Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Vocal Insurance" - Do You Need An Agent?

Recently I wrote an article for Hit Quarters Online Magazine called "Vocal Insurance" - Do You Need An Agent? What I meant by it and what it was all about was how to protect and save your voice and thus "insure" the health and longevity of your vocal career. It was also addressed to music industry professionals by inviting them to take better care of their artists by simply referring them to top vocal specialists and professionals to ensure that they would be complying with the standards of professional singing and thus not jeoprodizing the health and safety of their vocal anatomy and health in general. To my complete surprise I got several calls from people asking if I was an agent who would LITERALLY INSURE their actual voice. On that note, I became speechless and almost lost my own voice. These people were naive enough to take it literally and, moreover, the thought never occurred in their minds that "if there is anything wrong with my voice, I should find help and fix it." On the contrary, they thought "there is something wrong with my voice - let me quickly find an agent to insure my voice before I lose it, and at least I will be able to acquire some money before it is too late". Go figure!!!!! I'm still speechless...

Vocally Speaking Part II - Is There Change Without Change? Will the "Magic Pill" Be Enough to Solve All of Your Vocal Problems?

We get numerous phone calls and emails about people's vocal disorders and vocal problems. They are approaching my institution - which is called the Royans Professional Vocal School Specializing in Voice, Speech and Non-Surgical Voice Repair. When those people called in the past, my first assumption always was that they truly needed help and would do anything to conquer their vocal problems. And, yes, some did. But the majority, interestingly enough, with quite severe vocal disorders, were literally looking for a "magic" pill.

They thought that by taking any pills internally they would fix their severely broken vocal boxes, which were in the first place caused by the wrong application of their voice for singing or speaking. Let's imagine for a second that there would be such a pill in existence and it actually would fix that severe disorder, anatomically speaking. The problem is that these people are unable to understand that there is no change without change and that unless they learn how to speak or sing properly without the excessive use of their throat, larynx and vocal chords, no change will take place and they will keep running into the same problem again and again. So the moral of the story is, if it is broken, fix it - but make sure you are not continuing to employ the same means which made it broken in the first place.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Vocally Speaking - Would you like to conquer your vocal problems or would you rather learn how to live with them?

It never ceases to amaze me when a lot of people are inquiring about serious voice problems and then, in the end, end up doing nothing to fix it. They talk a lot about it, they join support groups to share their sufferings, inadequacies, insecurities, practically disabilities which rob them of the enjoyment of the regular human life. The loss of the ability to use their voice in what is considered to be a normal sense often results in the loss of their jobs and the loss of their relationships. They are all complaining about via numerous emails and discussion board postings, yet when I suggest to them to pick up the phone and let me hear their voice so I can pinpoint whether or not I can help them, there are less than 1% of people will do that even though it might lead them towards finding a non-invasive cure. You would think, "What would prevent them from picking up the phone and calling a toll-free number?" I have thought about it long and hard and finally I came to the conclusion that THEY DON'T WANT TO BE HELPED! If they did, they would be actively looking for conventional help or alternative help to boot. Instead of that, they are feeling sorry for themselves and want others to feel sorry for them, while finding excuses why they cannot obtain any help. Some people with voice disorders are absolutely terrified of using the phone. Being sensitive, I can understand that on any everyday basis that might be a task. But when they are emailing a highly reputable voice specialist and asking for help and when they are advised to place a call, they never do. Some of them even said that they would be excited and delighted to do so and then never called either. So the conclusion is - they want to be helped in theory, but not with practical means. It's a pity, but so be it. They probably rely on God, but God only helps those that help themselves.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Vocally Speaking – Is There Change Without Change? If There Is, Can You Handle It?

A certain percentage of people are coming to us for speech development sessions, often followed by the vocal lessons.

Usually that category of people is comprised of shy individuals who are very soft spoken without any projection of their voice or the message they are trying to convey.

Some of them have damaged voices.

Often they mumble and there is no clarity in their pronunciation, kind of like they have marbles in their mouths.

Some of them are actually inquiring about singing lessons without having any idea that if they hardly could speak, how in the world would they have their singing voice delivered?!

In the first place, the voice is the spirit and, if the voice is shut down, the spirit of that individual is also hidden and not present.

The voice is a reflection of the state of one’s being, an identification of who this person is.

Quite often the people conducting themselves that way are dying to be more loud, more expressive, more emotional and more passionate, but do not know how to call it out of themselves.

That is where my skill comes into play.

By using a set of certain speech exercises and specific scripts which are aimed towards the person’s self esteem and self worth and that require a loud and exclaiming voice, which naturally “force” one’s emotion and, thus, the projection of that emotion via voice and sound.

Before you know it, while in a course with me and playing with their improvs, these people are turning into somebody who even they are not familiar with.

Yes, it is scary, but also very exciting.

Often their loved ones are a little shocked and confused, as my clients become very talkative, quite loud and very expressive.

The wife of one of my clients from the past was ready to file for divorce, as she was claiming that her husband became a stranger and a very “aggressive” one.

What happened was that my client undertook a very substantial voice repair and was kind of whispering before he came to me and, thus, being quite withdrawn for the past 10 years. All of a sudden he became vocal and started reaching out.

Moreover, he was suggesting to go to a Karaoke Club on a Saturday night to try his new voice and embark on some singing as well, which was a complete shock to his wife.

I had to give him some advice to slow down a little, as I did not want the family to break up.

So the question is – is there change without change?

Evidently not.

In other words, watch out what you are wishing for, because you just might get it, as well as some other changes along with it.

The conclusion of it is that these kinds of changes are definitely not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vocal Coaching or Online Marketing?
Let's Find Out What's Greater!

I have been teaching vocals and producing vocal tracks and performances in Toronto for close to 30 years. And I have seen a lot of changes over the last three decades with respect to the music industry and people in general. The music industry has changed a lot recently with the advent of the Internet and this has had both positive and negative aspects. Granted, there are fewer record deals being provided by the major labels. On the other hand, artists have the facility to market their music directly via the Internet. However, people are blowing the use of the Internet out of proportion on every level possible. Not only do they market their music and singing on the Internet, but also they think that they could learn how to sing and play via the Internet. They, overall, became lazy and even to learn or achieve something they are not willing to leave their houses. Knowing that, the so called music professionals, and vocal coaches in particular, quickly realized that the market is there and, thus, created a quick fix via online lessons, CD's, DVD's and what have you, which evidently by the law of any averages will never work instead of the actual interactive communication between the student and the teacher. Moreover, those so called professionals have occupied all their time not only to create a bogus product but to optimize the traffic to their website where their product is heavily advertised. They are not concerned with the results that people will achieve from the actual so called instruction, but are more focussed on search engine optimization and online marketing. Since for all of these years I have been doing the opposite, ie. creating a product that works and delivering it on a day to day basis, I recently realized that I don't have the same response to my services that I used to - and that is with more name artists produced, more credentials and more experience. How logical is that I was asking myself and my staff. And then the ugly truth revealed itself. I was apparently in the "wrong" business in vocal coaching as opposed to an online marketing business. It has been a little disheartening to realize that unless you spend at least 40 hours per week on optimizing for Google, you cannot actually conduct your business in the manner that you were accustomed to for many years. Quite a few students of mine were exclaiming, "How come I never see your name on the Internet as much as Mr. X? Thank God I was referred to you, otherwise I would never have known about you." And that's why as long as people are occupying all their time with marketing online instead of being concerned about real results, the artists, music industry and audiences will continue to suffer and produce less and less quality music and more and more questionable businesses will thrive financially.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vocal Instruction Gimmicks: Vocal Lessons Online, Via Phone, CD and DVD – What Are They Worth?

I am bombarded on an every day basis with people requesting online vocal lessons, instruction via telephone, CD/DVD based courses or even asked to send them a “magic pill”! They truly believe that the above list of items will solve all of their vocal problems. Just like the emails touting Weight Loss pills and inheritances from millionaires in Nigeria fill our Email Inboxes, if it sounds too far fetched to be true, then it most likely is. Though my claim to fame is accelerated vocal development and sometimes people are curious as to how results can be achieved in such a short period of time, the truth is that I offer a genuine and scientifically researched methodology that works. But, needless to say, it does require face-to-face interaction. The problem with online, phone and CD/DVD lessons is that they are not interactive, so nobody can control whether or not the person is doing the correct thing or provide any feedback. Moreover, when I instruct an artist I have to watch for his body position, his head position and his mouth shape position to say the least, not to mention that at the same time I am providing them with nothing less than very tedious syllable upon syllable instruction. Often our energies are engaged between each other, almost like we are connected by the umbilical chord. You cannot achieve this interactive and internal/external communication unless you are in each other’s presence. Granted, you probably could learn how to play guitar in a very rudimentary fashion via a CD or DVD because tangibly you have a set of strings to touch and you can just copy what you see. Nobody can touch the inside of your throat, let alone yourself. Therefore, I created a method which allows via a certain manipulation of the certain body parts to call out the sound in its entirety out of the physical body. I would never be able to commodify it in a general sense, as each person is unique and different and, therefore, the approach to each person has to be unique and different as well, however, still within the parameters of the Vocal Science technique. So the question is, “Is it worth it to do anything else?”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From the Vocal Point of View – Working on the Instrument or Working on the Player? The Answer is…?

It’s a well known fact that it takes two – the instrument and the player. It certainly took a pink grand piano and Liberace very efficiently taking the maximum capacity out of it by simply knowing how to properly access it and, thus, provide us with what we call a Total Performance.

Let’s imagine for a second that the piano would have broken strings, was untuned and the pedals would not work – nobody, not even Liberace, would be able to extract the proper sound out of it, technique or no technique. Let’s now also imagine that the piano would be perfect and the player would be using his elbow to play on it. I don’t think the proper sound would be provided by this technique of playing!

Similarly, to have a good voice is not good enough. You need to know how to “manipulate” this voice in a smart and efficient way, so that the instrument still will sound tuned and remain to be healthy and the “player” will sound pleasant and adequate, complying with the standards of professional singing.

Interestingly enough, if the vocalist applies his voice in the proper manner it instantaneously improves the “instrument”, ie. the tone becomes fuller, naturally more supported as the abdominal muscles are now involved in the proper support of the sound, while the vocalist is lifting that sound off of the vocal box and restructuring his whole voice into his facial cavities and putting them to work in full conjunction and coordination with those abdominal muscles.

There are a lot of vocal methods which are suggesting to be working on some vowels, sometimes strange sounds and needless scales. Some of them sound absolutely ridiculous, but if, even for a second, you could imagine that those sounds and scales actually could improve the voice, nobody ever suggests how to apply those evidently useless exercises to the actual singing.

So the answer is – work on the “instrument”, assure that your throat, larynx and vocal box in general are in good condition and, thus, it does not possess excessive mucous or extremely dry, but to assure it even more, make sure that you release your throat from excessive sound pressure, thus giving it a rest while other more proper body muscles are doing the hard but mostly smart work.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Music Industry and the Artists: Vocally Speaking... in Suspended Animation?

It’s no secret that the music industry is currently struggling to find out how to generate revenue in the Internet age. Many have suggested focusing on providing music for video games, films, commercials, etc. Artists such as U2 and Britney Spears have made their concerts into event spectacles that cost a lot of money to produce, which actually end up being must see happenings – and not so much for the musical performance as for the lights, stage setup and the overall concert experience. But these types of “theatre” and “circus” are not options for the new and emerging artists, who cannot afford to invest millions in a stage setup. And even if they could they would never be able to recover the investment as they do not have a big, well established international name yet. Besides which, those big name “Circus” artists are getting older and eventually the industry will need a new generation of real artists. Therefore, the question is: would it not be cheaper to coach them to sing properly and perform authentically without any circus props?

In many ways the music industry is currently in a type of suspended animation, due to the sheer fact that they keep producing and reproducing the same so to speak “templates”, ie. Britney Spears like artists and in the recent past “popping out” boy bands and girl groups that were completely alike and indistinguishable. People, meanwhile, quite evidently are getting fed up with listening and watching the same thing over and over. For some reason the music professionals are acting like telephone solicitors who are on a consistent basis are trying to pull out another donation from the people that have donated already several times. And these people are beginning to hang up the phone with obvious anger and are feeling harassed and, thus, are naturally resistant to give anything else. You would wonder why they would not call somebody else who has not donated yet? This is still a riddle.

In terms of music production, a type of suspended animation is also present. Recordings are so overproduced that there is very little room left for the voice. And the vocals are often so processed that they sound very cold and flat and devoid of any warmth or humanity, kind of like the heartbeat has been slowed down and the entire body has been frozen. Is there a hope that the music industry and the artists will come out of their living comas and regain their vital signs and their new fresh disposition would infuse music with something resembling life?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vocally Speaking – Passing Off the Beautiful Hair Wig as the Real Deal

Please, my dear reader, try to imagine a beautiful, sexy woman with long blond hair. Wow! You would say! And then imagine your disappointment when you find out that underneath of a beautiful blond wig is a partially or completely bald head. And that would have actually been fine if you had known about it in the first place rather than being shocked by the sudden discovery. Similarly, the concert ticket buyer is very often shocked when hearing that their favourite lead singer or solo artist does not even remotely resemble what they have heard on the record. The entourage, the show, the lighting and the musicians are exciting and glamourous - but the voice of the artist often sounds like they were run down by a truck and they have been using their “wigged” head as a brake. Then all of a sudden the “wig” falls off and the naked truth is revealed. The singer is “bald” and has been “heavily camouflaged” and apparently at best “toupeed”. Now almost everybody has lost when the truth has been revealed. The artist, the management, the audience and …who else you might ask? Let’s see. It is a documented fact that there are only a handful of major record companies and apparently their record labels are a very small part of a multinational corporation that also sells films, video games, publishing, clothing, detergent, light bulbs, etc. To those gigantic companies, as it appears to be, a loss on a music project can sometimes even be advantageous. How so? Apparently through creative accounting a loss of investment can actually result in tax advantages for another blockbuster CD release or even – go figure - a non-related division within the larger corporation that has been far more financially successful! With that in mind, needless to say, the manager, producer and the artist have to ensure that their production (in the studio and live on stage) has to be super successful in order to reach the TOP and not lose the deal. Therefore, the parties at the bottom of this structure must be especially vigilant that they are offering and promoting the real deal rather than the fake act.

How to Cure Today’s Ill Music Industry - Mystery Diagnosis or…. Vocal Misconceptions?

For the last several years there has been a big concern among music industry professionals that the music industry is broken. Bigwigs and music industry gurus are exclaiming, “How can we fix it?” Last year I attended Music Expo Europe in London, England. The very first thing that was shown to delegates was a documentary film about the problems which the music industry at large is experiencing today. After the film the delegates were asked for their input for a future documentary film on how to fix the music industry. And the delegates, most of whom were also music industry professionals, were suggesting taking the music elsewhere – to the movies, videogames, Internet and what have you. Not one delegate, until I stood up and spoke on camera, speculated as to why it got broken in the first place. I said, “Please pay attention to the artists. Teach them how to sing properly - and in tune preferably, thus, complying with the standards of professional singing – and teach them how to express themselves authentically on stage and, thus, enable them to give a sincere performance on stage.” And maybe then, I suggested, the records will not be dropped or put on “hiatus” before they see the Record Store shelves. And maybe then people would not ask for their money back after attending a concert in which they were completely disappointed that they had heard an entirely different thing on stage than what they had heard on the record, obviously cleverly fabricated (auto tuned and melodyned) in a high tech recording studio. Milli Vanilli or Ashley Simpson, you ask? Them and quite a few others along with them... The truth of the matter is that, yes, the artists are being picked from the cream of the crop of good looking people and, yes, also from the cream of the crop of somewhat talented people. And then they have been surrounded by the best musicians and producers who have presumed that the singing voice is a minor detail. The songs are good they exclaim! And, oh yeah, “she looks so beautiful and sexy!” Not even once did it occur in anybody’s mind that the artist does not know how to use his or her God given voice and, thus, is in jeopardy to wear it out to the “bone” and even lose it completely. And when that happens – God forbid – everybody is in awe and exclaims, “What should we do now?” There is a lot of money that has been invested into the whole production and entourage and the question becomes, “How can we save the project?” That is the question indeed. The answer is that they would not even have had to raise this question if they had treated the artist’s voice as an instrument that needs care, attention and nurturing in order to always be ready to reciprocate the high standards of today’s audiences and not to die in the process. You can read more in my next blog, “Vocally Speaking – Passing Off the Beautiful Hair Wig as the Real Deal”.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vocally Speaking – Working on the Stove When the Fridge is Broken

As you read the above title you probably asked yourself, “Why would anybody work on the stove when the fridge is broken?” Most would answer that it is absurd and that nobody does it. Well, I have news for you. Music Industry professionals are doing it every day on an every artist basis. Why is that you may ask? Because the truth comes out in the wash. The fact is that the majority of artists cannot sing without syllable by syllable comping, auto tuning and melodyning. After the so-called “authentic” performance has been fertilized in the studio it is time for the artist to go on stage and perform live. And then that performance flops. The audience begins to talk and walk away, while in some cases booing the artist off the stage. Then the so-called professionals from the Record Label often make the “wise” decision to implement a change in strategy. For example, the beautiful artist with long brown hair portraying the image of a pop diva is obviously not working, so let’s get her hair cut real short and make her blond. This way she will look like a standard jazz singer and they can hire jazz musicians and a jazz producer to organize her next musical project. They are hoping that nobody will be able to recognize her as they will have given her a new image and sound. They will even use the same comp, melodyne and auto tune. And the result would be that nothing has actually changed. The artist still cannot sing live and is even doing it worse than before, as they are not even themselves anymore with the music industry professionals having changed them to a completely different genre. Now they don’t know how to power their voice and are extremely confused. Some even turn to drugs as their dreams are now shattered once and for all. This sad result is as obvious as the reality that you shouldn’t work on the stove when the fridge is broken. The stove may or may not actually work better, but the fridge will definitely still be broken.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Voice Acupuncture

Everybody knows that acupuncture is a Asian medical practice that originated in China and is now very popular and practised all around the world.

This art falls into the holistic philosophy of overall health and well being.

In acupuncture, fine needles are inserted at specific points to stimulate, disperse, and regulate the flow of chi, or vital energy, and restore a healthy energy balance.

Similarly, the Vocal ScienceTM method finds the certain spots and channels in one’s body to activate the human voice and make it work at the fullest capacity possible.

For singers this method knocks down the years of practice of increasing the volume and projection on their voices and mainly corrects the pitch and vastly increases the range.

By pointing out to the singer exactly how to attack and place the sound, his whole performance becomes predominantly designed and, thus, aimed to its final destination upon design.

For speakers, this method assures a proper volume, enunciation, inflection, emphasis and definite projection without any pain or strain on their vocal anatomy.

In both instances, the physical body is also very involved in the equation.

The certain points in the lower abdominal and upper diaphragm muscles, as well as the upper back muscles, are playing a significant role in the support of the sound and make sure that it has been delivered to those designated facial cavities and then, naturally over all, projected.

In other words, the whole philosophy boils down to so to speak “re-channelling” the sound upon the use of the precise points of the human body and voice as an outcome away from the so called “natural” use, ie. screaming from the bottom of the throat and the top of the lungs, which in turn leads to an overall need for voice repair.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vocal Rehab

Lately the majority of my clients (singing and speaking) are coming to me with some kind of vocal disorder.

The singers are arriving with ruined voices, as they previously were experimenting with voices with their friends, bands and even recording sessions without having any idea, directions, let alone training on how to use their voices correctly.

Among the speakers there are lawyers, teachers, voiceover artists, TV & radio personalities, fitness instructors and customer service representatives who are excessively using their voices on an everyday basis.

Interestingly enough, they all expect a speedy recovery in a flash, kind of like stroke patient who is learning to speak and walk again would be expecting to run a marathon the next day.

It is quite unrealistic, but the good news is that there is definitely a pretty rapid way to recovery – however, obviously not an instant one.

When a person with a stroke or another serious health issue is on the road to recovery, the process takes some time – they usually start to walk with a walker while at the same time undergoing physical therapy.

And then letting go of the walker, they start to gradually walk unaided. And then, if they are lucky, they return to running and other physical activities further down the road.

The vocal recovery is similar to that, because when the vocal damage is done (singing or speaking) the voice is drawn very low in the body and practically trapped within it.

It takes numerous body and voice exercises, ie. actual “voice rehab”, to “unstuck” the voice from within and bring it up to the surface, and then and only then can we actually start the real vocal development.

Once it is on the surface, the tone is improved, the volume is greater, the raspyness is gone and the voice is ready to begin the actual training. The voice as an “instrument” is tuned.

The next thing is to teach the player how to take the maximum capacity out of it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Voice GPS

In most cases, students are now coming to me on the verge of requiring a voice repair because they literally have no idea where they are going with their voices. They are driving between the lines and are in danger of killing everyone else and themselves. They don’t realize that the gas pedal is on the right and they are ending up in Buffalo rather than on Bathurst Street. Interestingly enough, sometimes their cars are not that bad, but they have no idea how to drive them. Similarly, the singer who might even have a very good “instrument” (ie. voice) might not have any idea how to power it and thus can’t project properly, rather than screaming from their lungs and throats, killing their vocal anatomies while doing it. They obviously need to acquire a “Vocal GPS” and learn how to drive their voice to it’s aimed destination in one piece and via any possible shortcut.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Acid Reflux

Every second person that comes to me for a Voice Repair course is stating that he or she was diagnosed with Acid Reflux, and about 99% of the time the diagnosis is incorrect.

It seems that it is now a general catch all label used by doctors for patients they cannot help or don’t know how to help.

They are usually prescribing a drug (Nexium, Zantac, etc.) which almost never produces any results and the person still complains even more about a dry and itchy throat, hoarseness and an inability to sing or speak clearly.

In reality the problem is still the same – all of these people are using their voices incorrectly (speaking and/or singing) and all of their symptoms are caused specifically by this premise.

However, once their voice has been lifted off their vocal boxes and separated from the anatomies and made freely flown above and on top of their physical bodies, their voice is no longer affected by anything that is going on with their physical body, even if they actually have a real ailment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Occupational Hazards: Dealing with Everyday Bad Voice Habits.

I work with people from a wide variety of professions and walks of life, but I do find myself working with specific groups of people more often than others: Lawyers, Teachers, Admin Assistants, Salespeople, Public Speakers, Professional Voiceover Artists, Radio & TV Personalities and Singers.

Due to their chosen professions, they often ruin their voices because they have no knowledge of any sort with respect of how to use their voices properly or how to preserve their voices for a prolonged period of time.

Majority of times, these people tend to speak without any knowledge of how to lift their voices off of their vocal boxes and vocal cords in particular, and rather, instead, put their voices in use employing a different set of muscles (facial muscles); thus providing a very much needed rest for their vocal anatomy overall.

On the contrary, they are pulling and pushing their vocal chords, squeezing and twisting their larynx and, moreover, engaging the muscles in their necks and chest cavities while using their voices – even sometimes developing muscle tension and fibromyalgia on top of their vocal problems.

In my amazing discovery of over 34 years of practice, I have created a methodology which can actually save and protect your vocal chords and practically your entire vocal box.  By lifting the voice off of the vocal chords and restructuring it into the set of your facial muscles, they will begin to function as a natural amplifier/resonator. And while the facial muscles begin to work in full conjunction and coordination with the abdominal muscles, the use of the throat, larynx and the vocal chords will be practically eliminated.

But since people are not aware of what could happen to them if they continue to use and abuse their voices, the damage will come to them as a surprise and they will start sounding hoarse and raspy and won’t even know why. Often, these people will need to clear their throats at any given time, thus, causing more irritation and dryness inside of their vocal box.

All of that can lead to any kind of growth like nodules, nodes, polyps, etc...

Our device is:  Work smart, not hard... and with the minimum effort, achieve the maximum result while using your voice with structure in mind... and by design.