Thursday, August 13, 2015

Chest Voice, Middle Voice, Head Voice, what are they?


I was not born with a perfectly functioning singing voice. I had no problems in chest voice or in the lower part middle voice, just above chest voice. I had a very distinct and annoying crack, which kept me from singing opera, popular, Broadway and R&B songs until I was trained. I have helped singers to no longer crack and also to help prevent vocal nodules (callouses of the vocal folds). Most people need training to gain control over the voice. A very few are born with it, perhaps 1%. I am not ashamed to have studied, because the results opened up a whole new world to me, which includes having sung professionally in Las Vegas.

Let's clarify some terms to start on the road to understanding more about the singing voice.

Chest voice, middle voice, and head voice are vocal registers, or ranges. Many people think that chest voice is a type of sound and that head voice is a type of sound. Many people don't fully understand middle voice at all. It is a never-neverland or fantasy world. Middle voice is thought to be a place that is hard or impossible to get to. It is also called: mix or bridge or passaggio. Passaggio is an Italian word, meaning passage way.

What is chest voice? Chest voice is the range in which you can feel vibration in your chest when you sing in that range. The reason is that the sound waves are larger in chest voice and they resonate in your chest, the size of which approximates the sound waves, pitch-wise. Have you ever been in a hallway or room and found a tone which loudly resonates with your voice? There will be one specific tone which will do this. Your chest will vibrate when you are in chest voice and that is how it got its name. Unless you are singing with a breathy tone, chest voice will be a full sound, which can be produced loudly when needed. This is called full voice.

Full voice is often confused with chest voice. They are not the same thing. Full voice is achieved when the vibrating vocal folds are in close proximity, to the extent that the tone is full, rather than weak or breathy. When the vocal folds are not vibrating in close proximity, excess air escapes and can be heard mixed in with the tone. It is not necessarily wrong to sing with a breathy tone, for effect when stylistically or emotionally appropriate. The breathy tone production does have the potential of causing dryness to the vocal folds (vocal cords, as they used to be called). The “lubrication” of the vocal folds is done by mucous secreting glands. It can become irritating to the delicate tissue, if it dries out.

Head voice is called head voice because your head vibrates when you are in the higher notes of head voice. In a properly trained and developed voice, the tone can be full and powerful, just as in chest voice. It can be called full voice in head or full head voice. It is not a breathy sound. When working properly, a singer can sustain a high note and crescendo from very soft to very loud, without a change in the sound of the tone. If there is a sudden change in the sound of the tone, that is what singers call a break or a crack. Things do not actually crack or break in the sense of the vocal apparatus but instead, the singer and listener hear an abrupt distinct change in the tone quality.

The hardest thing for many singers, including some professional singers, is to smoothly execute the tones throughout the entire vocal range. Most untrained singers have difficulty singing passages which extend from chest voice to head voice. Singers whose voices crack or break when transitioning from chest voice to head voice (or vice-versa) are actually experiencing a brief and sudden loss of adduction of the vocal folds. They “pop” open and then close again. Some singers will yell or scream out high notes but over time that can and has caused injury. There must be a coordination of adduction in such a way as to not hyper-adduct the vocal folds. It is a balancing act. It is the correct amount of pressure sufficient to achieve the desired tone quality. Most people need training to gain control over the voice. A very few are born with it, perhaps 1%.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

SONGWRITING

I did some math today. Since November 1 of 2014, I have written 845 songs. How many did I write, prior to that? 468 from 1997 until Nov. 1, 2014. It adds up to 1313 since 1997. Before that? Maybe 20, maybe more. A famous songwriter said to "write for the waste basket". Does that sound crazy? Not if you think about it. If you set out for perfection or even to write a hit or a masterpiece, you set yourself up for self-criticism, self-judgement and maybe even self-loathing. "Perfection" is just a word. What is the opposite of perfection? That's a difficult thing to conceive. This is where we can become more aware by exploring the subjective qualities and the wide ranges of "imperfection". It lies in judgement. It is very subjective. 
So, have I been "writing for the waste basket"? No. I have been writing for the joy of writing. I've been exploring and experimenting with rhythms and chords and the rhythm of chords as they lie in a single measure and multiple measures of songs. My bottom line, I learned from Pat Pattison of Berklee School of Music. Prosody. It was a new word for me. I have distilled it for myself to where a song, the lyrics, the arrangement have to have the qualities of aesthetics and integrity, working together to make it work with the quality of making sense and having some level of beauty. The emotion can be any emotion but the aesthetics of the music are like a carrier wave in radio broadcasting. The aesthetics sit on top and float along. It has to stay on topic, make musical sense, and maybe take you to a place you haven't been before. Finding interesting twists and turns along the way and discovering new "sights" just make the adventure come to life. 
Even with my standards, they are not rules. The breakout occurred when I decided to just see if I could write a bad song. I failed. The first one on Nov. 1st wasn't bad. Some days I have written 20 songs in a single day. It is like a game. The oddest thing is no 2 songs of mine are alike. The chords are different, the melodic lines are different from each other. Many days after breakfast, I head for my studio and play. Notice I said play. Sometimes I start with the melody and sometimes I start with chords. Some days I write 4 bars of chords and then write the melody. I repeat it until I have a song that makes some sense. I do not listen to them. I do not tweak. that's for later. Write and save. 
If you are a singer and you know one song, how good will you be? If you are a singer and you know 2000 sings, might you be a little better than if it were just one? If you are a songwriter and you have written one song or 10 or 20, you could be great but would you learn more by doing more? Maybe.

Friday, August 29, 2014

REALITY

REALITY. What is it? Is this too profound for a Friday? No. You have the whole long weekend to contemplate this. Visual reality is acquired through your eyes, but what do your eyes NOT see? You don't see anything microscopic or telescopic, but it is there! Have you ever looked at blood cells through a microscope? I have. Have you looked at the rings of Saturn through a telescope? I have. Without a telescope, Saturn looks like a bright star-no rings. Without a microscope you can see blood, but not the cells. You can't even see germs with the naked eye, but we know they are there. You cannot train your eyes to see what they cannot see. If you haven't looked through the scopes mentioned, your reality of microscopic and macroscopic is merely objective, NOT subjective. "Things" are there, whether seen, felt or heard. We have evidence.

Eyes are wonderful but ears are amazing, if they are trained.

You can listen to a band and a singer doing a song and take it all in as a whole. With training and practice, you can not only hear one specific instrument in that band, but you also can write down perfectly every note played by that instrument. You can hand the manuscript to a true professional and it will be pretty much identical. I have transcribed entire arrangements, so I have subjective reality on this. What else? You can hear all the chords in a song and you can even hear the voicing of chords with experience. What's more is you can choose how to hear as a whole, OR: individual parts, chords, voicings, rhythms, and more. What's more? Form. You can hear and understand the entire piece in verses, choruses, bridges, or movements. There are even forms in lyrics and other devices, such as those you hear in poetry or prose. Ears+mind can equal a very profound and analytical understanding of music. OR if you can do all those things, you can also do another thing. You can sit back and just listen and enjoy. Over time, however, you hear without analysis--you just get it and it transcends thought.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Put Up

Try putting people "up", instead of putting people down.  The most progress is made in the shortest period of time when the good, the right, and the excellent are acknowledged.  You can only build on success.  

You cannot build on failure, but if you pay careful attention, you'll notice that the most successful people usually have also failed many more times than unsuccessful people are willing to fail.  The phrase "trial and error" didn't come into existence by chance.  

It is the wash, rinse, repeat method to success.  You see what is working and do more of that.  You see what is not working and avoid that.  You'll get farther faster by putting yourself "up".  Acknowledge the good, dwell on the good, focus on the good.  Acknowledge the bad for a few seconds and move on.  Learn from mistakes; that is all the significance they have--a learning tool.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR VOICE?

Do you want higher notes?
If your voice cracks or breaks as you go up in pitch, there is something very wrong.  Can you sing high notes with strength  AND with ease?  You could if you would have been trained correctly.  

I can help with this and it can start as early as today.  Unless you have physical injury, swelling, or damage to your voice, range is safely expandable.

Do you need and want more endurance?
Does your voice get tired or give out on you after you sing for a half hour or an hour?  Concerts, gigs and recording your voice require better endurance than that.  You have to have great endurance and strength.

Your endurance and power can safely be improved when you discover the safe and effective way to do this.

Do you want to sing in tune?
How you hear and what you hear have everything to do with being able to sing in tune.  You can hear perfectly and still sing out of tune if you haven't connected your singing to your musicianship.  

It doesn't have to take a long time to sing in tune, once you are shown how to listen and what to listen to.  Some practice will get your pitch better from the very first day.

Do you want better time and rhythm?
Do you hear time as it is or are you missing something?  Why do some drummers have excellent time and others don't?  This also applies to singers.

Rhythm and time are very mathematical, but you don't have to know very much math to improve.  If you can count to four and if you can count to sixteen, your time and rhythm can get better.

Do you want better tone quality?

Can your tone actually be improved?  If you don't have scar tissue on your vocal folds (vocal cords), you can improve your tone.  No one wants to hear your voice if you don't sound good and that includes yourself.

Effective exercises can help improve your tone quality.  This is one area of technique, which can and does involve proper use of breathing.  Every singer and every player of wind instruments, who are professional, know the importance of breath control.

Is this all?


Not even close, but improvements in these categories alone, can make huge improvements in how you sound.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Online Singing Lessons

Online singing lessons can be every bit as effective as singing lessons in person.  To qualify this more, singing lessons using Skype, Google, or FaceTime can be as effective as the teacher or vocal coach is effective.  Granted, the quality of sound is slightly less than in person, but it is better than a phone by a long shot.

What does the vocal coach need to hear?  EVERYTHING, but it is not necessarily dependent upon sound quality, per se.  Everyone does not perceive pitch the same way.  Everyone does not hear at the same "depth and breadth" of sound, either.  A vocal coach with a developed relative pitch can be very good.  A vocal coach with perfect pitch has an excellent level of sound and pitch perception.

Knowing what was sung and knowing precisely what is heard is totally necessary for helping identify the source of a singer's pitch problems.  Is it incorrect melodic intervals or is it a weak "harmonic ear" causing a singer to sing out of tune?  Singers who also play a piano or guitar oftentimes have a more highly developed "ear" but not always.

Most singers seem to not want to spend the time and effort with ear training--except for the excellent ones.  Ear training especially for singers is almost nonexistent, which is why I have taken the time to develop singer-specific exercises.

Whether online or in person, the exercises I have developed are as effective equally.  The much neglected musical "ear" is the key factor in singers singing out of tune (Pitchy, off key).  It isn't hard to handle and also doesn't require months to make it better.

Online singing lessons can be used for the various other factors for better singing, if the vocal coach is competent.

vocaleasy.de is my newest website.

chustew@gmail.com is my email address to contact me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

IS A VOCAL COACH WHAT I NEED?

IS A VOCAL COACH WHAT I NEED?

 The answer depends on two things: 1) What does the vocal coach know and 2) What can the vocal coach do?

Some vocal coaches only work with vocal technique and to the exclusion of musicianship.  Some vocal coaches work with vocal technique but exclude anything having to do with style.  If you want help with style, you may have to hire a separate person for that.

What if your musicianship is weak and it manifests that by your singing out of tune (or "pitchy").  All the vocal exercises in the world will not necessarily improve your "ear".  I've heard singers who have studied with the most expensive vocal coaches in the world and they still cannot sing in tune.  If you cannot sing in tune, you will not be hired.  You can blame a thousand other things but you will not be hired if you sing out of tune.

At $500 an hour, would you expect a vocal coach to be able to assist you with style and musicianship? You would think so but it is not necessary the case.  How about $450 an hour?  $300 an hour?   WAKE UP AND SMELL THE B.S. !     (Bad Singing)  I refuse to tell you the names of those vocal coaches but remember those prices and you might get a clue.

Some vocal coaches brag and drop names of the singing stars with whom they have worked.  If you don't know better, you might think that a coach made the career for those singers.  Not so.  They might have helped with an issue but don't be so naive as to think that a career was made by a vocal coach.  Professional working recording and concert artists look for help when they need it.  Most were already working before finding the coach.  To take full credit for a singer's success is a little (or a lot) egotistical.  Even if you teach someone proper technique, the singer has to practice and USE it.  Many more hours are spent in practice and performance than in lessons.  That is simply reality.

Do you need a vocal coach?  You probably do, since you are reading this.  Select one who is familiar with singing mastery and knows how to achieve it.  If you're feeling especially strong, have your prospective coach take a little test.

SINGING MASTERY                             TEST