3 Common Straw Phonation Mistakes

To supplement the plethora of free straw phonation resources online, here is more to think about.  Aren’t you excited?

Did you know there are mistakes you can make while using a straw for your singing or speaking voice?

If no, then read on dear voice friends . . .

#1 Air and sound leakage

Whether you prefer to use a cup of water with your straw or not, it’s important to keep the lips sealed around the straw while phonating.  This keeps all the sound and airwaves contained in the tube of the straw, which has essentially become an extension of the vocal tract.

Looking to the physics of a moving column of air through a tube, the length (L) of the tube is very important for calculating how that air behaves.  The length used in these calculations assumes a sealed tube with no leaks.  By letting air (and sound) leak out at the level of the lips, you won’t the same effect as keeping your lips sealed.  With leaks the equations are upended, and the system is compromised.

(There are other good reasons for keeping your lips sealed, but that’s another post for another time.)

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Why Are We Terrible at Breathing?

I’m sincerely asking: why are we terrible at breathing?  Why don’t we spend time practicing?

There are endless free resources about techniques and health benefits of breathing.  This post aims to posit questions about why we are terrible at it.  Terrible meaning not paying attention to it, and therefore not practicing it.  We meaning the collective we.

There may be a lot of reasons, but here are a few ideas to get the conversation rolling.

The primary reason we might be terrible at breathing is because the thought of having poor skills or awareness about something our bodies do automatically sounds ludicrous.

The ego will judge the above question seriously flawed and dismiss it before we even realize what’s happened.

Truth: our bodies breathe for us.

At night while we sleep.
After we’ve passed out.
All day long without a conscious thought involved.
Breathing happens.

Truth: the body is very good at breathing.  It is just how we do.

You can see how the concept of “getting better at breathing” can be shot down instantaneously by the ego, right?

Is this why we basically ignore breathing?

Do we ignore breathing because our minds won’t allow us to experience things that are “too simple,” or “too easy” or “automatic?”

“Why pay attention to breathing when I don’t have to?” says the ego. So, it doesn’t.

What Happens if We Start Paying Attention to the Breath?

In order to get better at breathing, we must begin at the beginning.  Albeit breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, it can also be directed.  It is both automatic and controllable.

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Why “Giving Up” is a Good Strategy

We all deal with difficult circumstances at some point in life. Money woes, relationship trials, career dilemmas, health issues; the list is long and all too familiar.

What this post aims to address is why giving up the internal (psychological) struggle is worth it.

What’s the Problem?

If everyone experiences challenges, then what’s the real problem here? If our circumstances and stories are played out over and over and over across history (because, let’s admit, there is nothing happening to you or me that hasn’t already happened a million times to a million different people), then why struggle with them?

Why continue to suffer when the story is so utterly stale and boring? It doesn’t make sense! I don’t know about you, but I only watch a great movie 2 or 3 times. After that, I’m cool. Got it, moving on. Right?

Why do we humans keep playing out the same old stories over and over again? Why do we continue to struggle when the story of struggle is SO yesterday’s news? Isn’t there something else to do down here on planet earth to do?

(Take this moment as an opportunity to admit that most of us put up a mental fight with our circumstances most of the time. It’s the normal way of the world.)

Here’s one, small example of how we get stuck in our own mental struggles:
Ask yourself – I am reeeeeallly the only one who has ever gone through this particular situation? (ie, “this problem”)

Then ask yourself:

Can you absolutely know that that’s true?
And how alone and stuck and tired does that make you feel to think that way?
What kind of awesome would you feel if you could let that “problem” go?
Who would you connect with?
What ideas and solutions would you discover if you could “give up” the idea that you are suffering alone?

Sometimes I think that the only real problem is the psychological struggle we humans put up against . . . oh, you know . . . everything and anything. You name it, we will find a way to struggle through it. Even the “good” stuff!

Which is why I think “giving up” is a good strategy for getting through life.

Surrender

Most spiritual disciplines extol the virtues of surrender. Why is this? And what do they mean by surrender? Why is surrender such a key element in major spiritual practices? Is it because psychological and emotional surrender is the only place we can truly experience peace? Why do we need to experience peace?

These are big questions with answers that can only be found inside yourself.

You could say, however, that surrendering to the circumstance at hand is a lovely place to start dealing with any “problem.”

You could say “giving up” is the open field of sunshiny freedom where truly creative solutions and wisdom frolic about and beg us to dance.

That’s a lot to digest. So, take a smoke break here if you need it.

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5 Things To Know About the Soft Palate for Singing

“Raise the soft palate.”
~almost a bazillion voice teachers, across time

There is much to know about the anatomy of vocal tract for singing and voice teaching.  The soft palate is one of those structures that both mystifies and intrigues us, and (at first) isn’t easy to control.

Just this week I went tête-à-tête with a client about whether her soft palate was lifting or lowering during a particular sound.  Turns out the soft palate was lifting, but she was 100% convinced it was lowering. Once she saw what was happening by looking in the mirror, the conversation was settled.

How can that be?  How can we be so convinced that the soft palate is moving in one certain direction, to only find out that it is doing the exact opposite?

(Don’t get bent out of shape one way or the other, y’all – we have ALL experienced soft palate confusion.  Either that, or we haven’t sung a note in our lives.)

Here are 5 things to know about the soft palate that may help you on your vocal journey.

1. Learn where the soft palate is and what it looks like

The following video is a graphic and bizarre look at the soft palate.  But, before we head off into *strange,* find the soft palate in your own vocal tract.  Take the tip of your tongue and run it along the roof of your mouth, starting at your teeth and moving backwards.  You will reach the edge of the “hard palate,” and run right into the soft palate.

The soft palate dips down and can be seen at the back of the throat when you open your mouth.  The uvula is that little dongle that hangs down from the soft palate, just in case you needed to know that.

Another name for the soft palate is the velum.  In case you needed to know that, too.

Honestly, the following video originally inspired this post.  Be warned: it is not a pretty video.  It’s quite bizarre, but it’s also an unforgettable demo.

I shall put it after the “read more” tab below so you have time to prepare yourself for this little bit of weirdness.

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Time and Healing the Voice

When I was cleaning my office the other day, I found a fortune.

You know, one of those little white slips of paper that we all look forward to inside a Chinese fortune cookie?  It was under a chair, and looked as if it had never been touched let alone folded inside a cookie.  Strange.  How did THAT get THERE?

It read: “Time heals all wounds.  Keep your chin up.”

Because this little piece of paper was a random fortune found under a random chair, it got my attention.  I have been thinking about time and healing for weeks now.

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