The other day a student was complaining about how they tired out their voice talking before a performance. Uhh…yeah. Because we have only one instrument of communication,(our voices), we need to preserve them. The best thing to do before a performance is to hide out and not talk at all. That being said, there are so many people that come to a show (and this includes friends as well as industry insiders), that we do feel responsible to talk with everyone.Here are some tips on speaking properly and safely: 1) Optimum pitch. You need to find the range that best suites your voice .Using a hum, as in “uh-hum” casually will help you find this pitch.Act as though someone was asking you something , and you agreed with a “uh-hum”. The pitch that the hum lands on repeatedly is your optimum pitch.. Again, optimum pitch is where your voice functions best range wise. 2) Pitch variation. So your voice works best around “f” below middle c? This doesn’t mean that you must speak monotone. Finding a melody in your speaking voice will help keep the folds free, and the listener interested.Think of speaking above and below the optimum pitch as if you were creating a melody. Remember to keep that “melody” centered around the O.P. 3) diaphragmatic breathing. As singers , we should always be focusing on breathing diaphragmatically. Its a healthier way to breath as well as being very helpful in good speech. See my previous blogs on breathing for help with this one. 4) Glide or legato. When you let words flow together, there is less work for your vocal tract in trying to constantly find the placement . Let your words glide into each other, stopping only for dramatic pauses, and to take a breath obviously. 5) Words per breath. We function best with somewhere between six and nine words per breath depending on the words, the breath, and the person saying them. By randomly counting your words, you’ll start to get a feel for the right amount of words per breath that works best for you. Those are some vital tips for the speaking singer,(and the speaker themselves for that matter). Use them wisely and use DolceVoce honey/lemon throat spray. Great for dry mouths and tired voices.
It still seems to be widely believed that volume comes from air, effort,and more air. Some singers (and teachers), still believe that the chest resonates (which it barely does at all), and this gives us volume. Volume in fact comes primarily from the mask resonators at the front of the face. Among these most importantly are the hard palate, and the naso-pharynx which is the space behind the sinus’. The higher a note, the further it projects. The mask produces a series of over tones known as the singers frequency formant. These overtones occur when we access the mask area. Many are so high,(as much as 3 hertz or more), that the ear can’t even distinguish them from the primary tone. Still, these higher tones help to project the singers sound. Now,….how do we get those over tones to work? Discovery is a chief approach. Using “meow’ like a cat, ascend up the scale on a five note descending scale, from sol to do. Notice that as you get higher, the mask starts dulling. This is the area that needs development in order to mix properly. Another helpful phrase is “nya’. The ‘n” accesses the hard palate, and the “y’ helps to bring the sound forward . Practicing these ascending and descending will help develop this mask quality. The key here though is to mix. Don’t just use the mask alone unless you’d like to sound like Ethel Merman. The trick is to balance off any mask with loft. We need the tone to be round. Does that make sense? So, if your using more air to create your volume, stop….and practice accessing the mask area instead. You’ll be amazed at the results. AND as always, use DolceVoce honey / lemon throat spray. It tastes great and it really works!
Warm-ups are the exercises that we use not just to warm up but to also train our voices. This works by literally reworking muscles to react in a different way than they previously did. Quite often its even a re-training of muscles groups (such as the diaphragm), to do what they used to do, or to eventually respond the way that we want them to with out thinking about it.. It takes a great deal of concentration at first to access these changes. The goal is to practice them enough so that they become second nature. Often I have students who have mastered certain techniques in the studio but haven’t been able to apply them to their own music. First off, this is common. We seem to learn technique in this order: exercises, pieces that we are working on in lessons,then finally everything else we sing. When the student is getting better at the isolated technique, the teacher should recognize this and begin to filter in practical applications for the said technique. If your singing regularly, and not able to apply some of the things that you have learned in class, your rehearsals are a time for that. Say your trying to mix in your upper register.Practice that in rehearsals and save your flip into pure head voice for that performance moment if you don’t feel ready to try your new technique approach. I had developed a good technique after hurting my voice many…(many) years ago. I would not use that approach during performance though. It came so easy that i thought that I was cheating. Remember, great singing almost feels like nothing, and that doesn’t sit well with us singers. We like to feel as if we’re working for something. Well, great technique means NO WORK. So if your having difficulty transferring your voice from the studio to the stage, experiment during rehearsals,don’t work, and sing. Also,…don’t forget the singers best friend. DolceVoce honey/lemon throat spray. it tastes great and it really works to help produce saliva and to lubricate the vocal folds. yep, it really works!
Most singers have heard of warm-ups. Many even know a good warm-up routine but fail to use it. When I warn students about how they could potentially hurt their voices by not warming up before they sing, they usually ignore me. I even give them a Cd with a warm-up on it! The only motivating factor that gets them to warm up, is that they sound better when they warm-up first. The vocal folds are a muscle, and as we spoke about previously, they are controlled by other muscles.Muscles need to stretch gently and get blood flowing before we proceed to tax them in any way. Would you go jogging or go to work out without stretching,(warming-up) first? I would hope not. So please singers, you will sound better, but also you will be protecting yourself if you warm-up before you sing.If you need a good warm-up, go to www.voicecareproducts.com, and buy my warm-up cd. Easy as that! Now, what are warm-downs? Warming down is very simple and greatly speeds recovery of the folds after a good work out. When we work any muscle, the body produces lactic acid which “pumps us up” as it is breaking down and rebuilding muscle tissue. The vocal folds are hindered by being “pumped up”. This swelling makes it hard for them to approximate and produce a healthy sound. By doing a simple forward placed “humm” for three to five minutes after your done singing, you are reducing the build up of lactic acid in the folds, and improving their recovery.Keep the humming in your lower range and make sure that you can feel the buzz on your lips. Easy as that, and it really works. So…warm-up, warm-down, sing great, and don’t forget to use Dolcevoce honey lemon throat spray. It really works!
Also called the ‘passagio’ or passage of the voice from chest to head dominant. Such a trouble spot for most singers. Some,…many teachers say that you should push your break. Not so!! According to Dr.Peak Woo, pushing your break is “the single leading cause of nodules”. Nodules are callouses that develop on the vocal folds due to over work and / or un due pressure on the folds themselves. So whats going on in the passagio? The main thing that is occurring is the switch off from the T.A. muscle (thyro-aretenoid”, which controls our lower notes, and the C.T. (chrico-thyroid), the muscle that stretches the folds to reach higher notes. Muscles always work in a protagonist/antagonist way, switching off jobs from one and other. When you push in this area, your taxing the TA and over working the folds. Very dangerous. Instead, try to gently ascend without increasing volume. Notice the break and pull back on your air. If your loft quality(buy my cd to understand more) is consistent in your lower and upper, and your ring or mask resonance is also consistent, you will eventually experience a smooth transition. For most people this isn’t easy, but very do-able.I often use the analogy of driving over a speed bump. Just as you can avoid most of the impact of the bump by going over it slowly, so too can you glide over the break by easing off on the breath preasure. Make sense?To buy my warm-up cd, go to www.voicecareproducts.com, and as always, USE DOLCEVOCE HONEY/LEMON THROAT SPRAY!! IT WORKS!
Esophageal reflux (also known as heart burn), is prevalent in our entire culture today. Diet, and stress levels are big factors. Singers have this problem even more acutely as the diaphragm is very actively pressing against the stomach and digestive organs when we breath in. One study states that 70% of all singers experience reflux at one time or another. The big problem here is that the vocal folds work as a junk collector in keeping the reflux from entering our lungs.The result is often a burning of the folds. Remember this is acid! This reflux damage can last a day, a week, or if unchecked indefinitely, greatly effecting range, and tone. So what to do? first off, realize that one of the worst times for reflux is when we are sleeping. Not only are we unconscious to deal with it, but gravity isn’t even on our side. The best way to combat this is to NOT EAT a good three hours before bed. Also avoid large amounts of water before bed as this loosens up the digestive acids. The next thing to do is to purchase a surgical wedge (about 30$) to use when you sleep. Get the six inch one which gives your upper body a thirty degree angle thus helping gravity to help keep reflux at bay. Treatments for acid reflux? There are many. I always start my students off with the natural remedy’s to see if this is all that they need. Some times they work, and sometimes not. Here are a few of them. Papaya enzyme. 1)Papaya enzyme is similar to human digestive enzyme and can often neutralize the acid. 2) Baking soda. Even the side of the box says that its main use is for heartburn and sour stomach, yet no one seems to know this. Mix it with four ounces of water and drink on as empty a stomach as you can. 3) apple cider vinegar. yep, and no one is sure why, but it seems to stop the production of acid. Those are the big three. If your still having problems you may want to consider short term meds like pepcid or zantac, or long term meds like prilosec and acifex. You should see a Dr before taking the long term plunge.Unfortunately our wonderful dolcevoce honey/lemon throat spray doesn’t work on reflux, but its still a wonderful product! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more.
Last week I blogged about certain foods,drinks,etc, that could effect the voice. Today I want to continue with good habits for singers. this again falls into the category of vocal hygiene. Lets start with fluids. “Sing wet, pee pale”. NATS use this slogan to remind singers that we need to be hydrated. the average adult should be consuming somewhere around 64 oz of water daily. How do you know if your consuming enough? Your urine should be pale or clear. If its dark yellow, this could be a sign that you are dehydrated. Practicing diaphragm:A great place to practice your breathing is while exercising. Its natural when we exercise to breath with the upper chest as this is our fight or flight response and exercise falls into that category. if you can shift to diaphragm while your running,lifting,etc, it really strengthens your ability to breath diaphragmatically all the time. Exercise in general is very important as it wakes up the body, gets oxygen to the blood, and releases tension(among many other things). The day of a performance, light exercise is important. “Personal steamers”:Every singer should own one of these. Vicks puts out a 1 pound steamer which fits around the nose and mouth and helps to get steam to the mucous membrane. What does steam do? it helps reduce any tissue inflammation, as well as forcing hydration. These things can work miracles, and every singer should have one. However,…..avoid the Vicks product that comes with the steamer.Menthol products are not good for the voice. That cooling sensation we feel when consuming them is really coming from an irritation and inflammation of the blood vessels. Not a good thing. Stick to jolly ranchers, fruity candy in general, and of course,Dolce voce honey/lemon throat spray. This covers the surface of the subject of vocal hygiene. they’ll be plenty of other up dates,and remember to youtube us for more vocal tips. ttys, Dan Richard
Hello friends.Last week we videoed a dozen or so segments with vocal tips to appear on YouTube over the next few months. A lot of the subjects that we cover on this blog can be seen with a more in depth explanation. Also have you “liked’ us on Facebook yet? How about twitter?(rlygoodsinger). OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, lets talk about singers and what we eat and drink and how this effects our voices. This falls into a larger category called “vocal hygiene’. Vocal hygiene is simply how we take care of our voices through what we consume , and how you treat your body, ie: excercise, sleep, etc..Lets start with the most common food to avoid if your going to be singing or speaking:Dairy. Why are you drinking and eating from a cow anyway? Its kinda strange if you think about it. lol Anyway, we have to understand that milk is a form of mucous designed by nature so that the mommy cow can feed the baby cow. Our bodies have a difficult time trying to break dairy down, hence the excess of mucous created by its consumption. If you are singing that day, or even the next day, dairy is some thing that you need to avoid.In that same category is citrus. Consumed fresh, citrus doesn’t cause us any problems as singers. It even helps to stimulate the production of saliva(lemon).When you buy citrus juice however you are consuming a pasteurized product. Again, the body doesn’t recognize this sugar water and so it too remains in a mucousal form. Another thing about processed citrus is its tendency to cause acid reflux. Again, raw citrus-good, processed citrus-bad. Now lets talk about salt. There is a lot of confusion as to the workings of salt as many singers gargle with it to attract moisture, and many complain about how consuming salty foods makes them thirsty and gives them dry mouth. it works like this, salt is a magnet for moisture. Where ever the salt is, that’s where the moisture goes. SO…if you gargle with salt, the residue will attract moisture to the oral pharynx and vocal tract. If you consume salty food, your body will supply as much water as it can as it is being attracted to the food that you just consumed. On top of that, we become endlessly thirsty and that too can dry out the mouth and throat. How does that one work? well, our mouths have a certain ph balance that keeps us moist and constantly producing saliva. When we drink plain water or worse, brush our teeth with toothpaste and water, we are removing this balance and actually causing dry mouth. Quite often singers will intentionally consume a salt free cracker or two just to restore that salivary balance in the mouth. Another great way to avoid dry mouth is to mix apple juice in with your water,. Even a little bit will help activate the production of saliva.Interesting so far? Well stay tuned for part II on vocal hygiene and remember to USE DOLCEVOCE!
When people sing they usually use more air to get louder. It seems instinctive. This is called belting and is practiced by most of the people that come to see me.Its usually one of the reasons that their voices aren’t doing what they want them to.Belting is a very bad thing. That excursion and intense breath pressure can harm the vocal folds and actually negatively effect the sound.Sound as you may know is vibrations. The folds vibrating create the sound of the voice itself. Belting inhibits this necessity. It creates whats called “pressed phonation’ .So what does a singer do to get louder?Long story, but heres a short explanation. At the front of our faces is an area known as the “mask”. (Picture where a surgeon would wear a mask). This area includes a space behind the nasal passages called the naso pharynx.When the initial sound gets to this are of the skull the sound gets louder. Why? You see there are a series of overtones to any note that a singer sings.A group of higher tones that occur at the same time as the main note that is being sung. Some so high that the ear isn’t even aware of them. These frequency’s help create and embellish the sound.They are called “singers frequency formant”.Did you know that the higher a note is the farther it travels? Well this case is no exception.The higher frequency’s project the voice as they travel and thus are making your sound louder. Why is a car horn so loud? Why is a baby’s cry so piercing? why? Why! lol Its because of this mask resonance and the overtones that it creates. Pretty cool huh? Remember: Don’t push, and use dolcevoce!
Well its another spring on the way, and with it comes spring allergies. As a voice teacher I find that I’m always addressing this issue in the spring and fall. So why do we get sick from allergies? Allergens that are prevalent in spring tend to get caught in our nasal passages. If we don’t keep our sinus’ clear , these allergens can turn into bacteria and infect our throat, vocal folds, larynx, and chest. Using a Nedi pot can greatly reduce your chances of getting sick. What is a Nedi pot? Its an in expensive pot that looks kind of like a Jeanies lamp. In it goes water, salt, and baking soda. Mix up the contents and hanging over the sink, pour the water (carefully)! into your nose. Its tricky at first, but you’d be amazed at how much mucous and “gunk’ comes out as a result. Use your Nedi pot daily or even twice daily to avoid the allergies of spring! Allergy medications are another complicated area for singers. We know that a good anti-histamine can dry out the runny nose and watery eyes. Problem is, as singers we need moisture to produce healthy sound. Getting a medication with a “D” on it is your best bet. “D” stands for decongestant. Usually this means that there is a medication called “guafenecin’ in the meds. Guafenecin helps us to produce the thin mucous so vital for sound production, while at the same time inhibiting the production of the thick mucous.This will allow you to dry up those pesky allergies while being able to sing your heart out. It really works. So there’s a few tips concerning spring allergies.Questions?