Tag: chris beatty

larynx

Had A Conversation With Your Larynx Lately?

Had A Conversation With Your Larynx Lately?

Maybe it’s time you did.  Why?  Because many of us forget that there are a number of physical and acoustical processes that make singing possible.  One the the key players is the larynx, and the closer you two become the better, and more consistent your singing will be.

Why, just the other day I listened in to a singer-larynx conversation that went like this:

Singer: I just want to sing.

Singer: I just want to survive your singing, and sometimes you make that tough.

Singer: Sorry about that. I get so stressed and distracted I don’t even know what I’m doing until it’s all over, and by then I’ve abused you.  You actually hurt and get rough sounding.

Larynx: You got that right.  But, if you’ll stop physically stressing me, I’ll stop emotionally stressing you.

Singer: Sounds like a plan.  Where do we start?

Larynx: Well, since we’re kind of stuck with each other for the rest of our lives, with no replacement parts available, maybe we should get to know each other.  You know, abilities, expectations etc.

Singer: I’m game.  Why don’t you start.

Larynx: Well, to start with, I was designed by the greatest inventor of all time.  He created the entire universe and everything and everyone in it.  He also figured out the mechanics and acoustics of making sound.  He’s really good!  Here are some things you should know:

The vocal folds (sometimes called vocal cords) are designed to protect the lungs from foreign objects.  When something heads that way, like food or liquid, the vocal folds close to protect the lungs. They can also become a one-way valve allowing you to cough the threat away.  Rather clever if you ask me.

The cool thing, of course, is that these same vocal folds can vibrate as air from the lungs passes between them.  And, depending on the length and thickness of their leading edge, they can produce hundreds of different pitches.

Singer: Very cool, but why can some people sing the big high notes so easily and others look and sound like they’re screaming? And it doesn’t seem to matter if they’re male or female.

Larynx: You’re right about range not being gender-specific.  Most men, of course have lower voices than most women, but there are thousands of exceptions to that. If a woman has thicker and longer vocal folds she may be a natural tenor.  If a man has shorter, thinner folds he may be an outstanding high tenor or even alto.  The Creator gave everyone a potentially wide range, but not all the same range.  Kind of like the string family in the orchestra: Violin, viola, cello and double bass.  All have wide ranges, but all have different ranges.

The important thing is to discover how we were made and maximize that range. Then, to choose song arrangements that fit into our range.  And, remember: No matter what our range you need to develop the skills and habits that will make us the most consistent and flexible singer we can be.

Singer: But, what if I don’t like our range?  What if I’m really a bass and would prefer to be a tenor?

Larynx: You’ll have to talk to the Creator about that one.  I once overheard a cello asking the Creator if he could play a violin concerto. The Creator didn’t even bother to respond.

Note to self: Stay in touch with the larynx.  It’s good for both of us as well as our listeners.

Do You Want to Sing Better This Year Than Last Year?

If You Want to Sing, SING!

But beware! Muscles have Memory. Your muscles will memorize what you’re doing—right or wrong. So, I suggest that you do the following::

Make Some Deliberate Plans

Don’t get stuck in the rut of just thinking about and wanting to sing.  You don’t have to know the entire path from where you are to where you want to be, but you do need to take the first step; write down your vocal strengths and weaknesses. “But,” you might say, “I don’t really know what those are.”

By admitting that, you’ve actually taken the first step, and the second step is to get some feedback and evaluation from someone with training. This can be a current or former choir director, a neighbor with some musical/vocal training or even a visit to your local community college music department. You can also schedule a Face to Face Online Training session with me. Let whoever it is know that you are wanting their opinion on how you do with the the basics, or, if you’re more experienced with the more advanced areas of singing.

If You’re A Novice

Get feedback on the basics including the ability to accurately match pitch, rhythm patterns, imitate simple and complex phrases etc. The more advanced areas include how you treat phrasing, diction, dynamics and expression.

If You’re An Experienced Singer

If you know you need to improve your breath management and pitch accuracy you’ve got a good start. Maybe you need to add to that list the ability to smoothly move from lower notes (chest register) to higher ones (head register) smoothly.  Or, are you trying to figure out how to go from just singing a song to really mastering it with full, creative expression.

If You’ve  Started Your List Here Are Some Training Options

Self-Training

If you are a motivated, disciplined person you can accomplish quite a bit yourself assuming that you have good foundations like good posture, breathing and a musical ear. You also need to have had some musical experience be it in a choir or perhaps you’re part of a family who does music together. Your tools should be a good set of vocal training CD’s or videos along with getting feedback from those around you with some experience and training.

Local Voice Teacher/Coach

The key here is to find someone who has had systematic training. Not just someone who happens to be a good singer.  Doing something well, and teaching it are two different things. What works for one may not work for another. That’s why teachers are trained. You also need someone who relates to your age, culture and musical goals at least to some degree.  Sometimes a local college can help with suggestions and their staff might well teach outside of school.

Face to Face Online Training

It just so happens that I am an experienced Vocal Coach myself. And, I have been teaching via online video chat for a while now. We’ve found this to be a powerful tool. I regularly teach students from around the country and even as far as 8 time zones away. Skype, FaceTime, iChat etc are great tools and any webcam system works. Click here for more details.

Get Started Today

Depending on your goals, budget and where you live you can find a way to take the next steps to being a better singer right now. And, I can tell you from personal experience as well as from watching lots of students that using your voice the right way is a lot more satisfying than just getting by.

If you have any questions, submit it via the Ask the Vocal Coach form on this page. I’d love to hear from you.

WHO IS CONTROLLING YOUR VOICE?

Do you control your voice, or does it control you?

An odd question?  Perhaps, but I know many a singer who’s happiness with life is linked to whether their voice is working well, or not on any given day. And many of these same singers are doing absolutely nothing to build vocal foundations that result in a predictable, stable vocal experience.

In other words, they’re treating the voice as a mysterious, sometimes-it’s-there, sometimes-it’s-not instrument, and that never works. The fact is, what we call “the voice” can be as predictable and dependable as a carpenter’s saw or a professional baseball pitcher’s throwing arm.  Both the tool and the arm can have issues, of course, but with proper development and maintenance they tend to serve well for many years.

My advice is to be proactive with your voice. Identify your weaknesses as well as areas that you just don’t understand at all.  Be honest. Then, step-by-step, find ways to conquer each area, either with personal training, or with educational materials such and Vocal Coach CD’s that address your issues.  The important thing is that YOU be in charge of your voice. Don’t just LET things happen.  MAKE things happen!

Save your voice, Teachers!

ATTENTION CLASSROOM TEACHERS, CHOIR DIRECTORS, DRAMA COACHES   

August, September and October can be vocally challenging times for teachers. As your vocal use increases so do some very common challenges like vocal fatigue and even laryngitis. Most of these problems can be completely eliminated by starting to warm-up and workout your voice NOW. Even if you’re not a singer I suggest you begin your day with your vocal check list:

  1. Lift your hands over your head to find your best, upright, balanced posture. Maintain that posture throughout the day with shoulders relaxed, a slightly long back of the neck and shorter front of the neck to keep from “goose necking.”
  2. Do several breathing exercises to remind the respiratory muscles just what they need to be doing.  If convenient, get on the floor on your hands and knees with a straight back.  Then breathe in using a sipping sound and out using a hiss.  Sip sip sip sip hiss hiss hiss hiss etc. Vary the number and speed of sips and hisses to keep it challenging.
  3. Now standing, re-check your posture with hands lifted. Slowly lower the arms while doing the sip/hiss exercises.
  4. Do some simple humming, focusing on the buzzing, vibrating sensations in the face, head and neck.  As you are able to maintain posture, low breathing and buzzing resonance in your “speaker cabinet” your voice will project better with less work leaving you vocally healthy after even a busy week of teaching.

Remember, Vocal Coach has number of proven and fun training CD’s to help you be your best.  Check out this week’s specials.  Doing Vocal Coach exercises in the car on the way to school or work is a great way to prepare for the day. Have questions about your teaching situation? Let me know at chris@vocalcoach.com

 

Singers, Have You Found Your Sound?

How do you describe your own vocal sound?

Is it smooth and resonant?  Is it a bit hoarse, tight or tense sounding?  Is it pinched, scratchy or throaty?  Is it as pleasing, mellow and relaxed to listen to as you would like it to be?

Finding, or discovering your best, most natural vocal sound gives you a benchmark.  A place to go back to when you may be abusing or overusing your voice.  What we’re really talking about here is the sound you get when there  minimal tension in your voice and when your posture, breathing and other basics are working fairly well.

Your vocal sound is the result of a number of factors

One of those factors is the vocal characteristics of the people you imitated while learning to speak. That can include the overall sound, diction and even the tonal quality of those you first listened to.  Other aspects of your vocal sound are a result of your physiology.  Are your adult vocal folds long or short, thick or thin, what is the size and shape of your sinuses and nasal passages etc.  Even your native tongue determines much about your basic, default sound.  English, Spanish, German, French and Chinese all use very different sound characteristics Yet all can be spoken with relative freedom, or tension.

Then, there is your physical makeup and how that effects the acoustics of your voice such as the length and thickness of the vocal folds, the size and shape of your sinuses, nasal passages, oral cavity etc.

In other words, there are a lot of variables, yet most of us, with some right training and guidance, can learn to product an attractive vocal sound.

Complete Tone

In the Vocal Coach Complete Tone CD we take you on a journey that will help you do several things.

  1. It makes you vocally aware of your own vocal characteristics and sound.
  2. It leads you through exercises to help you determine what it feels like when you are doing things right.
  3. It helps you develop muscle memory.  And, muscle memory will bring you back to that place of freedom.

Serious Fun!

Finding, then being able to reproduce your own best sounds is one of the most exciting and practical things any singer can do.  Then, you can choose to change and alter that sound for various styles, while at the same time keeping your voice and not sacrificing vocal health or style.

If you haven’t worked with the Complete Tone CD yet you should.  It’s just a download away, or available as a physical CD at vocalcoach.com.