Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Where Is Inspiration?

A famous writer, R.L. Stine said, "You have to allow these things to inspire you." What things? What was he talking about? "If you want to write and you want to get ideas, you have to use everything. You have to be alert and open to everything you read, everything you listen to..." 

You have your hand on the doorknob. It isn't locked, unless YOU locked it. The key to the lock is in your other hand! The key is simply a word and the word is "allow". You are both cause and effect and if you don't believe that one, stay out of the driver's seat of your car! You go through a door to get into that thing, that car, also. Many cars automatically lock the door because we are too stupid and might forget. Maybe we also forgot when we locked the door that has inspiration on the other side. 

Part of allowing is preparing to allow. If you have succumbed to the sick culture of politics (it is several meters below whale shit, lying on the ocean floor), wake up, grow up, get well, get healthy and try being a part of something that you do have control of. You may not know that you are poisoned and you may not know how affected you are but one symptom is that your inspiration is weak or gone. It is the lifeblood of the artist, the singer, the songwriter, the composer, the writer, the painter. 

Many years ago, I heard the statement "We are in this world but we are not of this world." I heard this in a church and it was a quote.  We do exist here but we do not have to be a part of the things which do not align with our true selves. I don't believe that people are made up of hate, even though once the "hate button" gets flipped on, like a hair trigger and it takes a while for it to turn off. The emotions, the chemicals, the cortisol-fueled panic and fight or flight adrenalin surge and slowly dissipate. It is almost like watching a horror flick. If you see and/or do this daily, it becomes the norm and people come to believe that it is normal. If it is normal, then normal is not good enough. 

Oil doesn't mix with water.  Hate doesn't mix with love, it will not combine, there will always be a separation.  Get the hate out of your universe, your soul, your mind, your spirit because high level art will not and cannot exist in its presence.  Allow yourself to be inspired.  Seek inspiration but realize that even though you may not see it, it is ubiquitous and in every direction.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Vocal Workout

You go to the gym to exercise your body or you may go outside.

Now you can workout your voice.

Vocal Workout Site

Monday, July 31, 2017

How Do I Find My Own Unique Voice?

Honesty and reality.  Your singing voice will be very close to your speaking voice.  Your voice is as unique to you as your fingerprints are.

The emotion in your singing must be real and true.  No one else has the same exact experiences, relatives, friends, and influences as you do.  The meanings that you give things are unique to you.  All of these things will affect how you feel, interpret, and sing a song.

You  might consider writing lyrics and/or songs because in doing so, you will discover your uniqueness.  When you write, be an artist, NOT a critic.  Give yourself the freedom to express without judgement.  I have written over 2200 songs and I write most days, exploring new possibilities.

Learn music.  The subject is vast.  I still study and learn new things.

Do not be afraid to emulate a singer, to learn style, phrasing, dynamics, and musicianship.  That process does not end there.  It is the first step.  After emulating (it is not the same as “copying”) then experiment with the song.  See what might be changed, altered or improved.  It could be the rhythm, the melody, the dynamics, the phrasing, the words, or anything that could make it more personal to you.

I practiced and recorded myself for about 3 hours a day for a year.  There was a lot of self discovery in that journey.  After a year, I had a recording that did not embarrass me for others to hear.  I took it to a show producer in Las Vegas.  She told me she wanted me in her show but that I still would have to audition in front of the cast.  The audition went quite well.  After 3 years of intense practice, when I finished my audition, the applause and accolades were also intense.

I found one unique aspect to my voice in one specific style but also could (can) do others.  It comes down to just being yourself and preparing and then giving your all.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Practice Does Not "Make Perfect"

There is no "perfect"!

So, now, what ya gonna do?  Practice can help maintain a level of competence or expertise.  Practice can also contribute to progress.  It may not be noticed the same day or even the same week.  Without practice, you will get worse.  That can be guaranteed.  Practicing the right things, the right way, the right time, and the right amount of time, can help you to progress, to improve and even to maintain very high levels of virtuosity. 

I was at a party a few months ago. There were two professional musicians there. One was a cellist and the other was a flutist. I got to spend some time and chat with the cellist. He told me that he had retired from playing. I asked him, "Do you miss playing?" He said, "Yes, of course I do but I don't have four hours a day to practice now."

I practiced 3 to 4 hours a day for about a year before I decided to sing in a production show in Las Vegas. I also recorded myself every day and sometimes I thought I sounded good, along the way. On mornings following my recording, I listened to myself and usually would hear the progress (however minor) and then take the cassette tape (I used a Tascam recorder which ran at double the speed of normal, thus had good quality) I took the cassette outside and smashed it into little bits with a hammer so that no one would hear how it was not exactly what I had been working toward. It was ok musically but I wanted to sound better and even when I felt an emotion, I didn't hear it on the recording. It was baffling but I persisted. Progress was slow but the feeling started to be audibly perceptible.

Had I given up along the way, I would never have auditioned for the show. I literally earned the right to have confidence in my singing. Three to four hours a day. If that sounds like a lot of time, in college I practiced trombone as much as 6 hours a day and piano 2 hours a day at times. The dues to be in the club are expensive. You give away time and effort but the rewards are far beyond what a non-artist, for lack of a better term, would ever ever know. Progress can be slow at times but patience does and will cure the disease of frustration.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Can C5 Be Sung In Chest Voice by a Tenor?

Many times I see confusion regarding chest voice, as if it is a specific timbre or tone quality.  This is largely due to either no standardization of nomenclature or to misunderstanding of the terminology. 

Chest voice got its name because vibrations from the vocal folds at lower frequencies have sound waves at a size to where they cause sympathetic vibrations in the thorax, or chest. 

Head voice got its name because vibrations from the vocal folds at higher frequencies have sound waves at a size to where they cause sympathetic vibrations in the head.

Technically, chest voice is not a sound, but instead is a range in the voice and is usually where mots people “live” in their speaking voices.  More technically, above chest voice is low middle voice.  Above that is high middle voice, then head voice then the whistle tone register, also called flageolet or superhead voice. 

The direction in which the sound waves travel is something which may be interesting.  In chest voice range, the sound travels mostly straight out through the mouth.  As the frequency of vibration raises, so do the sound waves in direction, to where on high notes, they travel up and on the highest notes, the sound waves are traveling to the back of the head.  These things are measurable and also are not something controllable to a large extent.  It is possible to force the sound forward at the top end of chest voice or the low middle voice but it may not sound musical.  It might sound like yelling or screaming.

There is a term called full voice.  Full voice can be achieved when the vocal folds are vibrating in close enough proximity to where an excess of air does not escape, as it would with a breathy sound.  When a singer can sing in full voice in all ranges, it sounds as if there is one “voice”, not 3 or 4.  It is possible for it all to blend and not change tone quality.  Additionally, this can be done at all dynamic levels from very soft to very loud. 

When properly trained, a tenor should be able to sing a C5 in full voice.  It will sound clear and loud, as if it were in the chest voice register.  A properly trained tenor will also be able to sing any tone with a lighter tone production or even with a breathy quality, should he choose to do so.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Will Learning To Sing Classical Music Help You To Sing Other Genres Better?

The great divide between classical and other styles of music has been so intense at times that it has resembled modern day American politics.  Classical was “right” and everything else was “wrong”.  Not many singers of other styles also shared the opinion of diametrically opposed sides but some did.

My wife is a professional dancer, so looking at another art from could shed some light.  In ballet training, there are things which greatly improve specific things with a dancer.  A ballet-trained dancer may have a better line, will dance with shoulders down instead of raised, will have excellent balance, a sense of center, may have better turns, better extension, may have coordination and better communication between mind and body and may also be able to learn steps and routines faster, easier and better.  All this comes with a caveat.  If the style of ballet is carried over to hip hop, to jazz, to tap or other styles, it will make the other styles look stiff, too smooth, or even silly.  With so many dance competition shows on TV, you may have seen this.

The reason I gave the example of dance is that it also applies to singing.  I know of one or two classically trained singers who can sing Pop and R&B and without a hint of anything classical or operatic.  Julia Migenes and Josh Groban can do this.  Many classical trained singers either cannot or will not.

You must have heard the difference in how a classical singer sings, as compared to a singer of popular music.  Proper training will result in breathing correctly, no register transition area issues (no cracks), having a fully developed and extensive range, having control over all dynamics, and having excellent endurance.

Some differences between classical and other styles are: tone, timbre, articulation, rhythmic structure and its interpretation, pronunciation, enunciation, vowel formation, and musicianship.  This is not to say that a classical singer has poor musicianship but a jazz singer may have musicianship which extends beyond the norm of a classical singer, particularly with modes, extended chords, altered chords, and other harmonic construction not found in classical music.  The ear training for a jazz singer may similarly extend beyond that of a classical singer.  Rather than turning it into a moralistic and right versus wrong thing, think of it as different, instead.

Learning to sing classical music may be beneficial or it may be detrimental to a non-classical singer, depending on the instructor and the instructor’s view, dogmatism and pedantry regarding the subject, or a more open minded approach.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Is It All About High Notes?

"If I don't have high notes, the odds are that I won't ever be a famous singer, right?"

Art isn’t about odds.  Art isn’t about statistics.  Art is about expressing yourself.  It is also about being vulnerable but that sounds scary, doesn’t it.  When you sing to express, rather than to impress, that could be a goal.

Think of technique as something that allows you to express yourself, not as the goal.  Most singers, when performing, have no attention whatsoever on technique.  They have attention on it to some degree when preparing to perform and prior to that, to raising the level of the art of singing which allows the singer to more fully express.

Notes do not have to be high to be good.  Singing doesn’t have to be extremely loud to be good.  Loudness may affect the outcome of a hog calling contest but with singing, dynamics matter.  The variation in loud and soft and in between can be very aesthetic.

Some singers, such as Sade, may or may not have high notes.  We do not really know.

I was once told to not go to the extremes of my ability and to stay in a place where I could maintain control and to not have things fall apart on me.  I like making mistakes in my practicing, where they are safe to make and only I know about them.  In a performance, I won’t wander into a territory of uncertainty.  I always go for the art and do it with a thing I call artist’s integrity.  My standards are at a highly professional level, one which afforded me the opportunity to sing in a large showroom in Las Vegas.  I knew I was good enough.

Perfection exists only as a silly word and an unachievable (and undesirable) level.  If perfect singing is staying perfectly in the center of a pitch throughout its duration and if that is sustained, it will not sound human.  Some people overuse pitch correctors and they get a “robot” electronic sound.  You can hear it on some recordings.  Professional standards are actually above perfection, if perfection is staying perfectly on pitch because there is a beauty in being human and not a machine.

High notes are not as important as singing in a smooth connected meaningful way with emotion and more.  The more is hard to define but we know it when we hear it.  Make it pretty or intense or strong or whatever you want in your song.  You can make it interesting to listen to.  Music is a hearing art.  Listen to many singers and many styles as part of your preparation.  A famous trumpet player, the late Clark Terry, gave this advice: emulate, assimilate, innovate.  When you achieve this, you will be more than just good and more than just interesting.  High notes are not really hard, if someone shows you how to do them correctly and safely.