Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wintertime and Singing- A Double Edge Sword. How do you avoid it?

Wintertime and singing truly are a double edge sword.  Why?  On one end, it is a great time to sing because you increase practice time.  You do NOT want to be outside, so you hibernate inside and practice more.  Sounds like a pure optimist who is drawn to the outdoor activities of the other 3 seasons of the year!  In a perfect world, that is what happens.  In reality, or on the other edge of the sword, a lot of people end up spending that extra time sick with a cold or worse!

It is indeed the time of year when every time you turn around someone is sick right next to you.  The back and forth between frigid temperatures and blasting heat wreaks havoc on our respiratory systems and we get a cold.  We are trapped inside with family and friends who are sick and get sick ourselves. What are the best ways to make sure that you are not a victim of the double edged sword?

10 Things to Do to Make Sure You Don't Get Sick this Winter  
1.        Avoid Contact with Those Who are Sick if at ALL Possible

2.        Practice Good Hygiene

-          Regularly wash your hands and minimize touching your face
3.       Hydrate
-          Drink 8-10 glasses of water a day
-          Avoid or minimize caffeine, it dries you out!
4.       Rest
-          Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night (more if you can)!

5.       Avoid Unnecessary Medication
-          Decongestants, Cold Medications, Inhalers are drying agents.
-          Use Nasal Saline Spray!

6.       Stay Physically Fit
-          Exercise often (3-5 times weekly)
-          Walking, swimming, running, yoga, and pilates are all excellent for singing!

7.       Use Good Singing Technique (ALL the time)
-          Good posture, breath support, correct range and appropriate repertoire

8.       Use Good Speech Habits
-          Support your speech as you would your singing
-          Don’t yell or talk over loud noise!

9.       Don't Sing or Talk too Much 
-          Try not to talk too much, too fast, too low in pitch, and breathe often

10.      Make time for a little relaxation and de-stressing!  The more you take care of YOU the healthier you are!  
**  Above all take care of yourself and pay attention to your body signals!  If it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stresses of the New Year on a Singer and How to Manage it All - Planning, Staying Healthy, and Yoga are Useful!

Now that we are all in the midst of the schedules of the New Year, stresses may be piling upon you. The new year brings many silver linings, a fresh start, and a number of possibilities, but also the stress of how to accomplish it all.

Did you practice enough for your audition for the show? How are you going to learn all of those lyrics by your recital?  When are you going to study for that exam when you have to memorize your song? How are you going to stay healthy for your singing lessons?   How can you not be overwhelmed?

First off, breathe, relax and map out a course of action.  When carefully planned out, most people can achieve their goals.  Singing is no exception.

* Establish your singing goals and your time line.  Figure out when is the best time for you to practice, what you need to practice, and then how often and for how long you need to practice in order to get that all accomplished.  Write it in your planner or put reminders on your phone and start practicing.

* Next, take some quiet practice time to memorize the lyrics and get emotionally connected to the text of your songs.  Take a break from studying for your exams to analyze the text or speak the words like a monologue.  It will take you far.

* Stay away from those who are sick when at all possible and wash those hands!  Drink water and get plenty of rest to assure your body will fight off any illness that may come your way.  It doesn't hurt to eat an apple, orange, or have a little extra Vitamin C along the way!

* Get some physical exercise to get out some of your stress.  Cardiovascular activity is great for the mind to work at its best.  You get out aggravation which is calming.  Your heart pumping harder gets your air flowing better through your lungs.  You then use your air better when singing!

* Yoga is excellent practice for singers as well.  It relaxes you and "gives you the power to better understand your body" Emilie Smith.  Once you understand your body better, the more quickly you respond to its signals.   When your body is in alignment through yoga, you use it the most efficiently when you sing.  Air flows more freely through a body with good yet relaxed posture.  Your mind can function more quickly on fixing things that are not quite right.  If you are starting to get sick, you recognize it quicker and may start going to bed earlier.  

Here is a quick yoga series, a modified Yoga for Everyday Athletes  (Jen Ator, Self Magazine 2012), that may help you in your singing (and recovering from tough physical workouts):

1. Downward-Facing Dog - Stretches the whole body and improves circulation and flexibility

2. High Lunge OR Warrior I - Strengthens feet and ankles while stretching hip flexors to open the body for better breathing.  Warrior I is an empowering pose which stretches you while building confidence with lifting your heart to the sky.

3. Twisted Lunge - Opens the chest, shoulders, and lower ribcage for better breathing

4. Dolphin - Stretches shoulder and chest muscles (again enhancing breathing)

5. Pigeon - Stretches thighs and hip flexors opening more space and freedom in the body

6. Legs up on the wall - Relieves back pain and tired legs or feet to rejuvenate you to sing!

Click here to see a Tutorial for Yoga for Athletes Modified for Singers

How do you manage your stress and keep singing?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Year in Review - Top 10 of the Healthy and Confident Singer Blog of 2013

Ah, another year has begun and I am reflecting on 2013 and which topics seem to be of the most value to my readers.  The gamut is large from the best way to practice to why to take lessons to what can we gain from voice lessons.   Take a moment to catch up on some of the most popular topics of 2013.

Here are the top 10 blogs by the numbers (Top 2 by far are the most popular):

1.  What is the Best Way to Practice and How Do You Make the Most of Your Practice Time?  

2. Singing lessons -What can voice lessons do for me or my child? It is an EMOTIONAL outlet for you

3. Singing Lessons Improve Academic Skills (Part 5 of 12 of What Singing Lessons Can Do For You!)

4. Choral Singing vs. Solo Singing- When is it GOOD to sing in a choir and when would it be better for you to focus on solo singing? Part 1 of 3

5. Vocal Abuse or Misuse and its' Consequences: Pop Singer and Average Joe Examples

6. WHY and WHEN should I take singing lessons? Fall is a great time to start!

7. Singing Lessons Teach Us the Value of Perseverance and Follow Through 

8. Do hormone changes (specifically puberty) affect the singing voice.The Tree of Life

9. What is the BEST thing about performing in a recital?

10. Choral Singing vs. Voice Lessons - When Should You Add Individual Voice Lessons to Choral Singing? (Part 2 of 3)

Thank you all for reading and contributing.  I hope that you are able to use my tips in your singing or teaching endeavors in 2014.  What topics would you like to see more about?