When, how and what to eat before a singing engagement

Fruits and veggiesWhen it comes to what a singer should and shouldn’t eat or drink, advice will always be as varied as the number of people you ask. I’m pretty sure that’s because people have a tendency to dismiss something as the gospel truth or completely wrong based only on their own experience with it. But the human voice is the most complex and individually unique musical instrument that exists. It’s the only instrument in the world fashioned by the very hand of God. Our vocal instrument is our entire body, not just our voice. So, you have to expect that foods will react differently from person to person.
But as I mentioned in my recent blog about milk, there are some things that are pretty-much universally accepted as just good practice for singers. I’m going to share that kind of common-sense information with you in today’s blog.

So, you have an engagement coming up in the near future. What should you be doing to put yourself in the best possible position to insure your performance is as good as it can be? Aside from regular vocal training, your diet is definitely something very important to think about. When, what and how you eat before a singing engagement can all affect your ability to perform at your best. Let’s briefly look at all three.

 

When:

When you eat-specifically how soon before your engagement- is critical. Let’s first make it very clear that you do need to eat something. Singing is a very physical thing that really involves your whole body. You need some energy to have the stamina to finish your gig. However, it’s important that you don’t eat right before you sing. The main reason is that if you do, the energy won’t be available to you when you need it. In order to benefit from the food you should really eat about 2 hours before a singing engagement.
Another huge benefit of doing that though, is that if you eat too soon before the gig, your body will be diverting energy towards digesting the meal. This will make you tired and less focused. Especially if you ate a heavy meal; which brings us to :

How:

One thing you never want to do right before singing is eat a heavy, full meal. Aside from the the aforementioned zap of energy, you’ll also have a much harder time breathing for singing. That’s because when your stomach is full, it’s bloated and pushing against your diaphragm. So you can’t breath properly. The easiest way to avoid that is to stop eating about 2 hours before the gig. By then, unless you’ve really stuffed yourself to the gills with a bunch of heavy, empty calories, your body should have most of what you ate digested and providing energy to your system.

What:

We’ve already established that it’s a good idea to stay away from big meals full of heavy foods. But we also pointed out that you do need to eat, and you do need some energy to sing well. The best types of foods to eat then, are foods that are light and yet provide you a lot of energy. Foods high in protein are great to eat an hour or two before an engagement. Things like chicken, almonds, eggs and fish are all good foods to eat. They provide you with plenty of protein and yet, if eaten in moderation, will keep your hunger at bay without having to stuff yourself.

As I said before, every singer is different because every person’s body is different. The best thing to do is try to keep an eye on what your’e eating leading up to an engagement. That way if you have an off night you can go back and take a look at what you ate and identify anything that may have caused some of it. Look for trends, or things that tend to happen every time you eat a certain food. While I’ve offered some good common sense guidelines here, remember that at the end of the day which specific foods you eat is usually a lot less important than when and how.

You probably know however, that eating and drinking everything you should at just the right right time you should do it still won’t protect your voice from wear and damage from years of bad technique. To do that you must train your voice with professional vocal lessons. But vocal lessons can be expensive and a real hassle to fit into your busy life.

That’s why I created Vocal Ministry Breakthrough, my home study vocal training course. Vocal Ministry Breakthrough is designed to be easy, affordable and fun. Sign up here.

 

 

 

 

 

One food every singer should consider giving up

 

Another animal that came very close

Although most singers never think about this at all ( and we all should) occasionally someone at one of my vocal lessons will ask me what’s good and what’s NOT good for a singer to eat/drink. Because every singer is different and affected different ways, it’s hard to come up with a definitive list. Something that bothers one person won’t bother someone else’s voice.

Even so, however, There are some food that are almost universally identified as wise to steer clear of for singers. If I could only choose one to get rid of from that list I’d choose:

Dairy Products!!

Simply put gang, milk does NOT do a body good, despite the very popular and ingeniusly crafted campaigns. There’s a whole lot of very interesting things I’ve learned about milk that really blew my mind. This is not the place nor the forum to discuss them, but consider this:
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“Singing a lie?” A different perspective on an old belief

“Singing a lie?” A different perspective on an old belief

No doubt, if you grew up in the Black church, you’ve heard the saying “You can sing a lie just as well as you can tell a lie”. It’s a saying that’s been around probably as long as the church has been around. And while it comes from a place of good intent and well meaning, I think it bears taking a look at in a less literal way.

As Gospel and Christian singers, we sing music that goes far beyond entertainment. Inspirational music has the power to up-lift, encourage, heal and restore. In order to have effective ministry, Gospel singers must be able to reach people through the ministry of music whose story may not be their own. Imagine for a moment if you could only sing songs with lyrics that describe something you’ve been through personally. Only songs that are your personal experience.
It would be nearly impossible, wouldn’t it? Even in a song that does describe some personal experience of yours there is bound to be some parts that in fact don’t speak to a personal experience of yours. Jesus used parables almost exclusively in His ministry. Yet none of them were actual stories based on His own life or personal experience. They were simply stories He used to illustrate a point. In much the same way, Gospel singers often need to sing a song about something that may not be their own personal experience in order to bless someone in the audience that God has placed there to hear it.

Though I haven’t spoken to her personally, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no such person as “shouting John” in Shirly Ceasar’s famous “Hold My Mule”. I could give several such examples, but the point is that often the message in a song isn’t for us, but for people in the audience. To tell a story about, for example, over-coming something that we ourselves may not have been through, is not “singing a lie”. It’s singing a message about something someone else has been through. The fact that I personally may not have gone through it doesn’t make it any less true for someone.

So how do you handle singing a song that isn’t your personal testimony? Simple. You have to first understand that as Gospel singers God uses us to bless others. The song we sing is seldom for us, but for someone else. You must find your own truth in every song. Your own personal spiritual connection. The beauty of Gospel music is that there is truth for every believer in every Gospel song that has it’s focus centered in Christ. So even when it’s not your personal story, you can connect with it spiritually and sing it with the conviction of truth, knowing that even if it’s not your story, to tell that story in song for someone else that they may be blessed, is not “singing a lie” any more than the parables told by Jesus was a lie for Him.

Take care!

Ron

 

 

1 question I ask that loses me lots of potential students

Red light districtLike most vocal coaches, I get a lot of questions. And, understandably, when someone is considering booking vocal lessons with me they often ask questions about things they want to achieve as singers. But there’s one particular question that my answer to tends to lose me potential clients. Granted, I don’t get the question very often. But when I do the singer doesn’t tend to like my answer.

The question is “can you help me with my runs”, or “can you teach me how to do riffs?” While my answer to that question is seldom just a flat out “NO”, it’s definitely not usually a yes either. What gets me into trouble is when I start asking the person why they want to learn them and work on them. Why are they so important to you? Tough questions to answer when it’s put to you that way.
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How many lessons do I have to take?

My Fenway perpetual calendarHow Many Lessons Do I Have To Take?

One of the most asked questions I get when people are first inquiring about vocal lessons is how many do they need, or how long do they need to take lessons. Naturally it’s one I can’t answer, because everyone is different. Every voice is different. People learn at different rates. People have different goals. I could go on here, but you get the idea. So in this article I’ll try to give you some things to consider when you’re trying to figure out how much of an investment of your time and money you need to make to achieve your goals.
To really understand what it takes to make significant and permanent changes to one’s voice- the kind we all want, like improved range, breathing, control and power- one has to look at vocal training like any other kind of physical training. If, for example, you wanted to change your body-type, you would expect to work out and eat right until you get where you want. You wouldn’t expect your trainer to be able to tell you the date you would achieve your goals. That’s because in almost every area of life, when we want change we expect it to take a while. Permanent changes come only by un-learning old habits and beliefs. Re-training muscles, thought process, beliefs, habits.

Even something as simple and as natural as which hand you write with would become a challenge if you were suddenly asked to switch hands and start writing with the other one. You could manage it at first, but it would be awkward and uncoordinated for a while. Eventually though, if you kept at it and worked on it every day, you would eventually get as good at writing with the other hand as you are with your current writing hand.

What causes this change to take place is something called “muscle memory”. It’s something musicians who play physical instruments like guitar and keyboard or organ know very well. It’s that constant repitition of the same thing over and over until your mind, body, fingers or whatever else is involved in performing the task at hand starts to do it automatically. It’s what makes a typist blaze along at 80 wpm without ever looking at the keyboard.

It’s no different with the human voice. But because as a singer your whole body-not just your voice- is your instrument, there are many physical and mental things that must be re-learned before permanent change takes place. Think about it. Almost everyone that can sing was born with that ability. We’ve done it the same way all of our lives. So when you get to the point where you realize you need some training to achieve your goals, you can’t expect to re-learn things you’ve been doing all your life in one lesson.

A serious vocalist who has a strong desire to make some real changes that will stay with him for a lifetime goes into vocal training with a “long as it takes” mentality. Someone who is simply trying to get past a certain song, or prepare for an upcoming audition, may approach lessons with a “how soon can I get this done” mentality. It’s not because one is better than the other though. Both have different goals, that’s all. I’ve trained both types. I’ve trained people who had an audition or special occasion coming up and only had a week or so to prepare, so they wanted a lesson or two and that’s it.

I’ve also had clients who were trying to take their music ministry to another level and knew that they needed serious, on-going training to get there. I’ve had students work with me 2 years and I’ve had people take 1 lesson. So a great deal depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Ask yourself the following question:

1. What is my reason for taking lessons? What is my goal?

If you’re just trying to get ready for an audition or trying to perfect a certain song, you may need just a couple of sessions. Not everyone is looking for everything I mentioned at the beginning of the article. Some people just need some style coaching for a certain song they’re having trouble figuring out what to do with at certain points. You may only need one session for cases like that.

If you’re trying to improve your vocal range, stamina, power, breath control, etc, you should plan on taking lessons over a period of time to achieve any permanent results. Again, every voice and every person is different. But it’s been my experience that people don’t start to achieve that “muscle memory” type of change before about 3-6 months taking lessons weekly. I was just contacted yesterday by someone who has been studying for 7 years. He only stopped because he relocated, and now he’s looking to reconnect with a new vocal coach so he can start again.

Even after they stop though, most people revert back to old habits because they stop doing the vocal exercises and working on their voice regularly. So even after you’ve taken weekly lessons for a while (as long as it takes) I recommend setting up at minimum a monthly session to keep your voice in shape.

Even though it seems overwhelming in the beginning, try not to think about taking vocal lessons as “drudgery”. It’s only natural to think about the time investment and the money investment at first. But most people who are serious about their singing absolutely love their vocal lesson time. Many of my students hate to miss their session, and when the time comes where they have to stop for whatever reason, it’s often a sad time for both of us. Taking vocal lessons can be one of the hardest things to start, but once you make the commitment to do so it will likely be the hardest thing to stop as well.

One of the easiest, most convenient and inexpensive ways to get on-going vocal training-the kind that promotes permanent change- is to take an online course. I designed my own home study course to give you that 3-6 month stretch of training while giving you the tools you need to continue training your voice regularly even after you’re done with the course. Get started here.

 

Just launched: Free 5 day vocal training course!

GiftHey gang,

One of the things I’ve been praying about with my business and my ministry is to really get it out there on a bigger scale. Simply put, I just want to touch more people with the gifts and talents God has given me. I’ve come across many people in this line of work who are really serious, dedicated servants of God who want to give Him their best. But they didn’t have the money to take private vocal lessons with me. Still others have found me on YouTube, My Space and other online social gathering sites, and wished they could study with me.
Well I’m proud to announce that for the first time ever I’ve put together a free video vocal training course and I’m giving it away absolutely free. Free vocal lessons? You bet. These videos are high content videos which include things I teach in my private vocal coaching sessions. Early feedback on these lessons have been great, and I couldn’t be more excited. After all what good are any of our gifts if we don’t, every now and then, simply give it away without cost? I don’t know about you, but I feel most fulfilled when I know I’m really walking in my calling and it’s blessing people.

This course, in addition to being free so anyone can have lessons, this course will afford me the opportunity to bless people all over the nation through the videos in this free course.

You can get your free vocal lessons by going on over to the home page and fill out the form. And be sure to tell as many of your friends and loved ones about it as possible.

See you then.

Ron