Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yoga is good for singing, but is jogging? How do you know what exercise you do is good for your singing?

Yoga is good for singing, but is jogging?  How do you make sure what exercise you do is good for your singing too?  Last week we discussed the many ways that yoga and finding balance are good for singing.  So is cardiovascular exercise including jogging, running, or fast walking! As long as you are generally in good health, now is a perfect time to add jogging to your exercise and singing regime.  You can add it outside to get that much desired fill of nature in spring!

Jogging is cardiovascular, it gets your heart and lungs working, increases circulation, lowers your breathing, and give you a positive outlook on life as a result of released endorphins.  All of these things take care of your overall health and have a positive impact on singing.  The better your lungs work, the better your breath control.  The stronger your overall body is, the better your endurance in performances.  The more positive your outlook on life, generally the more productive you are in practice, rehearsal and performance.

How do you make sure you avoid any negative affects of starting a jogging routine?

1.  Make sure you generally are in good health.
2.  Buy good running shoes.
3.  Jog on unpaved surfaces as much as possible (outdoor track, grass or stone paths, treadmill)
4.  Breathe through your nose!
    * The nose is a natural filter of dust, dirt, and pollen.  It reduces irritation of the lungs and upper respiratory system.
    * The nose filters air and adds humidity to your system.
    * Nasal breathing triggers the lungs to expand more fully and easily.  It encourages you to use deep   breathing that we need to sing.
    * If you have a stuffy nose, it generally opens up after a little bit of running due to adrenaline in your system.
5.  Embrace the emotional component or 'runner's high'.  Your brain function increases, your thoughts are clearer and you feel better about life!

After you run, try singing.  You should find that you are breathing easier, can sustain phrases well, and have a positive and creative attitude towards solving any singing puzzles you may encounter.  Not only are you doing something good for your physical and mental well-being, but your singing too!

Please let me know your thoughts about adding running to your routine and how it impacts your singing!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Yoga and Balance are synonymous. But how can yoga and balance related activities help your singing!

Yoga and balance- a synonym for those who do yoga.  But how can yoga and other balance related activities help your singing?

As an avid yogi, I often discuss the benefits of yoga for the singing voice to my students.  It calms your breath and nerves, opens up the body to breathe better, elongates your spine for better posture and therefore breath support.  A myriad of benefits.  Lets look at the science as to why!

In Make Your Unstable Life Work for You, Claudia Friedlander describes the science of how the balance of yoga can really help your singing!  I was fascinated with how she described what I use often in my studio.  I highly recommend what she has to say!  Let me try to explain it with a few references to her words (in italics):

Stand up and find your balance on one foot, bringing your other foot up to your calf or above your knee, and raise your hands above your head (tree pose).  Feel how you find balance and how your leg, hip, ankle adjust to keep the balance.  It is a series of continuous, incremental adjustments.  Find a sustained phrase from your repertoire that is challenging and sing it while in this pose.  You may find that this passage is now much easier to sing.  WHY?  Finding this balance has put your neuromuscular system on high alert making all motor activity that you engage in benefit.  It cannot lock up like your knees might or stop and start as the breath might because everything is going in to you keeping your balance.  This makes total sense.

As Friedlander states, Singing, like balancing, is a continuous activity.  The more you think about locking up a part of your body to balance, the more possible it is for you to fall over.  The more you think about holding pitches rather than continuing the breath through them, the more difficult they are to sustain.  Find activities that promote stability through continuous movement such as tree pose, walking the phrase, or pretending to throw a baseball with a slow follow through.

Balance and stabilization can:

- Enhance body awareness (improve your mind/body connection to your voice)
- Promotes good posture (free larynx, improve resonance, coordinate better breathing)
- Make you more comfortable and graceful moving on stage
- Stabilize your joints so that you can safely exercise and maximize your stamina (cardio and strength training)
- Teaches your neuromuscular system to create stability through continuous movement that impacts all of your physical activities

Singers should have a workout regimen that includes stabilization training to balance their muscles. Challenging your ability to keep your balance and maintain good posture throughout a series of movements prepares your body and your nervous system to perform movements requiring greater strength and fine motor coordination.  (Fine motor coordination that is essential to quality singing).

How do you do this?

A variety of activities but specifically Yoga, stability ball activities, and functional strength activities (keeping your balance on one foot while manipulating small dumbbells in bicep curls) are a few ways to get started.  As you exercise in these ways, you are challenging your body and brain to stabilize through movement.  This works on the neuromuscular control necessary to develop stability both physically and in your singing.

Secure vocal technique is characterized by stable, consistent tone production.  This requires superb coordination and balance of everything that contributes to singing.  Until you find this, you are tempted to lock up and stiffen things.  Like physical stability, vocal stability is the result of continuous directed movement.  The way to get it is to expose the instabilities in your technique so that you can improve overall balance in the voice rather than gripping.

In other words, use balance related activities and workout regimens to help you truly balance your vocal technique and release tension.  Give it a try, it's pure genius!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Continuity is the key to success in singing and music, but how do you find the balance?

Continuity is the key to success in singing, but how do you find the balance of practice, lessons, and the rest of life?

The key to success in any art is continuity, especially in music.  You fine tune that talent over and over to make it perfect.  Your muscles and your brain remember what to do to make that perfect sound and how it feels to truly make it the best it can be. Continuing lessons on a consistent basis and regularly practicing in between lessons paves the road to success.  But how do you balance that with the rest of your life?

There are two types of singers that should be addressed:  the voice student (young high school, middle school, college or adult student) and the professional singer.

The regular pattern of practicing and always making time for lessons in a weekly schedule can sometimes seem daunting to a singing student.  The continuity of lessons is pertinent to singing success. In addition to regular lesson attendance, one must practice in between lessons what the teach assigns (both exercises and songs) to maximize improvement.  If the student merely shows up on a regular basis but does not work on the vocalise or repertoire in between, progress slows.

It sounds tough I know, but you can find ways to schedule practice time into your daily routine. Write it in your planner.  Put a reminder in your phone for the time you said you would practice.  Schedule it as a break for studying for that math test.  Promise it is the one thing you will do for yourself that day as a busy mom.

Of course life happens and you have a busy week or intense tests at school or you need to help a family member.  That is expected.  But, make regular practice a part of your normal routine and let NOT practicing be the exception to the rule.  If you can't practice one week, commit to go to your lesson and let the teacher know.  There are still things that you can do and so long as it is not a regular occurrence, most teachers appreciate the honesty and work from there.

The instability of performing for a living can also be very tough to manage.  Finding the time to practice when you have very long rehearsals everyday or are travelling.  It can be intense, but there are things you can do.  Look at the music and hear how you sing it in your head.  Map out the breaths, analyze the text, make it a part of you mentally so then you can make it a part of you physically in rehearsal. Record yourself in practice (especially when it is a good one) and listen to it again and again so you know you are remembering it and 'singing' it correctly.  Work on learning the melody of new music by listening to it.  There are things that can be done, sometimes we just have to get creative.

How does this affect the rest of our lives?  Make time for other things that are important to you too.  It is essential to have balance in your life.  Exercise, spend time with family and friends, or doing another activity you enjoy.  It is all important.  Sometimes we have to make sacrifices as a musician and cut the time with friends down a little bit, or workout for 30 minutes instead of going to that 1 hour class or playing the whole game of baseball.  Find the balance that works for you that still enables you to get in your lessons and your practice time!  Music is something you will have for the rest of your life!

There are different ways of finding balance in your life with your practice, be creative and you will figure it out!  Stay tuned next week for how you can find vocal stability and fix instabilities in vocal technique through finding physical stability.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Musical Theater Productions Abound- What can YOU do to make sure you are a part of it next time?

High school and Middle School Musical Theater Productions are happening all over the place right now.  'Tis the season.  Go and watch them if you are not in them.  Practice and have fun if you are performing.  It is a fun season of the year and can get you motivated to work on your own singing!

What can you do to make sure you are a part of them (or a larger role in them) next year? Work on your TRIO of talents:  Singing, Acting, and Dancing.  All 3 combined make the balanced musical theater artist who will land that big role! One may be your forte or strength and then you focus and dabble in the other two when you are not in a show or over the summer or in between semesters in college.  Find a time when you can add an intensive program, camp, or add some lessons in the other areas.  If you are primarily a singer, take an acting class or dance class over the summer to learn more about a different aspect of musical theater performing.  If you are primarily an actor, research a way you can put a little bit of singing training or movement/dance into your year.  Perhaps you take singing lessons all year and take acting in the fall and dance in the spring to get it all in.  Of course doing all 3 would be great, but time is short with the quick pace of our world.  Explore how you can learn a little of each to improve your skills.  Many summer programs include a little of 2 or 3 of the talents.

We all have one strength out of the TRIO of talents, but all are needed to be a successful performer in musical theater (at schools and on Broadway).  You really must work the whole of the 3 part package for maximum success.  Have fun and happy performing!