5 Ways to Maintain Vocal Hygiene

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!

Book an online voice lesson.

6 Steps to Learning Riffs

Are you a singer who really wants to get better at singing riffs? A riff (sometimes called ‘run’) is a stylistic melodic pattern of descending or ascending notes usually on one syllable (a vowel) at a fast pace.  Riffs in contemporary music have their origin in Gospel and Jazz and can be found in many contemporary genres.

In order to get better at singing riffs, you have to build vocal agility.  Vocal agility, simply put, is the ability to get your voice to move from note to note with precision, pitch accuracy, free from any tension.

Before starting the steps below, it’s best to warm up your voice (check out my vocal workouts).  Then practice basic major scale patterns moving from note to note on some pure vowels such as “ee” or “oh”.  So for example, take the C major scale and sing it on an “ee” or “oh” vowel. (ascending and descending)

Then, you may be more warmed up to take on a riff from a song!

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. Or simply ‘break it down’ listening to it in smaller sections.  Count how many notes there are.

Step 2:  Sing the riff with a consonant on each note, such as  “no, no, no” or “nuh nuh nuh”.  Be sure there isn’t any tension and not too much volume when you are aiming for that precision in each note.  Sing each note slow with pitch accuracy and get the riff precise, and then slowly repeat it and start to speed it up.

Step 3:  Take the consonant out and sing it on a pure vowel (such as “oh” or “oo”)  Get your voice to feel that separation between each of the notes within the pattern. Don’t add a ton of volume yet, keep your volume at a medium level.

Step 4:  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 5:  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)

Step 6:  Then go back and sing it with the original singer to get the tempo down.

To get better at riffs, practice riff scales on a regular basis.  Download “Funky Vocal Licks” by John Fluker on iTunes.  Natalie Weiss’ web series “Breaking Down the Riffs” on youtube is also super fun!  Keep listening to Gospel music , Motown, R&B, Jazz and artists who riff quite a bit.  (Callie Day, Karen Clark Sheard, Smokie Norful, Steve Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Usher, Tori Kelly, Jessie J, Demi Lovato 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!

Dealing with singing breathy?

Check out my new vocal workout for breathy singers!

Book an online private voice lesson.

How to Change Your Mindset About Singing

In her best selling book Mindset – The new Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck outlines the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.  A fixed mindset is the belief that what you are capable of is a fixed trait, like eye colour, you’re born with it and you can’t change it.  Whereas a growth mindset is like a muscle, when you put in the hard work and effort, your abilities can grow and flourish.

Singing is an activity that is notoriously known for being either you have “it” or you don’t.  In other words, the genius singers were singing from the moment they were born.

Yeah right, nothing can be further from the truth.  Btw, check out this great diagram:

Getting back to singers….take any genius singer and Wikipedia them and find out about how long they have been singing for and their training and background….

And even if they and “talent” (whatever that means) they were most likely  brought up in an environment that encouraged singing daily (whether at home church or school)

(Ps…parents don’t ever discourage your kids from singing even if you think it sounds bad….children need to be encouraged to use their voices….more on that in a later blog)

When it comes to growing as a singer here are some SHIFTS that need to happen:

1) train – work with a qualified singing and voice professional weekly or bi-weekly

2) learn from the constructive feedback that you’ve been given – record your lessons so you can practice daily -find out what you need to improve on

3) embrace the vocal challenges – it’s not always going to be easy, keep going, keep working – the challenges are what make you stronger as a singer

4) keep going…did I mention keep going?

5) view other’s success as inspiring – don’t worry, there’s room for everyone!

6) When you hear a good singer, L I S T E N!  Get inspired!  

7) One more thing…ignore the haters….and only work with people who offer you constructive feedback and effective tools!

 

 

Alida is a vocal coach and singer/performer based in Vancouver, Canada and has been teaching private voice lessons for 10 years.  A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida is also a Level 5 Certified IVA Voice Teacher.  

 

Are your vocal issues holding you back?

What if there was a miracle cure for all of your vocal troubles?  Well there kind of already is…

The number one game changer for singers is vocal technique, that’s right, you’ve heard it before, technique technique, technique….

As much as we try to avoid it, we may be bored by it, confused by it, don’t want to bother with it, wanna warm-up and go straight to songs, have better things to do like scroll through insta feeds….

The truth is:  your voice needs a daily workout.

Here’s why:

-When we avoid technique, we’re avoiding the problematic areas that will show up for us in the songs…so you will always ‘miss the mark’ if you just keep practicing the song only.

-Technique prepares you for the challenges you face in the song!  

-Also, it helps prevent vocal fatigue and injury…it makes singing easier!

Wanna game plan?

  1. book your next voice lesson

  2. record your vocal technique exercises with your phone during your lesson

  3. practice those tools daily BEFORE you hit the songs

  4. THEN…wait for my next blog….it’s coming soon….

  5. in the meantime keep do steps 1-3 

 

Alida is a vocal coach based in Vancouver, Canada and has been teaching voice to singers for 10 years.  A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida is also a certified Advanced IVA Voice Teacher.  

Happy World Voice Day!

“Today April 16th, 2018, marks World Voice Day!  This day was established 19 years ago to raise awareness of the importance of vocal health and to share resources on vocal science and pedagogy.  There are several events happening today across Canada and around the world.  Take a moment to read up on the voice and reflect on what your voice means to you!  The World Voice Day motto for 2018 is “Make the Choice to Cherish Your Voice“. What steps can you take today to ‘cherish’ your voice?

 

8 Ways to Improve Your Singing

We still tend to believe that someone is a great singer because they were born singing great or they have ‘natural talent.’ (There’s a term that’s thrown around a lot.)   But that isn’t true, it takes work, training and also effective coaching.  Here are just some of the ways we can improve our singing:

Find a vocal coach:

Work with a qualified voice teacher frequently to make sure you are on the right track with your voice.  At the end of your lessons be sure to ask your voice coach what to work on specifically in your practices.

Practice Smarter:

Keep your practices short, focused and productive.  Following along with your lesson recording is generally a good way to start.  Then taking sections of a song and working through the challenging bits.  If you are doing too much all at once your voice may get tired.  So it’s a good idea to make your practice regime shorter and more frequently throughout the week. Technique should come first, especially if you are still trying to build a balanced voice and are the beginning stages of vocal development.

Listen to great singers:

Don’t be afraid to listen to genius singers, in fact, build a playlist of them!  Singers from all genres of music and not necessarily mainstream artists.  Consult with a professional on which singers would be a great reference or inspiring for you to listen to.  While listening, take note as to how they are singing. What is their vibrato like? What is their range like?

Keep your voice healthy:

Vocal rest, hydration, sleep, vocal technique are all proven ways to make sure your voice is in healthy shape.  If you aren’t sure if your voice is healthy, consult with a voice therapist or medical professional.

“When people say artists are born with talent, you’re not. You have to really learn and really practice.” – Ed Sheeran on Jonathan Ross Show (2014)

Change your mindset:

Focus on the milestones you have achieved with your voice, take note of how and what you have improved on – then you are more likely to head in the right direction with your voice.  Constructive criticism is best, so work with a qualified vocal coach to ensure you are getting the right feedback.  Don’t let your ‘inner critic’ take control over your vocal progress.

Stop the comparing:

Since no two voices are alike, it’s impossible to sound like another singer.  It’s wonderful to listen to great singers and get a reference for what they are doing vocally.  But at the end of the day, it’s about finding your own voice.  Comparing isn’t constructive, it only confirms that you ‘can’t’ do what the other person is doing. Instead take baby steps towards improving your own voice and choose songs that challenge you, but that are not overly difficult at first.  Then work towards more difficult material once you have had enough training and guidance.

Perform:

Test out what you have learned – find an open mic, or if someone asks you to sing, SING!  Test out the waters and see if you can trust what you have learned and practiced!

Try out group singing:

In addition to working on your voice in a solo capacity, group singing is a wonderful way to connect with others but not only that, you can improve your musicianship.  Learning new songs, and harmonies, having to blend with other singers are just some of the ways that make group singing fun.

 

Alida is a singer, vocal coach and music educator based in Vancouver, Canada.  A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida holds an IVA Advanced Certificate in voice teaching. Alida has been teaching voice for over 9 years to clients from the Lower Mainland as well as across Canada and worldwide.  To book a lesson with Alida click here

 

Spring Singing Showcase

Sometimes having a singing goal to work towards motives us to practice more.  Performance opportunities don’t come that often, this is why I have created the Alida Vocal Studio Student Showcase!  This bi-annual event, gives my students an opportunity to perform 1 or 2 songs in front of a supportive and encouraging audience.  The audience is made up of friends and family mostly and we have professional accompanist join us on piano.

If you would like to sign up to sing at our next Student Showcase, please email me through the contact page and I will reply with the performance details and requirements.

When: Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Time: 3:30pm-5:00pm

Where: One Thousand Rivers  54 4th Ave E, 2nd Floor

Click here to RSPV.

 

 

Follow Alida Vocal Studio on Instagram!

To keep up with the latest info on the voice AND what my clients are up to, please follow Alida Vocal Studio on Instagram!

@alidavocalstudio

 

Stage Fright Webinar

When: Saturday, March 24th , 10:30am-11:30am

Where:  online via Zoom

Are you a singer, actor, performer, choir singer, or musician and WANT to do more performing but nerves stand in your way?

Whether it’s an audition or a live show, do nerves get the best of you?  Does stage fright prevent you from doing your best on stage or in the audition room?

Stage fright shouldn’t be something that holds you back from pursing your performance goals or performing better. There are ways to manage the nerves and STILL be able to win over your audience and land that audition.

This course will examine what stage fright is AND will give you tools and resources to help you perform better!

The webinar will take place on Saturday March 24th, at 10:30am and will last about one hour.

The cost is $15.00 and this includes:

Live interactive webinar, a recording of the webinar emailed to you AND a guided meditation from a wellness professional to use BEFORE your next performance!

Once you have registered you will be sent a browser link for the webinar by email. (Please check your spam folder incase you didn’t receive the link within 24 hours of registration)

On Feb. 24th at 10:30am, paste that link your browser and you will be able to attend live.

If you can’t attend live, we will email you a copy of the recording of the webinar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Vocal Confidence

It’s a new year and a fresh new start!  I have been training singers for almost a decade now and I’ve noticed the number 1 setback they encounter with their voices is their lack of vocal confidence.  Do you want to sing well but find you don’t have enough vocal confidence, and it sets you back from getting the best results?  My advice: start planting the seeds now towards building your vocal confidence and your singing will blossom by spring!

Train like an athlete.

Adopt the mindset of a vocal athlete, train weekly and practice daily.  Focus on improving your vocal strength, agility, range, breath management through studying vocal technique.   Consult with your vocal coach on what areas you need to improve on and also on repertoire selection.  Training is a huge part of growing your vocal confidence because…(and I love this quote)

Competence breeds confidence.” – Dan Millman, Body Mind Mastery

The more competency in your vocal technique, the more you will be able to have trust in your instrument and as a result your confidence will soar.

Do Some Self-work. 

Sometimes you have to get to the core of the emotional blocks that seem to get in the way of vocal progress.  It may require working on yourself outside of singing.  Journaling, attending workshops, studying performance psychology, and working with a therapist are just some of the ways that can help you on your vocal journey.  Body awareness techniques such as Alexander Technique, Yoga or even meditation, can go a long way in making sure you are in the right frame of mind to tackle your overall confidence.  Once you have worked on yourself, you are better equipped to handle the psychological challenges you will most likely face with singing.

Set Small Goals. 

Sometimes having a goal or a vision of where you’d like to go with your singing can give you the motivation to keep working.  Start small, as experts suggest small goals are more attainable and you will be more likely to strive towards them if you know they are achievable.  It can be recording one song, performing at an open mic or auditioning for a choir.  Set your intention and commit to making it happen.

 

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.