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


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 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 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.