New Music

To Close or Not to Close: The Relationship Between Your Eyes and the Audience

Posted By singingcoach 14 hours ago on Music - Being a singing nerd, this a topic I love to seek out and discuss with other singing nerds because it’s a controversial topic, but it’s not the kind of controversial talk where you leave the conversation asking, “how can we ever be friends now that I know we have completely opposite views about this?”  :)A few years ago, I attended a live set by a well-known and adored (but previously unknown to me) indie singer/songwriter.  He had definite fans in the audience who cheered wildly after pretty much every song.  I immediately understood the allure of the artist - he had a distinct vocal tone, had written compelling songs, had a quirky, left of center personal style (ie wearing a trench coat), and in addition to his cool and contemporary vocal sound, he was an excellent guitar player.  However, I just wasn’t able to really connect, to become a new fan myself.  And the reason was because I never saw this artist’s eyes.  He kept them shut the ENTIRE set.  He would open them to say “thank you,” between songs, and then they’d disappear under his lids for the duration of each song in its entirety.  Usually performers are taught to keep their eyes open.  We’ll get to some of the reasons why in a minute.   But first, let’s examine some reasons why it’s GOOD to close your eyes:It helps you connect to the emotional content of the songIt can help overcome stage frightIt helps you focus on key moments in your vocal delivery (it’s a gut reaction for most of us to close our eyes for belted high notes, for example)It tends to be a natural means of expression, which is much more authentic and believable than, for example, hand gesturesOn the other hand, here are some very important reasons it’s BAD to close your eyes:We know what they say - the eyes are the windows to the soul.  When you shut your eyes, you create a barrier between your inner self and your audienceThis gives the audience the perfect opportunity to do anything else - check their texts, start chatting with their friends, get up and go to the bathroom - all of which mean you have lost their attentionShutting your eyes can give the audience the impression that you are nervous, whether it’s true or notClosing your eyes can be seen as performing selfishly - you’re connecting to the song deep inside yourself, but you’re not sharing that connection with the audience. Everything in Moderation As you can probably guess, the correct answer here is to close your eyes…but in moderation!  I recommend limiting the amount of time your eyes are closed to 40% of your performance maximum, whether that’s one song, or a full set.  And that’s being generous - 25-30% is probably the sweet spot.  In the case of a full set, that means you could actually close your eyes for the whole song for a few songs in a ten song set, if that’s what really works for you.  Choose and use those moments to really dig into the emotion, to calm your stage jitters, to focus in on nailing those killer high notes, and then let the audience back in, let them connect, let them feel your essence!   But if my eyes are open, I know people are watching me, yikes!!!Be authentic to yourself - if you find yourself losing the connection to the song when you keep your eyes open, do what you gotta do.  But start practicing performing with your eyes open.  This doesn’t mean you need to uncomfortably stare at people while they watch you.  For the most part, the best thing to do is to gaze out, slightly above their heads, to the back of the room.  Occasional glances directly at people, especially accompanied by a smile, may make people weak in the knees for you!  But too much direct eye contact will make them squirm.  Revert your gaze to the back of the room.  And be sure to use your angles, shift your gaze to different parts of the room, the left side, the right side, the balcony, the front row.  Doing this includes and invites more people into this musical moment you’re sharing with them. You Be The JudgeHere’s an excellent example of a performance with about 25% eyes shut.  Bruno Mars closes his eyes when he’s connecting emotionally and when he’s working his power notes.  Notice that when his eyes are open, he works his angles, he smiles when he makes direct eye contact, and he let’s the audience see how much he’s enjoying singing the song FOR THEM. This is an older video but I chose it because of the intimate setting where Bruno really has a chance to connect with the crowd (which he goes 100% all in on) rather than a big stadium show.  Bruno Mars - Nothing On You Live Now here’s an example of Bruno Mars keeping his eyes shut for nearly 100% of the song.  It’s a very emotional, heartfelt song (with a vocal performance that is absolute perfection), so it’s more appropriate to have more time with the eyes closed.  But is 90-100% of the time too much?  You decide!  Bruno Mars - When I Was Your Man (Live)

Top 3 Best and Worst Holiday Pop Song Vocal Performances

Posted By singingcoach 1 day 6 hours ago on Music - THE BESTAdam Lambert - Please Come Home For Christmas  2019 - a funny introduction (warning! there is an F-bomb dropped with much gusto), plus the emotions, wailing high notes, and vocal perfection* that we always expect from Adam, delivered with plenty of green glitter.  (*there may actually have been a note or two that were a tiny bit flat at the end, but easily forgivable for everything else he gives to this performance) - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 2009 - flawless pitch, nice use of dynamics, adding some nice style with riffs but not overdoing it.  Only problem is the song is just too easy for him, there’s only so much he can do with it. Carey - All I Want For Christmas 1996 - The song that everyone wants to be able to sing, but few can really pull off.  Here’s the OG herself, rocking this performance. WORST Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas 2015 - Oh yes, I did it.  I put her on the best AND the worst lists.  Even Mariah can have a bad singing day, as showcased in this bombed performance.   It sounds like she had nodes or at least a case of laryngitis on this day.  In any case, it goes to show we are all mortals.  This video is a few moments with the vocals isolated, the whole performance can also be dug up. Swift - Silent Night 2007 - What I do love is the glittery guitar!  Unfortunately, there is a lot to NOT love - the melodic arrangement makes the song almost unrecognizable, she is either singing super breathy or with a painfully pinched nasal belt, she has not discovered the use of her very nice chest voice yet, and there are some definite pitch issues.  But this video is a testament to how far Taylor Swift has come as a singer, the years of training have paid off! Brown - This Christmas 2015 - This really isn’t a terrible performance, but it’s on the weak side.  Scrolling through the comments, it became apparent that Chris was sick at this performance, and to be frank he kind of looked it, he is doubled over like he is about to puke for the majority of the performance.  He also stumbles around the stage and is quick to point the mic away from his mouth for the high notes, and sometimes just doesn’t attempt them at all.  Being sick is a legitimate excuse to have an off night, and I agree with the commenters who gave him credit for showing up and doing as well as he did considering he was under the weather.

New Year, New Strategy for Practicing Singing

Posted By singingcoach 1 day 22 hours ago on Music - My theory on practicing singing is this:  Practice a lot or a little, but practice with meditation-level dedication.How often you practice, and for what duration, depends on your goals as a singer.  We all know that practicing improves skill, but do you want to become the next opera singer, pop star, or do you just want to improve your singing-in-the-shower skills?  For dedicated singers with professional level goals, or professionals preparing for concerts, you might practice as long as one or even two hours a day.  On the other end of the spectrum, even just a few minutes of practicing a day, or 15-30 minutes two or three days a week can pay off in big ways. However much you decide to practice, spend your practice time focused 100% on your practicing.  Can you imagine meditating with the television on, or while checking emails, or cooking?  What makes practicing singing effective, is when you really pay attention to how the singing sensations feel - it’s all about placement.  Some questions you might ask yourself as you sing:How much air am I using to nail this note or passage?How fast is the air flow?How relaxed does my neck feel?Am I raising my larynx too high?Do I feel or see tension anywhere? (Watch yourself in the mirror, or film yourself on your phone)How open is my mouth?Is my tongue down?Is my soft palate raised?Is the tone forward in my mouth?Is the placement in “the mask”?Am I feeling like I’m about to lose control?When I am working on difficult notes, exercises, or passages of songs, I pay attention to these sensations, and make adjustments accordingly.  Once I nail what I’m working on, I don’t stop just yet.  I practice for consistency, repeating the passage again and again, paying attention to all the sensations, so that both my mind and my body learn to recognize how it feels when I do it right.  If I’m working on a song, I am a diligent note taker!  Some of my professional singer colleagues use their iPads for everything, but I’m old school and know that writing things down with a good old fashioned pen helps me remember things, and here’s a great study that backs this method up.  Everything I want to remember about how to sing a song, I make a note of on my printed lyric sheet or sheet music.  “Big breath,” “open,” “round,” “relax,” “use head voice,” plus all kinds of dynamic and expression markings are all notes your might see on one of my lyric sheets.  That way, I can remember everything I worked hard to improve on during my practice session, and reciprocate it until my muscle memory takes over.  So as with many things, it’s not necessarily about quantity, it’s about quality.  Commit to focused, dedicated practice time, and whether it’s a lot of time or a little, make it count!Join our mailing list and receive instant access to our free 5 Minute Warm Up Video for those quick but focused sessions.

How Deep Is Your Love? 8 Great Love Songs to Sing to Your Special Someone on Valentine’s Day

Posted By singingcoach 2 days ago on Music - I have selected a song made famous by a female and by a male for each category, but you do you and sing the song you connect with most. Anything goes!YOU’RE INVOLVED, BUT IT’S NOTHING SERIOUS YETRight now it’s all about seduction!  Impress your potential S.O. with a song that suggests more is to come.Female:  I Want a Little Sugar In My Bowl - Nina SimoneSweet, simple, and playfully suggestive without being blatant, which could be too much at this early stage!  Male: Turn Your Lights Down Low - Bob MarleyAgain, going for the seductive vibe without coming on too strong.  Besides, is there anyone who doesn’t love Bob Marley?FALLING IN LOVE…Things have heated up and infatuation has started to turn to something deeper and more meaningful, you’re falling in love.Female:  Boom Clap - Charli XCXThose butterflies, that pounding heart.  That moment when you start to think this could be forever.  This is your song.Male:  In Your Eyes - Peter GabrielSwoon worthy ever since John Cusack held up that boombox 30+ years ago, this is the song that will let your S.O. know they rock your world.IN IT FOR THE LONG HAULYou’ve been together for a while, weathered some storms, learned and have grown together.  You are solid…solid as a rock!Male:  Thinking Out Loud - Ed SheeranIf you can sing and play guitar, you can expect positive results with whatever you’re hoping to achieve with singing this song..unless you’re seventy years old, in which case your honey might start to get concerned that you’re ready to wrap things up.  :PFemale:  You’re Still the One - Shania TwainOne of several obvious choices for this list, it’s a slam dunk for this category.  The range and movement of the melody make this song singable for most levels of vocal ability - bonus points.A LOVE OF A LIFETIMEYou may or may not have been together for a long time, but your love is the kind of love that goes down in history, the Romeo and Juliet kind of love…the Jack and Rose kind of love.  Kinda just gave that one away, didn’t I?Female:  My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dion Interestingly, my two choices for the highest level of relationship intensity are also the hardest two songs to sing on the list - they require range, power, and passion.  So get your warm up on before belting out this big song for a big love.Male:  Unchained Melody - Righteous BrothersI neeeeeeeeeeeed your love. Need I say more?

Three Pop Vocal Techniques To Learn From “Drivers License”

Posted By singingcoach 3 days ago on Music - I randomly posted a video on youtube a week or two ago calling attention to three pop vocal techniques to learn from the song “Don’t Start Now,” by Dua Lipa.   I love to study the nuances in the vocal delivery of mega-hit songs.  The goal of learning these stylings is to interpret them to fit our own voices.  I have worked with a lot of students seeking a more contemporary sound.  We can utilize these techniques to help create our own contemporary sound by choosing and utilizing the nuances that feel natural and authentic to us, and forgetting the rest of them.    These are those little details to grab from the artists on the charts and experiment with in your own vocal delivery while still maintaining your own unique tone.Anyway, back to Dua Lipa.  I had a lot of fun nerding out on Dua’s pop vocal technique.  So much so that when a voice student requested to sing Drivers License by Olivia Rodrigo this week, I decided to do the same thing with it after studying it to learn it myself.  Drivers License is the “song of the moment,” and I am impressed by Olivia Rodrigo’s emotional delivery at the tender age of 18.  Check out the video and see if you connect with any of Olivia’s techniques I introduce you to.  I apply the three techniques to a song we all know at the end to see how they carry over - and to show you that they can indeed be carried over.  Try them on the song you’re currently working on and see how you like them!
And here’s the first video - Don’t Start Now.  Can you tell I love this song?

4 Vocal Tips for Getting Sync Placements

Posted By singingcoach 3 days ago on Music - Getting a song into a film or TV show is one of the most exciting things an artist can experience.  It can be lucrative, and it can be one of the best ways to get discovered in this over-saturated world of DIY music releases.  Unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag and everyone wants a sync placement, making the competition fierce.  But you might be surprised what kind of singing has the best chances of getting used on a film or tv show (hint - it’s not the songs that show off your incredible range).  Read on for some singing strategies that might help you nab a sync!Be Authentic. The shows want unique, “artist” sounding voices - not generic sounding studio singers or imitations. Maybe your voice is gritty and unpolished, but expressive and distinct. Celebrate that, you have just as great a shot (if not even more of one) as a singer that can sing circles around you. Listen to this song by Lucinda Williams and you’ll get exactly what I’m talking about. Distinct? Expressive? Evocative? Authentic? Oh yeah!!!Check your classical/musical theater training at the door. Musical theater vocals do get used on television shows like Glee, and Disney shows/films, but these are very specific markets. Opera arias occasionally get used, too, but again these placements are much fewer and further between. If you come from a singing background where you’ve been trained in classical or musical theater, the main thing to be aware of is vibrato. There is a certain sound to musical theater and classical vibratos that don’t mesh well with pop styles of singing (including Singer/Songwriter, EDM, R&B, Hip Hop, Country, etc). While many artists in the wide field of pop music have little to no vibrato, it doesn’t mean you can’t have it at all. Billie Eilish is a great example here, her voice has a very distinct, wobbly, slow vibrato. Save the big, belt-y, range-y stuff for your live performances. Now, you would think that the more obvious the talent, the more likely your voice would be used in the background of a movie or television show. But the keyword here is background. The vast majority of song placements are meant to be in the background, and not draw attention away from the scene, but rather enhance it subtly with the mood and energy of the song. So huge high notes and complicated runs will definitely eliminate your song from the running, unless it would be used for a closing credit or other special circumstance where the music is meant to be upfront and noticed. Jose Gonzalez’s beautiful song “Heartbeats”is very upfront and featured in this scene of One Tree Hill - but you’ll notice the range and dynamics of his vocal performance never changes - that way the audience’s attention can drift between the song and the actors whenever dialogue is spoken. By the way - “Heartbeats” has been used in not one, not two, not three…..but TEN television shows. This is the voice (and song) to study!Use pitch correction. There is no shame in cleaning up your vocal, and it is essential that your voice doesn’t ever hit a sour note, because again it could distract from a scene. You can sound as unpolished as you want to, but you cannot have a pitchy vocal. After you’ve recorded your song, make sure that you or your engineer go through it with Melodyne to clean up any stray notes. Don’t overdo it though, the voice should sound natural unless an overly processed sounding vocal is the sound you’re after - commonly used for dance and melodic rap genres, for example.

3 Ways To Expand Your Vocal Versatility

Posted By singingcoach 4 days ago on Music - 1. Try learning a non-western scaled songFind a Middle Eastern or Indian song on Spotify and learn it.  You don’t need to learn the words, just sing the song on “ah.”  And if the song is overwhelming, just learn a section of it.  By doing this you’re learning to sing songs in scales you’ve never used before, which may even include quarter tones!  And learning to sing complex, melismatic passages with those unusual scale notes.  It will blow your voice’s little mind.  And it will feel very proud and accomplished when it can get through it.  While you probably won’t ever use such intricacies in your regular repertoire, your voice will have experienced the challenge and precision of executing tiny, subtle changes, which can be all it takes to find just how to sing that tricky note that’s been giving you problems.  Here are two great examples from Bollywood to get you started:Taal - from Taal  (Beginner)Naina - from Omkara (Advanced)Practice tip: use the playback speed settings on these youtube links to practice the runs at a slower speed initially.2. Try to imitate singers that sound nothing like your natural voice These imitations will probably feel silly, but it’s amazing how much you can learn about expression and placement from different singers.*  Your thought process might go something like this:  “I can belt that note, but that singer has chosen to make that note breathy.  Why make it breathy when you can belt it?  Hmm, that’s kind of effective - that kind of sells that vulnerable lyric.  Maybe I don’t need to belt every note!  Maybe I should save it for the end of the song, the way she did.  Now that belted note sounds like “the money note” because the belt tone is only used in the last chorus.  Cool.”As a child, Ariana Grande learned runs, riffs, and how to use a whistle tone - all part of her own style - through imitating Mariah Carey. Check out Ariana Grande’s absolutely pro impressions here.*A note about #2. Please be careful with this one - while you can learn many great things through imitation, you can also learn terrible habits and even damaging techniques from other singers. If it ever feels uncomfortable or hurts, or you get red in the face trying it (figuratively or literally), stop immediately. Try it in front of a voice teacher who can guide you to avoid vocal damage.3. Sing a genre you’ve never sung before - even if you hate it!For me this one is like traveling to another country.  You may learn to appreciate and even like (or love!) the style you’ve challenged yourself to sing by the end of it.  Want a rhythmic challenge?  Try Hip Hop!  Want to get your butt kicked from a technical perspective?  Try opera!    Want to get completely swept up in a story?  Try country, complete with a twang!  Learn what it takes to vocally sell a song in that genre.  In a rap song, you can’t just speak the words.  Even though the words in a rap song aren’t usually sung, they need conviction.  They need attitude.  They need commitment.  They need to be projected.  They need precise diction.  Can you translate any of the techniques you’ve learned from your “challenge genre” to your regular genre? 

Maintaining A Healthy Voice with Subglottic Stenosis

Posted By singingcoach 5 days 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 5 days 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 6 days 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.