Dropping Vocal Weight and Reducing Breath Pressure for a free easy Singing Voice

 Hello everyone! Fall is here, and the smell of pine cones and pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks are in the air. Our favorite Christmas tree "pop up store" just received their annual delivery of freshly cut spruces and pines for purchase from folks like me anxious to decorate them for the upcoming holidays!
I just came from my morning workout at the gym where I desperately tried to put in an extra hour to prepare for the onslaught of turkey, stuffing, Pecan pies, egg nog and all the wonderful things I strive to avoid (sometimes failing miserably!) the rest of the year next week.
My biggest struggle this time of year is trying to avoid gaining weight! Can YOU relate to my struggles? If you are a singer in any capacity, it is a very high likelihood that you struggle with weight gain as well. I don't know what it is about us singer's and having a propensity for gaining weight, but it seems to be one of the occupational hazards of being a singer!
But body weight is not the “weight” I'm talking about in this post but rather vocal weight, how it affects the voice negatively and how to reduce it!
One of the things my vocal coach Maestro David Jones noticed about my voice in those first lessons with him in 1999 was that I sang with a tremendous amount of vocal weight, especially through the passaggio area between Eb4 and F#4. Years of incorrect vocal production forced me to sing with an unhealthy amount of breath pressure, which in turn closed my throat to such a degree that I literally had to push the breath through those notes to squeak out anything above the staff in the tenor range. The result of this constant pushing was an unnatural thickening of the vocal folds.
One of the exercises that helped the most in reducing not only breath pressure, but the thickening of the folds was the two octave Vocé Cuperto. This phenomenal exercise which is featured prominently in my instructional DVD/CD called “Let Your Voice Soar” began working it's magic almost immediately.
One of the key components of this amazing exercise is the fact that it balances the breath pressure between the bottom note and the top note in such a way that it becomes almost impossible to push breath pressure to achieve it. Maestro Jones gave me homework after those first lessons and said to me "I recommend you do this exercise often throughout the day!" Because my voice took to the exercise so quickly, I had no problem applying this to my daily vocal work out. In a few weeks I noticed that there was a lot more ease in my overall vocal production. I still had a challenge getting through the upper passaggio notes, but the challenge became less and less with each passing day.
My history of pushing breath pressure through the folds made it difficult for them to close completely. The result was a severe lack of ring or any semblance of resonance in my voice. Maestro Jones soon began introducing exercises designed to create healthy adduction of the vocal folds. This included copious amount of staccato exercises which gave my abdominal muscles quite a workout, but the results were great. I often wonder why I don’t have six pack abs from all of the years of doing vocal exercises which engage them so actively!
It is amazing once you understand that healthy vocal fold adduction and balanced breath pressure go hand in hand. However it is a bit like that question “Which comes first, the chicken, or the the egg?” Do we need to develop healthy vocal fold adduction first in order to develop a balanced breath support system? Or is not the other way around? Actually it’s both at the same time. Vocal exercises focused on developing these key components are immensely important.
I have been so blessed to teach the concepts of the Swedish-Italian school of singing for almost 18 years. I am in constant awe of how quickly the exercises begin to balance the registers of the chest, middle and head voice, reduce breath pressure and thin the vocal folds in such a way that the voice grows on ring, not muscle. Now you can have begin to learn the concepts of the technique with my program called “Let Your Voice Soar” by ordering the digital download from the website: www.voicesoaring.com.
It is now available for 15% off the retail price of $55.00 U.S. Stay tuned for another helpful tutorial in the next few days featuring some of the best staccato exercises I know! ��Happy Singing. Jeff https://youtu.be/fN9yD311e7I…

 

Another Reason To Take Voice Lessons

Good morning all of you beautiful singers/teachers of singing! Fall is definitely here. We slept with the windows open last night and it was one of the best night's rest I've had in a while. It was so nice to finally turn that blasted air conditioning unit off, or as we like to call it "the energy black hole"!
 
I have been reading an amazing book called "The Success Principles" by famed author Jack Canfield. I picked up this book after hearing an interview with Mr. Canfield on the radio as I was driving home from a gig late one night. I tend to listen to talk radio rather than music on the way home from gigs because my ears need a rest after these performances.
 
One of the principles of the book is about learning as much as possible about your craft. This means going to seminars, taking master classes, reading books and magazine articles and asking other's how they became masters of their craft, just to name a few.
 
This was a very important chapter to me because it highlighted what I already knew about about singing and that is the fact that it is a life study. One never stops learning about the voice, how it works, how to keep it healthy and how to make it last a lifetime. It truly is an instrument you can study for your entire life and never know everything about it. But you can know a lot by going deep into your study of it with qualified teachers of voice.
 
As I was preparing to write this post I came across an interview with a very talented ballet dancer who was discussing technique and why he still takes ballet classes everyday. I am going to change some of what he said to apply it to singing. Here is the jist of what he said:
 
"Voice lessons are a vital tool for a singer. Singing is a practice just like yoga, gymnastics or dance and it is something you need to exercise on a regular basis to train the voice and the mind to connect to the technique so that when you perform, you can forget about it and let it happen. So voice lessons are very important in that way".
 
Such great advice!
 
Have a wonderful day everyone. Keep singing and let your voice soar!
 
Peace,
 
Jeff

Vocal Warmup vs Vocal Workout: What's The Difference

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...

 

The Realities and Misconceptions of Lip Trills/Lip Bubbles

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!"