Happy Monday morning to all of you gorgeous, wonderful singers/teachers of singing. It is a rare thing to wake to a cloudless sky these days after weeks and weeks of rainy days. So after this blog is posted, I'll be getting the lawn mower out to mow the grass which is "as high as an elephants eye" after all the rain we've had! Our topic today is warming up the voice verses vocally working out the voice. I have to admit that when it comes to a vocal warm up or a vocal workout, I've sometimes confused the two. Before I began studying the concepts of the Swedish-Italian school of singing, I would often over-warm up my voice due to a lack of solid vocal technique. I remember being back stage for a show I was doing in south Florida many years ago and one of my fellow cast members said to me "Jeff, you sure do warm up your voice a lot! Do you think that's necessary since we just did a show last night?" That got me thinking" "Humm, maybe I am am warming up too much." Suddenly I remembered a quote by the late great soprano Joan Sutherland who once said "We never want to warm up our voice so much that the bloom falls off the rose". Once I began to master the concepts of the technique, I found that the time it took to warm up my voice before a performance was greatly reduced, and there was still plenty of "bloom on the rose" for the performance. So what is the difference between a vocal warm and a vocal workout? Well, a vocal workout is really as it sounds: A complete vocal workout for the voice, covering all the bases. My vocal workout begins with a lot of very light head voice down exercises first. I rarely begin with exercises that are chest voice dominant in the lower register. A healthy middle voice is key to a balanced voice from top to bottom, so I will often start with a descending 5 tone scale on "ooh" beginning at middle at C4. This can take several minutes and I try not to rush through this part of the workout. Once I feel that the head voice is starting to open up, then I will add my favorite exercise called the "vocé cuperto", which is a two octave exercise starting at low A2 in chest voice, then jumping up two octaves to A4 in falsetto before descending all the way back down to A2. This exercise alone is quite a workout but is so incredibly healthy for the voice that it doesn't feel like work at all. I take this exercise up by half steps to about E3 before moving on to another exercise. The next part of my vocal workout includes 5 tone ascending and descending vowel combination scales. I often use the vowel combinations of "ee" and "oh" or "eh" and "ah" and then vary them up. After running through my entire range on the 5 tone scales, then I will move onto arpeggios using different phrases such as "Oh how I love to sing" or "Bella Signora". Once the voice begins to feel open and the muscles feel lubricated, I will move onto "ng" exercises which add nasal resonance or "twang" to the voice. So far we're looking at about 15 to 20 minute vocal workout. From there I will check to see if the there are other areas of the voice that need to be addressed (they're often are!) and this could include staccato exercises, range building exercises, chest voice connection exercises, head voice strengthening exercises, jaw tension reducing exercises, breathing exercises, vowel alteration exercises (Caruso Scale), tongue tension reducing exercises and many many more. Once the vocal exercise portion of the workout is complete (30 minutes or more), I will take a few minutes to let my voice relax, recalibrate, drink some water or tea, check my email and then move on to repertory which could be anything I am preparing for upcoming gigs, to something I may never sing in public like an aria from "La Boheme"! Yes, I still check in with those difficult operatic arias from time to time just to see if I can navigate them healthily! I sing mostly pop and rock now, but an aria like "Che Gelida Manina" is like a cross fit workout. I think it's important to find a challenging piece of music to keep the voice "on it's toes" so to speak! This entire workout usually last an hour or maybe a little longer. I try to incorporate this into my daily routine 3 to 4 days a week. If I were not teaching voice everyday, singing in a busy corporate wedding band and singing in my church on Sundays (Thursday rehearsals) I might do this workout 5 to 6 days a week. But all the additional singing I do more than makes up for the 3 to 4 days or vocal workouts. As far as a vocal warmup is concerned I would take a few of the exercises from the complete vocal workout and do those for about 20 to 40 minutes. But instead of doing it all at in one session, I will break it up into 3 segments: ten minutes in the morning, 10 to 15 minutes in the afternoon, and then 10 to 15 minutes before the show. I have found that by breaking up the vocal warmup on show days, my voice is much more relaxed and at my command than if I did the entire warmup in one session. I hope you found this post helpful. If you are looking for a complete vocal workout with lots of fun exercises and very well defined instruction, please check out my instructional DVD/CD called "Let Your Voice Soar". It is available in hard copy or digital download for 15% off the retail price. Check out the promotional video here. Have a great day everyone! https://youtu.be/fN9yD311e7I
Introducing "Let Your Voice Soar" instructional DVD/CD (episode #4) This video is an introduction to the "Let Your Voice Soar" instructional DVD/CD, created by vocal coach Jeff Alani Stanfill of Voice Soaring Studios LLC. The...
Good morning everyone. What a beautiful day it is here in Northern New Jersey. I am unfortunately sidelined today with a nasty upper respiratory infection that I was hoping to keep at bay, or just not let happen at all. I generally succumb to this in either April or June every year, but I think all the wet weather we've had for the last several weeks, and exposure to other singers who have had it, broke down my immunities and attacked my lungs. Fortunately I do not have a gig with my band this weekend, so the timing was perfect....in a way. Being sidelined from teaching or much else for that matter gives me time to write this post. Recently I was contacted by a singer in Atlanta, GA who had been watching my YouTube singing tutorials, and inquired about taking lessons with me via Skype. He shared a very sad story about his experience with no less than 4 different vocal coaches in the ATL area over a 4 year period. He said that "every coach I went to gave me endless versions of lip trills and not much else. After four years of studying with these coaches, I have no solid cord closure, no low notes, and no concept of how to bridge my registers." I felt terrible for this young singer because I believe he is not alone in his quest to find a coach that can help him develop his complete voice. One of the very reasons why I started putting singing tutorials on my youtube channel is because I was extremely frustrated from watching endless tutorials by coach after coach touting the latest and greatest new vocal exercise "the lip trill!" I felt badly for the many young or not so young singers out there who were desperately seeking some help with their voices, only to find that lip trills/lip bubbles are being marketed as the "one size fits all, all encompassing vocal exercise that will give you your complete voice with no breaks from top to bottom!" Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE lip trills. They are a wonderful semi-occluded vocal tract exercise that have many benefits. Lip trills are a fantastic tool for helping singers develop a consistent breath flow, take vocal weight out of the voice, and develop a smooth legato line just to name a few. They also put the voice in protection due to the fact that the vocal tract is partially closed in front. But they just a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to developing the complete voice. The singer from Atlanta recently began lessons with me via Skype, and what most surprised me was how much information was missing from his training. Just as he said, he had no concept of an open throat, cord closure, breath support and his vowels were completely distorted. Basically we had to start at ground zero as if he had never had a voice lesson. And of course we completely avoided lip trills! Fortunately this young man is like a sponge and is ready to learn the concepts that he so desperately wanted. I believe most of us vocal coaches are teaching because we truly want to see our students become the best singers they can be. Even the coaches on YouTube who are still touting lip trills as the "greatest vocal exercise on the planet" are doing it because they want to see singers excel. There ARE some very good coaches on youtube. I admire the fact that these coaches are giving tons of free, vital information to singers around the world.That's my goal as well. Have a great day everyone! "Keep singing, and let your voice soar!"
Favorite Exercises from Jeff's Vocal Tool Box Good morning everyone. Wow, what a spectacular day it is here in Northern New Jersey. It's currently about 75 degrees, sunny and all the plants and trees are in full bloom! AHHH CHHOOOOO!! I love nature, but all the pollen that is being produced right now is making singing a bit challenging. That's why I am going to pull out one a favorite vocal exercises from my Vocal Tool Box to try and get my vocal cords back down to a mean, lean fightin machine. Recently one of my students, who is also fellow vocal coach told me that he heard from another teacher that "Staccato exercises aren't good for your voice". I have to say that I was a little taken aback by this statement, and my immediate reaction was "Obviously whoever told you this, doesn't know how to sing staccato very well!" Surely if that person who made that statement was doing staccato exercises correctly, they would know right off the bat how wonderfully beneficial and healthy singing staccatti are for the voice. On days like today when my sinuses are loaded up with pollen and my vocal cords feel like two balloons in my larynx, staccato exercises are my "go-to" for reducing the puffiness brought on by allergies. Try this simple exercise: Place both hands (one on top of the other) on your belly between your navel and your sternum. This is the area that you would grab after a big belly laugh. Now, sing a few short staccato notes on any note that feels comfortable on the vowel "ah". It doesn't need to be high or low, but rather somewhere in the middle. Whenever I start this note I generally wind up on G3. But you can literally start anywhere. When you sing those little staccato notes, about 5 in a row, you will feel a little bounce in your abdominals. If you hear too much breath coming through, you are pushing too hard on your abs. If you hear a glottal stroke, you are using your throat and this is not correct either. I always says staccato should neither sound like Britney Spears vocal frying a note, or Justin Bieiber singing the first few lines of the song "Sorry". By the way, I happen to be a fan of both singers, not so much for their vocal talents, but rather for their entertainment skills. Mr. Bieber has improved much as a vocalist of late...in my opinion. In the Swedish Italian school of singing we talk about breath and resonance happening simultaneously. In other words, the very second breath comes through the vocal folds, they should phonate on a pitch. So you should hear a clean attack on the pitch when you sing those 5 little staccato notes. Now add a simple staccato scale of 1,3,5,3,1,3,5,3,1after the 5 staccatos. So the entire exercise would be built on (If we start at G3 for the guys, G4 for the girls) Singing each pitch on "ah" G..G..G..G..G. breath..G..B..D..B..G..B..D..B..G. I recommend doing this exercise several times in the same key before taking it up or down. I am going to be filming my next tutorial for my YouTube channel on this concept, so stay tuned. Until then, I wanted to leave you guys with a video of a singer who you may have seen on social media. She is a perfect example of the benefits of staccato singing! Have a wonderful day! "Keep singing and let your voice soar!" https://youtu.be/yv6jiqVmmSI
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