Emitting your voice outside your body, into the performance space…

 

Every singer is unique for sure!

But I am want to speak specifically to the difference between a singer who gets their voice outside their body into the space around them, and thus achieves what is known as ‘sonic return’. The word sonic has to do with sound waves or the speed of sound. We can say sonic waves.

In the theater, or any live performance where there is no amplification, the actor or singer used to have to set off acoustically, or sonically, the space they were singing in.  But with the use of amplification, most singers might not fill the space nor be understood today.

davidEmitting your voice outside your body, into the performance space…

Mirror Neurons: how infants learn

This is a brilliant example of how we learn.  There is something called mirror neurons in the from part of our brain (pre-frontal cortex) that have all to do with learning in relation to others.  Essentially, we learn through interaction and this is evident in this clip of this infant learning very quickly the fine motor skills that it takes to sing.

The old adage, ‘don’t do as I do, but do as I tell you to do’ has forever been proven false.  Children learn through our behavior, through their interactions with us, Whatever those around them model, they will become, or their version of it.

davidMirror Neurons: how infants learn

Julie Andrews eventually developed vocal nodules

I love Julie Andrew’s voice and have always loved her work.  I love it because I could always hear every word and her singing was relaxed and easy. Singing is really about telling the story and so we the audience needs to get every word clearly and easily.
She did have vocal nodules (nodes) eventually and I can see how that might have happened.  If you listen carefully, you hear that she inhales though her mouth, literally draws air in with her throat after many longer phrases.  And if you watch her body, you see that she uses her breath in a compressional way, meaning that rather than maintaining a lift and separation in the upper rib cage, her chest cavity compresses downward as she begins to sing the next phrase.  When you are younger, you can easily get away with singing like this.  But as you get older, from you mid thirties onward, this will have a wearing effect on your vocal apparatus, or your larynx. This can lead to irritation and eventually nodules.
Because she sang on stage a child onstage, she had put her time in her art and she had mastered the singing abilities that made her a sought after actor who sings.  But if you have not been taught how to keep the Sound Center and the Speech Center fully independent of one another, you may eventually cause your own vocal issues.  This is because your larynx is meant to be completely relaxed at all times while singing in order to allow it to ‘set off a vibration in the spinal column’ . This is called bone vibration and it is completely under the control of the ear.  We feel our own voice as bone vibration before we hear our own voice through air conduction of sound.  Bone vibration of our own voice is ten times faster than air conduction of our voice, based on the work of ear, nose and throat Dr. Alfred Tomatis and whose work I am trained in.
You have to learn the precise motor skills, or somatic motor skills, in order to have your larynx remain in complete relaxation in order not to generate irritation in the delicate vocal folds, that used to be called vocal cords.  This takes time to get it into what is called procedural memory, or body memory, if you don’t already have it innately. You also have to have superior listening capabilities while singing or again, you can eventually cause your audio-vocal loop to become dysfunctional due to poor vocal emission.
All this can be corrected with expert hands-on somatic work and listening training that corrects the listening posture (what I like to call the singer’s posture) as well as renormalizing the inner ear muscles that control singing.
davidJulie Andrews eventually developed vocal nodules

No Difference Between Whitney Houston’s Vocal System & Yours

“Here’s the science behind singing” October 01, 2016 

This PBS article maintains a conventional belief about how the vocal folds (used to be called vocal chords in the Larynx) function.   It interviews both Dr. Steven Zeitels, director of the Voice Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and well known opera singer,  Renee Fleming, who likens our vocal folds to the strings on a violin or piano. “Think of singing as plucking the strings” she says.

davidNo Difference Between Whitney Houston’s Vocal System & Yours

Transforming Performance Anxiety with NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback

Your brain is capable of much more than you even recognize.

One of the big issues we deal with as singers is performance anxiety. I am amazed at the multiplicity of ways that singers try to resolve it, only to discover that it can become bigger than ever.  I know because I am not only a voice trainer but a singer myself.  Having worked with singers since the early 1980’s. I know that anxiety is an issue for lots of us.  Perhaps it’s due to the pressure of competition, or because of self-esteem issues.  For me, I had low self-esteem and it is something that I have had to come to terms with in order to deal with it.  Whatever reason your anxiety exists, it can be debilitating and prevent us from doing what we love which is singing in for an audience.

davidTransforming Performance Anxiety with NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback

Michael Buble’ headed to vocal surgery.

So here is another famous singer having to go for surgery.  Michael has tons of experience onstage.  Why is he having vocal problems serious enough to have to cancel big money concerts and have a surgery on his very delicate vocal folds that no-one can really promise will solve his issue?
 
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Here’s what came across my desk:
 ‘NO SINGING’ Michael Bublé reveals shock emergency surgery on his vocal chords.
MICHAEL BUBLE’ has stunned fans by announcing he is having surgery on his vocal chords after canceling his upcoming shows this year.
 
I track these things and am following the stories of a handful of professional singers having surgery for vocal issues, this year alone.
 
Vocal surgery first came to the public’s attention when Julie Andrews went under the knife (1997) for problems singing, only to have the surgery go wrong. Here is that article from the Washington Post
 
Andrews was forced to quit the show towards the end of the Broadway run in 1997 when she developed hoarseness in her voice. She subsequently underwent surgery at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital to remove non-cancerous nodules from her throat.
 
Why do some singers, with years of experience, have to cancel work or worse, go for vocal surgery?
 
I have worked with professional singers since the early 1980s in New York City, having been trained by Broadway singing voice specialist Margaret Riddleberger, beginning in 1979.  Her background was at the Metropolitan Opera as well as a having completed a Masters Degree in the psychology of personality stress (what we call today trauma/traumatic stress). She studied with a woman renowned for teaching professional opera singers the motor skills needed to sing for long periods without ever having vocal problems. She trained me, and later we collaborated in developing the anatomical based teaching approach from the physiological side of the Bel Canto School.
 
Let’s unpack what could be happening when someone misuses/abuses their voice (even if they do not know they are doing it):
 
1. Natural singers can lack the technical skills needed to maintain a full-time schedule of performing. They have an instinctual talent and aptitude, but when pushed beyond their limits, can begin to have vocal irritation, sometimes leading to vocal fry and later, vocal cord nodules.
 

Vocal cord nodules (nodes) are benign (noncancerous) growths on both vocal cords that are caused by vocal abuse. Over time, repeated abuse of the vocal cords results in soft, swollen spots on each vocal cord. These spots develop into harder, callous-like growths called nodules.

davidMichael Buble’ headed to vocal surgery.

Article on Rolfing and singers

I read this article by a singer who was told about Rolfing and gave it a try.  It is well written and gives a general sense of what Rolfing can do for a singer.

I worked Rolfing singers from 1985 through 2002 in NYC, when I went to the Denver area to do a Masters in Counseling Psychology and to integrate psychotherapy into my work with singers.  My goal was to broaden my skills in helping singers with blocks in their expression.

 

davidArticle on Rolfing and singers

For many singers, finding their authentic voice is an unlearning process.

 singer
 
For most singers, finding their voice is an unlearning process.  Quite often, a person has developed habits that have been overplayed on their natural voice.  We acquire these habits from parents, the world we grew up in, and patterns that we pick up in the process of adapting in the world.  Since expressing ourselves is a function of relating with other humans and taking our space in the world, and since we are complex creatures, there are defenses, or unconscious habits, that we acquire that limit our full spectrum of expression.  Defenses protect fears that have been absorbed at an early time in childhood.  It is actually a normal process of development in a complex and intense society that have consequences that affect our vocal apparatus which is related to our heart center or our emotional center.
 
This is why, if you pay attention, each person has speech patterns that are unique to them.  More than regionalisms, these patterns are part of their ‘set’, the body’s ‘in the flesh’ memory patterns that tell of injuries, accidents, blocked emotions, stuck thought patterns, fears, and traumatic stress events that change the flow of speech and reshape how the voice is produced.  It is part of our personality and we don’t want to take it all away.  But for some people, they have achieved a threshold of acquired personality pressure, which changes the shape of the vocal apparatus and how that sound is produced when they speak or sing, and so these folks need assistance in releasing a degree of this acquire fear. This is in order to reduce a degree of tension that interferes with the free flow of air in the throat and speech centers in the mouth and cranium.
 
Since relaxation is the hallmark of singing, and speaking and singing are essentially the same process, any holding past a certain threshold can interfere with how the voice is generated and thus constrain the necessary acoustic properties of the person’s voice in relation to the environment.  This is the work that I have done from 1983 onward in New York City up to today.  I worked with hundreds of singers who had some degree of tension that they were unaware of consciously, that they had acquired in the course of their life, and I was able to help a large degree of them achieve improvement in their singing and speaking voice.  Our bodies are amazingly plastic, much like our brains having a large degree of neuro-plasticity, and are thus capable of re-normalizing back toward our natural physical pattern that Nature provided us with at birth.
 
As we are socialized, our bodies, which are also our psyches, which we cannot separate them expect in our minds, go through a process of change or a shortening and twisting in order to keep us functional.  As a person matures, those of us who make it our work can see subtle changes in their  physical structure, causing a general shortening and twisting in the joints that is an accommodation to gravity and the force it exerts on us all of us, constantly and according to the laws of physics.
 
So helping a singer regain their original pattern is an interesting process of assisting them to learn to release acquired fear and tension as well as other effects that have had a impact on their body, their instrument.  My work as a Certified Rolfer® from 1985 was central to my ability to bring a body back from the negative changes that have a depreciating impact on that singers vocal ease and efficiency. And my own long and dedicated training and work as a singer was key to my effectiveness in helping other singers achieve vocal ease with resonant power in their singing.  To sing naturally, we want minimum force and tension in the throat and body, and an ability for the body to lengthen easily and constantly while using our speech center in a completely relaxed and natural manner, just like when we speak.
 
Further training in body and mind approaches and my training and work as a psychotherapist have helped me streamline my effectiveness in working with singers to the point where I can get them to jump quickly to a higher use in their vocal process so that they sing better, quickly.  In a sense, my job it to improve their vocal ease, so that their work with their teachers, coaches, or on-stage transforms noticeably.  Releasing unconscious holding pattern in the body is key to this process, as well as developing the small muscles of respiration which are central to singing well. I have a large toolkit that I have gathered in the 40 or so years that I have been developing as a singer’s therapist and trainer.
 
Call me today to discuss how I might assist you in transforming your singing, to being able to sing like nobody but yourself.
 
 
 
 
 

davidFor many singers, finding their authentic voice is an unlearning process.

A musicians brain…

Here is a shorter version of a TED talk about the brains of those who play musical this includes singers. There instrument is their voice…

davidA musicians brain…