Saturday, October 18, 2014

Vocal Rehab for Seniors and for Everybody Else for that Matter

When I work with people over 65 years old on their voiceproblems, I very often have to literally revive them back to life prior to working on their voice. When these people finally end up in my studio they most of the time look, feel and act quite beat up, so to speak.

Prior to getting to me, they have had a lot of health issues and other, aspects of life, turbulence and tribulations. Some of them have undergone various surgeries, and then, instead of getting better, they acquired some strange side effects, like for example (with one of my clients), uncontrollable cough, which has been lasting for the last 27 years!

Finally, several years ago, due to very disturbed upper and lower respiratory organs, as well as her throat and her vocal box in general, she began to lose her voice. The tone of her voice had deepened and sounded raspy and hoarse.

Needless to say, that her pronunciation and enunciation were severely compromised. Her posture was very slouched and her upper back was not straight while her pelvis was very much tilted forward. She has been distributing her weight right onto her lower back and thus, nevertheless, has been experiencing low back pains on top of everything else.

Her whole demeanor did not appear happy and upright.

Obviously, given the above, her spirit was very low, as her heart and soul (not to mention physical aspects of it) were hurting for nearly three decades. So I, no doubt, had to deal with her whole being while concurrently fixing her voice. Everybody who has read my publications before, may know that my theory is such that the voice is the expression of who you are and, no doubts, is the identification of the state of one’s being.

So, you my reader, could easily see and understand that all of those components -- mental, physical, emotional -- and yes, vocal arecompletely and totally interconnected. Once the voice started to sound brighter, more lifted, and much clearer, the person’s being became much more alive and rejuvenated in every aspect. She started to look younger and her skin on her face started glowing!

With all of the voice instructions, the posture became much straighter which helped the sound to be properly structured and thus projected.

If you visualize a violin player who holds his violin crooked, he would obviously play the wrong notes, as the proper position of the instrument plays a crucial role with respect of the production of the right sounds. Similarly, the speaking/singing sound has to be projectedup, above, and forward of the person’s body, and if the body is inclined backwards instead of forward, the sound would be drawn to the back of the throat and if delivered at all, it will be delivered to the wall, at best.

My previously doomed student went to the numerous doctors and specialists, naturopaths and homeopaths and never got any help for the last 27 years. She is 68 years old now and she missed almost half of her life dealing with her health and voice problems.

If she did, she would have never needed a surgery, as MTD cannot be fixed by surgical interference.
But in my opinion, she did not have such a thing. Her voice reflected all of her health problems from the past and as a consequence was damaged on its own due to her health problems.

Go figure!?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Voice issues - Speech and Singing Lessons for Seniors.

Lately, I have a lot of inquiries from seniors who are finally ready to learn how to speak and/or sing properly. Some of them were motivated because they have been experiencing some voice problems speaking.  The others, by trying to learn how to sing properly, have been trying to realize their younger years' dream. 

A couple of years ago, I had a 72 years old student – a very successful business man, who’s dream has always been to become a singer and actor. However, living in poverty and watching his parents suffer with low paid jobs, he gave himself a promise that he will become very well off in the business world.

And so he did. But the desire of his heart and soul did not get realised until he met me in his early 70s, and after participating in several of my Vocal Interactive Workshops, following by the private singing lessons with me, he landed a role of Santa Claus in one of the community theatres.

Way to go Man, I exclaimed!  

Now, at present, I am working with a senior of 68 years old who came to me from the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. The poor woman has been suffering for the last 27 years with uncontrollable cough and as a result, a very raspy and hoarse lower tone voice. She has been approaching every conventional and holistic health professional under the Sun. She has heard a lot of diagnosis and a lot of speculations about her condition and its treatment.

The satisfactory result never took place and as a last resort, she flew to me here in Toronto. As of today, we have accomplished 13 hours of instruction and treatment. She is spending, on average, the total time with me, about 5 hours a day. By already yesterday, her cough is almost gone, her throat is not sore and not scratchy and she looks and sounds 10 years younger as she did a few days ago today.
So she came with the voice issue, but realized that the voice problem is mainly just a symptom, as several related problems lie much deeper. She is completely amazed and amused, as nobody ever gave her the full assessment and evaluation of not only of her voice, but of the state of her whole being. Today, we have been discussing some singing lessons for her down the road. She revealed to me that her ultimate dream would be to sing in a church choir. 
Isn’t that amazing? From the Voice Repair on the speaking voice to potentially singing in a choir?

Yes, indeed!

Is it possible, you may ask?

Absolutely! And in her Voice Repair case, for sure!

Friday, October 3, 2014

“Voice is a muscle and it has to be trained”, Said one of the judges of the television show, ‘The Voice’.

It is, indeed!

However, like any of the human body muscles, the voice muscle has to be approached with a ‘working smart and not necessarily hard’, attitude and knowledge.

If some body builder is trying to lift the weight which is above his capacity and way beyond his capability, or expertise on how to do it in such a way, so he would not end up hurt, he actually might get injured in no time and his body building career may end in a split second. Likewise, if a singer (or wannabe singer), will start working really hard on his vocal pieces and not realizing that he is excessively using, (and abusing for that matter), his vocal anatomy, he may end up with a vocal injury which pretty much could jeopardize his singing career. The majority of vocal damage could be approached and treated non-surgically; some may require a vocal surgery. 

The latter is definitely not desirable, as any surgery of any kind may do more harm than good. In my previous blogs, I described the unfortunate precedent with Joan Rivers, who died during a routine minor vocal procedure. I also mentioned my friend - Mikhail Baryshnikov’s first ballet teacher, Bella Kovarsky, who also died on the operating table during a minor surgical procedure.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from South Africa which really touched my heart.
Please read below:


Hi, My name is Thabang and I am in South Africa. My mother took my sister who is 9 years old to remove her tonsils. She started whispering, but now, 4 months later she can’t’ talk at all. She doesn’t have a voice. Nothing comes out. Nothing. This is very heart breaking. Please, we need help. How can she recover her voice? I would appreciate assistance. I look forward to hearing from you.”


How sad is that?

Unfortunately, from where I sit, I will not be able to help the little child, as she now has no sound at all! As I said many times previously, unless I have some sound to work with, I cannot provide any help. In this case, my guess would be, that during the surgery, the doctors, (or, quite possible, the residents), damaged one, or most likely both, vocal cords and thus they got paralyzed. They, by mistake, probably clipped a nerve which most likely will not be recoverable. Basically, the aforementioned child will be remaining silent and mute for the rest of her life. 

It is a tragedy indeed.

That said, if it is not the case that you definitely would die, unless you will undergo the surgical procedure, please do not embark on it and seek non-surgical alternative treatment first. A lot of very reputable hospitals are also serving as educational and training facilities for future doctors. If any of you ever watched television shows, ‘Saving Hope’, or ‘Grays Anatomy’, you could very often witness the portrayed scene of the “actual surgery” where the head surgeon, after conducting the main part of the surgery, leaves the operating room and leaves to finish the surgery to the residents (students), or other subsidiary young surgeons. 

Yes, they have to get trained somehow, but it is never guaranteed that you will leave the operating room completely intact. So, please try to avoid any surgical procedures at any cost.  That may save your life and also prevent you from uncalled injuries. In fact, the consequences of any vocal surgery could be as such as scar tissue left on your vocal anatomy, damaged nerve or, as we all already know, it could just cost you your life altogether. So yes, train your voice as a muscle; treat it with care and knowledge, prevent any vocal damage and enjoy your singing and your singing career for years ahead. Simply adapt the wholesome mechanism which will allow your voice to work in the fullest capacity possible and with no pain or strain on your vocal anatomy. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Singing tips for Beginners and Professionals. (PART 1)

To my knowledge, the majority of people love to sing. Even those who cannot sing and others who can and have a perfectly good full-time job and respected profession, would drop all of it without any hesitation in the nick of time to make their living doing what they love the most – Singing

So let’s say, out of 90% of people who would do the above, only 1% or 2% realize their dream. We all know that it is extremely difficult to succeed in the music business and make a living out of it; however, it is not impossible.  If the person has the true music talent, good voice, positive attitude and the vision of their future success, they could do it.

However, they have to understand that with all of the prerequisites described above, if they don’t possess the right vocal technique, they may ruin their precious voice right before succeeding in their vocal performance career. 

A lot of Ballet Dancers and Figure Skaters also initially possess their talent for their fields. However, Mikhail Baryshnikov, one of the best Russian dancers of all time, would not become the greatest well-known dancer if he did not attend the prestigious Vaganova Ballet Academy of St. Peterborough(a.k.a., Leningrad). He has learned the best techniques available to him and, combined with his enormous talent, he became a very famous and very well-known dancer.

However, in the singing field, it is presumed that the talent for music and singing is enough to embark on a successful vocal performance career. And strangely enough, sometimes it is enough; but what happens later could turn into complete tragedy. In the midst of the, seem to be successful career, tours, performances, recordings and etc, the precious voice suddenly gives out and sometimes disappears altogether. 

So the contracts are signed, the record deal is executed, but the singer cannot produce what was expected from him/her. Look at the British singer – Adele, who ended up with bleeding polyps on her vocal cords. Obviously, the vocal cords were overused and over-abused and, in my opinion, it has happened due to the poor vocal technique. Great girl, beautiful personality, enormous musical and song writing talent, but the lack of the knowledge of proper voice application nearly killed her career and her health.

I’m sure, my reader that you would agree with me that, after that polyp removal operation, Adele never sounded the same, and clearly to me, sounded very timid and very scared. Please view her video during her performance at the Oscars shortly after her vocal surgery.

So these are my tips:

Do not ever embark on any singing unless you know how to power your voice efficiently and with no pain or strain on your vocal anatomy. I don’t think that somebody like Patrick Chan would embark on jumping a triple axle or quad without knowing, in details, and first in theory, how to execute it properly without breaking any parts of his anatomy.

So whether you are a beginner or a professional singer, you still need to know what you are doing and learn all the secrets of your trade, if you want to avoid a great disappointment and even a loss of your singing career all together. In my next blog, (Part 2), I will talk more about the actual vocal technique which should be applied at all given times when the person opens up their mouth to sing and, of course, to speak, as the wrong application of a speaking voice could easily kill the singing voice.
But I will talk about that in the next blog to come.

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