Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Oil And Water

An Aquarian might be able to acquiesce at times, one would think.  The thing is, water has more than one state.  It can be liquid, solid, or gas.  It is not so easily penetrable or alterable when it’s ice.  You can chip away at it or break it apart but it takes more effort and force than a few words.  
His few words were something along the line of: “It’s just a dream.  You know you’re going to fail, don’t you?”  This was said by my father after my band had done about three solid months of rehearsal and writing arrangements.  No days off.  One thing was for certain.  The band sounded great and the agency in Atlanta had work lined up for months.  Six nights a week.  No weeks off.  Midwest through Southeast and in 13 states.  The agency was professional, successful, and established.  The producer had become a friend.  He still is.  
We barely had enough material for a four-hour gig and the call had come in.  Opening in Muncy, Indiana, tomorrow.  We covered tunes by Tower of Power, Earth, Wind and Fire, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, Wings, Boz Scaggs, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Average White Band, Rufus, and others.  We had professional standards and one of the tightest horn sections—ever.  Our attacks and releases were both always sounding laser-synchronized.  
Sorry.  Not just a dream.  Hard work at a manic pace to achieve the level of music we were at.  Fail?  Sorry.  Every week, our money increased.  An eight-piece touring band.  The ninth equal pay increment (after agent’s fee) was the equipment payment.  In the 70s, a ten thousand dollar P.A. system was quite state-of-the-art.  Didn’t fail.  So, as with a few things, my father and I were oil and water.  Still, he was supportive in other ways.  One of the vans was financed by him.

Dreams Are Good But,

Monday, October 08, 2018

What Should A Singer Work On?

How is your: posture, breathing, tone quality, range, endurance, articulation, practice technique, vocal use, control, confidence, and your musicianship?

More specifically, use the following, to get some ideas or maybe to uncover what you could learn more about:


1.     Is your posture stiff when you sing?

2.     Are you relaxed when you sing?

3.     Do you slump when you sing?

4.     Is your head up when you sing?

5.     Is your head down when you sing?

6.     Is your head in a relaxed position, facing forward when you sing?

7.     Is your head tilted when you sing?

8.     Are your shoulders down when you sing?


1.     Does your chest expand?

2.     Is your chest stationary?

3.     Does your abdomen move with your breathing?

4.     Do you force your abdomen in?

5.     Do you force your abdomen out?

6.     Do you fill up with air?

7.     Do you run out of air?

8.     Do you over-breathe?

9.     Can you feel your diaphragm?

10. Do you exercise to improve your lung capacity?


1.     Is your tone clear?

2.     Is your tone raspy?

3.     Is your tone strident (harsh)?

4.     Do you feel you sing from your throat?

5.     Do you feel you sing from your abdomen?

6.     Is your tone breathy?

7.     Does your tone crackle?

8.     Do you start tones with an aspirate attack, hard glottal attack or a normal one?


1.     Does your voice have a register break (does it “crack”)?

2.     Can you sing in full voice in: head voice, low middle voice, high middle voice, and chest voice?

3.     Do you have one area of a register break or multiple areas?

4.     Are high notes difficult?

5.     Do you feel tired, hoarse, raspy, or breathy after singing?

6.     Are all vowels easy to sing on all pitches?

7.     Do you think you “mix” chest voice and head voice?

8.     Do you have head voice, chest voice, and a break in between?

9.     Do you have head, middle, and chest voice with no breaks?

10. Can you sing in full voice, light production, and breathy quality in every range?

11. Do you have “one voice”, fully controllable and functional throughout the range?

12. Can you easily sing at all dynamic levels (soft, medium, loud, very loud)?

13. Do you know the one thing that will stop your voice from breaking?


1.     Can you sing without tiring?

2.     Can you sing for forty-five minutes without tiring?

3.     Do you have to take frequent rest periods when you sing?

4.     Do you know how to improve endurance?


1.     Can you pronounce consonants correctly?

2.     Can you pronounce vowels correctly?

3.     Do you enunciate clearly?

4.     Do you under-enunciate?

5.     Do you over-enunciate?

6.     Is your enunciation appropriate/typical for the style of song you sing?

7.     Do you have an accent, foreign to the language in which you sing?


1.     Have you been taught how to practice in the most efficient way?

2.     Do you do vocal exercises which help you to sing well?

3.     Do you do vocal exercises which seem to do nothing for your singing?

4.     Do you know how to warm up your voice?

5.     Do you know music, music theory, and use this in your practice?

6.     Do you sing songs from start to finish over and over?

7.     Do you isolate problem areas in sings and do what is needed to improve those?

8.     Do you record yourself and listen objectively to the recording?


1.     Do you lose your voice?

2.     Do you get hoarse?

3.     Do you ever yell or scream?

4.     Do you stay well-hydrated?

5.     Do you have caffeine, anti-histamines, or alcohol?

6.     Do you take drugs or smoke cigarettes?

7.     Do you sing in smoky places?

8.     Do you frequently speak in the bottom of your voice (or on a fry tone)?

9.     Do you sleep 8 hours a day?

10. Is your body in good health?

11. Do you sing when you are ill?


1.     Can you sing on pitch?

2.     Can you sing with and without vibrato?

3.     Can you sing at every volume level?

4.     Can you sing with emotion?

5.     Can you sing with no emotion?

6.     Can you sing in front of people?

7.     Can you sing with fear, but sound like you are not afraid?


1.     Do you practice enough to sing with confidence?

2.     Do you regularly perform?

3.     Do you sufficiently prepare for auditions?

4.     Do you sufficiently prepare for performances?

5.     Do you record video and audio of yourself to ascertain whether you do what you intend to do?

6.     Do you work to correct what is wrong and record your performance to verify it is corrected?

7.     Can you be objective when watching or listening to recordings of yourself?


1.     Do you understand melodic intervals?

2.     Can you sing successive melodic intervals in tune?

3.     Do you understand harmonic intervals?

4.     Do you hear the difference between major and minor intervals and/or chords?

5.     Can you identify: diminished chords, augmented chords, sus2, sus4, altered chords, 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths?

6.     Can you write down music that you hear on manuscript paper?

7.     Can you identify instruments when you hear them?

8.     Can you identify duple meter and triple meter?

9.     Can you notate rhythm?

10. Can you sub-divide the beat while singing?

11. Can you hear chord progressions and know what you have heard?

12. Can you hear how the melodic line you sing fits within the chords?

13. Can you hold key when singing a capella?

14. Can you sing a chromatic scale a capella and in tune?

15. Can you sing all intervals in tune, if they are called out to you?

16. Can you sing harmony in a group, without being thrown off by other singers?

17. Do you understand music terminology (nomenclature)?

18. Can you write a song?

19. Can you write lyrics which fit with the chords and rhythm of a song “bed”?

20. Can you sing with karaoke, with a band, and/or with an orchestra?

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.