Wednesday, August 17, 2016

DON'T sing when you are sick!!!!

When you are sick, don't sing! If you do, you risk injury if you have a cold, you may also have swollen vocal folds. Swollen tissue is more easily injured. Think of the last bad pair of shoes you had and got a blister and you felt pain but you kept walking. Then it broke and you bled. This happened to my wife a couple of months back. It proves the point. Irritation can lead to a blister and a blood blister and you do NOT want that on your vocal folds BECAUSE those are ...precursors to nodules (callouses) and they do NOT vibrate correctly. If nodules are surgically removed and you are left with scar tissue, it also will not vibrate the same as normal tissue and your sound may suffer horribly. If you are hoarse, do NOT sing! Hoarseness is the sound that swollen vocal folds make. It should be a warning signal to you! Read this: http://www.msn.com/…/adele-cancels-second-phoen…/ar-BBvKtrF…

Friday, August 12, 2016

MARKETING

Marketing.  Marketing is the weakest skill most artists have.  Most artists who have "made it big" have done so because of actions taken by a team.  Marketing is the difference between success and failure.  Most singers, musicians, actors, artists, and entertainers fail miserably at marketing themselves.

Marketing brings about awareness of your existence as an artist.  If the world does not know about you and why you are unique and what your art looks like, you may as well be living in a little shack out in the middle of the forest, with no roads which lead to it.  You are a hermit.  You are unknown.  You are hidden.  You need to be discovered.  If you leave it up to chance, don't count on anything changing.

What can you do, to be found, to be known? 

You will be successful to the extent that you know how to market.  I wish that this weren't true, because it takes work and time and attention.  It also takes some education.  You don't have to get a bachelors or masters degree but you do have to know what works and what doesn't work.  This is the real make or break point in a career.  If you hire someone to do it for you, you might be doing some outrageous things that you are unwilling to do.  Think Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Madonna, years ago.  What if you don't like wearing a meat suit, strange shoes, being overtly sexy (if not vulgar) or being outrageous in other ways?  The truth is that everyone did not do those things but the truth is also that you absolutely have to know how to attract attention.

Ask me how.

Friday, August 05, 2016

FRUSTRATION!

FRUSTRATION

Someone said that "the cure for frustration is patience".   It sounds good.  It sounds nice.  Is it true?  Usually frustration will happen when you are trying to do something, anything, and it is not going like how you would like it to go.  It could be that something in general is not happening at the rate that you expect it to happen.  Maybe you are stuck in the low side of a learning curve and it feels like you are not moving at all.  So then you feel a feeling and (if you're really stupid, as I have been) you make up a story to tell yourself.  You give it all a "meaning".  I'm not smart enough.  I'm not good enough.  I am stupid.  I am not talented enough.  I'll never get this.  It is ___________ fault.  Fill in the blank with: parents or friends or enemies or competitors.

All kinds of things can be frustrating, when you practice.  The first thing to do is to stop.  Usually there will be one of two things missing: 1) knowledge or 2) experience.  Experience can include little, insufficient, or no practice.  Find what you need and continue.

It is very unrealistic to expect something to simply happen of its own accord.  You should have already learned this in life, but if you didn't, now is a good time.  Think of the bad time you had at the dance you went to and you sat in a chair and at the end of the night you went home in tears because nobody asked you to dance.  Why did you go in the first place?  If you went there to dance, you danced.  BUT...  If you went there to be asked to dance, you set yourself up to be total effect.  When you are total effect you are not participating in life.  When you are not participating in life, you may be apathetic.  Unless you have a damned good reason to be apathetic, you're being pathetic.

Your attitude toward life and your attitude toward practice have everything to do with your outcome and your progress.  Do you persist or do you resist?  Do you look to the end goal or do you look at your inability to be perfectly perfect the first time through something?  Do you persist at learning or do you resist learning?  You can be your own worst enemy but that does take more effort than just getting the job done.

A LIFE LESSON

I spent decades practicing: singing, piano, composition, arranging, trombone and other things.  I wanted to be as great in the "real world" as I could be in my mind.  I could envision what and how I wanted things to sound.  To be at your best in any art, you can be passionate all you want but you must approach things with the appropriate emotions.  Frustration is inappropriate for creativity.  So are anger, rage, violence, hate, and other heavy emotions which will make art turn to something less than art.  You can put those emotions, as appropriate, into lyrics or performance or songs but when they are turned against yourself, you will slow or stop all progress.

I have felt frustration, anger, rage and even self-loathing and self-deprecation and none of those are constructive.  I have thrown things, broken things, punched holes in walls and none of that helped my music get any better.  It just made more problems that had to be solved.  The amount of time wasted with negative emotions can be ridiculous.  If you ever think you are being stupid, you may be, if you go through all the drama just to end up having wasted your own time and opportunity.  Practice is an opportunity.  Treat it with respect and your art can be more respectable.

One night I was with a friend in his recording studio (which I had designed--I also did the mixing room for NBC Burbank).  We were working on an arrangement of an original song written by my daughter.  He was "laying down" some guitar fills.  He played a few notes and made a mistake.  He hit rewind and record.  It happened again--the same mistake.  Rewind.  Record.  Again, the same mistake.  Rewind.  Record.   Perfect this time.  No reaction and no emotion and no wasted time.  No chairs flew across the room.  There were no Anglo-Saxon expletives being screamed from his mouth.  No fists through walls.  Nothing kicked across the room.  No wasted time.  What was the objective?  To get the guitar licks recorded perfectly.  This happened in a span of maybe two minutes.  Nothing was hurt.  No one was offended.  No respect was lost.  The man is a phenomenal musician with phenomenal credentials and had been one of my mentors for over 20 years.  His focus was on having it right, NOT on why it wasn't or THAT it wasn't and his focus paid off.   I knew he could play anything with anyone but in this brief episode resulting in perfection, he taught me more about being a true professional.  Patience is not only the cure for frustration, it can head it off at the pass, partner! 

Monday, August 01, 2016

How Did I Get Here?

Have you ever asked yourself:  "How did I get here?"

Maybe you found yourself in a bad spot or a tight spot or an impossible predicament and you asked, "How did I get here?"  Maybe you found yourself suddenly noticing that your improvement was incremental and you didn't realize how good you had become at something that meant everything to you.  It is at that point in time to take a look and assess how you got there.  Why?  You want to stay there once you are there, don't you?

My father played piano most days after he came home for work.  Sometimes he would show me some things.  He was a very good amateur who could somehow rise to a professional level when he sat in with professional musicians.  I was curious and interested in what he was doing and how and one thing he told me was to learn chords.  I found a book about chords and, at the age of fifteen, I learned chords.  I learned major, minor, 6ths, 7ths, augmented, diminished, 9ths, and so on.  Then I tried to play from piano sheet music, just looking at the guitar chord symbols and found that I could play songs: melody in the right hand and chords in the left.  It was a bit awkward until I learned inversions.  It was good to get away from everything in root position.  One thing that helped was my father taught me "Satin Doll", which was played by Duke Ellington's band.

Flash back to the forties.  New York City.  A 21 year old navy lieutenant out for a good time is in the venue where Duke Ellington's band is playing.  You would have to know my father to understand the audacity of what was about to happen.  Cutting to the chase, he sat in on drums with Duke Ellington's band.  Decades later, he did the same, except on piano, playing...you guessed it...Satin Doll.  It was at the West Virginia governor's inauguration ball.

So, knowing chords is only important if you wish to play piano or write music.  It certainly doesn't hurt to hear chords and to understand what you hear, if you are a melodic-type musician, such as a singer or any instrumentalist.  It is an absolute necessity, if you have any aspirations of playing jazz.

A college class that is five days a week, an hour each day, with homework, sounds grueling.  To make it worse, it is at 8 AM.  You cannot stay up late and party for long and show up for that class before exhaustion sets in.  Therefor, you learn something that is not part of the curriculum.  You learn that you either prioritize your time or you fail.  What was that class?  Music Theory.  It used the Walter Piston book.  Piston' birthday is the same as mine.  That's odd, because that is where the similarities cease.  The teacher was a famous composer of modern music.  How did I get here?  Oh yes, I tested for the class.  What was the test?  Before I answer that, I should point out that there were 300 freshman music majors.  A few at a time were put into a classroom with no piano in it, were given music manuscript paper and a pencil.  A professor walked in and said, "Write out the melody line to "The Star Spangled Banner."  I wrote it out perfectly and that got me in the hardest music theory class.

I lost my edge after losing my high school girlfriend.  I stopped going to class for a while.  Before this, late one night, my roommate played random notes on the piano and I could hear which notes they were, without looking.  It turned out he could do the same.  We both had a disease--perfect pitch.  It is useful but I don't know how to teach it to anyone.  I don't see colors or pictures or numbers; I just hear and know notes and their pitches instantly and without analysis.  The same goes for chords.

I got a phone call in the dorm.  Dr. Whear was on the phone and he invited me to meet with him. We got together and he let me know that I had something that is "very rare and only one other person in the class also had this thing".  I knew it was my roommate.  He was talking about "perfect pitch".

Dr. Whear asked me, "What do you want to do with your life?" 

I said, "I want to write music."

"It's a very lonely life, writing music, but I think you could do that.  I would like you to please come back to my class.  Would you do that?"

I agreed.  Five days a week.  8 AM.  Lots of homework.  I got ok grades on my compositions.  I broke some rules with Baroque-style 4 part writing.  That annoyed him and also my on-purpose mis-pronunciation of Mozart.  A music theory rebel, I was.  It is part of how I got here, though.  I would say that being a music major is more time intensive than majoring in almost anything else.  There is a huge amount of practice on the major and minor instrument (or voice) and add to that the so-called core curriculum that everyone gets: English, Math, etc., ad nauseum.  Then you get the picture that it may be more than an engineering student will do time-wise and maybe more along the line of a medical student.

If you have plans of being a songwriter, you might consider that time to learn and study and practice will determine your outcome.  You cannot really fail.  You can quit, though.  You also can self-sabotage, by not learning your "tools" and their use.  If you don't put in the time and the study and the practice, you are the cause of your asking yourself (as you wait tables or do other jobs):  "How did I get here?"  You took the steps that lead to the place.  No on walked them for you.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Get Your Goal

Any time that you think that you are not good enough, not talented enough, not smart enough, not skilled enough, not knowledgeable enough, then you...YOU are lying to yourself.  This does not apply to all people but it does apply to you.  Some people are not up to the task but YOU are. 

You are at a fork in the road.

One side leads to success.  The other side leads to murdering your joy, your dreams, your aspirations, your goals by pretending that you are not who and what you are.  You can put your energy on one or two places:

1) trying to find WHY you have doubts that cripple you or

2) gather up all that is inside of you and force yourself to do the work but do not make it bigger than what it is.  That only will lead to being overwhelmed and that leads to murdering the artist in yourself.  It IS life or death but you will make the decision to live or die as an artist and following that path.  You will have to make choices and decisions every day and perhaps every hour but it is as simple as a thought in the direction of your destiny. 

As you progress toward your life as an artist, you will gain confidence and strength.  Evaluate your assets and also your deficits.  In reality, negative people or negative thoughts or criticism are enemies to your goals.  You don't need to attack them but you do need to not let them affect you any more than single a drop of rain would.  It is insignificant.  Small changes, building over time, lead to the fulfillment of your goals.  This is just how it works.  It has been said that patience is the cure for frustration.  Part of knowing the rules of the game is knowing that playing within them works.  Violating them leads to frustration, losing time, and pain.

You may have made the tasks appear larger than what they are and have caused yourself overwhelm or you may have thought of a longer runway than what it actually is and have overestimated time.  It takes less time and effort than what it feels like and you could only know that had you already achieved your goals.  So, you must have some faith and belief of the possibility of this being true. 


We are not born walking but we do walk.  You can only build on success but it is incremental, never instantaneous.  You are today, where you are on a path to success.  For some reason the plan or the map has not been clear.  Let me know if you need help with that and we can implement a myriad of sequential steps, done within a time frame. 

The first step is to make a decision.  That sounds simple, in and of itself.  It is.  However, the word decision, can be made to mean that you cut off all possibilities of NOT doing what needs to be done.  When you "don't feel like doing it" or do not do it, you are going the wrong way and are literally creating unhappiness and possible failure.  The thing to do is to act.  Action is much more powerful than thought in the achievement of goals. Don't get this wrong, though.  Thought is very very powerful and is capable of either starting or stopping your progress.  The best thing is that thought can also help you change direction and to keep you moving in a straight line to a goal, instead of being distracted from it. 

You need a rigid and unchangeable policy in place to handle any pattern which is stopping you or slowing you down which can include both thought and action or the lack thereof. Without a policy of how you operate as an artist, you will be subject to every little whim of yourself and others and may wake up one day, still lying to yourself that you are too old and that it is too late.  Now is the time, your time.  It is the only equal asset that the living have.  Use it and prosper or waste it and suffer the consequences.

 Write down your policy for yourself and let me know what it is.



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

POTENTIAL

I see potential.  I can also estimate it and quantify it and can explicitly evaluate it.  Is that good?  It is sometimes painful.  I have heard many many singers.  I can hear their strengths and their weaknesses.  Excluding everything but sound, I do hear if musicianship is weak.   What is musicianship?  It is a range of skill and may include knowledge and nomenclature, but is demonstrated in singing.  The subject of music theory has something to do with that, but not in a creative fashion.  When I hear a singer, I know what needs some help or attention. 

I was cursed with a thing called perfect pitch.  It is hard to describe what that is like but it is like being able to differentiate color in a painting or timbre of a specific instrument as compared to another but is more subtle.  Nonetheless, one pitch compared to another has some characteristic of being able to hear and recognize, as you recognize someone's voice.  How helpful is this?  I also hear chords, the inversions, the voicings, instantly and without "analyzing".  I just get the whole "picture" all at once.  This is also useful for singers, for me to have this broad perspective.

I write music EVERY day and have over 2000 pieces: songs, instrumental, jazz, orchestra, big band, marching band, country, pop, R&B, Ballads, Latin, Broadway, etc. 26 styles total. What other vocal coach/musician/teacher can say that? 

One could say that specialization is the key.  Is it?  Diversity is the universal key or solvent.  Da Vinci was in many ways similar to me, in that I also know architecture, engineering, building methods, and several sciences in depth, including acoustics.  I draw and have painted and this "cross-training" has added to, rather than taken away from my music.

Despite the knowledge of music and the skill of a singer, I must say that the single biggest issue or struggle singers have, has nothing to do with singing or music.  The single biggest issue always will be the mind of the singer and the state of health of that mind.  When it is healthy, the mind can learn rapidly and pass it on to the voice.  More careers are made or broken in the mind than anywhere else.  Singers who spend time criticizing themselves or others will find that is the most deleterious activity there is.  Energy will be used to build up, to tear down, or to maintain and it is nothing more or less than a mere decision, a choice.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How To Fail Or...

What usually happens when you give someone some great advice, advice that is proven to produce quantifiable success and has worked for many people? What usually happens? Nothing. Most people seem to be not inclined to change anything, let alone succeed in a big way. 

The real reason for resentment when a person becomes aware of another's success or wealth is the pain some specific emotions bring. Envy and jealousy are usually coupled with some serious avoidance of reality.... The reality of never practicing, the reality of having incorrectly assessed or incorrectly having estimated the amount of work and dedication but also having never done the necessary work can be painful to realize. Most cannot face this deficiency in character or in work ethic because it is virtually inseparable from one's own personal integrity. To do so would bring a person to a fork in the road. One side leads to an introspection followed by a pity party, fraught with self-deprecating "affirmations" and THEN followed by giving up on dreams and goals. The other side leads to reassessing and reevaluating the effort put forth and the results of that effort. It does NOT include letting oneself off the hook by diminishing oneself and lying about never having had the talent when in fact, talent was never the issue. 

Most people (failing in the arts) lack the ability to practice, to objectively evaluate and keep track of progress, NOT talent. Talent is rarely the issue for failure in the arts. It can look so easy to sing, to play an instrument, to paint, to write, to dance. Why? We are usually looking at the people who put in the education and the practice to look or sound so good. Ask a top professional about the time and quality of work that went into the art before it was ever shared in a big way. 

Success cannot be guaranteed but lack of success can be guaranteed. How? Never practice or practice too little. Never bother to learn vocal technique and music in depth. Work on changing yourself INSTEAD of doing the work everyone else did to be and do what you say YOU want. Do that and get nowhere in a hurry. Put in no time or too little time and it is almost 100% guaranteed you will NEVER be a good, let alone a professional, artist.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Mastering Singing

What do you know?  What can you do?   What do you need to learn?  What do you need to practice, to improve?  The greatness of a singer is somewhat analogous to the greatness of an architect.  Singers will only be as good as what they know and what they can do with what they know.  Many singers fall short with musicianship.  They cannot name or identify what they have heard as far as chords, chord progressions, chord voicings.  Some can, though.  Ear training, as it is called, can enhance such skills.  Music theory is also helpful.  There's much more, though. Here are the 18 Components of Singing Mastery:  How would you estimate your level regarding these?

1.State of mind
2.Clear vision
3.Goal setting and achievement
4.Purpose(s)
5.Action Plans
6.Tracking Systems
7.Physical Health
8.Musicianship
9.Vocal Use (Technique)
10.Creative Artistry
11.Objectivity
12.Perseverance
13.Talent
14.Business and Financial Expertise
15.Appearance
16.Charisma
17.Showmanship
18.Communication Ability

Architects know about function and structure and forces of nature and chemistry and physics and strengths of materials and environmental control systems and human needs and code requirements and much more.  You might think a person who draws plans and doesn't think much about it is an architect.  There is as much skill and knowledge to every art.  Some things are definable and some are not. 

Musicianship is a vast subject and so is vocal technique.  Many singers have the talent but lack elsewhere.  Sadly enough, some are in a very bad state of mind which can and will affect the art of singing or music.  A singer with no charisma is a very sad state in that it is also a state of being blind to objectivity.  There is so much more than meets the eye, with being a professional level performer.  Some people do sing just for fun and that's okay but the chasm between that at successfully performing is deep and wide, only to be bridged by enhancing the 18 components of singing mastery.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Is THIS ABOUT SINGING?

This is about all of us who sing and all of us who do not sing:

What would happen in the world, if wisdom were to become common sense? What would happen: if reason were to take precedence over emotions, if people would act instead of complain, if we would work harder at searching for common ground (rather than defending a position), if we would unite on principles of fairness, goodness, and would love rather than hate? What would happen? It's hard to imagine, isn't it? The departure from such things has been an incremental one. The return to such things, if it ever happens, will be an incremental one. We all have everything we need to start a renaissance, back to being civilized, just as a simple little acorn has everything in it to grow into an oak tree. Just add air, water and some nutrients, a little sunshine and voila. It starts with "one". It starts with many multiples of one. The age of information has become the age of misinformation. Truth, which should be ubiquitous, has become elusive and in some cases inaccessible and unattainable. Therefor, the information age has failed us. It is polluted and poisoned and fraught with delusion and deception. It is replete with opinions that are accepted as fact and with facts that are skewed, distorted, or biased in such a way that they become so convoluted that they are nearly impossible to unravel. Yet, they are accepted at face value, not exposed to hard evidence, devoid of any critical thinking, making more nebulous the division of what was once called "church and state".  It is not politically correct to even be religious yet party members behave as if the party is the new religion.   Now that we all have our own soap box upon which to stand and espouse our brilliant opinions, everyone has equal opportunity to make an utter fool of oneself. Observe for yourself the infantile attacks which follow posts and read the entire thread and you will see the immature and sophomoric stooges that political zealots have become. It's not only repulsive and disgusting, it is an insult to intelligence and embarrassing that individuals can be whipped into such a frenzy of belligerence. Nothing gets accomplished from the hate war. War accomplishes one thing only that is for certain and that thing is destruction. Whether it is a war of words or a war of nations, destruction will always be a guaranteed outcome. What can we do? Fighting is not the answer. That has failed. Incremental changes. Who wants to be hated? People want loving relationships in their personal lives. If you don't believe it, hang around some divorce courts for a while. If I am going to make it all about me, then I can start working on having more: understanding, tolerance, and love for others and for principles which support such things. I can look for the good in others, rather than attacking them for their thoughts, beliefs, and actions. BUT what if someone is filled with hate and driven to destroy others? What do we do with the sociopaths and psychopaths? What do you do with wild animals who would attack you or others? Give them space. Stay away. Defend yourself if and when necessary. Have things in place in society to protect ourselves from such people. The picture is HUGE but as individuals, politicians and politically driven people would prefer to make each person insignificantly small and unintelligent. Politics is filled with deception and delusion. It is about control and manipulation and it is sold as if it is for the good of the people but the people have become serfs and the royalty wants for the royalty what the royalty wants. The commonality between royalty of history and royalty now is wealth. There is much more alike than different between front running political candidates than they would EVER allow you to think. If you think the race for president of the U.S. has looked dirty up to this point, just wait and watch. But then again... What would happen in the world, if wisdom were to become common sense?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Do You Strain For High Notes?

Straining For High Notes?

Do you strain for high notes?  You are, if you feel you have to force out a note, increase the volume, or if you tense up.  Tension can be in the neck, the tongue, or the jaw and it can feel like muscle tension or pain.  There is a way to stop straining but merely thinking about it will not work. 

What causes tension?

You cause tension.  You are trying to overcome something else, though.  Improper training, improper singing technique, and not maintaining your voice are three issues which one or all lead to straining.  When the muscles inside your neck aren't doing their job, you activate outside muscles to try to overcome the others.  They are not related and not connected to muscles which do the job of singing without straining.

So, what, if I strain?

Here's what: You will lose endurance.  You will lose or not have the ability to sing without breaks or cracks in your range.  You will not have high notes. You will cause irritation that can lead to blisters or vocal nodules, if you strain over a period of time.  Nodules cause severe hoarseness which lasts for two weeks or more and also will cut of the top end of your range.  If you get them surgically cut off, you may be left with scar tissue.  Scar tissue does not vibrate like undamaged tissue and you will not have your natural sound and this will probably be permanent.

How do I not strain?
Get proper vocal training.  This means to get training from a vocal coach who know how to safely sing and also to be able to sing high and/or powerfully.  All vocal coaches do no know how to train singers this way.



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE?

Regardless of whether you feel that you need huge changes or some slight "tweaking", the same principles apply, to arrive at your destination.  Whether you believe it or not, your approach will be the same if it is a huge change or if it is a minor one. 

I could teach you every chord there is in 3 hours on a piano, to where you could play any that I would call out to you, or read off a lead sheet.  This time frame will be more, if you cannot focus well or cannot assimilate new information well.  Your intelligence level also will come into play.  Still, you cannot absorb a huge body of data instantly.  It must be revealed piece by piece. 

The same is true with singing.  Corrections and the practice involved are incremental and there is an added factor of emotions, thoughts, beliefs and misinformation (of which you are currently unaware) that can slow or stop your progress.  You kind of have to clean house before you can totally move in and live there.

If you were flying from the United States to Europe, there would be hundreds, if not thousands, of course corrections along the way.  You wouldn't notice them, if you had a competent and considerate pilot.  You would notice if he jerked the plane around, forcing it to stay on course, despite wind or other traffic in the air.  That wouldn't be a very comfortable ride, now, would it?  This begs the questioning of a worn out truism: "You've got to get out of your comfort zone."  Really?  Maybe you just need to make small changes over a few days, weeks, or months and you can arrive at your destination without bumps, bruises, or mental trauma.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

"I DON'T FEEL LIKE DOING IT!"

"I don't feel like practicing today!"  Have you ever felt this way?  What did you do about it?  Did you practice?  Did you practice but you didn't fully put yourself into it?  What do you do when you "don't feel like it"?

When you don't feel like doing something, anything, you are feeling a symptom of something else.  How did you get to that place?  Did anyone criticize you too harshly?  Did you take your eye off of the goal?  Did you ever have a goal?  How can you get back "in the zone", the place where you want to get things done?

The first thing to know is that you are not alone.  Many of the dedicated and wonderful professional recording artists may not be consistently self-disciplined enough to practice every single day.  Does that surprise you?  Is it a shock?  You better believe that most professionals do, however, prepare for recording or for performances.  Those are real and achievable goals for them and it is rare to not prepare or not to care to prepare. 

Everyone hits plateaus.  Everyone.  Truth is, we are not in a constant state of improvement.  We may be improving other things about singing performance, though.  If vocal technique is on a plateau, why not work on musicianship or diction or breathing or expanding your repertoire or learn a new style?  If you're on a plateau in one area, you are not on a plateau in all areas.  There is also performance technique, including movement, gestures, facial expressions or dancing ability.  There is always something that you can do; not to neglect anything, but alternative approaches can get you out of a rut or a slump.

You eventually get to a point to where you discover that singing is 100% mental or 100% spiritual, depending upon how you personally view it.  Sometimes you are not on a plateau at all but your head is in a bad place.  If you hit this thick, tall, and wide concrete wall, walk to the end of it and go around it.  There is no need to try to go through it.  On the other side of your self-created wall is what you have been hiding from.  Inspiration is there.  Motivation is there.  Oh  my God!  Your goal is there; the one you made or the one to be made.  In the past people, places or things inspired you.  What were they?  What has motivated you in the past?  It's on the other side of that wall. 

Eventually you realize the wall is imaginary.  It's not concrete.  It's not thick, wide, or tall.  It's not there at all, that wall.  Don't make new ones.  Life and art can be hard but only as hard as you make them.

Monday, February 15, 2016

How much water should a singer drink?

How much water should you be drinking daily? There are several opinions about this.

Another question is, does coffee dry out your "voice", your vocal folds? Research supposedly shows that it can. Should you avoid coffee? It depends. You can ask your doctor or you can read about it and hope that your sources are trustworthy. The more important question is are you well-hydrated?

A little not-so-nice advice I have heard is: "Pee Clear, sing clear". Maybe it is nice, if ...it is true. Another piece of advice I have heard is that if you have coffee, follow it with an equal amount of water. How much water in a day? Some say to work up to 8-10 [8 oz.] glasses of water per day. Some say 6 glasses. You have to get to know yourself. Each person is individual and has individual needs and also those vary from day to day.

What about tea and honey? Those go into your stomach and do not touch your vocal folds unless you are choking on the tea and honey. It could perhaps have a placebo effect or feel soothing to pharyngeal tissue, possibly, but your "voice" does not receive it, except for whatever makes it to the "voice" via the bloodstream.

You can read all kinds of opinions and even lies about these things, but I would advise you to talk to someone who actually knows anatomy and body function, such as a doctor or an ENT. I won't call myself an authority on these things but I will say that what I have read has come from authorities on these things.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Secrets of Singing Better

What are the secrets of singing better?

Why would there be secrets? Seriously.  There are no secrets but there are things which are worse.  There are myths about singing.  They have been around for over a century, some of them.  The bad thing about myths is that they are either worthless or possibly very harmful.  The other thing about myths is that they are assumed to be true but have never been examined by those who use them to mislead singers (usually unknowingly).

There was a time in medical history that doctors believed that "bleeding" or "bloodletting" a person would help the person to get well or to get better.  The practice could have caused infections or worse.  This went on for two thousand years, so it is not unreasonable to assume that myths have a long survival rate.

Science will usually reveal myths--eventually

The first secret to better singing is to see if you are holding on to any myths regarding singing.  The most common, if not the most ubiquitous is that a singer should "sing from the diaphragm".   This implies that your diaphragm is actively doing something as you sing.  This is where we first step out of the looking glass of wonderland.  Check the sources of authority and licensed practice, specifically a physician, rather than most singing or music teachers who never had to study basic anatomy.  Since the 1700s, doctors have known some specific facts about the diaphragm:

1) It contracts downward, causing the lungs to draw in air.
2) It cannot be felt because it has no proprioceptive nerves in it.  Your hand has proprioceptive nerves, meaning you can feel what position it is in and directly can control it.
3) The diaphragm is in a state of relaxation when you are singing a tone. 
4) If you push out the air, you are using muscles of the abdomen and the chest.

Remember that doctors have known this since the 1700s.  Somehow they do not laugh at people for spewing useless misinformation.  Most singing teachers who tell you to sing from the diaphragm do not know where it is, how it is shaped, or its actual function.  If you wish, ask the teacher to draw the diaphragm and to describe its function.

What other common myths are there?  That you can place your tone somewhere: your sinuses, your eyes, on the floor, in your face, your forehead, etc.  This is a myth.  You cannot make the sound go in a special place in your head.  There are no secret valves in your head to direct the air and you cannot will it to go somewhere anymore than you can teleport an object across a room by simply thinking it into action.

Myths do not solve anything or help you to sing better.

Some people say, "Do not sing from your throat." or "You are singing from your throat."  This is usually followed by their patting their stomachs and saying, "sing from here!"  WHAT?!  Let's get real.  Where are the vocal folds (used to be called vocal cords)?  They are in your throat.  We could say that the teacher doesn't literally mean to not sing from the throat.  If that is true, then why not say what you do mean?  What is the singing teacher looking for?  A freer tone?  A bigger sound?  Instructing to not sing from the throat yields no change, no results.  There are ways to get a bigger sound and a freer tone.

Some teachers pat the stomach and say," Fill up down here."  Once again this is a blatant revelation of ignorance of the human anatomy.  If a teacher truly cared about the students, wouldn't it make sense to crack open an anatomy  book, such as the old reliable, Gray's Anatomy?  It has some excellent drawings and clearly worded information about the lungs and about breathing, including the function of the diaphragm.  Your lungs do not extend into your abdomen.  They end around the bottom of your ribcage.  The only way to fill up the abdomen is to eat something and it won't be mostly air that you eat.

Muscles work the "voice" mechanism and they are controlled by your mind.

Does that seem true?  That is something which can be verified by any good ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor).  The great news is that there are some singing teachers and vocal coaches who do know and understand the function of the singing voice and can give a singer exercises which work specific muscles for strength, control, and coordination.  The physical technique of singing is not the complete solution to being a great singer, though.  There is more.  You can read about it here.

Want a free voice lesson?  All you have to do is to ask for it.  Free voice lesson


Thursday, January 21, 2016

ARE THERE ANY FREE VOICE LESSONS?

Are there any free voice lessons?

For about 10 days (ending January 31, 2016) it is possible to get a free voice lesson.  It doesn't matter if you are a beginner, an intermediate singer, or even a professional singer.  If you want a good solid foundation or even an evaluation, you can get it.  For FREE.  What's the catch?  It is one singing lesson for free but only one for free.  The offer is only for 10 days, including today.  It is available on Skype or on FaceTime.  I may never do this again for free. 

To set up a free singing lesson, you do need to be 18 years old or get your parents' consent, if you're not 18.

You can email me at chuckstewartmusic@gmail.com

I'll send you my contact information for Skype or for FaceTime.  If you've been struggling with your singing of if you just want to learn some great technique, now is your chance to make it fun.

It's first come, first served.  I only have 12 slots left. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

Opening Night In Las Vegas

Before going into the show, I had practiced for a solid year, a minimum of 3 hours a day.  I also recorded myself a huge amount in those sessions.  I eventually had a tape that didn't make me throw up when I heard myself, went to the producer/choreographer of a show my wife, Sheree, was in, and she hired me on the spot when she heard the tape. 

She did make me audition in front of the cast and crew.  I sang "Night And Day" by Cole Porter and they went totally wild.  They said I was better than the Sinatra impersonator who was in the early show (there were three shows running there then...it's now called the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino).  Much of the cast were dancers.  If you haven't been in a show, the dancers think that they are the show and everyone else is not.  That made the compliments and applause mean even more.

The owner at the time, Bob Stupak, was a sort of tough guy, who hated entertainers, I was told.  The first night of the show, the stage manager came backstage to where I was.  I did the announcing and also assisted with other acts, paging the curtain for them.  So, the stage manager said, "Do you see that booth in front at center stage?" I looked through the curtain and said, "Yes."  She said, "That is Mr. Stupak's booth.  No one else sits there.  He's going to be there tonight and if he doesn't like you, it will be your last night."  I thanked her for the heads up. 

I thought to myself that if he didn't like me then he's stupid.  I knew I was ready.  Still you don't want to hear that before opening night.  People don't say good luck or even break a leg anymore.   They say "Merde!" which is French for shit.  So, I got more than a fair share of merde before walking onto that huge stage the first night.  Oh yes.  He did like me and every time after that I saw him in his casino he spoke to me or waved if we were far apart.