5 Ways to Maintain Vocal Hygiene

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!

 Alida is a professional voice teacher based in Vancouver, Canada.  A graduate of UBC School of Music, Alida is also an Advanced IVA singing teacher.   www.alidavocalstudio.com

8 Ways to Improve Your Singing

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.

Practice Smarter:

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.

Perform:

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

 

6 Steps to Learning Riffs

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.

Scholarship for Musical Theatre Singers

We are so pleased to offer a new scholarship opportunity to study singing with Alida Vocal Studio.

This scholarship is for 2 new students of Musical Theatre who haven’t had any previous voice lessons with Alida Vocal Studio.

The Singing Student Scholarship is open to singers who are:

  • intermediate or advanced level
  • ages 19-35
  • singing in the Musical Theatre genre
  • have had 1 or more years of previous singing lessons
  • not currently studying voice with any other teacher
  • active in performing arts or would like to get back into performing
  • Musical Theatre performance experience (locally or nationally)
  • have completed a college or university program in musical theatre (not mandatory)
  • Offer is valid for 4 –  30 minute lessons (two of the lessons can be combined to make one full hour followed by two half hours)
  • To apply for the scholarship, please send an email outlining your vocal history, vocal goals and mentioning your experience with the criteria above to: lessons@alidavocalstudio.com
  • If you have met the criteria, we will then add your name into a draw
  • Winners of the scholarship will be announced on Dec. 15th, 2017!