Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reasons Why You Need to Sing Everyday!

A student of mine sent me this link and I love it enough I made it the next blog topic!  We need to sing everyday for multiple reasons and here are some great (and funny) examples!  I agree with most as those who love to sing are always looking for excuses to do it!  Some are not medically founded, but beneficial to think about anyway!

According to 15 Reasons You Need to Sing Everyday. (Article on Click and read this link for the humorous take (and videos)

Here is a summary of why to sing everyday (with commentary):

1.  Singing releases endorphin's making you happier.  (Absolutely)
2.  When you sing, you release oxytocin , a natural stress reliever found to also help depression and loneliness  (Both I and my students agree on the stress relief!)
3. You will sleep better because you will be less stressed  (Sounds good!)
4. Tests show that singing reduces heart rates  (Especially when singing something slow and soothing)
5. When singing with someone else, your hearts can synch together (choir anyone?)
6.  Your posture will improve and you will build confidence as a result (Most definitely!)
7. Your feelings of safety and confidence grow when singing with a group (I have seen it many times!)
8. It is a good workout:  you work your lungs, improve circulation, and build strength in your abdominal muscles.  (Our body is our instrument, so it needs to exercise!)
9.  Singing can boost your immune system. (Not sure if this is true, but wouldn't that be great!)
10.When already sick, if you hum a little tune, you can open your sinuses and respiratory tubes (Try it!)
11. It is good for your brain. It enhances mental awareness, concentration and memory (Yes and research documented!)
12. You develop healthier breathing patterns (lower relaxed breathing) (Amen!! If only we did it during the rest of the day in addition to when we sing.  It does enable you to calm down quicker)
13. It can be used as a natural way to treat chronic pain, dementia, depression (also music therapy) (Yes!)
14. You may live longer!  (What a wonderful thought!)
15. So raise your voice and start singing!  The possibilities are endless.  (Singing is a pleasure to you and to those with whom you share your gift.  So HAPPY SINGING!)

Enjoy the singing and let me know your thoughts on these and other reasons of why we should sing everyday!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cross Training the Voice- "Bel Canto Can Belto" Point of View

What to my surprise did I see when I looked at the most recent Classical Singer Magazine (March 2014)?  An interview with Mary Saunders-Barton, head of the Master of Fine Arts in Voice Pedagogy for Musical Theater whom was mentioned in my most recent blog, Cross-Train Methods are Different for All, But There are a Few Models and Ideas.

An up and coming degree for what we are experiencing to be the need in singing today! The M.F.A. was "developed for teachers with a wide range of understanding and tolerance for different styles who want to develop from the ground up" Saunders-Barton.  In other words, a degree in teaching the cross-training of the voice through experience themselves!

Much to my pleasure, the article not only talks about the degree, but the HOW of cross-training from Mary Saunders-Barton's point of view.  After seeing her run a masterclass at a NATS competition a few years ago, I was intrigued by her point of view added to the Jeannie LoVetri Method.  There are many similarities and a few differences. The importance is that cross-training and teaching Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) is being studied by many and a science being developed to support teaching a variety of singing styles!

When one thinks of cross-training the voice, opera and musical theater come to mind as the 'theater forms of singing' and are not completely different places.  CCM is "an add-on, this awareness that you can use your voice in other ways", M. Saunders-Barton, which we will continue to explore. A singer must sing, act, and dramatically convince the audience of their character.  The main difference is truly amplification.  Musical theater allows microphones and opera does not.  We still train the musical theater singer to produce the sound through acoustic use and classical voice technique and adjust it to musical theater from there.  It is important to keep the resonance and not solely depend on the microphones!

Saunders-Barton also believes (as do I)  in a vowel-resonance based technique.  Pure vowels carry the acoustic waves of sound the best in both classical and musical theater technique.  Imagine calling out "Hey You!" on open vowels ('ah', 'eh', 'uh') and then closed vowels.  Which one carries further?  Apply the same thing to singing "Hey You!" on open vowels and then closed vowels.  Which resonates more? Open vowels.  According to Saunders-Barton, girls make the most noise F#-B-flat or C and boys the most also F#-C an octave lower.

When asked the frequent question, Is Belt Mixed?, Saunders- Brown answers "Yes, because it is a balance of good healthy function that is a belt quality above the passaggio".  Exactly!  A mix is a balance of healthy and resonant.  Boys need to learn mix as they move to sing higher and higher to keep the resonant quality and not have an extreme break between 'chest' voice or normal voice and falsetto. Girls can really only have an open belt up to D5 and then it sounds like a scream.  We can teach how to get there in a healthy way by learning how to keep the breath in tact and resonance in the right place in the head.

You can indeed belt if you are classically trained.  It is all about the cross-training and developing a well-balanced instrument.  Belt uses the different muscles of your vocal cords in varying ways than classical.  When well trained, they can work well together and compliment one another (just like a runner also needs to do yoga to cross-train muscles).

In summary, we need to pay attention to 4 things:  1. Acoustics/Amplification 2. Vowel Modification 3. Going back and forth between styles 4. Create a belt/mix

The technique of how to cross-train effectively is still developing between PSU' and Shenendoah University's work, the Lovetri Method, scientific study by Voice and Speech Therapists such as Wendy LeBorgne, and a variety of other books and methods.  The demands are there in the music being written, so we must figure out how to get there in a healthy way.  It is all about developing strong, healthy singers to sing the music being written.  Thank you to all who are researching and teaching and sharing your knowledge with other singing teachers so that we can be the best we can be!

Other Books and Sources:

Bel Canto Can Belto Classical Singer Magazine, March 2014

"So You Want to Sing Musical Theatre?" by Scarecrow Press (NATS website audio and exercises)

The Vocal Athlete by Rosenberg and LeBorgne

What are your thoughts and contributions on teaching cross-training?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cross-Train Methods are Different for All, But There are a Few Models and Ideas

Cross-training methods may be different in each individual and each individual voice studio.  However, there are a few places to get solid ideas and solid training to do so. Trying out a few methods will help you as a teacher or as a singer find what is comfortable and works for you.  We are in a time of changing music which requires us to embrace and meld the new with our older tried and true techniques.  Use the building blocks of breath support, posture, and palate lift and alter them slightly to achieve the desired sound.  You simply cannot belt or sing country without slightly altering the classical techniques of singing.  Not everyone is going to agree with every new technique, but that is part of what makes singing teaching and singing in general a science as well as an art!

A ground-breaker in this philosophy is Jeanie LoVetri who created Somatic Voicework, the basis for the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenendoah University.  It is a balance of voice science, classical vocal training, yoga, movement, dance, acting and speech training. It is more widely trusted because it is based on what the voice is doing.   Register balance, vowel sound changes, posture, breathing and stylistic authenticity are the primary tools.

'When done in an informed manner, CCM accomplishes results without compromising a singer's health.  The technique of mixing chest tone into a sound, rather than continual chest belt keeps the voice versatile and healthy.  An educated ear can guide this development.' Marcelle Gauvin, Shenendoah Conservatory

The key words here are to do it under an educated ear and careful guidance.

'Vocal damage can happen in any style of singing if there is improper technique, abuse, or overuses, especially if the vocal gymnastics are on a daily basis!  Get well-informed training to stay healthy.'  Wendy DeLeo LeBorgne, Ph.D., CCC-SLP. Clinical Director. Singing Voice Specialist & Voice Pathologist

With first hand experience taking some of the classes, I learned a great deal about healthy ways to manipulate sounds to achieve overall vocal goals, it just must be closely monitored by a singing teacher and what the vocalist feels.  Going back and forth between singing a variety of styles helps you solidify your technique and minimize vocal abuse just as a runner who instills yoga into their training for a marathon keeps them flexible and strong.  It is by no means the only method of cross-training the voice, but valuable.

The continual development of music and the arts necessitate that we embrace cross-training and to help our singers to be versatile singers!  If we educate ourselves, we ensure their success.

Stay tuned next week for a discussion from another leading 'cross-training' pedagogue, Mary Saunders-Barton at Penn State University.

Read more detail about cross-training the voice in these sources:

NATS  (they now have a Classical and Musical Theater Competition)

Master of Fine Arts Degree in Voice Pedagogy in Musical Theatre at Penn State University

Sing like you speak by Sally Morgan

What do you think and what methods do you use?