Vocal Technique

Why you are most likely NOT Tone Deaf

fearlesssinger

There is nothing more exhilarating for a singing teacher to help a student discover they can sing, despite protests from them that they are ‘tone deaf’.

The reality is, there is a very slim chance one would even fall into this category, with research finding that 1 in 20 people have tone deafness. That is only 4% of the population!

So what is it exactly and why you are most likely to not have it?  

Amusia, the medical term for tone deafness, is essentially a perceptual problem.

Studies suggest that while there are no anatomical differences between amusics and non-amusics, there are subtle differences in the neural connections within in their right frontal cortex, which may be the contributing factor for limited musical perception especially in terms of sequencing sound.

People with amusia cannot follow the simplest of tunes or tell the difference between two pitches, unless they are significantly far a part. Your non-amusic listener can hear the difference between notes a semi-tone a part while your amusic peep will hear it as the same note.  

Chances are, if you are experiencing poor pitch, you will know when you are not matching the note. And you can hear the difference between two notes, even if you are yet unable to sing them.

So, I can learn how to sing in tune?

Of course you bloody can! There are many (fixable) factors that may be affecting your intonation.

Oh, by the way, let me quickly point out the difference between pitch and intonation. Pitch is your understanding of sound, while intonation is the word to describe the act of making a pitch.

What can make your intonation suffer?

  1.  Singing in keys that don’t suit you.

Chances are if you are beginner singer and you try to sing along with Jessie J or Ariana Grande, you may find that you fall a little (or a lot) flat.  

Most pop singers are in keys that are way too high for the average person and even for some professional singers.

I have had so many students discover that they can sing their favourite songs if the key is taken down to at least a third or a fourth below the original.

       2. It’s difficult to identify a melody from all the bells and whistles you hear on recordings.

On the topic of pop singers, often the melody is so convoluted with melismas and vocal effects that it is difficult to identify the actual melody. Once this is simplified for the student, they are surprised by how good they actually sound.

fearlesssinger

      3.     There are technical issues that need addressing.

There are various reasons for poor intonation caused by a lack of good vocal technique, however, a lot of it can be boiled down to poor postural alignment, inefficient breath support and management and tension of the vocal muscles. This is a big topic and really deserves another blog post to flesh it out. In the meantime, book in with a singing teacher who can give you a vocal diagnosis. Just know, that whatever is causing the problem, it can be fixed by doing targeted vocal exercises. These need to be done accurately and consistently in small focused chunks of time. Also, understand that it may take some time, so be lovingly patient with yourself and learn to enjoy the process.

     4.     You need more guidance in understanding the sequencing of sound.

Perhaps you come from a family who didn’t place a huge importance on music. Therefore, the radio or record/CD player was never on and you weren’t encouraged to take music at school. Or maybe you did come from a family of strong music appreciators however you still struggle to organize sound.

Again, a singing or an instrumental music teacher can help you develop this skill. I strongly encourage my students to take up the piano. It’s a great learning tool for developing pitch as the piano keys provide a strong visual as well as something to touch. Great feedback for the brain! There are also so many excellent resources and tools that can help you, from books, CDs, and even apps.

This is all great, but I really do think I’m tone-deaf.

Look, perhaps you do fall into the 4% of the population who are amusic. Before you write off your singing aspirations, however, how about you see a singing teacher or voice specialist.

If they too decide you are tone deaf, seek a second opinion.

And finally, if you are, don’t let it stop you from singing. I’m serious! Even if it means that your loved ones need to invest in ear plugs. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, deprive you of one of the most healing and joyful activities that human beings have the ability to do – making sound with your voice.

And finally, I leave you with this… A choir with a difference. [Click here]

Lots of love to ya!  

Mel X

P.S. Don’t be a stranger, if you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment below or email me.

P.S.S. Please share this with someone you know who may think of themselves as tone deaf but deep down really do have aspirations to sing. You may change their life.

 

Can Yoga Improve Your Singing? Spoiler Alert: The Answer is Yes

  Brisbane Singing and Yoga Teacher - Sarah Collyer

Brisbane Singing and Yoga Teacher - Sarah Collyer

Have you ever thought of doing yoga but the idea of floundering about with the poses in front of a group people puts you off?

Well you’re not alone mate! I’ve been there, many times over.

The thing is, the more times you go, you soon realize that the only person in the room judging you is YOU!

Anyway, I digress… I wanted to let you know that after months and months of not going to yoga, I finally forced myself to go on a particularly rainy night in Brisbane.

I drove through ridiculous traffic with a foggy rear view mirror (haven’t worked out how to use my demister yet), having near misses with buses, to finally arrive at the studio feeling pretty edgy, to say the least.

However as soon as the class started and we sang Gershwin’s Summertime as a group while doing gentle stretches, I felt the irritation melt away and I was engulfed by a sense of calm.

Singing? I hear you ask.

Yes, you heard right. I went to a singing yoga class. And it was AHHH-MAZING!!!!!   

My voice felt incredible after I left and I came out feeling like Maria in the iconic mountain top scene in the Sound of Music.

 Anyhow, to give you a better idea of the class, I had a chat with singer and yoga teacher Sarah Collyer in today’s Fearless TV episode. She is the master mind behind this genius concept.

 

Once you’ve had a chance to watch it, I would love to hear from you!

Is this something you’d consider incorporating into your daily routine?

How could you incorporate stretches into your daily singing practice?  

Please leave your comments in the blog post!

If you are keen to catch a class, it’s on Monday nights 6:30-7:30pm, 3/233 Albert Street in the city.

For more info, you can go to Sarah’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/breathebodymindandvoice/

 

  

Our Mind is our Singing Instrument: Establishing Healthy Beliefs about our Voice

There is a lot of information out there about how to take care of your singing voice but did you know it is equally important to look after your mind?
 
In fact, singing is a neuromuscular activity, which means that our brain is essentially our instrument. It tells our body what to do in order to make the sound we want (and to make sound full stop).

So we need to be aware of what we think and say about our voice as well as our ability to use it.

I'm a big believer that our thoughts and words shape our experience. Our subconscious mind is extremely powerful and pretty much runs the show, which we call ‘our life’. Therefore, what we say and believe to be true about our singing voice is what we are going to experience.

Let's go deeper here... What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think about your voice?

Is it words and feelings such as: "Oh I love it!"; "It's unique"; "It's strong"; "I'm getting better at developing my voice. I can hear an improvement every day."?

Or does your inner monologue sound more like this:   "I'm tone deaf!"; "I can't sing to save myself!"; "I can't hear any improvements. I should give up.”?

If it’s the latter, just giving you the disclaimer now, I’m going to get all Louise Hay on you.
 
Keep reading if you like all this self-love stuff…
 
I can tell you from personal experience not to give up – YOU CAN improve your voice by adopting a set of healthy beliefs. That means loving the shizzle out of your voice, despite it’s apparent weaknesses.
 
Let me tell you a story. In the past, I struggled with a weak chest voice, which makes it pretty difficult to sing contemporary music, especially jazz. I struggled to sing notes below a middle C and sometimes on a gig these notes would completely disappear.   

This caused me a lot of frustration. It didn’t matter what exercises my singing teacher (a head honcho, internationally renowned vocal pedagogue in contemporary music) gave me to strengthen my registration, my body was not complying. And why? At the time, I had no idea either, which of course kept feeding my frustration and to be honest, sadness.  
 
When I got to a particularly low point (excuse the pun!), I realized that I had some major self-enquiry work to do. And what did I discover? An icky web of beliefs that can be summed up as:

  • I didn’t believe I could change.

  • I didn’t believe the exercises would work for me.

  • And that my voice was inherently flawed.

So What do you do when you get to this point?
 
You start to exercise your love muscle! And I don’t that mean in a sexy-time kind of way. Moving on quickly…
 
I mean that you start practicing thinking and saying positive things about your voice.
 
That doesn’t mean proclaiming “I sound like Whitney Houston, therefore I am!”, when you are still developing your sense of pitch. On a side note, it’s always best to sound like yourself but that’s another blog post.
 
It means saying things to yourself that you will actually believe straight off the bat. You need to see it as those you are trying to brainwash a sceptic. Therefore, it will be easier to believe affirmations like, “I don’t care what my voice sounds like, it’s cool. It’s me. Bob Dylan or Marianne Faithful don’t have the most polished sounding voices, they have things to say and they do it well.”   
 
Or:   
 
         “I like how my voice sounds in the higher register.”
 
                 “This song suits my voice.”
 
                      “I like learning about how to build my voice.”
 
                         “I’m starting to hear some improvements.”
 
                            “It makes me happy and fulfilled that I’m even pursuing this.”  
 
Eventually your negative beliefs will begin to morph into positive ones and that is when the real magic starts to happen, my friends.
 
Your new beliefs will just get stronger and so will your voice. Your body will begin to integrate your technique practice, which will continue to reinforce your positive beliefs. It’s the gift that keeps giving!
 
Of course from time to time, negativity will rise it’s unfortunate looking head. But see it as an opportunity to do some weeding and the planting of new pleasing thoughts.  
 
More on this… I was at a Vince Jones workshop once. If you don’t know who he is, Google him, he is an incredible musician, national icon and top bloke. Anyhow he made reference to a wonderful piece of wisdom from David Suzuki which went along the lines of “Your body will do what you ask it to do, and why, because your body loves you”.
 
And as for me and my weak low register… Well I continue to strengthen it daily however it has become much stronger than it was. I no longer see it as an issue and those notes below a middle C stay put over a three to four-hour gig.  
 
Now I want to hear from you – have you stopped ‘hating on your voice’ and learned to love it quirks and all? Have you seen major improvements in your singing practice and life through changing your mindset?

Please leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you!

Elixir Exercise for the Voice - you will feel & hear the difference!

This gem of an exercise is like yoga for your vocal folds.

Doing it for 5min in the morning and evening or after a big session of talking or singing, means that you are stretching and deconstricting the folds.

When we experience vocal fatigue and tightness in the throat area, it means our larynx is often sitting in a high position. This exercise will help reset it back to neutral.

What are the other benefits? 

  1. The straw exercise helps us to create a lovely warm tone with forward resonance.

  2. It improves our air flow and vocal fold closure at the same time as reducing laryngeal resistance.

So basically we can use it to strengthen weak areas of our range because we are taking pressure off the larynx while allowing our vocal folds to come together efficiently on these notes.

What should you feel after the exercise?

You should experience a slight buzzing feeling around your mouth. Dr Titze says that when we come back to normal speech we should feel as though our voice is coming from our eyes instead of our larynx. He says the feel of the sound should be 'lighter and more buzzy' in the face and in the head.

So what are you waiting for?! 'Lock it in Eddie'!

Do you know that when we schedule things into our calendar we are more likely to do it? The task becomes a real event - a non-negotiable. So lock in a 5min session in the AM as well as in the PM. Or why not tack it onto an existing routine? If you meditate or do yoga in the morning, follow it up with a session with the straw.

 

Please let me know how you go with this! Share your results in the comments below. Can you notice a difference? How have you fitted this exercise into your daily routine?