Saturday, November 24, 2018

Music and Math

Music is not mushy, not all the time.  Speaking of time, time is mostly very consistent and even.  You can slow it down – ritardando.   You can speed it up – accelerando.  Still, it is mostly very consistent and even.  Time is quantifiable and measurable.  Within time are rhythms which also are very mathematical and are stated as fractions.  Notes are given values as to how long they are sustained: whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth, thirty-second, and so on.  Sometimes they are one and a half times their value or are tied to other notes and the two values are combined to create that specific endurance of tone.  
Even when a singer is singing rubato and is stretching or compressing note values or speeding them up or slowing them down, the time of the music usually is remaining constant.  The singer, if a great singer, will know that the time is consistent and will have a sense of that time while simultaneously singing ad lib instead of mechanically interfacing with the time of the music in a strictly mathematical way.  Time for the soloist can be alterable and malleable and is acceptable as long as the singer has a solid sense of where the time actually is.

Pitch is also mathematically measurable and is based upon a specific pitch, A, vibrating at 440 times per second.  Speaking of math, up an octave is another pitch vibrating at 880 times per second.  An octave is the eighth pitch, along the pattern of a scale, from the starting pitch.  Down an octave from A 440 is the pitch A 220.   Here we have the relationship of octaves, being half or double from any given note regarding the speed of vibration.  There is a center of pitch.  A faster vibration than the center is called sharp and a slower one is called flat.  A note is like a dollar or a euro, in that it has 100 cents.  The center is the “correct” pitch.  
Some musical instruments have fixed pitches, such as the pianoforte, which we simply call a piano.   A tuner can alter the pitches, but the player of the instrument usually does not, at least while playing.  An electronic keyboard may have a pitch bend wheel on it, affording the player options not available on a standard acoustic piano.  When a singer must interface well with music accompaniment, the singer must use hearing, the perception of pitch, of musical intervals, and instantly execute without resorting to analysis or other thought processes.  A singer can bend pitch, slide up to a note or down off a note but must always be fully aware of the pitches in the accompaniment or there will be intonation problems.

Music is mathematical and is mathematically measurable but that does not make it mechanical, necessarily.  There also are the possibilities of the loudness of tones being variable, from very very very soft -ppp to very very very loud -fff.  Pianississimo to fortississimo and potentially softer or louder than those, with all variables in between.

Music is mathematical, mushy, and malleable, so to speak.  There are many examples in many styles of the possibilities and there also appear to be infinite possibilities in the arrangements of pitch, durations, time, volume levels, instruments, and everything else.  It is the mathematical aspects which have brought about instruments of measurement of time and pitch, musical instrument digital interface (midi), and digital recording of music.  Math isn’t bad, but it is a point of stability, to be found in the morass of music.  For a singer, it is all something to be aware of, but most of the time a singer is quite organic, bringing life to the party of music.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Oil And Water

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

Dreams Are Good But,

Monday, October 08, 2018

What Should A Singer Work On?

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

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


1.     Is your posture stiff when you sing?

2.     Are you relaxed when you sing?

3.     Do you slump when you sing?

4.     Is your head up when you sing?

5.     Is your head down when you sing?

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

7.     Is your head tilted when you sing?

8.     Are your shoulders down when you sing?


1.     Does your chest expand?

2.     Is your chest stationary?

3.     Does your abdomen move with your breathing?

4.     Do you force your abdomen in?

5.     Do you force your abdomen out?

6.     Do you fill up with air?

7.     Do you run out of air?

8.     Do you over-breathe?

9.     Can you feel your diaphragm?

10. Do you exercise to improve your lung capacity?


1.     Is your tone clear?

2.     Is your tone raspy?

3.     Is your tone strident (harsh)?

4.     Do you feel you sing from your throat?

5.     Do you feel you sing from your abdomen?

6.     Is your tone breathy?

7.     Does your tone crackle?

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


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

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

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

4.     Are high notes difficult?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1.     Can you sing without tiring?

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

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

4.     Do you know how to improve endurance?


1.     Can you pronounce consonants correctly?

2.     Can you pronounce vowels correctly?

3.     Do you enunciate clearly?

4.     Do you under-enunciate?

5.     Do you over-enunciate?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1.     Do you lose your voice?

2.     Do you get hoarse?

3.     Do you ever yell or scream?

4.     Do you stay well-hydrated?

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

6.     Do you take drugs or smoke cigarettes?

7.     Do you sing in smoky places?

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

9.     Do you sleep 8 hours a day?

10. Is your body in good health?

11. Do you sing when you are ill?


1.     Can you sing on pitch?

2.     Can you sing with and without vibrato?

3.     Can you sing at every volume level?

4.     Can you sing with emotion?

5.     Can you sing with no emotion?

6.     Can you sing in front of people?

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


1.     Do you practice enough to sing with confidence?

2.     Do you regularly perform?

3.     Do you sufficiently prepare for auditions?

4.     Do you sufficiently prepare for performances?

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

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

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


1.     Do you understand melodic intervals?

2.     Can you sing successive melodic intervals in tune?

3.     Do you understand harmonic intervals?

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

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

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

7.     Can you identify instruments when you hear them?

8.     Can you identify duple meter and triple meter?

9.     Can you notate rhythm?

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

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

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

13. Can you hold key when singing a capella?

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

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

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

17. Do you understand music terminology (nomenclature)?

18. Can you write a song?

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

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

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Where Is Inspiration?

A famous writer, R.L. Stine said, "You have to allow these things to inspire you." What things? What was he talking about? "If you want to write and you want to get ideas, you have to use everything. You have to be alert and open to everything you read, everything you listen to..." 

You have your hand on the doorknob. It isn't locked, unless YOU locked it. The key to the lock is in your other hand! The key is simply a word and the word is "allow". You are both cause and effect and if you don't believe that one, stay out of the driver's seat of your car! You go through a door to get into that thing, that car, also. Many cars automatically lock the door because we are too stupid and might forget. Maybe we also forgot when we locked the door that has inspiration on the other side. 

Part of allowing is preparing to allow. If you have succumbed to the sick culture of politics (it is several meters below whale shit, lying on the ocean floor), wake up, grow up, get well, get healthy and try being a part of something that you do have control of. You may not know that you are poisoned and you may not know how affected you are but one symptom is that your inspiration is weak or gone. It is the lifeblood of the artist, the singer, the songwriter, the composer, the writer, the painter. 

Many years ago, I heard the statement "We are in this world but we are not of this world." I heard this in a church and it was a quote.  We do exist here but we do not have to be a part of the things which do not align with our true selves. I don't believe that people are made up of hate, even though once the "hate button" gets flipped on, like a hair trigger and it takes a while for it to turn off. The emotions, the chemicals, the cortisol-fueled panic and fight or flight adrenalin surge and slowly dissipate. It is almost like watching a horror flick. If you see and/or do this daily, it becomes the norm and people come to believe that it is normal. If it is normal, then normal is not good enough. 

Oil doesn't mix with water.  Hate doesn't mix with love, it will not combine, there will always be a separation.  Get the hate out of your universe, your soul, your mind, your spirit because high level art will not and cannot exist in its presence.  Allow yourself to be inspired.  Seek inspiration but realize that even though you may not see it, it is ubiquitous and in every direction.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Vocal Workout

You go to the gym to exercise your body or you may go outside.

Now you can workout your voice.

Vocal Workout Site