Good Muscle / Bad Muscle

As I continue to work on my own voice I am constantly reminded that the real work is small, subtle, invisible. We do not embrace the simplicity very well. I know many of the blogs are about this very subject, but just like a good ballet class, the components remain the same as you develop your strength and artistry.

Tension in the upper lip can change the muscularity/sound dramatically. Next time you warm up make a conscious effort to keep the cheeks and lips relaxed. You’ll feel and hear and warmer richer resonance.

Try it out on Lesson 3 today!!

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TENSION

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The last blog entry was about pressure, today’s is about tension. Similar, yes! The amount of tension in the body can completely change a singers ability level. Release and relaxation are essential elements in the technical pre-work and I’m finding it more and more beneficial to start without pitches. “Em’s ,”el”s and ah’s sliding through spoken voice intervals are better than a 5 pitch scale to get the face , jaw, tongue and articulators to relax. Moving shoulders, wrists and elbows also immediately help the singer find the magic release!! Everything improves when we get to the
Zero gravity state; tone, pitch, ring, vocal fold closure , and endurance and strength all benefit. Keep the lips lazy and full feeling and enjoy the opportunity to experience a finer level of control.

Revisit old lessons with a new focus on eliminating tension as you work and you’ll very quickly start hearing as well as feeling the difference.

Try Falsetto Fix / Sopranos Too !!

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PRESSURE

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First I will apologize for the long long delay in posting to this blog. No excuses for 2016 !
Ok then, I did more singing and worked with more singers in 2015 than I have in many many years. Voices fascinate me, singers fascinate me, so its been anything but boring to witness. In particular I have heard a lot of mezzo belters all doing the contemporary Broadway repertoire (Wicked, Les Miz, etc). Long story short on who’s A team and who’s not ? — How much pressure is used to execute the sound.

In my technical work (and on line lessons) I talk about the exchange of pressure and release. The more release, the more ring. Once you start using too much pressure the sound gets tight and thin and you start losing cushion. Its like banging on the piano and the hammers hit the strings too hard. Its shrill and amateurish even though it doesn’t feel that way to the singer. Pushing the envelope and experimenting with pressure and color is definitely part of the game, but we learn quickly what the price is for yelling! 😉 One dead give away that you’re in need of more release is when everything starts to sound the same. If the minute you open your mouth you are engaged muscularly in the jaw, shoulders, chest and neck….well…..its gonna be a stiff rough ride. My piano teacher used to tell me I had to listen to myself with someone else’s ears. Not so easy to do! But thats the key, a chef needs to taste his food and musicians need to listen to themselves. Luckily almost every device we have can record and even video record, so , get cracking! Give a listen and give yourself a report card from someone else’s ears.

lesson 1 and G-Gotta get Warmed Up address release and cushion.

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Amy Winehouse

Whether or not you’re a fan, you will have to admit the style and musicianship is extraordinary. We’ve all heard the song a million times and yet, she delivers something completely new. Thats the part that can’t be taught.

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New Vocal Technique Workshop

There is a new Vocal Technique Workshop starting in NYC tonight, June 4, 2015.
For more info on this and future workshops call 212 695 3717

New Ad by Bob Peterson

New Ad by Bob Peterson

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In Real Time

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Ok, first of all I am very late in writing this entry and ironically I’m calling it “In Real Time”. That about says it! Real time is often a lot slower than ‘ideal’ time or ‘hoped for’ time.
The last entry was about colleagues going through medical problems and I can tell you it is taking real time to get through them. First come the tests, then the diagnosis, then the treatment and then the errors in all the previously mentioned. Sad , but true of almost all medical issues. Then comes the rehab and since we are dealing with muscle, it will also take real time to get the desired results. Good news: It all fixable!!!
The voice is a never ending instrument. It doesn’t go back into a case when we’re done making music. It doesn’t sit in the closet till we’re ready to play it. We’re using it all day. It is the communication center of our body and is subject to every emotional and physical change that occurs. It’s so versatile and so expressive it is like no other instrument to play or maintain. (That’s why everybody wants to sing!)

The reason I’m writing about these issues is that I want you to understand that as complicated and as frustrating it may be, the end result is often better than ever! Just because you hit some trouble doesn’t mean the game is over.
I can tell you from my own experience that I have had 3 vocal “nightmares” in my career, and I was happier with my voice coming out of them than I was with my voice going into them. Good news indeed! There is much value in understanding the recovery and repair of any muscle. It gives much needed information and usually leads to a much more sophisticated usage!!

Keep singing!

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Happy HEALTHY New Year !

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This year I am looking at two remarkable vocal changes due to damaged vocal folds. One is a former colleague and the other a current client. I’ve know both of these voices for decades and as a technician I am always aware of the current and past sounds they’ve been able to make. Both are pop/rock/blues singers who are known for aggressive and rough sounds but both have been able to maintain a certain level of consistency to keep their careers going.
Now, however, there are problems at vocal fold level which are bringing them to a crossroads in their singing choices. Without getting too medical, lets just say that vocal fold closure is impaired and they are not able to execute the higher belt pitches the way they used to. Time has taken its toll and now its time for a new chapter of vocal technique.

To make a very long story short it’s about even distribution of weight and pressure, AKA- alignment! Obviously if you do the same movements everyday you will have the strength that goes with those muscles. If you don’t address the rest of the musculature, there are going to be problems. In other words, even a belter with a lower registration has to exercise the head voice and smaller supporting muscles or the system will be uneven at best. Then factor in the speaking voice registration that gets used all day, and you can easily see, if there is no technical program that addresses the entire voice, you’re gonna be in trouble.

The former colleague is currently on Broadway and is trying to work through this as he performs. A rough journey to say the least. He is not my client although I would welcome the opportunity to offer some exercises I am sure would lighten the load for him. My client is taking time off to seek some medical advice and start on a new technical path to get back on his ‘feet’. There isn’t much medical treatment available for the possible scaring on one fold so rehabilitation is recommended. This is good news since medical treatment is terrifying and never guaranteed. I have no doubt that we will correct the closure issue and in the bigger picture his voice will be more satisfying than ever. It’s muscle work, we are vocal athletes. And any athlete will tell you that although indestructible youth has its charm, it’s nothing compared to the sophistication of solid technique and years of experience.

check out MIX IT UP and FALSETTO FIX for advanced alignment exercises.

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I Used to Be (at The IRIDIUM 9/9/14

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September 9 at THE IRIDIUM

Patrick DeGennaro at the Iridium
………………………………………………………………………………. Patrick DeGennaro, singer, ever-creative songwriter, pianist, and educator, not to mention heartthrob, made his debut at the Iridium on September 9, celebrating the release of his EP, “All I Need,” and introducing not only the four original songs on the EP, but also four other songs that he wrote this year. The occasion marked the Iridium debuts of his band members and back-up singers, Alec Berlin on guitar, Jørgen Kjaer on keyboards, Steve Count on bass, Clayton Craddock on drums, and vocalists Jen Heaney and Rachel Sullivan, as well. Patrick was at the Steinway for some of the songs, his own and covers of others’.
As noted when I reviewed his earlier appearances, at Birdland and elsewhere, Patrick’s music mostly concerns love, both hopeful and hopeless. “Anyone Else,” powerhouse and pulsating, and sung with his backups, found him trying hard in a relationship and wondering if it’s worth it or if he and the significant other should pursue other partners instead. In “The One,” on the EP, Patrick considered the “game” that “love is” and that Mr. Right and “the one right now” may be one and the same, and gave us some head tone interludes, something always appreciated. In “Naked Sun,” he sang, with enthusiasm, of sunbathing nude, an increasingly endangered pursuit, on the Fire Island beach, where he completed composing most of his songs. “Why Not Me,” heartfelt and heartrending, from the EP, began with “I hate everybody … except for you,” as he sang, with drive, of unrequited love and, as in some of his other works, ended abruptly.
Patrick’s new “Falling (from a distance … with you),” with the band and the backups, sounded upbeat, but expressed not just anticipation, but pain and hurt as well—“I’m so afraid of you” was a sentiment heard here. “They say that love is not a choice,” Patrick began, singing solo, from the piano, with full feeling, and though the relationship may be hanging by a thread, and despite the heartache, urged or begged the loved one to “Stay,” also on the EP. In title track “All I Need (is to remember … you’re the best thing for me),” on the other hand, he truly cherished and savored the most magical moments in an affair. He was back at the keyboard, and was joined by the band members and back-up singers, for his Aretha Franklin-inspired, surefire showstopper “I Used to Be.”
In his early show, Patrick had yielded center stage to singer Heaney for a couple of songs, and in the late one, which I heard, to Sullivan, with Heaney backing her up. Covering familiar Whitney Houston song “How Will I Know,” with guitarist Berlin, and with soul and spirit, Sullivan handily hit all high notes and low notes, Whitney-style, and her “Gypsy Queen (and her tambourine and the fella that comes in between),” by her musician husband Chris Sullivan, boasted the full colorful throb and wail of music of the Roma.
Patrick included a couple of songs from his 2009 CD “Unbroken,” opening the concert by proudly singing “Standing Up Straight,” a survivor’s song, delivered with verve and in polished tone, and included his haunted, haunting “I Hear Your Voice in the Rain,” in which he replayed scenes of rejection by a loved one. Patrick also gave us a couple of covers of music that he loves. The Beatles’ beautiful ballad “She’s Leaving Home,” was sung and played with elegance and, assisted by both band and back-ups, with his vocal line contrasting with and sometimes, in mixed voice, higher than the women’s. In Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” a duet with guitarist Berlin, he both sang, with wonder, of innocence and effectively brought out the underlying hints of the loss of innocence.
Visit Patrick DeGennaro’s Facebook page or http://www.reverbnation.com/patrickdegennaro for further information.

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Patrick at The IRIDIUM

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