Archive for the ‘Voice Instruction’ Category

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How to Sing with Vibrato

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Teaching students to have a vibrato is tricky, because it’s more about NOT doing something than forcing our voices to wiggle around the pitch that we’re intending to sing. In these videos I show you several exercises that can help you get started to work towards a vibrato. Some key things to keep in mind as you practice with them: First, keep it all in a very comfortable range. Vibrato occurs when there is an even distribution of work between the diaphragmatic muscles and the vocal fold. If one or the other is applying force out of context with the other, your vibrato will tend not to occur, or it will sound affected and un-natural. If you’ve ever heard vocalists where their vibrato sounds really choppy and disconnected, this is one of the results you can get when you force it. Second, be patient. What we’re looking for here is a subtle feeling of release and ‘wobble’ in our voices. It’s as if in singing it has a uncertain instability that is comfortable, rather than concerning. When you practice, try the first two exercises and keep your focus on the airflow and vowels. Try to keep the air as steady as possible and see if you get a sensation that your voice could shimmy ever so slightly. From there, try to encourage your voice to do just that but keep focusing on keeping the air stable. If your vibrato starts to be too centered on oscillation of airflow, it’ll get choppy. Finally, if you have questions, get in touch. I am easy to reach on Twitter: @jtrolka or use the contact forms on either this website or Here – Voice Lessons in London. Thanks for watching and reading! Here are the new online singing lessons for vibrato in descending order or range, from Soprano to Baritone.

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Singing without Strain

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Singing without strain is a valuable skill for those of us who use our voices regularly or professionally. Even those of us who don’t rely on our voices to make a living can benefit from this practice though. In this video, we practice with one of my favorite and most effective methods for learning to sing without straining the voice. The short bursts of tone, if done from the solar plexus with the remaining abdominal muscles still engaged helps us define our tonal onset and get really efficient adduction of the vocal folds. When done properly, the sound will be full, or as a voice teacher might say, well connected, but it will feel light and agile. The richness of tone is a product of good airflow through a relaxed aural cavity that is being allowed to resonate freely. The beauty of this exercise though, is that in taking the short breaths, we’re given the opportunity to practice the tonal onset several times for each key that we’re singing in. In this way, we really get a chance to practice the onset to refine our technique. This directly translates to singing songs and can have an immediate impact after only a few minutes of practice. This exercise is one of the few exercises that I use when I am having general trouble with my voice. On the days when I’m not focusing very well or feeling as if my voice isn’t responding the way that I am generally accustomed to; coming back to this short practice can ‘reset’ my vocal delivery.


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New Blues Licks

Friday, September 26th, 2014

I’ve been pretty negligent with the blog lately, being a bit more focused on the singing lesson videos on YouTube and staying on schedule. No excuse though for slacking off!

This singing lesson is part vocalization part ear training. Blues licks in contemporary music are all over the place; it’s easy to hear that sultry minor tonality popping up in the riffs of stars like Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. The noteworthy (pun intended) aspect to this, however, is that the melodies of the songs that they are singing are largely based in very standard major or minor scales. The blues riffs are small departures from the tonality of the key that they are in in order to add color and inflection to the melody, enhancing the listeners ability to remember it as well as adding some of their own style to it.

So in this singing lesson that I posted yesterday, I have two different riffs that are based in a major tonality, but then include some aspects of the blues scale to color it. The riffs themselves aren’t terribly technical or fancy, they’re meant to get your ear oriented to how this type of color change sounds and feels when you sing it. Once you get your ear around it, adding this sort of character to your own melodies can be easier and more effective. Thanks as always for watching! If anything needs clarification, feel free to get in touch. If you find this video helpful, give it a ‘like’ to let me know, and I’ll do more videos in this series. Here it is:

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How to Project

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Projecting your singing voice was a topic that I was frankly, quite terribly nervous about discussing. It came in as a request, and I felt that I needed to address it, so I spent some time reviewing information that I’d compiled over the years.

First of all, I was reminded of an article that appeared in January of 2008′s edition of Scientific American. Called, “The Human Instrument,” this is an excellent article that goes into elaborate detail on how the vocal fold functions and how resonance and airflow work together along with muscle engagement at the vocal fold to create more resonance and volume than what would seem to be possible. This is the danger that I felt in doing this video.

If we focus purely on volume and projection of the voice, I feel as if we’re looking at the end results of a process that can take some time. By focusing our attention on good airflow, good vowel focus, and an awareness of the resonators at play in our voices we can arrive at the volume and power we want naturally and healthily. My goal in these videos has always been to provide good information that can improve not only our singing voices, but our overall vocal health.

After some thought and reading, I put the information into a three part summation of vocal technique. As always, I hope it helps, and if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. Thanks for watching! ~Jeff

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Singing over the Break

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Singing over ‘the break’ in ones voice can be tricky initially, but with practice, patience, and a willingness to endure singing sensations that are not what you’re accustomed to it can be seamless and beautiful.

I’ve now done videos for tenor range and alto range vocalists on Youtube. The alto range practice video is below. In both cases, though I don’t mention this in the videos, it’s critical to be open minded about the sensations and sounds that will come out of your mouth as you smooth out this register transition in the voice. It pays to keep in mind that these exercises are largely designed to break old habits and install new ones in their place. The overall tonal quality that you sing with may not be balanced initially. It will take practice. As the tone evens out and resonances from chest through head begin to match, still more diligence and practice are required for consistency and reliability to increase.

Patience is key. Recording yourself for evaluation is key. A good coach, or a Skype session with me can assist in this process. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or would like more clarification. All the best!

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Singing With Chords

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Last week was a big week for taking on singing lesson video requests.

This video has two different chord progressions. Each one cycles through all twelve key signatures from low to high in a fairly easy pace. The patterns that I sing as demonstrations can certainly be used to sing along with the progressions, though the intention behind this video is much more open ended than that.

As singers, we’re often tasked with coming up with our own melodies to songs. We may be working with a musical partner, or perhaps singing along with tracks that have been produced but lack a melody. This video gives one the opportunity to experiment with different melodies in different keys with two very familiar and widely used chord progressions.

I would recommend using the melodies I sing as starting points, and then branching out from there experimenting and having fun with creating your own hooks. You may consider recording yourself while doing so in order to be sure to capture anything that you’re really fond of. If any questions or additional requests come up, feel free to get in touch!

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Sing with Confidence

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

I always feel like I’m going out on a limb in videos that are mostly theory and not as much practice. That being said, confidence, also thought of as performance anxiety is something that many of us deal with.

I struggled with confidence greatly in the years before and during University. I struggled so much in fact that it was commented upon during auditions and mentioned to my professor. It didn’t make sense to me that I could feel so compelled to perform and also feel so crippled by performance anxiety. I quickly learned that the normal recommendations for anxiety were little more than jokes as far as I was concerned. No amount of visualizing a large body of individuals naked in front of me was going focus my mind on the music.

The fact remains though that I conquered it. I did such a good job in fact that it was recommended to me that I study psychology to better understand exactly what I had done and write a book about it. It seemed like there was a future there for me. That wasn’t going to be my path though.

This video on building confidence is focused on the singing voice, but it’s really applicable to any discipline. It is a three step process, not necessarily done in order. The process is a cyclical event that hopefully develops into a positive feedback loop.

Awareness: Being present in your body. Noticing the physical experience of what it is to sing and taking notice of what feels right and what doesn’t. Noticing what you are satisfied with in your performances and what you would like to change. If it’s too much to notice these things during your practice sessions, then a recording helps immensely during this part of the process.

Preparation: Charlie Parker said, “You’ve got to learn your instrument. Practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.” I believe Parker rather eloquently describes what I think of as the difference between individual practice and performance practice.

There is a time to work your scales. Analyze your breathing. To notice how you have used your voice in the past and how you are practicing with it to be able to do more in the future. The awareness and recordings you’ve done help to inform these areas of technical practice.

Once you’re on stage though, the environment is not conducive to this type of reflection. It’s at this time that we want all of those good technical skills and practices to have become habits. This way we’re focused on the music and have the mental space to deal with any self limiting thoughts.

Self Limiting Thoughts: The most individual aspect of this practice, and also, I believe, the most sinister. I had an audition this past Monday at nine in the evening. At around three in the afternoon I started to notice that it was going to be a bit expensive to get there on the London Underground. I also noticed that parking was going to cost nearly five pounds and despite taking the car to the station I still wouldn’t get home until midnight or later. Factoring in an early morning United States Pacific Cost timeline lesson I was scheduled to teach I was looking at a fairly expensive audition that would get me home late in the evening meaning I would only get about four hours of sleep that night.

That is my performance anxiety now. I don’t get scared, nor do I get obsessed with the music I have chosen to perform. I get bogged down in the mundane details of the situation around the performance and convince myself that it’s too much effort.

Had I never noticed this internal dialogue of self limiting thoughts and ideas, I might have perpetually looked for auditions, signed up for them, and then cancelled them at the last minute. The outcome in that situation is obvious; I’d never get the gig.

In this case, my efforts were externally positively reinforced in that I was successful and was offered a spot. That however, is little encouragement compared to the internal satisfaction I felt once I began singing in the audition and my sense of achievement afterwards. I don’t mention this as a concept in the video, as it’s even more esoteric than the process itself, but it pays to remove the external reinforcement from the equation of how you evaluate your performances. Concerning yourself more with how you performed as compared to your practice sessions or practice performance recordings is far more valuable than worrying about how an audience responds to you. The same gig performed the exact same way but with different people could have dramatically different outcomes. If we perform to our highest standards including the practice of building confidence through awareness, preparation, and managing our self-limiting thoughts we always come out as winners. Even if for that particular performance you don’t get the external validation, the efforts put into it prepare us for the next one and the one after that making the process of performing an increasingly positive experience that we can enjoy.

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Tenor Range Singing Lesson

Monday, July 14th, 2014

This new singing lesson focuses on the narrow range of notes in the secondo passaggio area of the male tenor range. Being that we’re all different, you may find the exercises to be right where you want them to be, or slightly too high or low. Working through them with the lip trill is the recommended way to begin these studies, and is in fact, the first exercise in the video.

Be sure that you’re providing good airflow throughout this singing lesson, and be mindful of your overall fatigue level. If you feel that you’re getting tired and allowing your muscle engagement to collapse take a break. Pause the video or rewind and start again. It’s extremely important that positive airflow be available otherwise you run the risk of using too much muscle control robbing your voice of freedom and resonance.

This singing lesson is meant for male vocalists whose secondo passaggio falls around F4. If you have any questions, or would like this video in a different key area for a different vocal range, let me know. All the best!

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Blues Scale Practice

Friday, June 20th, 2014

I’ve been dreadful about updating this lately. In my defense, I did have a rather massive computer crash requiring me to replace my hard drive and then restore the system from a Time Machine backup. Thankfully, it all went right back into place. It was actually kind of amazing how well it worked. I had to do it twice but it eventually all got sorted out. On the plus side, my computer is faster than ever, and I treated myself to 8 additional gigs of RAM. I figured that I would have the back open anyway, might as well do a little upgrade.

Anyway, I haven’t released any videos in at least two weeks, and I kicked today off by recording a blues scale based lesson. Someone requested it, and I had done no other video even remotely similar, so I jumped right on it.

I must admit, it was a lot of fun to play through the exercises and scales. I hadn’t given this scale much thought for several years and it was fun to revisit it.

I have to say though, for those really wanting to get into blues, consider this only a beginning. It might really be more like a prerequisite before the real study begins. The blues is one of those art forms that is so initially satisfying that it can be mistaken for simple. Nothing could be further from the truth. Regional differences abound; in the scales that are used, the chord progressions, and the ways that the two meet. Like so much music, it’s wise to do a lot of listening to the artists that inspire you. Dissect what they’re doing, learn their riffs, transcribe the chord progressions, and then decide what you’re going to keep and what you want to change. Just my two cents there.

Here’s the video, suitable for warming up or working your blues chops. Thanks for watching!

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Singing consistency

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Singing consistency is a skill that I promote in my studio. With consistency comes confidence, derived from knowing that when you step on stage, your voice will respond that way it did in rehearsal, and the riffs and range that you were able to execute the day before will still be there. I suppose confidence in singing comes from many different places and it may be different for each individual. For me, however, I can relax and feel confident when my voice is functioning consistently and my singing is reliable.

I did these exercises to help us work on that, and I hope you’ll enjoy them. They’re full range, so stop if they get too high, or work them with the lip trill after that point in the recording. I find it helpful to learn them with the lip trill first, then transition into the vowel sounds so that you’re confident with the pattern.

If any questions come up, or you’d like me to elaborate on the exercises, feel free to get in touch!

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