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Singing increases breathing control and lung capacity, can improve your health, and release the happy hormone. Mai Lam/The Conversation NY-BD-CC, CC BY-SACan Can anyone learn to sing? For most of us, the answer is yes Leigh Carriage Do you have a pair of vocal folds that can produce sound? Can you tell the difference between a higher note and a lower note? Good news! You and about 98.5% of the population absolutely can be taught how to sing. And the rest? Well, according to a recent Canadian study, about 1.5% of the population suffer from a condition called “congenital amusia”. They have real difficulty discriminating between different pitches, tone, and sometimes rhythm. So if you were to play a well-known melody – say, the tune to “Happy Birthday” – and you played a few wrong notes, most people would identify the errors straight away. However, someone with congenital amusia might not notice anything wrong at all. You can see examples of that in this video, from about the 3.20 mark: Natural talent aside, most of us can be taught to singSeveral years ago I had a request for private vocal lessons from a woman who just wanted to sing one song for her husband’s birthday in six months time. What I noticed was that she was unable to accurately pitch match. She came to lessons each week and maintained her practice with incredible diligence. What she lacked in natural ability, she made up for in heart and work ethic. Within six months, she was not only matching pitch, but she was singing one and a half octave patterns slowly through her entire range (for example, from low C to A in the next octave up). More importantly if she sang a note incorrectly, she could discern and correct it herself. She performed the song for her family and it was a happy outcome for all involved. Her experience shows that hard work pays off, but that’s not the only factor. Work by German researchers found that that it is not just how much you practice that counts, but rather how quickly you identify and correct your error. This is what makes an OK singer into an expert performer. That said, without deliberate practice even the most talented singer will reach a plateau and get stuck. Professional singers learn vocal exercises and warm-up techniques.How singing worksUnderstanding exactly how singing works is a surprisingly complex field of research. There is a rather significant leap from singing in the shower or being part of a community choir (although both are a great place start) to pursuing singing professionally. Singing practice and training involves generating a sense of vocal freedom – this is what you’re seeing when you watch someone sing movingly, beautifully but seemingly without effort. For most singers, years of practice go into developing that kind of freedom. As singing voice teacher Jeannette Lovetri writes: It takes about 10 years to be a master singer. Ten years of study, investigation, involvement, experience, experiment, exploration, and development, and in some way, that’s when you start really being an artist. We are all born with the key ingredients of a singing voice. The early gurgling and bubbling sounds we make as babies contain some of the key components of singing – a variety of pitches, dynamics, rhythms and phrases. But some of us may have a genetic advantage that can be enhanced by training. A University of Melbourne study called Let’s Hear Twins Sing aims to discover what factors influence singing ability and to what extent genes play a role in pitch accuracy. Physical skill and controlThe act of singing looks simple but actually involves highly skilled control and coordination of muscles - and these muscles need to be both flexible and strong. True control comes from training. A person needs to be able to control the air pressure in their lungs and use their abdominal muscles to push air through the trachea, where it meets the vocal folds, which start to vibrate. In a really good singer, vocal health, posture and alignment, breath management are matched with imagination, self-expression and creativity. A really good contemporary professional pop singer isn’t just born that way. They also need an inquiring mind, dedication to understanding the physiology of the vocal instrument, the discipline and daily practice of warm-ups and a variety of exercises, a deep understanding of music harmony, ability to notate and transcribe music, some degree of improvisation and stagecraft skills. Film stars learn to sing all the time for a role (usually surrounded by a team of vocal teachers and months of daily practice). The results aren’t always perfect, but that’s not necessarily what is important. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for example, has a small, breathy voice but it suits her role and enhances her character. So if you’ve never sung professionally but want to try singing, I encourage you to give it a go! Chances are that you can be taught to sing – and even if you can’t, there are health benefits to trying. Singing increases breathing control and lung capacity, it can improve heart health, and release the happy hormone oxytocin, elevate your mood and reduce pain, and may even increase your immunity. Even practising a new behaviour, like singing, can be good for the brain. So enjoy singing. Find a singing teacher who loves singing and teaching, performs regularly and incorporates their knowledge of anatomy and physiology into their vocal teaching. Once you start, you’ll likely realise that singing can bring benefits for life.
Why Voice Lessons Are Not Just For Singers BY JOHN HENNY| JUNE 18, 2019 10:00 AM| LAST UPDATED: JULY 24, 2019 6:46 PM Vocal lessons are not just for singers. Lessons can help open up the range of the actor’s voice, as well as protect from stress and incorrect use.
Lessons can give an understanding of proper vocal cord closure, optimum speaking pitch, and also how to deal with difficult vocal situations.
A key area is handling emotional dialogue and sounds, such as shouting or screaming, without fatiguing or damaging the voice. Singers spend a great deal of time learning to bridge the break area between their lower and upper registers (chest voice and head voice). Without this skill, the singer risks vocal problems such as hoarseness and even permanent damage.
High chest voice is where we go when in a heightened state of emotion, such as fear or anger. The actor will be called to perform in these states over multiple takes or successive evenings on the stage.
Vocal exercises can help access this vocal range without causing issues. The answer is to learn to access some of the head voice when at the top of the speaking range. This is done by narrowing the vowels slightly, avoiding overshouting. For instance, if you are yelling “Stop,” change the pronunciation to “Stuhp.” The “uh” vowel will more easily blend toward head voice and remove most of the strain, even when shouting. John Henny is a leading coach for vocal technique in the music industry. Follow him on Twitter @johnhennyvocals, or visit www.JohnHenny.com.
The secret life of a singing teacher: it’s like being a cheap therapist The quality of singing is variable, but I enjoy helping clients improve themselves. Every lesson is different – and there are some really fantastic moments
‘Every client is different and a good teacher will adapt what they do to suit the needs of the singer.’ Illustration: Michael DriverOn the whole, my clients are decent, lovely human beings, but they are not all singers.
Sam, for example, comes religiously for an hour a week but rarely sings a note. She hates her voice and she hates singing, preferring instead to talk about her relationship or job. So why does she come? Perhaps it’s the idea of having someone’s undivided attention for an hour, an opportunity to vent or to be the centre of attention; or perhaps just not to be judged. At £35 an hour, perhaps it’s also a form of cheap therapy.
Then there are people like Mark. Mark really cannot sing. His voice is so hidden away up in his neck that I would need a crowbar and some heavy-duty machinery to get it out. His problem is insecurity: the idea that he is worthless or that his opinion is of no consequence. So when he sings, he locks his voice up inside where nobody will ever find it, behind walls of throttled vowels and guttural glottal stops. In a nutshell, teaching singing is a responsibility, rather than a job I attempt to extract it, and sometimes fool him into effortlessly “tum-te-tuming” a tune I pretend not to know, which he does with the precision of an opera singer and the relaxed ease of a Rat Packer. But usually he sees through my ruse after a few lines, and reverts to the choked maniacal sounds of a hangman’s victim. We keep trying though, not because I take pleasure from the sounds he makes, but because what I do is important – a duty even – to help people try to improve their lives a little bit by singing. And maybe even enjoy themselves in the process.
My favourite case was Elodie. She was, until last year, a “normal” young woman, if you discounted her desire to sing and dance in public. One day something happened (I don’t know what) and she became withdrawn, anxious and irate with the world. Her psychologist and other medical professionals could not figure out what to do to help her and the only time she would be anything approaching her old self was when she was singing with me.
This went on for several months, until one day we attempted a song she had sung many times before but never really nailed. On this occasion the top note in the song, which had been previously unattainable, was loud and clear, and supported by all the relevant technique we had been working on. In that moment, her demons vanished. She reverted to her old self, except that now she gets paid to sing in the local area. For her, singing lessons turn a profit. Some people love teaching singing because they love to help people sing. I love teaching singing for moments like this.
A class should never just follow a set format. Every client is different and a good teacher will adapt what they do to suit the needs of the singer, rather than the other way around. I like to start with a chat and then we do some warm-up exercises, which often turns into working on technique. Then we look at what we started last week which they have (hopefully) been practising. This is the part where we can really get to grips with a song; think about the story, how to tackle harder sections and how to generally make it an interesting performance rather than just a series of words put to music.
I have been teaching singing for more than 20 years now. I started with only two or three regular students as I was working in musical theatre six days a week. Now I have more than 30 clients and a small portfolio of other musical commitments, which I very much enjoy. I earn half the money I used to, but I’m happier with my work, and working at home means I can spend way more time with my son than I otherwise would.I have an incredible amount of choice as to how much, and when, I work. Currently, I do not want to work from Friday morning to Monday evening, so I don’t. I have a good core of regulars and a few that dip in and out, but it does surprise me how many people have the time, money and inclination to show up for a singing lesson every week. Clearly singing is a priority for them.
In a nutshell, teaching singing is a responsibility, rather than a job. If you understand that some of the people you teach are never going to be singers, but just need an hour to relax, disgorge personal information, have someone really listen to them, or even an hour just to feel special, then you have got what it takes to be a singing teacher. Of course, knowing how to sing is helpful too. America faces an epic choice...... in the coming year, and the results will define the country for a generation. These are perilous times. Over the last three years, much of what the Guardian holds dear has been threatened – democracy, civility, truth. This US administration is establishing new norms of behaviour. Anger and cruelty disfigure public discourse and lying is commonplace. Truth is being chased away. But with your help we can continue to put it center stage.
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The Vocal Studio is alive and bustling for the holidays!
We're busy preparing for the 5th Annual Christmas Celebration concert: Sunday, December 15th, 2019 at 7:30pm St. Luke's Episcopal - sanctuary 2000 Stover Street Fort Collins, CO 80525 By invitation only Very festive reception to follow
Drop an e-mail to Patrice.Burgstahler@gmail.com and we'll include you in the festivities via evite.com electronic invite~
Christmas caroling - December 20th, 2019 6pm- We're gathering singers of all ages and abilities to sing carols at McKenzie Place Ridgen Farms, and The Columbia PM me, if you'd like to join us!