How to Stand Out as a Singer: Singer Self-Improvement Series July 2019

For many of my singing students, I am often the barer of bad news. For example, when they ask me how they can sing high notes with more power, they are hoping I’ll tell them to hold their jaws a certain way, or perform some other magic trick to exact the result they want.

Instead, my answer is, “Do vocal exercises. And more vocal exercises. And then more. And over time, those high notes will get stronger and stronger.”

See what I mean? Reality can feel like bad news. But really, reality is your friend. And so am I. 

In the many decades of my life thus far, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that little to nothing of real substance happens as quickly as we want. Period.

But this is where the truly passionate singers separate themselves from the hobbyist singers. With real passion, time doesn’t matter. Sure, faster is nice. But true passion revels in progress. Both in the satisfying acts that we know will lead to progress, and in the fuel that the witnessing of such progress adds to our fires. 

There is nothing wrong with being a hobbyist singer. If fact, that’s awesome. Do it! But this post is for those with a deeper draw to the process of becoming a great singer.

There are thousands upon thousands of great singers out there. Some are ahead of you on the road to mastery. Some are behind. Some have more connections, and some less. Some began with more advanced skills than you, some didn’t. It’s a mob of people that’s easy to get lost inside.

There are no official stats that I can quote to shed light on specific details about aspiring singers. What I can share with you is my experiences as a singer, a performer, a teacher, and as the member of various online singing groups. 

Granted, following my advice is no guarantee of anything. Just as life takes its own time with our goals, it also can seem a bit random with our successes. But you want to stack the odds in your favor, right? So let me share with you my anecdotal take on what stops singers from standing out. I can boil it down to the following three things, but I encourage you to pay particular attention to #3.

Three Common Traits of Today’s Pack of Singers (and how you can separate yourself from them):

1. The pack skimps on the details of vocal training: 

They are drawn to quick fixes and have the impression that there are some rules they need to learn so they can then be awesome singers forever. 

If you want to stand out, start thinking of yourself as an athlete. That means you adjust your lifestyle (diet, sleep regimen, etc…) so that you’re taking good care of your voice, and you’re training it regularly. And that training lasts for as long as you want to be a singer. Need help with training? Check out my online courses.

2. The pack mimics other singers instead of finding what makes them unique.

I get it. All of us creatives have bouts of insecurity. And we often idolize great singers and wish we could be them. But…

If you want to stand out, stop trying to be like other people. You WANT to come across as unique and different. What you see as a vocal flaw might just be the thing that helps folks remember you. Don’t hide it. Turn it into your signature style. You’re a musician, not a follower. The goal should never be to become your favorite singer. It should be to become your favorite singer’s peer.

3. The pack doesn’t see themselves as musicians and therefore doesn’t educate themselves accordingly. 

I can hardly convince many of these singers to do a vocal warmup. Forget about getting them to learn music theory. But you will always be limited as a singer if you don’t understand how music works. You will never feel equal to the musicians around you. And they may never see you as an equal, especially (sorry to say it) if you’re female. 

If you want to stand out, become an educated musician (as in, learn music theory). This alone will set you lightyears apart from the pack. Here’s why:

  • You’re pitch, harmonizing, ad libbing, and timing will all improve.
  • You’re songwriting will become more interesting and memorable.
  • You will be better able to communicate with musicians and be a part of arrangement decisions. 
  • You will be more confident because you understand what’s going on around you.
  • You will be able to sell yourself as a serious, competent, and productive contributor to any musical project.

There are lots of ways you can learn music theory. Some of those ways can be found on my website www.OnlineWithJudyFine.com (just saying). 

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you. But if you still see the music theory suggestion as more bad news coming from me, just take it in baby steps. I’ll help you…

Below are two videos to help you begin your quest to stand out as a singer. Just watch and learn. Easy peasy.

Thanks for reading, enjoy, and good luck! You can do this!

Video One: An introduction to the piano, and how you can use it to help improve your pitch.

Video Two: A walk-thru of my free PDF Getting Your Feet Wet with Music Theory .

Download the PDF here.

Info on the Chord Book here.

The Hidden Signs of Performance Anxiety: Singer’s Self-Improvement Series, June 2019

Everyone experiences performance anxiety to some degree. We know it as it’s happening. You’re about to go on stage and your palms are sweaty, your heart is racing, maybe your throat is clenching up and you feel nauseous. These are examples of symptoms that are obvious and recognizable.

But are there signs of performance anxiety that you’re missing? Keep reading to find out, because if you’re misreading the cause of a problem, you are likely not properly addressing the fix.

Before we get to the signs of performance anxiety that you could be missing, let’s talk more about what we mean when we say performance.

A singing performance is an obvious example. Speech-giving is another event that commonly activates performance anxiety. But these are only two of many forms of performance. How many? I can’t even tell you, because just about everything is a kind of performance. Some examples:

  • Going on a job interview
  • Asking someone on a date
  • Expressing your opinion among a group of different-minded people
  • Raising your hand to answer a tough question in class
  • Leading a team project at work

If you struggle with performance anxiety as it relates to singing, there’s a good chance that the same anxiety creeps into other aspects of your life. This is why I broach this topic with my students over and over again. It’s an important life skill, not just a singer’s problem.

Different people land at different spots along the anxiety spectrum but if you struggle to any extent, the information here will be helpful to you.

The effects of performance anxiety can be broken into two categories:

  • Real-time effects. The physical, emotional, and mental reactions experienced at the moment, or just before the moment a performance begins.
  • Preemptive effects. The physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions to an impending (or even considered) performance.

Since most folks recognize the real-time effects of anxiety, I’m going to focus here on preemptive responses.

A definition of Preemptive: “Serving or intended to preempt or forestall something, especially to prevent attack by disabling the enemy.”

This is what part of your subconscious is attempting to do. It views your planned performance as a kind of attack on your wellbeing and wants to “disable the enemy” (you) to prevent the perceived threat (the performance).

Your subconscious knows your weaknesses.

If you’re someone who frequently gets migraines, you may find yourself coming down with one a day or two before a performance. If you’re prone to depression or extreme overwhelm, then you’ll probably experience those things instead. My Achilles’ heal is congestion. Before I understood the workings of performance anxiety, I frequently came down with cold symptoms before a performance. Here’s a chat video I made discussing this:

 

Moodiness is another preemptive symptom of performance anxiety. Impatience and arguing can increase. People may become frustrated, negative, and downright mean to others and/or to themselves.

I did another chat video about moodiness and performance anxiety. If you’re the parent of person with performance anxiety, this video might help you better support them through their anxiety.

 

There’s one more video I’d like to share. This one is a presentation about performance anxiety that covers the phenomenon from start to finish.

I’ve shared this before, but if you haven’t seen it yet and you struggle with performance anxiety, please watch it. In it, I describe the greatest tool you possess for lowering performance stress and improving assertiveness. It’s the knowledge that will empower you to continue following your passion successfully.

(Please disregard the reference in the video to my Patreon page. My membership service is now run directly from my website, if you’re interested.)

 

One more important thing to remember if you want to move beyond your performance anxiety.

You have to perform. It’s the only way to practice performing.

You have to perform.

You need to practice the advice I give in the presentation above regarding how to hold your body. You have to practice not completely losing your mind as you perform. And you have to rack up “wins” so that the part of your subconscious that is trying to protect you learns that protection isn’t necessary.

Last month, I challenged my readers to schedule a performance. For some of you, this may have been no big deal. Maybe you already run the karaoke circuit in your town. For those of you who felt you were not up for the challenge, I encourage you to consider it again.

But you can start in small, manageable steps. Start at home.

Over recent years, several of my adult students began coming to lessons with their tablets in hand, ready to plug into my sound system and use the very karaoke tracks they’d been practicing with. This is how I learned about the Karafun App.

With this app, you can lower or eliminate the lead singers voice. You can lower or eliminate the background singers’ voices. And you can change keys to better fit your range. It’s a great tool to use at home as a stepping stone to getting yourself on a more public stage.

This is a link to a page on my website with where you can read more about the Karafun App and other karaoke-related things.

Full discloser: If you use any of the links on that page to make use of what I’m sharing there, I will receive a small commission.

That form of support is appreciated, but it isn’t what’s most important to me. My main motivation is to help you move past the obstacles between you and a life that challenges, excites, and fulfills you. And, if I’m being honest, I want to encourage you in ways that I wish someone encouraged me when I was younger.

I also love the Karafun app. It’s super handy, and the library of songs is huge. Check it out for yourself.

If you think I’ve left something out regarding performance anxiety, please let me know in the comments. Or if you have your own performance anxiety story to share, I’d love to hear it.

Good luck and happy singing!

Signs You’re in a Toxic Band: A Singer’s Cautionary Tale

I’ve been in quite a few bands over the years.

Right after college, I gigged as a solo original act in a cafe I worked in. Over the following decades, I sang and/or played keys in cover bands of all different sizes and makeups – from duos to a ten-piece wedding band with a horn section.

The predominant lesson I’ve learned from these experiences is that your relationships with bandmates are no different than your romantic relationships.

There are honeymoon periods, good and bad communicators, personality and lifestyle challenges, and conflicts of interests. But don’t worry, there is also Mr./Ms. Right Musical Project out there. Even if you have to create it yourself.

It’s important to think of potential bandmates in terms of a romantic relationship. That’s not because you’re going to be married to them, but because personalities, lifestyles, and end-goals need to be in sync if you want your project to be successful.

I recently joined a project that was not a good match for me.

Granted, I was on the rebound. Another project that I had had high hopes for didn’t work out. As we humans sometimes do after a breakup, I moved too quickly into another relationship. Signs of dysfunction were everywhere, but I was slow to acknowledge and act on them.

In the video below, I share a little about the experience. But before I leave you to check it out, allow me to reinforce what I hope you get from this post:

Things to consider if you’re looking to join or create a musical project:

  • Before you look for fellow musicians, be clear about what you are and are not willing to compromise on.
  • At an audition, remember YOU are auditioning the BAND. Ask questions and don’t commit until you’ve had time to think about it.
  • Know your strengths and what you’re willing to improve upon. Don’t let others decide your contribution or your goals.
  • Let a project go if there are signs it’s not going where you hoped. Try amicably first, but do it either way.

Here’s my tale about the toxic project I just left. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Upping Your Performance Game: Singer’s Self-Improvement Series, May 2019

If you’re working to improve your singing, it’s because you want to perform at some point. You probably even imagine it, at times (whether or not you admit it).

But getting from “imagining” to “doing” can seem insurmountable, maybe entirely unbelievable, even. Yet, you can and SHOULD perform. And sooner rather than later.

You could practice in the comfort and seclusion of your home for the next five years, and when you finally get on stage, you’ll still be a newbie performer.

There’s no benefit to putting performance off. But not performing will stall your progress. Why?

  • Because performance is its own skill that needs time and effort to be developed.
  • Because performance teaches you where your skills are at and helps you make new and clear next-step goals.
  • Because performance is motivating. It’s a little like riding a roller coaster. You’re scared as the ride begins, but you float around on a Dopamine high when it’s over and want to do it again.

Still terrified at the thought?

You’re not alone. But courage isn’t the absence of fear, right? It’s doing something important despite fear. And this is important to you.

So, I’m challenging you to find the courage to perform (at somewhat regular intervals) starting this spring. No matter how it goes, you’ll know you got up and did it. You’ll be proud each time (and I will too)! 

So, you’re onboard. What’s next?

  • Where do you perform?
  • How do you prepare?
  • How do you not faint on your way to the mic?
  • How do you use performance to forward your progress?

Follow my advice below and all these questions will be answered.

4-Step Spring Performance Challenge.

1. Find Your Venue:

  • Sit at your computer and Google the following: KARAOKE NEAR ME.
  • Choose a venue and date to perform (preferably by the end of the month).
  • Invite supportive friends/family members to join you and cheer you on.
  • Choose at least two songs to perform. Consider a group performance with your friends as a first song to help loosen you up before you solo.

2. Prepare for Performance:

  • Schedule practices into each week (vocal exercises and song work).
  • Adjust your diet, sleep, and water intake to bring your best voice forward.
  • Watch the videos below for performance-related advice.
  • Check out my YouTube channel for additional workouts & advice.

3. At Your Performance:

  • Hydrate well on performance day.
  • Ask a friend to video record you for later analysis.
  • Focus on technique and the song, not on others in the room.
  • Have fun!

4. After Your Performance:

Now it’s time for analysis and goal-setting for the next performance. Do this a day or more after the performance, and stick to my guidelines below. DON’T be a judgy jerk to yourself, please and thank you!

1. Analyze how you felt as you performed. Were you focused on the song or the eyes watching you? Did you focus on what you were afraid would happen, or on what you wanted to happen? Did you have a positive or negative attitude in general? Decide what about your thoughts and attitude you’d like to change in your next performance.

2. Use the video recording to analyze your body language. Do you look tense? Are you white-knuckling the mic? Do you stay in one position for the entire song? Decide what about your body language you want to change in your next performance (and practice those changes).

3. Use the video recording to analyze your singing. Can you understand the words? Are your pitches on target? Are you expressing the lyrics/meaning of the song? Does one part of your range seem stronger than another? Decide what about your singing you want to improve upon in your next performance (and choose appropriate workouts to help you succeed to that end).

4. Plan your next performance.

Following this approach, your performance skills will evolve with each performance. Allow that to happen. Think of your first attempt as a pre-test, and each following attempt as a progress check-in. And remember to have fun!

Below are some videos to help you accomplish your spring performance challenge.

If your workouts become samey, remember that you can become an OwJF Singer-Athlete, an online membership that gives you access to my full library of vocal exercises and video tutorials and workouts. You can find out more here (click on the Online Learning tab).

Things to keep in mind while doing your song work…

Performance tips…

Remember that part I mentioned before about not fainting on your way to the mic? This video can help with that.

Good luck with your spring performance challenge. You’ll be great.

And please consider sharing how it goes. I’d love to hear from you!

Singer’s Self-Improvement Series, April 2019: The Singer’s Tongue

I have to admit, when I first began a blog to complement my vocal coaching business, I never envisioned an entire post dedicated to the tongue. And yet, the tongue, or more accurately, what you do with your tongue while singing is super important. The tongue is also something to be mindful of when making decisions as they pertain to your singer’s nutrition (I’ll explain below).

So, here it is. A post about your tongue while singing and while eating well for the health of your singer’s body.

Let’s do this!

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Your Tongue: April Singing Goal

Tensing up your tongue while singing is the most common cause of cracking, missed pitches, poor resonance, and limited (or no) agility. Therefore, your singing goal this month is to learn to keep your tongue relaxed as you sing.

For guidance with this concept, including a warm-up to help you stretch your tongue and gain tongue independence and strength, watch this video:

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Your Tongue: April Nutrition Goal

So… maybe I’m stretching the tongue analogy (no pun intended) but my general message to all singers when it comes to nutrition is this:

Don’t let your tongue decide how you eat.

We often make eating choices based on what we believe will please our tongues (and, it could be argued, our minds and/or emotions). Obviously, liking the taste of your food matters, but it should only be one of many factors under consideration.

Food effects your sound, your stamina, your muscle growth, your sinuses, and more.

What I’m talking about is called Mindful Eating. There are many who give advice on this topic. My advice is going to be specifically geared toward singers. If you have an interest in where this post is going, I suggest you follow where that interest leads. Becoming a mindful eater in a variety of ways can only enhance the quality of your life, overall.

Here are the mindful eating tips I’m challenging you to embrace this month:
  1. Before you decide what to eat, close your eyes and try to tune in to what you think your body might crave. Not your tongue, or your emotions, but your body. You have to learn to recognize (and pay attention to) the difference.
  2. Consider what you ate at your last meal and/or what you will be eating at your next. How can what you choose to eat now help balance out the rest of your day? Have you had enough fruits and veggies, or protein, or water? If not, be sure to have those things now. Have you had a lot of fat, salt, or sugar already today? Back off on those, then, for this meal.
  3. Don’t put yourself second to your dining companions. You’re avoiding cheese but they want pizza. Are you going to stick to what’s right for you, or give in to their wants? You know what my advice is. Be true to yourself always, which includes dining choices. You and your goals matter. Act accordingly.
  4. Honestly assess the content of what you’re considering eating. Is it filled with dairy when you know that dairy adversely effects your voice? Is it high in sodium or sugar? We often eat something out of habit without remembering to consider how it will effect our bodies and our singing goals.
  5. Slow down! For most of us, overeating is a result of eating faster than our brains can register what’s been ingested. Overeating isn’t healthy in general, but is especially counterproductive before practice sessions, rehearsals, and performances.
  6. Focus on your meals. Distracted eating is another reason for overeating. Avoid eating in front of the TV or while working at your computer. Take time to appreciate your meal and chew it well (for better digestion).
  7. Find joy and pride in minding your nutrition. Adjust your mindset (if need be) toward eating well. It’s not an act of deprivation. It’s an act of self-love, and for singers, and sign of commitment to your craft. Eating mindfully is something to be proud of, especially for the very important cause of Being a Singer!

Think of your tongue as a child who always wants to eat another piece of candy. You’re the responsible parent who understands what that child really needs.

(Consult earlier Singer Self-Improvement Posts for more about good singer nutrition.)

Don’t let your tongue decide how you’re going to eat.

Good luck, and Happy Mindful Eating!

Your Passion vs. Your Relationships: Singer’s Self-Improvement Series, March Supplemental

What do you do when your creative passion seems at odds with your relationships?

Like most things, support from others for your creative pursuits exists on a spectrum.

At one end, you have family members or friends who tell you you’re wasting your time, energy, and/or money on creative pursuits. Or they simply don’t respect the boundaries you set to safeguard your creative time.

At the other end of the spectrum are the folks with endless support and encouragement. The time, energy, and money you spend being creative is seen as valuable. They are interested in your work, and the happiness and fulfillment you experience brings them joy.

For most of us, support from our relationships exists somewhere between those two extremes. You may receive encouragement but not much interest. You may have someone’s verbal support but also their resentment over the time your pursuit takes away from them. Money spent on a pursuit can also bring resentment, especially from partners. 

So, how do you balance your need for creative pursuits with your desire for happy, healthy relationships?

To answer this question, we’re going to look at three different types of relationships.

  • Your relationship with creativity
  • Your relationship with others
  • Your relationship with you

Your Relationship with Creativity

A lot of folks believe that following creative pursuits is a choice. 

I suppose it’s correct to say that you could choose not to be creative. You could try, anyway.

You could also choose to not eat enough calories each day. You could choose to not exercise or not get sufficient sleep.

All these choices, though, would have a negative effect on your wellbeing. That includes the choice to not pursue your natural draw to creative projects.

For creative people, not exercising creative outlets has negative emotional, and therefore physical, impacts.

If you’re trying to maintain your wellbeing, and you’re a person who is happiest when doing something creative, then creativity isn’t a choice. It’s part of a healthy lifestyle.

Engaging in creative pursuits:

  • Reduces stress and gives you reprieve from stressful aspects of your life
  • Develops your confidence and gives you pride and a sense of fulfillment
  • Improves your problem-solving skills
  • Gives you something positive to look forward to during tough times
  • Keeps your mind sharp and your body active
  • Can lead to social interactions with likeminded people who help each other grow

All these examples are ways to improve and/or maintain your health and wellness. Your relationship with creativity matters RIGHT NOW.

 

Your Relationship with Others

For relationships with your friends, partner, and family members to be healthy, there needs to be balance. Your time, your needs, and your well-being are as important as those of all you love and care about. You DO NOT come after them.

Now, there’s an argument to be made that, say, a newborn baby needs what it needs when it needs it. Of course, your needs have to be met around that baby’s schedule. But your needs still have to be met, for the sake of your health and well-being, and for that baby’s well-being, too.

This is particularly challenging for many females. We females are conditioned without realizing it to defer to others, especially partners. If you’re female, you most likely do this even when you’re not looking!

I recently read a Facebook post where a friend of mine gave her sister public accolades by saying, “She works hard and always puts everyone else first.”

This may seem like something to be proud of on the surface. Maybe you’ve been proud of yourself in a similar way. If so, please consider a different perspective, because martyrdom like that us straight up unhealthy. And usually unsustainable. A much healthier compliment would be to say, “She always knows how to be there for others while still being there for herself.”

Now, that’s being healthy.

To have equity in your relationships, you have to understand what you need to be happy and healthy. If you’re reading this, I assume that singing (or something else creative) brings you joy and fulfillment. Joy and fulfillment are two important ingredients in the recipe for happiness.

Meaning, putting time, energy and even financial resources into your love of singing is not different than spending time and money at the gym. Or spending time and money buying better ingredients and cooking healthy meals. Or spending time and money to go out to dinner with friends who make you feel good.

For whatever reason, something like singing lessons or gear purchases can be seen by others as frivolous. If you and your partner share finances and your partner thinks lessons are frivolous, you need to make the case for your needs. I’m not saying spend money that the other person doesn’t want you to spend. I’m saying, explain the importance of pursuing your passion and find a way together to budget in what you feel you need.

If your children absorb all your time and – just as an example – interrupt your practice sessions, you need to lay down the law. My sister once put it expertly to her kids when she had an important project she needed to work on.

“I’m going into my office to work,” she told them. “Unless someone is bleeding, don’t bother me until I come out.”

Non-creative folks often don’t understand the drive we creative people have to create. But here’s the thing. They don’t need to get it. They just need to respect it. Which leads me to your most important relationship of all…

Your Relationship with You

Your most important relationship is the one between you and yourself. Because all the challenges I mentioned above are on you to tackle.

  • It’s on you to recognize the very real importance of your creative pursuits.
  • It’s on you to convey that importance to the people around you.
  • It’s on you to make creativity as important as eating well and exercising, etc…
  • It’s on you to set boundaries and keep them.
  • It’s on you to break your conditioning to put yourself last.
  • It’s on you to come to an understanding/plan with your partner about finances, time spent, etc… 

One last thing before I leave you to mull this topic over.

You can find your voice and clarify your needs with those around you (and you should). But you cannot make them get it if they just don’t get it.

As I said before, they don’t have to get it. They DO have to respect it (and you). 

Still, you will need to find a cheering section of some sort. Creative folks need other creative folks. We help keep each other’s fires lit and remind each other what’s important and possible.

Don’t be alone in your creativity.

Facebook groups, a local choir, a vocal coach or some other kind of teacher, a local karaoke venue, online forums, etc… Find your peeps so you don’t feel alone. Your creativity will blossom if you take this advice.

Good luck. And remember, I support you!

Singer’s Self-Improvement Series, March 2019: Singing and Wellness

March is "singing and wellness" month.

That’s not a real thing but I’m declaring it so, nonetheless. Why not? Singing and wellness go hand in hand.

Truth be told, the pursuit of any positive passion is good for your health and wellbeing. But singing has some specific health benefits. That’s what I’ll be talking about in this edition of the Singer’s Self-Improvement Series.

And I think you’re going to love what I have to tell you!

I’ll also hook you up with this month’s vocal workout plan to help you continue building good vocal habits.

Hopefully, you’ve been keeping up with progress so far. If not, (or if you’re new here) it’s never too late to start!

Enjoy, and please share this with anyone else who may be interested in developing the healthy and happy lifestyle of a singer!

March Lifestyle Goal: Wellness

Wellness is most often defined as the state of being healthy in body and mind, usually in an actively sought-after way.

Whereas healthy is essentially being disease-free, wellness is more the choice to live a healthy and fulfilling LIFESTYLE. The lifestyle of a singer aligns with this, making the act of being a singer a perfect wellness tract. 

But here's the extra great news...

You’re ability to schedule your vocal workouts (which should happen a MINIMUM of 3 times a week) doesn’t have to get in the way of your exercise routine. It can be a part of your physical exercise! Here’s why:

Singing is a physical activity, and although it’s not as intense as something like jogging, it DOES burn significant calories.

An hour of singing while standing can burn about 165 calories in a 175-pound person.

Add movement and dancing, even if only for 30 minutes of song work practice, and you can add another couple hundred of burned calories (depending on intensity and your weight). 

Now, multiply that by a 3-hour gig. Hm!

But calorie-burning isn’t the only health benefit:

Singing also strengthens your immune system, oxygenates your blood, and then because of the increased circulation singing causes, better delivers that oxygen to your muscles. These are just SOME of the perks!

Now, let’s talk about singing and wellness. 

Singing is a natural anti-depressant, lowers stress levels, and increases mental alertness. Pursuing your passion for singing will improve your confidence, your sense of purpose, and will most likely have social benefits (like bonding with bandmates or participating in a community chorus). 

Having a sense of purpose, having more confidence, and finding your social “tribe” are all things that will make you happier, which will keep you inspired to take better and better care of yourself. It’s a beautiful cycle!

If you have a passion for singing, then embracing the lifestyle of a singer is your best choice for a path to better health and wellness.

 

Your March Challenge for Lifestyle and Singing:

For all of March, I challenge you to keep trying new ways to incorporate stretching, core strength, and cardio into your practice sessions. Change up the vocal exercises, too (from older blog installments or my YouTube channel).

Here’s a starting place for this week’s practice sessions:

  • Do stretches and planks (Feb installment) and palm presses.
  • Choose from the various vocal workout options in previous installments.
  • Do 30 minutes of upbeat, animated song work with the added goal of creating a stage performance (dance around, encourage imaginary-audience participation)
  • End the workout with a fruit and veggie smoothie, or some other healthy meal (because you’re still paying attention to good singer’s nutrition, right?)

Good luck!

If you’re interested in a more structured approach to vocal improvement, my new online singing course is now available at www.OnlineWithJudyFine.com

Singer’s Self-Improvement Series: February Supplemental

Happy belated Valentine’s Day and welcome to February’s mid-month supplemental post!

Hopefully, you’ve been able to keep yourself motivated and progressing thus far, and your ready for more! Be sure to keep using the planning calendar (or your phone calendar) to schedule your practice sessions and core/stretching sessions.

So far, you’ve been working on the following things:

  • Improved diet for a stronger singing instrument
  • Improved core strength and flexibility for a stronger singing instrument
  • Rib cage expansion (during exercises and while singing songs)
  • Still-jaw & Range-Hopping exercises
  • Singing with open vowels for better song delivery (better tone, control, and agility)

Here are just a few additional things to continue this month’s progress…

February Lifestyle Extras:

Do you hold tension in your neck, shoulders, and back (as many of us do)?

If so, this simple stretch routine can help you release some of that tension before your start your practice session. 

Have you been working on your core strength?

I challenge you to work your way up to a 60-second (or longer) elbow plank by the 28th of this month.

Up for the challenge?

Quick Tip:

Two pre-gig or gig break (or anytime) snacks that are great for your voice…

  • Fruits, especially those high in vitamin A, like mangos, watermelon, and peaches.
  • Warm tea with licorice root

February Singing Extras:

It’s time to up your rib cage expansion. This is the same 10-rep palm press video I gave you last month. 

Your goal by the end of this month is to be able to do 3 solid sets of this video workout back-to-back.

Check out this is the Working With Words workout.

Keep those vowels open and only move your jaw when you have to, to say a consonant.

Enjoy!

As the openness of your vowels improves through properly repeating your exercises, apply those improvements to your song work. You should begin to notice better tone, better flow, and an increased ability to hold out notes.

See you again next month!

 

Singer’s Self-Improvement Series: February 2019

Welcome Back & Happy February!

I hope wherever you are, you’re staying safe and warm!

Before I dive into February’s topics, let’s recap what we covered in January. Here’s what you accomplished thus far (if you’re just joining us: January Installment and January Supplemental Installment):

Palm Presses. Hopefully you’ve graduated to doing two sets of ten palm presses at each practice session.

Singing with open ribs. With your palm press progress (say that 3 times fast!), you should now be able to make use of strong ribs as you sing. Your ribs are what you now lean on for obtaining strength without strain and for holding long notes, among other things.

Improved diet. The primary goals of a singer’s diet is to reduce phlegm, increase energy, and keep your instrument healthy and strong. You should have implemented some sustainable changes to those ends. 

Built a practice routine. You should be practicing a minimum of 3 times per week. Your practice sessions should include palm presses, a vocal warm-up, vocal exercises, and song work.

Good work so far. Let’s keep going!

Feb. Lifestyle Goal: Core Strength & Stretching

Good singer’s nutrition will never stop being a priority. But this month, we’re going to add core strength and stretching to your routine. 

Why Core Strength?

All physical activities – from bending to pick something up to playing sports to singing – are supported and improved by having a strong core. When you sing with your ribs, you are also engaging your abs (but never pull your stomach in). Your core gives you singing strength, not to mention a healthier back, better posture, and improved balance. 

Why Stretching?

Stretching improves flexibility, and increased flexibility has severe benefits. The ones that help singers the most are improved range of motion, improved back health, improved posture, and improved circulation, which increases blood flow to your muscles. 

Both of these physical improvements will be fantastic for your overall health and mobility. And they’ll give you the strength and stamina to stand on stage for hours at a time – even in high heals, while grooving to the beat and adding some shaker action (or whatever) to the music. 

Remember, performing as a singer is a sport. The better shape you’re in, the better your show will be.

Lifestyle goal planning

This month, you’re going to tweak your singer’s nutrition some more. That could include adding a whole new change, as well as reaffirming one you made last month but didn’t stick to. 

To the right is the same planning tool you used to improve your nutritional balance last month. Now plan your changes for February.

You also have a new weekly planner. This one includes your core strength and stretching schedule.

Since I’m not a personal trainer or yoga instructor, and since I don’t know your personal needs or restrictions, you’re going to have to plan your core strength and stretch routine on your own.

Things like crunches, sit-ups, and planks make a good starting place. If you don’t know how to do these, or how to stretch properly, Google the info or look for YouTube videos (and/or consult your doctor). There are some great yoga routines out there that include both stretching and core strengthening.

You should schedule at least 3 days each week that you spend 20 to 45 minutes on your core and stretching (20 minutes is plenty if you don’t already do these kinds of things).

In summary, your Feb Weekly Planner should be used to schedule the following:

  • At least 3 different vocal practice sessions 
  • At least 3 different core strength/stretch sessions. 
  • Any food prep or other meal planning to follow your nutrition goals.

Good luck!

February Singing Goal: Song Development

In the same way we’re adding core strength and stretching to your nutrition goals from last month, we’re also going to add song development skills to your rib expansion and vocal exercise goals from January. Singing skills are accumulative, after all.

Step one on the journey to great song delivery is singing with nice, open vowels. This is the skill we’ll tackle first.

1. To get started, check out this video about great ways to open up your vowels.

2. Repeating this video exercise will help you keep an open throat as you morph between vowels.

Your flow and pitches should improve a little each time.

NOTE: If at any point your voice feels tired and strained, stop singing for at least 24hrs to let it recover. Do future practice sessions in front of a mirror to be sure you’re using expanded ribs, a still jaw, and relaxed shoulders. There should be no visible signs of strain on your face. 

  ______________________________________________________________

Enjoy your February routine. The mid-month supplemental post will have more tools to further your progress! 

Always remember why you started this series and keep at it. You can be the singer you want to be!

Singer’s Self-Improvement Series: January Supplemental

So, how did the first installment go?

Did you read about the anatomy of breathing and singing? Have you been doing your palm presses and Basic Warmup? Have you begun implementing changes to improve your nutritional balance?

I hope the answers are all yes! But no worries if you have some “not yet” answers in there. It sometimes takes time and persistence for lifestyle changes to become your new normal.

The theme of this mid-month post is Assess, Reaffirm and Continue.

If you didn’t do as well as you intended, please, don’t give up! Do the following instead:

  • Analyze why you didn’t follow your intentions. For example, did you schedule (with reminders) your practice sessions and do necessary food prep? And if you did do those things, were you able to stick with them? If not, analyze where in the process you got off track and determine how you won’t let that happen for the rest of the month. It could be as simple as setting better boundaries or reminding yourself why you set the goals in the first place.
  • Reevaluate your goals, thus far. Did you make unrealistic nutritional or practice goals? If you did, adjust them. If not, re-commit to them. It’s normal to need to reaffirm a lifestyle change until it becomes a habitual part of your routine. Don’t beat yourself up. Just turn it around.
  • Use the goal setting tools from the last post to plan and commit to the rest of this month. This suggestion holds whether you are reaffirming your previous goals or you’re stepping up what you’ve already started. Meaning, if you’ve made successful tweaks to your diet, add another tweak or two.

It doesn’t matter what you didn’t do before today. Be on track starting now. 

The additional tools below should help maintain (or reinvigorate) your momentum. I believe in you!

So... On with your supplemental materials!

January Lifestyle Extras:

A Simple Nutrition Idea: One way to expand the variety of nutrients your body takes in is to simply add high-quality elements to what you already eat. I’ll list a few examples, but there are countless ways for you to take this idea and run with it:

  • Having a salad? Add things like nuts, seeds and dried fruit to it.
  • Making rice as a side dish? Add things like lentils, beans, and quinoa to it.
  • Making a sandwich? Pile more veggies on it than meat and cheese (or skip the cheese) and include pickles, olives, or some other fermented food (which is good for gut health).

Check out the foods list from the previous post and see what ways you can enhance the nutritional value of meals you already enjoy eating.

Two Recipe Ideas:

I don’t measure when I cook. It’s probably a result of laziness but let’s call it taking creative license instead. Below are two recipes (or guidelines, at least) I use to reduce my sugar and dairy intake while still enjoying what I eat. 

Consider these possible exploration-starting-points as you determine what works well for you.

 

 

Creamy Soup

Winter is soup season. Well, not here in Florida, but for a lot of you. For a creamy (without cream) soup try this:

  • 2 – 3 medium potatoes (peeled & chopped)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (rough chopped)
  • A few cloves of garlic 
  • Optional: Carrots and/or other root veggies

Boil the heck out of these things in chicken or vegetable stock (I use Better Than Bouillon paste) until it can be easily pureed with an emersion blender. Add liquid or cook down to reach your desired consistency. If you like some chunk in your soups, remove some of the veggies before pureeing and then return them to the pot after.

Then season soup with options like pepper, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, parsley, or anything else you have a taste for. Bacon and a moderate amount of shredded cheddar is also an option.

Not creamy enough for you? Try adding a can of coconut milk. CANNED coconut milk (not the stuff you may pour over your cereal). 

 

 

Weekend Breakfast

Weekend breakfasts tend to be high-sugar-content events. Other than the momentary smile it may put on your face, there is very little good that all that sugar brings. Here’s a satisfying weekend (or any day) breakfast that I love, without adding sugar or syrup.

  • Half cup or so quick oats
  • One cup or so water
  • Half or whole banana for flavor and for sweetness (I keep bananas in my freezer at all times so I’m never without)
  • Cinnamon to taste (also adds sweetness)
  • Optional pinch of salt

Bring ingredients to boil. Let the banana dissolve into the oatmeal until you can’t see it’s there anymore.

When oatmeal reaches whatever consistency you want, add nuts (walnuts or almonds are my fav) and/or seeds (like flaxseed or chia) and/or additional fruit (like berries or even more banana slices).

Adjust quantities until you find the right mix for your taste.

January Singing Extras:

You’ve been doing palm presses at every practice session, right? Of course! So, you’re ready for this vid. Do one set of 10 presses until it feels (relatively) easy. Then do two sets.

A chat about your rib cage expansion work and how to apply it to your singing.

Add this to your vocal workout routine for the remainder of the month. The most important goal for now is mastering the still jaw (instructional Companion Video above).

That’s it for January’s supplemental materials. Keep at it, and let me know how it’s going!