Thursday, January 20, 2011

Singing without the outer muscles of larynx

The first thing you have to do is develop the muscles inside the larynx so that when you sing any given pitch the muscles inside the larynx have the strength, flexibility and conditioning they need to work without the help of any outer muscles.

You do this by increments. The first thing you have to do is accept that your intrinsic muscles (the inner muscles of the larynx) are not developed yet to sing the pitches your desire (those loud high notes) without the help of the outer muscles. So you start at point one and develop them from there. Point one means a light and easy voice that does not require the help of any of the outer muscles. To make sure that they're not helping you out look at yourself in the mirror when you vocalize and make sure that not a single muscles on your face and/or neck is showing any activity. When you make sound this way it means that the intrinsic muscles are doing the work, instead of your face, neck, jaw or tongue muscles. By the way, the tongue can be trickier to monitor so vocalizing with a finger in your mouth on a single vowel slide and making sure that the tongue is not moving at all (the tongue should not be involved in the pitch creation process... it is an outer muscle that should only be used for vowel and consonant shaping).

When you let go of all your external muscles you will feel that you have no control over the voice, because you are so accustomed to using them that you'll feel at a loss when you let them go.

Only when your outer muscles are relaxed are your intrinsic muscles doing the work (which makes them become stronger, more flexible and conditioned to work independently) and are you on the road to vocal freedom.

You have to be able to put the quality of sound in the back-burner and give sole priority to muscular independence and efficiency. Whenever you are using your face, neck, tongue or jaw muscles to produce sound you are making those muscles stronger! The vocal folds are very very small and if you want to make them stronger you have to make sure that they are working independently.

If you vocalize with muscle efficiency in mind instead of sound you intrinsic muscles will become a lot stronger and more flexible and your voice will be conditioned to work more efficiently. Vocalizing is a million times more effective than singing songs for improving the voice because you don't have to focus on words, emotion, phrasing or performance. In vocalizing you're building your skills and in singing you are using your skills. The more built your skills, the better your singing. So building your skills first is the way to go!

If you want to learn more about this, there are many excellent books out there that you can read. But I would recommend that you start with a simple one and as you learn read other more technical ones. Start out with "The Rock-and-Roll Singer's Survival Manual" by Mark Baxter. It will help you a lot.

Remember, it takes time to build your voice. I hope this helps.

Why We Can't Sing Well

Let's see if we can keep this simple and practical. Here's the list of why most of us can't sing as well as we hope.

1 - We are trying to use our favorite singer as a reference - doing this inextricably leads to trying too hard and becoming easily frustrated. Just like you can't look exactly like someone else (even if you wear make up, do your hair and have surgery done) you can't sing exactly like someone else (even if you stylize your voice, use tension and change your vocal approach). The solution is to understand that you are a unique individual who has a unique voice. You can't sound like your favorite singer just like your favorite singer can't sound like you! Be fair! (This is usually an extremely difficult pattern to break)

2 - We are not released enough - the most common reason for not developing our true potential as singers is because we are too tense. The big muscles (arms, shoulders, chest, stomach, back, legs) are usually tense... these are somewhat easier to release through stretching and movement. These big tensions usually lead to forcing the voice, something that doesn't go well with the tiny, tiny vocal cords. They just don't work well when forced. Even harder to release, and more subtle are the tensions in the neck, tongue, jaw, mouth, lips, face and throat. If these muscles aren't release there will be great difficulty for the vocal cord to operate well with the air. These are extremely hard to detect and subtle tensions when one isn't being guided by an excellent teacher. The solution is to release the body, neck, jaw, tongue and throat -- this can be hard to do because it will inevitably expose all our vocal inabilities. A teacher can be of immense help in the area.

3 - We are not developed enough (our vocal cords are not flexible enough, strong enough and coordinated enough) - if your vocal cords aren't developed enough, with a good balance of the high and low registers, the is no way you will be a great singer. There is no way to develop the tiny muscles within the larynx if you are not released enough. If you haven't released enough to insure that the vocal folds are getting all the attention and development you will never develop the voice. You have got to overcome all unnecessary tightness in order to really start developing. There is no two ways about it. We may not be happy with how we sound when we have released it all, we might crack, sound weak, thin, whimpy, shaky, uncoordinated and very crappy. This is when the TRUTH of the matter gets exposed. Most of us are way too afraid to allow this radical exposure to happen -- this is why most of us never learn to really sing well. We are just too reluctant to hearing the truth of our released voices. The solution is to RELEASE and allow the muscles within the larynx to work independently and develop. If we never allow this, we never really grow. It's that simple.

Okay, that's about it. Another point that's critical to mention is that the role of the analytical, rational mind in this is simply to remain quiet and do nothing. Ideally, this is an entirely experiential process, it's got to do more with sensation and it is a very objective and natural process. Our analytical minds just tend to jump in and judge, condemn and distract us. It takes a highly objective and mature person to be able to bypass the ultimately useless comments of the mind and stay focused on the HEART of the matter. The most power the analytical mind has is the power to make COMMENTS, which is no power at all. Why? Because the comments have nothing to do with the ACTUAL REALITY. They're just freaking comments!!!

Staying objective and natural is the fastest way to true growth and harmony. If you want to learn how to sing, you have got to shut up and do the work. It's super essential, it will save you years of time and will work like the magic you've always dreamed of. Of course, it will take TIME. Development takes time, no matter what it is we are referring to. How long? Well... the sooner you shut up and do the work, the sooner you'll find out. And when you truly shut up, it won't matter to you!!!

What good and healthy singing feels like...

Hi all...
For some reason I just came up with the idea of writing this article. It is not a technical overview of the process of singing, but more a log of personal opinions and experiences I've had with singing. I believe that it is a relief once in a while for a singer in training to veer off the overly technical mind. I am not suggesting that you should abandon your job as a singer to learn the most about how the voice works and train it to be an instrument that is reflective enough to respond to thought without anything getting in the way of the process. That said, here is what I believe:

Good and healthy singing feels physically, mentally and emotionally stimulating. Good singing feels just like that, good. There is absolutely no pain involved. This type of singing comes from the magic of allowing the voice to sing itself and not making it do what we want, but letting it do what it wants to do! In other words, the best singing comes from NOT trying too hard. If you are trying to hard you might want to reconsider your technique or approach to singing because you are not doing the most important thing in art: TRUSTING YOURSELF.

Trust is a very big thing in good singing... and I don't mean the trust that says "This high note will come out" but the trust that doesn't say anything, the trust that goes directly to where it wants to go... the relaxed, free and natural way. Learning to sing well is in my opinion synonymous to learning how to trust your voice. Again, if you trust your voice you will not force it, you will allow it to flow out of you.

It takes time getting there, and patience is an invaluable quality for the singer, impatience leads to getting ahead of oneself... meaning that you will reveal your limitations by forcing yourself beyond them. Do only what you can, because what you can't do, you can't do no matter what. Your voice can do more things than you know, the trick is to discover those things by exploring your true voice. Your true voice is the one that sounds like you and not like somebody else! Imitation is a very limiting practice for a singer. It takes time to find your true voice, but don't forget that this is the main task of the good singer -- no faking allowed. Nobody likes fake people. Faking your voice is offending. Be yourself... it's the only way to be unique.

When you vocalize I suggest you start out with what feels easy and free... then as you challenge yourself a bit more make sure it feels just like those free and easy sounds.

As you are singing DO NOT LISTEN TO YOUR VOICE... the way it feels inside is far more important that the way it sounds to you! Once you hear a sound it has already been produced and if you listen to yourself you will attempt to manipulate it and get in the habit of trying. Focus on the feeling, both physical and emotional that you are experiencing, that way you will get out of your own way and allow your artistic message to flow naturally: without interfering. If you think you sound horrible let it be! Being yourself is more important than sounding like you would like to sound. What the audience wants from a singer is not to hear how good he sounds, but how he feels about what he is singing. Not how he feels about his sound, but how he feels about the message he is delivering. Stop trying to impress people, bragging is unimpressive to say the least. Doing with no pretense is brave and very admired by the audience. If you allow the audience to see that you were born to sing the song you're singing, that everything that is coming out of your mouth is exactly what you intended to achieve they will listen to your message and will connect with it.

I'm done with this... I've just discovered many thing that I thought I should share with you fellow singers!

Keep singing!

A Sense of Independence

Singing well is all about balance, a balance that is only achieved when the muscles that produce the voice are working in a manner that is independent from those muscles that are not responsible for producing the voice.

In short, all the muscles that are not basically responsible for creating a tone should lay off and let the voice work in a free environment.

The most basic thing you should know is that your outer neck muscles, your facial muscles, your jaw and your tongue are not fundamental muscles for sound making. I like to imagine that all that exists are my air system and my vocal cords. When these two are in perfect balance everything else takes care of itself, when any of the muscles I listed tries to jump in to "help" then we are on the path to trouble.

I made this brief, simplistic and rather absurd analysis to give all of you with a million questions, a million distraction and a million worries something to focus on for the next year. If you focus on making your air and vocal cords independent from all other muscles your voice will slowly start building until you have an instrument that you can rely on.

I remember being the one wanting to know all this stuff about the voice, I was just desperately looking to learn the "techniques" that would make my voice be just as good as singers on the radio. I was incredibly distracted, I was just looking for more and more information and I wanted to be as good as someone other than me. Many of you will read this and find that this makes sense, but that will be it. It will not be until you experience what I'm talking about that you will be able to fully appreciate what I am saying. Here it goes...

What we are looking for is to make the act of singing SIMPLER. We are looking for the easiest way of producing sounds. Keep this in mind everytime you feel yourself tensing up and straining. When you are vocalizing you are looking for minimal external muscle involvement. Keep this in mind when you're making funny faces or your neck looks like it's about to blow up.

Now I want to write about why I chose "A Sense of Independece" for the subject. Basically, if you don't have a voice teacher, a mirror should be all you need until you reach a level of singing that feels easier, a level of singing that you feel you can trust and rely on. Until then, you really shouldn't have that many questions for anyone other than yourself. Just ask yourself, how can I make this easier? And go for it. You'll make mistakes, a ton of them, there isn't one trained singer who didn't make hundreds of mistakes when he/she was training, what makes you think you should be different? Be independent! Listen to your body, listen to yourself... you know what to do. Many of you are very young, but that doesn't mean you have to be dumb. You can actually choose to be smart and accept reality.

I lost motivation in writing this already, but hopefully you get something out of it.

Good luck all.

Why singing is hard

Well I haven't seen anything good on this forum for a while, so let's see if I can make a contribution of some sort. Not that there's anything wrong with this forum being kinda dead for a while, it's the nature of life. There are high tides and low tides, right?

Anyway, I'm just writing a few lines on why "singing is hard."

Here it goes...

This may not be what you were expecting to hear but the reason singing is so hard is actually because it is SO EASY. That may not make sense to you, but here it goes...

Since singing is so easy and takes so little effort (in comparison to what we may think) it is very easy to screw it up. It's like a very gentle flower that has to be handled with care, any roughness and you mess the flower up. Well that's kind of what singing is like. Singing is literally as easy as talking - with the obvious exception that vowels are sustained at certain pitches and at a certain volume. When we erroneously think that it is a lot more difficult that speech we dial in way too much effort and strain to try and make it happen. So keep this in mind. If singing isn't feeling easy you are TRYING TOO HARD. I guess this is what I've been trying to say every time I write "Let it happen, don't force it." Just let singing be as easy as sustained pitches. If you do anymore it becomes really hard. So stay close to home, close to neutral instead of trying to be in a different gear. Just stay there and you'll see how EASY it REALLY is. You will be so shocked. I can never get over how EASY singing actually is. And that's precisely the thing, it's SO EASY that any trying any harder than necessary and any believing that it's hard will quickly leave us all tensed up and chasing our own tails. So as paradoxical as it sounds, as contradicting as it sounds singing is "hard" because it is incredibly EASY!

Keep this in mind next time you vocalize or you sing.

Hope this helps you singers! Much, much, much love to everyone out there!

The Benefits of Cracking

I would like to write about the benefits of allowing your voice to crack.

This isn't talked about much in vocal study circles, but it is essential. Cracking is a vocal reality.

There is an incredibly fine line between cracking and good singing. I didn't really have many vocal breakthroughs until I allowed myself to crack. I discovered that from the place your voice cracks to the place your voice sounds as amazing as you dream it to sound there is close to no distance. It is when we cover the cracking up that we get miles away from good singing. All your efforts to cover up cracking are the very efforts that limit your voice tremendously. Cracking happens when the registers abruptly shift. And isn't finding a smooth, seamless transition what vocal training is all about?

The first thing we need to become familiar with is where the cracking happens. In vocal study circles the single most addressed issue seems to be the "break," the "break" is that place where the voice has a huge tendency to break. What we do is use a ton of "techniques" to cover this up. We "modify the vowel," change the "placement" of the tone, "support" more, modify out "vocal tract," etc. All these things are cop outs, they are what we would call "insurances." But we should drive without insurance - we are not risking another persons life when we crack, we are not even risking our throat. In fact, it is when we try to cover the cracks up that we are risking everything. We risk our throats, our performance and our audience. It's all a fear of being naked. We want out clothes and our clothes are our "techniques."

I find that I sing my best when I'm not using any sort of "technique" - when I started out all I wanted to learn where the "tricks," all the "techniques" that would get me off the hook. Now that I know how things REALLY work, I see that all of these were efforts to avoid the truth. The truth is we crack, and we crack a lot.

Learning to sing is like learning anything else, it takes a lot of failing before you can call yourself an expert. I am not an expert and I still push, and strain a lot. But there are magical days when I'm just too tired to try and be amazing. Ironically these are the days when I am amazing. People start crying, getting excited, cheering, standing up and joining me on the journey that I am taking them. It is the days when I'm relaxed. When I'm just out of juice to push.

Pushing can definitely help cover up the cracks, but the downside of it is that it numbs the audience and it numbs the performance. It makes them feel like they're being shouted at by their parents, sometimes this works beautifully, and sometimes it doesn't. Pushing is also by far the greatest limiting trick you can perform, it limits you in all ways. It doesn't matter whether you're pushing a low C or a high C, it's all pushing and it's all just, well, pushing.

I love pushed singing, I love rock and I love screaming, don't get me wrong, but when it becomes the standard, well it's just… like next.

My favorite rock singers are those who can sing and can push real well. I may start off loving a voice pusher, but by the third song I'm looking for the exit sign.

In that sense I'm gifted and cursed. I can really push my voice and strain and use a ton of muscles and still sound like I'm singing well and pushing well and people still congratulate me and like it, but it's not the same as when I expose my reality. I've had performances in which I've cracked one of two or three times and people have loved them a lot more than when I don't. Because I'm at the fine line of reality and a vocal illusion, I find people are looking for the reality. In many cases this is what they call the "it" factor. You may not have it in your singing, but even if you have it on some aspect of your personality it works well.

Kris Allen, is that his name? The new American Idol certainly doesn't have it in his singing, but he certainly does have it in his personality. And he has it in his guitar and piano playing. Adam Lambert has it in his singing, and is one of the few that has had it. He is hailed, by some as the "greatest Idol ever." But Kris still won. So far I love Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert, they have that loose throat going and it makes so much of them available when they sing. Have you noticed?

So it's like a razor's edge. It's right in between falling apart, breaking, cracking and being all exposed and pushing a tad too much. When you learn to sing here you will have "it." But it takes a tremendously deal of courage which comes from trust, which comes from… you guessed it, practice!

But make sure your practice isn't targeted around not cracking. And make sure you are vocalizing and not singing. Why? Because in singing your focus almost by force goes into how you sound, and when you vocalize the focus should be in how it's all operating. It can take a long time to find "it," many, many years. But the sooner you get cracking, the sooner you'll get there.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Independence of a Star

Do you want to be a copy or do you want to be a star? I haven´t done my research, but I am going to take a wild guess that all stars are unique. There isn't one star that looks exactly like another. They are all unique, just like snowflakes and all else in nature.

For humans the discovery and embodiment of this uniqueness can become really tricky business. We have self-awareness and are endowed with amazing imitation capabilities, which is good. It means we can learn to speak, read and write and dress and drink tea and all that. But it can also become a huge obstacle. See, my writing of this is star, unique writing. There is no editing and no pre-meditation, it´s just what flows out of my fingers. Just like most of my articles since my star-realization. I am a star, are you?

I wasn't always a star, I used to be a huge Ricky Martin imitator and wanna-be. My goal in life used to be being Ricky Martin. Literally. I had to be him. I am not exaggerating. I am sure many of you are going through this or have gone through this. May you feel free to confess your name and say what kind of issues you have keeping from being a star -- namely who you are trying to imitate and what is holding you back.

What holds me back is what hold most stars back, fear of shining too bright and blinding people. I am a considerate star. I know there is close to no modesty in what I write.

Let me tell you why you are a copycat or a wanna-be. It´s not your fault. You were brainwashed since conception. The self-awareness gift/curse humanity is endowed with has made room for a lot of confusion. We lose ourselves in images and ideas very easily, it´s because we are so creative. We have to learn to channel this creative energy and use it wisely. For this we must find out not things ABOUT ourselves but who we ACTUALLY, DIRECTLY are.

How? Inquire. Who am I? What am I? What´s the truth? What´s prior to everything? What´s beyond everything?

Deep, deep questioning, if that interests you and you want to discover the creative star way -- that´s your ticket. Stillness, questioning, contemplation, meditation, earnestness and deep interest in wanting to know who you truly are.

This is already happening to a lot of people, and if you got as far as here reading this, you guessed it... you are one of them! So keep questioning and find out who YOU are.

Have fun!