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Singing Tips TutorialTips for Singers


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21 replies to this topic

#1
Bellamy

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Hi, I find this very good singing tips tutorial, and post for you here. Hope you like it.

Singing Tips Tutorial, Tips for Singers

Singing is a marvelous means of self expression, a great way to relieve stress and tension, and a terrific vehicle for developing self confidence. We are pleased to provide you with helpful tips and techniques from seasoned singers and fellow karaoke enthusiasts to assist you in developing your singing technique as well as your stage presence.


Here's the courses list. Read the parts you have interest.

Anatomy 101
Warming Up
Simple Warm-up Is Best
Breathing Tips
Power Breathing
Hitting Pitches
Essential Singing Tips
Un-training - Improve Your Voice
You Want a Better Voice
Training A Stubborn Voice
Finding the Best Singer Inside
Sing the Song that Fits
How To Properly Water The Voice
Maximum Range
A Message From Your Larynx
Let Yourself Sing
Singing with a Cold
Shades of Passion
Herbs to the Rescue
Vibrato
Loud Mouths Don't Shout


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#2
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"Anatomy 101"
(Can you put your hand on your diaphragm?)


Welcome students. Today we will take a look at the basic parts of our vocal instrument. Iím sure you considered cutting this class; singers rarely educate themselves on the various parts of the body.
They fear the knowledge will hamper free spirit. Ironically, this attitude often inhibits vocal ability due to common misconceptions. Many of us maintain a cartoon-like perception of anatomy. We picture, for instance, the lungs to be hollow, balloon-like organs occupying the entire area inside the rib cage. Muscle behavior is based on these larger-than-life perceptions, causing problems with control.

Singing starts with an inhale. Most people know this action requires the diaphragm but are not aware of its location or how it works. Place your hand over your belly button. This area is NOT your diaphragm; it is the abdominal wall. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle which divides your torso, separating the lungs and heart above (thoracic cavity) from the digestive organs below (abdominal cavity). To locate, place your finger at the bottom of your sternum bone (breast plate); the diaphragm crosses directly behind. Notice it is fairly high up inside the rib cage. Now place your hands on your chest, fingers facing up, with the base of the palms on your nipples. This provides a good visual of the size of your lungs. Made of thousands of tiny air sacks called alveoli, the lungs resemble dense sponges more than balloons. They do not draw in air themselves; they are enlarged as the diaphragm descends (inhale) and reduced as the diaphragm returns (exhale). When you hear the term Ďsupportí in relation to singing, it means the diaphragm is able to move up and down freely and make minute adjustments in air pressure. It does not mean to push from the abdominal wall.

The larynx is in the middle of the throat, sitting on top of the windpipe and is the vibrator of the instrument. Its inside diameter is about the size of a quarter. There are two horizontal flaps within the larynx, called vocal folds, which can partially cover the windpipe and vibrate when air passes through. These folds are similar to eyelids in size and shape but are covered by mucus membranes and need to be kept lubricated. There is a network of muscles in and around the folds which manipulate their tension for pitch change, thickness for volume and their position for a variety of tonal qualities. These muscles operate reflexively, like those of the eye, and work best when provided with an appropriate amount of air pressure.

There is a short stretch of throat above the larynx called the pharynx. It is the main resonator of the voice. Most of us imagine this area as having a large diameter; yet we know better than to swallow a penny. The pharynx is lined with sensitive muscles which narrow the internal space further in response to contractions of the abdominal wall. The pharynx connects to the mouth and nasal cavities, also important resonators. The muscles of the tongue and jaw are the strongest in the body, and both brace instinctively to provide extra rigidity to the throat. All these closing actions greatly reduce the potential for overtones. Another reason not to over-drive your air pressure.

Every instrument requires a specific touch and the voice is no exception. Visualizing how small the parts of your instrument really are will help balance muscle activity. What I have provided is a very basic overview. Do yourself a favor and explore an anatomy book. The more you know about the functions of each part, the easier it is to make any instrument sing. Thatís all for today. Class dismissed.


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#3
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"Warming Up"
(How to get the most from your voice)


Whether you rap, sing, belt, scream, croon or perform spoken word, you will get more from your voice if you warm up first.
Actually, thereís no avoiding it. Those who feel itís unnecessary, or silly, are simply warming up as they sing rather than before. There is a huge difference, however, when you gradually work the body up to performance level. Your pitch, range, power, expression, and most important, your longevity will greatly improve.

Any increase in any muscle activity raises the bodyís core temperature. Shocking the body into action from a cold start triggers protective muscles to brace against the prospect of injury. Neck, jaw and tongue muscles lock in place requiring a vocalist to exert extra air pressure to sing. The tension creates friction which causes the vocal folds to over heat and swell. Translation: Punching out the first few songs of the set will make you blow out quicker and stay blown for most of the next day. Temporary vocal fatigue might not seem to be much of an issue when youíre gigging once a week. But what happens when your music "hits"?

Consider the schedule of Emerson Hart, singer for Tonic, when the bandís song, "If You Could Only See," shot up the charts. Management kept the band on the road for well over a year, working five nights a week with plenty of thirteen-dates-in-a-row stints. Often, Emersonís day began at 7:00 AM with an unplugged song for a morning-drive show. Then, it was off to various promotions and afternoon interviews, finishing with a 90 minute set at midnight. When Emerson called me, he was satisfied with his vocal abilities; but nervous about surviving his success. I devised a warm-up plan to prepare him for the daily routine.

What you sing to warm-up is not as important as how. I recommend the simplest sounds. Your attention should be on physical freedoms rather than quality of sound. Release your breath with several long, low volume hisses. Then, loosen your face and neck while humming with a wandering, siren-like, motion. Donít allow your face to change to reach for pitches. Alternate the hums with an extended zzz sound and gradually change this to an EE vowel and then an AH. Keep your melodies sweeping. I donít recommend singing songs quietly because there are usually tensions programmed into them. As you loosen up, turn up your volume -- but not before. As you get louder, stay with an EE or AH. The point is to wait until the body gives you permission to increase the load. The length of a warm-up should be in reverse proportion to the need. Long gig -- short warm up, but if youíre doing a single song on The Letterman Show, you should warm up and then sing for an hour for that, trusted, middle-of-the-set feeling.

The hardest part about warming up is making the time and finding a place. I used to be embarrassed to make the funny sounds required in front of others hanging in the back room -- if there was one. Now I choose the dirty looks over the frustration of having a set end just as my voice is waking up. Be inventive; head out to the car or van in the warm months or, in winter, hang in the bathroom or stand in the middle of the crowd if thereís a band before yours. No one will hear a thing -- I do it all the time. If youíre running late, warm up while driving to the gig or rehearsal. The best routine is to warm up slowly all day. Every chance you get, lightly vocalize on hums and zzz sounds. Just remember, for any style singing, starting with a loose, flexible instrument will allow access to your full potential. Where you take your voice from there, is up to you


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#4
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A Simple Warm Up Is The Best Warm Up

The acronym stands for "Keep It Simple Stupid." It's a great reminder for those of us who love to complicate our lives. It's also a great way to approach the voice. Ironically, most vocal problems are the result of complications brought on by the singer, not the situation. The warm up is a perfect example. Too often, we zip through a cursory little routine and then hit the stage. If you don't stop to consider whether the voice feels ready, you're bound to get some surprises when performing. Not only is it a major distraction to negotiate around an unfamiliar voice, but it's a sure path to problems. A slow and simple warm up is so integral to singing with ease and power that I have created a vocal version of K.I.S.S. as a reminder. Before I reveal what that is, let's explore the important aspects of an effective routine.
The mission of a warm up is to turn you from non-vocal status into a smokin' singing machine. To arrive at maximum potential, you've got to allow enough time to deal with stubborn tensions and coordination issues. A good way to begin warming up is with a hum. Keep your lips together but let your jaw hang down so your teeth are separated. At a very low volume, let your voice find the pitch that requires the least amount of energy to produce. The hum should tickle your lips. Sustain this note for as long as comfortable and repeat with long slow relaxed breaths in between. Test other notes in the neighborhood and see if they can be hummed as easily. Don't test the range just yet; the goal is to make the voice feel good first.

Next, change the single note hum into a three note melody. Start on your original easy pitch and let the voice rise up three notes and then come back down three notes. Use this simple melody to become aware of any behavior issues. Are you humming the high note as easily as the others? The littlest inconsistency is worth correcting; it will only become a bigger problem when singing. Keep repeating the melody until all three notes feel exactly the same. Once this is achieved raise the starting note of the melody and explore your range. Remember: K.I.S.S. Don't complicate the process by doing to do too much too soon. Let the voice come to you.

When humming feels slippery, it's time to move on. With the word "me," sing a five note scale (1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1) placing the "M" on steps 1, 3, 5, 3 and 1 (ME-EE-ME-EE-ME-EE-ME-EE-ME). This should sound smooth; not choppy. Singing this way allows the vocal folds to assume a little more load while still retaining the advantages of a hum. Watch that your air does not dump out while making the EE. Always let the voice crack and blank out on high notes rather then push them. Let the registers change reflexively, never adjust your face or increase the volume to avoid head voice or falsetto. Give things time to coordinate. Hang around awkward areas with a focus on keeping your behavior simple. Switching the EE vowel to an AH (MA-AH-MA-AH-MA-AH-MA-AH-MA) will increase the work load at the folds even more, but wait until the EE is responding well before doing this.

A good indicator that you are warmed up is an independent tongue and jaw. To encourage this, let your jaw hang open and place your index finger on your chin. Using the same five note scale above, alternate between AH and EE vowels without moving the chin (AH-EE-AH-EE-AH-EE-AH-EE-AH). Your finger is there to remind you to let the tongue do the moving - not the jaw. Just the rear portion of the tongue needs to rise to pronounce an EE; you don't need to spread your mouth or smile. When this action becomes easy you should increase the speed. Make sure you don't drive harder - singing fast does not require fast air. Only after you are able to access your entire range without pushing should you explore singing louder. Gradually increase the volume of these scales until you reach what you'll need on stage. Watch for volume-based tensions creeping in. Slowly roll your shoulders and move your head around while vocalizing to make sure you don't get locked up.

If you would like to hear what these exercises sound like, there is a download available of this routine at http://www.getsigned.../PROD/BAXWARMP3. The advantage of warming up with this audio guide is not to imitate me but to help stay focused on the simple goals. There is only one question to answer when warming up. Is the sound you're making easy to produce? That's it. If the answer is yes you get to move on. Try something a little more challenging. If the answer is no you should address whatever is making things difficult. It's important to begin this process around mid-day; even if you're at work. You can't spend an hour or two on your voice if you're due on stage in ten minutes. There's no need to worry about over-warming if you stay focused on flexibility. So, if you're into making resolutions make this the year you adopt a new approach to singing. The more time you spend gently preparing the longer you'll be able to sing afterwards. You'll never burn out if you remember my little twist on K.I.S.S: When warming up the voice, "Keep It Slow & Simple".


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#5
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10 Basic Breathing Tips

1. The significance of the diaphragm as a muscle of breath support is over-emphasized by most music singing schools and teachers. The diaphragm has two jobs: it furnishes the power for inhalation and then controls tone support.

2. When you take a breath for singing -- to open the throat -- add a yawning feeling as you're about to produce the tone (the beginning of a yawn, to be exact).

3. Be sure the shoulders do not raise when taking a breath.

4. If you can hear your inhalation, you're taking in too much air or your stomach is tense. Be sure your stomach is relaxed before, and as, you inhale.

5. Always inhale gently when singing. Heavy gasping of air will tighten your throat.

6. Posture is the foundation. Be sure your posture is erect when singing -- not a military stance, but comfortably upright. This positions you for maximum support.

7. Always imagine the sound that you want to make and then sing it -- using all resources available -- your entire physical being, emotions, psyche and spirit.

8. A tight jaw is bad for good singing. Do whatever is necessary to relieve your jaw, neck and shoulders of tension before you sing.

9. Don't smoke. Smoking puts at risk the entire mechanism you're going to stake your claim to a vocal career upon.

10. Don't try to imitate another singer's voice. Discover your own, unique, vocal identity.


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#6
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"Power Breathing"
(How to get the power without the push)


We live in a world of the power lunch, the power walk and the power nap. Hey, as long as weíre making ourselves feel powerful by renaming natural activities, allow me to introduce my superturbo, patent-pending breathing technique for singers - power breathing.
To be honest, there's nothing new about power breathing. Every baby on the planet has the technique down. Power breathing is what allows infants to scream for hours on end. Obviously, newborns donít have a lot of muscle strength. So where does all that energy come from? They instinctively harness two universal properties: air pressure and recoil.

The Air That We Breathe
The air around us is pressurized and self-stabilizing. When the pressure decreases anywhere, surrounding air will move in to fill the void. This is the motor which drives the weather, and why the weatherman is always talking about areas of high and low pressure. On a smaller scale, when you open a new jar of pickles, youíll hear a suction sound as the seal is broken. Pickles are vacuum packed, which means the air pressure inside the jar is much lower than outside. Unscrew the lid and air is drawn in. The same thing happens when we inhale. When your lungs are expanded, the air pressure inside drops. Outside air then rushes in to equalize the imbalance. Whatís important to remember is that air doesnít make your lungs expand -- muscles do.

The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle which sits directly under your lungs. When it descends, the area inside your lungs increases. There are also muscles between your ribs, which spread the cage, and muscles in the neck and shoulders, which can lift your chest. Any of these muscles can enlarge your lung space to create an inhale. Of all these options, the diaphragm is best positioned. We are often too tight in the stomach area, though, and donít give it room to drop. Infants are not tight down there and take full advantage of the diaphragmís ability to pull in air. Notice how their bellies swell like little Buddhas just before letting go of a wail. Itís a simple principal: the more air you take in, the more pressure youíll have to cry.

Once expanded, your lungs are like two balloons. The air pressure inside an inflated balloon is greater than outside the balloon. Everybody knows that the pressure will come out -- with force -- by simply releasing the balloon, but we fail to apply this universal law to singing. At the beginning of each phrase, we use abdominal muscles to drive the air out of our lungs. Not only is this as unnecessary as squeezing a balloon to empty it, but it causes all kinds of trouble. Singing requires a specific amount of pressure; too much force triggers your throat to hold back air like fingers clamping down on the neck of a balloon. Control is lost.

Let It All Hang Out
The other under-appreciated source of power, recoil, also relies on the diaphragm. Most people incorrectly associate the words ďbreathe supportĒ with push. They tap their tummy and say, ďSing from here. Right?Ē Well, thatís half right. To better understand how the whole thing ties together, letís get creative with anatomy. Itís been said that the body is a temple but I think it more resembles a tenement. Imagine your body as a building that has one studio apartment on each level. Letís call the first floor the ďlegsĒ of your structure. The second floor represents your abdominal cavity and the third level is the thoracic cavity (if you want to get fancy, you can call your head the penthouse). It doesnít take very long when you live in a building like this to appreciate that one personís floor is another personís ceiling. This rule is the same in your body. The diaphragm is both the floor to the lungs(thoracic cavity) and the ceiling to the abdomen. Move this divider up and down, and it enlarges one cavity while compressing the other.

When your diaphragm descends, it pushes on everything inside your abdominal cavity. Since this ďroomĒ is jam packed with furnishings like a stomach, liver and intestines, everything gets shoved towards the walls. This is why your tummy sticks out when you inhale correctly. Itís not filling with air down there, itís just a response to the ceiling coming down. Compressing your abdominal cavity doesnít take much effort, as long as its walls are relaxed. Sucking in your tummy when you inhale locks everything in place, so the diaphragm canít come down. The result is a shallow breath that doesnít pack much punch. We learn from infants crying that creating a big inhale is important. Even more important, though, is not pushing once youíre fully loaded. Youíve already worked for the energy; all you have to do is release.

The automatic reaction to compression is recoil. If you push down on a spring and then quickly release it will jump back to its original form. The more force you use to compress, the more force you get back on recoil. Push down on the spring again but this time slowly raise your hand. The spring returns at the handís speed. This is a controlled release. Notice that, to control the motion, your hand only needs to push downward; thereís no need to pull up on a spring. The same is true for your diaphragm. Once the abdominal cavity is compressed, it wants to spring back. As if it was holding back the recoil of a spring, your diaphragm should continue to apply and downward pressure to regulate the air pressure passing through your larynx. In other words, it ďsupports ď your voice by making sure that the vocal folds arenít overwhelmed.

Maximum Vocal Power
Combine the spring-back action of your abdominal cavity with the momentum of high pressure from fully inflated lungs and youíll have vocal power to spare. Notice that both of these power sources are passive, the work was done during the inhale. If you need more thrust, your abs are always there to add. I know it feels as if you need to push with your abs in order to make your voice powerful. Just remember that this desire is a reaction to half-inflated lungs. Stretching your body will help; start your warm-up routine with some reaches and side-stretches. Reserve abdominal push as a last resort, not a first line of strength. It takes a while to re-train the body to release the abs on every inhale, but the pay-off will be a voice thatís truly bouncing off the walls -- just like when you were a baby.


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#7
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"Hitting Pitches"  
(Singing is not a "three stikes you're out" proposition)


One, two, three strikes youíre out. Many singers approach the stage as if it were home plate in a little-league game.
Standing there like a kid donning an over-size batting helmet, they often squeeze their eyes and lock their muscles in anticipation of tough pitches. Itís a self-defeating stance. Once the body becomes rigid, itís almost impossible to make the minute adjustments required to connect on target. When the inevitable misses start adding up, suggestions from coaches like "relax" and "breathe" are wiped out by panic. The downward spiral continues as all attempts at maintaining a balanced form are abandoned in favor of a full-out attack at each pitch. While poor mechanics are certainly an issue, the mind is far more at fault in these situations. Singing is mostly reflex activity, which means the muscles know what to do. However, where the mind goes the muscles will follow. Ironically, if you want to sing in tune, stop thinking about pitch.

We tend to forget that thereís more to singing, and baseball for that matter, then hitting pitches. Dynamics, tone, duration, note placement and interpretation of lyrics all play a vital role in music just as fielding skills do in baseball. What great singers and players do is focus on a bigger picture. When performing, the mind-set of a singer should be on the sentiment of the song. What do you want to express to your audience? What do you want them to feel? Are you in the song? Is your head in the game? These questions are the ones to address when you feel youíre losing control. Taking the focus off the physical aspect of singing not only provides a better environment for your reflexes, it also allows the audience to stay with their emotions. Unlike baseball, singing is an art. No one is counting the misses unless the singer draws attention to the problem. Remember, where your heart goes the audience will follow.

There are steps you can take to prevent the distraction of an occasional foul note. A good warm up is essential. Your muscles respond much better when activated slowly. Cold muscles are rigid and require more energy, which throws off the delicate balance needed to be in tune. Another way to promote accuracy is to vocalize every day. The best hitters in major league baseball never miss batting practice. They do this so they can concentrate on where to hit the ball during a game, not how. Vocalizing gives you this same opportunity to focus on technique in order to free your mind during a performance. The goal is to simplify things so thereís less to deal with when under pressure. On stage, while we tend to work extremely hard when singing high notes, in reality, the muscles responsible are as small as those which move your eyes. It is impossible to feel the vocal folds stretching for a note -- any note. When you practice, work on reducing the physical effort associated with pitch, no matter how inaccurate it makes you at first. Allowing yourself to sing out of tune is vital when exploring how little it takes to be on pitch. Obviously, this is easier to do in private than on stage.

What you can do when performing is dig deeply into the lyrics. Even if no one can understand a thing youíre saying, let the words move you. If something unintentional slips out, keep in mind that the audience is routing for you. Think of Sammy Sosa or Mark McGuire; you never see them finch when they swing for a strike. The miss is wiped from their minds and their focus stays in the present. The crowd wants them to hit the pitch and they are lifted by the collective will. A crowd can do the same for you if you let them.

No one goes to a show in the hopes of seeing a singer struggle. You can own a blunder if it works by repeating the stray pitch or by adjusting the melody accordingly. Or, you can ignore the incident. An audience has no idea what you intended to sing. Donít let your body language give away the secret and they wonít have any idea. Have you ever seen a baseball player not take a base because he didnít mean to hit the ball to right field? Training your voice to be consistent will help ease performance anxiety, but itís just as important to learn to get over a missed pitch. No one bats a thousand.


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#8
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Essential Singing Tips

Practice/Rehearsal Tips

Where you practice can be as important to your vocal workout as how much you practice. Make sure you practice in a place where you feel free to sing out -- without worry as to who might be listening.

Singing at gigs, recording sessions or band rehearsals should not be considered practice. You must also make time for yourself to sing without the pressure of having to sound good. Give yourself the luxury of taking chances and making mistakes during your own, private workout.

When you practice, do so slowly and give yourself the time to relax before your workout -- don't rush! Haste is the #1 enemy of meaningful vocalizing.

If you vocalize for a half and hour everyday, you'll be surprised at how much more ready to sing you'll always be.

Always train yourself to be able to sing one or two notes higher than required in your performances. This insurance will allow you to relax on stage.

Physical Tips

The muscles used for sit-ups or leg lifts are the same used to support (or press) air through the cords to bring forth a singer's sound. Some of these exercises, on a regular basis, add power to your overall tone.

Your jaw should drop -- as it does when you yawn -- whenever holding a note in your upper range.

If you have to cough or clear your throat, do so gently. These actions are like sandpaper to your vocal cords.

Eat and sleep properly -- and ideally -- exercise daily. All of these things will enable your body to achieve a state of relaxation and vocal-cord readiness and will benefit your singing more than you'd think.

Maintain a high level of water in your body. The old adage eight glasses a day... helps keep your vocal cords lubricated and conditioned.


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#9
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Un-training - Improve Your Voice

We all know of someone who has an incredible voice and never had a bit of instruction.

These people just open their mouths and it comes out great. Lucky for them. However, the common belief that some people are born to sing doesnít mean that the rest of us have to sit on the sidelines. Anyone can improve the sound of their voice. My advice is to think of it as un-training.

Learning to sing is a lot like strapping on a pair of roller blades for the first time. Some people are fearless, or maybe reckless is a better word, and fly off with little regard to the laws of gravity. They immediately fall flat on their butt, laugh, and get right back up to try again. Most of us, though, would rather not spend the day bouncing on the pavement. We approach the challenge with one agenda: do not fall. This mind set dominates muscle behavior. As soon as we are hoisted onto a set of wheels, we forget how to bend at the joints. We shuffle along stiff-legged, clinging desperately to any lamp post, tree or person within reach. The irony is that we still end up on the ground. A rigid body, which reflects our fear of falling, causes a loss of balance. The inability to loosen up also prevents us from developing a feel for shifting body weight from skate to skate. So at the end of the day, both personality types have sore backsides, but the carefree people have at least learned how to roller blade.

Pay a visit to a maternity ward and itís obvious that we are all born with the ability to produce sound. Crying is reflex behavior. Singing is crying -- minus the tears. Within a short time after birth, our personalities emerge and influence this basic instinct. Some babies cry louder and more often. As toddlers, we begin to experiment with different vocal tones and the responses they provoke. When two year-olds whine enough, they will either get another cookie or be sent to their room. By the time we reach six, the results of these experiments have heavily influenced our personalities. We establish core traits which stay with us a lifetime. If you doubt this, visit a senior's center and notice how much a bingo game looks like a kindergarten class. Itís not that the seniors are acting childish, itís that they are being themselves, again. What this means to potential singers is that, from a very early age, we have trained our muscles to produce sound in a particular way. Your particular way may, or may not, interfere with singing. If it does, then youíve got some un-training to do.

We often brace in anticipation of singing a bad note as if it will hurt our bodies. It wonít. A bruise to the ego and a bruise to the vocal folds are completely different things. Like fearful skaters, itís the singers who fear a vocal slip that cause themselves the most problems. Perfectionists,introverts and people who pride themselves on having good pitch are usually the worst offenders. Ironically, tone, pitch, emotion and longevity all suffer due to the over involvement of protective muscles like the tongue, jaw and neck. A cautious attitude doesnít even insure that you will avoid vocal strain. Like falling, stiffening your muscles because you fear injury often causes more damage than if the body was loose.

Singing is a balancing act. The expectation that notes should always roll perfectly out of our mouths, especially when weíre just learning, is absurd. But donít be too hard on yourself if youíre finding it difficult to let go. Itís not your fault. Pressure is placed on us the moment we start to explore our voices. For some reason, children are allowed to be clueless on every instrument except the voice. Nobody rips the violin out of little Suzyís hands as she saws her way through, ďThree Blind Mice,Ē but heaven forbid if sheís out of tune when she sings the same song. Kids that struggle with singing in grade school are usually detoured into sports programs or given a tambourine. Wouldnít it have been great if they did that with math? Later in life, the stigma of falling off pitch or hitting a crack silences many would-be singers.

Most vocal problems can be traced back to speech. As kids, weíre taught the meanings of words and how to pronounce them, but not how to efficiently use our muscles when speaking. This is expected to happen naturally. It usually doesnít. Normally, emotions dominate our motor reflexes and shape the way we talk. Speech becomes an extension of our personality. You can tell a lot about someone by the way they talk, not what they say. There is a difference, though, between normal and natural. Natural is efficient; normal is what we are used to. Unfortunately, we are so accustomed to the way we speak that our trained-in tensions go unnoticed until we start to sing.

Sit at a piano or pick up a guitar and the instrument is ready to play. Musicians tend to take this for granted, but starting with a pre-balanced, consistent, instrument is a huge advantage when learning to play. Open your mouth to sing and any number of obstacles can compromise range, tone, volume and flexibility. In other words, in order to learn to sing, you have to build an instrument first. Most instruments we play today are the result of many years of refinement. As techniques for making pianos and guitars improve, their sound and ease of play improves as well. Instruments basically stay the same from day to day. This provides a great foundation for developing the skills need to play. We donít have that advantage with our voices. Many things can interfere with the ďplayabilityĒ of our voices, from talking all day to tension held in the jaw. Since most of these are not genetic or ďnaturalĒ limitations, they are removable.

It is vital that you allow yourself to sound bad as you work to improve your voice. Find a private place where no one can hear you; itís hard enough to tune out your internal critic let alone opinionated roommates and family members. Your goal when vocalizing is to minimize muscle involvement -- no matter how bad it sounds at first. For this reason, it is important to distinguish the difference between sound and feel. We often say a note feels bad when it actually just sounds bad. Sounding bad is okay, feeling bad is not. Some people will put up with tremendous discomfort in order to make something sound better.

Singing should feel like nothing, like rolling down a stretch of smooth pavement. Correct notes are just as easy to sing as incorrect notes, so donít add any effort when you want to sing something better. Cracks are simply a momentary loss of balance. They do not hurt you physically, so try not to wince if one zings out unexpectedly. To gain control of your voice, you need to learn to release your face, jaw, tongue and neck. Just like relaxing your arms and legs when skating, this usually creates a short term loss of control. Re-visit this slippery feeling until itís trusted and you will be rewarded with effortless singing. The only difference between singing and roller blading is that you wonít have to sit funny while youíre learning. Think of it as un-training and youíll have a big head-start on the process.


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#10
Bellamy

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You Want A Better Voice

Imagine this. You walk into your first guitar lesson and the teacher hands you a piece of wood and some strings.

He shows you a picture of a guitar and says, "Before we can begin, you'll need to make yourself one of these." Anxiety would surely be one of your emotions. What if you made a lousy guitar? Obviously, that would have a negative effect on your ability to learn. Unless you were already a skilled woodworker, your hopes of becoming the next Les Paul would be dashed.

This scenario can be applied to your think about your voice. Before you can learn to sing, you have to build an instrument.

It is a luxury to wrap yourself around a well-made guitar. All you need is the desire to learn and you're well on your way to becoming a player. Unlike voices, instruments are ready to play. All of the pianos, drums, woodwind, brass and stringed instruments we use today are the result of centuries of refinement. But when it comes to singing, you are both the player and the instrument. Address these factors separately, and you'll develop much faster.

The Law Abiding Singer
Some people are born with beautiful sounding instruments; most of us are not. Some people want to sing; some do not. It's a spin of a wheel which combination of mind and body you fall into. Just to make life interesting, it seems we always long for the abilities we do not have. Therefore, the most common situation is that you desire to sing but have a less than desirable voice. Take heart; you can improve. The problem is that we tend to skip over the fundamentals in favor of performance tips. Before long, we ask for things the instrument can't deliver . . . yet.
What makes for a great sounding voice are the same principles which make for a great sounding guitar. Every instrument can be reduced to just two components. There must be something that makes a sound, called a vibrator, and an area around the vibrator which colors the sound, known as the resonator. The size, shape and texture of these components are what determine the characteristics of an instrument. There are universal properties governing sound, so consistent we call them laws, which every instrument-builder strives to embrace. Singers should have the same agenda. It's actually very simple, you'll sound better if you obey the laws of sound.

Balooning Your Frequency
The strings on a guitar, the reed on a saxophone, the head on a drum are all examples of vibrators. Your vocal folds are the vibrators of the voice. They are thin membranes, right in the middle of your throat, which extend over the top of your windpipe. The best way to understand how the vocal folds work is to inflate a balloon and then stretch the neck to create a tiny slit at the opening. As air escapes, a high-pitched sound is produced. You can't see it with the naked eye, but the walls inside the opening of the balloon are moving very rapidly.

The speed of a vibration is called the frequency. Vary the tension as you stretch the neck of the balloon, and you'll change the frequency. We refer to different frequencies as pitches or notes. Notice how a small difference in tension produces a big change in pitch. Since the opening of a nine inch balloon is the same size as an adult's vocal folds, the tiny movement required to change pitch is the same. Remember this the next time you're beating yourself up to reach a high note.

The Six Foot Resinator
A vibrator alone is worthless without a resonator, which is why bands and orchestras don't include balloon players. Resonators give instruments their tone. You don't have to be a scientist to imagine a piano, guitar, drum or horn stuffed with towels. A resonator adds color by providing an empty air space around the vibrator. It's that simple, and what's true for an acoustic instrument is true for the voice. Cavities, like the windpipe, throat, mouth and nose, are all potential resonators. The bigger the space, the richer the tone. That's why good stereos have big speaker cabinets and why grand pianos are at least six feet long. The more you create inside you the bigger your voice will sound.

Avoiding Contact
The relationship between vibrator and resonator is also crucial. The less contact the two have the better. Guitar strings are suspended across the instrument, only touching at two very small points. The harp inside a piano floats on rubber bushings so it never touches the wood. There is a strip of cork which separates the mouth piece of a saxophone from the brass of the horn. Your larynx, too, should float inside your throat. Independence is what allows freedom of the vocal vibrator, increasing range, pitch accuracy and consistent tone (so your voice sounds big from top to bottom). The problem is that people have emotions which trigger muscles to shut down the resonators -- guitars, pianos and saxophones do not. Here's where training pays off.

Habitual Offender
We are creatures of habit. Culture, family, emotions and personality shape our behaviors until they become second nature. If singing is a part of your surroundings when you are young, chances are you will sing well. If not, your habits are most likely the problem. At first they seem necessary, but tendencies like tensing the jaw, tongue and throat, over-compensating air pressure or squeezing the eyes all compromise your instrument. Pitch change, for instance, should not show up anywhere on your face, neck, jaw or tongue. Your throat should remain relaxed, just as the wood on a guitar doesn't care what note is being played. I'm not suggesting that releasing negative behaviors is easy, just necessary. If you're willing to work, though, you can develop into an instrument that's easy to play. Hey, if a balloon can change pitch without effort, so can you.

A simple exercise to gain independence begins by placing your finger on your tongue. Then, just as you would at the doctor's office, say "AH." Sustain the "AH" as long as you can. Keep it plain; don't try to make it sound like singing. Now, with your finger still on the tongue, change the pitch of your "AH." Try something lower first, then vocalize higher. Does the tongue wriggle around beneath your finger? Does your jaw want to move to help you change pitch? Did the quality of your "AH" change? Keep working until the answer to these questions is no.

Vocal Aerobics
So, what does all this science have to do with entertaining an audience? It's simple. Musicians trust their instruments, most singers don't. Any doubts you may have about your voice will show up in your singing. It's too easy to become preoccupied on stage with the mechanics of pitch, breathing and projection; yet all an audience wants to hear is a song. Trusting the instrument allows a singer to be present, to dig into the emotion of the lyrics.

Just as every musician knows that a great instrument will allow them to soar, every singer should work toward becoming one. Be patient. Some vocal exercises seem silly or a waste of time. Remember that the process to make a guitar does not resemble playing one. The laws of sound apply to everyone, regardless of how old you are or how long you've been singing. This should be good news for all frustrated singers. Chances are you've been playing an inferior instrument. It means you can finally have the voice of your dreams. But first, you'll have to build yourself a better instrument.


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#11
Bellamy

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How To Make A Stubborn Song Behave

Heal. Sit. Stay. Good voice. Don't you just love it when your voice does exactly what you want it to do? Wouldn't it be great if you could send your voice away to obedience school just like a dog? The interesting thing to note about canine classes is that they aren't just for our furry four-legged friends. The owners are trained as well. There is a particular way to address your pooch, or your voice, if you want it to do as told. This may seem like a crazy perspective, but singing lessons are really for the owner of that misbehaving voice. It turn's out that it's not the old dog that has the problem learning the new trick, it's the master!

The first step towards owning a well behaved voice is to erase old commands. All instructions for the body are dispatched by the brain. Commands are sent via conscious and unconscious pathways and have been busy programming the body since birth. Like dogs, the muscles responsible for singing work best when given a fresh slate. Troubles occur when new commands conflict with old ones. For instance, your jaw would be happy to release when singing if it wasn't trained to do exactly the opposite when speaking. Of course you didn't mean to teach the jaw to clench, that was unconscious behavior. Nevertheless, there is an old program which must be dealt with before the new behavior can take its place. Jaw tension can be as stubborn as an old blood hound to move but there's no singing freely until it's gone. It helps to remember it's not the jaw's fault; it doesn't have a mind of its own.

Sometimes the problem between master and voice is communication. The word "control" is often used but rarely does it create the desired result. Usually what happens when we think about it is we just tighten around a note to keep it in place. Imagine a dog fighting and pulling at its leash. You wouldn't say that the animal is under control, even though the dog isn't running around causing trouble. It's really just restrained. The same is true for the voice. If you have to strain and struggle in order to make it through a song, it's time to clarify the message you're sending to your body. Of course you want to sing in tune but what good is the right note if it's accompanied by too much effort? The goal is to have a show-dog of a voice that runs freely through a song without once tugging at its leash. Now that's control!

Old behaviors and fuzzy language always transfer into the material we sing. This is why the voice rarely improves just by singing lots of songs. It takes an unemotional inventory of your mechanics to make real foundational changes. Vocalizing (singing vocal exercises) is as vital to your instrument as house breaking is to an owner of a puppy. It's no fun, tedious, work but it will make your life soooo much more enjoyable afterward. Without a simple set of rules for the voice, we tend to invent tricks to steer around problems when singing songs. These tricks get programmed into the body and the song becomes nothing more than a learned obstacle course. You can't effectively develop new behaviors and try to sound good at the same time. So don't. Leave the performance attitude for songs. Let yourself sound as bad as necessary when vocalizing in order to experience released and efficient coordination. Sometimes you have to be willing to howl like a dog in order to sing like a bird. The sound of your voice will improve and control will come the more you vocalize. The irony is: It takes lots of practice to sound like you're a natural born singer.

Another way to erase unwanted behavior is to unleash the mind. As an exercise, take a phrase from a stubborn song and sing its melody using a single vowel and consonant. Think of Happy Birthday sung as LA-LA-LA-LA. To further remove the melody from its old program, sing it in a variety of keys until you have no tonal home base. Distract your body while singing by moving arms and legs randomly. Vocalize the melody while lying on your back, while crawling, while shaking like a wet dog -- anything but the way you usually sing. Make sure you are acting like a lunatic! Finally, invent a new language for the words. The more outrageous the gibberish the easier it will be to release ingrained behaviors.

If it seems counterproductive to take a song you are struggling with and make it sound even more ridiculous, try it twice. Experiment with a song you already sing well and then try a difficult song. You'll be amazed how easy it is to have fun with the song you sing well and how stuck you'll become on the other tune. Which song do you think illustrates free behavior? Why do you think you sing that one well? Notice how calm your muscles are when you're singing something well; it's not a coincidence. Just as it's no surprise that people with well behaved dogs are calm as well? If you continue to struggle with a particular song it may be that it's not a good fit for your voice. It's best to put it away for a while and wait for your skills to improve. There's no shame in admitting you've been barking up the wrong song. The bottom line is that true control does not require force.

The more sounds you can produce without effort when vocalizing, the more you'll be able to play with the dynamics and timbres of a song. You can always choose to sing a song hard, but it should never be hard to sing. If you have to adjust your face in order to secure a pitch, you'll reduce your options to express yourself visually when in performance. Keep the commands simple when vocalizing and things will progress nicely. Even if it takes a year to reprogram your jaw, it's worth the time when you consider the multiple years of freedom you'll enjoy thereafter. Stay focused. Be patient and know that you're not alone in your frustration. Anyone who's ever been dogged by a disobedient voice will tell ya, "Singing can be a bitch!"


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#12
Bellamy

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Finding The Best Singer Inside

Growing up as a wannabe singer, I developed my voice by imitating those I heard on the TV, Radio, and records (remember them?).

I remember listening to Motown and Beatles 45ís and playing them over and over until I felt I had mastered every note, riff or lick they sang (or close enough). Singing along with songs and mimicking the phrasing and style of todayís singers is a great start.

Effectively emulating other artists really is a sure way to developing your voice, and as they say... it's only the long term mission thatís worthwhile. But finding your own voice and a style that works best for you and constantly ďworking on your chopsĒ is the key that leads to success.

As we progress it's important to realize that there's no other singer out there who sounds just like you--and that's a groovy thing. Itís a large class ďMĒ planet with lots of talented humans but we all have our own individual sound and style. Discovering your Ďinner singerí gives you warp drive to start truly developing as a singer, KJ or entertainer - be it just for fun, part time or perhaps someday as a full time career.

Finding the best singer inside yourself is a journey of discovery. Those who are born with ďthe voiceĒ come by it more easily, and the characteristics that set singers apart from one another may have more to do with style than vocal power. For example, Mariah Careyís high notes are a trademark for her, whereas soulful Lou Rawls' smooth deep voice is one of a kind. But it goes way beyond just the sound. Some singers who may not have great vocal ability have developed an unmistakable style thatís easily identifiable. James Brown, Tracy Chapman, Mick Jagger are good examples.

When singing at your next Karaoke gig the tendency is to imitate the artist and for the most part, that's what the audience wants to hear. But Iíve always found that those who put their own personality and interpretation into a song are the ones who really get the most sincere and enthusiastic responses. Even if hitting the right notes seems like an afterthought... other folks will believe what you do, so find a way to deliver the piece that speaks in your own "voice." With the music mechanics down you can begin to express yourself through the lyrics.

Doing a Whitney Houston tune can at best be challenging, given her vocal calisthenics. And some Karaoke arrangements limit the way you can ďinterpretĒ a song, but don't feel like you need to match her, because you most likely never will. The best you can do is nail the pitch and deliver the song with conviction. Thatís why it's important that in addition to finding a song in your vocal range, you find one that speaks to you.

Everyone is born with a specific "tone" to their voice. Maybe youíre down and gritty, so singing the blues or rock might be a better mission than trying to be a convincing Broadway show singer. The key is to use all of what you have.

Aside from the certain must-doís of music (fussy stuff like key and tempo...), style is the single most important weapon in being the best Karaoke singer or entertainer you can be. Your own style is special because no one else in the galaxy has your way of delivering a song. And there's a great deal of self-discovery as you plot a course to the planet of song. Are you trying to wail like Luther Vandross or Barbara Streisand when your music and voice sound like Tom Petty or LL Cool J?

As an entertainer, what story are you trying to tell with the song you're singing? Is your vocal delivery telling the story or conveying the feeling in the most effective way? What can you add visually? Putting a Show Biz shine on a song can make the difference between an ďalso sangĒ and a ďbrought the house downĒ performance. Then again, think of Roy Orbison who just stood there and sang... all in black with those big black shades... unmistakable.

And if you aspire to greater things as a performer, Karaoke is great for finding where you shine as well as for keeping your ďchopsĒ up to performance level. New singers need to try a bunch of different styles and listen to an endless variety of music before being able to totally unleash the best singer they have inside. Being honest with yourself is the #1 key to improving. If you aren't any good at singing a specific style like country or R&B, forget it and move on, concentrating on those songs you do well. Don't try to be, or sing like, someone you're not. Always give it your best and sell it in your own way by being the real you, vocally.

Aside from professional vocal lessons itís always helpful to record yourself as often as possible as the tape record doesnít lie. Once you find the really good stuff and the areas where youíre most comfortable, build on that. ďWhich songs, what style or emotion is needed, whatís the vocal range?,Ē are all questions you should be asking yourself.

But not only should we constantly work to improve our singing versatility and ability, we must also work to find our own unique style via songs that speak to us. While it may sound like a great idea to just get up and ďsing anythingĒ... the more you identify your ďbest singerĒ via songs you feel strongly about... the more people will see you as a true performer and if you work hard enough, perhaps someday as a real musician. Never give up or limit yourself and always make the most of what you have. Karaoke is a world of fun and in some cases with some raw talent and lots of hard work, it can become more if you fully apply yourself. Remember someone with a little something who uses all of it will always be ahead of someone loaded with talent whoís too lazy to do anything with it. And remember... if Capt. Kirk can sing on TV... so can you!


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#13
Bellamy

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Sing the Song That Fits

As a vocal therapist, my client list mirrors the music business pyramid; a few stars, a dozen or more on their way up, and hundreds of hopefuls.

It has become clear to me that these plateaus do not necessarily reflect vocal ability (the unknown talent I work with would blow your mind), but more of a combination of elements. At some point, those who feel passed-over by this random selection of fate ask the question: What makes some people great singers? Assuming everyone is giving their best effort, why do some vocalists stand out from the pack? The answer is so simple, and itís so often overlooked.

What great singers do is sing songs that they sing great. I know this seems like doublespeak but itís the truth. No one can sing every song well. Can you imagine Celine Dion trying to sound like Melissa Etheridge? Of course not, so she doesn't try. Every singer needs to create a wardrobe full of songs which fits their voice as naturally as a favorite pair of jeans would their waist. Forcing and squeezing yourself into the current vocal trend is the surest way to highlight weaknesses. Not surprisingly, with every new singing style, vocal therapists like me see an emergence of new complaints. Often, the problem is not the singers, but the songs.

What Range Is Home?
Two important aspects need to fall into place before singer and song become one. The first and most obvious is range. When singing cover songs, it requires finding the best key. Itís best to prepare a song in a couple of keys, just to insure your comfort. To find the best key, sing the song a cappella. Without a musical reference, you'll naturally adjust. Before settling on a key, however, factor in performance adrenaline. If you're too comfortable, you'll miss the physical connection on stage. Isolate the highest and lowest notes of the song. The general range between the two is called the tessitura. Sing the phrase with the highest pitches several times in a row. If you're fatiguing after two or three repetitions, drop down a half step and try again. Don't forget about the lowest pitches. Are they difficult to project? If you can't seem to find a good key for the song, the problem may be psychological. Popular songs are often so stuck in our heads that itís hard to imagine them sung differently. The best way to override this barrier is to sing the song using gibberish instead of the lyrics. Once you get past the silliness of it, you'll find notes slipping out which are usually strained. If a compromise canít be found, drop the song. Remember, singing covers is like wearing someone elseís clothes. They wonít all fit perfectly.

Once you find a comfortable pocket for your song you'll need to be able to tell the KJ what key you want. Using a keyboard or guitar, find the pitch of the first word in the original recording (the hunt and peck method works fine). You donít need to know the name of the pitch, just remember where it is on the instrument. Then find the pitch of the first word in your version. Count the number of keys or frets between the two. This is the number of half steps you would like the song to be lowered or raised. Experimentation and experience will make you a pro at this.

The Right Words
The second most important factor in custom fitting a song is the lyrics. All too often, singers fail to relate to the lyrics theyíre singing. Instead they concentrate on pitch. Iím not talking about changing the world with a chorus line, but inspiring yourself. Pitch and projection are muscle related aspects of singing and emotion is the all too important third dimension. The physical challenge of singing a song is not enough to captivate an audience. The lyrics have got to stir something inside you. Screaming is no substitute for emotion. The combination, however, of a heartfelt sentiment sung at the threshold of physical ability is too powerful to ignore.

Do not confuse great with popular. All great singers do not automatically become popular, but I do consider all popular singers great . . . great at being themselves. To connect Whitney Houston with P.J. Harvey, or Beck with Michael Bolton (all have either won or been nominated for a best vocal Grammy), look no further than their personalities. Their one common trait is that each found the courage to be themselves -- sometimes at the cost of relentless criticism or financial success. On the karaoke scene this means letting the real you shine. Youíll be pleasantly surprised at how much better your reception will be when you sing a song you truly love rather than one you think the crowd will love. Singing a popular song only works if it highlights your strengths. So, if there are songs in your repertoire which are either inconsistent or require you to oversell them -- take them back to the laboratory. If vocal limitations are preventing you from letting go, then you owe it to yourself to improve your skills. To access the full potential of your vocal instrument, though, your songs have got to be like your favorite pair of jeans. Because all it takes to be a great singer, is to get lost in a song.


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#14
Bellamy

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How To Properly Water The Voice

Every car comes with an ownerís manual which instructs you to pull over immediately if the oil light on the dash illuminates. A better idea, if youíre in the habit of waiting until the trouble light comes on before taking care of your engine, would be to put a "for sale" sign on the vehicle. Allowing a car to run without enough lubrication is a sure recipe for trouble down the road. The same is true for singers who donít keep themselves hydrated. Without adequate protection, the activity of singing causes the membranes in the larynx to swell. The problem is friction. The body has a natural solution, however, if we would only follow the ownerís manual for our bodies.
Keeping yourself hydrated is an all-day affair. Often, we wait until weíre thirsty to reach for a drink. This is too late for singers -- especially once youíre on stage. It takes at least twenty minutes, on an empty stomach, for water to cycle around your system and show up at the membranes where itís needed. Other beverages take longer because they must be digested. This means drinks on stage donít take effect until after the set. So why does it feel like a quick swig of something between songs offers immediate relief? Two reasons: The first is that there are receptors in the throat which signal the brain that fluids are on the way. The second is the physical action of swallowing.

Contrary to belief, nothing we swallow touches the vocal folds. All of the potions singers consume in an effort to wet their whistle are channeled away from the larynx by the epiglottis and sent down the esophagus. Itís just as well. Like the eye, the larynx should be awash in saline, not tea or honey. Even if your drink seeps down to the vocal folds, the air stream created to sing promptly blow-dries the area. If you are driving your voice hard, or are nervous, the muscles in the throat tighten. The tension closes the saliva ducts designated for the larynx. Like blinking, swallowing changes the musclesí position for a second and allows the ducts to open and relubricate -- thatís if you are hydrated in the first place.

Two thirds of your body weight is water. It would make sense, then, to replace whatís lost with the same. A general rule is to consume 1ŕ2 an ounce of water for every pound of body weight per day. The water you eat counts, so if youíre not fond of drinking the stuff, load up on high-water content foods like raw fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, beer, coffee and sodas donít count. Even though each contains mostly water, their ingredients trigger the body to flush itself, leaving you with less water than before. Certain foods will also drain your internal water supply. Since digestion is the number one priority of the body, when we fill up on low-water foods like breads, crackers, chips, cheese and prepared meats and potatoes, the throat and larynx are robbed of hydration to make up the deficit. Basically, if you have to have something to drink with a meal, the foods you are eating are too concentrated. A good routine would be to hydrate well before a meal so you wonít feel the need to dilute your digestive process. I know this goes against the ever-so-common practice of eating and drinking at the same time, but that tradition was not put in place so we would sing better.

Athletes hydrate well before a game so their muscles donít cramp; singers should do the same. Maintaining a lubricated larynx means youíll be able to swallow during a song without sucking on a water bottle. Remember, rehearsals are no easier on your instrument than gigs, so get into the habit of staying hydrated. If your budget is tight, thereís nothing wrong with tap water. Itís a good idea to filter it, though, to remove the chlorine. Itís best to drink water at room temperature to avoid tensing throat muscles. No matter what style music you sing, you will notice a significant improvement in your vocal longevity once you get yourself up to specs. A good measure of a proper water level is clear urine. Since there is no light on our bodies to warn us when weíre running low, let the following statement be your mantra, "Donít wait -- to hydrate"


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#15
Bellamy

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Maximum Range
(The back door approach for high notes)


Not once has an award been handed out for singing glass-shattering high notes. Likewise, no song has ever become popular simply because it contained some birdcalls. Yet, we singers tend to fixate on range as if itís the reason weíre not winning awards and selling piles of CDís. True, there is an emotional lift when a melody soars upward, but the pitches should always be proportionate to the instrument. Sing at the height of your voiceís potential and your audience will assume your abilities are limitless. Sing beyond your boundaries and you merely call attention to your limitations. This does not mean you are stuck with the measly dozen or so pitches you sing well these days; rarely does a singer access his or her full genetic range without some training. It does mean, though, that before you worry about expanding, it helps to embrace what you have.
Vocal range is a lot like the range of motion of your limbs. Can you drop down into a split without warming up? Even after warming up? For most, the elasticity necessary for a move like that requires a long program of stretching. The same is true for your voice. The vocal folds are membranes (a little smaller then your eyelids) that close over the windpipe. When air streams through the tiny opening they create, their edges vibrate. The vibration is nothing more than a microscopic wiggle. Look closely at a guitar string after itís played and youíll see them same thing. The speed of the wiggle, or vibration, is called the frequency. We refer to frequencies, or pitches, by their beats per second. The pitch, for instance, that an orchestra uses when tuning is A Ė 440, meaning the frequency wiggles 440 times in one second (the larger the number, the higher the pitch). To sing high, your vocal folds have got to vibrate fast.

The action required to sing different notes is very much like tuning a guitar. Muscles surrounding the larynx pull or release the folds to create high and low pitches. The amount of movement required for your entire range is microscopic. I suggest you reread that previous line about a thousand times until it is embedded in your subconscious. The root of all vocal problems is that we perceive the activities involved with singing as big events. They are not. We ball our fists and load up enough air pressure to create an aneurysm just to get through the chorus of a song. The automatic reaction to such force is resistance; the body braces for the assault. Rigid muscles surrounding the larynx deny flexibility and lock up the vocal folds. No flexibility, no range Ė itís that simple.

The key to singing high notes is volume. Reducing the volume of your voice removes the burden of excess air pressure so your folds can become more elastic. Just as it takes a little stretching every day to get your legs into a split, vocalizing daily at a low volume will allow you to visit higher notes without stress. Itís best to sing scales rather than songs at first; the memory of a songís performance will lead you to pushing. Allow you higher notes to venture into falsetto or head voice. Itís okay if the transition cracks or skips out; this is just a symptom of your imbalanced ways. Donít worry that the light voice you vocalize with is not up to performance standards. Only after you are completely comfortable with producing a note at a low volume should you attempt to raise the output. Increasing the volume in very small increments will allow you to monitor muscle independence. If facial or neck muscles join in to support a note, youíve added too much air pressure. Your controllable range for the day lies waiting at the balance point between force and flexibility. And as always, tomorrow is another day.


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#16
Bellamy

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A Message From Your Larynx
"Play Me Like A Larynx" (. . . because I'm not a horn, guitar or drum!)


Hello there. Allow me to introduce myself. I'm your larynx and, although I've been with you all your life, chances are you don't know me very well. I work all day automatically protecting your lungs from food or fluid getting in and coughing up whatever junk needs to get out. I also make lifting easier by holding air in your lungs which lets your body stiffen up. While these things are very important, my biggest claim to fame is that I can make sounds. Mostly I get used for speech, but with a little coordination you can turn my sounds into something melodic. If the sounds I make are important to your music, it would be a good idea to take some time and explore what it takes to play me.
Although I can be as loud as a trumpet, I'm not made of metal. So it's not a good idea to blow as hard as you can in me; I have some delicate parts. Just because I can move around a pitch like a slide trombone doesn't mean I'm one of those either. As you know, I come in different sizes with names like Soprano, Alto and Tenor but that doesn't mean I'm played like a saxophone. Although there are no strings inside me, my vibrators can be stretched just like the strings on a guitar. In fact, I don't belong to any of the three categories of musical instruments: wind, string or percussion. This is why there's a completely separate category for what I do; it's called singing.

It's simple. You don't blow on guitar strings to play a song or strum a drum to keep a beat. Every instrument has a particular set of physical requirements. Yet when it comes to the voice people tend to play it with principles that apply to other instruments. There are four components to almost every instrument. Each has an actuator (something to trigger the sound), a vibrator (something that wiggles to make a sound), a resonator (something to enhance the original vibration) and an articulator to shape things on the way out. Actuators are guitar picks, violin bows, drum sticks, hands and wind power. Vibrators are things like strings, drum heads, mouth pieces, reeds and vocal folds. Sound resonates in the enclosed space of an acoustic guitar, a drum, a saxophone or in your throat, mouth and nose. Articulators are anything from wah-wah pedals to the plunger used at the end of a trumpet to your lips and tongue.

Most vocal problems are caused by over compensating the actuator (sending me too much breath pressure). This is typical behavior for beginners on any instrument. Music stores are always filled with kids sitting there squeezing their guitar picks and bearing down on the strings as they show their friends how awesome they play. When people first attempt to sing they also squeeze the pick (neck tension) and bear down too hard on the vibrator (drive the air). The difference is that, over time, kids will relax their death grip on the guitar and develop the necessary touch whereas singers tend to go in the opposite direction. In search of control, singers tend to push more, as if they're blowing into a trumpet. The problem is that a trumpet is an inanimate object and requires additional pressure for high notes. I am a part of your anatomy and respond in unmusical ways when overloaded.

You can learn a lot about singing by studying the differences between playing an instrument and using a part of your body to make music. First, though, it's important to remember that the laws of sound are the same for everything. Instruments come already designed to agree with these laws. To maximize tone, most instruments have vibrators (that's me!) which float in or around a resonator. The strings on a guitar, for example, are suspended over the sound hole and barely touch the body at all. In the same way, if you let me float freely in your throat I'll sound as rich as I possibly can. I know it's not easy to keep me hanging loose when you're pouring your heart out, but the laws of sound don't care what's easy!


Singing accurate pitches also requires an agreement with simple science. A pitch is nothing more than something vibrating a steady number of wiggles per second. Scientists call it a frequency. To sing high notes, you've got to stretch my folds just like you would tune a guitar. The tighter you stretch something, the faster it wiggles, the higher the pitch it produces. At the same time, everything gets thinner when stretched. This means my folds need to get thin to make high notes and will thicken to make low notes. Again, just like the strings on a guitar. Now hold on, because here's where I assert my independence from all these guitar comparisons. You can also sing higher notes by feeding me more air pressure -- like a trumpet. The problem with singing high notes this way is that extra air pressure makes my folds thicken up and become rigid whereas the mouthpiece on a trumpet stays the same. Since nothing can be thick and thin at the same time, I don't always give you the pitch you were expecting. Sorry about that!

Providing me with a consistent environment that aligns with the laws of sound will allow me to serve you much better. In short, the list of problems caused by approaching me the wrong way is everything you don't like about your voice. That's good news. It means that your sound is based on misguided beliefs and dysfunctional behaviors that can change. Learning what an instrument requires is what lessons are all about. How you apply that information is what defines you as an artist. There's nothing wrong with pounding on a guitar like it's a drum, but the instrument certainly has more to offer when played traditionally. In the same way, I can be blown like a horn, stretched like a guitar and smacked like a bongo. You'll get the most out of me, though, if you play me like a larynx.


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#17
Bellamy

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"Let Yourself Sing"
(If only it were that easy . . . hey, it is!)


Youíre thinking it canít be that simple. If all you had to do was let yourself sing, then everybody would be belting out songs with ease. Well, everybody can sing.
By definition, singing is uttering a series of sounds in a musical fashion. Look up the word music and youíll find the simple phrase "to amuse." This means that singing is nothing more than producing sounds which make you feel good. Nowhere is it written that singing, or music, is for the purpose of impressing others. Unfortunately, the anticipated reaction of others is the real reason that some of us sing and most of us donít.

Although singing is unnecessary for our physical survival, it is integral to our emotional well being. What food, water and sleep do for your body, singing does for your soul. Every religion, every race and every country has incorporated singing into their rituals. Archeological discoveries have uncovered sophisticated instruments, over fifty thousand years old, indicating the human race has always been drawn to music. Joining voices with others is a bonding experience. We instinctively sing to our babies to comfort them. Researchers have concluded that many animals, such as whales and birds, also produce organized melodies (sing songs) for pure enjoyment. Neurological studies are always exploring just how the brain perceives and appreciates music. Someday science will prove what people have known long before there were scientists: singing makes you feel good.

What a shame, then, that most of us deny ourselves this wondrous experience. We procrastinate on the simple exercises needed to improve, excusing ourselves by thinking that great singers have gifts requiring no work whatsoever. Not true. We become trapped in negative beliefs, convinced that people wonít like our voice, before weíve even sung a note. This pessimistic attitude is sure to compromise coordination, creating the cracks and bad pitches we then use as evidence that we were not born to sing. Worse yet, we punish those who criticize us negatively by remaining silent. Just because a parent or teacher threw a comment our way, we sit on the sidelines pouting as others partake in the joy of singing.

Not so fast cry babies. Singing is a simple physical activity. Anyone who possesses the necessary body parts can play the game. Like throwing a ball, muscles and reflexes can always be strengthened and coordinated to improve range and accuracy. Obviously some people are born with better skills, but this does not prevent the rest of us from developing. In the end, does it matter how much practice it took to learn to throw a ball well? Of course not. Unlike throwing a ball, though, singing is also an art, which means everyone is entitled to an opinion.

What is music to one pair of ears is noise to another. Without a universal definition of a "good" voice or "correct" singing, itís easy to get confused when it comes to improvement. How can skills grow without a target? Even the medical community struggles with this issue. Doctors who specialize in voice have incredible diagnostic equipment, which can diagnose minute vocal characteristics, but the final say of what is acceptable ultimately rests with the singer. When Iím working with singers in the studio, I always ask them if they are happy with what theyíve recorded. If theyíre not, we keep working. However, if everything came out exactly as the singer intended, then Iím happy for them. It doesnít matter if I like the result; a successful artist is one who fulfills their inspiration.

Unfortunately, what inspires most of us is praise. We use approval as a sign that we are on the right track. This is a bad gauge for singers. In fact, fishing for complements is the surest way to become tangled in a frustrating web of contrasting comments. Like a desperate angler casting an array of lures in every direction, trying to satisfy everyone guarantees disappointment. The fear of criticism often causes people to abandon their passion for singing. What a crime. Think of it as a bonus if you reel in a complement or two, but just like the faithful who return to the waterís edge after many days without a nibble, you should sing because you love to sing.

The only opinion regarding your voice that matters is yours. If you look to someone for approval, you automatically grant them the power to disapprove. No teenager in their right mind would ask for a parentís opinion of the clothes they wear. I often receive e-mails, though, from teens who feel held back due to a lack of encouragement from their parents. The same thing applies to spouses and bandmates. Do you think the humpback or the hermit thrush care what other animals think of their singing?

The thing to remember about negative remarks from those closest to you is that they are rarely about the subject at hand. Are they commenting on your voice or on your chances of making it big? Do they really want you to stop singing or just stop practicing where they can hear you? Or, are they jealous that youíre attempting something they wish they had pursued? There is a big difference between constructive criticism and family tension. Forgive your detractors -- chances are they are unaware how much singing means to you.

The only appropriate reaction to cutting comments is to let the words roll off your back, just as you would treat a remark about an outfit you think looks great. Iím not suggesting that you simply turn off insecurity with a flip of a switch. I am suggesting, though, that the criticisms which dig the deepest are the ones you agree with. What makes a particular comment upsetting is when you know, deep down, that itís true. Okay, so youíre not the next sensation. Time to go into the closet -- literally. Find a private place and let yourself explore this thing called singing. Just remember, no one is allowed to comment on your voice, including you, until youíve given it a chance to develop.

The hardest part is getting started. The good news is you already have. Any causal singing youíve ever done in the past counts, including in the shower. Itís dark inside your throat; your larynx doesnít know whether youíre alone or singing for thousands. Your mind is what causes the problems, which is why Iím suggesting you lighten up a little. Distract your doubting side by asking simple questions. How many animals can you imitate? Both the moo of a cow and the howl of a wolf are excellent ways to loosen up tight vocal muscles. If that feels too silly, then pretend you just took a bite of something delicious. What sound would you make to convey your delight? Once you gotten your voice active, explore the boundaries. How high and low can you sing without changing any facial muscles? Is it easier move your voice around while humming or when producing an EE or an AH vowel sound? How long can you sustain a comfortable pitch? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Everyoneís voice is unique. These kinds of observations, though, are a better monitor of development than what other people say about your singing.

Vocal free-play is important even if youíre already knocking them dead in the talent shows or at the local clubs. Your skills can always improve. Experiment with the ideas and exercises outlined throughout my web site. My goal as a teacher is to educate singers about the big picture. Once you understand the physical and mental requirements of the voice, youíll be able to release the habits which compromise your potential as a singer. The point is not to compare your abilities to other singers, itís to see your voice as a work in progress. The first step occurs when you give yourself permission to have some fun, and let yourself sing!


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#18
Bellamy

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"Singing With a Cold"
(Better yet, how to avoid one in the first place)


Winter and show biz don't mix.  

Biting winds and piles of snow keep potential audiences at home and make things difficult for load-ins. Then thereís the additional burden of protecting your voice while everyone around is coughing and sneezing. As a singer, you canít afford to succumb to the average two colds a year. Even if youíre a trooper and refuse to cancel, your instrument will be compromised and susceptible to harm. Not to panic, injury to the vocal folds is reversible, but taking time off to recover will put the brakes on your bandís momentum. Prevention is the answer. The good news is, for every cold-forming scenario, there is a counter measure. The bad news is, by the time the first symptoms show, itís too late.

The germs which cause colds are always around. Constantly washing your hands and avoiding contact with others is not enough. The best defense is to keep your immune system strong by eating right (fruits and vegies), hydrating (two liters of water per day), sleeping (around six hours), and exercising for better circulation. Staying warm is also an important factor. In frigid conditions, your body works hard to retain heat. Dressing in layers, with a hat, water-proof boots and a scarf allows your body to focus energy on fighting off incoming infections. Use your brains. Wait until you stop sweating before going outside after rehearsal, and, leave a coat stage-side if a club requires a load-out directly after the set.

The winter holidays are a notorious time for coming down with something. Heavier foods and less physical activity increases the amount of toxins in our system. After a while, our bodies will clean house by producing mucus. So, find a way to stay physically active between Thanksgiving and Christmas -- and watch that third piece of pie.  However, an abrupt change in lifestyle can also bring on a similar cleanse reaction. People who quit smoking cold-turkey or dramatically change their diet can expect cold-like symptoms to follow. I donít want to discourage anyone from becoming healthier, merely suggesting a gradual change if youíve decided to clean up as a New Yearís resolution.

Stress, of all the causes of illness, is number one. Juggling work or school with rehearsals and gigs, eating on the run with zero sleep, disrupts metabolism and forces the body to run on adrenaline. Anxiety saps vitamins, dehydrates, and leaves you vulnerable to whatever is around. Thatís why colds always arrive right as your preparing for the big recording or showcase. Yes, you should be well rehearsed, but there comes a point where the push becomes counter-productive. Rest, like hydration, is an inseparable component of vocal ability. Itís important to remember that stress is 100 percent internal, and is always reduced by saying the word, "no." So, for your voiceís sake, open up your schedule -- and chill.

I know itís seems uncool to worry about health, but ask anyone who has toured for a length of time -- getting sick on the road sucks. It is not inevitable that you will catch a cold every winter.   Hold firm to a belief that you will not get sick.  If it's too late for this season, then for next.   Adopting healthy habits now will pay off in spades in the future when youíre in demand. There is no remedy as effective as prevention.  Iím sure your mother already told you most of these things, but that was so you wouldnít miss school. Iím telling you so you wonít miss a gig. Big difference.

Okay, now letís pretend that, despite your best efforts, youíve come down with a nasty, aching, head clogging cold three days before an important gig. Is there anything you can do besides crack open a bottle of Jack Danielís? The answer is yes, but they arenít nearly as much fun. To minimize the effect a cold has on the voice youíve got to act quickly. Keep in mind that congestion, mucus, is what your body produces to flush out toxins. Over-the-counter medications (anti-histamines) dry up congestion but prohibit the necessary house cleaning. They also dry mucous membranes, like your vocal folds, which will cause you to lose your voice. So, reach for the decongestants as an absolute last resort. However, it is better to experiment with medications at rehearsals, rather then waiting until gig day. You should always know the effect something will have on your voice before you use it under the spotlights.

If you have time, instead of squashing the symptoms, help speed up the cleanse. Flood yourself with water and real juices to thin the congestion, lubricate your folds and flush your body. The juice should be freshly squeezed in order to get the most benefit. The best types during a cold are Orange (vitamin C), Celery (retains fluids), Cucumber & Cranberry (cleans acid deposits) and Carrot (vitamin A). If youíre not into juices, take supplements. The water-based vitamins like C and B complex are the first to be depleted when youíre fighting a cold. Unfortunately, a Mountain-Dew slushy has no vitamins, but does give a great brain freeze.

An important benefit of hydrating is that it may keep a cold from reaching your lungs. Throat clearing and coughing, which normally accompanies a cold, is very irritating to the vocal folds. The delicate membranes in and around the larynx become swollen and rigid, which is why your voice gets so deep and restricted. Inhaling steam will help loosen congestion in the lungs as well as soothe the vocal folds. Be careful when inhaling steam, you can burn your lips and nasal passages. Gargling with warm salt water will also help draw phlegm away from your larynx. (If the salt is collecting at the bottom of the glass, youíve put in too much.) This is a good routine to get into daily, to clean and increase circulation of the mouth and throat. Teas, honey, or any other coating therapy may soothe soar muscles but will not heal the vocal folds. To reduce the swelling and get singing again, youíve got to vocalize (warm up).

Low volume, barely audible, humming is a great way to start. Let your larynx choose the pitches. Itís better to stay with one single note (whichever is most comfortable) than to push or force the range. Allow plenty of time for your voice to loosen. Rushing the warm-up when you have a cold will greatly reduce the longevity of your voice and make conditions worse the next day. I once did a ten hour warm-up for a forty minute set. Refer to the warm up routine in lesson three, but remember, itís not what youíre singing to warm up, itís how.

Sleep as much as you can during the days leading up to your performance, even if that means skipping rehearsals. But, on gig day, donít hibernate. Get up, take a long hot shower and do some light stretching and exercising to get your blood circulating. Mentally prepare for the long day ahead. Yes, it would be much easier to numb yourself with a bottle of Jack, but your condition the next morning will be twice as bad. The bottom line is, if you want a career as a performer, youíre going to have to learn to sing with a cold. Might as well start now.


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#19
Bellamy

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"Shades of Passion"
(Sing your heart out . . . not your voice)


Screams are red, whispers are blue. Funk is orange with some green mixed in too.
These, and the rest of the rainbow, are the colors of emotion. In general, we tend to paint with a limited pallet of vocal sounds. Singing in a single hue not only limits your expression, but may lead to vocal problems as well. While screaming is an obvious example of vocal abuse, whispering can be stressful in a different way. Fortunately, the healthiest technique also creates the most compelling results. You simply need to sing with a wide variety of tints and shades.

It takes equal parts strength, flexibility and coordination to keep your voice out of harmís way. A pure vocal tone is the result of balanced muscle activities. Think of it as white light. This balance (equal amounts of pressure and resistance) creates a slippery, free-floating sensation that allows maximum range and dead-on intonation. You can sing this way for hours and not feel the slightest bit of fatigue, but itís about as exciting as painting by numbers. Popular music is about passion. Feelings like love, hate, anger, joy, lust and loneliness inject color into everyoneís life. To accurately capture the spectrum, youíve got to be willing to mix it up and sing outside the lines. However, physical realities like strength and condition cannot be ignored. Hereís where the tints and shades come in.

Picture a deep, red scream coming out of your mouth. As you sustain this ruby roar, you notice your pitch is flat. This is classic imbalance -- too much red (pressure). Lighten up just a tinge. Think of it as adding a drop of white to the color of the sound. The audience wonít hear any difference in the new tint but your larynx will immediately feel less burdened. Continue to back off the pressure (adding white) until you have satisfied both pitch and passion. Your new scream remains red but is now semi-balanced, which means less vocal fatigue.

Now sing with a pale blue whisper. With so much air dumping out, itís hard to sustain notes and finish phrases. Your throat becomes dry and ticklish. Just as an artist adjusts the air/paint mixture on an airbrush, blend more pigment into your sound. The more blue you add, the less air escapes -- increasing control. Again, the new shade will be undetectable to an audience but make a world of difference to your larynx.

The coordination required to make a micro adjustment in sound-color is the skill of singing. Some are born with it and others develop it by performing and/or training. Since physical abilities change slightly from day to day, an internal awareness is necessary to consistently stay in balance. Monitors and head phones mixes canít provide much help. Dialing in the perfect shade relies on feeling, not hearing. This is a difficult, advanced concept, but well worth pursuing. It develops a respect for the smallest of details. The result is a vocal performance that is as rich in color as the moment allows without sacrificing tomorrowís performance. In other words, a singer with a future.


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#20
Bellamy

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"Herbs to the Rescue"  
(Mother Nature has a remedy for just about anything)


The other day I woke up with a killer sore throat.
It was pay back for too many long nights in the studio on top of jet lag from a recent trip. Obviously, I didnít heed my own words of warning (see free lesson entitled : Singing With a Cold ) and so I humbly insert foot in mouth. Anyway, the last time I hurt that much to swallow was years ago, on the morning of an "unplugged" show my band was playing at the Hard Rock in Boston. Luckily, I didnít have to sing this time around; a snow storm had canceled my studio session. However, I always treat these nasty little detours as dress rehearsals for the future. Aside from catching up on some much-needed rest, piling on extra layers of clothes and forcing fluids, I reached for my trusty herbal extract.

Herbs are an excellent way for singers to treat many ailments without the adverse effects accompanied by pharmaceuticals. Drugs leave behind residues which are difficult for the body to eliminate. Sometimes the cure is more harsh than the cold. Herbs work naturally within your body, helping to fight infections and correcting imbalances. They also have a preventative quality which fortifies the immune system to recognize future intruders. Since they donít leave behind any toxins, there is no adverse effect on your vocal membranes (such as the drying from antihistamines). The problem is that they donít provide the big bang weíve become accustom to from western medications, so itís important to administer them early. In order to discover the right herbal combination and dosage, I strongly recommend experimenting on non-gig scenarios.

The best way to gain the benefits of herbs is via liquid extracts. Youíll find racks of herbal extracts in any natural food store (they come is small bottles with eye-dropper tops). The label will detail what ailments a particular herb relieves. Some claims will seem pretty far-fetched, so hereís a few I recommend for singers: Echinacea for the beginning stages of a cold. It activates the immune system, fights infections, mobilizes white blood cells. Golden Seal to reduce mucous membrane inflammation due to sinusitis, hay fever and allergies. Osha Root to loosen mucus. Slippery Elm soothes sore throats. Wild Cherry Bark is a good expectorant. Collinsonia reduces irritation in the pharynx (upper throat). Licorice Root is also good for sore throats and has mild anti-histamine properties. Astragalus Root is the best at preventing colds. It increases production of interferon and helps resist viral infections if taken daily before cold season.

Herbal extracts are also sold in combinations for greater convenience. My favorite tonic is Echinacea and Golden Seal, which is what I used to rid myself of that burning throat infection. One squirt of the eye-dropper on the back of the tongue every hour did the trick. What used to last a week was squashed in a day -- twice. I must warn you the taste is extremely bitter. If you need to, the drops can be diluted in a glass of water or juice -- or a vodka martini, I guess.

Speaking of alcohol, you might notice most extracts contain an alcohol base. This, I am told, is the best way to remove the herbís vital resins and preserve their medicinal qualities. If youíre a recovering alcoholic, place your drops into a cup of boiling water. This will reduce the potency of the extract, but evaporate the alcohol completely. If youíre worried about the affect of alcohol on your voice, donít be afraid. There is twice as much alcohol in a whole ripe banana than in a single dose of extract.  There is, of course, loads of info on herbs throughout the web.  Run a search for starters or visit your local health food store and start asking questions.  So, now that Iím feeling better, itís off to the studio for more abuse. Adios my fellow vocalteers.


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#21
Bellamy

Bellamy

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"Vibrato"    
(Add some spark to your voice)


David Bowie has a fast one. Mary J. Blige has a slow, sultry, one. Maynard James Keenan doesnít have a trace of one.
Singing with vibrato is a matter of taste. Having a choice is a matter of control. For most singers, the subtle, rhythmical movement of vibrato feels more like fate. When you want vibrato, it hides on you; donít think about it, and it shimmers on the end of a note. Vibrato brings vitality to a voice. Sound without variation is boring. Compare a refrigerator to a fly buzzing around. The steady hum of the compressor quickly becomes background noise while the bug gets harder to ignore. With the exception of rappers and singers like Beck who donít sustain notes, those without vibrato tend to rely on overdrive to create excitement. This often leads to blow outs. The more vocal colors available on your pallet, like vibrato, breathy, nasal and gritty, the easier it will be to paint an interesting portrait of a song without killing yourself.

The mechanics of vibrato are simple and reflexive, which is what makes it so elusive. Picture the fret hand of a guitarist sustaining a note. The finger movement alters the length of the string creating a slight waver in pitch. Things are just a little more complex with the voice. Like a stringed instrument, the tension of the vocal folds is varied rhythmically, creating movement in pitch. Along with this tension change, though, is a variation in the thickness of the vocal fold. The combined movements of pitch, volume and tone are what set vibrato apart from tremolo (change in volume only) and wobble (change in pitch only).

Tension squashes vibrato. Not just the obvious neck bulging stuff, but subtle everyday stiffness can neutralize it as well. Like the freedom required to wiggle your finger when sustaining a note on guitar, vocal vibrato requires muscle independence. Backing off the air pressure is the first step to releasing your voice. Let the ability to produce vibrato be your guide. Lay down flat on your back and place your hand on your belly button. Breath so that your hand rises and falls. Now sing a comfortable note and look for the presence of vibrato. If the pitch is stiff notice what your abs are doing. Are they contracting to drive the note? Check the behavior on various pitches. If you push too much from your stomach, the muscles surrounding the larynx will brace and vibrato will be lost. Reduce the volume and try again. The goal is to reduce the air pressure to the point where flexibility is found. Donít be alarmed if this only happens at very low volumes. With practice, youíll be able to increase the volume without loading the neck with pressure. Strike the proper balance during a song and vibrato will blossom. Thatís why it tends to come in at the ends of notes; once we feel safely on pitch, we ease off the pressure a bit.

Another check for vibrato-eating throat tension is to rotate your head in a small circle when singing. Pretend you are tracing the outline of a quarter with your nose. Does the rotation stop when you begin to sing? Is it stiffer on high notes? Again, reduce the volume until you find the correct air pressure. Neck tension is not a requirement of singing loud or high. We often see singers so locked up in the neck that they literally have to shake their heads or jaws in order to create vibrato. In the same way, a guitar player who needs to shake the guitar to move a note must be applying a death grip on that fretboard. Thereís nothing wrong with using force to make a strong statement. Too often, though, the statement it makes is that we are overcompensating to mask weakness. Be brave and do the dirty work in private. Use vibrato as your guide and discover the power within.


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#22
Bellamy

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"Loud Mouths Don't Shout"  
(Don't you wish your voice had a volume knob?)


Sooner or later youíll have to go in there, and sooner or later youíll have to come out.

For some, the studio is a haven for creation. The controlled environment provides a cocoon for exploring a song. People who love to record, though, are usually reluctant to release their creations into the hostile acoustics of the real world. Instead, their songs remain a work-in-progress as they claim a quest for perfection. This is not the greatest way to move a career forward. For the rest of us, the studio is a vacuum. Not only does it suck the cash from our wallets, it drains our music of its energy. Itís frustrating when that beer-soaked, sweaty stage vibe youíve become known for never makes it on tape. Obviously, we canít hold the studio responsible (although many do); a studio is just a room full of equipment. The problem lies within. As soon as the red light comes on we try too hard or become self-conscious. Overcoming this anxiety, can be as simple as adjusting your prospective going in.

Singing on stage is different than singing in a studio, just like acting on Broadway is not the same as acting in a movie. However, singers have to work in both forums while actors normally focus on one. Treating the studio like a live gig is a typical error in approach. No one cares if a vocal was recorded in one pass, yet lots of singers feel embarrassed when they require multiple takes. What matters is the end result. Like a movie, the singing you hear on CDís is really a quilt of the best phrases seamlessly sewn together. Itís not cheating; it takes stamina and a mental focus to maintain vocal continuity for several hours. In other words, chops. This doesnít have to result in a sterile recording. Even after many rehearsals, actors often screw up their lines when shooting a film. Sometimes the mistakes work better than the original idea. It takes a good director to know when to wrap a scene.

When recording, a producer plays the role of movie director. Itís his or her job to organize the project before approaching the studio and then to inspire better performances once recording begins. Unfortunately, many bands choose to save money by producing themselves and wind up paying in the end by wasting time on a demo which falls short of their potential. There is a physical connection when you perform and itís hard to separate the effort from the outcome. A producer provides an invaluable overview. Incidentally, itís a dependence on the physical side of performing which tends to make people say that your band "sounds" better live. During a gig, your fans witness your effort and that plays heavily in their experience of a song. Recording, though, is like playing a concert for the blind. Without the visual aspect, your music may not have as much impact as you think. It usually takes an outside observer to suggest some changes. If you canít afford a producer, spread your recording session out over many weeks. Let some time pass by before listening to rough mixes in order to gain a fresh perspective on what youíve done.

Recording also requires an adjustment in the way you rehearse. Itís amazing how many people enter the studio over-anxious and under prepared. Thereís no excuse for a band to engage in momentum killing arguments over a song theyíve been playing for a year. Get it right before the clock starts ticking. Rehearse the recording process, not just the song. Use a four track cassette deck and run through the steps just as you will in the studio. Everyone should know what everyone else is playing. To relieve "red light fever," get into the habit of recording rehearsals. Experience will show that the best performances come once everyone forgets that tape is rolling -- a simple but important point to remember, every time you approach the studio.


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