Sunday, October 15, 2017

Want Your Voice Fit For Singing? Dr. Rachael Gates explains how...

When you are a singer, you continuously get told to "warm up" before singing.  What exactly is that?  This is a good article from Voice Council magazine with great explanations about how and how much to warm up.

4 Easy Fitness Tips for Better Singing
The physical demands and stressful aspects of vocal performance can decrease the ability of the immune system to fight off infections – says Dr. Rachael Gates.
My advice: Establish routines that increase your general well-being and help you maintain a healthy singing voice.

1. Exercise with purpose

Just by walking a minimum of twenty to thirty minutes at a consistent, comfortable pace every day, you may find that you have more energy and cognitive sharpness.
Eurhythmics, Alexander technique, Feldenkreis, yoga, and dance are recommended conditioning options for singers for their ability to reduce stress and visibly contribute to stage presence and poise.
Power lifting is not recommended as it requires strenuous compression of the vocal folds and can overtax laryngeal musculature. If you do lift, be sure to continue breathing throughout exertion to avoid holding your breath.

2. ‘Warm up’ don’t ‘wear out’

The vocal folds benefit from being warmed up and stretched before intense use.
Begin your practice by vocalizing with light and easy exercises in your middle register before moving gradually into voice exercises (vocalises) that involve your high and low registers.
Condition for a performance months ahead. The night of a performance, avoid extreme vocal warm-ups that would tax the muscles and potentially cause vocal fold swelling.
Time spent warming-up may depend on the time of the day, the time of the month for some women, when and what you last ate and the level of difficulty in what you’re about to sing.
Be very careful not to oversing or rush into your extreme top and bottom ranges. Keep in mind that the reason you warm up the voice is to be able to sing your loudest, softest, highest and lowest without strain.

3. Give yourself a cooling off period

Beware of post-performance receptions. In noisy crowds you may push the voice to be heard
After an intense singing session, use vocalises that are light and gentle to cool down. The easy cool-down will prevent blood from pooling in the blood vessels of the vocal folds and will prevent tightening.
Avoid talking for approximately 30 minutes after an intense practice or performance. Beware of post-performance receptions. In noisy crowds you may push the voice to be heard. Such strained speech can easily damage the vocal folds after a taxing performance.

4. Allow your voice to rest and recover

Your voice’s muscles need to replenish nutrients through rest. As you use your voice for long periods of time, the muscles stop contracting as well and you begin to feel fatigue as you lose more and more muscular control.
Once you stop singing or talking and thus begin to rest the voice musculature, you start to regain strength and control.
When we refer to building better stamina, we are referring to muscles that are becoming more efficient at bouncing back after rest periods. No matter how fit a person is, no one can go on contracting a muscle forever.
The body needs short breaks. You need the rests written into your songs and you need the breaks between songs during a concert to help stave off fatigue.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Musical Monday - We're Canadian & Thankful

It is our Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend.  I am SO thankful to be Canadian.  This song has so much that is Canada in words and pictures.  For all our fellow Canadians, ex-pats and friends from around the world, we are thankful for YOU!!!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Singer Foods – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  This is a really interesting article from Voice Council Magazine.  I think as with any "rules" you have to find what works for you.  These four tips are quite sensible.  What do you think?hare

Bananas wearing a sombrero
Your diet is a part of an optimal performance -says Jeannie Deva
Sometimes it’s liberating to break some rules and be impulsive, but right before a performance or long singing rehearsal is probably not a good time to be wild.
Experience has taught me that to sing freely, easily and perform at the top of my game, I have to maintain a certain diet and avoid some foods, especially right before a performance.What we eat and drink has a direct influence on our musical sound
Unlike instrumentalists, we singers have the curse and the blessing of our body being our instrument.
And so, what we eat and drink has a more direct influence on our musical sound.

The Four Watchwords

The sounds of your voice are made by internal muscles some of which are coated with mucous membranes. Muscles and mucous membranes have certain nutritional needs and are hampered by certain foods.
You can assess the benefits or adverse effects of any food by evaluating it against the four singer dietary maxims: dehydration, phlegm production, muscle constriction and energy loss.
No Coffee or Cigarettes!1. Dehydration – To work well, the voice needs adequate hydration. This is achieved from eating and drinking things like water, juicy fruit and lots of vegetables – which also supply the body with important minerals and other nutrition which promotes health. Caffeine, (coffee, black tea, chocolate, cola soft drinks), alcohol, smoking and certain medications dehydrate the body and thus your voice. If you like coffee, keep it to a cup a day and don’t drink it closer than several hours prior to singing. You can have an occasional celebratory alcoholic beverage but wait until after your performance or recording session.
No Spicy Foods!2. Phlegm Production – Ever have to stop singing to clear your throat? Excessive phlegm caused by irritation of the mucous membrane can make even the easiest note difficult or impossible to sing. Foods known to induce phlegm include: dairy (cheese, milk, ice cream…) spicy foods, citrus and bananas.
No Iced Drinks!3. Muscle Constriction – Stimulants such as caffeine can cause muscles to tighten as well as lose hydration. Iced drinks also have a similar constricting effect. Think about it: would an athlete put ice packs on his muscles just before a routine or competition? Heat causes muscles to relax and swell. Neither extreme is desirable. Your vocal muscles need to be limber, not tense or swollen. Room temperature or cool (not iced) water remains our best beverage.
No Sweets!4. Energy Loss – Eating sweets gives an energy surge followed by a slump. Trying to boost your physical energy with sugar laden foods may lead to chronic fatigue. Instead, eat unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins; you’ll build an energy reserve and stay well hydrated at the same time. Add in some exercise and you’ll have the stamina you’ll need for demanding singing engagements.

Personal Differences

Everyone is different. Use these four watchwords to see for yourself how your body reacts to different types of food and beverage. Then modify your diet to achieve maximum hydration, minimum mucous, limber muscles and a consistent energy level. Good luck.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Musical Monday - 2CELLOS - Whole Lotta Love vs. Beethoven 5th Symphony

These are two very talented musicians who show how to wow an audience without ever "dumbing down" their music.  Check out the change from the acoustical cellos to the electronic.  The costumed audience changes as the music changes.  My I wish these guys had been around when I was teaching.  What great musical ambassadors they are!! 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Musical Monday - West Oxford United Homecoming

We had the best time today at West Oxford United at their 213 year celebration.  The church is nestled on a country road, surrounded by lovely gardens and a very old historic cemetery. The church has had a continuously worshipping congregation since 1804.

We were asked to sing and I spoke in between the songs to share how the songs we chose fit with the celebration of Homecoming.  Of course, I can never be photographed with just an ordinary face. My wonderful hubby/photographer says I just don't keep it still long enough.  Hmm.

The Embro Thistle Singers did a marvellous job on a very hot day sharing some of our favourite songs.  A few of our singers are very new and really aquitted themselves beautifully.  Well done all!

We were also privileged to have Catherine McCaffery play before, and after the service.  Catherine has been playing at the church for many years.  What a treat!
Thank you to the wonderful people of West Oxford United for a beautiful day and your very kind hospitality.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Musical Monday - Remembering Ron McNutt

Ron was a great musical mentor for me and for many who were privileged to be taught by or sing in the Woodstock Choralaires while he was the director.
Ron died in June but will live on through the amazing music he wrote and/or arranged.  He left his choral music to our Embro Thistle Singers and boy are we blessed.  You see Ron helped us when we first began back in 2010 coming to many practices and one of our first concerts where we sang his arrangement of "Memory".  Thank you Vickie for making sure I got all that amazing music.
One of his friends has made a large donation to our choir in Ron's name and we cannot thank you enough, Marianne.  What a generous thing to do.  We promise to put that money to good use as we fulfill our mandate of Song, Service & Fun with Ron always in the background cheering us on.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Musical Monday - Americans singing Tamil song @Singapore Changi Airport

This choir started to practise in the airport.  The people listening really appreciated their efforts because it is one of their own songs.  There is always a bit of a risk doing music from other cultures as you really want to do justice to the music.  This choir has done their homework and are presenting a true example of the Tamil music.  Would you choose music that isn't always "safe"?