Thinning out those cords

This is the challenge.

We do the exercises, day after day, hour after hour…..nothing is changing. What’s up?

What’s up is likely a combination of two things: Old habits and undiscovered territory.

It takes time and commitment to get to the next level of new discovery. Are you putting in your time? Are you willing to do what it takes?

Then allow yourself to back up for a minute. Get in tune with your body and your voice. Allow yourself to thin out your cords…one pitch at a time.

Is it easy….no, not necessarily. But is it possible. Absolutely!

In the beginning, you must practise thinning our your cords every day……many times throughout the day. Your voice is made up of very small muscle movements. The vocal cords cannot learn to thin out if you only practise for a short time everyday. You must commit to training regularly throughout the day. I suggest 3 times….morning, afternoon and evening to see good results.

Give it a try. Let me know how it goes!

The struggles of two voices……

I still remember when I was 16 and had ‘two different voices’. That’s right. I had my ‘not-so-great’ American Idol voice, and I had my ‘choir-like’ sweet voice. They were two separate voices coming from my throat, and they never met each other in the same performance.

I struggled with the challenge of deciding “which voice to use” for years. I would go out and sing with my band, or at a party with my ‘power’ voice. I now know that this was my chest voice, and I was pulling like crazy. It wasn’t uncommon to become hoarse after a night of singing.

Then I would wake up the next morning and go to church and sing with my sweet voice. My sweet voice was breathier and not really that powerful…..but my choir director seemed to like it a lot. Every time I tried to add a heavier sound in the choir, I was instructed to blend with the other voices. I know now that I was singing in my head voice only….I wasn’t mixing… wasn’t until years later, that I finally figured out how to mix my two registers (mostly chest to head mix) to get a nice balance of both registers.

It took me 20 years to figure out how to mix my voice!! I’m 50 now, and my voice is sounding better that ever before! And that’s because I now know what I’m doing. I now understand exactly how to coordinate my laryngeal muscles to achieve exactly the sound and textures I want.

I still continually challenge my voice in new and different ways. IMHO, you never stop learning, and you never need to settle for “what is”.

I’m currently working on my 4th passagio.  And, although I may never make a noise beyond F6…..I know I will continue to vocalize everyday in the same manner that I have for the last ten years. Because, before the age of 40 I could never sing C6!  That’s right….these notes have transpired in the last ten years.  Who knows what notes I’ll be squeezing out at age 60!

Nasality or Twang?

Nasality and twang are not the same thing. They may, indeed, seem or sound similar, but they are definitely not the same.

Nasality is the sound we hear when a singer has his nasal port open. Is this good or bad? Well, I guess that depends on what kind of sound you want to make with your voice. For the most part, nasality is not considered an esthetically-pleasing sound; however, some singers may indeed do this and consider this their signature sound.

Twang on the other hand is an important coordination that every singer should learn and understand. The ability to “twang” creates particular frequencies in the voice. There frequencies add volume, brassiness, brightness, crispness, and/or fullness. This is an important coordination that when used with other vocal coordinations gives the singer freedom to express themselves dynamically and with texture.

Twang may sound unpleasant in its’ purest form, but when added to the voice in varying degrees, allows a voice to be interesting and believable.

Just Do It!

I can’t get over it when students come back week after week saying they didn’t have time to practise much during the previous 7 days. I think to myself, my gosh, you are carrying around your instrument inside your throat everyday, how can you not find time to practise it? I remind them they do not need their recorded lesson in order to practise. I show them how to exercise their voice without any background scale.

Sometimes what I hear is, “oh yes, I sing everyday”. Then when I get them to clarify what they mean, they say “I sing to the radio, or in the shower, or at karaoke, or with their band”. Again, I remind them that that doesn’t count. Practising/vocalizing means doing the exercises that have specifically been assigned for your voice to get better. I remind them that singing songs as usual can, in fact, do the exact OPPOSITE of vocalizing properly… reinforces your usual coordination that we are trying to improve!

I stress this because so many singers, (and not just kids and teenagers) seem to forget, day in and out, that if a better voice is truly what you want, then you need to follow the disciplines assigned to get there.

Learning to play the piano or guitar well doesn’t just happen without daily practise and attention to detail, and learning how to sing better is no different….except in one very important area….you can’t carry your piano around in your throat!

The show must go on!

I woke up yesterday with a cold and hoarseness in my voice. I had three hours of performance to do later in the day, so I knew it was going to be a tough one with a lot of careful attention and energy to complete the job!

First, I had a hot shower and my usual … pot of coffee. I didn’t utter a word until 2:00 pm. I did a few exercises of lip trills and light sirens. I took a moment to gauge where I thought I was with my voice, compared to my “healthy voice”. I was somewhere around a 6 or 7. My goal was to be 8 or 9 before leaving for my gig. I had two hours.

I continued to warm up my head voice lightly. I paid acute attention to my body and energy to make sure I wasn’t putting any undue stress on my vocal cords. I did some sit ups and took a walk around the block. I continued to sip water all day.

This has happened many times before and I have learned over the years how to pace the day and night. It’s a delicate balance. I don’t talk. I only sing ….. when it’s absolutely necessary. In this case, it was necessary or else I would be letting down many many people who simply wanted to enjoy their Christmas party!

I made sure I could hear my voice well in the monitor. I would be singing at about half volume, so this was doubly important for this gig. I chose my repertoire very carefully…no “big” songs during this show. Instead, I focused on my “presentation” with by body and with my facial expressions.

When the night was finally over I was totally spent. I had maxed out my vocal cords for this gig, and I was mentally and physically exhausted from the energy it took to maintain a careful journey to get me through to the end of the night…..but it worked! As I headed out the door with my car jammed pack with my gear, my employer waved goodbye and said “see you next year!”

The age of extreme voices

As many of you know I’ve studied the voice for many years, and will continue to do so. It is one of the most mysterious instruments I know. Complete Vocal Technique (CVT) is one method removing some of that mystery, and helping singers all over the world make the sounds they want without harm to the voice.

Gone are the days where we can assume what proper or good singing is. As Cathrine Sadolin, creator of CVT states, “who are we as teachers to dictate how the voice should sound”. You, the singer, should chose how you want your voice to sound. In my opinion, there are bad singers all over the world having huge success in the music business, and at the same time there are great singers who don’t work at all with their voice.

CVT is based on the physiology and anatomy of the voice, and addresses extreme voices in an interesting way. There are three general rules with CVT…singing should always feel comfortable, the technique should work at once, and lastly, if it feels wrong then it is wrong.

This really intrigues me because I have had this exact experience when studying with various teachers. The bottom line is that the sound I wanted to make was not the sound my teacher wanted me to make.

Singers should know there are safe and sound methods of singing available. An open throat with a low larynx is going to teach you one sound color, and this may not be the sound color you want for your future. Once your muscle memory has this embedded it is extremely difficult to change later on in life.

So, in closing, singers and teachers, try to keep an open mind. The world of singing technique is becoming more versatile to stay up-to-date with the over-demanding styles of music in the 21st century.