Passion Wins You Favor With God, And With People: A Case Study

So I have this friend. We grew up together attending the same church. We both sang in the choir practically all our lives. For most of those years I directed and taught.

She sat under my teaching for all those years. She’s an amazing singer who is passionate about music ministry. So when I would teach concepts and new things she would always be the first to embrace them. She loved God, loved singing for Him and loved anything that had to do with learning more about how to serve Him better.

Fast-forward 30 years. We’re both adults now, still working together in the choir. I’m still teaching, she’s still in the soprano section, killin’ it. Practically knowing her part before I teach it now because she has soaked up everything I taught for so many years.

Then suddenly we hear that her husband has been re-located to another state and she’d be leaving us. We were devastated of course. She was a tremendous asset.

Shortly after she got established there they found a new church. Of course she went straight to the music department. To make a long story short, she passed every evaluation and audition task they asked of her with flying colors. They were amazed by how much she already knew.

2 or 3 years later her husband’s assignment ended and it was time to move back to Texas. As they began looking for a new church home in Texas people she worked under in her old church began to send out word about her to people they knew in Texas.

One of those churches was looking for someone to head up their music department. My friend had never done anything like this before. Had no experience running a music ministry.

But guess what she did have? She had favor. Her passion, dedication, enthusiasm for learning and serving God in excellence went ahead of her and opened a door for her to step into something she never dreamed she would be doing.

My friend is now running the music department at a church here in Dallas. Now, here’s where the story comes full circle. My friend knew a lot about harmony, how to hear it and how to put it together, but she wasn’t yet where she wanted to be. She had also taken on many more duties at her church and basically didn’t have as much time to devote to it any more.

So she went to the board and ask them if she could hire someone to come in and teach songs on rehearsal nights. And whom do you suppose she recommended first? I’m going there tonight to conduct a rehearsal; with a strong possibility that I could land the job permanently. See how that works?

You don’t have to seek the spotlight. God will shine it on you. You don’t have to kick down doors. God will open them for you. You don’t have to complain about being denied opportunities. God will give you favor over people you KNOW are more qualified. All you have to do is serve God in this ministry with all your heart and give Him your best. Do it because you love it, and because you love HIM. There is a saying that goes “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Here’s a really good full-circle example of how that can work.

Be encouraged.
Ron

How doing regular cardio makes you a better singer

A Brand New DayIf you’ve been a regular reader of this blog for any length of time you’ve no doubt seen me harping many times on the importance of improving your breathing technique for better singing. In fact Shena did a 3 part blog series dedicated to The fine art of proper breathing, which ended with a blog including 4 powerful exercises for great breath control. There’s no question then, that breathing exercises are an important tool for singers to add to your daily vocal workouts.

However there are a few other exercises that are equally as important and very effective for improving the singer’s over-all lung capacity and breathing. Adding them to your routine will not only make you a more powerful singer but a healthier person. I’m speaking about cardio exercises. Cardio exercises are not vocal exercises but physical exercise like the kind you get from walking, jogging or running, aerobic exercise, skating, cycling, skiing, dancing, swimming, rowing, tennis, basketball; you get the idea.

Cardio is short for Cardiovascular. These are exercises that raise the heart rate and keep it elevated for an extended period of time. Doing cardio regularly improves your breathing because it increases your lung capacity. Now, in my own research I saw a lot of people mentioning “lung capacity  as the main benefit of doing cardio for singers, but hardly anyone went on to explain what that is, exactly.

At first mention you might think that means that you’ll somehow increase the size of your lungs. That’s not really true. As far as I know there are no exercises you can do to actually increase how big your lungs are. So when we talk about lung capacity we’re talking about how much air you actually take into your lungs. Many of us don’t take in nearly as much air as we could or even should, simply because of shallow breathing. And honesly a lot of that comes from simply being out of shape. Regular cardio workouts dramatically improve your breathing by improving your lung capacity. Meaning you actually breathe deeper and fill your lungs with more air naturally.

We already know the endless list of benefits to your heart and overall stamina and energy that cardio workouts cause. But think about the effect having a surplus of energy and stamina can have on your singing. Remember singing is very much a physical thing that can be compared to any athletic event. So a stronger, healthier cardiovascular system has some very powerful benefits for the singer in regards to both performance and breathing.

However it’s important to also point out that for the purpose of improving your breathing for singing, cardio must be added and used along with breathing exercises. And all of it must be used in conjunction with actually practicing singing with better breath control; actual singing, not just holding notes longer, or singing scales. You may, for example, get to a point where you can hold one note for a very long time. But singing an actual phrase has many different vowels as well as fluctuations in pitch and volume. All of these have a very different effect on how much air you need to say, finish a long phrase vs. just holding one note. Even holding one note gets more difficult the higher the note is, because it requires a different amount of support. So in addition to cardio and a regimin of regular breathing exercise, you need to actually practice singing longer phrases. Not taking breaths as often. Things like that.

So don’t misunderstand me here. You should definitely start doing some cardio at least 3 times a week, and it will definitely yield some very noticeable benefits to your breathing. It will give you more stamina and make you a more powerful singer. But the maximum benefits come only if combined with regular singing-specific breathing exercises and actual practice singing longer notes and phrases.

Now go for a walk!

Need help with with your breathing? Running out of air? Screaming for high notes? Most breathing issues are the result of bad technique. Taking vocal lessons dramatically improves your vocal technique, so your breathing improves also!  If you’ve looked before and found lesson to be too expensive for you, take a look at my new home study vocal training course. Vocal Ministry Breakthrough.  .

How to sing loud without yelling

The ultimate calling card of the Gospel music genre is powerful singing, isn’t it? That’s not only what most singers want, but it’s become what most listeners expect from Gospel singers. But there is a fine line between singing with a nice, full, powerful voice and just out and out screaming on pitch. Now, if you happen to be one of those singers with a big, powerful, loud singing voice you might not see anything wrong with that. After all, it’s Gospel singing! It’s you that they depend on the carry that section in the choir stand when the numbers are thin, right? And even when they aren’t thin, it’s your loud, powerful voice that really makes the section nice and strong…right? Well, yes and no.

You see, having a powerful, loud voice can be more of a curse than a blessing if you have no control over it. If you find that the only way you can achieve any note above your most comfortable one is to simply get louder and louder until you’re doing something a  lot closer to yelling than singing, then that’s not a good thing. Singers who have really big, loud voices often become more of a problem than an asset in group situations. That’s because in groups, choirs and praise teams it’s very important that the voices blend well vocally.  You want a nice, full, warm sound where nobody’s voice is standing out or overbearing. So if you’re consistently much louder than everyone else in your section, you’re standing out like a sore thumb.

The key to getting a nice full, powerful sound without screaming-even in the upper notes of your range- is breath control. What causes us to yell notes is the tendency we have to push with everything we have in order to reach them. When a singer does this, he is basically using all of the air he has at once. This causes notes to be harsh and “loud”. But not loud in a good way.

Taking a sudden gasp of air and then pushing it out as fast as possible is what we do when we scream. It’s what I did the other day when I was in someone’s back yard and two large dogs bolted out of a doggie door straight for me, lol! I wasn’t singing at the time, but the experience isn’t much different than the way most of us approach singing. The way to gain control of this “loudness” without losing your vocal power, is to learn how to control your breathing.

Not only is it important to learn how to release air in a more controlled way, it’s also very important to learn to control the position of your mouth. What happens when we scream? We make our mouths as wide as possible to accommodate all of the extra air velocity we’re pushing. But when you learn to use less air and sing with a more narrow position, the result is more volume with much less effort. But the sound you’ll produce when you sing this way is much warmer, even and controlled. This is the kind of volume that is strong and full, yet it’s not overbearing or unable to blend with other voices in the group.

It’s an overwhelming concept on paper, but it’s actually not hard to understand at all when you see it demonstrated. I teach that and many much more in my home study course Vocal Ministry Breakthrough. Read more about the course and see clips here.

 

The Resonators: Your Built-in P.A System

Electro VoiceHey gang,

Shena Crane here. I want to change gears for this blog and focus on how your body enhances the sound you produce when singing. There are seven resonators in singing, unfortunately only three of them are really effective. But first we need to know what resonation is; it is the process of phonation enhanced in timbre and/or intensity by the air-filled cavities through which it passes on its way out. Personally I think of resonators as an inside microphone. It is a proven fact that a singer’s voice can be heard over an unamplified orchestra. How is this done, you ask? Well with the three main resonators that we are about to talk about.

The first most important resonator is the pharynx, this resonator is effective simply because of its position. It is the first cavity that the vibrations from the vocal folds pass through, and the other cavities have to accept what the pharynx passes on to them. The pharynx is broken down into three parts; laryngopharynx, oropharynx nasopharynx. This resonator is the most flexible and can be adjusted in size vertically and horizontally. The laryngopharynx is the first space that the larynx opens into. The oropharynx acts as the primary resonator for the vocal folds. And the nasopharynx is the highest part of the pharynx.

The next resonator is the oral cavity, which is second most important. The size and shape of the oral cavity can be adjusted with the tongue, soft palate, jaws and lips. This is why it is vitally important for singers to have good diction. It is important to articulate words without altering the sound created by the larynx and resonated by the pharynx.

The third most important resonator is the nasal cavity. This cavity cannot be adjusted in size or shape, it is pretty much set in stone. In the English language there are three sounds that require nasal resonance (m, n, ng). This resonator has the capability to be switched on and off. And if you feel vibrations in your nose and roof of your mouth when you sing, then that is a sign of good vocal tone.

So looking back on what we have learned so far singing can seem a lot more difficult then we realized. We have to think about posture, breathing, diction and tone quality. My question to you is, can you feel the vibration? Which should be felt in what is referred to as your “mask”. The vibration is felt in the teeth, lips, cheekbone and nasal cavity. Feeling the vibration is the result of good tone quality. If you sing with a upside down smile it will force your larynx to stay low, which will place your tone in the right place to cause vibration. So the point is to keep your larynx low when you sing.

Until next time,

Shena

In The Dallas Ft. Worth Area? Why not Book Shena for a private lesson!

Using good Diction, part 2: Diphthongs

MicIn my last blog on diction I discussed the three rules for omitting r when singing. If you have been implementing the rules in your singing then you should notice a change in your sound and how clear your words are. In this blog I want to focus on diphthongs. This word is derived from the Greek di – twice and phthongs- sound. A diphthong is a word consisting of two consecutive vowels in the same syllable. An example of a diphthong is the word fight. You have the first vowel sound ah and then I as in it at the end. So the first vowel sound is sustained the second one follows at the end. In reading this keep in mind that we are talking about being understood clearly when you sing. As a singer it is your job to tell a story through your voice. In order for the story to be conveyed is has to be understood.
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How simply using good diction can make singing easier

Hello Mic...Many singers do not really understand diction and the affect it has on their singing. Have you ever heard someone sing and you question in your mind “ what did they say”? Or even “ why do they sound flat or sharp”? Well guess what? Diction plays apart in all of that. If you are a singer you have to put focus on the way you are saying your words. Diction is vitally important in large group settings such as choirs and praise teams. When you have several people singing the same words at the same time, everyone needs to be saying the words the same way.

Let us pause for a second and give a definition to the word “diction”. The meaning of diction is a saying, expression or word. It is the art of speaking clearly so that every word is plainly understood. This word is often used in conjunction with enunciation or its synonym articulation. When it comes to English diction there are a plethora of rules that might surprise you when it comes to everyday singing.

Many English words include letters that are spelled but not sounded. We also have words with consonants that are sounded but not spelled. We know about silent letters, but what about those consonants that are sounded but we do not see them? Take the word “one” for example. It’s spelled with an “O”, but It’s pronounced, “won”. The w is not there but we say it.

Think back to my previous blogs where I talked about having an open throat. When it comes to diction clear singing equals easy singing. As a singer once you adjust the way you sing words singing will be a breeze and tone production will be improved.
I want to start this series off by talking about the rules for omitting the letter R in English diction when it comes to singing. There are three basic rules for omitting and sounding the letter R. I like these three simple rules because it helps singers control their sound.

  1. Never sing the letter R before a consonant:

I want you to say the word charm in two ways- first the way you normally say it, then with no r (chahm). Now if you sing the word without the r with an open throat, it comes out easier.

  1. Do not sing the letter R before a pause:

A pause would be considered as a spot that you would breathe or come to a stop. Omitting the r before a pause results in good tone and naturalness. Try saying the phrase “ when life is over,” with and without the r (ovah). Try singing the phrase, does it feel different at all? There is one exception to this rule and that is when a diphthong or triphthong is followed by a pause. An example of a diphthong is “dear” and of triphthong is “fire”. Oh, by the way I will discuss those two words in a future blog.

  1. Always sing the letter R before a Vowel

This rule is pretty much self-explanatory. Some examples are “spirit” and “for us”, if these words were said or sung without the r they would not be understood. Without the r these words would be totally different: “spit” and “fo us”, now you see why this rule speaks for itself.

Start implementing these rules in your singing while also applying everything I discussed in previous blogs. You will feel and hear your singing change.. Remember to always keep your throat open, larynx low and support every note as if it were your only one.

Shena

 

Shena Crane is a Classically trained professional vocal coach. She graduated from University Of Texas At Arlington. Shena holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education as well as an Associates Degree in Music/Performance. Book Shena for private vocal training through The Music Ministry Coach.com