My first singing tip video is here! I hope you will find them useful- I keep them short and sweet, so leave a comment or message me if you would like more information. This exercise helps balance the air above and below the vocal folds- which helps them function efficiently and easily. This ultimately results in increased stamina, co-ordination and vocal range. Not a bad result for making silly sounds into a plastic tube!
With her smokey vocals and otherworldly lyrics, Laura Marling is one of my favourite artists- so I was delighted to hear that her new project is a podcast!
The series entitled Reversal Of The Muse started as a result of Laura’s conversations with friends about female creativity. In her own words,- ‘It occurred to me that in ten years of making records I had only come across two female engineers working in studios… I began to ask myself what difference it might have made had I had more women around, if any. I wanted to know why progress has been so slow in this area and what effect it would have on music.’
It is certainly true that the production side of the industry is still dominated by men- but in the era of DIY music projects, more and more singer- songwriters and artists will need some production skills in order to progress.
In her first podcast, Laura speaks to Vanessa Parr, an engineer who has worked with the likes of Elton John, John Mayer and Melody Bardot, followed by her second podcast with the incredible (female fronted) band HAIM.
As a voice teacher, it’s so important to keep learning yourself so you can pass on what you learn to your students. I’ve attended many vocal health events, but I’ve still learnt some fascinating and useful things from today’s session. Jenevora busted open a few myths as well, so here are some vocal health facts and tips you may not have known..
1)Resting your voice little and often is the way to go!
Break up your vocal practice/ rehearsals/ nattering on the phone with regular breaks. After a particularly demanding song, give yourself 2 minutes of rest before tackling the next one. ‘Breaking up’ your singing with mini- breaks will help your voice to recover more quickly.
Awareness is not only key to developing your voice, but noticing external factors (like busy traffic, or loud music) and it’s impact on your voice use is very important. If you are in a noisy environment, don’t spend the night shouting- find a quieter place to chat or have a dance instead!
3)Avoid Throat Sweets!
They may be packaged to appear healthy but there are a number of ingredients that irritate the vocal tract instead of helping it. Menthol might make your airways feel clear, but actually it just irritates and inflames you. Many throat sweets also contain anaesthetic, which may encourage you to ‘push’ through when actually you should be resting. Pain is there as an indicator that something is wrong. What to do instead of suck on throat sweets? Sip water! Not exciting perhaps, but the best remedy!
4)Dairy isn’t necessarily bad
A lot of singers avoid dairy like the plague, believing it to be a mucous forming nemesis! It might be if you have an allergy or intolerance, but in general, any mucous-forming effect wears off after 20 minutes. Everyone is different, so listen to your body and decide what affects you, and what doesn’t.
5)Yes, smoking and drinking really aren’t good for you..
..but you knew that already! Alcohol is incredibly dehydrating so should be avoided before performing or rehearsing. Cigarette smoke irritates your vocal folds (cords) and should be completely avoided. (If you need help quitting, the Allen Carr (not the ‘chatty man’ comedian!) method has helped a lot of people.) Smoking marijuana is even more drying and rough on the voice!
6)And that late night KFC isn’t such a fab idea either…
…which can be a bit of a problem for performers who are famished when they finish a set late in the evening. Unfortunately scoffing food down just before you hit the pillow is a recipe for acid reflux, which is the number one source of vocal problems. An over the counter treatment like Gaviscon Advanced will be beneficial, but always consult your doctor beforehand.
7)Warm up, don’t wear out.
Start your warm ups by jumping up and down on the spot- then follow with some gentle stretches and humming- don’t push your voice to extremes. Rushing straight to loud or intense vocalising could do more harm than good!
8)Living well prevents and cures…
Looking after yourself really is at the heart of keeping that voice healthy.
Get plenty of sleep
Rest your voice (take regular mini breaks!)
Stay hydrated (drink water and steam those vocal folds!)
Think positively (stress has an incredibly negative affect on the voice!)
Stay inspired (what’s good for your mind is good for your physical health too!)
and in other news…your voicebox (larynx) evolved from the gills of a fish.
You heard me. Of all the things I picked up from the session, this is the one that blew my mind the most. This doesn’t really bear any relevance at all to vocal health, but I really wanted to pass that on anyway. because wow.
Jenevora also showed us this weird and wonderful video of a quartet of larynxes. Worth a watch!
For those of you who are UK based, I highly recommend making it to the Wonder Women event at Shakespeare’s Globe this summer- featuring the talents of Róisín Murphy, Camille O’ Sullivan, and Flo Morrissey to name a few. The festival aims to celebrate ‘powerful and visionary women who are altering the complexion of popular music in the 21st century’ and is curated by the delightful Lauren Laverne. Gigs are priced from a very reasonable £10 too! Hope to see you there!
Going to galleries and exhibitions is one of my favourite things to do in any city (great to recharge creative batteries!) so I was particularly excited to discover that The Wellcome Collection in London is holding an exhibition on the human voice, appropriately titled ‘THIS IS A VOICE’.
The exhibition includes talks such as ‘What does your voice say about you?’ (FREE but ticketed, so be quick!) as well as live ‘voicings’ ( 20 minute vocalisations performed by various artists.)
It sounds obvious, but if you want to have a successful singing career (or just to sound the best that you possibly can) you need to look after your voice.
Singers differ from other Musicians in that they are BOTH the instrument and the player. If you had one guitar…just one..that you had to keep for the rest of your life, you’d want to take care of it, wouldn’t you. It’s exactly the same with your voice.
Both of these great establishments exist to help all of us keep our voices happy and healthy- by sharing what they know. Below are 8 must-read free to download fact sheets for singers. As we all know, prevention is better than cure!
1) It’s okay to feel nervous!
Singing in front of someone you’ve never sung in front of before is daunting- especially when their focus is completely on you! A good teacher will be observing not only your voice but your posture and breathing. Notice how I said observing, not judging? A good singing teacher will be making non-judgmental observations- they want you to succeed. Your success is their success…which brings me on to my next point…
2) Mistakes are an essential part of learning…
Anyone that has ever mastered anything will know that mistakes are necessary to growth. Imagine if you had stumbled as a toddler learning to walk, and then decided that because you hadn’t managed it the first time you may as well have given up? I’m willing to bet that this isn’t the case, as most young children don’t listen to negative self-talk (younger and wiser?). Some people learn quickly, and some people take longer to learn. When you come to perform, no one knows, or cares, how long it took you to get where you are- all they are thinking about is where you are now. Enjoy the ride!
3) You might like to set a goal with your vocal coach..
It might be nailing a song at karaoke, or perhaps it’s perfecting the vocals for your latest EP..whatever it may be, working towards a goal can really help you focus your energy and measure your progress. Equally ..…
4) Lessons should be fun!
Determination, patience and passion is the winning formula. Ambition and dedication will get you far, but it’s important to enjoy the process too! One reason singing is such a powerful exercise is because it keeps you focused on the present moment. Another word for this state is ‘mindfulness’.
5) You may want to record your sessions..
You can do this on your phone or ask your teacher to record it for you. It’s worth mentioning that most of us don’t love rough recordings of our voice. You might cringe a little bit when you listen back, and that’s okay. Mistakes are vital to growth, remember. Having a record will allow you to recap on any instructions or advice you were given, track your progress over coming weeks, and allow you to really hear where you were successful. Sometimes during a lesson you’ll be repeating something until you nail it. You might hit the target sometimes, and go off target at other times. Listening back later can really help you make the distinction between ‘hit’ and ‘miss’, and allow you to be more ‘in the flow’ during the session.
6) It’s okay to not ‘get it’ straight away…
Everyone learns in different ways. Some of us learn by imitating certain sounds (auditory) for some people it’s all about how it feels (kinesthetic) and for others, being able to visualise what the vocal cords are doing is really helpful. Sometimes your teacher will give you an instruction, and quite frankly you’re on a different wavelength. A good teacher will find different ways of describing a concept until you understand- so don’t be afraid to ask questions- which leads me to….
7) Your teacher should never make you feel uncomfortable or bad about yourself.
This one is really important. Teachers are people like anybody else, they have good days and bad days, however, just like anybody else, they also need to be professional. A teacher must be honest with the student about areas that could be improved (and come up with solutions!) but snapping at, belittling (and insulting) students is just bullying (NOT being ‘harsh but fair’ or whatever other excuses they throw around.) Be wary of teachers that purport to know your future. Whilst no-one can guarantee you a life of stardom they can help you become the best you can be. Likewise, no-one can guarantee your failure (remember the man who turned down the Beatles?) so don’t accept labels that do nothing to serve you. You should leave your lessons knowing that you are on the right track, confident about the action you need to take and feeling inspired. You are the master of your own ship. Your requirements will be specific to you and will be determined by your goals, as well as the genre of music you wish to perform. The relationship between Student and Teacher is one of collaboration and exploration.
Melissa S McCracken is an Artist who has colour synesthesia- a neurological phenomenon which causes her to see colours in response to music. She describes living with synesthesia as a positive experience: ” the most wonderful ‘brain malfunction’ of all is seeing the music I hear. It flows in a mixture of hues, textures, and movements, shifting as if it were a vital and intentional element of each song.’
Melissa has filtered her unique way of perceiving music into beautiful works of art- by painting her favourite songs as they appear to her.
I do not own any rights whatsoever to these wonderful images- if you love them as much as I do, please check out Melissa’s website and support her awesome work.
Anyone else wish they could see their favourite songs like this?