Thursday, January 15, 2015

Case Study: What is the difference between a real singer and a showman?



Approximately a month ago, I received a student from the US who has been a professional singer all his life, but for the past while, he had begun experiencing some vocal problems; like a loss of high range, a raspy/hoarse voice and a collection of excess mucus in the throat, coupled with minor acid reflux.

He was experiencing fatigue with his voice and could no longer sing for prolonged periods of time.

That made my client very insecure and resulted in him refusing and cancelling upcoming gigs.

He originally arrived to me, per-registered for 20 hours of non-surgical voice repair sessions, but ended up taking 30 hours to learn the new vocal technique and to lose the bad habits adopted for the last 40 years being on stage. 

The voice repair was actually complete within 10 (maximum of 15) hours; the rest of the sessions were dedicated to mastering the actual singing performance.

It was not easy, as I told him, jokingly, even before we started, that it is not easy to teach the old dog new tricks. And no, it was not easy, but in the end, it was very rewarding on both ends.

Please read from (his own words), how he felt right after he arrived home:

“ My 2 gigs right after I got home went great.

I also mentioned before I left that I had a song to sing for a producer in France that I was looking forward to trying out the new technique -- it worked great-- I had just one day to do the lead and harmonies-- there were a lot of harmonies-- so I was singing pretty hard for a little over 7 hours.

Next day I felt fine -- tired physically, but that goes along with being old :) Everything worked and it really helped cement some things -- the circles and peripheral singing -- that's been a real hard one to get, but it's making sense now and I know with implementation and practice it will become second nature. 

The way I was able to make it make sense to my mind was to say "keep your eyes on the road" -- which of course, is what you were saying -- you used the GPS analogy, but I'm more old school :)”

Now, a month later, we have received another e-mail from the same client, who now has had the opportunity to test out the Vocal Science technique, combined with his performance skills (and my expertise on that matter), even further.



Please read below:

“The gigs this past week went great-- one major thing that I'm noticing is in what you stressed about keeping our eyes on the (singing) road. It's starting to come more naturally now and when it does, the audience reaction and connection is deeper and better in relation to how clearly I see the road (in fact, one of the gigs was a solo gig and I made way more tips than I have there in the past -- do I owe you a commission for that? :)

We know that as artists, singers and just as people, that we want and have to connect with the audience to allow the cycle to happen-- yes, of course, we have to talk to them and relate that way, but the deep meaningful connection happens on its own if we just connect with the song-- that's what the audience feels -- it's the difference between singing at them or to them.

If we're constantly monitoring what we sound like and what we look like, where is there room for the song?--that ability and opportunity for a deep connection goes right by us and we've missed our chance. As you like to say, go figure.

I know this is very simplistic, but whether it's sports, singing, or cooking etc. it's the basics that are often the most overlooked and the most important. As always, thank you :) ”

I think that the above is very profound. And Bob has been an incredible person and a very diligent and dedicated student; taking instructions with gratitude and adapting the newly learned skills right into his craft. 

And as we see, it worked “by the book”, so to speak. 

We know about some singers who are so, ‘me, myself and I... and my voice’, that cannot connect with the audience, as they have been listening to themselves and “enjoying” their own voice instead of singing it for the audience.

The others have another extreme. 

Their singing is not up to par and some of them are literally losing their voices right on stage and during their performances. However, the majority of them have good showmanship, which often they pass to cover-up their inadequacies in the actual singing field. 

I would call them the ‘Entertainers’ and not Singers.

However, the ideal combination of two would create the ultimate performance, as the technical and artistic merits would be in perfect harmony, (no pun intended).

The audience, in my opinion, should become more demanding and claim and feel entitled to experience the real true performance from the artists for their hard earned money.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Non-Surgical Voice Repair… How to Go About It?



Should you just work on your physical body, or should you just work on your voice?



The answer is: NONE of the above mentioned choices are right!


As per usual, I am receiving multiple e-mails from all over the world.

90% of those e-mails consist of quite long letters with all kinds of stories, primarily about the voice problems these individuals have been experiencing. The majority of them possess the notion that if something is wrong with their voice i.e. it sounds hoarse, their throat hurts and feels scratchy, they have excessive mucus in their throats and some have already been diagnosed with acid reflux, muscle tension dysphonia, and whatnot; it must be happening only on a physical level.

They do not realize that the majority of vocal issues become present because of the misuse of the vocal mechanics (speaking or singing). However, you cannot dismiss either of the above. If the physical body is already out of whack, so to speak, the wrong mechanics of the voice will reinforce all of the physical imperfections.

If the person is not exactly mentally and physically fit, it will surface that much stronger when the person’s voice will get drowned to the lower position; and thus will attract the mucus and gastric acid to the vocal box and the vocal cords in particular.

As sad as it sounds, when the speaker or singer is experiencing the symptoms of a raspy and hoarse voice, they run to the doctor just to be labeled with either acid reflux or muscle tension dysphonia, especially if no growth like nodules or polyps are present.

They are offered something like Gaviscon which you could buy over the counter and which could assist with the minor stomach trouble, but definitely has not much to do with fixing the voice, or even getting acid reflux off of the vocal box.

Once (mechanically speaking) the voice is flat and sits low in the position, no Gaviscon, or any other remedy, will get it out of there, unless the voice is physically recovered, lifted and restructured to the different set of muscles.

Once the voice finds its new “home” at the upper facial cavities, the surface of the vocal box will be released from the pressure of the sound; and thus will become available to except natural herbal and homeopathic remedies, which actually will aid a great deal to the damaged vocal anatomy.

What does it tell us?

It tells us that the remedies alone, (even the natural ones), will not be able to solve the vocal disorder on its own. It also tells us that to work on the vocal mechanics would be much easier if the vocal box would be lubricated, the vocal cords would be strengthened and all of the impurities, (like mucus and acid), will be eliminated.

So, one more time again, we are back to the holistic approach to vocal mechanics and overall to the human being.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Vocal Buffet Part 2: All You Can Eat? Maybe, But Very So Carefully As Well...



I hope that you have enjoyed reading the “Vocal Buffet, blog. "Part 1”

There, we were talking mainly about the amateur singers who were trying to sing anything and everything under the sun with no proper training, knowledge or even talent. In this blog, we will talk about the diet, nutrition and exercise for those who want to choose, or have already chosen singing and/or performing, as their career.

There is a saying: “We are what we eat”. I would also say: “Because of what we eat, we are what we sing also”. How so, you may ask? The person who is at least reasonably fit and well nourished would definitely sound much healthier i.e. much clearer and much stronger.

There is also a saying that: “in a healthy body, is a healthy spirit”.

My regular readers probably remember that in some blogs written in the past, I stated that the voice is a spirit, which has to be discovered, uncovered and than flown away and on top of the physical body. If the spirit is healthy and pure, it will soar that much higher and its trajectory will be that much longer.

If the singers throat is full of mucus and the vocal cords are burnt by gastric acids, the lift of the voice (the spirit) will not be as high; and thus the high, (and low range for that matter), will be greatly diminished.

The Vocal Science technique, and the standards of professional singing for that matter, suggest that even the lower range approach cannot be achieved without lifting the voice off of the vocal box (off of the vocal cords) and settling the sound in the upper vocal chambers (sinus cavities).

Let’s now imagine a ballerina trying to jump to the arms of her partner off of the thick carpet instead of the hard flat surface (special floor). How high could she jump, not having a proper, clean resistance under her feet?

My guess would be, not high enough.

The figure skaters like Elvis Stojko, or Patrick Chan for that matter would never be able to perform their quads or even triple combination jumps if they were taking off ‘with’ the ice instead of ‘off’ the ice.

The fact is that in that instance, they would need to do triple or quadruple revolutions with not enough height off the ice, which would make it completely and utterly impossible. So, if the singer were to eat a lot of spicy foods and consume a lot of dairy, he/she, most likely, would possess a lot of mucus in their bodies and up their throats.

If they ingest a lot of acidic foods (like tomatoes and oranges for example), no doubt that they will also acquire what is called an “acid reflux”.

In 1999, I had an article written about me by the Toronto Start newspaper named “coach me if you can”, where the journalist, after experiencing 5 hours of my instruction, exclaimed:
“It is definitely not for the faint of heart”. Indeed. It is not.

The person who wants to become a singer/performer has to be physically, emotionally, mentally and vocally fit.

Sometime ago, I caught a part of the movie which was called Mirrors, which was about the life of a ballet dancers. The episode that became very memorable to me was about the 2 dancers who came to the theater management to discuss their contract to perform as a duet “pas de deux”.

They were handed a contract, which after reading it, the male dancer outright returned it back to the manager’s hands.

Then he looked at his female partner to be, who looked quite fragile, in my opinion, and asked her: “how much do you weigh?” She looked at him with fear in her eyes and said: “100 pounds”.

The male dancer looked at the manager and said: “I have to lift her 6 times. That is 600 pounds!” The manager smiled and handed them an appropriate contract, which they accepted.

That is a clear example how the professional artist (be it ballet, figure skating or singing for that matter), think. Could you imagine if the female ballet dancer, weighing 100 pounds (as we just learned), decided to go out and eat a meat-heavy dinner, pizza or cake? If she did, she could have come back on stage weighing 101, or even 102 pounds!

Remember that her partner, for a certain amount of money, was prepared only to lift 600 pounds of her in total. Also, he could have just simply dropped her and thus cause an accident, God forbid. I personally witnessed a pretty heavy (by any standards) dancer attempted to be lifted and be nearly dropped.

Believe it or not, it has occurred on our Canadian stage during The Phantom of the Opera Musical Production. Thank God the accident did not happen and, to my delight and comfort, that it was not a classical ballet performance.

So the weight and height and the overall health and fitness, will play a crucial role in an artist’s (amateur or professional) performance. The physical body is the internal and external instrument, which if played correctly, will sound like a million bucks…

Share It