You’re actually carrying the most fragile musical equipment in your group –says Lisa Popeil
What do Adele, John Mayer, Maxwell, Simon LeBon, Art Garfunkel, Nicki Minaj, and Roger Daltrey have in common?
They’ve all experienced the difficult and frightening reality of having to cancel performances or tours because of voice problems.
Besides the emotional trauma of potentially long-term voice loss, the financial consequences of cancelled performances affect a whole lot of people, including managers, agents, merchandisers, venues, roadies and their families.
All because of the tiny, penny-sized pieces of tissue called the vocal folds.
What’s a lead singer to do? Enlist the help of your manager, band-mates and close associates – making them your allies in the challenge of staying on the road and off the operating table.
Vocal Folds Are The Gold.
Your manager may think of you, a touring singer as an instrumentalist without the inconvenience of extra cartage and tech costs, but the fact is that singers carry the most fragile equipment of all: the vocal folds.
I call the vocal folds ‘the gold’ of the whole operation.
Almost all of the lead singers in bands I coach come to me with similar concerns: vocal fatigue, a battle for high notes, neck grabbing, hoarseness, tension or grabbing sensations in the neck, and an overall sense that they’re not singing correctly.
Now of course, there’s no substitute for good vocal technique such as knowing how to stand (posture), how to breathe and support, and how to create projected sound without squeezing the vocal folds.
But the problems lead singers experience is often exacerbated by the dynamic of the members of the band. It’s just so easy for instrumentalists to ‘turn up’, not realizing that there’s a real limit to the volume singers can or should produce
Create Your Own Advocates
Recently I had a well-known rock singer come to see me mid-tour, terrified that with each show, his voice was degrading steadily with increasing pain.
Besides working on vocal technique with him and creating vocal health strategies, including nebulizer use and teaching him ‘laryngeal massage’, I got the manager to attend our sessions.
The manager then becomes the primary advocate of the singer – not just representing the band to the world but representing the singer to the rest of the band and road crew.
So how can the lead singer impart the importance of protecting the band’s ‘gold’ (the vocal folds) without sounding like a whiner?
I’ve written a letter to your manager for you – if you don’t have a manager, you can see it as a letter to your band-mates, family and close associates – anyone who is involved in managing your performances.
Feel free to adapt it, steal from it or borrow passages from it.
After all, we want your name is in the headlines because of your amazing success and not embarrassingly linked to ‘vocal problems’.
Gina’s Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vids
Max Morris – Chapels and Airplanes (Original)
Max, I love the poetic lyrics in this original song. You have an intense gaze, and it would be great to see different emotions come through your eyes as you sing. You have an approachable tone to your voice and the breathy quality creates an intimate feel. I would love to hear more dynamic variation in your voice – occasionally use a clearer, stronger tone – and in the instrumentation and melody line, for example. Try lifting your cheekbones and forehead a bit while singing to add more spark to your tone.
Elli Perez – Russian Roulette (Cover)
Elli, you have a very versatile voice. You can be light and easy-flowing, and then you can erupt into a strong and powerful wail. Very cool. The room you are singing in is really bouncy, so think about recording in a room where we can hear your voice clearly (and try to get it all in one take). Be careful of your chin position on the high, “belty” notes. It creates strain on your vocal cords when you pop your chin up, so just keep that chin even to floor, and you’ll get that great sound with less effort.
Ivan Lopez – First Day of My Life (Cover)
Ivan, you’ve a got a relaxed charisma and a very natural sound. When the song stays close to your speaking range, your voice sounds balanced and sweet. When you get to the high notes, though, try using your abdomen to support the sound more. Breathe low into your belly so that your belly expands, and then use your ab muscles to keep it expanded WHILE you sing (don’t let it collapse in). Those high notes will come out easier. Nice awkwardness in the last couple seconds.
Lisa Popeil, MFA in Voice, is a top LA voice coach, voice scientist and researcher, contributor to the ‘Oxford Handbook of Singing’, is a voting member of NARAS (Grammys®), creator of the Voiceworks® Method, the ‘Total Singer’ DVD and a new book ‘Sing Anything-Mastering Vocal Styles’ and has taught voice professionally for over 35 years. www.popeil.com
Gina Latimerlo is a polished performer of over 20 years. Teaching and directing since 1995, she opened The Latimerlo Studio in 1998. Her students have performed on Broadway, in touring companies, and have signed with talent agents and record labels. In addition to the main studio, The Latimerlo Studio oversees private voice teachers in over a dozen cities in the San Francisco Bay Area. www.latimerlo.com