Tuesday, 26 July 2016


Vocal Care Ten Commandments

by Ken Henson, Founder, The Bangalore Conservatory

For singers, vocalists and leaders who use their voice for communication, which certainly almost all of us, the care of the voice is essential to effective communication. There are some very basic principles for taking care of the voice. Some are obvious. Some are not so obvious.

The most common vocal pathology is called the voice nodule or node—a buildup of scar tissue on the vocal folds themselves. Nodes can be caused by a number of factors or behaviors. We will break them down into the Ten Commandments of Vocal Care.

1. Thou Shalt Not Yell

For soft-spoken CEOs this may seem like an unnecessary recommendation. But most of us undergo a strange transformation in the appropriate setting, a sports event, like a live cricket match or football game, or, for some, even seeing a friend we have not met for years. Others only require an overwhelming anger (maybe over a referee’s call you disagree with), or intense pain or interaction of some kind. The adrenaline kicks in; excitement takes over, and… Bam! Pow! Ouch! Waddayamean Foul!? The voice rises in pitch and volume and our normally calm, subdued communication becomes very loud. This may be fine if your life is made up of moving from one cubicle to another, chatting online, writing, or otherwise not speaking. But for the speaker or singer, yelling can be a disaster! You can actually do lasting, permanent damage to your voice with one bout of yelling (permanent in the sense that it will be with you for life unless you undergo surgery and some form of vocal therapy). So, just don’t yell.

2. Thou Shalt Relax

Your voice can actually be damaged simply by having too much strain over a period of time in the muscles which control your vocal production. Your voice must be relaxed in order to function properly.
F. Matthias Alexander was an actor who went to a number of doctors and specialists because his voice was always hoarse and in pain after an acting performance in a play. Sometimes he would cough up blood. No one could help him, and he finally helped himself by looking in the mirror and little-by-little, eliminating the strain he could see when he spoke. His vocal problems were solved just by relaxing. He developed the Alexander Method as a result of his experience.
Many voice problems can be solved with this simple dictum, Relax!

3. Thou Shalt Not Smoke

This may seem obvious, but some people do not realize the damage done to the voice by smoking. It is important to remember what smoking is—inhaling burning ashes. It should be obvious to everyone that doing such a thing can damage the voice over time. Add to this the contents of tobacco based cigarette or pipe or cigar smoke, which includes Nicotine (an insecticide), Cyanhydric Acid (used in the gas chambers by the Nazis in WWII, and in some biological weapons today), Acetone (a solvent), and dozens of other fatal chemicals, and you have a very effective mix for vocal damage (not-to-mention heart disease and cancer). The negative impact of second-hand smoke is well established. The best thing to do is just avoid smoking, or being around smoke entirely. If you work in an environment that ignore the laws in many countries against smoking in the work place, CHANGE JOBS.

4. Thou Shalt Avoid Glottal Plosives

A glottal plosive (sometimes called a glottal stop) is produced by the percussive closing of the gap between the vocal folds. In a gentle way you produce a glottal stop, or glottal plosive every time you say “uh-huh”, or any time you produce “fresh vowel”. A speaker or singer places the voice under excessive pressure to produce sounds louder than normal speech. Therefore the glottal plosive can be very dangerous during times of performance if not handled carefully. Vocal nodules can result. The smooth, or simultaneous attack, when the air and the vocal sound enter smoothly and together, is the best method to avoid the potentially destructive glottal plosive.

5. Thou Shalt Not Cough Nor Clear Your Throat

I know what you are thinking: “How can I decide not to cough?” The problem is a cough or clearing of the throat causes an extreme glottal plosive. The trick is to try to clear the blockage from your throat or bronchial tubes without engaging the voice. Like some people do in order to prepare to expectorate . .. you can force air through the system without making a vocalized sound.
Also, when you get an upper respiratory infection (after you have seen a doctor), you should use the cough syrup, which has both an expectorant and a cough suppressant. The expectorant helps your body clear the junk from your lungs. The cough suppressant helps you save your voice.

6. Thou Shalt Not Get Sick

The instrument you use to do your job (your voice) is inside of your body. The condition of your body affects your voice. You must prevent illnesses if you want to keep a performance schedule. The following is a brief list of illness prevention habits:
  • Wash your hands often. Most respiratory illnesses are passed from one person to another via the hands.
  • Get plenty of rest, about seven-and-a-half hours of sleep a night (see commandment seven).
  • Eat a variety of whole foods (see commandment 8).
  • Exercise—and not just vocal exercises (see commandment 9).

7. Thou Shalt Rest

If you are trying to lose fat and go on a strict diet and exercise plan, you will lose about fifty percent more fat if you sleep seven-and-a-half hours than if you sleep only six-and-a-half hours. If you are trying to gain muscle and have an eating and exercise plan you will gain fifty percent more muscle. Your immune system rebuilds that last hour of sleep. You are less likely to develop one of those URI’s described in Commandment Six if you get a good night of sleep.
Sleep is essential for brain health. Recent research indicates sleep and dream times are the opportunity for the brain to process experiences from the day, to clear out unhealthful chemicals from the stresses of the day, and to store memory and seek creative solutions to problems. It is in the seventh/eighth hour of sleep your body repairs itself from the damages created by normal living and environmental exposure. Your voice needs that recovery.

8. Thou Shalt Eat Well

I have read entire books that argue that carbohydrates are evil if you want to lose weight. I have read many more articles that indicate if you want to be strong and fit you HAVE to eat carbs. I have read articles that argue you should avoid fruit (carbs) but include veggies (more carbs). Others that argue you should avoid veggies and just eat fruit and nuts. I have read you should avoid meat, and also that you cannot have a balanced diet with sufficient protein without some lean meat. What is the truth with all of these contradictory claims? The truth is what your mother probably taught you:
• Eat your fruit and vegetables.
• Include good sources of protein like eggs (egg whites) and fish and lean meats.
• Eat often, like five times a day.
• Avoid eating the last hour or two before you sleep or before speaking/singing engagements or performances.
• About an hour or so before a performance, eat a good healthy snack.
• Have a little protein every time you eat.
• Avoid foods with processed or simple carbs.
• Avoid fried or fat-loaded foods.
• Avoid sweets, cakes, and processed biscuits.
• Never, or, at least, almost never, drink sugary soft drinks.
• Avoid juice, unless the whole fruit is thrown in (extra fiber to mitigate the sugar spike + vitamins).
• Include nuts, legumes and whole grains in your mix every day and, if possible, almost every meal and snack.
• Include low or non-fat dairy.
In order to maintain this eating plan, you may have to prepare your own meals and snacks and take them with you to work. So, do it!

9. Thou Shalt Exercise

I am not aware of any research-based evidence that connects exercise and vocal performance health. My experience has been that if I exercise on the day of a major performance, my voice is much more responsive than if I do not exercise. My over-all fitness level has an impact on how well I handle the energy output requirements of a long performance or speaking or teaching engagement.
Aerobics, high intensity interval training, walking, & weights, resistance training—probably all are necessary for optimal long-term health. Do your research before you start an exercise program, but START if you have not already. If you already exercise, study to make it as effective and efficient as possible. Choose a program that works for you and that you can stick with.
Exercise will improve your voice and help you endure the physical rigors of performance.

10. Thou Shalt Vocalize Daily

If your job requires you to speak every day, GREAT! If you have breaks when your voice is not used for official purposes, you must create situations and contexts in which you vocalize as would be required for a presentation to a large audience. Running through a set of vocal exercises, vocalizes, like “lips”, or making sounds like a siren with your voice, taking your voice through its full range of capacity at full volume, any variety of relaxed, wide-ranging vocal exercises will help you develop and maintain vocal health.
Think like an athlete. Your concert or meeting, or speaking engagement is like a marathon. You have to train for it. Train well.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Before You Play

  • Having a good instrument (either an acoustic or electric guitar) is important. Ask your teacher if you want advice on what instrument/brand/model to purchase.
  • Know the parts of your guitar; the head, body and neck. Make sure all the strings are there before play.
  • Use a comfortable stool or a chair (without arm rests) that has no hindrances.
  • Hold your guitar correctly – sit up straight, hold the guitar against your stomach and chest, make sure the thinnest string (No.1) is closest to the ground and the thickest string (No.6) is closest to the ceiling.
  • Make sure your guitar is tuned properly to EADGBE (top to bottom) – an easy way to remember it is Every Amateur Does Get Better Eventually or Elephants and Donkeys Grow Big Ears! You can use an electric tuner, tuner apps or a piano/keyboard to tune your guitar correctly.
  • Make sure you use a pick (or plectrum) – Hold the pick by grasping it perpendicular to your fist between your index finger and your thumb.
  • Make sure you have a notepad and pen/pencil handy in order to make quick notes or jot down ideas/questions.

Starting to Play 

  • Don’t hold the guitar or pick too tight as this can cause discomfort and problems while playing.
  • Read the music before you begin so that you know what is to be played.
  • Use a metronome is important as this will help you play the exercise or song in the intended tempo. You can begin slowly and pick up the speed once you are more confident with the song.
  • Practice the warm up exercises, scales and songs that your guitar teacher has asked you to.
  • Play for shorter durations on a regular basis to get your fretting hand used to the finger pain. Regular play will create calluses on your fingertips and reduce the pain.

Remember, it is better to practice 20 minutes everyday than for 2 hours once a week.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Think you are a huge Beatles fan? Let's see how many of their songs can you guess form the poster below?

10 Easiest Instruments to Learn How to Play

If you are interested in learning an instrument but not sure which one to pick, then you should definitely try one of these easiest instruments to learn how to play. Some instruments can take years and years to learn and master. But if you are looking for some quick result, the instruments on our list make for great choices.
These are the most painless, plain sailing and straightforward instruments you can learn, but it would be wrong to call them unchallenging! The beauty of music lies in the fact that every instrument has its own place and importance, and even the easiest instruments to learn how to play forms an integral part of the music and the ensemble as a whole. Once you’ve mastered your instrument, there is a world of opportunities to excel in your art. Even a simple rhythm instrument like a tambourine can add a shine to the music when played at the exact pocket, at the right pulse!
The instruments on our list are just the ones which are the quickest to adopt and take the plunge at. In no time can you master your craft and start out by playing a few songs or join a band right away. Some only need a good timing and you could get the craft down. The art, however, depends on you! You can take your time and let it mature within you. And, even these instruments have a great potential to develop your art in.
If music is your calling and different instruments give you a feeling of exhilaration, be sure to browse through the 11 Most Expensive instruments in the World to find some of the most exquisite and grand instruments that exist in the world! They are the ones of the best make, created by the best craftsman in the world and only the best have ever gotten a chance to play them.
For now let’s check out the easiest instruments to learn how to play to start playing right away! Here’s the list.

10. Ukulele

Nope, that’s not a little guitar. It’s a Ukulele! Essentially used in Hawaiian music, but in the recent past it has been the darling of pop music also. And, with only four strings, it is way more uncomplicated than the guitar and much sweeter sounding to strum along to a catchy tune to. The nylon strings have it easy on your fingers and the chord shapes are easy-peasy too!
Ann Haritonenko/Shutterstock.com
Ann Haritonenko/Shutterstock.com

9. Xylophone

Remember the little variation of the percussion instrument we used to play as kids? Well, that’s xylophone for you. One of the instruments that even kids can try their hand at playing but is just as important for the orchestral rhythm section. And, once you’ve mastered the craft you can try your hand at some related instruments like the African marimba or the balafon.

8. Autoharp

A unique stringed instrument is a kind of chord zither which has a series of bars attached to its body which when pressed down allows playing of a desired chord. It has extensive usage in folk music, while being uncomplicated to play and easy on the ears!

7. Pianica

Typical Price: $30-$130 Yamaha P37D 37-Key Pianica
A pianica or a melodica is actually a reed instrument but in the form of a piano. The keys make it easier to play and unlike a piano you do not need to learn both-hand coordination. These are popular in music education but have also been used in mainstream music since 1960s.

6. Kazoo

Typical Price: $5 A to G Music Kazoo (set of 8)
The little instrument is as simple as it can get. The wind instrument adds a buzzing sound when sung or blown into it. If you’re too lazy to try out other instruments, the kazoo might just be the thing you need!

5. Bongo

Amazing percussion instrument that is really easy to play too! The Afro-Cuban instrument has wide usage in Latin and Cuban music. If you are into genres like salsa or Afro-Cuban Jazz, this should be your instrument of choice. And, there is no dearth of opportunities and rhythm patterns you can try exploring when you get confident enough.

4. Tambourines

Let’s admit it any kind of music is sort of incomplete without the good old tambourine. The percussion instrument is pretty straightforward; with metal discs that adds the jingle-jangle to any rhythm section. If you want something to start out in a band right away, the tambourine is the way to go!

3. Irish Whistle

Typical Price: $10-$20 Feadog FW01 Irish Whistle Brass D
The Irish tin whistle or a penny whistle is a simple wind instrument with a distinct sweet metal sound that is recognizable in Irish Folk and Celtic music. The instrument has also found its place in popular music and can be learned within a week or two of practice.

2. Harmonica

Typical Price: $10-$40 Hohner Piedmont Blues Harmonica Set
The reed instrument has a wide usage across genres be it jazz, rock, folk or pop. And, it makes for a great choice to learn some tunes. One can learn the craft in a couple of weeks. Singer-songwriters can easily incorporate the instrument into their songs for solos.

1. Triangle

Typical Price: $5-$10 Trophy Triangle 5 in.
Another percussion instrument that is very simple to play and no major skills are required to play it initially. Well, only perfect timing maybe. Its presence can be found in classical music as well as in folk to some extent.
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock.com
Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock.com
These were the easiest instruments to learn how to play and try your hand at music!
- Source www.insidermonkey.com