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”

The Danger of Doing Too Much: Intentionality in Singing

There were a few lessons this week that reminded me of the importance of intentionality in vocal arrangement. It’s very easy, as one gains technical facility, to want to do various things with our voice just because we can. And why not! Doing exciting things with our voice is fun. The problem is, with increasing ability, we tend to overdo things – worse still, it can often be less listenable to our audience as a result. Why should this be?

“Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”

And never more is this true, than in jazz.

Jazz is reknowned for (allegedly) being all about ‘breaking the rules‘, playing whatever you like, outside-the-box sounds, etc. The thing is, there are rules and guidelines about how best to do this without confusing or losing the listener, but taking them along for the ride. Jazz musicians are the masters of following these rules. Let me explain. Continue reading “The Danger of Doing Too Much: Intentionality in Singing”

5 Reasons Why Sleep Boosts Your Singing, Your Brain, and Your Body

I suffered from insomnia for about 18 months quite recently. More specifically I suffered with a type of sleep onset insomnia (problems with getting to sleep) called ‘sleep anxiety’.

In short, it means you get physiologically and/or mentally stressed about going to bed. It can arise for all manner of reasons, but for me I’d had around 10-14 days of intensely disrupted sleep.

Initially I’d just been ill with a bad stomach bug. But after that it was just one thing after another that prevented me sleeping properly. When I say I wasn’t sleeping well, I was getting around 2-4 hours of sleep a night, in 20-30 minute chunks. If you’ve ever experienced this, you’ll know how brutal surviving on that little sleep can be.

Getting anxious

This inability to get consistent sleep led to a state of anxiety around sleep. This is where one gets irrationally stressed that they will not sleep, which in itself prevents sleep. The stress association was with my own bed, at night. I could nap in the day because it wasn’t night time, and I could sleep when staying over at someone else’s house because it wasn’t my bed. It was weird, but pretty debilitating.

I would go to bed at 9/10pm, and not sleep til 3/4am. Over the course of 6-8 months I managed to claw sleep at 12am/1am, after which the anxiety started to subside. If you can get any sleep, then the anxiety starts to abate. However, even now, if I get even slightly worked up around bedtime I will end up struggling to sleep. I don’t stress now, but I’m far from care-free about sleep as I once was.

The reason I share this is so that if you too struggle with getting a solid and restful sleep routine, you know where I’m coming from.

What I learned during this time

Through this experience I did a lot of research about sleep, what it’s for, how to get more of it, etc. I found I was fighting to keep my voice “above water” for that initial 6-8 months. Lack of sleep was killing my ability to improve my own voice, and massively hurting my ability to recover from hard voice days or illnesses.

We all know sleep is important for rest, but people often underestimate or underappreciate just how much sleep does for you. I wanted to feature five things that sleep is essential for when it comes to keeping your voice in great condition. Continue reading “5 Reasons Why Sleep Boosts Your Singing, Your Brain, and Your Body”

Shouting Masquerading as Singing: More reasons why more singers are just yelling

I wrote an article recently about why so many singers are just yelling. This was not a rant about performers who are just bellowing on-stage instead of actual singing, but a frank and honest discussion about the various reasons for why this occurs and is a growing trend in modern vocalism.

I hinted in one passage that there’s also cultural reasons for this, and I wanted to dive a little deeper into this today.

Who do we look up to?

Once upon a time, high male singers did not sing high notes with great power. Above chest voice, they would switch to a much lighter headier tonality, not entirely dissimilar to the sound of falsetto. This was after/alongside the period where castrati were also important for much of high male vocal work, but not within the scope of this article.

Then, in the early 1800s, an opera singer (Gilbert-Louis Duprez) sang a C5 (tenor high C) in sound not unlike full chest voice. This was in a performance of the opera Guillaume Tell (or William Tell). By all accounts his rendition was not of supreme quality, but the power he demonstrated there showed the masses that powerful male singing done up high was possible. Continue reading “Shouting Masquerading as Singing: More reasons why more singers are just yelling”