WANTS TO HEAR YOUR GIFT OF SINGING? (c) 2007 Chris
The word gift is a noun. It means something that is given to
somebody, often to give pleasure or show gratitude. It can
also refer to a talent or skill that someone appears to have
been born with.
You and I were given a free gift called the voice. As
children we all made up sounds and songs. Why? Just because
we could. Also, because it felt good and we enjoyed the
sounds. And, whether we were technically accurate or not,
there were always those who loved our songs.
Wešve just left the season of Thanksgiving and are entering
into the season of Advent leading up to Christmas. I can
think of no better time than to use our free gift, the
voice, to give a gift back to the One who thought of,
created and designed us all. "But," you might say, "I'm not
really a singer." Ah, but you are! We all are. You can't
help it, and here's the key to your freedom: Singing isn't
primarily for performance; it's for personal expression,
with or without a human audience.
Don't get me wrong. Singing in a chorus, choir, on a worship
team or in the congregation is great. That's what I train
people for. But thatšs the structured, organized kind of
singing. Im talking about the "sing it out anywhere, any
time" kind of singing.
Why does singing feel so good? One, it's as natural as
breathing. And speaking of breathing, singing causes
wonderful, low breathing and that is so good for your mind
and body. Also, the vibrations it causes in the chest, neck,
oral cavity, face, sinuses, nasal passages and more are
nothing short of stimulating. Literally. That's why babies,
children, teens and adults all naturally sing.
Finally, who do you think most wants to hear your songs? The
One who created you, and song. And don't worry about musical
accuracy. He is listening to your heart.
Merry Christmas from Chris & Carole Beatty, and Vocal Coach
Feature Article: How Dry I Am! What to
do about dry throat
(c) 2007 Chris Beatty
SETTING THE STAGE
To be a great singer today you have to be more than just
well-trained, and a good musician. You also have to be
a monitor, and control non-musical influences that affect
your physical voice, like dryness. It's the only way to
maximize your abilities and have longevity. Why? Because
what we call "the voice," is actually a complex combination
of physical, mechanical and acoustical elements.
Consider this: While athletes are jumping higher, running
faster and hitting and throwing further, singers are not
singing better. Vocal range, agility and longevity haven't
improved at all. In fact, quite the reverse may be true due
to all the help we get from electronics. I wouldn't be
surprised if most of today's pop singers would be out of
business were it not for these helps. We are so dependent on
electronics to help projection, tone and even pitch control
that without them, most singers simply could not pull off a
convincing and pleasing performance.
That being said, the Vocal Coach voice training studio, in
Brentwood TN, is loaded with electronics and computers. Why?
Because I love working with these tools, and it's part of
producing today's music. However, my goal for singers is
that they would not NEED the electronics to sing a
convincing, live concert. Their voices should be free,
flexible and efficient vocal instruments. I use electronics
to take the performance farther, not to add elements that
aren't there in the first place.
DANGERS OF A DRY VOICE
When the larynx, sinuses and nasal passages are not moist
and lubricated, several things happen. First, the leading
edges of the vibrating vocal folds become inefficient and
irritated. This can promote any number of problems including
pre-nodules, frank vocal nodules and more. When most singers
feel this dryness they try to compensate by forcing more air
through the larynx. This just compounds the problem. It's a
Then, there's the limited sound sensation felt in the mask
of the face and head caused by dryness. In other words, if
you are dry you won't physically feel the vibrating
sensations of the voice, probably causing you to push and
force the voice. When the vocal tract is moist and
lubricated the singer sings more easily, and naturally. So,
dryness can ruin your day whether you are a singer, speaker,
teacher, pastor, coach or telemarketer.
SOME CAUSES OF DRYNESS
Having established the seriousness of a dry larynx let?s
look at some of the causes.
The most obvious, and easily fixed, is simple lack of
systemic hydration. In other words, not drinking enough
water throughout the day. Several days of drinking about
half your weight in ounces (150 pounds = 75 ounces of water)
should start to reverse that problem if, and that's a big
IF, there are no compounding issues. (Note: If you are one
of those who has a water bottle on stage during a concert,
don't take lots of little sips as that doesn't re-hydrate
you. It will actually cause surface dryness since you are
continually washing away whatever topical moisture is there.
When you take a drink, take enough to make it count.)
Medications and Vitamins
Then there are the effects of medications and vitamins, and
here is where it gets really scary for a singer. Did you
know that most medications, whether prescription or
over-the-counter, have a side-effect of drying? Even some
vitamins. Between prescriptions and self-medications we are
drying out our bodies. For the average person this may not
be a big issue. But, for a singer, it is.
It is absolutely critical that you take responsibility to
understand the side-affects of any meds you are taking,
prescribed or not, including the drying potential. Let your
local pharmacist or doctor guide you so you don?t compound
the drying to a dangerous level. And while you shouldn't be
afraid to take medications when you need them you do need to
be informed. Combining multiple sources of drying can be a
big problem. Again, a good pharmacist can really help you
Examples: Most allergy, anti-anxiety, birth control and
cholesterol medications are drying. Even our old friend,
vitamin C, in extreme amounts, can thin the blood and have
the potential of contributing to vocal fold hemorrhage.
Vitamin C also has a diuretic side-effect, possibly leaving
your vocal folds dry.
Another potential contributor to a dangerously dry voice is
our living environments. And, they affect a lot more than
our voices, including our lungs, skin, eyes . . .
everything. Consider these environments:
Our Homes. Cooling air conditioning in the summer, and
heated air in the winter both produce dry air. Anything
below 40% humidity is too low, especially when combined with
other issues. Even a central humidifier may not do the job
during cold winters. Many people have either heat or cooling
on every day of the year. The resulting dry air is a
constant threat to a healthy body.
Our Cars. Unless you have the windows open or the top down
(assuming a convertible, of course) you probably condition
your car air in much the same way as you do your home air.
For many, that means they are in a too-dry environment most
of their lives.
Places of Work. Unless you work outside, you are probably
facing the same dry-air conditions at least during part of
Airplanes. For over 15 years, Carole and I flew commercial
flights up to six times each week, for 10 months out of the
year. Several pilots got so used to seeing us they warned us
of the dangers of that many hours in an airplane. Pilots
aren't allowed to fly as much as we did. (But fly we did,
since driving to places like Singapore, Malaysia, Australia,
New Zealand and Europe didn't seem practical.) Flyers should
add at least 8 ounces of water, per hour of flying time, to
their daily intake. Singers should also limit their talking
on planes as well as in noisy cars and buses. Competing with
loud engine or road noise can be very fatiguing to the
Stress, and the pace of life today, is another issue. The
average person today has little or no real down time. Even
family and vacation times are seldom truly relaxing due to
schedules, and the ever-present cell phones, laptops,
Internet and up-to-the-minute news, most of it negative. If
you work on a church staff, Sunday is often the busiest day
of the week, and the word Sabbath is just an afterthought.
Singing as a career adds other issues. As with many jobs,
the temptation for singers is to never rest because of what
it takes to survive financially. The tendency is to take any
and all jobs, no matter what the cost, just to keep climbing
the ladder of success.
That's stressful, and takes a toll on the voice. Travel
schedules are grueling, and management, booking and record
companies seem more concerned with the bottom line today,
than the singer's health tomorrow. Is this a drying problem?
Yes. Living with constant tension leads to anxiety and
adrenalin release, and that is physically drying to the
In contrast to the furious pace of life today, in the early
1900's, when my great aunt, Louise Homer, was singing with
Caruso, it would take a full week to go from New York City
to San Francisco by train. They would arrive a week before
the event to rest and acclimate. Today we make that same
trip in five hours, do a sound check, sing and return home
the next day. That's great use of time, but the body,
including the voice, can't keep up with it over the long
haul. We weren't built to.
Caffeine is a potential hazard to singers and speakers if
used in excess. One cup of coffee in the morning, or one 8
ounce glass of a soft drink isn't a problem, but who has
just one? If the coffee is there, we drink it, and fast-food
restaurants don't have 8 oz cups. More like 12, 16, 24 and
even 32 oz. . . . with free refills that none of us can turn
down. So, take control! It's your voice, not Starbuck's or
REMEMBER: IT'S CUMULATIVE.
The issue isn't one aspect of your life, it's all the
aspects combined. It's cumulative. Medications plus
vitamins, plus dry house, plus poor hydration, plus caffeine
and on and on. THAT is the problem.
WHAT'S TO BE DONE?
1. Take an inventory of your potential drying-factors.
Include water intake, medications, home/car/work air, daily
caffeine intake etc.
2. Make a to-do list of things you can change. Be specific
and realistic. For example, you probably can't change the
air in your car or you place of work, but you can severely
limit caffeine, check with the pharmacist on drying
side-effects in your meds and increase your water intake.
3. Topical moisturizing can also help lubricate critical
areas when you are dry. That's why Vocal Coach sells
ENTERTAINER'S SECRET THROAT RELIEF SPRAY.
( www.vocalcoach.com/store ) Several sprays in the mouth,
while inhaling or better yet, in the nose, and you feel
instant moisture. And, while it doesn't replace drinking
water, it is an extremely effective way to take away that
tickle that often comes with dryness. Entertainer's Secret
was formulated by a Nashville ENT (doctor who specializes
with ear-nose-throat issues) and is widely used by singers
of all styles of music as well as professional speakers.
4. Warm up carefully, using the lip-trill or lip-buzz. This
child-like sound helps create an efficient lubrication
(mucosal viscosity) for the larynx.
Most importantly, be aware. Do your homework. You are the
responsible party when it comes to your voice's health.
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Chris Beatty -
COMPARING SINGERS TO MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
(c) 2007 Chris Beatty
Playing major league baseball is like any professional
sport in at least one significant way: I could never do it.
I do not have the ability, skills, experience or even
desire, and it takes all four. Carole and I just returned
from New York Yankee Spring Training. (All 15 home games in
Tampa!!) As the weeks went by, a number of important
principles were driven home (no pun intended) with each
game. They could be summed up as this: Proven routines and
practices are necessary to succeed in almost anything,
including baseball and singing, any shortcuts you take will
likely limit that success.
We arrived at the games two or three hours early to watch
the players doing final workouts on the practice field. We
would also watch the grounds crew meticulously shape the
playing surface. Talk about detail! When the white lines
were put down it was with a surveyor's precision and
measurements. When preparing home plate they used a metal
template to assure exacting measurements. Nothing was left
As the physical field was being prepared, players would
drift out onto the field and begin some exhaustive (and to
me painful-looking) stretches. And guess who came out the
earliest? The strongest players! Catcher, Jorge Posada
followed by Short Stop Derek Jeter, Left Fielder Hideki
Matsui, Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez . . . and then the
rest. Sometimes trainers would assist, but usually the guys
were on their own. The goal? To be sure they get the most
out of their bodies, without injury.
And, as I look back over my 40 years as a professional coach
and performer, I see many parallels between professional
athletics and excellent singers. First, singers are vocal
athletes and require careful, systematic warm-ups. In my
experience the best, and most consistent singers are the
ones who spend the most time in preparation. It's the
hot-shots who just show up and often pull it off . . . but
aren't around next year. They are also generally the least
consistent and often plagued with vocal problems. Getting
the best results, with minimal vocal injuries is a matter of
knowing what to do and doing it faithfully. That takes
education, dedication and discipline. Those are three words
some singers don't like to hear, but proper preparation
prevents poor performance. It always has; always will, and
that's why we at Vocal Coach continue to provide training,
warm-up and workout tools for all levels of singers.
And remember how I said that it was not only the players,
but also the facility that was being prepared with great
care. For us that might compare to the instumetns, sound
system and sound check, fresh batteries in the wireless mics,
appropriate temperature levels in the building etc.
Finally, I was very aware of the visual state of each
player. They LOOKED ready to play and win. Nothing,
absolutely nothing was left to chance. And though they may
not win every game, they will give it their best, having
prepared as fully as they know how. Let's do the same for
the Lord, and for those who listen to us.
DEVOTIONAL: TRUTH DECAY CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO
YOU . . . AND YOUR VOICE by
Have you ever wondered why Christians read
the Bible and take communion more than once? We are
commanded to, and that's because we forget things! It's the
same reason many professions require their members to
re-qualify regularly. It's to show they have retained the
information and skills necessary to do the job right. How
would you like to go to a medical doctor, or fly with a
pilot who wasn't current with his testing? I wouldn't.
In other words, just because you did something correctly at
one time doesn't mean you still are.
For singers, it's the same truth: Just because you sang
correctly and efficiently at one time doesn't mean you still
are. May I challenge you to critically evaluate where you
are in your singing skills. Then, do what you need to do to
get them back. And remember, Teaching the Singers of Today
and Tomorrow is what Vocal Coach does. We have free vocal
tips, personal training, workshops and dozens of CD's that
can help you accomplish your goals. Just visit us at
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THE MISSING LINK BETWEEN SINGING, COMMUNICATING AND
... BUBBLE GUM Have you ever heard
two singers sing the same song only to have one sound like a
musical robot, and the other a gifted communicator? The
answer is probably, yes. If no recent example comes to mind,
just think of a child, teenager or novice singing a
well-known song made famous by a skilled artist.
What is the difference between the two performers? The
novice simply sings words on assigned pitches. The mature
communicator takes words and thoughts and integrates them
into the music. This results in an audio and, if live
performance, visual message. The goal of any singer should
be the movement of the message from singer . . . to
What are some steps you can take to be the best communicator
you can be? Try these:
1. Build relationship with the song. You need to "get
inside" the lyric and develop some degree of relationship
with the message of the song. I suggest you begin by
carefully studying the lyrics. Discover what you think the
writer is saying and write these thoughts down. Next, write
a brief summary of each verse and chorus in your own words.
Add your personal thoughts, feelings and observations along
the way. In other words, create your personal, "amplified
version" of the song. As you move back to the original lyric
you will have a fuller and deeper understanding of the
writer's intended message. You and the song will have
developed a relationship.
2. With the accompaniment playing, speak the words in very
loose and approximate rhythm trying to stay more
conversational, and talky than "singy." This helps you
to color outside the lines a bit and experiment with
different ways of saying/singing the same thing. In the
process, you may discover some things. For instance, you may
decide to start some phrases late, after the beat. Or, you
may decide to anticipate the expected entrance and come in
early because it just seems to make sense. You might also
decide that holding out some words, even if you have to rush
the words that follow, makes the message clearer. Some of
the best song interpretations can be discovered quite by
accident while experimenting with the song. Then, when you
listen to gifted artists, you will recognize that some of
these freedoms are what make their renditions the best. As
you develop this process, you will be a more interesting
singer and a better communicator.
3. Where you breathe can make or break the song. The way you
phrase the words by pausing . . . or not, breathing . . . or
not can also help make the song yours. Obviously you need to
breathe, but not necessarily where everybody assumes you
will. Sometimes, connecting the end of one phrase to the
beginning of the next, just makes the message clearer. A
dramatic pause after just the right word can be equally
powerful. Spend time really listening to some accomplished
singers then experiment, experiment, experiment.
4. Use volume dynamics meaningfully. Have you even had to
listen to someone speak who is absolutely monotone, boring
and uninteresting? It all sounds the same, and the result is
they lose their listener. The same can happen with singers.
If everything is loud, then loud doesn't mean anything. In
addition, the listener will suffer what is called ear
fatigue, and everything will become all but meaningless. If
everything is soft, then soft doesn't mean anything. It's
all relative. Be interesting, and not always predictable. It
will keep the listener's interest and be more fun for you.
5. Why is Double-Bubble gum pink? (Stay with me here!) I
recently read that the person who invented the highly
successful Double-Bubble gum discovered it quite by mistake.
He did work for a chewing gum company, but there was no such
thing as bubble gum. One day while experimenting at home
(like you should be with your songs) he came across a
mixture that allowed big bubbles, and was easy to peal off
the face. But, it was clear in color, so he added the only
food coloring he had in the house . . . pink. Double-Bubble
is the most popular bubble gum to this day, and most all
bubble gum is pink . . . and it was an "accident." Isn't it
interesting how many good "accidents," and how much "good
luck" happens to people who keep working at something? Hmm.
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COMPLETE PERFORMANCE AT YOUR FINGER
The Vocal Coach Complete
Performance CD doesn't contain bubble gum (see feature
article), but it does teach the principles and exercises
that can take you from being just a singer to being an
effective communicator. Topics like Communicating the
Message, Choosing Songs, Selecting the Kay, Facial
Expressions and Physical Gestures, Dealing with Sound
Systems, Sound Checks and more. Check it out at
www.vocalcoach.com/store and click on CD's.