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Archive: Oct 2010

Ten Rules for Healthy Singing, by Malya Muth

Posted on October 27, 2010 by admin

Do you want to improve your singing? Would you like to feel better when you sing? Of course you would. Learning to sing is not “rocket science,” but it’s not necessarily intuitive either.

Ten Rules for Healthy Singing
1. Prepare Your Body
2. Prepare Your Mind
3. Avoid Sight Reading
4. Memorize Your Song
5. Sing with Good Breath Support
6. Maintain Good Posture
7. Sing with a Darker Tone
8. Balance the Tensions in Your Body
9. Sing in the Correct Register
10. Develop Your “Off-Stage Bit”

1. Prepare Your Body
Certain muscles affect your singing. Stretch your neck, shoulders, back, and legs. Don’t forget to stretch your face muscles so you don’t get what I call “frozen face syndrome,” which singers get from jitters or tension. Your body needs to be flexible, warmed and ready for singing.

2. Prepare Your Mind
Practice singing in a quiet place with no distractions. Don’t engage in any other activity, so you can focus on your technique. Not only will you pay attention to honing those healthy singing skills, but you’ll also be giving yourself the opportunity to get away from the craziness of modern life and the tendency to multi-task. Just focus on your music!

3. Avoid Sight Reading
Sight-reading causes you to tense your throat resulting in you singing in a constricted way. This is a common problem. Study the music first and then try singing it through. Look at the tempo markings, the meter, and the words.

4. Memorize Your Song
Once you memorize your song, you can “sell” your song in a more powerful way. Dig into the meaning behind the words. By not worrying about the words, you can focus on how you’re going to sing the song, building a real story and character. Understand the poetry and listen to the innate rhythm of the sentences. My voice teacher, Lois Hartzell, was fond of saying that there are no “vocal” problems, only “musical” ones.

5. Sing with Good Breath Support
Take a nice full breath. Expand your lungs and ribcage. Then use those muscles around the diaphragm and ribs to hold your breath, so you can use it to support your tone. We call this “singing with the inhaling muscles” since you are literally keeping those muscles in tension while you sing. Make sure you don’t hold tension in your throat or neck muscles.

6. Maintain Good Posture
Keep your spine and neck straight. Stand in such a way that supports being able to hold those inhaling muscles in tension. Make sure your back is not out of line and your butt is not sticking up in the air. Having your neck to one side, or your chin sticking up or down is another common problem. Remember, this will throw off the support!

7. Sing with a Darker Tone
Don’t let your tongue get flattened and held down by pulling your face muscles out to the side as you sing. This limits your range because you get stuck going up the scale, resulting in a shallow tone. In addition, many untrained singers draw their lips back when they sing. If you get your lips off of your teeth and out in front of you, your sound will project out in front of you instead of getting swallowed up. This allows for better resonance and a noticeable improvement in your range.

8. Balance the Tensions in Your Body
I have mentioned this a couple of times, because it is incredibly important. Balancing the tensions means holding on in some places and letting go in other places. You need tension to sing, but the tension cannot be in your neck, throat muscles, or upper shoulders. It needs to be lower down in your body such as your legs, intercostal muscles, and back. This helps you to sing with an open throat. Balance the tension of your lower body by singing vowel sounds with your tongue, lips and the muscles around your mouth. Sing casually to yourself, with no instruments, no room noise or other competing factors. If you want to be project your voice out more, you’ll need to balance the tensions as mentioned above.

9. Sing in the Correct Register
Although this can be an easy fix, it’s often a big problem for untrained singers. In fact, I recommend you seek the help of a trained voice teacher to make sure you’re singing in the correct register. We have two basic registers; speaking (also called belting or chest) register and head register. All sound first resonates in the larynx, but higher tones resonate in your sinuses, your pharynx, and your mouth. Singing too low in your head register will result in a weak tone, but singing too high in your belting register gives you the feeling of screaming! You must learn how to balance each register. As I said at the beginning, not rocket science, but not intuitive either. There are ways to manage the registers, especially in that tricky middle range – but someone with a trained ear and technical savvy will best help you navigate this.

10. Develop Your “Off-Stage Bit”
The “Off-Stage Bit” is a technique to make you stand out! Understand the story behind your song and develop your character, so you can give an intense, compelling and believable performance. “To learn more about this technique, watch my video blog.”

So there it is – my “Ten Rules for Healthy Singing.” Even if you focus on just one or two of these rules, your singing will benefit. Add them in one or two at a time to progress in your journey to be a better singer!

Malya Muth, professional soloist and voice coach, may be contacted at malya@nwvocalarts.com.

The Right Stage

Posted on October 20, 2010 by admin

Have you ever played a gig where hardly anyone paid attention to you? What went wrong? Did they not appreciate your music? It’s only natural to question yourself. Maybe you just don’t have with it takes. Not so fast…Hold on! What if your perceived failure had nothing to do with you as an artist? It’s possible you chose the wrong venue. No matter how much talent you have, you won’t get the attention you deserve if you pick the wrong venue.

Three years ago the Washington Post conducted an interesting experiment. What would happen if a world class musician presented himself as a street performer? How would people react? Would everyone notice his extraordinary talent? Would he receive generous tips? For those of you who may sometimes struggle with your confidence, the following excerpts from the April 8, 2007 Washington Post article, may cast your recent experiences in a different light…..

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L’ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by.

No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls.

A onetime child prodigy, at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston’s stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.

A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.

Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run — for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

There was never a crowd, not even for a second.

“At the beginning,” Bell says, “I was just concentrating on playing the music. I wasn’t really watching what was happening around me . . .”

“At a music hall, I’ll get upset if someone coughs or if someone’s cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.” This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.

Before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.

“It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.”

Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?

“When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .”

About TalentWatch Network

Posted on October 7, 2010 by admin

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