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Singer-Songwriter: 5 Ways To Improve Your Chances of Success

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by Larry Butler

Singer-Songwriter

Singer-Songwriter

We’re all familiar with the standard rules given to those who think they want the fame, glory and money that comes from being a successful singer-songwriter––work hard, practice, smile, be nice to people, etc. In the 40 years or so that music industry veteran Larry Butler has worked with some of the most successful artists in the business, he says he’s found a number of pieces of advice that you’re probably not going to find in those well-worn lists. Here are five taken from his new book The Singer-Songwriter Boot Camp Rule Book: 101 Ways To Improve Your Chances Of Success. None of them involve smiling.

 

1. Be a solo artist or a duo, at most. There’s way less overhead and you never have to attend any band meetings.

In addition to being less expensive to mount a career (vis-à-vis a band), at every step along your uphill career path you are going to have to know how to perform and entertain in some kind of solo, acoustic, stripped-down, bare bones situation and sometimes at the drop of a hat.

For instance, to get the attention of radio programmers, music supervisors and ad agencies you’re going to have to set up in a solo acoustic setting and perform in office break rooms and convention/seminar showcases. Your goal is to be better than the singer-songwriter who was performing in their conference room the day before. Is your show way more entertaining? It had better be or you lose out.  And you can’t be just good or even very good––you have to be GREAT!

 

2. Get your own vocal mic. God knows where the club’s mic has been. And stop hiding your mouth behind your mic. Stop it!

Most clubs and sound companies use Shure SM58’s for vocals––they’re the standard of the industry. The trouble is that to get the SM58 to sound good you have to sing directly into it and hold it as close as you can to your mouth. But then your mouth is hidden, isn’t it? And your mouth is one of the three ways of communicating with your audience (the other two being your eyes and your hands).

You can change that! Modern audio science has developed a microphone design that allows the singer to sing above and across the top of the mic by holding it at a 45-degree angle at the chin while preventing feedback and other noises from the stage. In fact, it doesn’t work that well when the singer attempts to eat the mic!

It’s called a hyper-cardioid dynamic mic and it comes in many styles, sizes and price ranges. I prefer the Telefunken M80 for high pitch voices or M81 for lower pitch. Try them both and see which one you prefer.  Sound techs don’t care if you want to use your own mic at a show; in fact, it’s usually a sign of a professional, and they welcome that any night.

 

3. Develop a stage personality with an attitude and a different way of looking at things. Show it off in your between-song patter.

Presenting your musical work in an entertaining manner is the presentation of personality. First, you need to have one––a personality, that is. And the best place to present that personality is in your essential between-song patter. Heretofore, you’ve probably not rehearsed anything to say from the stage and decided to “wing it.” If you’re going to do that, why even bother to rehearse your songs? Why not “wing” those too? Exactly.

I believe that the between-song patter is at least as important as your songs (and perhaps even more entertaining) and needs to be presented with the same amount of thought, preparation and rehearsal as your songs. Entertaining patter leads the audience to a better understanding and appreciation of your song and of you.

The idea here is to not only shed some light on the songs, but also how you FEEL about the songs, and the world, and relationships, and music, and whatever. You need to generate a reaction from the audience and not be afraid to step on a few toes. You need to present a relevant, consistent and personable attitude.

 

4. Lose any appearance of pride on stage, even to the point of looking foolish. Be vulnerable. People love that.

I don’t mean like the pride you take in your musical skills or professional standards. I’m talking about the pride that everyone hides deep in their ego that prevents them from making fools of themselves in front of other people. But there’s nothing wrong with looking foolish on stage––as long as it’s scripted and rehearsed and delivered with a wink. That’s entertaining!

The thing you have to get over is your reticence to doing something foolish on stage. Show your vulnerability by letting that foolish pride go––all successful entertainers have done so. Being vulnerable on stage is the best way to emotionally connect with an audience. If you can’t (or won’t) do that, then you are doomed to keep performing at the level you are now.

 

5. Studies show that creative artists have more emotional problems than the average person. Solution? Seek and accept help.

Creative artists’ lives are, more often than not, ruled by their emotions, which take undue precedence over rationale, reason and reality.

Drugs and alcohol are thought to be the shortcuts to creativity. But they’re also the express lanes to dysfunction. And don’t think you’re immune––you’re not. It’s not about will power or common sense, even if you had either one to begin with.

And addiction goes beyond the poster children of alcohol and drugs. There’s nicotine, caffeine, antibiotics and Afrin, for instance. They’re all good in moderation, but moderation is not a common attribute of singer-songwriters and artists.

There are solutions and there is help. Search out someone who has suffered through many of the same problems as yours and could offer some suggestions. And when help is offered, accept it. It’s the only way out.

[Permission Reprint by Music Connection Magazine]

For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

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How to Improve Your EPK/Press Kit in Six Steps

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How to Improve Your EPK/Press Kit in Six Steps

by Kari Estrin

EPK/Press Kit

An EPK/Press Kit

Having an effective Press kit or Electronic Press Kit [EPK ] will not only increase your chances of getting gigs, but will ensure you receive better publicity for the ones you get. Also, that more strategic publicity you’ll receive usually results in attracting more audience members, with the chance for better pay scales and more CD’s/merchandise sold. However, you would be surprised at how often press kits don’t give the important information and delivery that venues, festivals and publicists need. Unfortunately, when your kit is not only ineffective in providing info to entice a venue to consider your booking request, another artist that may not be as accomplished as yourself, but with a well thought out and professional kit, might be the one who snags the gig instead!

Here are six elements of a good EPK which I’ll also explain below. I recommend hosting your EPK on your own web site, as either a separate tab or a link solely for booking, as with your own site you can control the format and the data while sending the venue to one source for everything. You can still keep an alternate kit set up on other digital sites, but I would encourage artists at every turn to ultimately drive the traffic to their own website. It is not uncommon when a platform other than your site is the host, entire kits can be wiped away if you don’t keep up with communications from them.

What Makes an Effective EPK

1) an informative bio

2) a quote page and/or review shorts

3) various publicity shots

4) music to stream

5) video

6) downloadable posters

7) stage plot, sound requirements in your basic contract rider

 

Explanation of Each:

1) An informative Biography

This is perhaps the most misunderstood component of a press kit by artists – as to what makes a good bio and what you should include about yourself. I highly recommend hiring a writer for this, as they will know how to look at your life, musical achievements and make it an interesting and effective read. But if you’re writing it yourself, here are a few tips. First, A bio should captivate the reader with a strong first sentence – perhaps to pique interest or to give an intriguing summation of the artist and what s/he does, filled out in the first paragraph’s subsequent lines. The second and third paragraphs might delve more into specifics about the artist’s current sound, musical life and past achievements. If you’ve received lots of songwriting finalist awards, no need to list them all in a sentence. You can summarize your achievements. Then usually, the last paragraphs might talk about where the artist was born and grew up with some more historical information. Be prudent here, giving homage to your 5th grade teacher or that role in the school play is not usually interesting to others. That said, in general, when writing your bio, when looking at our own lives, we often leave out some of the most fascinating things about ourselves that may stimulate human interest in your story. It’s that memorable content that helps you stand out from a crowd. The trick is in how to incorporate it. Again, If you are unsure of how to write about yourself, talk with friends who may be accomplished writers or hire someone who professionally writes bios. It will be worth it!

2) A Quote page and/or Review Shorts

If you have received some reviews and/or quotes, it’s quite illustrative and impressive to include these in your press kit. The key to selecting quotes when they are three to four sentences long is to create a shortened version of the quote for quick reading. You want the reader to be able to skim over the quotes, not to be weighed down in them. It’s ok to edit out some of what is said – to make the quote have more punch! But, this is also an art, you can’t put words into their mouth, and your edits must keep their intention the same. However, taking out extraneous words or even thoughts focuses the reader to know what the most important take away is. As to reviews, it’s fine to print them in their entirety if they are well written and informative, but many times there will be a lot of filler information found elsewhere in your press kit, so feel free to reproduce a paragraph or two from a longer press clip. If you have a particularly strong and brief quote that sums up the essence of what you do, that may also be included on the front of your website; the top of your bio, placed under your name; on a business card; etc. Do not include fan quotes; try to get quotes from reviewers, people in the business who run/book venues, other well-known musicians, etc. One last caveat – you can use a quote if it is published or asked for, but if someone says something or writes to you personally, it’s best to write back and ask for permission before using – and at that time, they can even clarify what they said once they know you’re looking for a quote.

3) Various Publicity Shots

It’s important to have a good publicity shot – one that is something a newspaper or venue can use to generate interest and attract attention. Depending on your image and branding – having a shot that also can reflect your music is a plus. Clothing, settings and good lighting and camera work are important in getting your shot chosen over others for print. Sometimes a photo editor picks the pictures for previews and it is not uncommon for an unknown artist with a better photo to have it printed larger than someone famous! Therefore I advise hiring a photographer, since if you find one whose work you like, you will usually get a picture that will be more professional which will garner attention. Whether you are looking at the camera, looking away or are relaxing, the shot should convey something about you and your music, albeit in abstract terms. A professional photographer can help you find your best and most interesting camera angles, encourage you to relax and give your shot the polish and nuance it needs. Please avoid taking your pictures in front of barns and brick walls – these backgrounds are overdone. You can scout out interesting backdrops for your photo, or your photographer will have some in mind. If shooting indoors without natural light, your photographer will have the proper lighting with them. You can have a variety of types – head shot, full body shot, horizontal and vertical. The final shots should be available and downloadable in both hi resolution pictures (300 & 600 dpi)and low res (72) for computer screens and should be indicated as such on your site.

4) Music to stream/download

Of course, your kit should include your music – this is easy if you have a CD – you can either include a few (5 or so tracks) from your CD – or stream the CD itself. And if making your music downloadable, you can also have a private link on your site for your whole EPK, or just the music in full, so that only venues/festivals can have that access to your press kit and music. If you don’t have a CD, then put together maybe five or so tracks of your music, well recorded. Indicate if you are about to record an album and that these are some of the songs that you will include. If you are a band, whether in a recording, demo or video, record your sound as you usually perform. However, if you are a singer songwriter and usually perform solo, your CD most probably will include other instruments that you don’t take on the road, but that enhance your sound. Venues look for what is somewhat reproducible in your performances, but not literally. Instead, leave off those drum kits and electric guitars if you don’t perform with them, but it is fine to add bass and some additional instrumentation that doesn’t dominate your sound. Read on to the next section as venues not only need to know what you sound like on CD or recorded, but also live.

5) Video

When booking a gig, it is important for many presenters to know how you are live in performance, not just what you do on your CD. So instead of hiring everyone who played on your CD to record your booking video, when you may only intend to bring two or three or go solo, be sure to include at least one video on your site that represents you in performance. It’s always a plus to have a two or three camera edited shoot, but not necessary if your video, which can even be recorded on an iPhone, is recorded up close enough to see your face, (not from a distance where you are barely visible) that is not shakey (!) and that the sound is not muffled or distorted. That type of video will turn off a promoter. Also, If you’re planning a nationally-released recording, it is always an advantage (but not necessary) to have a story-line type video, in addition to a straight-up performance. Some artists also may include a video of their own story – a bit of a biography – and these can be fun. Just keep them to roughly 3 minutes or so, to hold the attention of the viewer. If you sometimes play solo, but can also bring a trio, record the trio – when you negotiate your contract, then you can see if their offer allows you will bring the trio, come as a duo or perform solo. The booking agent for the venue will have an idea what they are negotiating for either way, you can quote a price for the trio – then if there is not enough money for all three of you, can offer to just bring the duo or come solo.

6) Downloadable Posters – yes, some venues want a poster or two to put up – usually 8.5 by 11 is sufficient, as there is not always space for a larger one. You might even have postcards they can reproduce with your info. But you can have these different sizes on your site, including something larger like 11 x 17 – with the artwork completely done except for the white space where the venue can print their information and reproduce for their own purposes. Your graphic designer can assist you with this. Make sure your design is professional, clean and easy to use – and having it downloadable frees you of the responsibility of having to mail them to the venues, if they can use the downloads.

 

7)  Plot, Sound Requirements and a Basic Rider (optional)

 

If you can, include this as well on a presenter only link on your EPK, it is helpful to the venue to know where you are standing on stage, where the equipment is placed, who is performing with you and what their sound needs are. There are drawing programs on your computer – where you can create a pro stage plot without much fuss. You can indicate where you are standing, what side the microphone is placed, where the equipment will be, etc. That is referred to the stage plot. You can also include a list of equipment that each person needs, you can suggest brands you prefer and list some alternate brands as well. And all of this can be included into a basic “rider” – a document where you let the venue know not only your sound/light specifics and preferences, but for backstage purposes, what you might appreciate and any other special information in making your performance more comfortable and less confusing. For new performers who are not in demand, you do not want to ask for too much, it is more a guide for your sound and backstage preferences, if the venue can provide them. Just remember, when you send this to a venue, they will read it over, then “mark it up” – deleting provisions they don’t provide – then send it back to you for your signature. But here is a good place to indicate if you have an oversize vehicle to park, if you need a keyboard, etc., so this can all come into your booking negotiations. It just allows the presenter to have the best possible picture before making an offer to you.

Kari Estrin

Kari Estrin

Summary:

I hope these tips have been helpful as a general guideline. Each of these items has a wealth of information to delve into further, but this post will start you off on knowing what components to consider including. It is always preferable to seek out help in areas where you or those around you don’t have the expertise to create your most professional press kit – in terms of graphic design, photography, writing and video, if you are looking for better gigs and to improve your overall profile. You don’t have to spend lots of money for this or record in and with expensive places/equipment. It just has to look well done and sound clean. ­If you don’t know anyone in your area, networking with other musicians may be helpful to help you find these resources. And graphic designers and writers can be found at any distance to complete your work. A good press kit will pay itself back over time in better gigs and more of them! www.kariestrin.com

 

For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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7 Rules of Recording the Singing Guitarist

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7 Rules of Recording the Singing Guitarist

by Jessica Brandon

Recording the Singing Guitarist

Recording the Singing Guitarist

The challenge of recording a vocalist/guitarist singing guitarist is that you are, in effect, trying to capture two sources at the same time and in close quarters. The microphone choice and placement that gives you the perfect guitar sound might completely foul up the vocal sound, and vice versa.

Plus, you would think recording an acoustic guitar would be easy. And yet, 9 times out of 10 when I hear a mix from a home studio recording, the acoustic track sounds thin, harsh, muddy, and just downright disappointing. A bad acoustic guitar track can bring the quality of the entire mix down considerably.

 

Rule #1 – Acoustic and Any Noise to deal with

Are you’re dealing with a relatively quiet source, or do you have noise pollution from whirring air conditioning units, computer fans, central heating pipes, buzzing fluorescent tubes, traffic outside and so on? This can be murder, so be sure to vet both your recording setup and recording environment appropriately.

 

Rule #2 – Do Not Record With A DI

Direct boxes are often referred to as “DI” boxes. This stands for “Direct Injection” as their main purpose is to convert unbalanced and/or high impedance instrument signals into a format suitable for direct connection to a mixing console’s mic input – without the use of a microphone.

The rule is never record your acoustic guitar through the internal pickup into a DI. Why? This is because it sounds bad.  I have seen acoustic electric guitars being plugged into DIs on stage at church and other venues but in a recording situation, the recording turns out sounding horrible and unnatural. No one ever listens to an acoustic guitar with their head inside the sound hole. So why do we try to record that sound?

Instead people hear acoustics from outside the sound hole. We like to hear the strumming and the entire body and resonance of the guitar (more on that below).

So please – trust me on this. If you are currently recording your acoustics through the pickup and through a DI, stop today. Use a microphone instead. It will sound infinitely better.

 

Rule #3 – How to Mic the Vocals & Guitar

Try to use separate close mics for the vocals and the guitar, to achieve the most pleasing sound possible on both, and to gain, if possible, a useful degree of separation between the two, which will allow independent treatment at the mix: different reverbs, level rides, EQ and so on.

A friend of mine recorded his vocals on a Shure SM57 microphone with a vocal filter a separate Shure SM57 microphone on his acoustic steel string guitar. He liked the results of his recordings on his tight budget. To my ears, though, while the vocal sound from the SM7 is perfectly usable, it doesn’t come close to that of the Neumann, and personally I would choose the better vocal sound over increased isolation in this case. (If you want that level of isolation with the clarity of a condenser mic, you could try one of the modern stage condenser designs such as the Neumann KMS105, Sennheiser e965, AKG C5 or Shure Beta 87a.)

Another option is to treat voice and guitar as a single sound source (which, after all, is what any listeners in the room will hear) and use relatively distant mic techniques to capture it all in one go.

 

Rule #4 – Minimizing Vocal Spill

You will need to know how to capture a good guitar sound that is relatively free from vocal spill. The challenge in this situation is to capture a nice guitar sound while minimizing vocal spill onto the guitar mics. Without the added complication of vocals to think about, the most common point to focus on when close-miking a guitar is the area where the neck joins the body.

If that didn’t yield the required sound, or we wanted to add a second microphone for a stereo guitar recording, most of us would probably next shift our attention to the area around the bridge, perhaps just behind or below it.

 

Rule #5 – Miking The Voice

Choosing a microphone and mic position for the top half of your singing guitarist is, similarly, about balancing the twin priorities of achieving a good vocal sound and rejecting guitar spill. And, once again, ‘normal’ vocal miking techniques are often perfectly successful in this application, as long as you don’t go too far away. If you’re using a conventional large-diaphragm condenser microphone (such as Audio-Technica AT2035), and you place it as close to the mouth as you’re comfortable with — personally I’d want it at least four inches or so away — then as long as your singer has a reasonably strong voice and doesn’t move about too much, chances are you’ll get a healthy vocal level without too much guitar spill. I usually try to avoid pop shields, as I feel they color the sound, but if your microphone is right in front of the singer’s mouth, you will need something to reduce popping and protect the mic diaphragm from moisture.

 

Rule #6 – Mixing A Singing Guitarist

When you’re just recording solo guitar and vocals, the options available for fixing things at the mix are minimal. If you didn’t get it right at the recording stage, chances are it will never be absolutely right, although there are certainly rescue missions you can attempt. For example, if there are audible phase problems between the vocal and guitar mic, and you can visually identify vocal events within the guitar track, ‘slipping’ the vocal part by a few tens of samples for better alignment can sometimes help. If you use one of the techniques that aims for a high level of separation, you might also find that you can comp the odd dodgy vocal word or phrase in from a different take without it being too obvious.

In general, compressing either the vocal or guitar mics will tend to bring up the level of any spill contained therein, so don’t be too heavy-handed with the threshold control. As this sort of music can often be quite delicate in any case, I much prefer to keep compression to a minimum, and use automation to draw in level changes. Achieving the right balance between guitar and vocal can be surprisingly difficult, so don’t be afraid to make fairly radical moves on occasion. Also, don’t be too aggressive in muting the vocal mic where the singer isn’t singing, because if there is guitar spill on the vocal track, the guitar sound will suddenly change as soon as the vocal fader is raised.

One of the major advantages of gaining some separation between vocal and guitar mics is that you can use two different reverbs, or at least different amounts of reverb, on the two signals. My own preference for vocals is usually something plate-ish, with plenty of pre-delay, and perhaps a touch of slapback echo. On guitars, by contrast, a much more natural reverb is often the order of the day — perhaps something involving mainly early reflections, just to add a bit of life and zing to proceedings. Separation will, of course, also allow you to equalise the two signals independently if need be, although, again, you need to be aware that adding a large high-frequency boost to the vocals will make the guitar spill much more obvious. If you’re forced to use the output from a pickup as your main source of guitar sound, you might need to get much more radical with EQ or even multi-band compression; both piezo and magnetic pickups tend to put out too much mid-range, which will need to be reined in if you are to achieve a natural sound.

 

Rule #7 – Determine what is it you wish to accomplish

This is probably the most important rule is to ask yourself what exactly it is you really wish to accomplish, how you really want to sound like? Can you envision the sound of your vocals and guitar?

The seven rules above, however, are applicable EVERY time you sit down to record a singing guitarist and they will serve you well. Follow them and your recordings will improve. The rest is open to your tastes.

Do you agree or disagree with these 7 rules? If you could add a eighth rule what would it be?

For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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Expert Tips for Building a Home Recording Studio

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Expert Tips for Building a Home Recording Studio

Tips for Building a Home Recording Studio

Tips for Building a Home Recording Studio

It’s true that at some point every talented and aspiring musician hopes to advance to a level where there will need to be a professional touch added to your audio track. Becoming a sound engineer does not necessarily require a college degree! You can set up your own studio at home with some basic and affordable equipment.

As a newbie, there isn’t too much you need to start enjoying working from your own home recording studio.

 

 

The Room

An important thing of what you require is a room inside the house. This is the most important gadget you will need. Put in mind which room to use that will be inaccessible to noise and possibly sound-proofed. The ancillary noise from the laundry room, playing kids in the sitting room, the knock from the delivery man – all these are likely means that can distract you and spoil a smooth track.

Preparing the room then requires a measure of effort, before you think of bringing in other instruments and accessories like the headset, drums, speakers and microphones. Remember you will need a desk with a few seats, as music can be enjoyed as a collective process. You should also think about sound absorbing panels, furniture and some colorful lights to get the inspiration flowing.

 

The microphones

One or two microphones are all that you need to start with for now. As your studio continues to grow bigger, you can then increase your range. There are several different types of microphones, which depend on the instruments you have and what you want to record at home.

From the many options available, you can get low-end microphones as well as higher brands like AKG and Neumann, which have specialist microphones for each and every task. Other types of microphones that are suitable include Rode NT1A for recording vocals. For any high-frequency instrument like the cymbals and acoustic guitar, the AKG P170 in particular excels.

When investing in microphones, make sure you also stock up on its accessories such as microphone stands, pop shields and XLR cables. It always helps to have spares too.

 

Monitoring sound

Speakers and headphones come next. Good speakers produce perfect sound depending on how well they are sealed. Examples of such include the mixing studio standard Yamaha NS10 speakers that produce a realistic & true sound.  Though some engineers do suggest you go for more costly choices from JBL companies.

At this stage, it’s better to avoid high cost headphones and settle for ones like Sony MDR-XD200. A good headphone set should be large and comfortable and demonstrate a true flat sound so that you can work on your music as accurately as possible.

 

Separation

It’s also very important to bear in mind how you are placing your set up. For example, the guitar and the cymbal are operating in the same frequency; the cymbal crash will break-off the guitar solo.

Good engineering principles are therefore needed to ensure the sounds are separated and won’t spill into each other.

Working with your EQ settings will help aid the separation of your instrument’s frequency space in the mixing phase.

 

Music production software

Now let’s focus on what digital software we need to get started. Your main program of choice will be important in dictating how you work. These are called DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) and here, there are a few options.

The most popular are Pro Tools (made by AVID), Logic Pro (made by Apple), Ableton Live and Cubase (made by Steinberg). Of course there are options that are available for a range of prices such as; Reason (made by Propellerhead), Fruit Loops Studio and Reaper (made by Cockos).

Your plug in library should be thought of as your box of tricks and there are many expensive tricks out there from companies such as Waves, Soundtoys and Fabfilter. Luckily each DAW comes with its own basic box of free plug ins, which have been found to perform their respective mixing tasks to more than an adequate standard.

 

This blog article has been brought to you by Mixbutton

 

For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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Help! I’m Losing My Voice!

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Help! I’m Losing My Voice!

by Roger Burnley

Help! I’m Losing My Voice!

  Help! I’m Losing My Voice…

Respected vocal coach Roger Burnley has plenty of first-hand experience with voice maladies and he’s got essential advice for you on how to meet these challenges.

How can I save my voice?…

Many years ago, that was a question I had, because I suffered with severe vocal problems. When this was occurring, it was when I was only doing a few sets per month of about 45 minutes in length. I didn’t think that was very much time, so I should not have been losing my voice, getting hoarse, or having pain in my throat after a show. I knew in my heart that if this continued, I could never expect to tour or even do more than one show in a week! You see, after each show I would not even be able to speak the next day, let alone sing.

I was so frustrated that I began looking for help in any place I could. I went to many different vocal coaches, but none seemed able to even identify the problems I was experiencing. They couldn’t give me anything to correct it. As fate would have it, I happened to stumble upon a seminar on vocal health that was offered by an ear, nose and throat doctor in Beverly Hills, CA. It was a free seminar, and since I was desperate, I thought it might be a good idea to attend. The expert was Dr. David Alessi. He told us that he was doing this because he had worked with so many stars in music, acting and public speaking and saw first-hand the devastation that poor vocal habits could inflict on the voice––and these can end careers if they are not corrected.

At this point, I had begun to discover many things about the physiology of the voice, or how the voice is supposed to work. I struck up a conversation with Dr. Alessi, who was impressed enough with my knowledge to offer to take me even further. He began to refer some of his patients to me who had experienced vocal damage and were in need of rehabilitation. Most times, the vocal problems could be corrected with surgery or drugs, but those solutions might only be temporary if the patient does not change the vocal habits that caused the problem in the first place.

When a new client came from Dr. Alessi, they would come with a letter that described their condition. The letters were written in medical terminology, which I did not understand at all. Now this was well before the resources we have now on the Internet, so I had to go to the library to research these terms so that I could understand them and come up with an individual plan for each client.

One day, I received a client from the doctor who had been diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia. I had someone in front of me who had completely lost their voice and could not speak. Now the real work began. I wanted to know how to rejuvenate the voice and keep it healthy.

I learned some critical things. There are muscles that cause the vocal cords to open and close for singing or speaking, and if they are not operating correctly, it can lead to major vocal problems. The great news is these habits can also be changed.

The above diagram gives you a visual idea of the workings of the voice. It not necessary to understand all of this, but it is helpful to see where the vocal cords are located. Imagine, beneath them, the muscles that cause the cords to open and close. It is possible for those muscles to lose their memory or simply forget how they are supposed to operate. This was the cause of the spasmodic dysphonia mentioned earlier.

These are extreme cases, but it is the same cause of other vocal problems I have seen, including fatigue after singing, loss of vocal range, hoarseness and sore throats. I have also seen that many allergies, as well as acid reflux conditions, can be related to poor vocal technique.

An important thing to consider is that every voice is different and unique, so any adjustments needed to maintain a healthy voice must take into consideration the specific techniques and vocal production of the individual. Some people have thinner vocal cords. Some people have thicker vocal cords, which will cause their voices to be lower in pitch but can also present other problems because. There is always a solution.

In the diagram above, you can see that the sizes, shapes, thickness or thinness of any of these structures are all individual and therefore must be adjusted to the individual’s body for proper vocal production and maintenance.

One of the biggest obstacles to maintaining vocal health is the use of the swallowing muscles while singing or speaking. Most people who are having vocal difficulties will discover that they are engaging these muscles.

To see if you are doing this, first locate your swallowing muscles by putting your thumb under your jaw and swallow. Now try to speak or sing with your thumb in place and notice if they are coming down or engaging. If they are, you might have just located a major problem for you.

I have found that over the years, retraining the voice with exercises to eliminate the use of those muscles has resulted in my clients no longer getting hoarse or needing to cancel shows. They also have less frequent colds, and in many cases their instances of acid reflux decrease. Additionally, they regain much of the range they thought had been lost. The biggest thing is they begin to feel much more confident in their performances, and know they will be able to sing for the rest of their lives.

 

[Permission reprint by Music Connection]

ROGER BURNLEY is a vocal, performance and life coach. He believes that everyone has talent and ability needing to be discovered and developed. He guides his clients to gain vocal control, freedom, and confidence. Many of Burnley’s clients have gone on to achieve major success in the entertainment industry. Visit his website at http://rogerburnley.com/

For more information on the 14th Annual IAMA (International Acoustic Music Awards), go to: http://www.inacoustic.com

 

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