Sunday, February 26, 2017

Musical Monday - Hitting the Top Notes with Ease

Image result for clip art singer in choirWe all have times when we get some notes in our parts that are on the top end of our comfort zone.  When you research how to sing those "high" notes no matter what part you sing, there are very physical tips to help you.  I truly believe that you must be in the right physical stance but there are some really easy mind tricks that have helped me and my singers over the years.

1. Stand straight - Well yes BUT---

  • stand with feet slightly apart and weight centred on the balls of the feet
  • make certain you do NOT throw your head back but rather tuck your chin down slightly.  Now try both ways.  Stand with your eyes looking to the ceiling.  Yes, you will feel the restriction in your throat.  Now, stand with your chin slightly tucked while thinking of your spin as a straight stick right up the back of your head.  Feel now how much more open your throat feels.  You got it!!
2. Take a deep breath - Indeed you need lots of air to produce a lovely in tune sound.  However, if you breathe incorrectly it can end up being a breathy sound instead. 
  • prepare for the note by always breathing well.  Depending on where that note occurs in the song, you may have to break up phrases to get the required breath.  When you are a choir singer, just breathe where the person beside you does not. That will ensure no "holes" in the sound. 
3. Stop thinking - Yes I really mean it.  If you THINK the note is high, you will reach for it and that usually means you will hit just under the note.
  • think like a basketball player instead.  The note is the ball. Stand well, chin down then let the note fly and enter the basket gently from the top.  No jamming here.  I find thinking of the note as being gently dropped from the top allows me to get it in tune.  If the basketball player always thought about just how high the basket was, there would be very few that scored.  Think above the note and let it sit in the right place.  Ah. 
4. Be a champion athlete
  • We all know that it takes a lot of physical effort to sing well.  
  • It takes a positive mental attitude as well.  
  • If you think you can, you will.  If you think you can't, you're right.  
  • Be in the best shape YOU can be.  Walk and breathe between the poles on the road and let it out in a hiss.  Think about your posture while in the shower.  
  • When you let the little "can't" gremlin into your brain, quickly say, "Cancel, cancel, cancel!" or shake your hands as if getting rid of something sticky and say, "Let it go, let it go, let it go." You are in control.  
4. Relax, enjoy and do the best you can with the tools you have.  Sometimes the best of us have a bad day and those top notes just aren't going to happen.  Get in the proper stance, breathe and open your mouth with a singer's smile.  Someone will get it.  THAT is the true joy of being in a choir.  There are very few times when that note is yours alone.  Fake it and smile.  Oh yeah. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Musical Monday - Feel GREAT with Love Is Like a River

Just 'cause music is that feel good medicine. Listen, enjoy and energize.  Check out the amazing pianist!!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Musical Monday - Using Vocal Fry in Your Singing Can Actually Help

In past posts, I have decried the use of vocal fry (explained perfectly in this video).  Actually, in researching how to heal an overused voice, I found suggestions to use a bit of vocal fry to help heal as the voice heals best when used gently to keep the blood flowing etc.  Well, I was intrigued. 
Here in this video, the use of vocal fry or creak is illustrated.  As in all things, moderation is the key.  Judicious use of fry is helpful but to use it all the time as some current singers seem to be doing will cause you to lose much of your range.  
I will listen differently to a lot of music differently after this tutorial.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Musical Monday - 5th grade boys Synchronized Air Swimming

These young fellows do a masterful job of being truly synchronized.  They work so well with the music and the result is pure fun.  This will be a lasting, fun memory for them for sure. It is certainly a fun one for us!!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Musical Monday - Andre Rieu Amazing Grace - Scottish Style

Andre Rieu has so many creative ideas for presenting music.  This is for our Scottish friends who have just celebrated Robbie Burns Day.  Address the haggis and enjoy this wonderful treat. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Musical Monday - Honey & Lemon for Singers: Fact from Fiction

We have all had those times when we want to sing well but have a scratchy throat.  I have found that a lovely hot cup of tea with honey & lemon really feels great.  However, after about the third cup, I am not wanting any more. Below find lots of detail about what honey and lemon do for you.  Suffice it to say that REAL honey and lemon will not steer you wrong.  Plain water may work just as well.  The bottom line is that you have to try different solutions and find what works for you.  Sometimes, just resting your voice is what is needed.  Read on to see what the expert says. 

“Honey & Lemon: It Heals My Flu or Cold”
This claim has been around for a long time; Egyptian physicians used honey to promote health and Greeks believed in its promotion of virility and longevity.
There is some truth behind these historic preferences.
Honey is high in many nutrients including iron, copper, manganese, silica chlorine, calcium, potassium, sodium , phosphorous, aluminum and magnesium.
The darker the honey the higher the nutrient content.
Lemon has been recognized for its natural disinfectant properties. It contains pectin which acts as a vacuum to help clean out the gut including environmental toxins.
The high potassium content aids in the elimination of these pollutants. Lemon has a high source of vitamin C to help fight infection and, like honey, contains calcium, magnesium and potassium.
The combination of the two intensify the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
Lemons contain almost 90% of vitamin C as a whole fruit which helps repel free radicals and protects the healthy cells from becoming cancerous; all promoting healing when your immune system is compromised.

Caution: But is Honey & Lemon Good All the Time?

Research published by Pediatrics Digest concluded that citrus honey improved the cough symptoms during an upper respiratory infection, leading to a better chance at sleep— I’m talking NATURAL citrus honey not "cough drops".
Remember to always be your own judge. We all react differently to remedies so take the information and personalize what may work best for you.
Give it time to kick in as it may not usher an immediate response

So, is honey and lemon THE cure?

In a word: no. Singers need to deal with the root cause, resting during a cold, learning healthier speaking and singing technique.
Of course, hydration is a part of great vocal health – and has rightly been described as the “engine oil” of the voice.
On this score, hot water with honey and lemon is better than alcohol and caffeine based drinks
The thermal effect of the warm liquid will help increase circulation to the affected area and the osmotic effect of the honey will aid in decreasing the swelling of the throat.
But, please, do not underestimate the power of staying hydrated on a regular basis with good ol’ H2O.

“It cleared my throat of mucous so I could sing flawlessly!”

Although a little bit of phlegm may be necessary to lubricate the vocal cords, too much can cause excess vibration.
Here, the combination of warm water and a drop of lemon scores some points.
It can help loosen the buildup of mucous, while the addition of honey can help coat it.
Add a bit of Cheyenne pepper or something spicy to the mix and you can clear up your sinuses to prevent the drip down to your throat.
-Sharon Zarabi

Sharon Zarabi
Sharon Zarabi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist (RD, CDN) and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with the International Fitness Professional’s Association (IFPA) and Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA.) She is a contributor to The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health (Oxford University Press) and her work can be viewed at www.sharonzarabi.com/

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Musical Monday - Eating for Singing Success

Image result for clipart eatingAs much research as I do about eating and performing, I still come up with general good eating guidelines.  I have included below an article by Sharon Zarabi that was found in Voice Council Magazine.  It truly is the basics of eating well for general good health.
Over the years, I have come up with a number of tips that have helped me and the singers with whom I have worked young and not so young alike.
1. EAT SMART - Eat foods you enjoy but keep the amounts reasonable & at least an hour before a rehearsal or performance.  When you eat, your body uses a lot of energy to digest that food.  You won't have as much energy to sing and you will probably feel uncomfortable.  Keep it light before hand.
2, WHAT NOT TO EAT -
  • Spicy foods - for all the reasons above & the fact that you are with others & any digestive discomfort will by passed on.  Pun intended.
  • Milk products - I have stayed away from milk, cheese, ice cream, cream etc. because I find it does make mucus thicker.  Some people will say that it doesn't bother them.  Great.  As a general rule, it is a good one to follow. 
  • Sweets - I find that sweets act much as milk does.  Save the sweets as an afterwards treat. 
Check out these general rules below.  They make sense. 

Do not wait until you are starving to eat

You may be at practice, on the road or have social events that go until wee hours of the night and with socializing comes drinking and foods that are not timed with physical appetites. Keep nuts, low sugar protein bars, and fruit with you at all times. Green apples are my favorites! The pectin (a fiber in the skin of green apples) keeps your belly satisfied. Try to get some calories in every 4-5 hours.

Do not make any food forbidden

The psychology behind avoiding prohibited foods makes them more tempting. If you choose to indulge in a not so healthy treat, do not go overboard, and OWN it. Eat less the next day or be sure to get some calorie burning exercises in to counterbalance the extra energy.

Read your labels

If it is lacking dietary fiber and protein, both of which keep you full, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. It’s a waste of calories and goes straight to the waist line all with still leaving you hungry. This disrupts your body’s understanding of what satisfied actually means. Check for foods that have greater than 3 grams of fiber and more than 5 grams of protein when available. Proteins include fish, chicken, beans, eggs, nuts, soy and meat. Keep canned tuna and low sugar protein bars at hand. This will help you with tip #1.

Drink your water

You need to hydrate those vocals chords and nothing quenches thirst better than pure water. If you get bored of plain water, carry bags of flavored teas with you and seep them in hot water and then add ice cubes for an enhanced flavored beverage without all the added sugar.

Move your body

Get the blood pumping, and muscles building with both cardiovascular and strength training workouts. When in the hotel, take the stairs, before a performance pump yourself up with a set of push-ups; when brushing your teeth work those legs with squats. The little things add up and can change your figure.

Keep a food journal

If weight loss is your goal, it’s good to keep a list of what you eat, when you eat and how you feel. This can help you discern between the foods that actually keep you full and to avoid any foods that may cause gastric distress. The last thing you need when going up on stage is an upset stomach or itchy throat, so keep a log to help you identify those foods may be “eating you up.”

Avoid late night eating

When you eat and recline you are not letting your body digest the food properly. The gastric juices will push back through the esophagus causing heart burn and irritating the throat. Also, if you wait until you are hungry to eat, you will eat more than your stomach can handle and, in the long term, this can lead to GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). The acid build up will affect voice quality – so, full circle back to tip #1.
Keep these tips in mind to keep you on rockin’ on stage!

Sharon ZarabiSharon Zarabi is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist (RD, CDN) and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer with the International Fitness Professional’s Association (IFPA) and Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA.) She is a contributor to The Singer’s Guide to Complete Health (Oxford University Press) and her work can be viewed at www.sharonzarabi.com/