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 courses will be available this spring (2019) 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.

This is the Working With Words workout I mention in the Chat About Diphthongs video above.

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, when we’ll work on expanding and smoothing out your range!

 

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 (see below)
  • 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, I’m going to refer you to an old blog post of mine called Working with Words: Vowels

It’s super interesting and will show you what’s going on in your throat as you sing.

The post’s companion video is to the right.

2. This second video is an open-vowel warmup to get you started with the concept of keeping a “cavern” inside your mouth as you sing vowels.

Follow this up with the next video and then a good 20-30 minutes of song work.

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

The flow of your sound and your ability to nail the pitches should improve a little each time.

(1) Palm presses, (2) video two, (3) video three, (4) and 20-30 minutes of song work is your new workout routine.

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. 

Here is another old post you might find useful:

Why Does My Voice Crack?

Its purpose is to help you root out the various reasons you may be singing with too much tension.

And finally…

Here’s an older video chat (with creepy lighting!?) about how to practice songs effectively and efficiently.

In the mid-month supplemental post, I’ll have a tutorial with a specific tool for improving the delivery of whatever song you’re working on.

But first, you need to get comfortable with keeping an open, relaxed throat as you morph from vowel to vowel. So, that’s your mission for the next 14 days. 

                ______________________________________________________________

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!

Below are three videos that you may have come across already, if you’ve been perusing my content. If so, skip over them. If not, check them out!

In case I haven’t made my philosophy clear to you, here’s a vid where I lay it out:

In this video, I explain how and why you want to do still-jaw exercises. The four examples I walk you through are from An All Purpose Workout, which is in the Singing Extras section below.

A video about the anatomy of a quality vocal practice session. In case you’re interested, the accompanying blog post is HERE.

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).

A range-hopping how-to vid. The examples are from a specific workout but can be applied to just about any vocal exercise or song. See what you think!

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

PS:

I did promise to share some of my own singer self-improvement goals. 

Over the past 2+ years, my husband and I have had a bunch of hard (yet normal) life experiences. Among other things, several family members died and I took a bad spill on my bike that left me with a pretty severe shoulder injury and months of back spasms. Through all that time, I put on weight and got out of my physical activity routine. 

I’ve also had a greater struggle with phlegm/mucus, which may or may not be related. 

So, here are my primary goals for the next few months: to drop a few pounds, tone up (especially my arms for those stage photos), and regain a handle on my phlegm/mucus situation. 

I’ve already set a workout schedule and have committed to a low-to-no dairy and sugar regime (which you may have guessed from my suggested meals above). 

This is a pic from a recent gig (notice the long sleeves to hide my arms. I hate admitting this…) I’ll share progress with updated pics along the way, so you don’t feel alone with whatever your goals are. 

Enjoy the rest of January!

Singer’s Self-Improvement Series: January 2019

Happy New Year! Welcome to the first installment of the 2019 Singer’s Self-Improvement Series! 

The goal with this series is to combine my experiences as a vocal coach and a life coach to help you turn your passion for singing into a lifestyle that makes you healthier and happier. 

Congratulations on the new Singer Lifestyle you’re about to embark on!

January will be a foundation-building month. You’ll jump right into the basics of good vocal technique while examining and tweaking your diet to support your successful pursuit of singing.

Mid-month, I’ll send out a supplemental post with additional tools to both check-in with and continue with your progress. I’ll also be sharing what I’m choosing to tackle for the sake of self-improvement this month.

Let’s get started…

January Lifestyle Goal: Nutrition

What’s the first thing you need before you can achieve a goal? A Goal!

To the right is January’s set of goal planning tools. 

The first download begins with a meal log. Logging everything you eat for at least 3 days will give you an honest look at how you’re fueling your body. There could be imbalances there that you’re not aware of.

Note: If you are someone who eats a lot of prepared foods, be sure to check sugar and sodium contents as you log. Lots of sodium is dehydrating and lots of sugar can lead to excess phlegm. Both are things singers DON’T want.

The second page of the first download discusses possible dietary causes of two common ailments, fatigue and congestion. 

Page three is a food categories chart. 

And the final page is where you’ll write down your first goals to improve your nutritional balance.

Note: Huge, sweeping changes to your diet that leave you feeling micro-managed and deprived will not lead to long-term success. Introduce gradual changes that you feel good about and that can become part of your new “normal.” You will add additional goals later.

The second download on the right is a weekly planner. Based on your nutrition analysis, schedule into the upcoming week (and subsequent weeks) any time/task necessary for your nutrition-related changes. For example, you may need to plan food prep days or plan researching what dietary changes you’re going to add. Also schedule 3 or 4 singing practice sessions. And consider setting reminders in your phone.

January Singing Goal: Using Your Diaphragm

No matter what your singing goals are, you need to know the basics of good vocal technique. 

All of my new students do an anatomy lesson with me on their first day. You’re going to walk yourself through that lesson using the first link on the right.

At the bottom of that post, there is a video for you to watch. This will show you how to put this new information to use in your practice sessions (and how to sing with your diaphragm). You may need to watch it again when you next practice to be sure you’re doing the exercise correctly. 

Note: Even if you’re not ready to become a member of my online community, you can support my online efforts (and help me continue them) by liking my videos and subscribing to my YouTube channel. Your support would be greatly appreciated!

Your practice sessions (3-4 per week is a good start) should include the exercise in the the video (Palm Presses) followed by the Basic Warmup (second link on the right). Be sure to follow my advice/instructions as you go through the warmup. After that, spend some time working on a new song that you love. 

The warmup video will help you develop tongue independence and limber up your voice, not just for one day, but in general with repeated use. 

The palm presses will help you develop the ability to keep your ribs expanded while you sing.

Note: The most important advice I can give you now is Don’t Care How You Sound as you practice vocal workouts. You are working muscles in a new way. As they strengthen, your sound will improve. If you give up now, your sound won’t. 

Think of your vocal exercises as strength-training workouts… because that’s what they are. 

Final Note: Getting good at planning your self-improvement is another skill that will improve with time. Don’t stress over whether you’re doing these things “right” or not. Follow your gut and do your best. You’ll be more sure of yourself and what you’re doing the more you do it. As with anything!

I’ll have more for you in the mid-month post. Good luck with your first workout routine and new nutrition goals!