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Rapid Vocal Results

Posts about Rapid Vocal Results

The #1 Golden rule for building a power house singing voice

Building a powerhouse connected singing voice.

I’m a vocal coach that specialises in working with singers to help them strengthen and condition there voice to improve not only there singing technique but also their vocal power and (tone) and of course range.

I thought I would share with you a golden rule that beginner, intermediate ,even professionals singers often forget or neglect to follow, that can really help to reduce the time it takes to develop or maintain a powerhouse singing voice.

If you don’t follow this golden rule be warned the consequences will catch up with your voice sooner or later! This can really impact on your ability to build a powerful rock metal, or pop singing voice. Even worse your voice could actually loose its power and the strongest part of your natural voice your (chest voice) will begin to break down which will make it harder for you to connect your chest and head voice into one long powerful connected register.

This one tip will literally save you days weeks months even years of vocal frustration, because when you go to scream or belt out high notes (there is no way to fake vocal strength, you either have it or you don’t)!

Let me start off by pointing out the obvious, not everyone that wants to become a singer is born with big thick vocal chords that can support a big sound. If your lucky enough to be born with big thick chords and you want to be a singer then good for you.

Providing you receive some form of correct vocal training and coaching early on to learn how to safely strengthen, and condition your voice your vocal growth and progress can be very rapid and assured. 

However if your dream is to be a singer and you were born with a weak voice and or under-developed vocal chord strength. Then singing even an easy song can be a real challenge and you will struggle to sound good or stay on pitch.

How do you know if you fall into this category of singers?

1. Your voice probably cracks or wobbles in pitch when you sing higher or lower than your natural speaking voice range. 

2. You sound good singing the lower notes of a song but cant hit the high notes without using falsetto (and it just doesn’t sound right).

3. Your voice lacks that radio friendly tone and can sound thin airy and breathy or unfocused.

4. You struggle to hear your voice over a band or even when accompanied by a piano or acoustic guitar.

5. Your voice blows out quickly and becomes tired after 1 to three songs and you loose the ability to hit high notes the voice suddenly disappears altogether in that part of your range.

6. Voice lacks power when you sing and you have to strain to make a bigger sound.

If you found yourself nodding and identifying with any of the above check points.

Don’t give up, if you really want to become a singer and your dream is to have a career in music you can!!! It just means that initially you will have to put more effort into strengthening and conditioning these under-developed singing muscles.

First of all everyone’s voice is different no two sets of vocal chords are exactly the same size or length,  and of course the resonating spaces in singers also differ greatly in size and dimensions, ie throat, pharynx, windpipe, jaw shape,  sinus head cavities, upper chest resonating spaces etc. 

If you want to learn about the various elements that combine to determine and influence the unique identity of a singers sound. Refer to my earlier blog article:

If your new to singing and have a weak voice that cant hit the high notes or suffer from any of the vocal challenges I listed above. Then you can really do yourself a favour by following the #1 golden rule to reduce the time it takes to develop a powerhouse voice. 

Spend at least 15-20 minutes of each vocal exercise session on exercises to develop and strengthen your low notes and upper notes of your chest register. 

Sing or hum a simple scale ie a major scale DO, RE, ME, FA, SO, LA, TE, DO, on all of the vowels ie, lar, la, ee, o, u.

Start the exercise on your lowest comfortable speaking note, and repeat each scale position ten times, before moving on to start the scale a semitone higher than your original starting note. Only move on to a higher scale position when you can sing all the notes in the scale without wobbling and your voice is able to stay connected and there are no breaks or cracks. Once you can do this correctly, then continue up to the next highest starting postion and so on. Only sing as high as you can and still remain connected!

If your voice breaks into falsetto then stop and start the exercise again lower down the scale where you can stay connected! 

(If your not sure what a scale is and not sure how to perform this exercise properly) I highly recommend taking a lesson or two to learn how to develop your voice safely and correctly. If you don’t do the exercise correctly you can expect little or no progress and lots of frustration!

Be patient don’t rush through these exercises they are the foundation for making you into a stronger singer! (if you want to scream or belt out high notes) with power then you need to strengthen and condition your chest voice to properly promote a fully connected vocal sound. Otherwise you will find it next to impossible to connect your chest voice and head voice into one long seamless register).

There are no short cuts (for singers with weak chest voices to be able to connect up the chest to the head voice correctly)! If you avoid strengthening up your chest voice your high notes will flick over into falsetto every time!

Alternatively, If your an experienced or professional singer that is experiencing loss of power in your chest register or your finding the gap is growing wider between your chest and head register the solution to remedy the vocal weakness is going to be the same. Follow the #1golden rule for building and maintaining a powerhouse voice. 

Sirens are a highly effective exercise for reducing the gap between chest and head and helping to maintain and build the strength of the connection between both the chest and head voice.

Once again if your not sure how to perform a siren safel and correctly i recomend taking a lesson to learn how to get the best results from this exercise.

Note if your a singer with a naturally strong low chest voice, and you are having problems developing the conection between your chest and  head voice register, I will cover this topic separately in an up coming blog.

Put simply if you want to develop robust power in your voice and produce more tone and weight into your higher notes and screams then you need to remember to build your voice from the ground up. Strengthen up your chest register and spend time working on specific exercises designed to safely stretch and extend the range of your chest voice. The higher you can sing in chest the easier it becomes to connect into a solid head voice. Once you’ve built this connection you can begin to really strengthen up the power of your head voice screams.

Singers with big powerful voices that produce warm rich tone even into there highest notes, ie Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Sebastian Bach (ex Skid Row) Axl Rose (Guns N Roses) or Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) Melissa Etheridge or Bonnie Tyler and Beyonce Knowles, etc have one thing in common with each other. All of these singers were either born with strong chest registers or they trained to condition and build the strength in the lower, middle and upper chest notes first.

The mechanics of how high notes in head voice are produced. 

In order to sing higher notes above your natural chest voice range . Your vocal chords will begin to thin out so that they can stretch and create higher pitches ( known as head voice). Singers with powerful rock voices are able to scream and take more of a full bodied sound through into their higher notes, because they have taken the time to build up the strength and the mass of the vocal chords in the lower and middle and upper chest register. As the vocal chords begin to thin out the added size and thickness or (mass of the vocal chords) are able to thin down and still have enough mass to produce a fuller sound. 

Reminder use it or loose it!

Singers that ignore the development of there lower registers will end up with a big problem later on. 

Firstly low notes will lack power, and will have little or no resonance (warmth), this means the voice will sound breathy weak and wobbly (no singer wants that)!

Secondly, high notes will sound thin (because the required muscle mass of the vocal chords will be lacking) and when the chords thin down to produce your head voice screams the result will be a shrill tone that nobody will want to listen too.

Many professional singers as they get older develop noticeable weaknesses in there upper chest register because they neglect to maintain the strength of this part of there voice, they create a bad habit where they begin connecting into there head voice at a lower place in there range. IE Sebastian Bach from Skid Row and Rob Halford from Judas Priest begin to develop noticeable problems in connecting there upper chest voice to there head voices, if you don’t maintain the strength of the upper chest register you will begin to notice that the place where you would normally connect into your head voice becomes a lot harder to get too.

The answer is simple if you want to develop a powerhouse voice and take a bigger fuller sound into your high notes and metal screams then remember to spend sometime during your vocal exercise sessions to strengthen and extend the range of your chest voice. Not only will you develop a powerful mid range voice. This will also help you build a solid connection into your head voice and establish a powerful connected tone from your lowest note right through to your highest note just like the pros do!

Better singing everyone.

If you want to learn more about the topic we covered or discuss your voice with me email:  paule@rapidvocalresults.com

Connected Voice “The vocal equivalent of Chasing the dragon”

The Connected Voice “The vocal equivalent  of chasing the dragon”

When I was a young kid growing up. I was hooked, on listening to my favourite rock, metal singers.  I was always blown away by the power they had in there upper register, I mean these singers, Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Brian Johnston (AC/DC) Robert Plant (Led Zep) etc, seemed to have an un earthly ability to scream and sing with grit and rasp through out their entire range even into their highest screams!

After long hours of listening to the records and struggling everyday, unsuccessfully to hit even the lowest notes with power, ( my voice was so weak every time I tryed to sing anything four notes higher than my normal speaking voice ( my vocal chords would automatically jump into falsetto) My Mum Dad and sister all told me to stop making that horrible racket  and told me not too kindly i might add, that my voice wasn’t made to sing like that!

Needless to say I became really frustrated with my singing voice, and vowed somehow, someday that I would discover the secret these singers use to make it easier to scream and belt out high chest voice notes with ease. Even more importantly I made a promise to my self that one day I would be able to sing those same notes with power too! During the eighties and early nineties there seemed to be no shortage of amazing rock singers in the USA and in the UK and many other parts of the world  that had these amazing powerful voices and high vocal ranges.

I became obsessed with learning there secrets, I watched loads of videos of my favourite singers performing live and paid close attention to there vocal technique ( One thing they all had in common was how easy these singers made it look when they hit the high notes)!

(During this time) When I tryed to sing any kind of high note it felt like I had an elephant sitting on my chest and I experienced a massive amount of resistance at my vocal chords ( my chords felt like they would never stretch any further) and no matter how much I experimented with different jaw positions or changed how I breathed or tryed out ridiculous facial expressions my voice still sounded weak and tiny! Clearly using this kind of approach to developing a powerful voice was not the answer! I quickly came to the conclusion that I must be missing the vital secret  but what was it?

After about six months or so of practising everyday, I wasn’t making any improvements at all! I could only hit high notes in a weak breathy falsetto ( definitely not the powerful rock sound I was after)!

About this time I met a young singer (we will call him) Westie. He was barely 18, we both had discovered this amazing band TNT they were from Norway, they played heavy melodic rock,  there singer Tony Harnell, had the most amazing voice on the planet, he had grit and power and could scream at the top of his lungs and just when you thought he couldn’t possibly sing any higher he would scream out even more. At that time Westie was struggling to sing anything over about eight notes above his speaking voice without cracking into falsetto I was in good company or so i thought…

Six months  later I ran into Westie again he had a big smile on his face he literally couldn’t stop grinning. We both had a mutual love of melodic metal, (Judas Priest), (Pantera) (Slaughter) ,(TNT) etc. Except that he could now sing the high notes with a connected powerful voice!!!!!!

Just like my favourite rock star hero’s, Westie, had developed amazing power and tone and had dramatically increased his vocal range over six months. I was amazed and envious (when he sang or screamed he sounded every bit as good as the rock singers we both idolised)! 

I asked him how he did it ? Westie kind of shrugged and said I don’t really know, I just relax my throat  and it kinda feels different and my voice just opens up and all of a sudden i can sing much much higher and it all fells connected! 

Little did I know back then that Westie was referring to the sensation of experiencing a full connection (or connected voice)

This was the turning point for me as a singer, because having witnessed the dramatic transformation and rapid vocal results that are possible when you master this technique. In six months Westie had gone from having eight usable notes in his voice to a little over three and a half octaves of connected voice! 

So do you want to know the secret to unlocking your full vocal range and making it much, much easier to increase your power and hit those high notes with ease?

——–

Here’s how it works….

Your chest voice is only capable of stretching so far before your vocal chords become so tight and stiff that they loose the flexibility for the chords to vibrate freely. Freely vibrating chords produce a rich warm pleasing tone to your chest voice. There comes a point where your vocal chords wont stretch any more (ie there is no give in the chord to stretch any further)! At this point you loose all melody in your voice and you are simply yelling like you would when you are cheering on your favourite sporting team! (this is very harmful to your chords and sustaining this kind of vocal output causes trauma to your chords (in the short term) they will swell up,  in the long term abuse leads to nodules and other serious vocal disorders! For more info checkout my blog  Shouting or singing?

Your head voice is by contrast that higher pitched part of your voice that on its own sounds thin and whiny ( a little child on a playground swing yelling at the top of there lungs “weeeee mommy look at me” hopefully you get the idea?. The higher sound is produced because the vocal chords have lengthened out and have been thinned down to produce a whole new vocal register which is more bell like in tone because its largely made up of higher frequencies, (referred to as head voice).

Singing in a unconnected head voice is relatively easy for most people but it lacks power and is often mistaken for falsetto because the two sound remarkably similar to the ordinary ear. It becomes more confusing for a singer because as they slide down from head voice and try to connect into chest voice (95% of beginner or intermediate level singers) will experience a disconnect or a cracks in there voice. check out my blog’s to learn more on this and related topics 

Free blog articles on how to produce rapid vocal results.

So hopefully we’ve now established that continuing to sing in two completely disconnected vocal registers will not provide you with any noticeable improvments in vocal quality or power!

Here is how to establish a fully connected voice:

The answer is very simple.

All of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilages  that are responsible for creating pitch, volume, etc are all housed inside your larynx ( Adams apple located in the middle of your throat) its visible in men and not usually visible in a women. When you swallow you will feel the larnyx move up and down on its own.

So as you vocalise or sing on a scale you need to learn how to make your sounds with out disturbing the larynx (so that it is free to move on its own). (ie as you ascend in pitch the various muscles etc inside the larynx  automatically adjust the thickness and length of the vocal chords. As you near the end of your chest voice register, the larynx will automatically begin tilting forward, (this sensation) will feel like the larynx is moving around, the key is to remain relaxed during this process and let the larynx complete the tilt on its own (this is often referred to by vocal coaches as “Bridging” or in classical terms its called the “Passagio” we will refer to it simply as a larangeal tilt or laranyx tilt.

But what happens with most beginner and intermediate level singers is that they incorrectly squeeze around the larynx either because they are uncomfortable with the sensation of movement, or because the cartilages and muscles that operate this tilt mechanism initially lack the strength to fully complete the laryngeal tilt on their own, (the inexperienced singer incorrectly squeeze’s with the muscles in the throat, as if to apply force, to push the larynx into the tilt position). This excessive force results in a very weak chest to head voice connection because the laryngeal tilt is not in proper alignment or correct position within the throat! 

As a vocal conditioning and strengthening coach I teach you the correct techniques to make it easier to allow this laryngeal tilt to reach its proper alignment position.

But for those of you that cant afford access to one on one coaching, or want to figure it out on your own, here’s a quick run down of the key areas that need to focus on inorder to allow the laryngeal tilt to fully develop.

1. Posture / You must have correct posture, stand up straight shoulders down, reduce any un wanted tension in the neck, back and chest.  

2. Diaphragmatic breathing/ proper breath support is key for preventing unwanted excess air from passing through the chords and disturbing the process of the vocal chords allowing them to automatically stretch and thin out before during and after the laryngeal tilt  coordination. Breathe in nice and deep and remember to relax the abdominal muscles as you breathe in and as you do so expand your rib cage to 3/4 open postion and hold that expanded ribcage position for the duration of the note or scale you are singing. (this is your diaphragmatic support).

3. Vocal tract placement / maintain a wide open throat 3/4 yawn position. (this helps you to hear the connection and feel it more easily when it happens. *yawning helps to raise your soft pallet up so the chest and head sounds can mix more easily.

4. Vowel sounds, vocalise on a bright sounding ah ( like a doctor tells you to say ahh)

5. Vocalise on the ah sound using 1/4 volume ( this helps to initially reduce stress and unwanted tension in your neck, jaw, and chest and back, to provide the freedom and stretch needed for the larynx muscles to co-ordinate the laryngeal tilt. 

With time and practise the muscles responsible for coordinating the tilt will get stronger and it will become easier and easier to complete the full larynx tilt and achieve maximum connection strength.

Once your larynx can fully tilt to the correct alignment position, you will gain range and vocal quality almost instantly. It will take some time spent in ” the vocal gym” to improve the flexibility and strength of your chords) but for the average person you will be amazed by the rapid vocal results you will achieve in just a short time of training.

Safety message !!!!!!!!

This is very important your larynx is an incredibly delicate mechanism capable of great feats of vocal athleticism. It takes time for these muscles and cartliages to develop the strength to fully complete the laryngeal tilt  (or larynx tilt) Be patient don’t force it if the larynx doesn’t fully tilt to the correct position on its own it means the muscles that control the tilt action need to be safely conditioned using specialised vocal isolation exercises to improve there strength and flexibility. Do not use brute muscular force to complete the tilt action!!! you can seriously damage your voice as, well as tear the larynx mechanism muscles!

If your finding it difficult to achieve the proper connection, email me or call me and arrange a time for some expert guidance and coaching so that you can learn how to let the larynx perform the tilt safely.

Better singing everyone! 

paule@rapidvocalresults.com

I dont really sound like that do I?

Hi everyone, this blog is going to tackle the topic of how our hearing works and why our ears can trick us into thinking that our singing voice sounds better than it actually is! Hence the often heard exclamation “I don’t really sound like that do I”?

If you watch TV talent competitions,  I’ am sure you’ve witnessed one or two train wreck singing auditions? You know the ones where the hapless singer is so convinced that they are the next big singing talent etc. Typically the singer struts into the judging room and exudes huge amounts of confidence, only to be shot down in flames during their audition by the judges! 

The first response from the contestant is usually wide eyed astonishment that the judges don’t recognise their singing talents. “OMG what do you mean I cant sing”? I’ve heard me sing plenty of times I sound amazing ! At this point the judges usually share some painful truths, like Dog that was really bad, or that was pitchy, etc. The contestants are often so unprepared for these comments that they storm off the stage vowing to go it alone and become a mega star on there own! Its not until the contestant finally gets the opportunity to view the play back of their audition that they finally hear an accurate representation of how they really sound when they are singing. So why do our ears play tricks on us? Why dose our own voice sound sweeter and richer to our own ears?

If you’ve ever heard a recording of your own voice – on a voice mail or from a family video, etc, You will already know that the sound you hear in your head when you speak or sing is completely different to the sound that is heard by everyone else in the room. Why is that, and why do we tend to prefer the voice we hear in our heads?

For most people, there are few things that are more painful than hearing a recording of their own voice. We often don’t sound like we think they should.  The sound captured from raw recordings usually contains more treble frequencies and the actual sound of the voice is thinner, higher and doesn’t match up with how we sound in our own heads!.  

So, are our ears playing tricks on us? Maybe the microphone and recording is wrong? 

Well unfortunately the raw recording doesn’t  lie! The way we think we sound isn’t how we really sound to everyone else.  

How we hear and perceive our own voice is down to how the sound waves travel through our inner ear and how our ears interpret the additional internal vibrations that are bouncing around our chest cavities and inside our skulls 

Every sound we hear—cars driving, bees buzzing, people talking, and audio recordings—can all be attributed  to the waves of pressure moving through the air. Our outer ears “pick up” these sound waves and funnel them into our head through the ear canal. They strike the ear drum, which starts vibrating, and those vibrations travel to the inner ear, where they’re translated into signals that can that can be sent via the auditory nerve to the brain for interpretation.

RESONANT VIBRATIONS

The inner ear doesn’t  just get stimulated only by external sound waves coming down the ear canal. The ear also picks up on vibrations happening inside the body (resonance), and it’s a combination of these two things that makes up the sound you hear when you sing and talk.

When you speak, vibrations from your vocal cords resonate in your throat and mouth, and some get transmitted and conducted by the bones in your neck and head. The inner ear responds to these just like any other vibrations, turning them into electrical signals and impulses sending them to the brain. When you speak, your inner ear is stimulated both by internal vibrations in your bones and by the sound coming out of your mouth and travelling through the air and into the ears.

This combination of vibrations coming to the inner ear by two different paths gives your voice (as you normally hear it) a unique character that is not present in other conducted by air sounds, In particular, your bones enhance deeper, lower-frequency vibrations and give your voice a fuller, bassier quality that’s lacking when you hear it on a recording.

“When you hear your own voice as you talk, you’re really hearing multiple sound sources at once,” You’re hearing the sound that’s coming out of your mouth,. but you’re also hearing the sound bouncing around inside your own skull, which is conducted by your flesh and bones directly to your inner ear.”and the vibrations or resonance that is been amplified in the resonant spaces present in both your body and head. As singers, this is particularly useful because with practice we can learn to produce additional body and head resonance (vibrations) to colour our voices also referred to as improving our mix!

Flesh, (muscle tissue) etc, is better at transmitting low frequencies than higher ones, which makes you think your voice sounds lower than it does to other people.

How does my hearing work? Skip this bit, if you dont want to delve deeper into the science of how hearing works and how to prevent hearing loss)

Human Inner Ear

The outer part of the ear (called the pinna) channels sound travelling in the air into the ear canal. Some higher pitch sounds are enhanced by the shape of the ear canal as they reach the ear drum. Sound is transformed into mechanical vibration at the ear drum.

The eardrum is attached to a chain of three hearing bones that act as a lever enhancing sounds, while transferring the signal through the middle ear to the inner ear. The third bone in this series of middle ear bones is called the (stapes), and it is attached to the oval window, a thin tissue covering and entry point to the fluid-filled inner ear (the cochlea).

The cochlea is a snail-shaped tube within the skull that contains sensory hearing cells. These sensory cells are situated on a flexible membrane tissue – the basilar membrane. When the oval window vibrates the basilar membrane and sensory hearing cells are displaced.

Two of the important sensory hearing cells are the outer hair cells and the inner hair cells. Outer hair cells act like a biological amplifier/attenuator, boosting soft sounds and dampening loud sounds. Inner hair cells transfer sound information to the auditory nerve.

The auditory nerve transfers sound information to various brainstem and auditory cortex regions in the brain so that information can be processed and sounds can be interpreted and identifed.

Common Problems with our Hearing System

Conductive Hearing Loss

An excessive build-up of ear wax in the ear canal can reduce sound transmission and hearing in an ear. An Ear wax blockage is best treated by an Ear Specialist, Ear Nurse Specialist or trained Audiologist. Gently swabbing the inner ear with a cotton bud or similar made for purpose item can help you to reduce the wax build up. Note that swimmers are typically prone to large build ups of ear wax, if your a singer and you swim as part of your fitness regime i recomend that you invest in some wax ear plugs and a swimmers cap to keep them firmly in place.

The presence of fluid behind the ear drum (otitis media or ‘glue ear’) can cause hearing loss by reducing movement of the ear drum and middle ear hearing bones. Although this condition usually resolves within ten weeks without treatment, advice should be a General Practice physician.

Otosclerosis is the abnormal growth of the hearing bones in the middle ear. Usually the stapes becomes fixed to the oval window and interferes with sound transmission into the inner ear. Otosclerosis is sometimes treated by surgery or through the use of hearing aids.

Singers that are experiencing some form of hearing loss either through a genetic condition or through enviromental factors can learn to adjust and use body referencing* (the system of determining pitch through closely monitoring the body resonace) ive worked sucessfully  with a number of singers with noticable hairing impairments and taught them to how to improve their ability to reference picth using this Particular method.

Sensory Hearing Loss

Inner ear sensory hearing cells may be malformed or become damaged.

Outer hair cells, deteriorate over time so that only about 70% are intact by 70 years of age. This can result in reduced hearing of high pitch sounds.  I recomend that anyone who regulary exposes there ears to loud sound sources over 70db should invest immediately in hearing protection devices. Once the hairs have been bent over or effectively damaged hearing loss will ensue!

Early signs of hearing loss include experiencing high pitched ringing sounds in your ears, especially apparent after atending loud concerts etc!

If your a singer and or musician  you dont need me to tell you how important your hearing is to enable your ability to sing in key and perform on pitch!

(Authors note) I have been singing and performing for over thirty years now with loud bands, and my hearing is about 98% entact! My hearing has been preserved because i follow two basic rules, every reheasal i use ear plugs ( i use potentiated ear plugs these are special ear plugs that are designed to reduce noise levels but still allow you to hear a full range of high ,mid,bass frequencies). Failing that ordinary foam ear plugs from the chemist, or from industrial health and safety shops are a must for loud rehearsals! Heres an idea if your practising that loud ask the band to turn down (too many musians end up with permanent ringing in their ears also know as tinnitus). 2nd rule always wear ear plugs, or other hearing protection devices at Nightclubs and music concerts or anywhere where you are continually exposed to loud sound sources of 70DB (decibels )or greater. I have even been known to disapear into a toilet and grab some toilet paper and fashion some make shift ear plugs for impromtu events where there are excessive amounts loud music or loud environments! Ie stock car racing etc.

Exposure to excessive noise will accelerate damage to outer hair cells causing a greater degree of hearing loss!

Damage to inner hair cells can occur due to excessive noise, and also from ear disease or degenerative conditions. These inner hair cells also contribute greatly to our sense of body balance, so there are multiple reasons to safe guard your hearing!

Taking precautions now to preserve your hearing may seem very un-rock n roll . But its the only way to ensure that you can enjoy a life time of hearing the full range of the frequencies that make up our musical spectrum!

If you choose to ignore the above advice and continue to expose your ears to excessive loud noise and unfiltered noise abuse! Then the likely hood is that you will investing in a hearing aid in the near future (no BS that’s telling you like it really is).

Hearing aids are most effective at compensating for reduced function of outer hair cells, which is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. If the function of inner hair cells is very poor then a cochlear implant may provide better hearing ability. How ever many types of hearing aides artifically amplify sounds and they do not pick up the full range spectrum of sound frequencies that our ears can detect, this means the sound is metallic sounding and very atrifical / not ideal for musicians who rely on their ears to make a living. 

Drop me a line if you have any questions or want to learn more about the system of using body referencing* to improve your sense of pitch.

Rapid Vocal Results come through a combination of hard work and understanding the science of which vocal exercises work best to stimulate chord growth for your voice! Your hearing is super important dont take it for granted if you really want to reduce the time it takes to grow your voice you need to be able to hear and feel when your vocal chords are vibrating fully this way of vocalising is the fastest way to stimulate the growth of your vocal chords.

Better singing everyone.

Off the shelf singing programmes vs customised coaching, which one is right for me?

Hi everyone, as a vocal conditioning and strengthening coach. I often receive emails, from singers, that are struggling to stay motivated and have become disappointed or frustrated because there voice, is not developing as fast they want it too. These singers often ask me to recommend a good off the shelf “learn to sing programme” that would help them to speed up their vocal development.

Whether your an absolute beginner or a seasoned singer / performer. Every singer will experience some frustration in regards to the time it takes  your vocal chords to respond to the proper training exercises before they measurably improve their strength and vocal flexibility.

Fact:

No too voices are built the same, refer to my earlier blog entitled  “Can anybody learn to sing?”. The voice is a muscle and in this case the muscles that are responsible for creating pitch, and volume and range are comprised of tiny micro muscle groups. These muscles require specific targeted exercises in order to isolate the correct micro muscles to stimulate improved strength ie: (growth).

If your serious about reducing the time it takes to develop your voice, keep this phrase in mind “The voice is a muscle”. It requires a customised vocal strengthening and conditioning programme to obtain Rapid Vocal Results. 

There are some well designed home study singing programmes on the market, but they are catering for a particular segment of singers, and are essentially guaranteed to generate some stunning customer testimonials, but they wont work for severely undersized voices, here’s why! 

Singers who are born with well above average thickness and length in there vocal chords, (the lucky 10% of the population) will find that the muscles that make up there voice will respond well to any type of structured vocal exercise programme. In fact these kinds of singers seem to make effortless gains in range and power with out having to really work at it. These singers will experience satisfying vocal gains from any off the shelf learn to sing programme.

The remaining 90% of singers fall into a number of categories, which will quickly determine there genetic potential for their own personal vocal growth.

Remember I said earlier  “No too voices are built the same”?

Off the shelf vocal coaching programmes  are designed to target singers that have at least average or above average thickness and strength in there vocal chords. This natural strength is required at the onset of training to ensure the right muscles are worked out and the correct technique is performed to stimulate and encourage the desired vocal muscle growth.

Singers who are born with slightly under average vocal chord thickness, length and strength ( 30%), can still obtain significant vocal improvement in there range and vocal power. Remember your vocal growth results are all dependent on how thick your vocal chords are and how much tension your chords can withstand and how much you are able to improve the chords flexibility in-order to stretch to reach higher notes. These types of singers can achieve satisfactory results from a home study vocal exercise programmes but usually require additional one on one coaching to fine tune their vocal technique and ability to correctly isolate the singing muscles to stimulate proper growth and development.

The remaining 60% of beginner or intermediate singers are the focus of this particular blog.

These are the singers that work harder than anybody else, have probably purchased a number of home study learn to sing programmes, but always seem to fall short of achieving real break through’s and improvements to there singing or screaming voice. 

These singers ( i will refer to as hard gainers) thats the term given to body builders that lack th e natural size or genetics to quickly build muscle or put on muscle mass, will achieve little or no real vocal improvement through a home study singing programme. Put simply there vocal apparatus lacks the basic minimum strength and flexibility required to perform the exercises properly with out straining (thus they will end up only strengthening the big bulky false muscles that are used incorrectly in singing and receive little or no actual real vocal progress.).

Here’s the NO BS part.

These singers (hard gainers), are born with below average strength and thickness and length of there vocal chords. They could also be subject to medical or breathing disorders that can make singing more of a challenge. Put simply the vocal chords and tendons and ligaments that make up the voice are undersized and or underdeveloped. For these singers there is no quick or easy fix to magically transform an underdeveloped voice into a world class voice.

But before you throw in the towel completely and take up another vocation perhaps knitting? Here’s some ideas on how to reduce the time it takes to develop your singing voice to its full potential!

Find a vocal coach, that can provide you with a thorough vocal diagnostic service. Refer to my blog “The million dollar question, that every new singer wrestles with!”

If your one of those singers out there that purchased an off the shelf singing programme and puts in a lot of study and regular practise but your voice seems to make little or no progress. I humbly suggest that you find yourself a knowledgeable vocal coach and get some skype coaching or face to face coaching instruction to target the problem areas. 

Always start with a full vocal diagnostic session, this will help you to gain a clear understanding of what your future vocal growth potential is and the customised vocal gym programme you need to follow to really kick start and stimulate your vocal growth.

As a vocal strength and conditioning coach. I have helped a number of less than gifted singers over the years to achieve there vocal performance goals, through customised vocal training programmes that are designed to target and isolate the underdeveloped vocal chords, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments that make up the voice. 

Essentially if your born with below average strength and sized vocal chords, it takes time and patience to re balance the voice, through vocal resistance training and flexibility exercises, this process is combined with neurologically designed exercises to encourage the correct muscle co-ordinations to take place to make singing easier. There are no short cuts but the training programmes are fun, challenging and exceptionally rewarding for my students.

Buying an off the shelf home study programme can help you learn better technique, and provide you with a foundation of the basics but if your serious about obtaining Rapid Vocal Results, find your self a knowledgeable vocal coach that has experience growing undersized voices!  

Then be prepared to sweat it out in the vocal gym!

Please feel free to email me to learn more about my Rapid Vocal Results, strengthening and conditioning system.

Better singing everyone.

Perfect Pitch or Relative Pitch or close enough to it?

What is perfect pitch?

Absolute pitch (AP), widely referred to as perfect pitch, is a rare auditory phenomenon characterized by the ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone.

What is Relative Pitch?

Relative Pitch tells you how pitches relate to one another to create the language of music. Another way to explain this would be to say that you understand and can follow the distance between two or more pitches to understand how chords and melodies and harmonies are made.

While not every body is capable of developing Perfect pitch, 99% of a healthy population is capable of developing reliable Relative pitch. 

As a vocal coach. I often work with beginner and intermediate level singers, that experience noticeable difficulty in-regards to been able to sing in tune and stay on pitch.  These students have often been referred to incorrectly as tone deaf.

If you’ve read my previous blog’s you will already be familiar with my unique approach to developing a students voice . If the student is serious about fast tracking there vocal development. I always recommend that our first session spent together includes a full vocal diagnostic. This, Vocal Diagnostic Session includes a series of special exercises to determine which muscle co-ordinations are assisting there vocal production and serves to identify any unhealthy muscle behaviours or bad techniques that are preventing the voice from performing freely.  

Pitch problems are a serious issue for many singers, regardless of what’s causing it. No audience in there right mind will enjoy a performance where the artist repeatedly sings sharp or flat.

There can be many different reasons why students struggle to sing in key or correctly match pitch. This can include a variety of hearing disorders, and or  bad vocal technique, but more often than not the most common cause of pitch problems boils down to the singer simply not been familiar with the interval distance between the various notes of the scale or chord. 

Problems with pitch are very easy to diagnose, in fact any difficulties singing on pitch or maintaining correct pitch (especially in the most comfortable register closest to your natural speaking voice), immediately provides a good vocal coach, with a whole bunch of useful data and cues about what’s going on internally within the mechanics of the singer.

If you’ve ever played guitar you will know how challenging it can be to tune the guitar by ear (especially when you are tired). Most guitar players who tune there guitar by ear, would use a method like the one iam describing below.

Starting at the fifth fret on the sixth string (biggest E string assuming this string is in tune) they would fret the note which results in creating a reference or guide tone  to help them tune up the next open string below (A string). With a little bit of patience and gentle turning of the tuning pegs the goal is to match up the picked sound created on the fifth fret of the E string with the sound of the open A string.  The preceding string is in tune when the guide tone and the open A string vibrate in harmony creating the same frequency  or pitch. The correctly tuned A string is pleasing to the ear and resonates at a 110Hz. (since this blog is not about how to tune your  guitar but how to develop a better sense of vocal pitch for your voice lets get back on topic).

In my experience singers can become over reliant on using there ears to identify and follow along with guide tones.

What?

That’s right you understood me correctly. Put simply too many singers out there rely solely on there ears to determine if they are on singing on pitch. That’s not good for any singer because our ears can play tricks on us and the result is often a note that is sung flat or sharp and is instantly recognisable as been out of tune with the songs melody!

Singers who place an over reliance solely on there ears to determine pitch will find it especially difficult to sing in tune or on key in a noisy environment. As for example when there  on stage and panic will quickly set in when they realise they cant hear themselves properly to begin with!

How we hear and perceive our own voice requires its own full length blog. Watch this space.

Now the singer faces a real dilemma they are nervous to sing because they cant hear if there in tune with the band, this often results in singers experiencing stage fright, or over compensating by singing louder than there voice can maintain for the duration of the show in order to make themselves heard above the mix and this last scenario is a sure fire recipe for inducing  a bad case of excessive vocal strain. 

What’s the solution I hear you say? How do I develop perfect pitch or at least improve my sense of pitch to enable me to make it easier to sing in key in a noisy environment?

The answer is resonance. When you sing your body produces sympathetic resonance frequencies. 

IE. Low chesty notes when sung correctly will produce resonance which are felt as additional vibrations in the chest, (Thoracic cavity) your body functions very much the same way as a speaker cabinet dose. The initial sound of a speaker is made at the voice coil, the sound then gets amplified again over the surface of the cone, but the real amplification (extra volume is produced from the sound bouncing around inside the cabinet). Its a very simplified explanation of the similarities between the human voice and  the audio speaker, but you should get the general idea. 

Experienced singers understand how to tune in there awareness to recognise the resonant sounds the body produces when they are singing. The extra resonance that can be produced by the body is responsible for adding richness and warmth to every note you sing.

Since each note you sing is generated at its own unique frequency measured by the number of times per second the vocal chords or folds are required to vibrate to create a desired pitch ( Frequency of sound is measured in hertz).

Experienced singers learn to recognise the unique resonant vibration associated with each new pitch and create a library of basic resonant pitches they can use in a performance to help them as internal guide tones.

Now here’s the no BS part of today’s blog. Its not necessary to memorise every pitch and its unique resonating frequency that’s too hard and most singers personalities are way too easy going for that kind of hard work. 

The easier approach to developing Relative pitch is to memorise octave pitches and there corresponding resonating frequencies. Do this by singing a pitch and then tune in to the corresponding vibration (body resonance). Make a mental snap shot of what the resonant vibration feels like. Start at your lowest note in your speaking voice make an ahh sound and tune in to the vibrations you feel in your chest. Repeatedly sing this note over and over again until you learn to recognise correct pitch of the note by matching the desired note with the body’s resonating vibration. Then simply work your way up your range comfortably until you can sing the same note eight notes higher (that’s the octave). Once again tune into the sensation of the vibration your body makes when you sing this higher pitch on an ahh sound. Practice sliding between the two pitches ie C3 to C4 and learn to use the body resonance vibration as a back up to assist your ear in determining correct pitch.

Skip to the tip to improve pitch recongnition:

Here’s a great tip to help reduce the time it takes to tune into your bodies resonating frequencies. Grab a pair of ear muffs or ear plugs, or even cotton wool, or simply place a finger gently in each ear and sing or speak in your lowest comfortable chest voice. Notice how your body will produce vibrations across your chest starting at your lowest notes usually super low notes will produce a vibration in the pit of your stomach mid range chest notes are felt across the top of the chest. Higher notes whether sung or spoken will produce pleasent vibrations at the base of the neck, and behind the cheek bones.

The higher you sing the more the body resonance will be felt in the face, particulary behind the cheek bones, and moving into the forehead, really high notes produce vibrations at the top of our head (the crown) and even out the back of the head. Have fun experimenting with body resonance and using your bodys in built vocal tuner. 

Better singing everyone.

The million dollar question, that every new singer wrestles with

Hi everyone. If I had a dollar from every new singer that asked me the following question. I would be a very rich man!

“If I take singing lessons can you teach me to learn how to sing and sound like my favourite singer”?

Okay here’s the no “BS” answer to that question. 

Your ability to make sounds similar to your favourite singer is largely dependent on six crucial factors.

1. Vocal chords

Your vocal chords would need to be similar or the same approximate thickness and length as your idols vocal anatomy.

2. Physical similarities in muscle and anatomy structure.

Inside your head, throat, and thoracic cavity, (upper chest area). There are a million in one variations going on in regards to the size and shape of your resonant cavities.

What are resonant cavaties? (areas where the vibrations of sound are amplified and rich over tones, called (harmonics) are produced, these additional harmonic frequencies in the voice  among other things are responsible for creating the unique signature vocal tone of the artist.

The uniqueness of the sounds produced by your favourite singer, depend largely on how thick there vocal chords are to begin with. When a singer is born and blessed with above average thickness and vocal chord length (longer vocal chords than the average person) they are said to be natural singers. Your vocal range is dependent on how efficiently your vocal chords can thin down to reach the higher notes while also maintaining enough thickness in the chord to produce a pleasing vocal tone. Lots of people, can thin there vocal chords down at the expense of the audience to produce awfully high shrill sounds that are on pitch, but the vocal chords have thinned out so much (because they lack the required natural mass) to make these notes usable in a singers range. No audience wants to sit through shrill thin high notes that lack musicality! Would you?

3. The resonance cavities inside our skulls, and upper chest, vary greatly in size.

Put simply the bigger the body parts (usually) means the bigger the accompanying resonant cavities will be.

Singers that are born with a wider face and squarish jaw lines will naturally have much bigger resonance cavities to work with compared to a singer that is born with a narrow face and or a underdeveloped jaw line. This also means that a singer with a wider jaw and  larger face will naturally have a bigger resonance area to play with in the back of there throats. These types of singers will naturally produce distortion sounds more easily than their narrow faced countreparts.

* (look out for an upcomming post on how to create safe healthy distortion).

4. Diameter of the wind pipe.  

Singers like Sebastian Bach, or Brian Johnston from ACDC or Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, are likely to have been blessed with a wider than average windpipe, this provides these type of singers with added volume, and additional options in regards to making it easy to produce rumbling chest distortion sounds with minum thought and effort. In essence the wider the wind pipe the easier it is to create the right type of air compression bubbling up between the chords to produce distorted sounds and the safe kind of chord compression needed for healthy heavy metal screams!

5. Power house singers are usually under five ten for men and five feet five inches for women in height, is this just a coincidence?

The answer is no, power house singers are created through favourable anatomy design. Shorter singers under six foot are born with naturally shorter tendons and muscles and ligaments. These shorter thicker tendons and ligaments provide an immediate benefit for handling higher levels of physical resistance and improves the persons ability to perform physical exercises and activities that require more body strength to really excel in performance.  The taller person has thinner tendons and ligaments and muscle tissue because the muscle has a greater surface area to stretch and attach to the bodies skeleton.

*(Singers like Sebastian Bach are an anommaly in regards to his height, he has a shorter neck and thicker wider throat when compared to most people of similar height).

How do shorter tendons and ligaments benefit a singer?

If your born with above average thickness in size and length of the vocal chords, the next part of the equation is to develop the conditioning and strength for the tendons ligaments and cartilages that are responsible for anchoring the larynx these I refer to as the “micro muscle groups”.

The micro muscle groups are the tiny muscle groups that are really responsible for producing pitch, range and volume. 

The benefits of having shorter tendons ligaments and muscles should be self explanatory? They are literally thicker, and can handle greater levels of initial tension, for longer periods of time, with out displaying signs of fatigue. This is very important because these micro muscle groups are literally responsible, for anchoring the larynx and reducing all the unwanted excess muscle tension in and around the throat. This then allows the larynx to correctly tilt forward  (often referred to as a laryngeal tilt) on its base and lengthen out and thin down to stretch the vocal chord to produce higher notes in our vocal registers. 

The higher you sing or scream for that matter the more tension the micro muscles need to handle to anchor the voice and allow the laryngeal tilt to continue unimpeded. Hence singers with naturally thicker and longer vocal chords can stretch further and maintain enough mass to make these sounds musical and pleasing to the audiences ear.

6. Vocal technique

It doesn’t matter how big or small your vocal chords are if you don’t know how to use them               safely and correctly your voice will never reach it’s true potential! I’ve seen plenty of naturally gifted singers struggle with bad technique. I’ve witnessed some exceptional singing performances from singers that weren’t blessed with big vocal chords, but simply work harder at strengthening up the micro muscles to compensate and over come their genetic short comings. 

Okay so some of you reading this blog post are feeling pretty good about now. Because your identifying that you have been born with some or all of the traits that naturally completent producing a strong singing voice (Healthy singers DNA).

Some of you are reading this article and are feeling that sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach because you’ve identified that you lack the natural strength or size required in these singing muscles to produce the sounds you want to make?

The good news is that with some notable exceptions. Most people born with average size vocal chords or under average sized vocal chords can learn to isolate and strengthen up the micro muscle groups that are responsible for correctly producing your singing voice. To learn whether your voice is going to take a little or a lot of work to realise your singing goals I highly recommend finding a vocal coach that offers a full vocal diagnostic service. 

I recommend that every student should invest in a vocal diagnostic session prior to commencing singing lessons. This way they will obtain a clear understanding, about how much work and effort it will require to reach their own individual vocal development goals.

There are plenty of vocal coaches out there that are just in it for the money and will tell you what ever you want to hear. As long as you can afford there services. I reckon this approach stinks! 

At Rapid Vocal Results. I pledge to always give you a no “BS” frank appraisal on your vocal genetics. My goal is to tell it, like it is! I want to help as many singers as I possibly can to reach their vocal goals and realise their

music career aspirations!

Better singing everyone.

To shout or not to shout that is the question (Part 1) Vocal strain /over use

Hi everyone, as a vocal coach, I often receive email inquiries from all kinds of singers and business professionals, wanting to ask me questions about the most common vocal disorders that can affect a singer, or a public speakers vocal health.  

Welcome to the first blog article in a series i will be writting that will help you to understand what are the most common vocal disorders and how to prevent them, and in doing so how to reduce the risk of doing permanent damage to your vocal chords. As usual this is a no BS discussion no punches pulled in delivering you the facts.

Vocal strain or over use is fairly common. If youve ever been to a busy night club, or pub and had to raise your voice and really shout to be heard over the other patrons, or a band. Then you know how easy it is to strain your voice with out even realising it.

In fact in as little as 20- minutes to an hour of excessive over use the voice will begin to exhibit tell tale signs of vocal wear and fatigue. Unfortunately most people tend to ignore these early warning signs and pay the price the next day.

Lets run through three more common scenarios for singers and non singers where excessive missuse of the vocal chords can occur.

Singers: 

Whether your an accomplished singer or just starting off on your rock n roll journey.

Too many singers incorrectly rely on excessive volume or yelling as a tool to reach that next note just out side there natural range.

The problem is quickly compounded when your singing and trying to compete to be heard over your band mates! Singing quickly transforms into yelling and the poor voice suffers as a result.

The popularity and increase of agressive heavy metal vocal styles, is an obvious platform for excessive missuse of the voice. Too many young singers are taking advice from unqualified peers and over night “metal scream gurus” who encourage and promote unsafe methods for screaming.

These singers can do serious irreparable damage to there vocal chords in a very short period of time.

Professional business people:

If your a big sports fan and you go to the game and the referee makes a call you dont agree with then the odds are pretty good that your going to end up shouting and voicing your displeasure at the referee, am I right? Or if the game is a close one you end up shouting yourself hoarse along with the crowd cheering on your home town team to secure a well deserved victory.

But what happens the next morning when you go to use your voice? Depending on how badly you strained your voice you might find that your voice sounds deeper than normal, or for some people they might sound unnaturally husky or hoarse. 

Whats going on inside the voice box when we missuse the voice ?

What are vocal chords?

The vocal cords are two bands of elastic muscle tissue. They are located side by side in the voice box (larynx) just above the windpipe (trachea). Like other muscle tissues in the body, vocal cords can be strained and damaged. Vocal cords can also be subject to infections, tumors and trauma.

Aggressive shouting and yelling at the top of your lungs has a traumatic effect on the vocal chords. Essentially the vocal chords are been violently banged around and blasted with excessive amounts of escaping air. The air comes up from the lungs, and escapes through the wind pipe (trachea). and exits past the vocal chords. In the process the excess air that escapes past the chords acts as a kind of hot air dryer. It drys the chords and removes the protective layer of moisture that the vocal cords rely on to maintain there healthy condition. 

Aggressive yelling and screaming passes more unwanted air over the vocal chords and drys them out very quickly. The result is that your vocal chords have now lost there protective coating that naturally reduces friction as the chords rub together or (technically open and close against each other to form sounds and spoken words).

To gain a better understanding of whats going on in your voice box when you yell or agressively overuse your voice for an extended amount of time.

Try this exercise for twenty seconds: 

Repeatedly clap your hands together for ten seconds, apply enough force untill the palms of your hands begin to tingle. Then firmly rub the palms of your hands together for another ten seconds, or until enough time has passed to create an uncomfortable friction between the two surfaces of your hands.

Okay you can stop now!

Uncomfortable isnt it? do you notice a slight sensation of tingling on your skin?  Essentially that brief violent action is all that was needed to remove the protective oils from the skin on the palm of your hands, once the protective oils are removed if you continue to apply friction against the skin you will end up with an abrasion or worse a weeping blister.

The vocal chords are very similar once you remove the protective layer of moisture from the chords. The vocal chords begin to rub against each other like sand paper. This results in trauma along the edge of the vocal chords  also referred to as your (vocal folds). When the protective layer of moisture is removed from the vocal chords the build up of unwanted friction heats up the vocal chords (much like an over driven stereo speaker thats hot to touch). The chords arent able to cool themselves down or reduce the effects of the heat generated by the excessive friction and they begin to swell up.

The Vocal chords ability to produce a desired pitch requires a symetrical meeting at the edge of the chords to form a momentary bubble or seal. When the chords are swollen they cant close properly to create these momentary (split second seals) and the resulting air that leaks between the chords can sound like a whistle tone or a hoarse airy note.

Its worth noting that the chords actually come together to approximate the beginning of a pitch (they never actually touch) if they touch the chords would be completely closed and no sound would come out). Unstructured Yelling or shouting is very diffrent compared to the way that a singer would safely approach making an agressive gritty sound or vocal scream, a correctly trained singer understands how to safely thin the air that passes between the vocal chords and safely apply correct amounts of compresion against the chords to produce gritty distorted sounds with out damaging the vocal chords. 

If youve been doing a lot of shouting and or incorrectly yell to try and sing high notes.

The first and second signs to look out for to prevent excessive vocal strain is when your voice begins to go dry and you may experience the urge to cough or a tickle in the back of your throat, the third sign is much more obvious, the voice sounds thinner than normal and it can sound like youve sucked on some bad helium. 

For most people its no big deal, they just rest there voice up for a few days and eventually the vocal chords settle down and resume there normal shape and thickness.

But if your a singer or you rely on your voice to earn you a living, sales people, professional speakers etc. Excessive vocal strain can cost you a gig or prevent you from an earning a living.

Depending on the extent of the vocal strain treatment varies.

Ideally swollen and and bruised muscle tissue repair require lots of sleep and rest. 

There is no magic wand cure for excessive vocal trauma.

When rest isnt an option and the show must go on.

Try inhaling steaming in the shower or safely boil a pot of water pour it into a bowl and cover the bowl and your head with a towel. While you and the bowl are underneath the towel slowly inhale the steam deeply in through the nose out through the mouth. Note do not speak for at least an hour after steaming your chords under no circumstances is it recomended or safe for you to  yell or try and sing your high notes! The steam is effectively helping the vocal chords to rehydrate and replace the protective moisture layer, inhaling steam also helps the chords to reduce the swelling and trauma to the muscle tissues. (make sure you dont burn yourself) The boiling point of water is100 degrees Celsius. The better option is to shop around and buy your self a proper steamer from the chemist one that has a built in thermostat to regulate a safe operating temperature for inhalation use.

Drink plenty of water, avoid any and all pharmacy lozaanges that contain alcahol or chemical agents that will dry out the voice.

Try making your self a liquiorice tea, add some natural organic honey.

Avoid any and all forms of smoking until the voice is fully recovered.

The perils of smoking and the damage that it can render to our vocal chords deserves its own blog.

Caffeine is a natural diretic put simply it will make you pee more often and leech the h2o (water) out of your system.

Avoid all spices especially hot spices!

Once the voice has recovered 2-3 hours later after steaming try sucking on little bits of ice. To further reduce the swelling in the chords.

Age also plays a big part in determining how fast your vocal chords will recover from the trauma of excessive miss use. The older you get the longer it takes the vocal chords to recover and heal up  and return to there original healthy state.

That means if your in your early teens and screaming it out on the weekend, by Monday providing you got enough sleep your vocal chords should be on the mend and almost back to normal. Mid twentys the vocal chords may take three or four days to heal up. In your Thirties four or five days to a week. Forties, fiftties etc the same kind of vocal trauma can take an older singer weeks to recover the full use of there voice.

.

However if the vocal trauma has created little bleeds on the vocal chords, or ruptures or tears in the chord thats a diffrent story all together. Depending on the severity of the damage the vocal chords can end up been scarred for life and require surgery to repair. In all most all cases requiring vocal  surgery most surgeons will agree that there will be some percentage of permanent impairment to the vocal chords operational effiency that will affect tone and vocal range.

Again I say prevention is much better than the the method of remedy! So think twice before you yell at the top of your lungs especially if you rely on your voice to make your living.

Better singing everyone.

What age should my child begin singing lessons?

As a vocal coach I often receive inquiries from parents wanting to know what age their child should be before they start taking singing or vocal lessons?

As you can imagine this is a bit of a contentious subject at the best of times. Some singing tutors are more concerned with securing additional revenue, rather than actually looking after there young students welfare.

Here’s my two cents on the subject. I have been working as a singer performer and vocal coach for over twenty years now and this is the advice that I provide for parents who believe there child is going to be the next Mariah Carey or Justin Beiber.

Kids can learn to sing at any age, providing they are old enough to have developed the physical motor skills for singing. They also need to be able to have an attention span for at least thirty seconds at a time. Also its really helpful if they actually want to be a singer when they grow up.

The parent should always be welcome to observe the lesson, and to have a good understanding of what their child’s vocal home work is and even how to perform the exercises in a simplified format.

I normally recommend that parents wait until there child is at least 8-10 years of age before commencing any kind of structured voice coaching.

If your child is serious about been a singer and wants to develop there voice to its full DNA genetic potential (see my previous posts for more information on the role that DNA genetics has in pre-determining maximum vocal growth potential). I recommend 15-16 years old is a good age to embark on vocal strengthening and conditioning programmes for the voice.

There are still some key factors to take into consideration primarily, regarding the changes going on in the voice box, but a good vocal coach will understand how to gradually build up the intensity of the programmes to a safe manageable level to  produce rapid vocal results, while also continuing to safe guard the students voice from potential harm.

The earlier your child receives quality vocal coaching, mentoring and guidance, the sooner they can develop the correct techniques to properly support the development of their singing voice. The key benefit of early singing development is to reduce the time it takes to encourage the correct vocal muscle cordinations. By learning to develop the correct singing habits at an early age these singers can more easily avoid the pit falls associated with unhealthy singing habits that can form later on. 

But back to the subject at hand.

Children’s voices literally continue to grow and develop right up to the age of twenty. During this time the actual voice box will grow in size and so will the vocal chords, and the tendons and the ligaments and cartilages that make up their individual vocal anatomy.

Its important for the vocal coach, to have a thorough understanding of the safe way to develop a child’s singing voice, due to the very fragile nature of their vocal chords (children’s vocal chords, are small,  extremely thin  but very flexible from 3-12 years old) and  grow much thicker as they grow older and naturally retain flexability up to mid twenties). Children naturally experience large growth spurts through puberty and through out there teen age years. During these early years we want to avoid placing too greater strain on the developing chords and the vocal mechanisims that make up the voice!

This means that a good knowledgeable vocal coach, understands the importance of introducing vocal exercises that focus more on flexibility *during the formative years of a childs physical development) and encourages relaxed open released singing practices, rather than trying to race too early into vocal strengthening exercises. 

Yes I have heard of instances where young children have damaged their vocal chords because the voice coach was inexperienced and was encouraging his/ her young charges to use adult vocal strengthening programs.

The most important goal of any vocal lesson regardless of the age of the student is to have fun, and gain an increased confidence with there voice so singing becomes easier, adopting this approach is a sure fire recipe for achieving rapid vocal results! The #1 responsibility of the vocal coach is to safely grow the voice of the singer, at a pace that matches the singers own genetic potential for their unique vocal muscle growth and development!

Better singing everyone.

The number one myth and misunderstanding about singing

Hi everyone, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Regardless of your level of singing experience whether you regulary perform on stage or have yet to sing in front of an audience. Singers can get tricked into falling into the trap of pushing too much air past the vocal chords when they sing or scream.

“If you want to sing higher or louder you need to push more air through the vocal chords” Right?

Wrong !

Actually its the opposite the higher we want to sing or scream, the more we need to find the correct technique for holding back the excessive unwanted air pressure so that the vocal chords are able to thin out and comfortably stretch to reach higher notes within our voice. 

Singers that pass unwanted excessive air past the vocal chords actually dry the vocal chords out very quickly and the additional excessive air pressure robs the vocal chords of there natural flexability, resulting in a voice that cracks or breaks into fallsetto, or you end up straining your chest voice because the vocal chords are forced to sing in a higher register than usual, using the wrong vocal set up.

How do you know if your passing excess air over your vocal chords, and thereby robbing your voice of additional available vocal range and power? 

Try this simple exercise using a comfortable singing note close to your speaking voice simply sing and hold the note for as long as you can, aim for 10-30 seconds.  Vocalise on a simple ahh sound (just like you would make if a doctor asked you to open your mouth for an examination).

Now listen to your voice dose the note your singing sound rich and warm or can you hear a lot of excess air passing over the chords? If your voice sounds weak or overly breathy its a sure bet that your letting too much air escape between your vocal chords when you sing.

Okay so my voice is breathy why should i reduce the amount of air that escapes through my chords when i sing? 

Excess air is the natural enemy of tone and prevents you from increasing your vocal range (ie singing higher requires flexible vocal chords). Excess air escaping past the chords is often the cause of crackly notes and vocal breaks, and will fatigue the voice very quickly.

Which leads me to my next point if we know its bad for us why do we continue to push excess air past the vocal chords and end up with a breathy weak tone or cracks in our vocal register?

Believe it or not your brain gets confused sometimes when we are singing, and often sends us the wrong message it dosent mean to sabatage us on purpose. Singing requires a great deal of muscular strength and correct body support and multiple vocal co-ordinations when these areas are working in harmony we produce a balanced voice. There are parts of the throat/ neck/ and upper body that we want to remain relaxed while we sing, and smaller micro muscles groups that we want to switch on to take up the strain and correctly create our singers support system. 

When the wrong parts ( major muscle body groups) are used incorrectly to support your singing the excessive tension these muscles produce have a detrimental effect on our singing voice. Essentially excessive muscular force creates resistance at the vocal chords, the voice then responds by pushing back just as hard in the opposite direction. As a result the vocal chords and voice mechanisim resist and stiffen up. The laranyx is no longer able to operate freely. As  singers we will feel greater levels of resistance at the vocal chords and it becomes more difficult for the vocal chords to stretch freely to reach the next note.Now suddenly, the brain gets confused and wants to help us overcome this additional vocal resistance. So the brain sends a message to the lungs that more air is needed to overcome the stiffness of the vocal chords. 

But the more air we pass over the vocal chords the more the vocal chords will stiffen up and resist the barrage of unwanted air. This produces unhealthy excessive tension on the vocal chords, legaments, and cartlidges that make up our vocal anatomy. In short singing this way for sustained periods of time is a sure recipe to damage the voice.

Okay so what can i do to help me thin the air that passes between my vocal chords and develop a much healthier way of singing?

Firstly understand anytime that your brain tells you to push to sing higher or strain to get more volume… What your brain actually meant to say, is  to release, let go of excessive tension on the voice, and relax the muscles in and around the throat so that your laranyx can move freely and operate smoothly.

To help you retrain your voice and resist the urge to push excess air past the chords sing at lower volumes initially to help encourage the release of unwanted muscular tension in the neck and throat. If you have to sing louder in order to sing higher then you are placing to much strain on your vocal chords and letting way to much air escape between your vocal folds.

If youve been singing at the top of your lungs for years, (belting) which means relying on the chest voice almost exclusively to reach your high notes. Or you can only reach your high notes at full volume and really strain to hit the top notes in a song. Its going to take time to retrain and balance your voice. Working with a vocal coach that really understands how to create the correct singing support system to reduce unwanted vocal tension can really help save your voice from a lifetime of over use. Learning how to thin the air when you sing will help you extend your range and improve your singing power.

Better singing everyone.

Why should I sing scales?

Hello everyone. Singers often roll there eyes at me when i give them scale exercises to sing for home work. In fact most singers regardless of whether they are a beginner or advanced or anywhere in between seem to have an aversion to spending their practise time singing scales, usually they prefer to sing songs by there favourite artists or there own original material.

Singing scales is boring they say or its just not very sexy! Without exception when i explain to my students the mutiple benefits they gain vocally from singing their scales, suddenly scales become a staple part of their vocal practise routine.

Let me explain singing is a highly muscular activity it requires a great deal of physical coordination, and strength, and vocal flexability to be able to sing higher or lower than your comfortable speaking voice.

Regualry Vocalising scale exercises, is the equivilant of taking your vocal chords and the micro muscle groups that are really responsible, for creating your, pitch and volume, and tone to the gym, and giving them a well balanced workout (hence forth we will refer to these types of vocal exercises as your Vocal Gym).

Scales are a great way to work the full length of the vocal chord, gradually increasing the chords flexability to safely stretch and conditioning the chord to hold higher amounts of exertion ( desired tension) on the vocal chord to sing higher notes. Most singers start vocal training to learn how to extend their range to sing higher.  The higher you sing the stronger your low notes need to be to anchor your voice. Its important to build equal strength in your lower register to provide the voice with the strength and support it needs to thin down at the chords and reach your high notes.

Scales should allways start on a pitch that is closest to your comfortable speaking voice, and gradually raise (ascend) the scale each note will be higher than the last. Advanced scales can cover anywhere from 1 to 3 octaves per pattern. Typically I introduce my singers to a graduated programme where they might start on a five note scale ascending and descending exercise and as their voice develops the scales become more challenging and include multiple registers within the voice.

As you sing higher in effect you are increasing the resistance on the vocal chords (Very much like adding more weight to the bar on the bench press) Hence our Vocal Gym analogy!

Just like you do in any other form of resistance training as you get stronger you add more weight to create more resistance against the muscle to encourage it to grow stronger. Put simply the voice is a muscle (actually made up of smaller micro muscle groups, including vocal cords, tendons, legaments and cartlidges) that are responsible for creating, pitch, volume, tone etc. These micro muscle groups are tricky to work out vocalising on scales helps us to cover every note within our range and provides us with an ability to target challenge areas ie breaks or cracks in the voice, or helps you to strengthen up the bridges in our voice ( the areas where our voice transitions in tone and moves between chest voice into head voice and in higher registers into mixed voice or reinforced fallsetto for screaming. Scales are the most effective way to strengthen the inbetween notes (the bridge areas and rapidly improve your vocal strength and range overall).

Summarised heres the list of benefits you get from regualry vocalising over scales. let me know if ive missed anything?

1. Ear training

2. Strengthening and resistance training for the vocal chords

3. Increased Flexability for vocal chords

4. Strengthening diaphragmatic muscles for correct breathing support

5. Vocal muscle growth -through gradually increasing the resistance applied to our vocal chords and micro muscles the chords will grow bigger and be able to handle increased volumes of vibration and higher pitches.

6. Improves our ability as singers to create and improvise vocal runs etc.

7.Improves our rythym and our ability to take quick breaths in between tricky vocal lines.

I could go on but i think youve got the idea…. so how do you feel about including scales as part of your vocal routine now?

In a future blog, we will spend time talking about how to create a balanced vocal exercise routine… but for now a good rule of thumb is to warm up and spend half your session vocalising on scales and spend the other half of the session singing along to backing tracks or to the radio etc. Always remember not to sing higher than you can safely and comfortably. If you feel pain or discomfort in the throat often a tickle in the throat stop and lower your pitch and your volume.