Monday, August 19, 2019

We Pretend Many Things... But...


We pretend many things.
We pretend to know things that we do not and rant and rave and fight and defend on social media and in person.  We pretend we are better off because of the existence of cell phones and the internet, which had the possibility of uniting people but has had the opposite effect.  We pretend to be closer but we are not.  We are more vocal and we are also more superficial.  We are careful (some of us) to not offend, disturb, or upset anyone.  Others don’t care.  That is just bad manners and manners existed for hundreds of years before the stupid term, political correctness.  We pretend that there is political correctness but it is a myth.  The term is used to shut others up or is used as a cult-like thought stopping technique.

Where are we left as learners?
We believe no one or we should not.  We should not accept anything at face value but instead should question the validity, the truth, the authenticity, and the track record of anything and everything.  If we are sold on something and it appears right and it appears true, we might try it out.  We might even try learning to sing by buying a new singing method, but we also might discover it is missing many things a singer should know and be able to do, unless the singer is a hobbyist and not an artist. 

Distance
The best thing about using an online course is that we are the farthest away from the “teacher” that we could possibly be.  It is also the worst thing.  Why?  When you practice, you seriously could use some correction to save you time and even injury.  If no on who knows what to listen for is present, you are on your own.  Common sense would dictate that this is stupidity in action.  Would you jump out of a plane with no parachute?  Some people have and lived, oddly enough; but most die.  You could go through the jungle without an experienced guide and it might feel like a brave thing to do, until you become a meal for an animal or animals.  You need a guide more than you need distance.  One way to have distance and a guide is to do lessons online, so that you can get help when you need it. 

What’s next?
What’s next?  That is just the point.  You can do exercises for your voice and can practice but how do you know which exercises you need in the present moment, if you are not a trained vocal coach?  Truth is, you don’t.  You can do the wrong exercises the wrong way.  What?  Yes!  They can be done the wrong way and if no one hears you, who knows how they are supposed to be, you could be wasting your time or even hurting yourself.  If you think you are saving money by buying video voice lessons, you are not.  You are spending money and you may be wasting it and your time, too.   Maybe you don’t care.  Maybe your voice sounds like you don’t care.  Maybe you wonder why you get no parts or work or why you get fired.  A live vocal coach knows in a few minutes what is wrong if the coach knows what he or she is doing.  I tried it on my own with a great method and I failed but when my vocal coach had me do the same exercises but in the proper order and in the correct amount of time for my voice, I gained over an octave of range, I lost the break in my voice, and my endurance was such that I could do six hours a night, six nights a week in Las Vegas.  No tiredness or hoarseness resulted.  Without her guidance, all I got out of exercises was tiredness and loss of range.  Once my break was gone, she insisted that I study six days a week with her and intern under her for three months.  All my students were working professional singers in Las Vegas.  She told me that she had never seen anyone get results as fast as I had with my students.  She didn’t have to say that.  I paid her $175 an hour in the 1990s and I don’t regret a penny of it.  I’ve helped singers prepare for music conservatories and even for Broadway, where they had excellent careers. 

But!
Most vocal coaches don’t teach musicianship or how to sing in tune or how to be stylistically correct.  Most don’t have the professional performance experience that I’ve had.  Some vocal coaches don’t sing very well, but shouldn’t they be a product of their own teachings?  I had many obstacles to overcome including stage fright and feeling I had no stage presence or charisma.  I felt I wasn’t good looking enough to be on a Las Vegas stage.  My appearance didn’t get me fired, so I guess it was good enough.  I did know music and have written over 2500 songs, have sold radio jingles, and I’m an ASCAP member.  I hear pitch extremely well and that is partially attributed to playing a trombone since the age of nine and professionally since 1972, touring 14 states and then settling in Las Vegas and working with famous musicians.  I also played lead (1st Chair) since 1969 as a student and later as a professional.  I teach breathing techniques used successfully since the 1940s by professional and famous brass players but I don’t teach fallacies and myths, such as “sing from your diaphragm” because 8 of my students were licensed practicing physicians and two were speech therapists and we shared a lot of information and we all know that no one has or ever will “sing from their diaphragm” and also why that is so.  In five minutes time, I will know what is wrong with your singing in a very multi-factorial way.  I’ll know your strengths and your weaknesses and precisely what to do to get you from where you are to a world class singer, one who could be signed to a label (I’ve had a few of those) or perform on Broadway or on TV shows, such as The Voice (I’ve also had some of those).  So, what do you want?  Do you want to settle for mediocrity or worse?  Would you rather find out what is in you and learn to overcome the obstacles-yours and the ones from others?  Hiding from your talent might feel safe, but years down the road, it won’t feel so good, knowing what might have been, had you gone for it.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Three Musketeers of Your Unhappiness


The Three Musketeers of Your Unhappiness:

1.       Blame

2.       Regret

3.       Shame

BLAME
Blame is how you become “lame”, maybe not literally but maybe literally.  B-lame.  Be lame when you blame.  Blame is the biggest lie you can tell yourself.  I am where I am because she (or he): did, said, took, stole, or fill in the blank _____________.   OR it is what was not done that you feel should have been done. 

I always thought my father should have helped me more, particularly when I felt I could do nothing and that I was powerless.  From the first grade to the sixth, there was a boy who bullied me daily, or almost daily.  The boy’s father was about 5’-6” and my father was 6’-1 ½” tall.  My father had been a baseball pitcher at Marshall University and turned down the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had scouted him.  I figured my father could throw a punch, if he had to.  I begged my father on multiple occasions to tell the bully’s father to make him stop.  My father said that I should fight back but I was too scared, since I was a lot smaller than the bully. 

At a later point, my father said he would talk to the boy’s father but I think he never did and the verbal and physical abuse continued until one day.  I always showed up early at little league football practice and so did Mike.  In the second year of our team, he got into the habit of using me for a “tackling dummy”, knocking me down over and over again.  My telling him to stop did nothing.  It didn’t hurt too much, since we both were wearing pads and helmets, but it was demeaning. 

One day I got mad.  I hadn’t planned anything.  On this day, Mike knocked me down, as usual.  I got up and walked over to a tree and tore a small branch off of it and started swinging it at him and hitting him with it.  Mike started yelling at me and asking me if I was crazy.  I kept swinging until he started running from me.  This was the end of the bullying. 

Did I blame my father for not helping me?  Yes.  Did I resent him?  Yes.  Was I “the effect” of my father?  Yes.  Did I feel that he cared for me as much as I would have liked him to?  No.  I felt that I was a problem for my father.  I blamed him, though.  He was too demanding and too controlling and never had much good to say about me.  He did most things better than what I could do, except for a couple of things.  My blaming him crippled me, but not in the physical sense.  He had all the power and I had none.  This is what blaming someone does.  It has repercussions and ramifications, far reaching and beyond where one would suppose. 

The most insidious thing about blame is that it is a squatter.  It takes up residence in your mind and takes over everything.  It is behind your not starting something.  It is behind your lack of momentum or perseverance.  It is the cause for your not finishing things because you are not the cause; you are the effect.  How does that feel?  Not so good, right?  Well, don’t blame me.  Blaming yourself also is not the answer because it doesn’t matter who you blame because when you blame, it makes you lame. 

Blaming means that you “had nothing to do with it”.  It means that someone else had the power and did the action and that you were incapable or that you simply refused to get involved or to play a part or to act effectively.  The real reason can be found in the lies you tell yourself or in the lies in your value systems, the ones which you use to rationalize and justify your current condition in life.


REGRET
Regret is that coulda, woulda, shoulda thing.  Some people say: could’ve, would’ve, should’ve and others think they are hearing: could of, would of, should of, but that is just a false interpretation of an illegal contraction, having been made of: could have, would have, and should have. 

Abandoning semantics, we move forward now.  Regret is the sorrow and guilt composite of the errors of commission or of omission.  What we did that we think is bad or what we didn’t do that we shoulda oughta did is the basis for regret.  Regret seems to be short-lived but recurring in our minds.  We kind of shove it away from our consciousness, to avoid the pain of its thorns, darts, and arrows.  Regret hurts.  It could also be a clue as to what to do.  One thing is to be an author of your story and to rewrite it.  Literally.  Re write it as it would be if you would not have caused regret as your outcome.  Before you start, just remember that acts of omission or commission are not the same thing as accidents.  There are accidents and some can be prevented but some cannot.  It doesn’t let you off the hook but it also doesn’t put you on the hook, unfairly. 

Write your story as it should have been, learn from it, look for ways to not repeat your mistakes and put those into practice.  Why?  If you are stuck in your past, you will never move fast.  You’ll be slow or simply “no go”.  So, yo!  Write, so!



SHAME
Shame is as bad of a game as blame.  It’s also Blame’s first cousin or daughter or son.  It can be an integral part of blame.  It can help feed blame or regret.  So, how do we forget, or must we?  The Three Musketeers!  The trinity of uselessness, of an evil synergism designed to destroy happiness and hope and turn you into a dope are: blame, regret, and shame.  It’s a family of despair.  It will stop you from going from here to there.  It can get you so that you do not care.  It fuels ignorance and apathy and for it, have no sympathy or empathy and don’t cavort with the enemy.  Don’t enlist it, just insist it ceases and desists because if it persists, you’re done and it has won.  Make a choice.  Raise your voice.

You can work on eradicating the trinity of failure infinity or you can just change your mind and pay a little whack-a-mole, if one raises its ugly head.  Kill it good and make it dead.  It had a purpose long ago but it’s outlived that one; now it’s a foe.  All you need is to let go.  If you can’t do so, we’ve got the knives to cut the ropes and end your strife.  Today is the best time to start your life.

Stillness.  Motionlessness.  Absolute zero.  No molecular motion.  It’s an incomplete description and an inaccurate one of zero degrees Kelvin.   Still, it mimics what we mimic as we reflect the laws of physics with our activities, or the lack thereof.  “An object at rest tends to stay at rest…”  Forget the rest of that law of inertia for a minute.  Staying at rest doesn’t mean that all inner motion or thought has ceased.  An object can appear to be at rest, but it’s only in relationship to other objects.  We’re never truly at rest because we are on a rotating sphere, revolving around a star and as a solar system, we are moving in a galaxy, which is also moving through space and at an astounding speed.  So, where is the truth in our motionlessness?  It is just another lie or a pretense.

Go. Do. Start. Continue. Rest. Repeat.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

COMMON HARMFUL MYTHS ABOUT SINGING

    You don’t want to spend four years of your time, to get better at singing, do you?  Four years may sound like a lot, but I recall a famous French horn player telling me that he had heard that it can take eight years to build a voice.  He heard this from someone while he was working for The Metropolitan Opera.
    Does it take four years?  No.  Not, if you know what you are doing.  Older methods of voice training only worked for the singers who didn’t need it in the first place.  The lucky ones, endowed with a natural voice and enormous talent, became the stand-out singers.  It was almost impossible to mess them up.
    Now that science has been allowed to enter the world of singing, we know what helps a singer, what hurts a singer, and how to properly train and maintain a singer’s voice.  Sadly, many voice teachers still repeat the worn out and useless phrases that they, themselves, had drilled into their heads.  It could also be the reason that many singing teachers are really bad singers and have never ever worked at singing as a profession. 
    Proven false by physics and medical science are these common myths, some of which can harm or destroy a singer’s voice:  “Sing from your diaphragm.”  “Place your sound in the mask (or up and over or through your eyebrows or _____ )”  “Support your voice with your abs (or your rear end or your pee muscles)”  “Open your mouth two or three fingers wide.”  “Visualize _____.”  Fill in the blank with anything, but it will be a waste of your time.  
    There are at least thirty of these phrases, which are completely useless and potentially harmful.  Some people have had their voices destroyed by such things or by not knowing how to take proper care of the voice.  Julie Andrews is one such example.  She had surgery on her vocal nodules, which caused scarring, which caused her voice to be useless for singing.
    You can learn to sing correctly and have all the range, power, musicality, style, and artistry.  Or, you can study with people who simply want your money and do not care how you sing or if you will ever reach your full potential.  I can show you how to discover the differences between what works and what does not and why that is.  

Sunday, August 04, 2019

"MIXED VOICE" OR "MIX VOICE"


“Mix Voice” or “Mixed Voice” is an invented name.  It is a way of describing something, but this is a gimmick.  It is a sham.  It is fake.  It is a fallacy.  It is stupid and ignorant, unfortunately.  You do not and cannot mix your chest voice with your head voice.  It is not a mix or a blend.  It is a myth that “mix voice” or “mixed voice” exist.  I hate to burst that fantasy bubble, but it is something which can lead to trouble when you go and believe in things which come from a cult mentality with invented words only used by the cult members.  You also cannot sing from your diaphragm, no matter how much you believe it.    When I showed a student written documentation and medically researched evidence that she was not and could not sing from her diaphragm, she cried.  It was as if her religion had been taken away and she had nothing to replace it with…yet.  It was replaced with facts and she became an even better singer because of it.

IT IS ANATOMICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO SING FROM THE DIAPHRAGM
Welcome to the new millennium!  Today and right now is a good time to stop believing in useless myths, unless you want to sabotage yourself and never improve and quite possibly become a worse and a more unstable singer with multiple breaks in your range.   It doesn’t matter who says it or who has said it that you have a “mix” in your voice.  First of all, the terminology is wrong. 


YOU HAVE VOCAL REGISTERS, BUT THERE IS NO “MIX”

Maybe you don’t have the coordination to smoothly sing throughout your entire range but you will not mix registers.  You potentially can sing from low to high and back to low with no shift or change in tone or timbre.  The ranges of each register differ in Sopranos from Altos or anyone else but they are still there.  The truly great pedagogues know or knew this, while the others don’t.  The names and what those names represent and signify are misunderstood by many voice gurus.   The names do not represent, describe, or name tone and/or timbre.  They are specific notes or frequencies of vibration in your vocal range.   The names for the vocal registers are: chest voice, low middle voice, high middle voice, head voice, and flageolette (or “whistle tones” or “super head voice”).   These represent registers, not a sound or timbre quality. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

Dangerous Words


There are some dangerous words. They look innocuous. They aren’t. They are dangerous and we need to not pretend otherwise. Words which we might say are opposites aren’t really. The idea of “opposite” or “dichotomous” is based on perception, interpretation, evaluation, and the significance which you, yes you, assign something.

What does this have to do with singing? Everything. Why? If the game of golf is 99% mental or even 90%, then it would stand to reason that the art of singing would be in the high 90th percentile, also. The skill involved in singing does involve the physical, but hopefully, it is your mind which is driving that singing machine.

This is both good and bad. The good part is that you have the potential of control and of learning everything you need to know, to be the best singer who has ever lived. It is as bold of a statement as you wish it to be. What you don’t know is murdering your singing. As if that is not bad enough, you are working harder to stop yourself than you are to improve yourself. A goal with excuses is like driving down the road with one foot on the gas and the other pushing on the brake pedal. This is worse than simply standing in your own way.

I am the biggest liar I know, but I have accidentally discovered something. “Because”. When the word because is preceded with “I cannot”, it becomes the setup for the joke. The punchline is coming. Get ready to laugh. I cannot be a great singer because ________________. I did not start early enough. I did not practice enough. I have no talent. I have no discipline. I know nothing about music. My father will kill me. My wife will decapitate me. My dog peed on the carpet. I cannot afford lessons.

I cannot, cannot, cannot… Excuses? Justifications? Rationalizations? Bull? Yes. One of the most common lies I have told myself is that I am not good enough. Why did I get hired to sing in a show in Las Vegas and was never fired from it? Someone thought I was good enough. 1,100 people filling that showroom did an odd thing every single time I sang. They smacked the palms of their hands together. What were they thinking? They didn’t agree with my idea that I wasn’t good enough. Maybe that’s good, but how did I get onto that stage? Deep down, I knew I was better than I needed to be. It must be true because I was there, and I have a video of myself to prove it.

Forget about not saying “cannot”. Do something about the word which follows the “cannot”: “because”. Let’s break that word in two. What does that give us? Be cause. What if it were an order that you give yourself? Be the cause of your life, not someone who is in apathy, who does nothing. It is so easy to be the opposite of “cause”: be “effect”. Is it really the opposite, though? For now, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that no one is going to take the wheel of the car you are driving through life. You’re in the driver’s seat!

The word, “because,” is a setup. It is the joke. The joke is on you! It is not a funny joke and this is not a funny situation. We are living in a world which is influenced far too much by propaganda, ignorance, apathy, and hatred. This cowardly new world would have you to believe that only opposites exist and that gradients are only to be found in your local paint store. This has been set up to not only control you, but also to use a principle of kung fu, which is to use your own momentum against you and to keep you in a state of quiet compliance. There is a game of opposites. I say good and you say bad. I say day and you say night. I say right and you say left (or wrong). There are many shades of white and gray on the way to the absence o reflective color that we call black. So, it’s not all black and white and, as long as we think that way, incremental and continual improvement will never occur if you think such things do not even exist. You have been and are being played against yourself and you may feel like you’re drowning and that it’s all hopeless. It isn’t hopeless until you have absolutely quit. Is this a conspiracy theory? Something tells me that you know it is not.

Whether or not you think you are affected by the current state of society is of no matter, if you are not affected by it as an artist. Being cognizant of something that you had nothing to do with, might just free you up enough to think for yourself. When you can think for yourself, you can see that the picture goes deeper and wider and taller than the one painted for you on the news. What you put in your mind may take up residence there and have a bad effect or a good effect, depending on what it is. You can’t be positive all day every day. It’s impossible. Batteries have a positive side, but also a negative. Supposedly the electrons flow from negative to positive. You might try being like an electron when you feel negative and move over to the positive side and don’t get stuck in the middle.

Blackboards (remember those?) have erasers. Computers have a delete key. Software can be installed or uninstalled. If your mental software is outdated or corrupted, uninstall it. Get a new program which works. How can you tell? Does it move you toward your goal, or away from your goal? You do need a balance in life but not every diversion is worth your time. Recreation is necessary. Re-creation. Making yourself new or better is recreating. So, mix metaphors if you like. Make whatever analogies you like which serve you and your purpose and goal. Remember the power of “because”. “Why? Because we like you.” – from the old Mickey Mouse Club, when it was still politically correct to like someone.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Is Your Larynx Too High?

If your larynx is too high, you will sound harsh and you will strain your voice and probably have a bad crack or break and will NOT have the use of all your actual range. Can you imagine the freedom you feel from having range, power, flexibility and endurance? If your larynx is too high, you will be inadequate to yourself and to others, as a singer. You won't be all you can be.

If your larynx is too low, you will sound like a cartoon character, instead of like a singer. You will have trouble articulating your words and you will not be understood by most listeners. I know how to help you get your larynx in the position to afford you your best sound, range, power, endurance and more. It takes a little time and a little practice. Are you up for it? It's not a question of whether it will work for you; it is a question of will you work to achieve your best?

DURING YOUR FIRST LESSON

One voice lesson with me and you will have this revealed: The anatomical structure of the larynx and how the muscles, ligaments, and cartilages function for singing. HEY! If you are a singer, you should know more about your "instrument". I do not give trumpet lessons to people who own NO functioning trumpet. See what I mean? If you understand HOW it works and WHY it works, then you will also understand WHY we do vocal exercises and which muscles are used in that process.
You come to me with something you want handled. Are you deficient in range, endurance, power, flexibility, musicianship, or something else? If you do not have a severe physical issue preventing you from singing, in the last several decades I've helped others and I KNOW that I can help you. The vocal technique I use has a track record of success, as do my students who have had the work ethic to apply what is needed. One of the BIGGEST deficiencies many singers have is that of MUSICIANSHIP. Melodic intervals, harmonic intervals, melodic and harmonic ear training and an understanding of music theory, to the extent of being able to apply it can put you light years above and beyond many singers who are afraid of the the very term: MUSICIANSHIP. HEY! It is music you sing. How well do you fit in with it?
In five to ten minutes, I KNOW if your problem is faulty vocal technique or a lack of musicianship or something else going on that is IN YOUR WAY of being a better singer or even the BEST singer you can be. I can show you how to most efficiently and effectively and expeditiously how to improve.
You can NOT learn this from a book or videos. Here is why: Books and videos may have perfect information in them, but if you are not already properly trained there is a SEVERE problem! Books and videos cannot hear you. They cannot evaluate specifically what you MUST do to improve. They cannot give you the right exercises in the right order or tell you how long to do them and when to rest and when to not sing and WHY your voice CRACKS. Not someone else's voice, YOUR voice. It is technically called a "glottal stroke"! WOW!
When I teach, I teach the person in front of me, NOT an imaginary singer whom I have imagined should sound the way that I think they should!!! It is your voice and what you do with it is your choice. I can show you how to take care of it and use it to your best advantage but I don't try to change it or make you sound like someone else. I can help with style, vocal technique, musicianship, and I only help you to improve. You may have more talent than anyone has ever allowed you to know or believe. I don't bury you in a pile of data or make you learn things that you don't need.
Three of my teachers were world class. Hundreds of dollars per hour they charge. I do NOT do that. They did NOT teach style or musicianship, though. It is my choice. I'm here to help as many as I can. That's all.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

EXCERPT FROM THE FREE BOOK




EXCERPT FROM THE FREE BOOK ON THIS BLOG:


RATE YOUR SELF WITH THIS TEST

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being excellent and 1 being poor, rate yourself on the following:

1. INTONATION  - Are you on the note, above it or below it?

2. RANGE  - Can you get the high notes, the low notes and the ones in between?

3. ENDURANCE  - Do you get vocally tired or last for a long time?

4. ARTICULATION- Are your words clear and easy to understand?

5.  VOCAL USE versus ABUSE – Do you experience any pain, hoarseness, loss of voice, during or after singing?

6. SING IN KEY - Can you “carry a tune”?  Can you sing without switching keys?

7. CONNECTED VOICE - Does your voice “crack” or “break”?  Does it sound like you switch gears or hear a drastic sudden change in your sound?

8.  BREATHING - Do you know how to breathe?

Without hearing and seeing you, I cannot assess your problems but I can offer some advice on each topic. 


A.I. - Apathy and Ignorance

Have you heard of AI, artificial intelligence? I've read a little about it and if it is anything like flowers, I like the ones which have had life in them or still do MUCH better than the artificial ones.

So, this A.I. thing could also stand for APATHY and IGNORANCE, two things which you might think should not exist in this century BUT THEY DO!!!! I could pretend to not know what I have learned from 8 physicians (one was an ENT) but then I would fit in with many other people who are too IGNORANT to give useful advice and are too APATHETIC or irresponsible or too negligent to to re-educate or to educate themselves by learning a little science.

You see, people, there was a time in history when people thought that the earth was flat. Well, it is. In some places but overall, it is a sphere (shaped like a round ball). So, there were singers who thought that if you mixed science with art, you would destroy the art. AI - APATHY AND IGNORANCE. Would you still pretend that Santy Claus was who you were told he is, if you caught Daddy dressed up like him on Christmas Eve? Sorry, but I can not pretend that I am ignorant or apathetic, when I'm not.

You can pretend and imagine all kinds of things which have nothing to do with singing but those are just symptoms of apathy and ignorance. This begs the question: Who were the sources of what you believe is true, regarding singing? Were doctors and modern medical science a part of your educational sources? Was simple physics a part? Did you sit in awe of your guru teacher, while being confused and bewildered and brainwashed?

If you take science out of the equation, you probably will not die but you might have some problems like: vocal nodules, hoarseness, laryngitis, loss of voice, BAD endurance, a very limited range, or a big break in your voice that you cannot get rid of, because you don't know how. I had all of the above, other than nodules, at times, until I gained the knowledge I needed. I was able to sing 6 hours a night, 6 nights a week and did it with NO fatigue, hoarseness, or ANY problem AFTER I learned what actually does work.

Learning how the voice works and how to use your voice may be easier if you never were the victim of apathetic and ignorant singing teachers. You may have to clean out the "room" of the trash in it before you can see the walls, the floor, and the ceiling. In other words, myths, lies, and misinformation must be let go of, to make room for truth. It might take some courage to release the things which have been holding you back. Are you ready to get better?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Singing Tips and Tricks

Want some tips and tricks to sing really well?

Here are some: "Sing from your diaphragm. Place your tone in the mask. Take the biggest breaths you can and make a hissing sound with your tongue as you exhale." Make sense? Any doctor on Earth knows that your diaphragm is your INHALE muscle and does not force out your air. You do not ever need to force out your air (other than on your birthday) but if you do, you will be using these ABDOMINAL muscles: rectus abdominis, triangularis sterni, oblique and transverse abdominal muscles and also the internal intercostals (between the ribs). THIS HAS BEEN KNOWN BY DOCTORS SINCE THE 1700s! So, do you sing from your diaphragm? Not only is it impossible, but your diaphragm has NO proprioceptive nerves, so you CANNOT even feel where it is and it is mostly NUMB! If you think you can, see a doctor because something else would be giving you that sensation.


HEY! It's not my fault. I did not invent or create the human body but WHY did someone come up with the phrase telling you to do the impossible - "sing from the diaphragm" ? Ignorance? Yes. Stupidity? Maybe. Absence of being a true professional, due to negligence? Yes. You do not have any real or magical air valves in your head which allow you to place your tone anywhere than maybe up your nose. Can you sound nasal? WHY would you want to?


Sound travels how fast? About 750 miles per hour. What is the mask? It is an imaginary area of your face but it doesn't matter because you will not and cannot place your sound in a mask, unless you stick one on top of your face. Sorry, but truth is truth and science is science. What about the breathing tip? It is a trick, which has nothing to do with what you do when you sing and is a waste of your time. Air is RARELY the issue for why singers don't sound great. RARELY! If you fill up with air, you will tense up, trying to hold it back and your tone will sound shaky or uneven, so do not do that!

First Meeting

When I first meet with a new singer, I know they are probably going to be nervous. Some aren't, but most are. One of the first things I do is a little anatomy lesson, regarding the "singing instrument". It is a complex machine. There are also some things about it, which are simple. One simple thing is that the vocal folds (they used to be called vocal cords) have to vibrate in close enough proximity and not "fly open" and if they do this, your voice will not "crack" or "break". Cracking and/or breaking is caused by the inability to maintain the bringing together of them (it is called adduction). Many, if not most, people have a break in their tone quality, as they ascend from chest voice to head voice. It is not a lack of strength which causes the crack; it is a lack of coordination. It is usually caused by the larynx rising as the pitch ascends. Untrained muscles inside the larynx contract when the larynx is up, as it is when we swallow something. They are just doing what they normally do when the larynx is up. It works very well for swallowing, but not for singing. If we can make some sounds which use the sternohyoid and sternothyroid muscles, we can learn to use those and ultimately achieve laryngeal stability, so that the larynx does not rise as the pitch rises. What happens then? No more cracking and a lot more usable vocal range. Maybe (if you're VERY lucky), you have no crack in your range but you have other issues. There are solutions to those, too. A little knowledge and a lot of practice can take a person a long way. Some have made it to Broadway or to a record deal. Others have been on The Voice and other fun TV shows.

What else? Maybe you're a victim of some common and confusing myths about singing technique. We can clear up common misconceptions and get you onto a road which might lead you to a better place.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

GET YOUR FREE BOOK NOW!

HEY!  Want a free primer for singers?  It's called Karaoke, No Chokey.  It means so that you don't "choke" when you get up to sing, by making a fool of yourself.  In the little book is a primer on vocal technique that works.  I know vocal coaches who charge a lot, to teach you the same things.  How much?  $500/hour,  $450/hour,  $350/ hour.  I AM NOT KIDDING!!!  I know them personally.  I paid $175/ hour in the early 1990s in Las Vegas.  Want something for free?  Get it before I change my mind.  It's called Karaoke, No Chokey on the first page of the site.  You can download the PDF!  Want it?  Get it! https://practasing.com/

Seven Things


Everything you know, you taught yourself.  What?  Wait a minute!  I had teachers.  Yes, you did but they didn’t have anything to do with your assimilation, your utilization, and your participation.  Maybe they got you to try or to participate or they tried to motivate or inspire you.  We’re not taking credit away, but it is your mind and your brain which did the work, so do not diminish yourself by blaming someone for teaching you something that you then grasped and used.  You got it.  You have it and it’s yours.

So, what is more important, the concept or the nomenclature?  If you want to converse with someone about something, if you both know the terminology, it might be easier, but you should know that the concept is more important than what it is called. 

There is a huge amount of terminology in musicianship, yet there have been many people who can play piano or guitar and know little or nothing about music theory, as far as they do not or did not know what things are named but could function as well or even better than those who do.  If you want to know music theory, you can.  Anyone can learn it if, and only if, it is taught in such a way that it is not dependent upon having something I call prior knowledge. 

The drawing that I did (above) is based upon the work of the late great Richard Miller.  After having explored this little paradigm, I discovered that there not only is more to it, but there is also at least eleven more categories affecting a singer’s success and performance.  The seven, above, are still a great place to start.  All seven work together as a synergistic whole but each can be addressed, separately for the benefit and the improvement of a singer.  Every aspect should be sufficiently developed so that it doesn’t act as an impediment for a singer who is lacking in some way. 

Some would argue that you only have so much talent and there is no more available to you.  If your musicianship is weak or if your vocal technique is weak, you will sound like you are not talented.  Guaranteed.  What is talent and how can it be measured?  We can make up tests for musicianship.  I took a hard one, when I got accepted to Berklee.  How could we measure artistic imagination and how could that be improved?  You are not a rock, even though there is a huge amount of motion in a rock which you cannot see with the naked eye.  You are more flexible, pliable, malleable, and changeable both physically and mentally than a rock.  What?  What does a rock know?  You’d be surprised by the intelligence contained in a rock, but that’s another story.  After all, there is Rock Music, also.

If we start with the idea that everything can be improved, we at least have hope.  Without hope, we have nothing.  Let’s count on hope and then put some things to a test.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Lemon, Tea, Honey, Baloney!

Early on, as a singer, I had frequent sore throats. These were actual infections, not in the vocal folds, but instead, in the pharynx. Singers and others often give advice for singers and encourage things like lemon, tea, honey, or the super specialized preparations, such as a product called "throat coat". Well, seekers, maybe it's time for a little anatomy lesson and maybe even some nutrition advice.
I've been an avid reader of nutrition books and publications since 1979 and have picked up a few things along the way. I've also had conversations about such things with some students who happened to be: an ENT, two GPs, a pediatrician, a fertility doctor, an orthopedic surgeon, a research physician, and a few others. If you have studied with me in private, you would have seen a medical chart of the pharynx and the larynx. On it, you see that down in the larynx begin two "tubes". One leads to the lungs and the other to the stomach.
When you swallow ANYTHING, unless you choke on it, it goes down the esophagus. It does not get near the vocal folds, which you may call the vocal cords. The epiglottis covers the opening to the lungs when you swallow and it works perfectly most of the time. The vocal folds are BELOW, or underneath it.
I also had two speech therapists study with me. They started using my vocal exercises and found them to help their patients faster and more than the ones they used from their schooling. One vocal therapist let me borrow a film of people with swallowing disorders, and one person with none. These were done using a fluoroscope. I could see how it functions. I confirmed with several doctors the things I have said, such as - there may be some benefit in a nutritional sense from some preparations, but they must first be processed by your digestive system and then enter the blood stream to have any actual benefit.
Sprays do NOT touch your vocal folds. There is an exception. If you are crazy enough to inhale and you choke on the spray, the spray will get on your vocal folds and it will HURT!!!! It hurts bad enough when you choke on water or on your saliva. Multi-vitamins have some benefits: A for mucus membrane health, B for many things, including healthy tissue in the pharynx, C for cell wall and capillary strength and many other things. I have several references available for more detail on these, including the amounts to take. Want to know more?

Monday, June 24, 2019

Don't Copy Other Singers


"Don’t copy other singers."

This has been espoused and preached, as if it were an absolute and immutable truth.  Is it?

Only with a caveat. 

The problem with “Don’t copy other singers” is it is non-specific as to what, of a thousand or more aspects of a voice.   Unless you are an actor or a voice actor or a comedian, it might not be the best idea to imitate, as closely as possible, another’s voice.  The main reason for this is that you might do something that causes you to strain your voice.  The closest identical voices would be found in identical twins, maybe.  They may have the same vocal folds, pharynx, nasal cavity and other similar or identical physical vocal and resonating apparatus.  To copy another singer, you would have to manipulate your mouth and tongue and vocal folds to try to duplicate or approximate another’s sound.  I can do some voices and started this in the 5th grade of elementary school, discovering I was quite good at it.  I don’t do it as a regular thing, but it is fun to try.  I personally never strained my voice doing this because I do have an aversion to pain and to hoarseness.  I just cannot recommend doing this, yourself.  I can recommend something else.  I got this from the late great Clark Terry, a jazz trumpet player and singer.  It's a process and it works quite well.   Here we go:



EMULATE

What could or should be “copied” are other things than the exact and precise sound of another person’s voice.  You can greatly shorten the time of the learning curve by copying some very specific things in a voice of a singer, as long as your usable range matches that of the singer (or can be done an octave away, comfortably).  Some things you can emulate are:

·         Phrasing

·         Style

·         Pitch

·         Note duration

·         Dynamic variation

·         Rhythm

·         Timing

·         Breathing

That is a lot, isn’t it?  What you might gain from doing this with recordings of singers is some of the qualities of professional singers.  If your ability to duplicate and to analyze objectively is strong, you can speed up your progress.  You do not want to become a “copycat”, unless you are doing and act or making a living at being an impressionist or impersonator.  There are people who make a good living doing this, such as impersonators of: Sinatra, Cher, Elvis, or others.  I know some who do this in Las Vegas, they enjoy it and are paid well for it.  I can do few singing voices, also but usually as a joke or to have fun.



ASSIMILATE

What if you can and do take advantage of being able to emulate other singers’ professional aspects?  Does it end there?  No.  Some people vehemently are so against being a unique individual that they completely miss the skill involved in professional singing.  They do sound unique.  They are individuals but to the extent that they sound horrible and no one wants to hear them sing.  I know of some graduates of universities who try to sing with an operatic sound and it is more abrasive than a cat fight, to listen to.  It is amazing that a person can have a degree in music IN VOICE and sound disgusting or insane or horrible or sing out of tune but it can and does happen.  The step after emulate is to assimilate.  Own it.  Own it as if it was yours from the beginning, but it doesn’t end there!



INNOVATE

The final step in the journey of being a great singer is to innovate.  What new thing or things can you do?  You don’t want to change every single note or the melody gets lost.  The exception is if you’re improvising jazz.  You may not need or want to change a lot but there are things you can experiment with.  You can change some notes, you can add some notes, , you can omit some notes, you can change the timing, the phrasing, the dynamics, the rhythm, you can add silence, you can speed up or slow down time and/or try many other things.  You can change the emotion or emotions of a song.  This is a huge range of possibility.  From your emulating step, you may have picked up on stylistic tendencies which are typical or standard.  It is even better to emulate a few or many singers and to learn even more in so doing.  You’ll discover some parameters of what audiences can find beautiful or acceptable or tolerable or offensive or disgusting or unacceptable or intolerable.  You don’t want an audience walking out on you.  It can happen even to the best.  Between songs, a man was walking, leaving one of Sinatra’s performances.  Frank said, “Five will get you ten he doesn’t make it to the bathroom in time.”  Frank could get away with saying that and it is funny but it isn’t funny to a performer when a person walks out.

Objectivity is an ability that every singer must have in order to analyze and to improve.  You must hear yourself (use a recording) to know if you are doing what you intend to do and without being hypercritical.   I tell people to be analytical, not critical.  There is a difference! Too big or too small of an ego can also be a problem.  If you think you’re great but you’re not, that is a problem.   If you think you are terrible but you’re not, that’s also a problem.  If you can be objective, you’ll know where you really stand.  If you cannot be objective, yet, get with someone who is a kind but honest professional and ask for help.  Some will charge for this and it may be well worth the money spent.


Friday, June 21, 2019

LIES AND DECEPTION

Call Someone A  Liar

What happens next?  You know you will get a reaction and it might not be pleasant.  Dishonesty is unacceptable and, worse still, it is a part of life.  Name one person who has told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  We like to think that we are honest and straight (not necessarily in the sexual sense) or maybe we want others to believe we are honest.  Why?  Honesty is essential to being trustworthy and dependable, but name one person who is 100% honest 100% of the time.  We like to think we are, but are we?


Let go of dichotomous thinking.  

Things do not really have opposites.  We could say that the opposite of black is white.  The blackest black absorbs the most light, but there are blacks which absorb less and less, until we call it gray.  There are many shades of gray, from dark gray to lighter and lighter, until we hit the range of whites.  If you’ve ever done any digital art, you have seen that the range is nearly infinite.  Your eye may not be able to differentiate the range of shades, one to the other, but it is mathematically measurable, which you can see as you slide on the scale of black, gray, and white.

What Can We Actually Observe?  


This opens up a whole new can of worms in the world of truths and lies.  Our eyes, our perceptions, our minds, our experiences, and even our intelligence come into play, but they are not scientifically or mathematically capable of perceiving and precisely defining all the concomitant nuances which exist.  To avoid our drowning in the oceans of microcosms and macrocosms of the universe, we might step back a bit and try to be more objective and less subjective, to discover the profundity lying underneath or beyond the superficial.

Contractions Are Contracts!

There are some words, some contractions, we use every day, which may be the outer layer of some lies.  These aren’t the lies we tell others, usually.  These are the lies which we tell ourselves.  They sound rational, plausible, and reasonable, but they aren’t.   They also may be your way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings, so you put these thoughts or statements in front of yourself.  What are they?  “Can’t” is the main one.  Some examples are:  “I can’t do public speaking.”   “I can’t sing.”  “I can’t dance.”  “I can’t draw.”    A closer truth might be along the line of “I won’t sing.”  It means more specifically, “I will not try to sing because I might not sound good and I would be embarrassed if someone heard me and they would think that I am a bad singer and that I am stupid for even trying and I will feel bad about myself and I don’t like feeling bad about myself and there have been many times in the past that I felt bad about myself and I now avoid feeling bad about myself.”  All of this may be under the surface of “I can’t sing.”

I'm Not A Singer

I won’t sing.  Wait.  Is that an absolute truth?  What if you said, “I haven’t sung”?  Are we getting closer?   What if you said, “I haven’t tried to sing”?  Maybe that is closer, but it still may not be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  How do we get to that?  There is your conscious thought about this singing thing.  You are aware of that, but you may not be thinking about the past and past experiences.  Some of those may not be readily available to your conscious mind.  Some thoughts, feelings, and ideas may be stored in a different compartment from the conscious mind, one you cannot access easily or maybe not at all.  We can only deal with what we can know or discover or uncover. 

The Whole Truth

How much of “the whole truth” must we know in order to act, to improve things, and to get into motion?  All we need to know is where the lock is and where the key is.  Is this true?  No.  We also have to know where the lock is, where the key is, and have that key in possession and how to put the key into the lock the right way and to turn the key the right way that unlocks the lock.  The lock is, “I can’t sing.”  The key is, “I can sing.”  “I can sing” may feel like a lie at first but remember the vast range of the shades between absolute black and absolute white.  If you think you cannot sing like a professional, you may be right.  If you think you never will be able to sing like a professional, you may be right.  But “right and wrong” also has many gradients, repercussions, and ramifications you might not have seen before.  There was a point in time that the professional singer whom you envision did not sing like a professional.   Believe it.  We have now entered the realms of faith and trust, when we can believe something we haven’t personally observed.   Is it possible that this is true?

Where Do You Fit In?

Singers you love, admire, respect, or adore are people you may have placed on a pedestal, in your mind.  The problem is that you may have made the pedestal surface too small and you have left no room for anyone else, including yourself.  People prefer to be right instead of wrong.  That’s just how we are.  We like to win.  We like to succeed.  We also apparently like to think good things about ourselves.  Since admiration is such a precious thing, we like to avoid not admiring ourselves.   It hurts.  It is not comfortable.  It feels unstable.  We like stability.   There’s nothing wrong with admiring other singers but there is something wrong with using that to limit yourself and to lie about why you don’t sing as well as the other singers.   How awful will you feel when you know you have surpassed one of your singing idols? 

What Do You Know?

In life, we seek pleasure and we also seek to avoid pain.  PPF.  Pleasure, pain, and fear.  Truth and lies.  Some people will feel pain as they realize there were incomplete sentences prior to this one.  In a push button society, we don’t have to be little stimulus-response machines.  We can add ideas, thoughts, considerations, paradigms, value systems, all of which may also have a multitude of feelings attached to them.  Everyone has his or her own and unique concept of what truth is.  I would wager that scientists may have a much broader concept of truth, especially if their knowledge is vast and their experience is extensive.  When we get into trouble is when we mistakenly believe that we (or anyone) know all there is to know about anything.  This is self-deception or ignorance or utter delusion.  You may know all you need to know to function at the level at which you currently are.  You also may have all the skill necessary at this time.  You do your work, or you keep your job as long as you handle all that’s required of you, adequate to the demands of the boss and within the time frame allotted.  Stability in your job is more pleasurable than it is painful, or you would leave eventually.  Every singer you know or have seen also seek pleasure, seek to avoid pain, have a complex mind, and has a somewhat quantifiable amount of knowledge about singing and music.  

Nothing But The Truth...


Truth is not always easy to see or to find.  It may not be an absolute thing.  Intelligence, knowledge, skill, experience, beliefs, and the perceptions of all our senses will affect how each of us sees, finds, or seeks truth.  The meaning that we give things, which exists outside of the realms of truth and lies, is part of one or more values systems.  Those “if, then” things we heard or made up on our own.  The meanings and the value systems may serve us or they may inhibit us from being more than we are or more precisely, stepping into all if who we are and walking in that existence.   When you know the truth, the truth can set you free.  I didn’t say it will.  It can also stop you or squelch your action and thus your life.  Look carefully and completely as you can and maybe you’ll lie less often to yourself.

FEAR, Stage Fright and Other Fears

The premise upon which the title is derived is that fear is behind action, no action, and reaction. It is the force which keeps a person from jumping off a cliff, bridge, or building. It is the force which causes a person to go to work every day. No work, no pay. No pay, no food, no place to live, no material things such as: cars, TV, furniture, or the renewing of those things, when the time comes. 
When your friend is deep in conversation with you at the curb and without thinking or looking starts to walk in front of the oncoming car, you reach out and grab the arm closest to you and save a life. 
Fear has got a bad rap. It is primal. It doesn't go away. It can be altered and utilized for good but we mostly do not recognize or acknowledge that. When fear stops you from speaking publicly or singing publicly before an audience, it is a multifactorial and possibly rational thing. How you look at it will change the outcome. If you decide that stage fright is simply nothing more or less than inexperience threatening you, preparation may solve the fear as confidence overcomes the fear. The fear doesn't leave; it just becomes less significant and less in control. 
People who do public speaking frequently know this through personal experience, as do singers and musicians. Those who work all the time in music feel fear as a little motivating excitement, not as a formidable enemy. It can be the kind of thrill some people get, watching an action movie or a horror flick or the romantic film where it seems that they are never going to get together, then they finally do. The tension is palpable but the climax is.... well, like a climax. 
Fear may be the catalyst, it may be the force behind the journey that sustains it, but it is always there if you are just inquisitive, interested, or curious enough to look through profound introspection. It is for survival and that can be from barely making it to a phenomenal success. It is actually on your side and not your enemy. Use it but don't confuse it.