGE: 4.1 OCTAVES
Incredible. I could do without the rude tone, but I appreciate the information, and I am still impressed. (With myself.)
The range finder was unfortunately one of only two interactive singing elements in the course, the other of which I did not participate it because it involved recording a video and I have to have some boundaries. (Also, as part of that activity, you had to rate other people’s videos on a variety of different scales. I was very uncomfortable with this so I gave them all perfect scores even though, if I can be honest, they were not perfect.)
To find your range, you sung each note on the keyboard until you got to a note you “couldn’t” (or, a note the computer rudely told you you “couldn’t” even though it seemed like you were doing it to me) sing. If I could offer one suggestion it would be that there should’ve been more interactive tests like this so I could have achieved high scores on them and then taken screenshots to send to friends in order to show my friends how great at singing I am.
They’ll just have to believe me.
After every lesson there was a “workbook” that I almost never even looked at. I’m not gonna do a workbook. One thing I did do, though, is — well, every so often there would be this prompt:
There were comments below each video that were typically either meant to flatter Christina Aguilera or express deep personal sorrow, depending on the topic of the video.
As you saw in the prompt, you were periodically instructed to comment and interact with your fellow classmates, the latter of which almost no one ever did. Also you could “like” comments, which also no one ever did. So I “liked” a bunch of comments, because it’s always nice to see that someone likes your comment, and I added some of my own comments:
Yes, I did do that part. And you certainly can’t say that I didn’t.
Three things Christina Aguilera tries to avoid are:
- smoky environments
- loud environments where she has to strain her voice to have a conversation
- environments in which she feels uncomfortable, because “life is stressful enough”
Wow—three more things I have in common with Christina Aguilera. The “how not to strain your voice” section of the class, during which she lists these to-be-avoided things, betrays Christina’s Christina Aguilera-ness more than any other section. She gives a very detailed explanation, for example, of how not to strain your voice while you are trying to warm up for “one of the morning shows.” (Don’t chat with the hair and makeup people even if you want to, only do a few scales in the car on the way over, go to sleep very early, tea, honey.)
For another example, she explains that if you’re touring in Europe, smoky clubs are going to be harder to avoid. Sure, you want to hang out with your on-the-road family after your show, but you need to find a balance — maybe you only stay at the smoky European club for a little while, or maybe you suggest your backup singers and dancers, etc., hang out in your hotel room for more of a mellow night in. “Little things like that,” she offers. A good tip and certainly something to remember.
Another tip for how to keep from straining your voice is to scream less frequently at the horrors of your mundane life.
I wouldn’t necessarily say Christina Aguilera’s singing class was a “good” singing class. It didn’t really teach you how to be a singer as much as it taught you how to be the singer Christina Aguilera specifically, and only if you were already her.
This is not Christina Aguilera’s fault, though. Honestly, Christina Aguilera was wonderful. She said “fuck” once, and “shit” twice, and “bitch” once, and genuinely seems very chill and balanced and like she would be a good therapist if she weren’t a famous singer who sung “At Last” at Etta James’s funeral and got a standing ovation. She did as good of a job as one could of breaking down elements of her innate talent and ability, often conceding that she didn’t exactly know how to explain how to do the thing she was trying to tell you how to do. But she was very supportive.
Christina also doesn’t really know anything technical about music, and admits it often, which is comforting. At one point she’s talking about her song “Say Something” and she says, “This song is in 6/8. I don’t know what that means because I’m not a technically trained singer.” Hahah. I love it. At another point she’s trying to talk about how she doesn’t like pop filters and she says, “I don’t like these things. Poppers?” How Christina Aguilera does not know what pop filters are called at this point in her career is a mystery, and just one more thing I love about Christina Aguilera.
Also, this is slightly different, but early in the lessons she talks about how she’s loved Nina Simone’s version of “Ne Me Quitte Pas” since she was a young girl, and that it makes her feel deeply emotional “even though I don’t know what any of it means.” Christina Aguilera is a goddamn genius and refuses to so much as google anything she does not already know, thank you very much. She’s great. Don’t take this class, obviously, but I guess what I would like you to do is think of Christina Aguilera somewhat fondly the next time you think of her.
Also, it is so nice to listen to a person speak to you while you lie in bed with your eyes closed. My favorite thing about this class is that was how I listened to it. And then also the part where I learned about my incredible range.