You Already Know How to Sing

You already know how to sing. Whether you or anyone else thinks you are good at singing is another matter entirely.

For the self professed “singers” in the house, I want to address your fears around voice training. If there are any.

When I started my singing career, I had no clue how my voice worked and had even less desire to learn about it.  I just wanted to sing, which is the case with most working singers.

Why analyze something you’ve always been able to do?  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – right?

Then, like so many other unsuspecting singers, I discovered a love for teaching that dovetailed beautifully with a love for helping people.  (Working with voices is the perfect job for someone interested in music, psychology, and science btw.)

Soon after I began teaching, I discovered the world of voice science. That discovery sparked an insatiable desire to learn about vocal function.

This step, learning the mechanics and acoustics of the body, necessarily requires teachers.  Voice teachers. Ugh. Who wants to take a “voice lesson?”  And where could I go to learn how the voice works without getting accosted with an aria?

Like so many other singers who do just fine on their own musically, I was suddenly frozen between wanting to know more about how the voice works and not wanting anyone to tell me “how to sing.”  In this case, sing jazz.

Fast forward a few years, and finally . . . meet Tom Blaylock.

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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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Voice Science and Voice Pedagogy, Better Together

“Nothing is beyond question.”
-Ken Bozeman, Interviews on Voice Matters, 12/19/17

In the most recent episode of  Interviews on Voice Matters, Ken Bozeman made the point that voice teachers and voice scientists need each other.  He was saying that voice scientists are not the ones in the trenches hearing voices all day, and likewise, singing teachers do not typically have science backgrounds.

If we are going to learn more about the voice, each type of voice professional has to come to the table.  There are no discoveries about voice that DO NOT require a village to raise, apparently.  And I wholeheartedly agree.

I’m looking for more of a balance between (right now) what I would say are three legs: voice science, historic pedagogy that has a proven track record, and then innate human response.

I point out that the conclusions and observations that I made back in ’89 – and first observed where my vowels wanted to turn over – required that I had seen a voice science chart of first formant locations. The scientists didn’t tell me that.  It took someone in a voice studio dealing with voices all the time to observe that.  So, it’s really a very important dialog we need to have.

And to this day, for example the things I’m doing in my application of [Ian Howell’s] work, I’m not getting from voice scientists.  It’s coming from pedagogues.  But it’s totally grounded in information that the voice scientists supplied us with.  They’re playing a vital role.

-Ken Bozeman, Interviews on Voice Matters (34:41)

Which lead me to say further along in the interview, “we need each other.”  Just like a happy, functional tribe, we work better together.  We get more accomplished together.  We are better able to help each other – together.

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