Coronavirus, Covid & Singing: How Covid-19 Appears to Affect The Singing Voice

In the last 2-3 months, I’ve worked with a number of clients online and spoken with a number of people who have had coronavirus/Covid-19 (either tested positive for, or strongly suspected to have had). While none of these cases have been hospitalised, all have experienced quite severe upper respiratory symptoms that have lingered for quite some time. In working with these voices, certain patterns are beginning to emerge in relation to how this virus affects the voice.

But before we get going…

DISCLAIMER: The following is my anecdotal opinion and should not be considered a definitive medical finding. I am not a medical professional, nor am I seeking to provide medical advice. Anything contained in this article should not be construed as such.

This article is intended as a preliminary discussion on patterns I have noticed in the last 2-3 months in relation to my voice teaching practice, specifically in relation to those who have/are suspected to have contracted coronavirus/Covid-19. I also reserve the right to update this article with any new developments/re-evaluations that are encountered as the situation progresses.

Let’s look at Covid-19 data through the lens of a singer/voice user

Continue reading “Coronavirus, Covid & Singing: How Covid-19 Appears to Affect The Singing Voice”

Something weird that online singing lessons do better than in-person lessons

Since the coronavirus pandemic we’ve switched all sessions to 100% online – and I noticed something unexpected – and very excellent – happened when we made the switch.

Obviously there are differences between online and in-person lessons. Travel time isn’t needed for online, you can have your sessions in the comfort of your own home, use your own instruments/ear, etc. Singers pitching also gets much better through following the vocal exercises without as much assistance from the piano.

The whole point of these exercises is to build technical facility and vocal balance into a singers’ voice. This involves building new habits whilst unpicking old pre-dispositions where they force their voice into one place or another. This better vocal balance is all about smooth and even connection from bottom to top, free from said bad habits/forcing of the voice, so that the singer’s voice behaves how it’s meant to behave. In turn, whatever they want to sing, they can just launch into unimpeded.

Now I’ve been aware of all of these differences for a while, but it wasn’t until everyone went online that I noticed something profoundly different, made obvious by those who moved from only ever having had in-person singing lessons, to online singing lessons: Continue reading “Something weird that online singing lessons do better than in-person lessons”

Home Recording: First Steps

Last week’s article on building a Recording Studio on a Budget was overwhelmingly popular, so I thought for those of you who have taken the plunge into recording yourself (either now or recently), we’d dive into some basic baby steps you can use to get better vocal takes.

These steps are prepatory in nature but will also help take your voice to a “record ready” standard for when you ARE ready to hit record.

Gear and Gear Setup

1. Use a stand for your mic and a pop-filter

Firstly, having your mic on a stand will help you keep your hands free for singing. Secondly, this will enable you to more easily use a pop-filter.

You can buy a pop-filter from Amazon via this link

Microphones work by detecting changes in pressure across a diaphragm. Certain consonants create very strong and aggressive pressure waves, like the ‘p’s in the word ‘pop’. These can hit the surface of the microphone diaphragm hard enough to create unwanted popping noises in the recording.

A pop filter is a simple device that sits in front of the microphone and breaks up such incoming pressure waves. It’s typically a mesh material (like nylon tights, etc) stretched over a frame. This will reduce or eliminate those nasty unwanted pops, thus improving the quality of your recordings.

NOTE: If you ended up buying the Rode M1 I recommended in my recording studio on a budget article, this already has some pop-filter capacity built in (but an external one is always recommended). And an external pop filter is also a very helpful tool in another way… Continue reading “Home Recording: First Steps”

The Art of Re-Building a Voice

Building a voice

I spend a lot of time building voices from the ground-up. This involves teaching the instrument how to behave in a new way.

This can be slow for voices that are more stubborn, or it can be surprisingly quick as voices typically suck up new muscle memory when it’s good for them. This involves the vocal folds, the vocal tract, the larynx, and a host of other components. So when I talk about building a voice I generally mean training people’s voices to be capable of doing things they’ve not done previously.

Re-building a voice

However there is a smaller sub-section of people I work with where I am not building their voice for the first time, I am re-building their voice.

Here I’m talking about people who previously had a functioning voice – perhaps even a trained one – that have undergone some kind of vocal trauma that has radically shifted how their instrument behaves and operates. This shift is typically to a point they don’t recognise it anymore (psychologically or mechanically/acoustically) and so they are at a loss how to proceed.

This translates not just to a desire to improve their voice, but requires some level of fixing and re-training that also needs to happen alongside the normal trajectory. Continue reading “The Art of Re-Building a Voice”

My thoughts on Auto-tune: Is auto-tune cheating?

When musicians talk about auto-tune, they often do so with great disdain. For guitarists, bassists, drummers, pianists, especially those of a more traditional or even classical persuasion, it can come across as an ENORMOUS cheat to use it.

Personally, I have no issue with auto-tune as a tool, I have an issue with how some people choose to use auto-tune. Let me explain and hopefully it will become clear.

What is auto-tune?

Auto-tune is a category of software used (typically) in music production. Algorithms in the software are able to identify individual sung pitches in a single audio clip.

The vocal line is then typically expressed graphically on-screen, much like a line graph.

The software enables the various portions of this graph to dragged, dropped, and moved around to suit the producer’s desire. This then results in a flexible alteration of the originally sung melody.

Auto-tune is software that enables flexible re-arrangement of already sung melody notes, without additional vocal re-takes. Continue reading “My thoughts on Auto-tune: Is auto-tune cheating?”

Guide to Singing whilst Self-isolated

Well, what a week this has turned out to be, not just for those in the UK but all over the world. It’s been great to work with everyone online, especially for those who are brand new to online lessons.

As many of us are doing our bit by staying at home, I thought as someone who spends most of his day teaching and making music from his home studio, I’d share some great resources, suggestions, and advice on how to make the most of singing at home. Continue reading “Guide to Singing whilst Self-isolated”