It’s the end of a fantastic year and as we head into the holiday season, let’s make some time to reflect on our vocal health and what changes we can make for 2020! Join the discussion! Please let us know your questions ahead of time, or jump on the live chat with us! Click here to watch our facebook live at the Surrey Voice Clinic alongside Sherri Zelazny, Surrey Voice Clinic Clinical Director.
I have been teaching for a decade and I can always tell when a client comes into their lesson having practiced. It makes a HUGE difference to their progress and their vocal strength. Many of you sing everyday, are consistent with your practice, and you can already tell how much you’re progressing. Since you only come for a lesson once a week, or once every two weeks, it’s so important to have a structured practice regime outside of your training sessions.
This is the beauty of having your lesson recording. When listening back, try not to focus on how you sound in the lesson recording, and focus more on what the exercises feel like as you sing along. If you like to take notes, jot down some of the coaching tips I give you as you’re singing. Or make a mental note of what coaching points are always repeated, chances are those are habitual patterns that need to be worked on.
Here are some tips to help get you started on a more regular focused practice.
1) Pick 3-5 days at the start of your week and schedule in your practice times (no less than 3 days per week) – yes actually type or write this into your schedule, the time in which you are going to be practicing
2) Aim for 20-45 minutes of practice – with periods of rest – this may increase to one hour as you advance – always make time for short increments of vocal rest during your practice – straw work and sips of water etc.
3) Don’t go straight to your songs without working through the scales – scales are going to help you progress better in the songs
4) Listen and sing along with the recorded sequence of exercises:
5) Listen to the song(s) you are learning – active listening is paying close attention to the melody, follow along with the sheet music or lyrics, what is the singer doing, where does the song go?
6) Practice along with the singer – if you don’t have the correct melody, go back and listen to it again, if there is a riff that you need to learn, practice it slower – do you have precision and clarity on each melody note (approach notes and ‘not so important notes’ too!)
7) Having trouble on that one note? – take out the lyrics, and practice along with the vowel consonant combinations assigned (more details will be given in the application portion of the lesson)
8) Practice phrase by phrase, slowly – over and over again (3-5 minute increments)
9) Write down what came up for you that was challenging and bring that into your next session (you can also bring your practice journal in to share your progress)
10) Remember to have fun! The process of training is exciting and should be enlightening! Your voice will get stronger and more balanced and you will be able to sing more challenging material. Do not rush the process. Aim for progress vs perfection!
11) Change is good – if it doesn’t feel different from what you’re used to doing, chances are you aren’t making progress. Use this practice time to build better habits and better muscle memory which is going to feel different from how you approached singing before.
Thank you to all who attended our Singing After Vocal Injury webinar!
Thanks again to Sherri Zelazny from the Surrey Voice Clinic for co-presenting with me on such an interesting topic.
Thank you to all who attended our Vocal Health for Professional Voice Users webinar. I was happy to host this as Sherri Zelazny presented on a topic I am so passionate about. Here is the replay in case you missed it! Lots of great information on vocal anatomy, understanding your instrument and how it works, plus vocal pathologies. My personal favourite was when Sherri covered voice myth busters!
Thanks again to Sherri Zelazny from the Surrey Voice Clinic for her wonderful insightful presentation!
Please join us for a free and informative webinar on vocal health. Learn the latest and greatest info on voice therapy, and innovative vocal health strategies from Sherri Zelazny. If you are a voice user or voice professional don’t miss this free opportunity to learn more about your instrument. Bring questions if you have them!
Sherri Zelazny is a Registered Speech Language Pathologist with more than 30 years of experience. She pursued advanced clinical expertise in the area of Voice and Laryngeal Airway Disorders at the University of Wisconsin Madison Voice and Swallow Clinics. Her areas of special interest include voice evaluation and treatment, paradoxical vocal fold motion, voice therapy for Parkinson Disease, and community education.
Alida Annicchiarico is a vocal consultant has been a private voice instructor for over 12 years, based in Vancouver, Canada. A graduate of UBC, a Certified Vocal Mentor Instructor as well a member in good standing with NATS, she has worked with some of the world’s top groundbreaking voice instructors as well as vocal health professionals. She is passionate about helping singers and performers to understand their instrument better and train so they can avoid vocal fatigue or injury.
Click here to register.
I recently had a discussion with a speech therapist who suggested that a lot of singers don’t actually know what their voices look like. Sometimes, it’s only when they are at a visit with the ENT or SLP that they finally get to see the vocal folds on a screen upon examination. She also made me further aware of how important it is that singers are educated in how the voice works and especially how to care for it, after all, it is their instrument. Preventing injuries and voice disorders can be challenging especially considering the crazy scheduling demands on professional singers these days. However, I agree that it’s crucial singers are educated on the importance of maintaining vocal hygiene because by doing so it can minimize the risk of vocal health issues later. Not only that, it can ensure longevity in their career.
So what is ‘vocal hygiene’ anyway and what steps can we take to make it happen? Vocal hygiene is the practice of maintaining and caring for your instrument both on and off stage. A lot of times we as singers are more focused on the music, the songwriting, the performance, the audience, the rehearsals…the list goes on and on. Those are all very important aspects to the art of singing. But equally important are steps we can take to maintain our instrument. Here are just some of the ways to keep your vocal hygiene in check:
Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Simply put, if the body is healthy, the voice is healthy. Ensuring you get restorative sleep nightly, and maintaining a nutritious diet are both contributing factors to vocal hygiene. With nutrition it is all about researching what works best for you. If you suffer from acid reflux or allergies (which can effect the vocal folds) seek advice from a medical professional. Whatever you put in your body affects the voice, so avoid toxic substances. Physical exercise can help increase your lung capacity and can contribute to better stamina when singing on stage. Plus it gives you more energy and awareness of posture which is important in singing. So taking steps towards a healthy lifestyle definitely counts towards vocal health.
Commit to overall hydration. Vocal folds work much better and don’t fatigue as fast with moisture. Hydration doesn’t mean chugging down huge amounts of water the day of your performance or lesson. Rather, experts suggest that a commitment to overall hydration (daily intake of water) is much more efficient. You want to keep your vocal cords moist all the time. If you live in a dry environment, or suffer from dry throat, steaming the voice has been recommended by vocal professionals as a way of keeping the area moist.
Exercise your voice daily. Daily vocalizing sessions to warm up the voice are so important. But also vocal development and honing in on the areas of the voice that are challenging to develop on your own. For example areas above the chest area (as we refer to as the “mix” area or even head voice) can be difficult to sing into without any training. A qualified voice teacher will be able to assign you specific exercises to warm up the voice but also increase your vocal balance in those difficult areas.
Work on your speaking voice. How you use your speaking voice on a day to day basis counts towards vocal hygiene. If you are speaking aggressively or shouting excessively, or using it way too much, you are more likely to fatigue your voice. If your occupation requires you to speak for long periods of time, ensure you are speaking with enough pitch inflections. Moving your voice in pitch will allow it to not just stay in the same position all day. (Imagine just standing in the same position all day long and not moving around much). Vocal cords needs to be stretched a little here and there and using more than just one pitch to speak on will allow more movement.
Take time for vocal rest. If you use your voice frequently throughout the day in your occupation, or for singing or public speaking, be sure to take time out of your day to rest your voice.
The process of keeping your voice healthy requires awareness and commitment and can be quite challenging. Start today to make small changes in keeping vocal hygiene in check. Your voice will thank you for it!
Are you an established artist looking for a vocal tune-up?
Are you in an artist development phase in your career looking to advance your singing skills?
Are you a professional singer that has experienced vocal fatigue or vocal health issues in the past?
Alida Vocal Studio is pleased to offer 30 minute Vocal Rebalancing Sessions.
From July 9th to the 23rd receive $20.00 off using the promo code: SUMMER18
*offer valid for new clients only
Don’t miss this opportunity to tune up your voice and get it back into shape!
Sessions are held in person or online via Zoom.
Are you a singer who really wants to get better at singing riffs? A riff (sometimes called ‘run’) is a pattern of descending or ascending notes on one syllable at rapid pace. Riffs have their origin in gospel and jazz and can be found in R&B, country, rock, dance, pop and even more recently contemporary musical theatre. Find an easy and short riff pattern to start and follow these tips:
Step 1: Pick an easy riff with not too many notes, from a song you like. Play the riff on piano or guitar to make sure you have all the right notes.
Step 2: Sing the riff with a consonant on each note, such as “buh, buh, buh, buh buh” or “nuh nuh nuh”. Take vibrato out and sing it on a straight tone only so there is more clarity on the notes.
Step 3: Take the consonant out and put a gentle glottal stop on each note (such as “ah. ah. ah.” or try it on “m. m. m.“ to get your voice to feel that separation between each of the notes within the pattern.
Step 4: Take the glottal stop out and just use a pure vowel such as “uh”, “oh” or “ay”.
Step 5: Start to speed up the riff, slowly increasing the tempo until the notes are all clean. Don’t merge any of the notes, if you have done that, then you have sung it too fast. Try not to push too much air while singing the riff. (This will help you keep that resistance of air pressure to be able to sing several notes in succession at a quick pace)
Step 6: Repeat the riff many times until you have it smooth. Repetition of the riff pattern will also build muscle memory on how to move from one note to the next with a clear separation of the notes. (versus clumping the notes altogether)
To get better at riffs, practice riff scales on a regular basis. Voice Tutor app has an amazing ‘riff and run’ section. Or download “Funky Vocal Licks” by John Fluker on iTunes. Natalie Weiss’ web series “Breaking Down the Riffs” is also super fun! Keep listening to Gospel, mowtown, R&B, Jazz and artists who riff quite a bit. (Callie Day, Karen Clark Sheard, Smokie Norful, Steve Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Usher and Tori Kelly just to name a few) Even if you are a country, pop or musical theatre singer, listening to Gospel or R&B will help you gain a better ‘ear’ for riff patterns. Before you know it, you willl be riffing effortlessly!
Alida is a singer and vocal coach based in Vancouver, Canada. A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida holds an IVA Advanced Certificate in voice teaching. She is also certified in Speech Level Singing and is a member of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing). Alida has been teaching voice for 9 years to clients from the Lower Mainland as well as across Canada and worldwide.