Archive for the ‘Lesson’ Category

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New Singing Lesson Live on Youtube

Monday, January 6th, 2014

New singing lesson online specifically dealing with glottal attacks and how to work towards preventing them from happening in your singing without intent. I’ve recently been doing videos that were more practice oriented in that there wasn’t a terrible amount of talking and instruction, just a lot of singing. In this video I talk about what a glottal attack is, demonstrate it, and then give you some exercises you can work on. Most male singers should be able to use the video directly, but female vocalists may need to transcribe the exercises in order to be in a comfortable range of their voices. As always, if you would like me to do the exercises in a key that is easier for you, just let me know!

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New Voice Lessons – Free on Youtube

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

I’m a big fan of free things. I mean seriously, who isn’t? Actually, I think I have to take that back. Frequently there are ‘free’ things on the internet that require email addresses, phone numbers, or access to everything you have on Facebook. Other times, there are ‘free’ things that take up more space and or time than they’re worth, like the end table that your Great Aunt insists you take home with you from visiting. I once had a co-worker who must’ve thought I was unable to cook for myself. At the time I was a bachelor, and frequently she would very kindly give me bags of pre-cooked meat. I appreciated the sentiment, but I often didn’t actually eat what she gave me. The one time I did, I definitely regretted it.

But I digress. As a voice teacher, I have this idea that the more people know, the better we’ll all sing, and in some way this pays homage to those who have helped me in the past who required no renumeration. That being said, I often went to them for a few lessons after those freebies, so maybe it all came out in the wash anyway.

I did these four videos to help people warm up their voices before gigs or recording sessions. Whatever really. They are in four categories, low and high male, and low and high female. There should be one that roughly corresponds to your vocal range. Use them on youtube as much as you want, there are no advertisements that I have placed on them, so they should be pretty distraction free. If you find yourself using them a lot though, please consider buying them off of iTunes or wherever you buy your online media.

Thanks!!!

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New Videos Up Soon!

Friday, September 6th, 2013

As many of you are aware I recently moved to England, and it’s taken me a bit of time to get settled in and back to producing more voice teaching videos. I am happy to announce that I just finished a series of four videos that will be available shortly, for free (as always!) on youtube. It’s a general warm up series that I think is pretty comprehensive. Check back for the release.

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Inspiration from Joss Whedon

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

I find it kind of humorous when you realize you’re a fan of a writer or producer and you didn’t know it. This is what happened to me with Joss Whedon. I was never a fan of ‘Buffy the vampire slayer’ when it was in production, it took my wife to introduce me to the wonder and humour of this fantastic series that Whedon created many years later. He’s a film creator who has taken on so many roles, now including his own production company, that it’s really hard to say exactly what he does, but that’s not for this post anyway. This article about his ability to get things done was shared with me, and I felt it appropriate to pass it along here. Enjoy!

Getting Things Done – Joss Whedon

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Amanda Palmer; music and the connection that we can create.

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

I have to say that I find this presentation extremely touching. As an artist, we hope to reach the people that will find the same or similar substance in the music that we create the we ourselves do. In the ever changing, and ever rapidly changing landscape of the online music world, Amanda Palmer brings a thought forward about how we as artists can better reach and engage those that enjoy what we do. When anything can be ripped and burned, what is the point any longer of ‘selling’ music, when with social media, we can give it away and ask for help. This talk is interesting at the very least, touching and heart warming, in my opinion.

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Voice Lesson

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

This youtube tutorial discusses and has exercises to work on developing consistent resonance between all vowel sounds. Part 1 is pitched appropriate for male chest vocals, part 2 can be used as passagio practice for male vocals, or chest voice for female vocals.

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Free Voice Lesson

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

As part of the continuing series of free voice lessons I’m publishing to youtube, I’ve done one discussing a simple vocalisation exercise and how it applies to songs that need work. Enjoy!

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Free Voice Lesson online

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

This is one of those things that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, and never really found the format for how I wanted to do it. I tried doing audio lessons, briefly, but didn’t really feel like they conveyed all the information I wanted to convey, and they were really labor intensive.

This first lesson is the beginning of a series of concise free lessons that I’ll be posting to youtube. They’re meant to be very to the point with brief descriptions and very focused topics. The Lip Trill is an exercise that gets used extensively by voice teachers to help clients expand their range, track how well they’re managing airflow, and work on musical ideas while saving their voice. It’s my pleasure to kick this off with a tutorial working on it.

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Backing vocals

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of singing backing vocals for Portland, Oregon based singer/songwriter Marie Schumacher. Coincidentally, I’ve recently had several new clients coming in for lessons for themselves and other members of their music groups in order to work on just that, and thought it was an appropriate time to discuss backing vocals, different varieties, and how they’re created.

Background vocals generally work in one of two ways. First, moving in a complimentary fashion and using the same lyrics at the same time as the lead vocal. For example, one of the songs I sang with Marie was Poetic License, track number 9 there at CD Baby. Marie’s lead vocal is alternately alone, and then with her own backing part chiming in.

Secondly, backing vocals can also provide a counter-melody to the lead vocal. Often they’ll use some of the words that the lead vocal has, but not necessarily. The note content can be completely different from the lead. Anytime Soon (located in the player on the left of the page) does just that. As the backing vocals come in they alternate singing with and providing a counter-melody to Marie’s lead vocal. This becomes much more apparent as we get into the second verse.

Within the context of both styles of background vocals we have to choose from four basic types of melodic motion. Parallel, similar, contrary, or oblique.

In popular music, these motions are often mixed and matched in consideration of the lead vocal melody, and the chord progression that one is following. I found an excellent website that gives great audio examples of these four forms of melodic motion. Learning and Loving Music Theory by Robert Reno has a variety of examples, but at the bottom of that page the four examples of melodic motion are clearly demonstrated.

So how do we write these parts?

Step one is to know the lead vocal melody. That can mean being able to sing it or knowing the notes of the chords that it uses, but preferably, both. I also find it very helpful to know the complete range (how high and how low) that the lead vocal will cover. This allows me to plan my harmony parts so that I never get too high into my range, nor too low. If I must do a voice crossing, where I begin by singing above the lead vocal, and then cross to sing below them (or vice versa), I can be prepared for this so it is executed smoothly.

Two is to know the chord changes for the song. This is when I really begin planning my part because depending on the melody and chord changes, I’ll be able to determine where my part is going to begin and ultimately go to. For example, if we’re in G, and the lead vocal begins on D4 (D above middle C) then I am most likely to start my harmony part on the root (G below middle C) or the third (B below middle C) so that I don’t get too high in my range. This is particularly important if the lead vocal melody is ascending!

From here, we can construct our parts according to both how the melody moves and what the song is calling for. Flowing melodies in stepwise motion often lend themselves quite well to parallel or similar motion harmony parts, such as Marie’s Valerian. Most importantly this works very well with the conversational, narrative style of the song. In this way, our backing parts stand out minimally, as there is very little contrast to what the lead vocal is doing. They are extremely complimentary and help to lend a full rich sound to Marie’s lead part.

Alternately, on Anytime Soon the oblique motion in the verse creates a bit more tension, which is appropriate for this song that has a bit more angst. The backing vocals stand out a bit more, and create a dynamic between the two parts, adding to the drama of the song. This increases the further we get into the song, particularly in the second verse where a call and response between lead and backing vocals increases the excitement and sustains the energy and motion very thoroughly ultimately launching us into chorus 2.

The bottom line, however, is that all of these devices are meant to enable us to augment the emotion and impact of our songs. A good background vocal part doesn’t just take your song up a notch in impact, it goes up by at least a dozen, and the more we know about how these parts are written, the more we can choose the best way to express the emotions that the song was meant to.

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Sick!

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

I talk about this frequently in my lessons, however I rarely get the chance to put it into practice, which is the idea that singing when you have a cold isn’t entirely bad, it just requires a bit more care and rest during your practice sessions.

The cold and flu season this year doesn’t seem to be any worse than others in recent memory, the only difference to me being that I got sick this time! I normally avoid colds somehow, usually by hitting my body with Zicam at the first sign of any illness. My general rule of thumb there is that you have to spend thirty dollars on any combination of products and use them all simultaneously. It’s worked well for me in the past, but somehow I let it slip by me this time.

So I got sick, and today I’m returning to singing. First and foremost, I’ll check myself out before I start any vocal pyrotechnics. How does my body feel? Any irritation in the throat or vocal fold area? Can I vocalize above my break? So long as all of that checks out, I’ll be fine to sing, with certain restrictions:

First and foremost, fluids, fluids, fluids. I find that echinacea tea with small (really small) amounts of honey keeps me well lubricated. I drink it when it’s not too hot, and am certain to drink more room temperature water than anything else.

More rest between exercises or songs. Body fatigue and a disinclination to use your core muscles to support will contribute to vocal fatigue more now than when one is not tired from being sick. I’ll need to monitor my body energy more carefully, and make sure that I am consciously using my support muscles.

Don’t overdo it. With some care and moderation having a few days off from a cold can amount to vocal rest. Unfortunately, I could only somewhat moderate the coughing that accompanied this one, so there is a little bit of irritation that will need to go away before I’m back fully, however, I can help this along by being careful, staying extremely well hydrated, and returning to singing slowly and with a conscious effort towards rejuvenating my voice.

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