- Improve Your Voice
Baxter - source
all know of someone who has an incredible voice and
never had a bit of instruction.
people just open their mouths and it comes out great.
Lucky for them. However, the common belief that some
people are born to sing doesnt mean that the rest
of us have to sit on the sidelines. Anyone can improve
the sound of their voice. My advice is to think of it
to sing is a lot like strapping on a pair of roller
blades for the first time. Some people are fearless,
or maybe reckless is a better word, and fly off with
little regard to the laws of gravity. They immediately
fall flat on their butt, laugh, and get right back up
to try again. Most of us, though, would rather not spend
the day bouncing on the pavement. We approach the challenge
with one agenda: do not fall. This mind set dominates
muscle behavior. As soon as we are hoisted onto a set
of wheels, we forget how to bend at the joints. We shuffle
along stiff-legged, clinging desperately to any lamp
post, tree or person within reach. The irony is that
we still end up on the ground. A rigid body, which reflects
our fear of falling, causes a loss of balance. The inability
to loosen up also prevents us from developing a feel
for shifting body weight from skate to skate. So at
the end of the day, both personality types have sore
backsides, but the carefree people have at least learned
how to roller blade.
a visit to a maternity ward and its obvious that
we are all born with the ability to produce sound. Crying
is reflex behavior. Singing is crying -- minus the tears.
Within a short time after birth, our personalities emerge
and influence this basic instinct. Some babies cry louder
and more often. As toddlers, we begin to experiment
with different vocal tones and the responses they provoke.
When two year-olds whine enough, they will either get
another cookie or be sent to their room. By the time
we reach six, the results of these experiments have
heavily influenced our personalities. We establish core
traits which stay with us a lifetime. If you doubt this,
visit a senior's center and notice how much a bingo
game looks like a kindergarten class. Its not
that the seniors are acting childish, its that
they are being themselves, again. What this means to
potential singers is that, from a very early age, we
have trained our muscles to produce sound in a particular
way. Your particular way may, or may not, interfere
with singing. If it does, then youve got some
un-training to do.
often brace in anticipation of singing a bad note as
if it will hurt our bodies. It wont. A bruise
to the ego and a bruise to the vocal folds are completely
different things. Like fearful skaters, its the
singers who fear a vocal slip that cause themselves
the most problems. Perfectionists,introverts and people
who pride themselves on having good pitch are usually
the worst offenders. Ironically, tone, pitch, emotion
and longevity all suffer due to the over involvement
of protective muscles like the tongue, jaw and neck.
A cautious attitude doesnt even insure that you
will avoid vocal strain. Like falling, stiffening your
muscles because you fear injury often causes more damage
than if the body was loose.
is a balancing act. The expectation that notes should
always roll perfectly out of our mouths, especially
when were just learning, is absurd. But dont
be too hard on yourself if youre finding it difficult
to let go. Its not your fault. Pressure is placed
on us the moment we start to explore our voices. For
some reason, children are allowed to be clueless on
every instrument except the voice. Nobody rips the violin
out of little Suzys hands as she saws her way
through, Three Blind Mice, but heaven forbid
if shes out of tune when she sings the same song.
Kids that struggle with singing in grade school are
usually detoured into sports programs or given a tambourine.
Wouldnt it have been great if they did that with
math? Later in life, the stigma of falling off pitch
or hitting a crack silences many would-be singers.
vocal problems can be traced back to speech. As kids,
were taught the meanings of words and how to pronounce
them, but not how to efficiently use our muscles when
speaking. This is expected to happen naturally. It usually
doesnt. Normally, emotions dominate our motor
reflexes and shape the way we talk. Speech becomes an
extension of our personality. You can tell a lot about
someone by the way they talk, not what they say. There
is a difference, though, between normal and natural.
Natural is efficient; normal is what we are used to.
Unfortunately, we are so accustomed to the way we speak
that our trained-in tensions go unnoticed until we start
at a piano or pick up a guitar and the instrument is
ready to play. Musicians tend to take this for granted,
but starting with a pre-balanced, consistent, instrument
is a huge advantage when learning to play. Open your
mouth to sing and any number of obstacles can compromise
range, tone, volume and flexibility. In other words,
in order to learn to sing, you have to build an instrument
first. Most instruments we play today are the result
of many years of refinement. As techniques for making
pianos and guitars improve, their sound and ease of
play improves as well. Instruments basically stay the
same from day to day. This provides a great foundation
for developing the skills need to play. We dont
have that advantage with our voices. Many things can
interfere with the playability of our voices,
from talking all day to tension held in the jaw. Since
most of these are not genetic or natural
limitations, they are removable.
is vital that you allow yourself to sound bad as you
work to improve your voice. Find a private place where
no one can hear you; its hard enough to tune out
your internal critic let alone opinionated roommates
and family members. Your goal when vocalizing is to
minimize muscle involvement -- no matter how bad it
sounds at first. For this reason, it is important to
distinguish the difference between sound and feel. We
often say a note feels bad when it actually just sounds
bad. Sounding bad is okay, feeling bad is not. Some
people will put up with tremendous discomfort in order
to make something sound better.
should feel like nothing, like rolling down a stretch
of smooth pavement. Correct notes are just as easy to
sing as incorrect notes, so dont add any effort
when you want to sing something better. Cracks are simply
a momentary loss of balance. They do not hurt you physically,
so try not to wince if one zings out unexpectedly. To
gain control of your voice, you need to learn to release
your face, jaw, tongue and neck. Just like relaxing
your arms and legs when skating, this usually creates
a short term loss of control. Re-visit this slippery
feeling until its trusted and you will be rewarded
with effortless singing. The only difference between
singing and roller blading is that you wont have
to sit funny while youre learning. Think of it
as un-training and youll have a big head-start
on the process
Baxter is a vocal therapist who offers private and
video lessons. To contact him, call: (800)659-6002.
Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Singer
Origins of Father's Day
Day isn't just a day for dads to get more ties. It's
celebrated on the third Sunday of June to honor dads,
grandfathers, step-dads and all men who act as a father
figure. Like most holidays that go way back, the origin
is hard to trace but most people will agree that Sonora
Dodd played a big part in starting the holiday.
Louise Smart Dodd first brought up the idea of a father's
day in 1909. She wanted a special day to honor her father,
William Smart. When Sonora's mother died in childbirth
with her sixth child, William was left to raise the
newborn and five other children by himself on a farm
in Washington state. As an adult, Sonora realized how
strong and unselfish her dad had been raising his kids
as a single parent.
wanted Father's Day to be celebrated on the first
Sunday in June, because it was close to her dad's
birthday. Instead, the first Father's Day celebration
took place on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington.
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson made the third Sunday
of June, Father's Day. It wasn't until 1972 that President
Richard Nixon made Father's Day a national holiday
- about 60 years after Mother's Day had been made
a national holiday.
Sayings by Dads:
- Go ask your mother!
- Just wait until I get you home!
- When I was your age....
- My father used to tell me...
- I used to walk to school in the snow!
- Be home early.