We started our podcast with the seriously deep groove of Artful ft Clare Dove – Trouble. Mark is a Southampton local and someone who is often in the studio where we teach, recording his music. He started out as a percussionist in a youth orchestra, but then went on to be the original Artful Dodger. He famously co-wrote and produced Craig Davids album Born To Do It, for which he won several Ivor Novello awards. He also was on the judging panel for the Ivor Novellos this year, which is a hell of an accolade as a songwriter! Download the track and stick it in your gym playlist.
Before we dive in, let’s talk about a couple of great events you can get involved in. These both will enrich your singing lives endlessly!
Vox Op Workshop – June 22nd 2014
Firstly, please get involved with a charity UK workshop in Kettering, Northamptonshire on the 22nd June 2014. The workshop has been organised by Debbie from www.voiceworkshop.co.uk, and it’s purpose is to raise money for Vox Op as well as educate you people. Vox Op is an organisation that provides emotion and financial support to those who have to undergo vocal surgery. It can be extremely detrimental to a professional vocalist, so Vox Op are a much needed phone call for many.
The workshop will feature Vox Op co-founder Sophie Garner in the morning. She will be talking about the perils of acid reflux; an incredibly common problem amongst singers.
In the afternoon, popular ENT Declan Costello (www.voicedoctor.co.uk) will take you through the various voice disorders that he comes across every day in his careers. This will include how to spot them, the treatments, and the procedures to resolve them. There will be live scoping of vocal cords too! This will be great for professional singers and voice coaches.
Time: 10:30 – 4:30
Price: £75 (including tea/coffee and lunch)
VocalizeU Summer Artist Intensive – 18th – 27th July 2014
LIFE CHANGING EVENT!! We’re not kidding either. This 10 day camp in an LA high school is jam packed with amazing artist development including songwriting, industry training, mentorship, daily voice lessons, backing/session vocals, performance coaching, nightly performances, voice teacher training and so much more. The lecturers are insanely talented and knowledgable.
All your food is included as well as your digs each night. It’s basically “live and breath” music for the whole time you’re there. And you’ll make loads of new friends.
One time in your life you must attend this event… you wont regret it.
Price: $2999 (approx £1800)
Contact us at email@example.com if you would like more information, or would like to sign up for it.
You can check out the event at www.vocalizeu.com too!
Now into the meat…
Question 1 from Earl Newitt – “I’m 45 and wanting to try to sing. Never been a singer and been told I’m not a good singer for years. I only want to be able to hold a tune to play open mic nights and not look a fool. Any advice?”
First of all, don’t listen to them! Get a professional opinion, as the public can get quite subjective in their review.
Voice training plays a huge role in being a decent singer. It needs flexibility and accessibility to allow you to do what you want to do; express. Style and expression is what speaks to the listener on the taste level. It hooks people in, so looking at your style could be a great start. It may also turn those reviews around and generate some positive feedback.
Singers who haven’t sang much can sometimes be a little lacking in style and interest. Purely because there hasn’t been enough time spent singing and experimenting. It’s through the process of experimentation that you arrive at your finished sound. YOUR style. This can come through emulation, knowingly and unknowingly, and influence from other styles and singers. To get that influence, you have to listen to a lot of music. Be obsessive about what you love! Your voice will evolve the more you delve in to this process.
Your life experience, personality and culture also play a huge role in how you sound. If you can access your emotions and feelings as a person, you can express them through your voice. That itself can tell a story that the lyrics may not. Work with a voice coach to guide you through what works and sounds right… A second opinion is key.
Also, we are always striving for the balance of style and technique. Technique and voice training will inevitably have a great effect on your ability to sing well, and in tune! Working with a coach who can work with you in these areas will have impact. Choosing a coach who can provide technical advice AND a constructive opinion will be so helpful in moving forward. If you have trust in them to guide you to a great sound, and be honest when it’s not in the right place, then you’re on to a winner.
Question 2 from Eileen Ede – “What happens to the vocal cords as we age? Do ageing chords need more or less exercise? Should we refrain from pushing the voice. Also, why do I find it more difficult accessing my head voice than I did when young?”
Muscles are unstoppably open to degradation as we age. The laryngeal muscles are no exception. As things do get a little more stiff, singing can start to feel like hard work. In this case we need to change our approach and accept the change of direction.
The mucosal layer in the vocal cords can begin to get thicker and less flexible as we age. That can give the voice some more depth because the mass of the cords has increased. That could be part of the reason that head voice becomes more difficult. Head voice is achieved by the cords stretching out and getting thinner as a result. If they’re thickened from age then the thinning aspect will be more difficult.
Singing, and vocal training, certainly helps to keep a voice singing later in life. Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder were prime examples of singers who kept up training and, low and behold, they were singing well into their middle age. Heck, Stevie Wonder is 65 and still knocking it out of the park! That is no coincidence as they studied technique daily.
Muscle themselves can run into big problems later in life if they are not used, as can any part of the body. Vocal muscles that aren’t used to a full range of motion are at risk of calcification in old age. Calcification is the process of tissue turning to bone. Singing directly offsets this problem and can be very useful in keeping a voice vibrant and healthy for years. Also, dormant muscles can suffer due to the signalling process from the brain diminishing. This results in a strong lack of control. As does the thickening/stiffening of the mucosal layer, which is also results with passing years. This layer undulates as part of our vocal cord vibration, so any changes to it also fundamentally changes the way our voices works.
Finally, general heath will have a strong impact on your voice. As we age health can take a down turn. The years of abuse can catch up with us and leave us with a growing number of niggles. Keeping healthy throughout life will definitely help with this inevitable outcome, keeping heath on side until you’ve had your innings!
Question 3 from Erika – Erika – “I love love love your podcast!!!!! I was wondering if you guys have one on vocal health and repair. I’m a GM at a restaurant in Chicago IL and my voice is constantly strained. Any tips on recovery?”
Recovery and diet are inexplicably linked. Problems with the diet can increase inflammation in the body, putting it under more stress and reducing its ability to recover. Good quality whole foods will help avoid this, as will natural anti-inflammatories like manuka honey, lemon, ginger, turmeric and high grade fish oil supplements. Hydration is also key, with 2+ litres of water per day being a benchmark for a regular voice user.
Sleep is absolutely crucial as it is the recovery period for the body. Not enough and it will mess with your body and it’s repair functions. It’s hard when you have a job that runs into the night, but try to get 7+ hours in per night. If you’re finding it hard to get that because you keep waking up then there could be some underlying stress on the body. Check out this TED Talk on sleep:
But from our point of view, the recovery could be a lot less intense if the stresses on the voice were less initially. Your speaking voice could be off its optimal tone. If it is, then the energy in the sound wave could be diminished, and hence no-one can hear you well enough. This is typical of dark sounding voices. In this scenario, the speaker may start use lots of air to speak and increase tension on their vocal cords. This all results in a tiring and inefficient use of voice.
To boost acoustic energy, SLTs and ENT consultants would look at adding zing back in the voice by using daily exercises like ‘NG’, as in the word ‘hung’, or ‘MM’. This is to increase vocal cord closure, and to rebalance harmonics, to give you a boost over the noise in a restaurant.
Finding optimum pitch is also a factor. Many are speaking too deeply, which messes with the acoustic energy. There are a few exercises to find optimum pitch:
1) Hum a 5 note major scale in your speaking range with your fingers in your ears. The pitch that sounds the loudest in your head is close your optimum pitch.
2) Say ‘UH-OH’ as if something bad is about to happen. Or even ‘MM-MM’ as if something is tasty. Even ‘A-A’ as if you are scalding a naughty child. The note you end up on when you say each one may hint to towards optimum pitch
3) The straw exercise developed by Ingo Titze is a big one. It helps to stretch and un-press the vocal cords, and return resonance to the right spot. This can give you a good sensation as to what your voice sounds like at it’s optimum. Here’s the video to help you out:
With all rebalancing and pitch exercises it’s important to become familiar with the sound of the optimum place. Then, each day, place your voice there. It will be weird to start with, but it’s just training a new habit. Besides, optimum pitch is where your voice is supposed to be. Enjoy the enhanced function of being close to it!
Visit a Speech Language Therapist or ENT consultant to further help your situation.
YouTube Pick Of The Week
Next time we have an interview with Vocalzone – the legendary lozenge people! They share some great information and stories with us about their amazingly popular product. Join us!
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