The Most Insane Excuse: Finding time vs making time

Many years ago, I had a client who gave me the most insane excuse I’ve ever heard. Brace yourselves, because it’s a doozy.

They had started voice training with me whilst they were working a normal job. At some point they had decided to change career, but for a period of time chose not to work. So they were free as a bird from a normal 9-5 job. No job, not employed, no kids, some household responsibilities, but nothing contractually obligating them every hour of the day. About as free as one can get is my point.

A bit of context

Before we get into the story, a bit of background about how sessions work. The way sessions work is that I will start someone with a warmup exercise, and how this sits in their voice tells me where their voice is at on that day. This then helps direct me to the next appropriate vocal exercise, and so on. I generally have a strong imprint of where people are at vocally from one session to the next, but what I hear on that specific day is a big part of good training.

If someone’s voice has really moved forward since the last session (generally due to effective practice) then I can move ahead to more advanced tools and improve their voice quicker.

In contrast, if someone’s voice has not moved all that far (sometimes due to lack of practice, but can often be due to the general difficulty of physiological adaptation) then we often have to re-tread ground and refine the work.

The latter is totally fine, but that brings us neatly back to our story. Continue reading “The Most Insane Excuse: Finding time vs making time”

What does a ‘light’ voice sound like?

When people come for an initial consultation, we conduct an assessment on their voice. It’s like an MOT for their voice, where we identify what’s good, what’s OK, and what needs work.

But even before we do the assessment, I am listening to the timbre and weight of their voice even as they speak. I want to hear what their voice actually sounds like when it is not interfered with, and from there I can more accurately figure out how to build their voice for them.

What affects their vocal weight

Their size, age, sex, and particular physiology all play a role in how weighty or how light a given will be.

When I talk about a weighty voice, it’s a marriage of several factors. The more muscle someone has in their vocal folds, the more muscular and weighty it can sound. A large larynx, a low larynx and long neck can also deepen the resonance of the voice, which makes it sound weightier but in a different way. The bigger someone’s body, typically the weightier their voice sounds, though this is not always the case. The older someone is, the weightier the voice becomes also, only reversing this trend in much much later life (e.g. muscular atrophy, larynx height, etc).

A lighter voice tends to have all the opposite traits. Smaller statured people, younger singers, women more than men, etc. Lighter voices have less mass to them, less weight, and so are more nimble. They tend to have less range at the bottom end of their voice, and far more at the top. Agility and nimbleness are more normal traits for lighter voices, but they often have to work harder to sound bigger and powerful. The reverse is true for weighty voices.

I’ll cover weightier voices in another post, but now we’ve covered the basics of light vs weightier voices, let’s feature a few examples:

1) Bruno Mars

Listen to the opening seconds of this video. Bruno simply says “It’s so beautiful, I want to hang out with all of my Billboard friends”. Listen to how light and almost feminine his normal speaking voice sounds. Then listen how high his voice sits in the following songs. You can hear his singing voice is more or less in the same place. A lighter voice has this… well… light quality to it, and the power has to come from aggression and style, as the tone can never reach the dramatic height of weightier voices. Continue reading “What does a ‘light’ voice sound like?”

Five Songs From The Last Week

I’ve written a lot of articles on weightier topics recently, so I thought I’d return to a lighter vibe and feature five songs that have come up in the last week.

Queen – Let Me Live

My Dad is a huge Queen fan. We were round at theirs for dinner and he had the album ‘Made in Heaven’ on. This album was released in 1995 after Freddie Mercury’s death, and was made while he was suffering quite badly. They allegedly had to do vocal takes on days when he was feeling more physically capable.

When I heard this again, I got strong vibes of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’, mainly from the choir in the backing. What do you think?

Continue reading “Five Songs From The Last Week”

The Most Repetitious Part of Singing

So, what’s the most repetitious part of singing practice?

It’s the repetitions.

Thanks for reading!

Horrendous jokes aside, there’s no getting away from it. To polish a song takes repetition. I’ve written this article about putting in the reps, and I’ve written several others that orbit around the same theme… how repetitious of me.

For many people, repetitions become tedious. It’s one of the reasons few people stick at the gym, or running. Sticking at anything that involves long durations of going over the same ground again and again with ever increasing precision and focus, is not something that comes naturally.

That’s the scope of today’s article. I just want to make two simple points then wrap it up. Continue reading “The Most Repetitious Part of Singing”

The Dark Side of the Force and the Voice

I’ve been watching the original Star Wars films with my daughter recently. Most people reading this are likely familiar with the films, whether or not you’ve watched them.

I’m not a hardcore Star Wars fan, but as I was watching them, I found something I’ve recently been discussing with clients being echoed in some of the dialogue.

Let me explain…

A key theme of the film is ‘The Force‘. In the films, The Force is the idea of an all-pervading energy field that is generated by and surrounds every living thing. Some people are sensitive to this energy field, and can interact with it and leverage The Force to their advantage.

Within the ‘theology‘ of the films, there is a light side to The Force, and a dark side.

The language alone intimates that light is the good side, and the dark is the bad side. But what are the characteristics of each? It’s actually in these aspects that I found some key voice lessons echoed in the film dialogue.

1. The light side is the absence of the traits of the dark side

So we’ve got the light side and the dark side, but interestingly, the film says far more about what characterises the dark side than it does the light side. There are very few traits listed to define the light side of the force. In fact, about the only definitive statement listed is:

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

In contrast, there are many defining traits listed about the dark side. It’s a long list of things to avoid that lead one astray to the dark side. Continue reading “The Dark Side of the Force and the Voice”

How do your genetics affect your voice?

I was watching this video with Dr Peter Attia and James Clear this week. The video is all about the genetics’ role in helping someone to understand how best to leverage what they have. You can watch it below if your interest is piqued!

The chief point of this video is that we all have inherent advantages and limitations conferred on us by our genetic makeup. Where a lot of people get hung up on limitations, these actually don’t make you ask “why bother to train”, they instead helpfully tell you WHERE to train and HOW to maximise your training.

The key take-away I want you know up front, is that some people are luckier than others when it comes to the voice they are born with. Let’s have a look at why.

Point 1: Your voice isn’t like other instruments

When I refer to “your instrument”, this can be a little bit misleading. Your voice is not a separate dedicated instrument like the guitar/piano. I have made many references to how it operates in a similar way (which is still true), but what it glosses over is that every part of your body used for your voice is primarily used for several other things. Your throat is used for breathing, swallowing, speaking. Your mouth and tongue are used for chewing, eating, breathing, smiling. Your larynx’s primary function is actually not making sound at all, but to stop things going into your lungs when swallowing.

As such, we have to view “our voice” as the interconnection of several other parts of our body, and not just a dedicated standalone instrument. Please do bear that in mind as we talk about “your instrument” in the rest of this article. Continue reading “How do your genetics affect your voice?”