Tag: vocal training

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.

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.

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF VOCAL PRACTICE

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR VOCAL  PRACTICE

Your Body Soul & Spirit are involved when you use your voice.  None of the three can be force-fed, and all are more receptive and effective when you take a few minutes to prepare your practice and rehearsal times.

As You Prepare to Practice Consider These Principles

  1. Being casual about practice and rehearsal may lead to performance casualties.
  2. Practice makes permanent, so don’t practice using wrong technique.
  3. Muscles have memory, so think “mechanics” until things become more natural.
  4. You are more likely to reach your goals if you have some. Make a plan before you begin.  Write it down!
  5. You are a vocal athlete and have physical limits.  Athletes who never learn to warm up, work smart and cool down have more injuries and shorter careers.  It’s the same for singers.

How Long To Practice?

You need the right quality and quantity of time.   For a normal vocal practice session, allow 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half.  If you’re doing a lot of non-vocal, mental work (thinking through gestures, expression, lip-syncing etc.), you can go longer as long as you remain focused. When you stop making positive progress it’s time to stop. Be sensitive to your physical voice as well as what you are accomplishing . . . nor not accomplishing.

Rehearsals

Rehearsals, as apposed to working technique, may take much longer, especially when others are involved. The key is to go into it warmed up and prepared and pace the use of your voice.

When Working With Vocal Coach Training Materials

If you have the Singer series, you can get tips from the Getting Started CD on how to most effectively work through it.  Whether you have the series or a variety of other CD’s the key is to decide what you want to accomplish.  If you’re building or reinforcing the foundations start with Complete Breathing, Warm-Up, Tone and Expanding Your Range.  Spend some time in the introductory teaching to get in the right mindset.  Take notes and replay sections that jump out at you.  Then, move on to the exercises, repeating as necessary until your mind and mechanism both “get it.”

Don’t be in a rush, or expect to suddenly have it all working.  As all the parts learn to work together, it will be well worth the investment in time and effort. Use the form below as a practice tracker.

VOCAL WORKOUT TRACKER FORM

Copy/Paste the Workout Tracker  into Word or Pages and print as many copies as you need. It will help you track what’s working and what’s not and make you a smart singer.

 Name:_______________________Date:_____________________

Objectives/goals for this session: (Technique goals, songs to work on etc.) Use as much space as you need.

 

 

Reflecttions On The Session:  Take all the room you need:

  •  What worked as planned, what is getting better/easier and what is still an issue?  (Include questions, thoughts etc. so you know the areas in which you need more information etc.
  • Did you end up using different materials or songs that you originally planned on?
  • Are you encouraged or frustrated? Describe.

As you see patterns emerging you will know where to focus and where you may need extra help.

 

Have questions or comments?  Let me know at chris@vocalcoach.com

CAN YOU TEACH ME TO SING?

Every few weeks I get asked that question so I thought I’d respond to it here. 

Singing is one of the most fulfilling ways to express yourself, and most people have some or all of the necessary starting tools.  But, can anyone be taught to sing?   To help you get in the right mindset, ask yourself this question:  “Can anyone be an outstanding cook, songwriter or athlete?”  Let’s consider those first, then singing.

Can anyone be a great cook?  Not if you have problems with your sense of smell or taste.  Knowledge of how foods go together can be learned, but the “smell” and “taste” also need to be present in great cooks.
What about songwriting? Can it be taught?  Yes, but there are some foundations that can make the difference between a casual writer and one who develops and creates amazing songs. I’m a great example.  I know music theory, love to use words and have a very musical ear, so I have a lot going for me. One of my songs is on dozens of CD’s and several more are published. However, I don’t do what serious songwriters do: Spend hours writing and co-writing songs.  It’s not priority for me, and until it is I won’t be a good, consistent songwriter.
Playing sports is a whole other subject.  To play any kind of ball well, you have to be in reasonably good shape, practice regularly (not once a month) and actually know and understand the rules of the game. Being a fan and being a player are completely different.

NOW, WHAT ABOUT SINGING?  Here are the elements that need to be working well and working together in order for you to sing with good quality, accuracy and consistency.

  • THE DESIRE AND WILLINGNESS to open your mouth in front of others and sing.  Seem obvious?  I  work with some singers who have enormous desire and passion but are literally terrified to sing in public, which is rather limiting.  Why this fear?  They don’t know what will come out under real-life  pressure.
  • THE MECHANICS of posture, breathing, tone and expression are all part of what makes a singer effective.  If any of those areas are weak, you will lose quality and consistency.
  • A MUSICAL EAR (ear, brain, larynx connection) is a must.  Without it you won’t have good pitch center (be on the right note), dynamics (loud, soft) and phrasing (what you “do” with the phrase). With decent training, someone with reasonable pitch accuracy can usually develop a good musical ear, but it takes time.
  • THE DESIRE TO COMMUNICATE A MESSAGE is what separates those who just “sing” from those who “CONNECT” with the audience, which is the ultimate goal.  That means analyzing the message (lyrics and musical style) and coming up with a game plan that includes expression, gestures, meaningful dynamics, phrasing and more.  It’s a real effort, that when done well comes off as easy and natural. That’s what allows the listener to relax and take it in, rather than nervously wondering if you will hit the high notes.

Now, it’s time to list your strengths as well as the areas that need some work.    Then, make the time to get the tools necessary to turn those weaknesses into strengths.  It may be one of the most satisfying things you ever do.

If you need guidance regarding which tools will serve you best explore the vocalcoach.com web site or email me at chris@vocalcoach.com We are here to help you be your best and get the most enjoyment out of singing possible.