Hyper-function vs relaxation

I often talk about the importance of ‘balance’ in the voice. What I generally mean by this is that the various parameters/variables of the voice are present in appropriate measure, both relative to themselves, to each other, and for a particular voice.

Balance: The Goldilocks Zone

We don’t want too much contraction, nor too little; not too much stretch, nor too little; not too much air-pressure, nor too little. The same goes for air-flow, vocal tract shape/posture, etc. We don’t need worry too much about the complete list of all parameters, I want to focus on just the balance aspect today.

When I start working with people the balance is typically off. Sometimes it’s majorly out from where it should be, but as their body responds to the prescribed exercises, their condition will adjust more towards a state of balance. For some, their body and mind is very accommodating to the work we do and adjustment to that state of balance is relatively quick. For others, their body and mind can be less accommodating and the progress can be slower, at least at first.

Nevertheless, for every persevering singer there comes a stage when balance starts to appear. Continue reading “Hyper-function vs relaxation”

Learning to Riff: Why most people find it hard & why it can be easier than you think

I was having a conversation with a client recently about riffing: what it is, why it’s useful, and why it seems difficult to many.

For the ease of discussion let’s say that anything that extends the melody beyond the original for dramatic/musical effect is a ‘riff’, and that riffing is therefore the act of extending the melody in such a way.

I’d say that most singers want to get better at riffs/riffing, but that they find it hard to do. I’d also say that a lot of singers who think they are good at riffing are not as good as they think they are, and typically repeat the same old basic tricks over and over. But why is it hard to do? And could it be made easier?

The simple answer is yes, but there’s some important logic and understanding behind that answer. Let’s break it down. Continue reading “Learning to Riff: Why most people find it hard & why it can be easier than you think”

What makes a song “feel high”?

This topic has been coming up a lot recently, and also came up in yesterdays voice intensive, so I wanted to talk about it this week. As an aside, I’ve been trying to write this article for several months. It’s a difficult and somewhat abstract/subjective topic to discuss.

What makes a song “feel high”?

If you’ve EVER tried to sing a song that seems like it’s at the limits of your capacity, or beyond, you’ve experienced that sensation of “that song feels high“… but if we get ‘reductionist’ on this statement, what do we really mean?

The idea of a song feeling high/too high can actually be viewed as multiple issues wrapped up in one: Continue reading “What makes a song “feel high”?”

Why vocal problems so regularly derail careers

Something I encounter a lot is the phenomenon of the vocal professional who suddenly finds themselves having voice problems. Here’s what normally happens.

At first, the issues are usually shrugged off. Errors are discounted as “just one of those gigs” to others, but inwardly they are a little apprehensive as to why their voice was misbehaving or feeling so off.

Then the issue worsens

Usually in both in severity and frequency. The odd gig starts to get cancelled, and it takes the singer longer and longer to “recover” from one gig for the next one.

Shortly afterwards, the inexorable public announcement follows – typically on their Facebook page – along the following predictable lines… Continue reading “Why vocal problems so regularly derail careers”

Dunning-Kruger Effect: A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing

Why is a little bit of knowledge so dangerous?

Before we get to Dunning-Kruger and the voice, let’s start illustrating with something a bit more tangible: Here is a scientific journal study on whether maximum bench press is affected by doing the exercise on a bench vs an inflatable ball. The study concluded there was no difference in muscle activation between the two – i.e. benching on a bench vs swiss ball = no difference.

I spoke with an Olympic/Commonwealth powerlifting coach about this. Other than calling b******t, he commented that with any real weight on the bar, the ball would burst! Practically, it makes zero sense for someone with any real-world experience weightlifting to even ask whether a swiss ball and a bench could be equivalent for the bench press, let alone conduct an entire study and draw such a conclusion. The researchers therefore clearly lack sufficient real-world experience and understanding in what it takes to lift weights, and yet bizarrely are researchers in this field.

The world of voice

Continue reading “Dunning-Kruger Effect: A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”

Performance Anxiety – What is it? Where does it come from? What can we do about it?

I had an question recently regarding how to deal with performance anxiety. I answered their query directly but wanted to flesh out my answer more here, as they are not the only singers struggling with performance anxiety.

What is performance anxiety?

In short, it’s a heightened sense of worry or fear associated with execution of a particular skill, e.g. going on-stage, or having to output something where you feel judged by others. This could be performance of a sport, a speech, exam, etc as much as it something to do with music. It’s anything where all your work has built up to a specific execution of your skill, and you will be in some way judged or have an opinion formed of you by others based on said performance. Continue reading “Performance Anxiety – What is it? Where does it come from? What can we do about it?”