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Category Archives: Vocal Tips

Find And Master Your ‘Niche’

28th August 2019

Are you ‘good’ at everything, or a master at something? The latter is much better.

 

In this crowded industry of singing, the way to stand out from the crowd is be a master at something. To master a specific area of your industry where no one can touch you.

 

We see evidence of this all the time in crowded industries. In the acting world, is Tom Hardy really good at everything (or has he mastered a certain character type) same goes for Daniel Day Lewis (I don’t see many comedies coming out of him) and also Tom Cruise (the action star master)

 

It’s the same in music. Stevie Wonder is a legend, but if he tried to sing ‘If I Loved You’ it may not sound right. Pavarotti is a legend, but if he tried to sing ‘Apologize’ By ‘One Republic’, it may not sound right. You get the idea here

 

Too many people worry about being good at everything and end up achieving very little. Don’t be a general singer. Be slightly specialised. Have something you do which no one can beat you on.

 

Write down your top strengths. Riffs? Emotion through song? High notes? Low chest voice tones? Singing softly? A unique tone that is distinct?

 

As a vocal coach, I don’t coach opera singers. I want to be the very best coach for a certain group of people, not good for everyone.

 

As the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said ‘Don’t become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific’

 

What are your top strengths? What are you best at? What can you do better than almost anyone else? What is unique to you?

 

Once you find the answer, double down on that. Perfect it over time and you will be untouchable, even in this crowded industry.

The Truth About Larynx Position

11th July 2019

‘The Larynx should be low at all times’ 

‘The Larynx should stay in a stable position’ 

‘The Larynx should raise with the pitch’ 

You may have heard one of the above phrases before from a teacher.

But they’re not true. 

(however one of these statements I agree with more than the others, I will explain in a bit) 

 

The truth is that the larynx can do anything. It can be high, mid, low and everything in between. Depending on the sound you want to make. 

High Larynx will be great for most ‘Pop’ styles, and bring out a lighter, brighter sounding voice. 

Mid Larynx will be great for various styles of music, and could be considered the sound which is most like ‘You’ (most people usually talk in a relatively mid larynx position)

Low Larynx will be great for Legit Musical Theatre or opera as it creates more warmth, depth to your tonal quality. 

 

The statement from the beginning I agree with the most is ‘The larynx should stay stable’ Again, I don’t fully agree with this, and it definitely doesn’t need to stay stable at all times. But there is value in finding all the notes in your range with stability in your larynx position. This is because it then requires complete muscle isolation for the vocal folds to do their work on their own. If the larynx isn’t helping the process, you have to learn to be really coordinated with your vocal folds to do the work. It demands that you are coordinated and strong enough to make the pitches without the help of the larynx. Which can be a great starting base for singers. 

 

The mistake I see coaches and singers making is that there’s only the one way of doing things. This just isn’t true on a big picture thinking macro scale. 

Just listen to singers from all genres from opera to pop, are they really do the same thing with their larynx position? 

 

But it’s understandable why people would have and stick to their belief systems on this. If you go to an opera coach they will say ‘the larynx should be low at all times’ that is because that is appropriate and necessary for the sound they are going for in that genre. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only actual way. 

Alternatively if you go to someone who teaches a lot of Pop, they may say, ‘raise that larynx with the pitch’ again not necessary, but usually right for the sound they are going for. 

 

The truth is the larynx will just change the tone of your voice according to what you want to sound like. It’s totally up to you. Anything can be done. 

As long as it’s a choice, not a must! 

If you get in the habit that you absolutely must raise the larynx to get the note, you’re going to start getting into trouble. It’s no longer a choice, but a habit that will only likely accentuate with time. 

 

Don’t believe me or take my word for it, instead just listen to all the different sounds singers have made over the years in a sustainable way across all genres of music. 

It’s truly amazing what the larynx can do. 

 

But if you get in the studio with me, I can show you as I go through all larynx positions throughout my range, so you know it can be done. Better still and more importantly, I will show you to have complete control of your larynx so in the end you can choose any sound you want depending on your individual style. 

From now on, I hope that we have no more limiting beliefs about the larynx position. 

Your larynx can do anything it wants, if you know how to use it properly. 

Why ‘Anchoring’ is bad for your voice

27th March 2019

‘Just anchor more. Head anchoring, neck anchoring, torso anchoring, full body anchoring. Pretend like you’re going to the toilet’ 

 

– Oh yes, I’ve heard it all before. This is actually what I used to get taught. 

 

Let’s discuss why anchoring in singing is generally a bad idea. 

 

Firstly, any holding of muscles is going to cause tension. And it’s unnecessary tension that we don’t need for singing. Especially if there is any locking of the abdominal muscles.  (this is always a bad idea) 

 

Anchoring is going to encourage something called the Valsalva Manoeuvre. 

 

When we have to perform big manoeuvres in the body, whether it be lifting weights or (going to the toilet) the body will shut down the vocal folds in order to keep the air in the body. This is to spike your blood pressure to perform that big manoeuvre. Basically completely shutting down the vocal folds in an extreme way. However, this complete lock down of the voice is WAY too strong a coordination for singing. It will lead to very tight voices, limited airflow, loss of voice and many more issues. 

 

You need vocal fold closure, but please singers, don’t get it from anchoring. 

 

Valsalva is there for you to perform extreme manoeuvres, but singing isn’t one of them 

There is more than one Vocal Technique

21st February 2019

I remember that throughout Drama School all I was taught was the Estill Model. It was presented like this was THE way. When really there’s so much more out there. The more experience I gain, the more I realise there’s more than one way of doing things.

When a friend introduced me to Brett Manning (who is a top Vocal Coach in Nashville) I was blown away by just how different his teachings were. It was practically the opposite to everything I had been taught in the UK. My belief system was radically shifted. Had I believed there was ‘one vocal technique to rule them all’ I wouldn’t have even listened to what Brett Manning and other coaches had to say.

I started working with more Vocal Coaches in New York, Nashville and LA and telling them about my previous training with the Estill Model. They knew about it but said 90% of singers who they train have never even heard of it. And they told me why they disagreed with parts of it. It just shows that the vocal technique of the country isn’t ‘truth’ but merely a form of culture that is very different in every country you go to. But like culture, you always believe that the views of you and your country are ‘truth’. That is, until you venture out.

But i’m so glad that I try to continue being a lifelong learner and incredibly open minded.

I am grateful to have worked with Vocal Coaches of so many different vocal techniques and perspectives. My approach now is to pull together all the different perspectives I have learnt over the years, and I believe that’s the number 1 reason that I achieve great results for my clients.

So the takeaways here are to devote yourself to continued learning. Explore parts of singing techniques that have worked for others from different countries and choose those parts which work best for you.

If somethings not working and you aren’t seeing results within a few weeks or months. Change.

It just might be that the Vocal technique you are clinging onto isn’t the right one for you.

Factors Of A Successful Audition

13th August 2018

Multiple elements give you the best chance of audition success.
Singing is one factor and an important one. However, other factors enter the equation of a successful audition.
Song selection, what you wear, your personality in the room, knowing your cast-ability, acting through the song, vocal technique, vocal style, knowing the casting director, confidence in your ability, being polite to the pianist, positive attitude and the list goes on…
Let’s quickly look at some important factors in a bit more detail….

Personality – People will always remember your personality. Maybe even more than your singing voice. If you are charming, funny, positive and brighten up their day then you stand a great chance of being memorable.
Know yourself and know your authentic personality.
Technique – The panel will want the confidence that you can hit the notes and do so 8 shows a week. Your technique will be tested so they feel confident in you. If you aren’t confident in your voice, they will soon know. Be prepared and work on your voice as much as you can so you know you can the notes easily.
Acting through song – Even if your voice isn’t on total form, it wouldn’t matter too much if you acted the hell out of the song and moved the panel emotionally. A bit like your personality, a panel will remember the emotional way you left them feeling from the audition.

Even if you sing well TECHNICALLY and you are ACTING through song beautifully but your PERSONALITY is off and lacking… the panel will wonder if you can be someone they want to work with and hence you won’t give yourself the best chance.

Even if your PERSONALITY is great along with your ACTING – that’s a good start! But if you are not TECHNICALLY great and the panel will wonder if you can hit the notes 8 times a week.

Even if your PERSONALITY is great and your TECHNIQUE is too, so you can hit all the notes. It’s going to feel like singing by numbers and emotionless if you lack the ACTING through song and take them on a journey.

Get the idea?
I will cover all the factors in more detail in further Blogs/Videos.
Just know that you need to work on every single factor that goes into a successful audition. This will give you the best chance possible of getting the job!

You Are A Vocal Athlete – Singing Is A Vocal Sport

30th April 2018

I find that one of the best analogies for singing is going to the gym. Lots of people go to the gym these days. So think of training your voice in a similar way to this. It’s all muscle coordination work in the gym or with your singing voice. The great news about muscles is – they can be trained.
At the gym, to make the most progress, people will use a technique known as ‘muscle confusion’ This is where people deliberately change their workout routines, as otherwise over time the body gets used to each routine. So confuse your vocal muscles and mix up your vocal workouts the same way.
This could be, for example…
Week 1, chest. Week 2 head voice. Week 3 mix. Week 4 style choice work.
Then mix it up totally again…
week 5, Monday – cord closure, Tuesday – decompression, Wednesday – song work. Thursday – twang exercises, Friday – low larynx conditioning.
When you do the exercises, do NEW exercises you’ve never done before. Mix up the speed and scales to confuse your voice. You can see the possibilities. Know your voice and explore it fully.
This is why I try to always stay present and give clients new exercises unique to their voice.

Does practice make perfect? Not really. Perfect practice makes perfect. The key is in the details. You wouldn’t see someone not going to the gym and expecting great results. Yet how often are singers actually doing their vocal workouts 4 times a week, just like the athlete would be in the gym 4 times a week?! To fulfil your potential you must be dedicated to your craft.

Know that vocal exercises don’t necessarily improve the voice. The EXACT right vocal exercises specifically designed for you do though.

For exceptional results, make a plan that’s best for YOU with a coach that you trust.

Eliminating Vocal ‘Weight’

18th March 2018

When going for high notes, a common issue is that you could experience vocal tension. One reason for this can be too much ‘weight’ on the voice.
What does this mean? Put your hand on your chest, now say the word ‘Yeah’ (give it your best Shakespearian actor voice) and try and feel some external vibration, conductive resonance in your chest. When you’re in this coordination in your low chest voice the vocal folds are generally shorter. Shorter folds, tend to close with a thicker, greater amount of vocal fold musculature.
Maintaining this thick vocal fold contact whilst trying to sing higher notes, well… that’s going to be hard heavy work. Too much ‘weight’!
Most people drive a car these days so I’m going with this analogy. Think of this short vocal fold ‘Chest voice’ gear as 1st gear in the car. Hold onto this 1st gear without shifting to 2nd, then the car will feel a lot of pressure and it’s going to be hard work. Over time that engine could get really tired.
1st gear is important to have in your car (and your singing voice) so don’t skip it out. The answer lies in developing 2nd gear in the car (ie a mixed voice)
Lengthen the vocal folds too soon, and it could be too ‘heady’ or ‘light’ too soon.
Don’t lengthen enough, and it’s going to be too much ‘weight’ on the voice.
Shed the weight gradually. Lengthen the vocal folds gradually.
2nd gear is going to probably the most difficult to get.
Stick with doing your 2nd gear workout (mix workout) and over time you will become a highly efficient instrument with the ability to sing epic high notes with EASE during your vocal training sessions rather than excess weight.

Head Voice, Chest Voice……and Eyebrow Voice ?!

1st February 2018

To be in ‘Head Voice’ you’ve got to feel it in the head… right?!

‘Chest Voice’ ‘Head Voice’… What do these actually mean?
Well, these terms are general guidelines for where MOST people experience their resonance. However, everyone is different, with different shaped mouths, heads, throats, facial features that all affect where the singer feels the resonance. You may be in a perfect ‘head voice’ but you may feel the resonance in a slightly different place to another singer.
Perhaps you feel your resonance in the cheeks, eyebrows or the forehead? Maybe you could call it eyebrow voice? I’m slightly joking here, but hopefully, it puts ‘Head Voice’ and ‘Chest Voice’ into a new perspective for you.

As a coach, I’m always trying to be razor sharp in listening to your sound in the room, but you the singer should go by feeling. If I hear it’s a perfect ‘Head voice’ then the first question is, where did YOU feel it? If singers overanalyse their sound by trying to hear themselves as their singing, it can lead to problems.

So don’t panic if you don’t feel the resonance in the exact place you feel you should. Instead focus on the feeling, also record yourself doing a great ‘head voice’ and then feel where that is placed for YOU.
Remember that spot for the perfect spot for YOU every time.

If it feels good and it sounds good… you’re probably onto a winner (even if for you, it is ‘eyebrow voice’)! For more, personalised vocal tips and sessions, get in touch today.

Christopher David Mitchell x

Posture and Alignment

28th November 2017

Posture and alignment

Does it really matter if my hips, arms, chest, shoulders aren’t properly aligned and free? The vocal folds are within the larynx, FAR AWAY from all those parts of the body?
Let’s experiment…..
Try clenching your fist, and holding your arm tense. Is it just your arm that’s affected? Or does this tension transfer to your shoulders, chest, neck? The tension even in your arm can transfer all the way to the external muscles of larynx. So realise, we’re always connected. Muscle to muscle. Joint to joint. Every muscle affects another group of muscles. Keep this in mind, keep great posture and alignment. Great Freedom in the body will promote great freedom in the larynx.

For more top tips from an expert UK vocal coach, visit my blog page.

 

Breath Support

15th September 2017

Once we breathe in (most efficiently with an apoggio breath, with rectus abdominus and the intercostals, WOAH!), then what…?!
We have to somehow hold back and resist the air. (Otherwise, if we let it all out too soon, a breath can be gone in a few seconds)
We’ve got 2 main options…
Option 1. Send the air straight up to the vocal folds, and then let the vocal folds/larynx try and hold back a lot of air. They usually do this by over compressing and using the false cords, so the vocal tract narrows in order to try to hold back and resist the air.
Option 2. We can control the air flow in the body. We can use the diaphragmatic muscles, to hold back the air within the body so that the vocal folds receive a steady stream of air, they can then vibrate freely, and just do their natural amazing job. You can feel this, from holding an ‘ss’ and letting out your air very slowly.
I don’t know about you… But I’m going for the latter option (and so are the students in my professional singing lessons)!

Resonance

8th August 2017

More resonance at practically no extra cost!
Resonance (in a nutshell) is everything that you can change above the vocal folds. There’s no excess pressure or effort on the vocal folds themselves. You can basically get resonance for free. Want more ‘brightness’ in your voice? Don’t try to over compress the vocal folds to create it, instead use twang (which is a narrowing of the vocal tract, via the aryepiglottic folds. Woah) to give you brightness without any excess pressure on the vocal folds. Use resonance to your advantage to maximise your voice, with practically no added pressure on the vocal folds. A free gift of resonance.

For more tips, and to learn vocal exercises that will improve your ability, why not book a lesson today?