Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On Performing...

Make it sound easy, when you sing. Make it sound like it takes no effort and no thought. Make it sound like pure feeling and as if the words were written by you. Don't break character. Have most of your attention on the audience, not on how you sound or how you look or how you move.

 If you don't perform like that, the audience feels ignored, neglected, and even cheated. They feel as if they have been lied to. Are you there for them or for yourself? That sounds simple, but if you are not there for the audience, why are you there?

 Bare your soul. Drop your inhibitions and tear down your walls. You are just singing to people. You have nothing to hide. Your past doesn't matter. You can't change anything about the past. Future hasn't happened yet. The only thing that matters about the future is what you do in the present. That will directly affect your future. You should have learned from the past. Keep you attention on the audience and on the present moment.

 Do you know what the past is for? It is the place to make your mistakes, learn from them, and to get ready for the "now". The past is part of preparation. It is why you are who you are. You are not your mistakes. When would be a good time to let go of the past? Next week? Tomorrow? How about now?

If (while performing) you make a mistake, instantly let go of it and make the rest awesome. Make the next part better or prettier or more intense, if appropriate. Most people remember the awesome parts. The critics, who hang on to the mistakes, should just stay at home and keep out of our way, if and until they learn to be artists. So, if your attention is on what others are thinking, it is actually on yourself and your anxiety about that. Give all you have, as if everyone is NOT a critic. The truth is that very few people are critics. Most people go out to have fun and enjoy, instead of trying to destroy others. The critics can go out and fight the wars while we make our art.

 If you think everyone is critical, maybe you are critical. It takes no special talent or hard work to notice what is wrong. It takes very special talent to be great.

When the effort is put forth and added to the talent, the magic begins. Prepare to deliver. Deliver. There is joy in performing, unlike any other joy. Don't let others take that away from you. Others need to find their own. It is not about proving anything. It is not about showing off. It is not about being ignored when you were a little kid, so now you are making up for it. It is not about competition. It is about the best of you, unmitigated, unadulterated, and your bare soul is shining through while people bask in its light.

 There will never be an absolutely perfect performance, but there are performances which are absolutely artistic.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


MOMENTUM! P=mv The product of mass versus velocity. What does physics have to do with the motion toward a goal? Only mostly everything. Let's say you are not practicing very much. You can expect that the reaction to your action will roughly be equal. Not practicing very much=not advancing very much. Do you have any power? What is power? It is the rate at which work is performed. The slower you go, the longer it takes to get somewhere. POWER is also the rate at which energy is converted. Where are you putting your energy? Since there is RATE in both parts of the definition of POWER, speed must be involved. It is possible to move so slowly toward a goal that you are dead before you reach it. Harsh? Physics is harsh. Physics is the observed motions, masses, and tendencies, not politically correct or incorrect. The laws of physics are immutable, but if they are used as guidelines, instead of barriers, they can put you at an advantage. In so-called "billiard ball mechanics", there is the law of inertia, stating that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force. As people, most of us resist or resent outside forces acting upon ourselves, much of the time. We could modify the word "outside" to "inside", thus arriving at a new equation. Picture yourself in a huge 10' diameter beach ball. You walk; it moves. Inside force. Your car has an engine or a motor and it is within the car and that is another example. An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. OUTSIDE FORCES...hmmmmm Gravity? Friction? Time? Space? Resistance, such as air or water? How about your life? Gravity- Are you or somebody else holding you down, slowing you down, or stopping you? Friction- Are you getting along well with others? Time- Do you have enough time? Are you efficient with the time you do have? Space- Places to travel or too much distance involved? Is someone in your face, giving you no space in which to move? Resistance- that can come from you, friends, family, bosses, or anyone. You can find more examples of your own, if you wish. It takes more force to start moving than to keep moving. You may have to overcome your inertia and other forces. Once you are moving, it doesn't take much to keep moving as long as you keep moving. MOMENTUM is one of the keys to progress, perseverance, and accomplishment.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Voice cracks or voice breaks are curable. If your voice is not fully developed, you may feel like you have a high voice, a low voice, and a space between where the sound abruptly changes. You can sing above the break. You can sing below the break but you cannot sing at the break. The break is not actually a break, or even a crack. It is the passageway between chest voice and head voice (and vice versa) but maybe you haven't learned to navigate that treacherous passageway. In the passageway you feel you have no control and you have to flip up or flip down to get to a place of stability and control. It can be really frustrating! I used to have that problem. I know how I felt. Hated it!!! So, if you yell or scream out the notes you might have so much swelling that you have no voice the next day or even in the same day. I had that happen once. It was terrifying. I couldn't make a sound. The following day, it still wasn't right. If you're real unlucky, you'll blister your vocal cords (vocal folds) and blisters can turn into callouses and those are called nodules. Those bumps keep your vocal cords from closing properly and then you have NO high notes and you sound raspy until you do something to handle the nodules. Some people call them "nodes", but that is not the correct word. Nodes are glands, such as those in the body's lymphatic system. If you do not retrain your voice, even after a long vocal rest (or surgery), the nodes can come back, so to speak. You actually just make new ones. Surgery may leave scar tissue and it does not vibrate the same way as normal tissue. So, you've been forewarned. There are some singers who have just sung through their cracks. (Not their butt cracks!) Or, they have sung "across" the break and they make it work. It's not my preferred sound, but they did okay with it. One is Phoebe Snow and the other is Sarah McLachlan. You'll hear some country singers do this, but if you try this in most other styles, goodbye! Yodeling is singing across the crack, back and forth. When you have learned some coordination and control, you can control your voice so that it feels and sounds like you have one voice, not two or three! I paid $175 an hour to learn to stop the break in my voice, comfortably and effortlessly. How many hours? It was about 100 lessons. In the 70th or 80th, it was obvious it was going to work. Stability took a little more time. These were not weekly lessons. Many were every day. There is a man in Hollywood, who is said to be charging $400 an hour. Is it worth it? To go from a lame voice to one which can leap and dance about a song, it could be worth it. To have a professional career that lasts for a lifetime it could be worth it. One lesson won't get you there, unless you are an Italian man, but that is a whole different story. Maybe next time.

Monday, March 11, 2013


BREATHING! There has been a huge amount of emphasis put on breathing, as regards singing. Why? It's obvious that you MUST breathe in order to sing. It takes life to sing. It takes breathing to keep alive, having carbon-oxygen "machines" for bodies. Why might breathing be an issue? If a person has little or no effective lung capacity, singing will be difficult as far as doing long phrases or sustaining notes. If a person is hyper-adducting the vocal folds (smashing them together too tightly, in effort to not crack), that person will have to increase air pressure to even make a sound. Otherwise the vocal folds would pinch together so tightly that NO air can pass through. Your air, at a molecular level, is analogous to a violin bow. You vocal folds (vocal cords) are analogous to violin strings. The air molecules set the vocal folds into vibration. Air is important, there is no disputing that face; but, it is not ALL important. Some people over-breathe. They fill up completely and then, of necessity, do something unnatural to hold back the air pressure. This can cause unwanted tension in the body or can cause the person to hyper-adduct using the vocal folds as a valve, so to speak. Some people under-breathe and that results in being short of air or having to take many short breaths. Most of the time, you do not want to split a phrase. You almost NEVER want to split a word and grab a breath or you will sound like a rank amateur. Exceptions? If you choke on saliva in the middle of a word, you have to do what you have to do. I have breathing exercises I recommend that are good for two issues: 1) breath control and 2) lung capacity. If your air comes out jerky, your tone quality will be jerky. If you can't get through a phrase, you might consider improving your lung capacity. I cover these things in lessons.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


I keep hearing singers on American Idol who are singing flat. For those who do not know what that means, they are singing under or below the note they are trying to sing OR SHOULD BE TRYING TO SING!!!!! For some reason it is even more irritating to hear a singer sing sharp (above the pitch) and this is, fortunately, more rare. Back to the flat-ness. Why are they singing flat? Can they not hear themselves? Can they not hear, in the musical sense, the relationship between the accompaniment and their own voices? Are they staying under the pitch to avoid the passaggio, where the untrained voice will crack? Some trained, or should I say mis-trained voices crack. I have been cursed with a condition called "perfect pitch" and knowing that a person will sing flat, to avoid cracking, doesn't help the fingernails-on-the-chalkboard affect that this has on me. I can sympathize, but the feeling of sympathy does not ameliorate the frustration of knowing how they could be better with just one little PHYSICAL adjustment. That adjustment is NOT using more air, or "pushing" or flexing the abdominal muscles. Then there are those with, shall we say, under-developed musicianship. In teaching a few thousand singers, I have discovered that there are those who can match pitch with a voice but NOT with an instrument, such as a piano. Some of them can match pitch with a saxophone, however. This gets into the ability, or lack thereof, of being able to differentiate one pitch from another. Some people would say such a person is tone deaf. I've discovered, through experience, that it "Ain't Necessarily So". (That is a song, for the uninitiated) There is a condition called atonality. It ranges from absolute inability to match pitch at all to being able to get very close, but not on the pitch. Some people have called atonal singers "tone deaf". Although the term tone deaf is descriptive as to the singer's response to a pitch generated outside of him/herself, being atonal is not the same as being truly tone deaf. A study from Harvard gets into this. There have been several studies at other universities regarding atonality and tone deafness. One done at Stanford University suggested that the truly tone deaf are those who have had brain damage. This may be further substantiated by the conclusion of the Harvard study on the subject. In the meantime, American Idol is on my TV, I hear the intonation, the judges praise the singers (most of them) and I get exhausted from cringing and running out of the room to regurgitate. Neural pathway missing in tone-deaf people | e! Science News Nerve fibers that link perception and motor regions of the brain are disconnected in tone-deaf people, according to new research in the August 19 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Experts estimate that at least 10 percent of the population may be tone deaf – unable to sing in tune. The… Neural pathway missing in tone-deaf people | e! Science News Nerve fibers that link perception and motor regions of the brain are disconnected in tone-deaf people, according to new research in the August 19 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Experts estimate that at least 10 percent of the population may be tone deaf – unable to sing in tune. The…