I recently had a discussion with a speech therapist who suggested that a lot of singers don’t actually know what their voices look like. Sometimes, it’s only when they are at a visit with the ENT or SLP that they finally get to see the vocal folds on a screen upon examination. She also made me further aware of how important it is that singers are educated in how the voice works and especially how to care for it, after all, it is their instrument. Preventing injuries and voice disorders can be challenging especially considering the crazy scheduling demands on professional singers these days. However, I agree that it’s crucial singers are educated on the importance of maintaining vocal hygiene because by doing so it can minimize the risk of vocal health issues later. Not only that, it can ensure longevity in their career.
So what is ‘vocal hygiene’ anyway and what steps can we take to make it happen? Vocal hygiene is the practice of maintaining and caring for your instrument both on and off stage. A lot of times we as singers are more focused on the music, the songwriting, the performance, the audience, the rehearsals…the list goes on and on. Those are all very important aspects to the art of singing. But equally important are steps we can take to maintain our instrument. Here are just some of the ways to keep your vocal hygiene in check:
Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Simply put, if the body is healthy, the voice is healthy. Ensuring you get restorative sleep nightly, and maintaining a nutritious diet are both contributing factors to vocal hygiene. With nutrition it is all about researching what works best for you. If you suffer from acid reflux or allergies (which can effect the vocal folds) seek advice from a medical professional. Whatever you put in your body affects the voice, so avoid toxic substances. Physical exercise can help increase your lung capacity and can contribute to better stamina when singing on stage. Plus it gives you more energy and awareness of posture which is important in singing. So taking steps towards a healthy lifestyle definitely counts towards vocal health.
Commit to overall hydration. Vocal folds work much better and don’t fatigue as fast with moisture. Hydration doesn’t mean chugging down huge amounts of water the day of your performance or lesson. Rather, experts suggest that a commitment to overall hydration (daily intake of water) is much more efficient. You want to keep your vocal cords moist all the time. If you live in a dry environment, or suffer from dry throat, steaming the voice has been recommended by vocal professionals as a way of keeping the area moist.
Exercise your voice daily. Daily vocalizing sessions to warm up the voice are so important. But also vocal development and honing in on the areas of the voice that are challenging to develop on your own. For example areas above the chest area (as we refer to as the “mix” area or even head voice) can be difficult to sing into without any training. A qualified voice teacher will be able to assign you specific exercises to warm up the voice but also increase your vocal balance in those difficult areas.
Work on your speaking voice. How you use your speaking voice on a day to day basis counts towards vocal hygiene. If you are speaking aggressively or shouting excessively, or using it way too much, you are more likely to fatigue your voice. If your occupation requires you to speak for long periods of time, ensure you are speaking with enough pitch inflections. Moving your voice in pitch will allow it to not just stay in the same position all day. (Imagine just standing in the same position all day long and not moving around much). Vocal cords needs to be stretched a little here and there and using more than just one pitch to speak on will allow more movement.
Take time for vocal rest. If you use your voice frequently throughout the day in your occupation, or for singing or public speaking, be sure to take time out of your day to rest your voice.
The process of keeping your voice healthy requires awareness and commitment and can be quite challenging. Start today to make small changes in keeping vocal hygiene in check. Your voice will thank you for it!
Are you an established artist looking for a vocal tune-up?
Are you in an artist development phase in your career looking to advance your singing skills?
Are you a professional singer that has experienced vocal fatigue or vocal health issues in the past?
Alida Vocal Studio is pleased to offer 30 minute Vocal Rebalancing Sessions.
From July 9th to the 23rd receive $20.00 off using the promo code: SUMMER18
*offer valid for new clients only
Don’t miss this opportunity to tune up your voice and get it back into shape!
Sessions are held in person or online via Zoom.
Are you a singer who really wants to get better at singing riffs? A riff (sometimes called ‘run’) is a pattern of descending or ascending notes on one syllable at rapid pace. Riffs have their origin in gospel and jazz and can be found in R&B, country, rock, dance, pop and even more recently contemporary musical theatre. Find an easy and short riff pattern to start and follow these tips:
Step 1: Pick an easy riff with not too many notes, from a song you like. Play the riff on piano or guitar to make sure you have all the right notes.
Step 2: Sing the riff with a consonant on each note, such as “buh, buh, buh, buh buh” or “nuh nuh nuh”. Take vibrato out and sing it on a straight tone only so there is more clarity on the notes.
Step 3: Take the consonant out and put a gentle glottal stop on each note (such as “ah. ah. ah.” or try it on “m. m. m.“ to get your voice to feel that separation between each of the notes within the pattern.
Step 4: Take the glottal stop out and just use a pure vowel such as “uh”, “oh” or “ay”.
Step 5: Start to speed up the riff, slowly increasing the tempo until the notes are all clean. Don’t merge any of the notes, if you have done that, then you have sung it too fast. Try not to push too much air while singing the riff. (This will help you keep that resistance of air pressure to be able to sing several notes in succession at a quick pace)
Step 6: Repeat the riff many times until you have it smooth. Repetition of the riff pattern will also build muscle memory on how to move from one note to the next with a clear separation of the notes. (versus clumping the notes altogether)
To get better at riffs, practice riff scales on a regular basis. Voice Tutor app has an amazing ‘riff and run’ section. Or download “Funky Vocal Licks” by John Fluker on iTunes. Natalie Weiss’ web series “Breaking Down the Riffs” is also super fun! Keep listening to Gospel, mowtown, R&B, Jazz and artists who riff quite a bit. (Callie Day, Karen Clark Sheard, Smokie Norful, Steve Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Usher and Tori Kelly just to name a few) Even if you are a country, pop or musical theatre singer, listening to Gospel or R&B will help you gain a better ‘ear’ for riff patterns. Before you know it, you willl be riffing effortlessly!
Alida is a singer and vocal coach based in Vancouver, Canada. A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida holds an IVA Advanced Certificate in voice teaching. She is also certified in Speech Level Singing and is a member of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing). Alida has been teaching voice for 9 years to clients from the Lower Mainland as well as across Canada and worldwide.
In her best selling book Mindset – The new Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck outlines the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is the belief that what you are capable of is a fixed trait, like eye colour, you’re born with it and you can’t change it. Whereas a growth mindset is like a muscle, when you put in the hard work and effort, your abilities can grow and flourish.
Singing is an activity that is notoriously known for being either you have “it” or you don’t. In other words, the genius singers were singing from the moment they were born.
Yeah right, nothing can be further from the truth. Btw, check out this great diagram:
Getting back to singers….take any genius singer and Wikipedia them and find out about how long they have been singing for and their training and background….
And even if they and “talent” (whatever that means) they were most likely brought up in an environment that encouraged singing daily (whether at home church or school)
(Ps…parents don’t ever discourage your kids from singing even if you think it sounds bad….children need to be encouraged to use their voices….more on that in a later blog)
When it comes to growing as a singer here are some SHIFTS that need to happen:
1) train – work with a qualified singing and voice professional weekly or bi-weekly
2) learn from the constructive feedback that you’ve been given – record your lessons so you can practice daily -find out what you need to improve on
3) embrace the vocal challenges – it’s not always going to be easy, keep going, keep working – the challenges are what make you stronger as a singer
4) keep going…did I mention keep going?
5) view other’s success as inspiring – don’t worry, there’s room for everyone!
6) When you hear a good singer, L I S T E N! Get inspired!
7) One more thing…ignore the haters….and only work with people who offer you constructive feedback and effective tools!
Alida is a vocal coach and singer/performer based in Vancouver, Canada and has been teaching private voice lessons for 10 years. A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida is also a Level 5 Certified IVA Voice Teacher.
What if there was a miracle cure for all of your vocal troubles? Well there kind of already is…
The number one game changer for singers is vocal technique, that’s right, you’ve heard it before, technique technique, technique….
As much as we try to avoid it, we may be bored by it, confused by it, don’t want to bother with it, wanna warm-up and go straight to songs, have better things to do like scroll through insta feeds….
The truth is: your voice needs a daily workout.
-When we avoid technique, we’re avoiding the problematic areas that will show up for us in the songs…so you will always ‘miss the mark’ if you just keep practicing the song only.
-Technique prepares you for the challenges you face in the song!
-Also, it helps prevent vocal fatigue and injury…it makes singing easier!
Wanna game plan?
book your next voice lesson
record your vocal technique exercises with your phone during your lesson
practice those tools daily BEFORE you hit the songs
THEN…wait for my next blog….it’s coming soon….
in the meantime keep do steps 1-3
Alida is a vocal coach based in Vancouver, Canada and has been teaching voice to singers for 10 years. A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida is also a certified Advanced IVA Voice Teacher.
“Today April 16th, 2018, marks World Voice Day! This day was established 19 years ago to raise awareness of the importance of vocal health and to share resources on vocal science and pedagogy. There are several events happening today across Canada and around the world. Take a moment to read up on the voice and reflect on what your voice means to you! The World Voice Day motto for 2018 is “Make the Choice to Cherish Your Voice“. What steps can you take today to ‘cherish’ your voice?
We still tend to believe that someone is a great singer because they were born singing great or they have ‘natural talent.’ (There’s a term that’s thrown around a lot.) But that isn’t true, it takes work, training and also effective coaching. Here are just some of the ways we can improve our singing:
Find a vocal coach:
Work with a qualified voice teacher frequently to make sure you are on the right track with your voice. At the end of your lessons be sure to ask your voice coach what to work on specifically in your practices.
Keep your practices short, focused and productive. Following along with your lesson recording is generally a good way to start. Then taking sections of a song and working through the challenging bits. If you are doing too much all at once your voice may get tired. So it’s a good idea to make your practice regime shorter and more frequently throughout the week. Technique should come first, especially if you are still trying to build a balanced voice and are the beginning stages of vocal development.
Listen to great singers:
Don’t be afraid to listen to genius singers, in fact, build a playlist of them! Singers from all genres of music and not necessarily mainstream artists. Consult with a professional on which singers would be a great reference or inspiring for you to listen to. While listening, take note as to how they are singing. What is their vibrato like? What is their range like?
Keep your voice healthy:
Vocal rest, hydration, sleep, vocal technique are all proven ways to make sure your voice is in healthy shape. If you aren’t sure if your voice is healthy, consult with a voice therapist or medical professional.
“When people say artists are born with talent, you’re not. You have to really learn and really practice.” – Ed Sheeran on Jonathan Ross Show (2014)
Change your mindset:
Focus on the milestones you have achieved with your voice, take note of how and what you have improved on – then you are more likely to head in the right direction with your voice. Constructive criticism is best, so work with a qualified vocal coach to ensure you are getting the right feedback. Don’t let your ‘inner critic’ take control over your vocal progress.
Stop the comparing:
Since no two voices are alike, it’s impossible to sound like another singer. It’s wonderful to listen to great singers and get a reference for what they are doing vocally. But at the end of the day, it’s about finding your own voice. Comparing isn’t constructive, it only confirms that you ‘can’t’ do what the other person is doing. Instead take baby steps towards improving your own voice and choose songs that challenge you, but that are not overly difficult at first. Then work towards more difficult material once you have had enough training and guidance.
Test out what you have learned – find an open mic, or if someone asks you to sing, SING! Test out the waters and see if you can trust what you have learned and practiced!
Try out group singing:
In addition to working on your voice in a solo capacity, group singing is a wonderful way to connect with others but not only that, you can improve your musicianship. Learning new songs, and harmonies, having to blend with other singers are just some of the ways that make group singing fun.
Alida is a singer, vocal coach and music educator based in Vancouver, Canada. A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida holds an IVA Advanced Certificate in voice teaching. Alida has been teaching voice for over 9 years to clients from the Lower Mainland as well as across Canada and worldwide. To book a lesson with Alida click here.
Sometimes having a singing goal to work towards motives us to practice more. Performance opportunities don’t come that often, this is why I have created the Alida Vocal Studio Student Showcase! This bi-annual event, gives my students an opportunity to perform 1 or 2 songs in front of a supportive and encouraging audience. The audience is made up of friends and family mostly and we have professional accompanist join us on piano.
If you would like to sign up to sing at our next Student Showcase, please email me through the contact page and I will reply with the performance details and requirements.
When: Saturday, April 7th, 2018
Where: One Thousand Rivers 54 4th Ave E, 2nd Floor
Click here to RSPV.
To keep up with the latest info on the voice AND what my clients are up to, please follow Alida Vocal Studio on Instagram!