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.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Cross Training

Cross training. Some of the best athletes use it. Football players in a ballet class has to be quite a sight! Flexibility and coordination may be gained from ballet class. Ballet can also train a person to have more kinesthetic awareness or even aesthetic awareness, or the lack of it. Some athletes engage in related or unrelated sports: golf, baseball, track, tennis, swimming, etc. All can enhance aspects of strength and coordination which can add up to control and endurance being improved.

What are we getting at? How can cross training apply to music and to writing music? I've met many musicians who play more than one instrument. Most have a favorite instrument and it will usually be the one that is their best. Still, there is much to be gained from learning other instruments, even if it is more like a hobby in the approach. In college, classes for music majors can include: percussion techniques, woodwind techniques, string techniques, brass techniques, and vocal techniques. In those classes you can learn a little about the instruments and gain some familiarity with how it feels and sounds to play them.

Cross training can apply to finding inspiration. Anything and anyone can be inspirational. If not participating in other arts, I can still be inspired by them. Maybe I'll take more dance classes. For now, maybe I can watch dance on YouTube or go to a live performance. Museums, galleries, and exhibitions of paintings, drawings, and sculpture will inspire me. A recent one I attended is gigantic. TEFAF was in Maastricht. You enter and see some shops with gorgeous paintings and sculpture and speak with people inside. Awesome! You are not even in the main area yet. Thousands of square feet of exhibits by names you should recognize, many you will not, and the art is from all over Europe. It is too much to explain. Several restaurants and bars make it possible to enjoy the day even more, not having to leave for a drink or a bite. It is also a social event and the interaction and reactions of and with others just add to the experience.

If you're not inspired by art or other arts, travel may be great cross training. Inspiration doesn't always show up at your doorstep. Sometimes you must step away and seek inspiration. Every continent has great places to explore and discover. I've only seen 2.5 so far and a few islands in the Caribbean. For me, Paris, Venice, Rome, Tuscany, Munich, Aachen, Amsterdam, Maastricht, and Barcelona were some high points for experiencing culture, architecture, art, music, and food. Food can be inspirational.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Was I A Great Singer Before Getting Lessons?

Before training as a singer, I was good enough to work professionally and did.  I worked in Las Vegas, Florida, and 12 other states on tour.  I got a job, singing in a show in Las Vegas and I had a “break” in my voice.  I sang below the break and that is what I had done for years.  I thought that it was just part of singing and that there was nothing I could do about it.  Then I started studying with a lady and in a few months, I had no break.  I had no strain.  I had power throughout my entire range, which had over an octave added to it.  I could finally sing R&B songs in the original keys without cracking.

The lady insisted that I learn to teach what she taught me.  We met daily for several weeks and she then told me that I had to get some students.  I did.  The results were miraculous, the singers told me.  My teacher told me that she had never seen anyone get the results with singers as fast as I did.  I mostly did what she had taught me but I also had experience with trombone professionally, so I had some added insight that no other vocal coach could possibly have.  I had studied with one of the best brass teachers in the world.

One of my students was a plumber.  He had been a singer, playing the lounges in Las Vegas, until he injured his voice from singing wrong, had surgery, and could not work professionally after that.  He had a great tone quality.  He had a bad break in his voice and couldn’t get to the high notes like before his surgery.  When he sang, I noticed that he would fill up with air and then as he sang, he flexed his abs very hard.  A light went off in my head so I asked him, ”Are you a brass player, too?” He said, “Yes.  Trombone.”  Some brass players are told to fill up with air.  It is a very unnatural way to play, especially on short musical phrases.  My brass teacher had taught me a different way to breathe, which was to not fill up with air, unless it was a long phrase at high volume.  I thought about how to get him to relax.  I had him sit backwards on a chair, facing the back of the chair while straddling it and to lean his body into the chair, to take all his weight and to relax his abs completely.  My teacher was there and she and the man’s wife came running into the studio when they heard the return of his voice in all of its brilliance and range.  The three of them were crying and praying and thanking me, too.  He went back to work as a singer, which was his love and his passion.

For me, training got me to go beyond what I could do before training.  I went from frustration to freedom.  It took a little time but it also did feel like a miracle when in a lesson my break was gone.  There was one specific exercise I did when it happened.  The others before that one had prepared me for this day.

I studied karate privately.  There were many days of stretching before the day came when I could kick straight up.  Progress is incremental as long as you are doing the right exercises, the right way, in the right sequence, and for the right amount of time.  That amount of time will vary with each individual.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Can A Bad Singer Become A Good Singer?

How bad is “bad”?  How good is “good”?  What is bad and what is good?

A study was done at Stanford University and it was discovered that the only people who are truly tone deaf have brain damage.  I worked with a brain-damaged karaoke singer and was able to get him to match pitch, carry a tune, and to sing in tune with accompaniment, so that may not be an absolute “unfixable” condition.  My having the curse of perfect pitch was quite helpful in resolving his issues with hearing and identifying how his voice fit in with music.

Without some analysis of the singer, it is a bit of a guessing game.  I would assess several factors, but first would determine the goals the singer has: To sing to perform and is the goal to be an amateur or a pro?  Once that is established, I would have the singer warm up and then sing a song.  Then the analysis would be done.  Within the many components of musicianship, on a scale of 1 to 10, how do those rank?  Without analysis, there is no way to know where to start.  How is: pitch, rhythm, tonality, accuracy of intervals, perception and performance of melodic lines, etc.?  It is a long list.

Then, I would evaluate if there were any issues with the 21 most common problems of singers which include: articulation, breath control, use of the voice (as opposed to abuse of the voice) and many more.  I will usually know which ones are problems, after having heard a song sung.

There are 18 components of singing and performance mastery.  Artistic imagination and objectivity are but two of the 18.

I do not do a “one size fits all” kind of instruction.  I do not have singers work on things they have already mastered.  I don’t have a mental image of how a singer should sound.  Everyone is different from everyone else.  No two singers sound exactly alike and imitating singers can be dangerous to the health of the voice.  You do not fit into an imaginary mold.  I do not waste singers’ time with useless or outdated vocal exercises.  Any vocal exercises I use are proven, since there have been over 200 Grammys won by people who use them.  Each one has a purpose.  Some are used to build the voice, while others are used to maintain it or, in a state of advancing in quality and agility.  This includes range, which will eventually be extended to its fullest, but without causing strain or other problems.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Want To Sing High In Chest Voice?

Chest voice is not a “sound”, it is a register of the voice.  The term came from singers noticing a sympathetic vibration taking place in the chest on lower pitches.  There is a term called 
full voice, though.  It means that the vocal folds are adducting properly and that it is a full tone, not breathy, not raspy, not harsh, and not yelling or screaming. 

For many years, there has been a thing between chest voice and head voice but untrained singers cannot always use it or find it.  It is called middle voice.  Some people call it mix or mixed voice or blend or other terms.  I have used the term middle voice in training singers but I think it is good to only temporarily think about registers in the voice, especially when performing.  When your voice is properly trained, you can connect, so to speak, the registers: chest, middle, head, and flageolet (as classical singer might say). 

Whistle tones or superhead voice are upper register tones above head voice and can be heard as done by Mariah Carey, Rachelle Ferrell, but not many others. 

If you only have chest voice and falsetto, you are missing a usable register in between.  It has also been called the passaggio .  The term has been mis-defined as “passage area”.  It is an Italian word, as are most musical terms, and it simply means passage or transition.  Singing in it can feel precarious and uncontrollable, if not impossible to use unless and until you are properly trained to use it.  A very few people naturally can use it.  In my experience, those who naturally or very quickly use it have been Italian or descendants of Italians.  Why they are gifted this way, I have no idea but I do have a few theories.

If you ascend in pitch, chromatically from chest voice, and you suddenly flip or crack or break or disconnect in tone quality, there is an issue causing that and it takes training to overcome the habits which cause that issue to be perpetuated.  Inside your larynx, if we were to examine the vocal folds with a scope, we would see that adduction is lost in the passaggio, if you are not able to maintain your sound as you go through the range of middle voice. 

Most people have the problem of the larynx rising (some severely and/or suddenly so) and then try to force the notes out by screaming.  You have discovered and would agree that screaming is not the answer for you.  There are several vocal exercises which can help with your situation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What Materials Are Close To Sound Proof?

I have been called “A Renaissance Man”, which is a bit embarrassing to me. However, 22 years ago for a period of 18 years, I had multiple careers, doing music at night (singing in a show or playing lead trombone in a big band) but I also had a “day gig”. I got licensed by the Board of Architecture and by the Contractors Board. Part of my tests included acoustics. It was a must to understand sound transmission control. It also was a must to understand acoustics because it was on the test.

I had the pleasure of drawing the plans for the mixing room which was built at NBC Burbank, CA, where the Tonight Show was filmed (back when Johnny Carson was on it). Sound behaves similarly to light with absorption, reflection, dispersion and in other ways. Sound is a vibration and a floor slab can be affected by ambient sound.

Some studios isolate the slab from adjoining areas by literally cutting it away (if remodeling for a studio) or by isolating it during the pouring of concrete if it is new construction. Many things can be done for sound transmission control. Sometimes there is a space between a double wall. Sometimes resilient channels are used to mostly isolate gypsum wallboard from studs or furring strips against a concrete or CMU wall. Sometimes insulation is used within the walls. There are several types of assemblies which have been tested and are designated by STC ratings.

At NBC, there were 2 layers of a foam-type material between the bottom plate of the wall and the floor slab. In this instance, there was concrete, a foam rubber material, and then the wood bottom plate. The wall was built with a space between it and the concrete wall that it paralleled. The side walls additionally were covered with Auralex. There site is here: Acoustical Materials and Acoustical Panels - Soundproofing Solutions, Doors, Windows, Walls

The front of the room was glass and a “normal wall” , creating an LEDE design (live end-dead end. The interior walls were set with a laser transit to tolerances in the thousandths of an inch and none were parallel, nor was the ceiling parallel to the floor.

There is a lot more to consider than materials, when controlling sound transmission. Some people say that lower frequencies, such as a bass will pass through concrete more easily than higher notes. Yet, as I sit and type this, in a concrete “flat plate designed” building, I can hear the lovely young Italian harpist playing over my head. Understand that there is a concrete floor between us, the underside is covered with gypsum material and her floor is covered with a carpet and padding. I can hear all frequencies of the notes she plays. They are not loud, but are audible.

I have designed condos, recording studios, churches, hospitals, stores, many houses (approx. 2,500), and radio stations. This also took place in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Florida. Being a musician and a singer, I always thought about sound and was eager to learn more about it.

A good question might be which materials conduct, transmit, reflect, and/or absorb sound. Each has its own quality. It is possible to soundproof a room but it is also cost prohibitive. If you are building a studio or music production work space, you’ll have a budget to consider. Fiberglass insulation does not conduct sound well. Styrofoam insulation may conduct sound slightly more than fiberglass insulation.

Sound will travel through air and water, so molecular density is a factor and so is the frequency of the vibrations involved. There are people with much more theory behind this, acoustical engineers, and they can always be consulted for in depth ideas, too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Question I Was Asked

I’ve been a vocal coach officially since 1994 but I worked with vocalists all the way back to 1975.  Chest voice is called chest voice because someone at some time noticed that the chest vibrated, when he/she sang in the lower part of the range.  The same is true for high notes and the vibration felt in the head.  Some people call middle voice “mixed voice”. 

First, I would point out that it is not necessarily an accurate description and can be misleading to think that you are mixing head voice and chest voice. 

Secondly, middle voice is in the passaggio, which has been mis-translated as “passage area” when in fact, it means passage way. 

Thirdly, many people are confused about the ranges of a voice and mistakenly believe that chest voice is a specific sound and that head voice is a specific sound and middle voice is a blend or mixture of the two.  When your voice is working at its optimum, there is not a radical difference in your sound from one register to another.  In fact, you should be able to do a glissando, seamlessly, from chest voice up to head voice and also in the opposite direction and at any volume level.  If you cannot do that, something is not working correctly. 

You should have the freedom of your entire range, without breaks or “shifting gears” and also with whatever quality you wish for expressing yourself artistically.  One other thing to consider is that you should be able to sing as if you have one voice, not two or three.  As a singer progresses in training with me, he or she may find that there will be variables with an overlap of ranges as far as how it feels to the singer.

  It ALL blends after being properly trained and with no strain or hoarseness involved.  We are working toward a consistent sound with effortless control, ultimately.  Make sense? My site is

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Recipe For Singing

"There Are Many Methods For Singing"

Yes, there are many methods for singing.  Many are outdated.  Many are useless.  Many have no basis in science or in practice.  Many have harmed voices of singers who used them.  There is only one way, or method, which works for everyone.

Can You Cook or Bake?

If you have made cookies, a cake, chicken piccata or eggs benedict, you know that you must have all the recipe's ingredients, and also that the ingredients must be combined, prepared and heated in a specified way.  The better the ingredients, the better the outcome.  Cookies without sugar or honey or something sweet added will not taste sweet.  Bake them too hot or for too long, also, and they won't be so great.  Omitting an ingredient will guarantee inferiority.  Doing the right thing at the wrong time or simply doing the wrong thing will guarantee failure.  Is there an actual recipe for singing and singing great?  There is.  People will charge you as much as $500 for an hour to start learning the so-called secrets, methods, or principles.  Yet, some of those people know little or nothing about style and also may be sorely lacking in musicianship.  What if you need help with those things. too?

The Recipe For Singing:

  • Does not ignore music, science, physics, or medical science.
  • Uses the muscles in a coordinated way to safely produce vocal sound.
  • Has been proven over and over among the top professionals.
  • Does not impose limits.
  • Gives a singer the freedom to express.
  • Does not alter your natural sound.
  • Involves more than vocal technique. 17 more things than vocal technique.  You may already have some of those but you may need to develop others.

Vocal Technique

  • Vocal technique should not harm your voice or cause strain.
  • It should give you freedom of your entire range with no breaks.
  • It should help you have endurance for concerts and/or recording.
  • It should give you the flexibility and accuracy of pitch needed for modern singing.
  • It does not deal in myths or lies, such as telling you to "sing from your diaphragm". Doctors know that this is a myth and why.
  • It does not tell you to "place your sound".  That is physically impossible and science reveals why.
  • It deals in fact, not in fantasy. You do not have to visualize anything.
  • It does not inhibit you with expressing yourself.

There Are 18 Ingredients In The Recipe For Singing

Vocal technique is only one of the 18 ingredients and it is a vast subject within itself!  18 Ingredients?!  What are they?  Adele has them.  Amy Winehouse had many of them.  Bruno Mars has them.  Adam Levine has them.  Lady Gaga has them. Christina Aguilera has them. Do you have them?  Would you like to have them?

Basic Music Terms for Singers

Monday, February 06, 2017

If you play the game right, you're gonna lose.  What?  You ARE going to lose.  BUT... You're also gonna win.  NOT talking about the superduperbowl.  If you're a singer, a composer, an actor, a painter and in doing so you're a TRUE artist, there is a "game" you play.  It's a serious game.  A trumpet player friend who played in Buddy Rich's band told me about the game.  Every time he played, he tried to make it better than the last time.  Two things he realized: 1) It's a losing game to play because you get to a point when improvement is so slow it is hardly noticeable, if at all.  2) There comes a time that you ARE good enough for what is needed AS A PROFESSIONAL.  BUT (and this reaches beyond the moon) you still keep playing the game of trying to improve beyond where you are.  When you stop trying to improve, well, that's the level of artist you are.  "Art" is an unwinnable game from this perspective but the great thing about it is that there is no limit to it.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Thought, Word, and Deed

I remember a bumper sticker on a guy's truck. He was the right hand man of an ex-felon gold smuggler who became a multi-millionaire in commercial real estate. The ex-felon (gold laws have since changed) bought properties when the economy was down and sold when it was up and kept maybe 100+ million, which he leased out. His right hand man, who never was as wealthy had a bumper sticker on his truck which said, "The one who has the most toys when he dies wins." I once thought a little like that but was never a multi-millionaire. I had all the arrogance and then some, though. By choice, now, I have very little in the way of "things". I do have some clothes, including over 100 shirts but they mostly sit and are not used. My time is spent writing novels, screenplays, music, and musicals and doing some teaching and some traveling. I think we have 7 computers between the two of us but very little furniture and no car. I don't think that I AM what I do, though. Not at all. It would be easy to say that I am a musician, singer, writer, composer but I do those and the "am" part lies far behind the activities. I was in architecture and other things but they don't define me and they don't enslave me and they don't put me in a box. If someone were to say, "What do you really do?" implying that I had to choose one thing, I finally have the answer. I express through creating and the field, the genre, the activity are the vehicle, but not the driver of it.
Chuck Stewart is a composer, musician, singer, and writer.|

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

When air pressure is reduced in the air stream emanating from the lungs, this results in diminished pressure and tension of the vocal folds (used to be called "vocal cords"). Three simple ways to do this are: warming up with lip rolls (lip trills) OR on tongue trills as in a "rolled R, like in Spanish or on a phonated 'Z' and done on: tetrachord plus one-up and down, on arpeggios or even on octave glissandos-ascending and descending. These also can be reversed pitch-wise. Now the good news. There are vocal coaches who teach this and also charge as much as $500 per hour. I, myself, paid $175 an hour for this and to learn much more, a few decades back. Over 200 Grammy winning singers and singers from all styles and genres, including Broadway warm up like this. Why? Because it works and it causes no strain (if you do it correctly) and it can help ensure a career that lasts and a voice that is freed up, relaxed, and endurance is better than NOT warming up. It is better than the old bullshit things done in most choruses led by pitifully inept people and also by the vocal coaches who should not even be in the business, spouting all the worthless clich├ęs, most of which reveal absolute ignorance of anatomy, physics, and acoustics. For instance, if you think you "sing from your diaphragm" you do NOT know how it works. Talk to a pulmonary physician if you want some expert opinion on that and if you think you sing from your diaphragm after that conversation, you might want to see a physician who works with people with delusions. The diaphragm has no proprioceptive nerves in it, so you cannot even feel it. Do NOT blame me because I did not make or design your diaphragm. It is also the "INHALE muscle" and the expiration of air is done by the elasticity of the lungs and thorax. It is NOT my fault. If the expiration of air is forced, it is done by the internal intercostals, the triangularis sterni, and the rectus abdominus (abdominal muscles). WHY would I mention this? Because if you distract yourself with typical misinformation, not only will you never improve, but you also will have your attention in places of fantasy and your musicianship and your sound and your performance will suffer greatly. So... I did not design or make the human body but I have taken the time to study anatomy and to work with some physicians (5 of whom were students of mine) to verify that my information is correct. I am not the source, so don't attack me.

How long should a person warm up? Until the person is warmed up. Some days it could be 5 minutes. Some days it could be longer. People are biological but not always logical. Life is not the same as inanimate objects, possessing predictable quantifiable control or results like structural steel and operate within the confines of the laws of physics although those do also apply to peoples' actions such as: inertia, momentum, acceleration and other principles. If a person warms up for 20 minutes or more and is having any difficulty singing, it is not the warm up which is the issue. It is lack of correct training, done correctly and a failure to comply with the participation with the knowledge, which we call practice. This brings us back to a person at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outer (or inner) force...inertia