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?”

Finding your sound

We had a wonderful voice intensive event yesterday, with some lovely singers focused on developing and improving their voices.

One of the many great questions/ponderings that was raised was around the challenge of “trying to find my own sound“.

Finding your sound

It’s an all too common experience for singers – both for singers who are just starting out as well as for more experienced singers – to go on a mammoth journey trying on different vocal “fashions” in repeated attempts to find “their sound“. A singer will try singing this way, or that way; they’ll try singing like singer X or singer Y; singing with more air, with less air; more volume here, less volume there; etc.

Those who then go read online singing forums or scour Youtube for singing self-help and how-to videos then discover smaller degrees of control advised by many online personalities, e.g. try singing by raising your larynx, or by lowering their larynx, by attempting to have more or less vocal fold adduction, more or less nasal resonance, stick your tongue out, pull your tongue back, etc. — NOTE: If you’re confused or bewildered by these ideas, I’m not surprised! I am NOT advocating you go and try any of these confusing ideas, just keep reading.

If you’re reading this article, you likely relate to the above experiences, and may still be going through this mammoth journey trying to “find your sound“. Continue reading “Finding your sound”

Singers: The difference between Vocalists and Performers

The thing with being a voice coach and spending almost the entirety of every day immersed in voice, is that your ear gets exposed to so much music being made by many different kinds of people. Time and the experience that comes therewith is the great educator in this regard. Things that seemed so exciting and interesting when you first start rapidly expose themselves to be a novelty. Things that maybe seemed a bit boring actually start to reveal a deeper nuance that I just wasn’t experienced to hear in the first instance. Glacially speaking, your ear starts to pick out subtleties and seeking out depth of quality in a way that isn’t possible just as a casual enthusiast.

So when people ask me…

“What do you think of THAT singer?”

… that’s really quite an enormous question. I’m not just hearing their voice or their music, I’m taking in a wide variety of different factors, whilst also trying to ignore factors that should not be relevant for the purposes of assessing a voice. We as humans are far too swayed by psychological factors that skew our judgment. Continue reading “Singers: The difference between Vocalists and Performers”