Wednesday, February 18, 2015

You've Got a Voice Disorder... It Obviously Affected your Life. What Does it Take to Claim your Life back?

When you got any voice disorder, your life could change (and not for the better), momentarily... 

Just in the recent past, you were a regular person like everybody else, and that one morning when you woke up, you felt that your voice is a little shut down and that you had to clear your throat extensively to bring any sound out to the surface. 

"That was quite unusual" you might have thought, and hoped that all of it would go away soon. 
You started thinking that your bedroom was quite dry and maybe, in the recent past, you had some cold, and maybe the new showed-up symptoms were just the residuals of the latter. 

You went through your day, still feeling uncomfortable with your voice and even feeling that something just got stuck inside of your throat. 

By the evening, you also started feeling a pain in your neck and shoulders, and overnight, your throat was 'literally' on fire, as the gastric acid began burning your vocal cords

Due to that, some of you have even experienced a shortness of breath, which could be very scary for anybody, as you feel that you could not take a full breather. 

With all these symptoms, no doubts, you lost your sleep.

You couldn't sleep also because you were worrying, not knowing what is happening to your voice and to yourself in general.

You got thrown out of balance and out of the regular routine of your life.

To focus at work became a real challenge. 

For those who have to speak during the working day, it became a nightmare.

And for those whose singing is a full time occupation, the threat of loosing their careers and their livelihoods, became unbearable.

Could those speakers and singers claim their lives back? 

Yes, the majority of them can! 

That is the good news!

Is it easy though? 

The answer is NOT AT ALL.

The "hardware", so to speak, is broken. 

The mechanism which allows  the voice to work in the fullest capacity possible, is dysfunctional.

Let's imagine that one of us owns a very expensive Mercedes Benz. 

Suddenly, that beautiful, prestigious car, stalls.

What would you do if that happened to your car?

   A. Wash, polish and wax the car?

   B. Put it in the garage to "rest" and hope that it will fix itself?

   C. Look for a highly qualified mechanic to fix the mechanical problem, which perhaps occurred 
        under the hood of your car? 

If you chose the latter, you most likely still have a hope.

The majority of vocal coaches and speech therapists offer to the sufferer  to take a vocal rest. 

They also recommend to do the acupuncture and to see the osteopath or chiropractor. 

The ENT doctors "prescribe" Gaviscon for acid reflux, which is actually available over the counter. 

None of them offers to work on actually what's broken, i.e., voice mechanics.

Unless you do so, you will forever be looking for a "magic pill", or shots of botox. 

To claim your life back, you have to understand what it takes and execute it in a full force; work smart, not hard, and with minimum effort, aim to achieve maximum results. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Singing Lessons for Teenagers with Problems... Individualized Life Coaching

In 1984, my partner and I started a music school for children and adults.

We had 7 teachers teaching all kinds of instruments and also giving vocal lessons.
In 1986, my partner died and shortly after, I moved to a new location and started specializing to what I knew best and have done all my life – vocal development.

In 1987, I turned The Royans School for the Musical Performing Arts, into The Royans Professional Vocal School, specializing in professional vocal coaching.
Now we have started dealing with teenagers who wanted to be either the next Celine Dion and later, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears.

Then came along Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin. And then the music became more sexually and violently pronounced. 

The music reflects and effects to what is happening at certain times in the world.
The music theme and scene changes and the mentality (especially of the growing teenagers) also changes.

The more “liberation” and “freedom” music offers, the more loose our growing population becomes.
They have been advised, (by Lady Gaga’s performances), that there should be no boundaries between the sex genders and your free to do whatever your heart desires, so to speak.

Is it good?  In a way, it is, but sometimes not so good…

If the children/teenagers are being raised in strong families with both parents present, they have a much stronger support and thus, resistance to the outside, (sometimes not so perfect) world.
If the union of the family is broken and the child/teenager is growing like wild flower, it is very easy for the young adult to succumb to the suggestions of the outer world, as nobody is there to explain or teach them otherwise.

That’s how we acquire teenagers with problems. 

Those parents who were busy working often have missed their child’s needs while the child was growing up. They realized it when they found their child dropping school, hanging out with the wrong crowd and, sometimes, even using drugs. 

Now the parents are alarmed!

They desperately trying to discover their child’s talents and cater to that. The child, feeling alone and lonely, often turns to music and, particularly, to singing to express their hearts, souls and emotions.  
They simply WANT TO BE HEARD!

To the parents’ credit, they find for their growing, and troubled children, some music/singing lessons, through which the recovery of wounded soul and heart begins.

I always said that the voice is an expression of who you are and Identification of the state of your being.

While working on the voice, I am mostly working on the human being and make sure that the person in front of me, young or old, first and for most gets back in balance. 

And by structuring, placing and projecting their voice, I assure a total balance of the human being.  

I assure that their hearts and souls are filled with music of the right kind, which in the long run, will make them that much more fulfilled and happy individuals. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Vocal expertise… What is that? And why should you look for a qualified vocal expert?

Let’s suppose you woke up feeling ill and experiencing sore throat, cough and a fever. Naturally, you think that you got a cold or caught some kind of a virus

Nothing too dangerous, you may think...

So, for the next several days, you do everything to get rid of the symptoms. And yes, you were able to get rid of pretty much all of them, except your throat is still bothering you.

Moreover, after you knocked down your cold or your virus symptoms, you discover that, not only that your throat is still sore, but your voice is acting kind of weird.

It’s sounding kind of hoarse and raspy and you have to clear your throat every 15 minutes.
The time passes by and you are completely recovered on every level, but your voice is still sounding 
Hoarse and not coming back to its normal state.

In this instance, you decide to go back to your family doctor, just to get a referral to an ENT specialist.

After waiting three to five months for that appointment, to your dismay, you find out that you actually have either a paralyzed vocal cord or spasmodic dysphonia!

How devastating it must be?

I agree, the devastation goes beyond words.

People who never had any problems with their voices are now practically disabled.

Some of them had to change their professions, as they could not teach anymore, be a crown attorney in court, or even continue to be a doctor’s assistant or just even an office secretary, where the person was required to answer the phone.

The worst part, especially for singers, was when the doctors, at best, gave them the diagnosis (not always the accurate ones), but never told them how to treat the problem, let alone cure it.

On that note, the effected people, (and especially singers), decided to go to a regular vocal coach in hopes to rectify their voice/vocal problems. They got regular style vocal coaching, but the voice problem was still remaining and never got addressed.

In some cases, the voice condition actually became worse.

For some reason, people in general do understand that, if some kind of internal organ problem occurs, they will be referred to a specialist who can attend to their specific problem.

The family physician is not the one who specializes in internal medicine. 
Granted they have already been referred to the ENT specialist, but that is another story altogether.

The ENT specialist is not necessarily an expert in the voice mechanics. In real sense, to restore the voice mechanics to whichever degree possible, takes a vocal expert who specializes in such matters.

Yes, the ENT doctor could, for example, prescribe medication for the acid reflux occurrence, or the Botox injections, especially in the case of spasmodic dysphonia, which is, unfortunately, also only a temporary measure.

But beyond that would be only a surgical procedure offered, which also could be detrimental to your voice, (scar tissue and other post-operative residuals), or even your health and life in general. So your first measure would be to search for a voice/vocal specialist who has the holistic understanding how to approach the vocal issue mechanically, mentally, physically and emotionally, and how to cater it to a specific person and personality.

The regular vocal coach will not qualify for such tasks.

It is an incredibly intense and tedious undertaking which requires the special skills from the voice expert and, especially, patience and compassion towards the injured individual. As for the actual vocally injured person, it also requires willingness and 'lovingness', open heart and soul as well as patience, to except such services.

The vocal expert and the vocally injured person should outline the mutual goal and enjoy achieving the results.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Case Study: What is the difference between a real singer and a showman?

Approximately a month ago, I received a student from the US who has been a professional singer all his life, but for the past while, he had begun experiencing some vocal problems; like a loss of high range, a raspy/hoarse voice and a collection of excess mucus in the throat, coupled with minor acid reflux.

He was experiencing fatigue with his voice and could no longer sing for prolonged periods of time.

That made my client very insecure and resulted in him refusing and cancelling upcoming gigs.

He originally arrived to me, per-registered for 20 hours of non-surgical voice repair sessions, but ended up taking 30 hours to learn the new vocal technique and to lose the bad habits adopted for the last 40 years being on stage. 

The voice repair was actually complete within 10 (maximum of 15) hours; the rest of the sessions were dedicated to mastering the actual singing performance.

It was not easy, as I told him, jokingly, even before we started, that it is not easy to teach the old dog new tricks. And no, it was not easy, but in the end, it was very rewarding on both ends.

Please read from (his own words), how he felt right after he arrived home:

“ My 2 gigs right after I got home went great.

I also mentioned before I left that I had a song to sing for a producer in France that I was looking forward to trying out the new technique -- it worked great-- I had just one day to do the lead and harmonies-- there were a lot of harmonies-- so I was singing pretty hard for a little over 7 hours.

Next day I felt fine -- tired physically, but that goes along with being old :) Everything worked and it really helped cement some things -- the circles and peripheral singing -- that's been a real hard one to get, but it's making sense now and I know with implementation and practice it will become second nature. 

The way I was able to make it make sense to my mind was to say "keep your eyes on the road" -- which of course, is what you were saying -- you used the GPS analogy, but I'm more old school :)”

Now, a month later, we have received another e-mail from the same client, who now has had the opportunity to test out the Vocal Science technique, combined with his performance skills (and my expertise on that matter), even further.

Please read below:

“The gigs this past week went great-- one major thing that I'm noticing is in what you stressed about keeping our eyes on the (singing) road. It's starting to come more naturally now and when it does, the audience reaction and connection is deeper and better in relation to how clearly I see the road (in fact, one of the gigs was a solo gig and I made way more tips than I have there in the past -- do I owe you a commission for that? :)

We know that as artists, singers and just as people, that we want and have to connect with the audience to allow the cycle to happen-- yes, of course, we have to talk to them and relate that way, but the deep meaningful connection happens on its own if we just connect with the song-- that's what the audience feels -- it's the difference between singing at them or to them.

If we're constantly monitoring what we sound like and what we look like, where is there room for the song?--that ability and opportunity for a deep connection goes right by us and we've missed our chance. As you like to say, go figure.

I know this is very simplistic, but whether it's sports, singing, or cooking etc. it's the basics that are often the most overlooked and the most important. As always, thank you :) ”

I think that the above is very profound. And Bob has been an incredible person and a very diligent and dedicated student; taking instructions with gratitude and adapting the newly learned skills right into his craft. 

And as we see, it worked “by the book”, so to speak. 

We know about some singers who are so, ‘me, myself and I... and my voice’, that cannot connect with the audience, as they have been listening to themselves and “enjoying” their own voice instead of singing it for the audience.

The others have another extreme. 

Their singing is not up to par and some of them are literally losing their voices right on stage and during their performances. However, the majority of them have good showmanship, which often they pass to cover-up their inadequacies in the actual singing field. 

I would call them the ‘Entertainers’ and not Singers.

However, the ideal combination of two would create the ultimate performance, as the technical and artistic merits would be in perfect harmony, (no pun intended).

The audience, in my opinion, should become more demanding and claim and feel entitled to experience the real true performance from the artists for their hard earned money.  

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