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Let Yourself Sing
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Shades of Passion
Herbs to the Rescue
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Surfing the Song
Loud Mouths Don't Shout
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Give Yourself Permission To Sing
Alcohol, Singing and You
Don't Let Them See You Sweat
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The Imposter Syndrome
More to Karaoke than Singing!
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Tips for Singers:
"Surfing The Song" 
(Remember to dive into the lyrics)

by Mark Baxter
 When Iím working in Los Angeles, I often drive aimlessly up the coast in search of inspiration.

For no reason, one day I pulled into the parking lot of a state beach in Malibu. Walking along the shore, I noticed a handful of surfers in shiny black wet-suits bobbing up and down in the water like seals. Some people had gathered on a nearby dune to watch the surfers do their thing. Hmm, letís see; thereís a stage, some performers, a seating area and an audience. Sound familiar? I settled back and took in the show. The surfers were good, I guess, but what struck me was how similar the skill of catching a wave on a foam-core board is to performing a song.

Singing is a balancing act. A dance between the forces of nature and artistic desires. There are universal laws which govern every aspect of singing, and the same is true for surfing. The difference is that singers have to make their own waves, and what we ride is emotion. Feelings rise and fall inside us creating surges of energy which can be harnessed. Like surfers heading for the ocean, we performers drive to gigs or the studio hoping the swells will be plentiful. Sometimes, the waves are too big, causing beginners to lose control and wipe out. Calling up tears in a performance is one thing, crying is another. Tapping into anger certainly creates waves. But what good are huge swells if your board gets trashed on the very first run? Too often, though, itís a singerís lack of intimacy that reduces the power of the surf, making the songs safe and uneventful. It takes skill and courage to ride a big one and stay on your feet, and an equal amount of skill and courage to stir up placid waters.

Some people are good at making waves. What the rest of us have to remember is that a wave is a wave. You do not have to specifically feel anger, happiness, loneliness or love to express them in song. Any emotion will do, just feel something. Pain is often substituted as pleasure in films. Directors have been known to dig their fingernails into the feet of actresses to evoke passionate facial expressions during love scenes when, in reality, the woman canít stomach her co-star. In the same way, it is unreasonable to expect a singer to relive the emotions which inspired a song after performing it a thousand times. Once a wave has been created the dance begins. This is the point where singer and surfer alike utilize physical skills. Subtle, reflex muscles constantly adjust to changing conditions. It is impossible to think fast enough, the technique must be unconscious. Whatís important to note is that you are not controlling the wave, merely playing off its energy. Harness the momentum of an emotion and passion will swell during the verse of a song. Then, shoot the curl throughout the chorus. If the wave gets out of hand, pull back. If it loses steam, lean forward. With an adventurous spirit and good technique, you can take a song anywhere.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they sing or surf. Without knowing any of the surfers in Malibu personally, it was easy to separate the conservative from the risk takers, the reckless from the nut cases. Beginners spent tremendous energy thrashing about the water as the experienced glided by with precision. Some played to the audience on the dunes while others surfed for internal fulfillment. Regardless of their ability, we onlookers admired them all. It looked like fun. Watching made me anxious to get back to my studio and dive into a song.

Mark Baxter is a vocal therapist who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call: (800)659-6002. Visit his website at:

(reprinted with the kind permission of Mark Baxter)

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