New Music

Maintaining A Healthy Voice with Subglottic Stenosis

Posted By singingcoach 12 hours ago on Music - Say you’re a singer, and you find out you have a rare disease that causes scar tissue to grow across your trachea directly below your vocal cords….that’s me.  In June I went in for the 3rd surgery on my throat since my diagnosis 2 1/2 years ago, with likely many, many more to come.  As I’ve gotten to know the effects of the scar tissue (significant difficulties breathing, and the urge to cough and clear the throat incessantly) and the surgeries that come with snipping/stretching back the scar tissue (temporary hoarseness, loss of range, stamina, and power in the singing voice) I thought I would make a video this month, post-surgery, with tips I have found helpful to keeping your voice healthy to share with this small community of people with subglottic stenosis.  This video has three parts: Part One is about clearing the mucus from the throat (lovely, I know)Part Two discusses maximizing your breath capacityPart Three focuses on hoarseness, and vocal exercises for a hoarse voice.  If your voice isn’t gradually improving, you may have damage to your voice (hopefully temporary!).  At that point, it’s best to contact your ENT, who will check you, and refer you to a voice therapist if needed.  

Strategies for the Shy Singer: Part One

Posted By singingcoach 1 day 4 hours ago on Music -

“Serve it, slay it, and HAVE FUN!”

A Conversation with 2x Grammy® winning Recording Artist, Kalani Pe’a

From beginners to professionals, many singers struggle with confidence.  We’re tackling this subject in two parts.  I’ll be back next month with some hands-on tips and exercises to practice building your confidence while singing.  Today we’re honored with a special guest, 2x Grammy® winning Recording Artist, Kalani Pe’a, who I recently sat down with on Zoom to discuss this topic.  Without fail, Kalani lights up the room, whether the room is on stage at the Grammys®, or on Zoom in his living room in Hawaii.  How does he do it?  Find out what cabbages, whispers of the ancestors, and tapping into your truest self can do for you! Tight on time? Scroll down for key takeaways.Key Takeaways: Take the boogie-man out of the audience. Kalani’s mom told him to imagine all those faces in the audience as cabbage heads! You’re just in a field, singing to cabbages, what’s to be afraid of?Know who you are, and just be you! Wear your identity proudly and share your identity through your music. Your authenticity will cause people to make a personal connection with you.If you have a gut instinct, it’s the voices of your ancestors guiding you to do something. Trust that they’re with you, behind you, supporting and cheering you on.Adopt a “Geev Um!” attitude — Serve it, slay it, and HAVE FUN!

Strategies for the Shy Singer: Part 2

Posted By singingcoach 1 day 20 hours ago on Music - Last month we interviewed 2x Grammy winner, Kalani Pe’a on the topic of overcoming shyness and a lack of confidence. Singers struggle with this more often than you think. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to do so here. Read on for some more strategies you can apply while you practice at home, and when you hit the stage. AT HOMEThe adage of singing in the shower - Whether it’s in the shower, the car, or on a remote hiking trail, the point is to find some place truly private so that you can really wail.   Pull deep from within and sing with all your heart along to your very favorite songs (still remember to use good technique!).  Then sing along to the karaoke version with just as much gusto.   Don’t worry about if your voice cracks or wobbles, just sing with passion and emotion - this isn’t about perfection, it’s about finding your voice! Start small - Sing in front of your pets, then one person who really loves you.  Then maybe a few people. Build your audience, bit by bit.  Film yourself - Just the act of hitting that record button and imagining that you’re going to post it for all the world to see can kick those butterflies into gear, while still being a safe environment - a great way to practice!  Then you get to evaluate yourself, and see for yourself if you look scared or uncomfortable, or maybe not “selling it” as much as you think you are.  Channel an alter ego - Maybe Sasha Fierce (see below), or maybe a Disney princess or Sponge Bob, anything goes!  Experiment by saying, “When I put on this hat (for example), I am now this character.  This character is bold, funny, strange, fabulous, etc, but not shy at all!  I’m just going to sing as this character for a while, and see if it helps me relax and get comfortable.” Give this character a different name, and practice invoking and getting into your new, fearless alter ego.Try playing an instrument while singing -  Sometimes the distraction of focusing on having to do something else other than sing is all it takes to loosen up, and sing more freely.  Here’s a perfect example - watch this episode of Carpool Karaoke with Ed Sheeran.  You can see how he seems very self-conscious at first, but once he grabs his guitar, he starts relaxing and enjoying himself.  He admits how anytime he feels awkward performing, he just reaches for his guitar and the anxiety goes away.ON STAGEChannel Sasha Fierce - Find your alter ego, and become that big, bold, rock star persona when you step on stage - as Beyonce famously does. And she has undoubtedly grown into Ms. Fierce, she is one and the same now. Perfect example: this video of Beyonce performing “I Care”.  Maybe that means you need to wear red lipstick, high heels, or a hat to help get you into that power mode.  Do it!  When you practice, wear that item of confidence, so that you begin to associate that item with feeling confident. Watch Beyonce talk about “Sasha Fierce” in the short video clip below.Fake It Till You Make It - Don’t say things like “omg, I’m so nervous,” to the audience.  While people will sympathize, they’re also already now expecting you to do poorly.  And if you rock, they’re going to think you manipulated them for extra applause, or that you’re needy for compliments. Act like you’ve done it 100 times already, from the moment you get on stage to the moment you walk away.Bring cheerleaders - Bring the people who will cheer and support you no matter what.  Allow them to help you stay out of your head and focused on the fun and joy of singing!And finally, shift your mindset - Try to remember why you’re doing this - because you love to sing!  Don’t make the goal of the performance to do a perfect job or blow anyone’s minds, make the goal be simply to have fun, or even more simply - to not run off stage.  That’s truly a valid goal!  You can feel proud and victorious, just for staying and performing.

Rearticulations: The Oldest Style Trick in the Book

Posted By singingcoach 5 days ago on Music - A lot of the focus in singing lessons goes to technique. It goes without saying that the most important thing is to know how to sing in a way that doesn’t damage your voice. But I admit it, the technical stuff can be boring. The technical stuff doesn’t have heart or passion. I have heard a lot of singers go through vocal training and become technically proficient singers with pleasant, good voices, yet they lack the emotional connection to the song, that extra layer of glossiness and memorability - style! Style means so many things - how dynamically you sing, how you begin or come off notes, how much vibrato you use, how much you embellish the melody, when and how much you improvise, etc.Most of us develop vocal style by consciously or subconsciously mimicking the style techniques of the artists we listen to and love. It is a nerdy singing passion of mine to analyze and define these style techniques to make them easier for students to experiment with so that they have the tools to sing in a more emotional, unique, and memorable style. So today we are focusing on what I call “The Classic Rearticulation” (as opposed to “modified rearticulations,” such as the one with the “upward connector” that I highlight in this free video). Full disclosure, I have yet to discover it if there is a “real name” for these vocal motifs. I discussed this in a professional singers forum I participate in, and “rearticulation” was the term that came up that made the most sense to me. So let’s commit to this term, the rearticulation, and move on to what the heck it is! The rearticulation is the building block of riffs, runs, and licks. What are riffs, runs, and licks? They are a series of quick notes, often improvised, that embellish what would otherwise be a held note or space in the music. Think Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Christina Aguilera, Usher, or Bryan McKnight. Or check out this video, “The Most Impressive Runs & Riffs.” Now that you can picture these highly complex musical passages, don’t run away! The Rearticulation is easy! In its essence, it is simply a repeated note. You can repeat it once, twice, three times, as many times as you want to. And all you need to do to connect this repeated note to the previous note, is come down a half step in pitch for a brief moment, and return back to the repeat note.Watch the video below to learn and practice rearticulations with songs from as far back as the 60s (The Monkees) to what’s hot on the radio today (Silk Sonic).Did you get the hang of it? Let me know in the comments!

A Time to Reflect, Look Forward, and Celebrate the Now

Posted By singingcoach 6 days ago on Music - Singing is an ongoing, immersive journey, and sometimes - like at the end of another year - it’s nice to take a moment and see just what we’ve accomplished with our singing.  You may surprise yourself with the little, and sometimes big, victories - maybe things like, “I improved my diction - I finally sing with softer “r” sounds,” or “I sang in front of my mom/kids.”  Maybe yours sound more like, “I didn’t quit,” or “I have accepted that I can practice when I can practice, and a little bit is better than nothing.”  I invite you to take a moment to sit in a cozy spot with a warm beverage and your singing notebook, and write down all the singing victories you can think of for 2021.Now before you get up, write down a few new singing goals for 2022.  Whether they’re big or small, it doesn’t matter.  But rather than saying “I will” or “I hope to,” start each goal with the words, “I look forward to.“  “I look forward to singing in a private karaoke booth with friends,” or “I look forward to making a note of every exercise that really helps me with my singing challenges, and practicing those once a week.”  See how that phrase takes away some pressure and rigid expectation?  This phrase may or may not work for other goals, but for singing, which comes with so many emotions, let’s try this experiment this year and see if it helps set us up for less frustration and more celebration!Speaking of celebration, let’s take a moment to be in the now.  I am so bad at this!  And I know I’m not alone.  But I am setting aside a full week at the end of the year to hit pause on all the ongoing music projects, and just enjoy this festive time of year with family, friends, and twinkly lights.  If you’d like to take a moment right now to be present with my latest video on youtube (ha ha!), this is a reaction video to a lively, bouncy holiday song with two top-notch singers, Ariana Grande and Kelly Clarkson, who sang “Santa Can’t You Hear Me” so flawlessly I started to wonder if it was real.  I reveal my ruling about that at the end of the video.  :)   Wishing you a happy, healthy, and song-filled 2022!

Straw Love: Interview with Mary Hanson, CCC-SLP

Posted By singingcoach 6 days ago on Music - I have always loved lip buzzes and lip trills, but last summer I discovered the joy (#singingnerdmoment) of STRAW EXERCISES. These are my new favorite exercises, and I have personally experienced their many benefits. Today I introduce you to Voice Therapist extraordinaire, Mary Hanson, who will share why straw exercises are so effective, and how to do them properly.1.     Let’s start super basic - what does phonation mean?  What is a straw phonation? Straw phonation is what it sounds like! Really this means that you are “phonating” (i.e., making sound) through the straw. If you put your straw in water, you can think about it as making bubbles with your voice on. Typically, it’s made with an /u/ sound, like we hear in the word “you”. It’s a great exercise for the casual speaker and the professional singer, alike! Straw phonation is part of a group of exercises called “Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises” or “SOVTEs”. Really this means that you have a small opening for the air to escape at the mouth or nose. That small opening creates back pressure, which is super beneficial as you can read about below. 2.     What are the benefits of straw exercises, from the perspective of both singing and vocal therapy?Straw phonation can really be quite magical, and its benefits are endless. However, it really does three main things. It reduces the tension, impact and collision at the level of the vocal cords.  Vibration at our vocal cords can only happen because some of the pressure from our lungs is reflected back once it reaches our lips. When we use straw phonation, we increase the level of back pressure, essentially making the vibration at the vocal cords even more efficient. This efficiency acts as a little massage and reduces vocal fatigue.  This efficiency also balances the vocal cords in a way that provides extra support for changes in pitch. This is important for anyone with a voice disorder, as we constantly change pitch when we talk, and those can be the moments that our voices give out on us. However, it is especially important for our singers, as it gives them an extra support for tricky transitions. Practicing those transitions with a straw can improve flexibility and power of the vocal folds and can translate to when they are not using the straw. That balance also provides singers with the opportunity to expand their range, without tensing as they explore new notes.  Lastly, that efficient voicing and balance, gives opportunity to strengthen the vocal cords in a safe way. Again, this is helpful for singers looking to improve their craft, but also is important in any voice disorder as we look to leave the vocal cords in better condition than how they came to us!  3.     Is there any voice type or condition that should NOT do straw exercises?There is no one condition, or voice type, that straw phonation is automatically not appropriate for, but the type of exercise that you do, and what you focus on may be different depending on your voice goals! If you are attempting straw phonation and it’s not clicking after a couple minutes of playing with it, and especially if you feel tense or have increased tension with its practice, its best to consult a professional. Straw phonation should only feel beneficial, and a voice professional can walk you through how to best use the tool for your voice! 4.     Does it matter if you use a glass of water or not - is there a greater benefit each way?It depends on what your goal is and also the size/shape of your vocal tract! Water will provide more resistance, resulting in increased back pressure. For most, that is beneficial and can help stabilize a tone and create more tension relief. However, for some that can turn a tension relief exercise into a strengthening exercise, and they may not be ready for that yet. I like to trial both with everyone and do what feels best for the person. (*Note from Your Online Singing Coach - I prefer using a glass of water, but it can be messy, so make sure you use a large/tall glass and don’t fill the water too high. ALSO, I have found that glass straws and paper straws don’t work as well as plastic, silicon, and stainless steel).5.     Does size matter (ha ha) - straw size, that is?Straw size does matter! In this case, the smaller, the better (generally)! However, that doesn’t mean you should go grab a coffee straw from your favorite locale. A smaller opening means increased back pressure. While this can have more therapeutic benefit for balancing and tension relief, that’s only if you are doing the exercise correctly! It’s generally recommended to start with a larger sized straw and then work your way down to something smaller as you get better at maintaining a clear forward tone and balancing the back pressure from the smaller opening. Its also important to keep your goal in mind, depending on how you react to the smaller straw, you may turn a tension relief exercise into a strengthening one. If your goal is purely tension relief, do what feels easy-and that may be a whopping smoothie straw! 6.     Can you talk us through how to do a straw exercise correctly? Straw phonation can look different for various people, as we all have different shaped vocal tracts. How we complete straw phonation also depends on the goal of the exercise. However, there are a few things that we like to think about for “successful” straw phonation. The first is lip placement. Its important to ensure that all airflow is going through the straw. You need a good lip seal, but at the same time it’s important to not over-tense the lips, as we want straw phonation to feel open and easy.  The next is airflow. You want to take a deep (*low, diaphragmatic) breath and start your voice off gently. You can use a  /u/ sound like in the word “you”. Use a full breath but keep your volume soft. You should have steady airflow flowing through the straw. You can tell you have that good airflow by either feeling for it with your other hand or putting the straw in water (just the tip!) and make sure you see bubbles. Our voices are really just chopped up air! If you don’t see bubbles or feel air, that’s a very clear sign that your phonatory system (your voice box) and your respiratory system (your lungs/air supply) are out of sync.  Pick a note in the middle of your speaking range and hold out the note for as long as is comfortable. Don’t go near the end of your breath, as we need the good pressure in the lungs to balance the back pressure from the straw. If you hear the tone sounding wobbly, or feel pressure in the throat, think about the placement of your articulators (i.e. lips, tongue, teeth). Can you adjust them in ways that makes the tone clearer? Feel easier? If you are unable to make the tone feel good and sound stable, don’t push it too much. Consult a professional and we will help you reap all the benefits of straw phonation! If you want to deep dive into all the excellent research and science behind straw phonation, check out the following page: You can also see a demonstration of straw phonation from the straw phonation legend himself, Dr. Ingo TItze: scroll below to watch my new Your Online Singing Coach one minute Straw Phonation video. Leave a comment with any questions you may have!

Mary Hanson is from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in Spanish and her Master’s degree from George Washington University in Speech-Pathology. Mary has worked in acute care hospitals, skilled nursing and sub-acute facilities, and outpatient clinics.Mary has evaluated and treated individuals with Dysphagia, Dysarthria, Aphasia, Neurogenerative Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injuries, Voice Disorders, Articulation and Phonological Disorders, and Language Disorders and Delays. She also has worked with individuals seeking to improve their business communication skills and pronunciation of Standard American English.Mary is licensed in Wisconsin and California and has her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She is certified in the McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program (MDTP), SPEAK OUT! for Parkinson’s patients, Phonation Resistance Training Exercise Program (PhoRTE), and the Rupp Method Accent Training. Mary is very interested in evidence-based practice and is always seeking new information. In 2020 and 2021, she received the ASHA Continuing Education Award for doing twice the required continuing education required for certification. Mary currently lives between Manta, Ecuador, and Wisconsin. She enjoys running, hiking, and spending each morning at the beach with her two Ecuadorian rescue pups, Cierva and Max.