Vocal Coach / Songwriter / Performer

Iari - Vocal Coach / Songwriter / Performer

Practically Singing // The ABCs of Practical Vocal Technique

Singing is a very personal form of self-expression, regardless of how large or small the stage. And, in most contemporary genres of singing, there is less an idealized sound that is held as the ‘gold-standard’ for what constitutes great singing. Usually, the more unique sounding, heavily ‘stylized’ voices are what catches ears these days. And, technique is often considered secondary, or even optional, to having a great singing voice. 

Of course, to the professionals who use their voices day in and day out and depend upon it to make a living, having a great vocal coach to teach them how to develop and maintain and care for their voices is tantamount to an extended singing career. Below are what I would list as the ‘ABCs’ of practical voice technique, regardless of voice type or musical style. Understanding and executing these 3 concepts will enable a singer to freely express themselves in the most emotive, communicative, and artistic manner possible. 

Please note, this is merely a brief overview of what I will be taking a ‘deeper dive’ into with my next 3 blog posts. Also, the term ABCs of singing is one I'm co-opting from another outstanding vocal coach from Canada. His name is Brandon Brophy, and he knows his stuff! Check out his book, The Singer’s Instinct. I’ve read and re-read it multiple times, and I still find it extremely helpful and relevant in assisting my own vocal students to this day!

(A)mplifier Shape - The size and shape of your vocal tract (throat and mouth cavities) has a direct influence on the acoustic and harmonic resonances that affect the sound your voice produces. The size and shaping of your vocal tract also changes with each differing vowel and consonant shape. And different vowels, because of their affect on the shaping of the vocal tract which has a direct impact on the acoustic properties, may either be more helpful or less helpful at differing ranges in the voice and its registers. Not all vowels are equal at all times, and knowing how to modify vowels when pronouncing lyrics, and what their affect has on the size and shape of your vocal tract, at specific registers is foundational to things most singers crave: expanded vocal range, less strain (particularly on the high notes), and a seamless transition between low notes and high notes.

(B)reath Management -  So many singers walk through my door wanting to learn how to ‘breathe better’ or wanting to learn how to ‘use’ their diaphragms (which is actually an involuntary muscle). When asked what they are experiencing that leads them to this conclusion, it’s usually that they feel like they are prematurely running out of breath when they sing, often on longer sustains or when a lyric is very ‘wordy’. Proper breathing as it pertains to singing has largely been over-complicated. Worse, the reasons for the why proper breathing is one of the pillars to good singing is often miscommunicated. For example, did you know that ‘breath support’ is actually a consequence of having the ABCs in alignment with one another? How many of us have been to a voice lesson and taught that our singing is flawed BECAUSE we lack this thing called breath support? 

(C)ord Closure - Ah, yes, the ‘mysterious’ vocal cords. What are they? How do they work? What do we singers really need to know about it? All good questions in which we will take a closer examination in a follow up blog-post. But, for now, suffice it to say that we need to have a certain amount of tension, or compression, along the length of our vocal folds when they adduct (or, close together) when air passes through them to vibrate. This vibration is our initial sound that resonates in the cavities of our vocal tract (spaces in our throat and mouth). Having a cord-compression that is too light will make for a sound that is too breathy, almost pseudo-whisper like. Too much compression, and we risk engaging constrictor muscles around our throat that leads to vocal strain, limited range, or worse -- long-term over-compression can lead to developing vocal nodules on the cords themselves which severely hamper the sound-emitting process and can shorten or terminate a singing career if not corrected with professional treatment and care (If you have nodes see an ENT immediately). 

Thank you for reading. Again, this is merely a brief overview, and I will be taking a ‘deeper dive’ into each specific concept with my next 3 blog posts. Stay tuned.

Practically Singing // “The First Ingredient In Creating Magic...

... Is Setting Your Intentions.” — Judy Stakee 

Or, put another way: A + (?) = X, whereby ‘A’ is where you are currently at (in your career, relationship/s, life, etc...) and X is your intended outcome! It’s where you intend to go, what you intend to accomplish/achieve. By setting your intention FIRST, you declare to yourself and to the Uninverse exactly what it is you want and what you are going to do to get it. you paint the target first, and then it’s a much simpler matter of finding the path, your (?), that will lead you to your desired outcome.

I realize that ‘simple’ is subjective, and that it’s much easier said than done in many if not most cases.

But, consider, how many of us live - or have lived - our lives like this: A + X = (?), where by ‘A’ is where we’re at (in our careers, relationship/s, life, etc...) and we’re dissatisfied. But, we don’t know exactly what we’re wanting, only that we need to make some changes in order for our quality of living to - hopefully - improve. 

So, we fill it with ‘X’ - in this case, random stuff - in hopes that it will create for us a better standard of living, or more intimate relationships, or more...whatever it is that we feel like we’re lacking. The problem, of course, is that we don’t know IF those changes will indeed guide us to where or what we’re really wanting, because we haven’t set our intentions/target, so we don’t know exactly what ‘X’ will bring us, or where it will bring us to in our lives.

It’s a hope at best.

This is a HUGE concept to wrap our heads around that has lifelong implications if we take it seriously. But how does this affect us in the more immediate and smaller areas of our day to day living? How is this relatable to music and being a musician or artist?

Let’s take our practice time with our preferred instruments as an example. For some of us this will be our voices, or guitar, or keyboards, or drums (or triangle or cowbell...). But, the next time you schedule practice time, try this. Pick one thing, and one thing only, to focus or rehearse. For example, if you feel like your vocals lack (breath) support, and you discover that you are actually (unintentionally) singing in a tone that is imbalanced toward a too-breathy tone, set the intention for the next couple of passes through those trouble areas of whatever song you’re working on that the ONLY thing that matters is that you sing those passages in a more balanced, less-breathy quality.

Pitch, intonation, style, delivery...? Forget about those things for the moment when singing with the intention of a less breathy, more supported vocal tone. Once you have achieved THAT, and can replicate that with consistently, then you expand your intentions to include one more thing. And, once you’ve achieved THAT, expand again... Wash, rinse, and repeat until you are consistently hitting ALL of the intentions you set with your practice time.

We start simple with a narrow focus. We hit that goal. Then, we expand our intentions and raise our expectations. And, then we hit those goals. And so on and so on...

Before we know it, often in a much more condensed time line, we are constantly creating magic in our lives on a daily basis.

Practically Singing//A New Journey

Hey Folks, 

I want to welcome you to my new Blog that I am entitling, Practically Singing. It’s a monicker I’ve been using for the past several months whenever I speak to other artists, singers, or voice teachers about the need to simplify our approach... to life, to careers, to relationships, to how we approach our singing, whether learning from or teaching to others.

Practically Singing is also a play on words inspired by the phrase, “practically speaking”. Like, what do we mean when we use THAT phrase? For me, I’m always telling artists I work with as a vocal coach, whether they be on tour and have years of singing experience, or they’re the complete beginner and I’m their first experience with voice lessons, to approach their singing like they’re “speaking (conversationally) on pitch”.

Our voices are incredibly dynamic. Less is almost always more when it comes to producing the most desirable (yeah, I get that that is subjective) sound in the most efficient manner. Yet, there is often a misconception amongst the masses that there exists in a human body two voices: our speaking voice, which we use daily, and our singing voice, which is completely distinct and separate from our speaking voice. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In these Blog posts, my aim is to present simple and practical advice, tips, tricks that will enable music artists to use their voices in the most efficient manner, giving them (you) the most vocal freedom so as to empower them (again, YOU) to deliver the most emotional, engaging, moving, stirring, heartfelt vocal performances possible.

Also, my aim is to become your go-to Voice Dude! You cannot spell the word “Practically” without spelling the word “Ally”. As a fellow music artist who is in love with the collaborative process that is inherent with any music endeavor, be it as a co-writer or tenor in a 4-part harmony or a teacher-student relationship, my goal is to be your biggest Ally and provide the best support possible to you on your own musical journey.

Feel free to reach out and email me if anything I say resonates and helps you on your journey. Also, feel free to email me with any questions any of my posts causes you to ask. If it’s a simple question, I’ll do my best to reply in a timely manner. If more complex, or you would like to explore your voice further, I’m happy to schedule an in-person or on-Skype session with you.

So, with all of that said, welcome! I’ll look forward to seeing many of you, either online or at a show in the nearer future!