Rapid Vocal Results

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Singers Talk – Tips to make your songs more memorable with The AJ Sound

This time, the shoe is on the other foot. Watch AJ from The AJ Sound interview Paule from RVR about his top 8 songwriting tips.

In sad trend in the majority of popular music these days is to put a large focus around the music and the song progression and to basically just write throwaway, disposable lyrics. Some forms of music lend themselves more easily to very basic, straightforward lyric writing styles.

If you’re primarily interested in traditional blues music, it’s usually written in first person: “I went down to the store and bought myself a beer, I drank in the hot sun and start to feel weird”. The origin of country and western music was guilty of using the same first person perspective. “I got me a pick up truck and I’m diving down the road. I got my arm out the window, with no particular place to go.” Dance music is another genre that follows this format. “Oh baby, you’re so hot. I want you, I need you, I want what you’ve got.”

That’s fine if the lyrical style suits the genre, and there’s nothing wrong with a generic, first person lyric-writing style. It lends itself well to the way that music is made these days, which is generally very quick and takes a cookie cutter approach.

The problem with this approach is that we as artists are in danger of encouraging music to become very disposable and one-dimensional. I believe sadly that for a lot of the popular music that is made today, and the way that music is produced, we are losing our way. The music is manufactured more like a consumer product with a short shelf life. It’s quantity over quality and if we continue that trend, the vast majority of music is going to be produced with the intention of being disposable.

This topic is something that I’m incredibly passionate about and I’m not preaching to anyone here more than I am to myself.

As a songwriter, I can’t live with the idea of writing a one-dimensional, disposable lyric. Why even pick up your guitar, your piano or even your electronic devices if you don’t have something original to say to the world?

I know a lot of artists out there put their heart and soul into their music and they agonise over every word and every line. In short, they care deeply about what they want to say. I want to talk to those people.

If you’re interested in writing disposable music, more power to you, but this post is not for you. If you’re an artist out there that yearns for being able to tell a better story and develop the skills to write a more memorable, substantial song, then this post is for you.

First of all, we need to understand the elements that a memorable song lyric is comprised of. There will always be a few minor exceptions to these rules, but for the majority of songwriters, if you write a song about how you like to wear a red shirt with white stripes and you like green shoes, then you’re only going to appeal to a niche demographic that can relate to wearing a red shirt with white stripes and might be considering wearing green shoes! This is not the approach that the world’s most iconic songwriters have in mind when they write their songs.

Rule number 1: Always start with a universally understood subject or emotion.

Losing a job, breaking up with a partner, falling in love. These are all topics that most people can relate to.

Rule number 2: Write your song to support your overall message.

Be mindful of giving any supporting cast character in your story a bigger voice than required. Granting supporting characters a voice can easily disrupt the flow of your story and your song lyric. You need to maintain a clear picture of what the song is about.

Rule number 3: Tell a clear, progressive, flowing story.

Just imagine jumping into your car with no clear destination in mind. You could easily wind up driving in circles and getting your passengers lost.

Rule number 4: Make a provocative statement up front.

All of the greatest songwriters; people like The Beatles, Elton John, Sam Cook, Marvin Gaye, Chris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Cat Stevens, Chrissy Hynde, Tom Petty and Prince always start with a universally understood subject or emotion, then they open with a provocative statement that grabs the audience’s attention from the very first line. Apologies if I haven’t mentioned your favourite songwriter, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t great! Many of my favourites haven’t been listed here either.

One way of doing this is to imagine that you’re a prosecuting attorney and you’re making your first opening statement to the jury. There’s no time for waffle. You want to make the most powerful opening statement that you can that sets the scene for your story.

Rule number 5: Get to know your literary writing devices.

Like a painter that has a palette of 32 colours, until you know how to use the devices available to you, you’re really just painting in black and white.

The best songwriters tell a strong story by making use of numerous literary writing devices. Things like alliteration (taking the same vowel or consonant sound and repeating it through a line), e.g. Let It Be by The Beatles: “Whisper words of wisdom”, or Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”.

Other examples include Bad Blood by Taylor Swift: “And baby, now we’ve got bad blood”, Drops of Jupiter by Train: “Can you imagine no first dance, freeze-dried romance five hour conversation”. Alliteration is a popular device that is used to create word patterns in song lyrics that really catch your ear and attract you more strongly to the rhythmic elements of the vocal melody.

Rule number 6: Imagine your song is a short movie.

You should think of yourself as a script writer that is writing a short movie. Most popular songs have three, to a maximum of four “scenes”. There’s a real skill in being able to tell a story within the parameters of three and a half minutes (average length of a pop song), or perhaps five and a half for a rock song.

This idea of scripting out and “mind mapping” a song, and getting organised to do the song justice is the thing that requires the most amount of discipline and is probably the biggest turn-off to singers and songwriters that prefer to fly by the seat of their pants and simply make it all up as they go along.

I know first hand just how they feel, because this was the one habit that I had developed as a songwriter that I found the hardest and most difficult to change. The idea of mind mapping and scripting out the ideas for a song felt like too much hard work, but with regular practice and persistence this habit has now paid off for me ten times over. When I write a song now, my song lyrics are stronger, they tell a better story, the writing style is more provocative and appealing. In short, I’m writing better song lyrics. Because I’m more proud and excited about those lyrics, I can’t wait to get out and perform, record, or share those songs with a worldwide audience.

If you really want to improve the quality of your lyric writing, learn to develop these two habits that successful songwriters always employ:

  1. Mind map all the ideas that you associate with the main theme to your song. For example, if your song is about driving a car, instead of just starting to write a song about driving in your car, stop. Mind map all of the ideas that you can associate with driving in your car, e.g. Traffic signs, the radio, the steering wheel, whatever you might put on your dashboard. This approach of mapping out the associations is guaranteed to produce fresh ideas and ways to tell your story. You are employing a non-linear logical approach which will bear far more creative fruit.
  2. Script our your themes. What are the themes for the beginning, the middle and the end? You don’t need to have all of the answers, but you should know how your songis going to progress. For example, the first scene could be about someone who is fed up with working their day job and are dreaming of the weekend. The second scene could be about packing their bags and jumping into their car, headed out to the open road. The final scene could be focused on the freedom of leaving the 9-5 life behind.

I can’t recommend developing the ability to script out and mind map your songs enough. It will give you incredibly cool, new approaches to songwriting where your creative well never seems to run dry.

Rule number 7: Play with your chords.

Add some alterations within your chords and discover through experimentation, the power of changing one note in your major and minor chords. All of a sudden, your ear will lead you to more melodic pathways and ideas that will really lift your song and take it somewhere special for you.

Rule number 8: Never take your gifts for granted

If you’re blessed with any level of ability to write lyrics or find lyric ideas, make sure you honor those song ideas simply by writing them down or recording them straight into your phone. This is the essential formula for assuring that you will continue to receive other ideas from the music universe on a regular basis. It can be hell on earth for songwriters to intentionally let that creative well run dry. Once it has, or if you don’t keep that channel open to the musical universe to receive those ideas, it can be like climbing Mount Everest when trying to open up your creativity again.

If you want to learn more about songwriting, lyrics, improving your musical ear or how to write great chord progressions, I have a fully customised songwriting programme. Sometimes all it takes is to have the right coaching, mentoring and support to kickstart your songwriting journey. Send me a message about our RVR Songwriting Workshops.

Give the video below a watch, where I discuss these concepts in detail with AJ from The AJ Sound. Better singing everyone!

Don’t miss the next post, which will be about how to write a catchy hook and consistently write great choruses.

Your motivation

It’s that time again to address the “vocal elephant” in the room.

This post is for every singer that has been tempted, or is tempted right now, to give up on achieving their vocal development goals. Usually this is caused through lack of motivation.

Bearing in mind that a life of singing and music is not for everyone, but if you’re one of those people that are constantly singing in the shower, in the car, around the house, or you’re listening to music 24/7, it should be pretty clear to you right now that music isn’t just a hobby. It’s a lifeline to get you through each day.

Like it or not, you’ve been chosen. You have been hand picked from among your mates by the singing gods to carry the musical flame for your generation. You don’t choose music; music chooses you.

It’s not always an easy journey. Sometimes we can be born with this amazingly strong relationship to music and vocally or aurally, we can lack the correct coordination to sound good with our voices. I am going to list my top five signs that indicate that you were born a musician and that it is worth the time and energy to realise your dreams:

  1. You hear a song on the radio and you cant help but repeat the main melody over and over again
  2. You’re always coming up with little bits of ideas for lyrics or songs, even if they remain unfinished
  3. You’d rather go without a fast food meal to save money to buy that new microphone or essential vocal gear
  4. Driving across town on a sunny day to spend time in a cramped practice room sounds like your idea of a good time
  5. You have a burning desire to express yourself and your feelings to a large audience

Speaking for myself, at the early age of four years old I knew that music; singing, as well as playing guitar and drums, held various levels of fascination for me. What the gods of music forgot to give me was an ounce of natural talent, coordination, or good vocal DNA to help get me started.

What I did have in massive supply was determination, imagination and desire. Sometimes if left undirected, these things won’t be enough to smoothly take you from where you are in your musical journey, through to your destination. I realised early on that what I didn’t know can definitely hurt me.

I was determined to find some great mentors to make my learning path in music easier. It took me years to find different mentors that had not only mastered a particular part of their craft, but who possessed the right combination of both teaching skills and patience to be good at passing on their knowledge down to me in a way that I could benefit from it.

I had to do everything the hard way and for every successful mentor I found and discovered, there were at least ten others I tried that weren’t a good fit for me. They either just had a plain bad attitude towards sharing and developing other musicians, or their style did not match my preferred way of learning.

This is where the need for Rapid Vocal Results was born.

I couldn’t find the mentor that I needed that was well rounded, knowledgeable, patient, and possessed the skills to develop me through professional performance coaching.

My Holy Grail quest was to find a mentor that could teach me the skills to become a competent, well rounded singer, songwriter, guitar player and composer.

It has taken me nearly 20 years of long hours, one to one coaching sessions, and learning and development research, but now I am that kind of mentor for every budding singer/screamer/song writer/guitarist.

If you know that music is in your blood and you’re missing the key physical skills to realise your dreams, stop looking at the brick wall that you’ve run into and send me a message. Let’s get you booked into a coaching session and get you back on the path. This time with the right level of guidance and clarity to achieve your musical goals.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, I’d love to hear from you and start to understand the signs that you’ve noticed in your life that tell you too were born to be a musician.

The differences between a vocal performance coach and singing teachers

In my quest to understand everything about the voice, I have spent over $10,000 in purchasing off the shelf singing programmes. I have personally taken lessons with many different singing teachers, both locally and internationally over the years, in an attempt to discover the holy grail of vocal development techniques. My goal has always been to take a mere mortal voice and turn it into something extraordinary. I have also sought to understand the various limitations of the average voice and to develop innovative concepts to help singers perform at their best.

Throughout my journey, I have met many singing teachers and have tried many different variations on traditional teaching methods. These teachers all quoted from the same textbook definitions of what good vocal and breathing technique should sound and feel like. With few exceptions, most of these singing teachers were unable to demonstrate the vocal and breathing coordination that they spoke of to a consistently high standard.

After a while, the cold, hard truth dawned on me. Many of the singing teachers that I had received instruction from did not understand singers breathing any better than their students did.

They were simply either born with bigger sets of vocal cords, or were blessed with additional length on their vocal cords. These attributes allowed them to commit more vocal sins than the average person can. This leads to a very interesting subject for today’s post.

Traditional singing teachers and their singing methods tend to produce disappointing, or subpar results for many of their students. This is because they approach the art of vocal development purely in a mechanical, one-dimensional manner. Traditional singing teacher methods tend to simply come from a “hand me down” from teacher to student. As long as the student replicates what their teacher taught them without giving thought to improving on the method, or questioning the process, the science of vocal development and performance will continue in a downward spiral.

“No BS” fact number one: For some people that are born with all the prerequisite, complementary attributes to make a great singing voice, any subpar singing method will still produce amazing results. This is not due to the teaching method or content, it is simply due to the fact that this person is naturally born with bigger than average vocal cords and blessed with additional length in those cords. These generous attributes, combined with a wider than average windpipe, will naturally fast-track anybody’s vocal progress.

But what happens when a singer wants to sing but is not blessed with all of the above qualities? This is where traditional singing methods using traditional teaching systems will fail many singers in a spectacular fashion.

Traditional singing methods…

  1. Fail to innovate and fail to question traditional methodology
  2. Only focus one-dimensionally on growing the voice
  3. Fail to identify and remedy various psychological performance handbrakes that impact on a singer’s ability to perform outside their self-imposed comfort zone
  4. Lack the necessary skills to approach vocal development in a three-dimensional, holistic manner.

A vocal performance coach truly cares about performance.

They innovate and constantly audit their own performance. This applies to their delivery system as well as their actual coaching content. A vocal performance coach knows how to identify a student’s preferred way of learning, then customise coaching techniques accordingly to fast track vocal development.

I cringe every time somebody introduces themselves as a singing teacher. This is because a teacher’s sole objective is to teach and they often miss the opportunity to learn from their students. Their students hold the key to helping us to develop new, bridging coaching concepts and coaching content based on the needs of the individual singer.

My message to singing teachers: Throw away the textbook. Question everything you have learned about the voice and ask, “is there a better way?” This simple philosophy will lead to innovation and pave the way to future generations of happier, healthier, more confident singers.

Better singing everyone!

Muscle memories and how they impact your performance

It is possible to sing higher without straining. It is also possible to connect chest voice and head voice without sounding like you’ve entered a weight lifting competition!

Our optimum performance is often determined by our muscle memory, meaning that if you’re a singer and you’re straining to sing higher in your chest and/or head voice, you could be performing well below your personal best without even knowing it. It’s very hard to break an unhealthy muscle memory that keeps on sending us vocally down the same dead-end street.

So what is a muscle memory? If we perform a specific motor task in the same way each time, we build muscle memories. The muscles that are used to perform the action start to remember that action’s form and shape. The muscles become pre-conditioned to perform the action automatically by themselves. The acts of singing, breathing, swallowing and how we open our mouth or throat and positioning our tongue can all be considered motor tasks.

Healthy muscle memories can improve the efficiency of our voice. This is done through automating and conditioning the tendons and ligaments to produce correct placement of our larynx and the correct action of respiration muscles that support our diaphragm to achieve good singer’s breathing.

Although we use the term “muscle memory”, the actual memory for the muscle’s activity is located in the memory center of our brain – not in the muscle itself.

When we repeat an action or motor task (muscle coordination) over and over again, the muscle coordination gets moved from the short term memory area, into the preferred long term memory area of the brain. The difference is that short term muscle memories can be easily forgotten, or you can become either rusty or inconsistent and prone to large degrees of variation in their execution through lack of use and lack of practice of that specific motor action.

Muscle memories that have been moved into the long term storage area of the brain tend to become almost automatic and require very little thought or effort to action and coordinate. An example of this is that some of us tend to zone out a little bit on a long car journey while our thoughts are elsewhere, and then we realise that we’ve been driving on “auto-pilot” the whole time! Muscle memories have taken over while we were away with the fairies.

Short term muscle memories are a bit different as we can keep forgetting what the correct coordinations are, meaning that we need to go over something again and again in order to make the muscle coordinations seem familiar. This is why regular, consistent practice is important and really does make a difference!

It can take between 1000 to 3000 correctly performed motor task coordinations before an action goes successfully from short term into long term memory storage. Even if a muscle coordination has made it to long term storage, if it isn’t used then it can revert back to a short term muscle memory again. A great example of this is a professional touring singer that is on the road for 12 months at a time, performing night after night. They then go on holiday or in hiatus for 6-8 months before going on the next tour, or going into the studio to record their next album. If they try to sing straight away, they’re likely going to find that all of those efficient long term muscle memories have become short term memories and they’re going to find their performance very inconsistent until they establish those muscle memories again. Once again, the key to maintaining good muscle memories is repetition and regular practice.

A good example of a professional singer that is now struggling with finding the correct vocal and breathing coordinations and who is at the mercy of short term muscle memories is Vince Neil from Mötley Crüe. These kinds of situations where the voice doesn’t vocally perform like it once did can severely impact the singer’s confidence in their own abilities.

So now that you know what a muscle memory is, how does it affect our singing?

Chances are, when someone starts exploring their singing voice, they’re bound to develop some inefficient or unhealthy muscle memories. These include:

  1. Excessive tension in the jaw
  2. Pushing and squeezing on the vocal cords in an attempt to reach higher notes
  3. Incorrectly tensing their shoulders, chest or back to try to create increased volume
  4. A lowered neck position, or looking at the floor when trying to sing higher notes
  5. Relying on excessive amounts of volume to sing or reach a higher pitch
  6. Holding their breath while singing
  7. Craning their neck forward (like a chicken)

Each of these actions can be described as unhealthy muscle memories.

Are you ready for some more bad news? What makes these unhealthy muscle memories even worse for the poor singer is that a memory feels familiar or normal, so we start to tell ourselves that it’s normal to sing with all of these restrictions and all of these vocal performance or breathing handbrakes. We often virtually ignore these obvious vocal performance and/or breathing handbrakes.

It takes time to develop an unhealthy muscle memory, and at first it might feel like it’s impossible to break a persisting bad habit. Since it took time to develop that unhealthy muscle memory, it makes sense that it’s going to require some patience and persistence to replace the unhealthy habit with a new, healthy muscle memory that will support better singing and better vocal function.

The first step is to recognise an unhealthy, unhelpful muscle memory by going through the vocal checklist above and doing a little bit of a “vocal audit” on how your body feels when you sing. It may be helpful for you to sing while standing in front of the mirror and observing how your body is reacting as you sing up and down through your vocal range, or while you sing through a song in which you have some challenging vocal parts.

Use the list above to help you uncover any vocal or breathing handbrakes that you may have unknowingly developed, or have been relying on to help you to get your sound.

At Rapid Vocal Results, we adopt “guerilla warfare” and we come at unhealthy habits from all different angles. There is no one effective way to break an unhealthy muscle memory quickly, especially if it is a habit that is has been well established over time. We adopt a holistic, highly effective strategy for not only retraining the muscle coordination, but we also work on the brain through a customised form of RVR NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) to reduce the time it takes to break the unhealthy muscle memory, and replace it with a healthy, efficient memory that will support better singing and higher levels of vocal performance.

Better singing everyone!

The sensations that you should experience for a correctly sung note

Hi everyone, this blog post is going to be short, sharp and insightful.

Our subject for today is the sensations that you should feel when you are singing a note correctly in chest voice and head voice. The reason why we want to focus in on these sensations is that feelings are far more accurate to guarantee the correct placement of a note than just relying on your ears alone. And yet so many singers I’ve met struggle to achieve a functioning level of internal awareness in their voice to identify when muscles are straining or creating tension hurdles that are preventing that singer from being able to perform vocally at their best. Your ears can often play tricks on you and create the false impression that you’re producing a rich, resonating vocal tone. In reality, our audience might be hearing just the opposite!

Let’s dive straight in. For the purpose of starting at the beginning, we’re going to focus on the sensations you should experience when you are correctly singing a “chest voice” note – a vocal sound that is produced in your “chest” register.

For this exercise I want you to sing one pitch in your spoken voice register i.e. the voice register that sounds like your speaking voice. How does it feel to you? Are you experiencing vibrations through the soles of your feet and up through your legs? Did you feel the vibrations from that sound across the top of your chest, or a warm, tickly feeling? If you’re not experiencing vibrations in these areas, or even behind your teeth, chances are that the note that you’re singing is not enjoying optimum placement.

Optimum placement feels like the sound is projecting out of your mouth at an upward 45 degree angle. A correctly sung chest note should have no feeling of strain or tension in your throat and you should experience a feeling of vibration across the top of your chest, through your teeth, across your cheekbones and even down to the soles of your feet. This is telling you that the note is vibrating freely and that you are supporting the production of that note by doing the following things:

  1. Singing from an open throat position with a wide smile to maintain that open throat
  2. Optimum larynx position
  3. Keeping your ribcage expanded around three quarters of the way
  4. Correct diaphragmatic support

If you are doing these things, you’re creating the correct environment within your body to experience the following sensation, and that is that the note should feel like an out of body sensation that goes over your head. We want to avoid feeling like we have encountered a self-imposed glass ceiling where the note feels like it’s stuck against the roof of our mouth.

A correctly positioned larynx will produce a sensation of sound projecting at a 30 to 45 degree angle when singing in chest voice.

The reason that the note feels like it’s going over our head is because the larynx is in the correct position to allow the vocal cords to resonate freely with minimum stress, which feels like the sound is projecting at an upward 45 degree angle. This is due to the four foundations that I’ve mentioned above. Even after years of singing, if you haven’t experienced this type of out of body sensation when you sing a note, it means that you haven’t achieved that optimum placement.

If you’re someone that is not feeling the sensations that we’ve talked about in this post, or feels stress and strain when trying to reach higher notes in your voice, there is a better way to sing. Let’s chat.

Better singing everyone!

The passaggio explained – part 1: The ins and outs of changing vocal register

Are you one of the many singers that has struggled to sing higher notes without squeezing on your vocal cords or applying excessive force to your voice? Yes, there is a better way to safely increase your vocal range without blowing out your vocal cords! Read on to find out more.

First, we need to understand where the mechanism for creating pitch and changing vocal registers is located within your body. The answer is of course that everything related to producing sound (phonating) is housed in your larynx.

The larynx is also more commonly referred to as the “Adam’s apple” or the “voice box”, which is more prominent on men. It is located near the top of our airway (windpipe) and is essential for our breathing, vocalizing (phonating), as well as ensuring food doesn’t get stuck in the trachea and cause choking. Positioned just in front of the esophagus, the vocal folds are located here, making this organ absolutely vital for phonation (making speech sounds). It visibly moves up and down when people swallow. Most women’s larynxes are smaller than men’s, which is why they don’t protrude as much (or at all).

The larynx

🤓 Nerdy fact: Did you know that women’s vocal cords and their larynx are generally smaller than their male counterparts?

Inside the voice box are the “true” vocal cords, as well as the false cords and a whole host of micro muscle groups that produce coordinated efforts to thin down the vocal cords and create higher pitches and, conversely, shorten and thicken up the vocal cords to produce lower pitches. This is what your vocal cords look like up close!

The larynx is made up of the thyroid cartilage, which sits on top, and the cricoid cartilage, which sits on the bottom. When we are singing predominantly in “chest” voice, from our lowest chest voice note until we start to feel the beginning of a strained sensation as we sing higher, we are predominantly relying on the cricoid cartilage, tendons and ligaments to anchor our chest voice so that it doesn’t prematurely jump registers (also known as a “vocal break”).

Side view of laryngeal cartilages

When our chest voice starts to feel heavier and we are beginning to experience resistance in the voice, the voice becomes reluctant to be able to carry that bigger chest voice higher in our range. We want to learn how to create the right kind of space and freedom in our larynx so that the cricoid cartilage is able to begin to tilt forward and this is our natural vocal anatomy design to thin down and lengthen out the cords so that we can not only sing higher, but also change the registry in our voice (remove the uncomfortable weight from our voice) and achieve the equivalent of a lighter, stronger mixed voice. This coordination that we are now entering is referred to in classical singing as “the passaggio”.

The passaggio is a narrow passageway where we reduce the girth or width of our chest voice to allow the thyroid cartilage to tilt and thin down the vocal cords, creating a lighter register which is able to combine chest voice and head voice together and this sounds like one long, connected register in the voice (in an upcoming post, we’ll talk about this exciting register, called middle voice).

Stay tuned for part 2, where I explain how to get your voice in and out of passaggio!

Screaming is believing!

I fell in love with music at an early age.

I was very lucky in our house. My mother had the radio playing constantly in the kitchen. I was exposed to all kinds of artists from country singers, John Denver, through to Neil Diamond, etc. I would have been about 13 years old when I bought an album called ‘Masters of Metal’. It was a compilation album packed with loads of amazing artists. Bands like Aerosmith, Krokus, Judas Priest and many others.

The moment that I heard my first metal screams, I was fascinated with the world of grit, gravel and raspy vocals. I vowed right then and there to understand how these singers were able to produce these sounds, and that I would learn how to produce them for myself (safely), within my own vocal style.

Fast forward a few years down the track and all of a sudden we had death metal and extreme low metal screams became the holy grail sounds to aspire to for singers all around the world.

The long and the short of it is that my brain struggled to understand what my ears were hearing and after many, many, many failed attempts at producing anything like a gritty, gravelly scream, I was more confused and more perplexed than when I started. Clearly I was missing some critical pieces of the puzzle in terms of producing the right vocal and breathing co-ordinations to create these aggressive sounds.

Where do these sounds really come from? Well, the answer is that grit and gravel is largely produced by a combination of vibrations of the false vocal folds (sometimes called false cords). When you apply the correct form of diaphragmatic support you create a stream of air energy that rises steadily upward and will vibrate soft tissues in your throat. If your placement is correct, these vibrations will even travel right up into your uvula (at the back of your throat) and vibrate soft tissues above the uvula as well.

The false vocal folds are the folds that we don’t use directly for every day speech. They are able to safely hold back more air than our true vocal folds, which are the ones that we use for everyday speech (and clean singing!).

The purpose of this blog post is not to get into the technical anatomy of the false folds, as that can more easily be shown in videos and there is a wealth of great information out there on sites like YouTube. The purpose of this post is to provide some assistance to the singers that are struggling to produce convincing false cord screams and to help those singers who are on their way to making these sounds, but are blowing out their voice because they are using incorrect technique.

The good news is that both guys and girls both have false vocal folds!

The most important thing to know is that safely screaming is not done by putting pressure on your true vocal folds. If you do this, your vocal cords will overheat, swell up and you will then lose your voice.

Extreme screaming tip number 1: Good screaming requires an understanding of good singer’s breathing and good diaphragmatic support. It takes a surprisingly small amount of air to create your false cord screams and to get the screams underway. The power comes from being able to engage good diaphragmatic singer’s breathing and understanding how to use good diaphragmatic support (muscles that provide healthy leverage that allows you to project your sounds further.). The better your support, the louder your screams will be.

Extreme screaming tip number 2: In order to be able to get these screams going, you must be able to safely locate your false vocal folds and to be able to get them to vibrate freely. The easiest way to do this is to visualise your vocal cords being open. So open in fact, that you can pass a fist through your vocal cords. This visualisation will effectively send the clearest message to your brain that the sounds that you are about to make require relaxed vocal cords. Only when you relax your vocal cords completely, do your false folds start to vibrate and take the lead in creating the right sounds.

When you’re learning to scream, it is normal to feel a little bit of dryness in your throat. That is because vibration of the false cords can sometimes cause unwanted muscle contractions in and around the back of your throat which will leave your voice feeling a bit drier than usual. Over time, you’ll learn how to activate your false folds correctly while maintaining a relaxed airway and throat. What is not normal is any amount of pain. If you experience any of the following symptoms immediately after your screaming attempts, then you are applying far too much pressure and tension in your throat and larynx and you should stop practicing immediately for the day, and only resume practicing when your voice feels like it’s back to normal. Depending on your age and how rough you’ve been on your voice, this could take 1-5 days, or sometimes longer if you’re a mature singer/screamer.

  • Extreme dryness that creates the urge to drink something
  • Tickles, itches, pain or soreness
  • The feeling of strain or uncomfortable tension
  • Sharp needle-like pain, coughing or tears in your eyes

Below is a progress video with Dan, one of my awesome vocal coaching students demonstrating the technique. If this is something that you’re interested in learning yourself, get in touch and let’s chat about a customised coaching programme for you.

Please note; there are other types of metal screams called ‘fry’ screams that require a more advanced combination of false cord and true cord co-ordinations. When you’re learning how to scream, I highly recommend starting with the false cord scream first and master the fundamentals of that technique before you attempt to move onto fry screams.

Here’s another video with Gilles demonstrating the same technique. You can read more about what Gilles things of Rapid Vocal Results here.

A Nu Way of Learning

In this RVR Singers Blog, I want to share some of the positive learning outcomes I have observed through working with my singers that have diagnosed, or previously undiagnosed learning challenges. In general people with learning disabilities are of average or above average intelligence. There often appears to be a gap between the individual’s potential and actual ability to confidently grasp the concepts required to master a new academic or physical skill.

First, let me state the obvious. Human beings are incredibly complex creatures. Our rate of processing new concepts, and our ability to learn new skills and muscle co-ordinations varies dramatically from person to person. I often have singers that come to me who experience various levels of anxiety when they find themselves in an unfamiliar position that requires them to learn new soft or hard skills, much like the skills required to learn to sing and develop their voice to its full performing potential.

The long and the short of it is that there are plenty of clients that I have met that find it hard to learn new skills using traditional learning methods. The result of disappointing learning experiences in the past can trigger increased anxiety the next time the client is confronted with a new learning opportunity. The client’s lack of ability to successfully learn new skills when employing a traditional learning method often creates a great deal of frustration and embarrassment on their part. These kinds of negative learning experiences can directly contribute to lower levels of self esteem, feeding the fear that the person is a slow or poor learner, which often isn’t necessarily true.

This is not a positive belief system for anyone to operate from successfully if they want to enjoy a happy life and maintain a positive outlook for their future.

The truth is that their brain may be wired slightly differently compared to the average person that thrives off traditional learning methods. That’s where the RVR ‘Nu Learning’ system can really make a difference.

Everyone’s brain is unique. Some people’s brains are naturally wired to rapidly learn the skills to play music at a virtuoso level with little or no formal training. Some can reproduce amazing works of art simply by converting what they see to brush strokes on the page – et voila! they have created an epic master piece. Most people seem to have brains that can happily learn some basic academic and physical skills, yet find it difficult to master advanced fine motor skills that some other people take for granted.

My point is simple. It’s not right to judge someone’s learning potential based on an outdated or draconian learning method prescribed to them. If a student is experiencing poor learning results, we shouldn’t start with blaming the student for their lack of ability to learn. We should be taking a second look at the learning methodology that is being prescribed and we should make sure that the learning methodology is effective in making the student enthusiastic about learning new skills.

Yes, many singing teachers and vocal coaches are guilty of using outdated learning methods from the turn of the century. If it sounds draconian and the learning method fails to capture a student’s imagination, then the learning method is ineffective and will deliver dissatisfactory results. This is why the RVR ‘Nu Learning’ system is about tailoring a customised coaching programme to your brain’s preferred way of learning.

I have been coaching for over twenty years and have worked with people from all different areas of society, all different ages and from all different types of backgrounds. I have successfully coached people that wanted to learn to sing and/or improve their public speaking skills. This includes people who have Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, as well as students suffering from brain injuries brought on through head trauma, heart attacks and strokes etc. In short, I have worked successfully with clients with a varied assortment of learning challenges and have been able to create successful learning outcomes for all of the above.

So what’s my secret to produce Rapid Learning Results? The key components to all successful learning outcomes are:

  • DESIRE. You must genuinely be excited to learn a new soft or hard skill.
  • METHOD. Every person’s brain has their own preferred way of learning, which is based on how each brain is individually wired to experience pleasure and excitement through learning.
  • PERSEVERANCE. Once we’ve jointly identified your brain’s preferred way of learning, we stay in that learning mode as often as we can during your coaching sessions.

In summary, if you find that you experience difficulty when trying to confidently learn and retain new skills, knowledge or concepts, don’t blame your brain. Instead, try a more customised ‘Nu Learning’ system.

Contact me now to discuss how a customised RVR ‘Nu Learning’ system can benefit you.

Singers Talk – Sarah “Sassy” Spicer

Welcome to episode 2 of the RVR podcast series, Singers Talk!

I met up with the lovely and talented Sarah “Sassy” Spicer to chat about which internationally renowned blues legend crowned Sarah with her nickname, “Sassy”.

There’s plenty to stick around for as we get to know this talented artist. Hear first hand from Sarah about some of the highs and lows of being a professional musician, as well as a live performance.