Singer…. know thyself!

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Good morning vocalists!

How do you feel about your level of competency as a musician/vocalist?  It’s a curious thing to see the number of people who have no idea what they sound like when they sing. Some folk’s unconscious incompetence is clear to those listening but they have no clue they are singing off pitch.

Here’s a little something that can help you determine what stage you are in regarding your competency.  It can be helpful in giving you perspective in setting and pursuing your goals.

THE FOUR STAGES OF COMPETENCE

– Unconscious incompetence
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.

– Conscious incompetence
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.

– Conscious competence
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.

– Unconscious competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

source: wikipedia

What about effects?

In my last post I briefly took a look at Digital to Analog Conversion. Today I’d like to discuss effects.  Not guitar pedal effects, which in my case would probably make more sense to those of you who know me well, but Digital Audio Effects used when configuring a digital mixing board, their categories, plugins and properties when using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

This is the third post in a series devoted to completing assignments for an online Introduction to Music Production class.  I hope you enjoy reading about what I’m learning and perhaps get some learning along the way.  Any input on your part is appreciated. Thanks in advance for taking the time to read through the material.

Categories of effects: Teach the effect categories including which plugins go in each category and which property of sound each category relates to.

Categories of Effects: Plugins and Properties.

The process of recording, mixing and editing music has come a long way and those that have gone before us have paved the way to great music production by giving us some pretty awesome tools or plugins that help us get the sound we’re hearing in our heads into the airwaves and into the ears of our audience.  The complex spectrum of Audio Effects at our fingertips is simplified a great deal when we understand their categories and the most appropriate way to configure them into a signal flow based on their uses.

Digital Audio Effects fit into three basic categories in digital processing that relate directly to some basic elements of sound itself.   These three categories are

Category 1: Dynamic Effects

Category 2: Delay Effects

Category 3: Filter Effects.

  1. Dynamic effects plugins- generate amplitude over time.  You may recognize these effects as gates, compressors, expanders and limiters and can give the listener a sense of emotional intensity or help the music “tell the story” by increasing or decreasing the dynamic.
  2. Delay effects plugins –  Sound propagation or the speed at which a sound travels through and around objects can be simulated in the DAW to give us a sense of space.  Delay effects, like chorus, or phase and reverb as well as the flange make a recording sound as though it were played in a large or small space.  If you want your audience to get the feeling they are in a concert hall or perhaps outdoors delay effects can accomplish it.
  3. Filter effect plugins control something called timbre, (ˈtambər) or particular sound quality of an instrument such as a trumpet or violin or a voice.  When you adjust highs and lows in the DAW you are using filters.  The most common filters are the parametric and graphic equalizer or EQ.  Other Filters include high, low and band pass filters.

My first assignment was to discuss signal flow in a home production studio set-up.  Part of the signal flow which I did not discuss in-depth included the flow through the DAW itself.  Knowing where to position which effects can help a lot when producing music especially when mixing multiple tracks.

For instance, lets assume you’re mixing several background vocals and you equalized them carefully but now you want your listeners to feel as though the singers had performed in a great cathedral.  You’d want to add a delay effect plugin.  Trying to mix delay into each singer’s track individually and keep it consistent between the tracks would take some time to accomplish but if you routed those tracks into one sub-track you could filter them all at the same time, equally, and get that cathedral sound without all the fuss of individual mixing for that plugin.

So, you see, having an understanding of when and where to use which effect can make a huge difference in time management in the studio as well as improve accuracy and efficiency in the processing stages.

In reflection I’ve learned so much as I’ve contemplated and researched this topic.  My appreciation for those who have a great knowledge and understanding of this topic. Learning these categories and knowing where the plugins fit helps me get my head around some complexities that would otherwise be out of my reach!  And, in the end it’s not so overwhelming.

Thank you again for taking the time to read through my topic and for sharing your knowledge with me!

The Analog to Digital Conversion Process

Hello musicians and friends! My name is Cosima and this is my second assignment for Intro to Music Production online at Coursera.org.  For this assignment I’ve chosen to discuss the analog to digital conversion process.  I spent some time reading up on the process and enjoyed learning something new.  I hope my post will spark some interest in this topic for my readers.  Thanks for visiting my blog and reading my post.

Analog to digital conversion process

In my last post I indicated that the source of an audio signal in my studio generally is a voice.  The sound of that voice affects the air and creates longitudinal pressure variations that are picked up by a microphone which converts those variations into voltage variations know as  an analog signal. That’s great for live performance but if we want to send that signal into a computer’s digital audio workstation (DAW) we’ll need to convert the analog wave signal to a digital signal or data.

The only thing the computer can deal with is strings of numbers. Things represented in 1 and 0s, called binary information.  So, there’s a process to go from the continually variable sound into a stream of ones and zeros and that process is called a sampling process.  An analog signal is a wave form that is a continuous stream of data that the computer can’t recognize whereas digital data is discrete or individually separate and distinct. To convert the analog wave into digital data of ones and zeros I’ll need to use the Analog to Digital converter in an  audio interface device.

The audio interface uses a common method that converts analog to digital that involves three steps: Sampling, Quantization and Encoding.

SAMPLING

[Image: Sampling of Analog Signal]

The analog signal is sampled at an interval rate making many, many measurements per second.  Most important factor in sampling is the rate at which the analog signal is sampled.  Over 40,000 times per second to be able to accurately represent the continuously variable signals in the air as a digital representation.  And the higher the sampling rate the higher frequency that can be represented accurately in the digital domain.  And this frequency  is known as the Nyquist frequency, just half a sampling rate.  So a sampling rate of 44,100 hertz can accurately represent half of that in the digital domain, 22,050 hertz.  The human ear can hear a range of about 20,000 hertz and the CD standard sampling rate is 44,100 hertz which will accurately represent everything we hear as human beings.

QUANTIZATION

[Image: Quantization of sampled analog signal]

Sampling yields a discrete or individually separate and distinct form of continuous analog signal. Every discrete pattern shows the amplitude, the extent of a vibration or oscillation, of the analog signal at that instance. The quantization is done between the maximum amplitude value and the minimum amplitude value. Quantization is approximation of the instantaneous analog value.

ENCODING

[Image: Encoding from quantization]

In encoding, each approximated value is then converted into binary format of 1s and 0s the computer can then recognize which we now can manipulate in our DAW for the purpose of music production.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my post!  Please feel free to leave comments.  Your input is appreciated.

(sources include http://www.tutorialspoint.com and wikipedia) 

Life happens! That means Summer Specials are on!

Hey singers! Would you like to save up to $100?

Summer is in full swing at “The Voice Box Vocal Studio.”  There’s things to do, places to go and people to see and calendars and schedules are a-changin’.  Music students are taking time off and they have been canceling and rescheduling lessons all over the place!

That means my appointment book has openings, so I’ve decided it’s time you get a great deal!  I’m running a special for the remainder of the summer for 2013 prices until September 22, 2014!

Between now and September 22 you could get as many as 10 lessons for $225 ..  That’s a $100 savings!   Don’t miss the chance to take advantage of this offer.  Spaces are limited so book your lessons before Fall begins and save your spot in my appointment book for the future.

Contact me to find out more and get this deal before it’s gone.

Mention SUMMER SINGER SPECIAL at registration to receive your discount.

Special applies to new and returning students.  Certain specials may apply to currently enrolled students.

What a voice lesson looks like!

Ever wonder what your voice lesson might be like? Here’s a sample of my lesson notes from a 60 min free mini-lesson given this week. Have you set yours up yet?

NAME: xxxxxx
3/13 Vocal Evaluation & mini-lesson:
Vocal Evaluation determined beginning range to be: Undetermined at this time.
Possible Choral Alto/Choral Mezzo Soprano
Range at first lesson : C3 – G5

Lesson Goals:

  • Intro to vocal mechanics 
  • The vocal registers and range
  • Chest voice, head voice, whistle voice, falsetto, vocal fry
  • Breathing for singing
  • Recognizing and dealing with tension

Foundational exercises 

  1. Isolating outer muscles of the larynx to gain control and free the vocal cords 
    1. Bubble exercise – placing finders on cheeks where teeth join to produce a loose lip pucker. Sing through the low end of your range to the high end with minimal effort without tripping over the ‘breaks’ in your range. Remember to control breath support. Avoid letting all the air escape all at once.
    2. This foundational exercise should become a daily routine. The action of the lips frees up the vocal cords by releasing unwanted outer larynx muscles and setting the larynx up for correct speech-level position. Paying close attention to all the sensations in the vocal apparatus will help you isolate the healthy vocal function needed for beautiful, free singing.
    3. What to remember – learn to recognize vocal cord adjustments by how they feel. 
  2. Working towards Pure Tone
    1. Vocal fry – vocal cord vibration with no tone.
    2. Positions the vocal cords for optimum connection thereby producing a pure clear tone with minimal effort. Also foundational. While most exercises such as the Bubble, are only part of a vocal workout or warm up routine the vocal fry will remain part of how you sing.
    3. What to remember – expect progress over time with good practice habits.
  3. Good breathing for singing
    1. Diaphragmatic breathing – using the diaphragm to draw air into the lungs rather than ‘filling up the lungs’ from the top down.
    2. Making this part of a daily practice routine will build the support you need to move you toward controlled phrasing and support steady well placed tone while maintaining pitch control.
    3. What to Remember – Breathing for singing is different than breathing for speech. 
  4. Tension busters
    1. Relaxing in the jaw and mouth. (see blog for exercises to release jaw and tongue tension)
    2. Open relaxed jaw and mouth for better volume/diction

Overcoming hurdles through training.

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One of my vocal students has come to a hurdle in her vocal journey. Mary tells me she’s lost strength in her chestvoice after working on having free vocal production in her headvoice with light connection.

This hurdle is so common amongst vocalists. One day they have great success through their range and the next day they have difficulty repeating it. It can be a frustrating process but it doesn’t have to be.

So, how do singers get past vocal hurdles like Mary’s? Conditioning! We’ve got to strengthen and coordinate the vocal folds and the muscles and bring balance between air flow, vocal folds and muscles. We achieve this only through the training process. It doesn’t happen over night any more than training for a marathon does. This is why vocalists need to train through their whole range, over their breaks, from low chestvoice to high headvoice and back, without any noticeable fluctuations in tone production, breath control or dynamic volume.

Vocal training produces confidence, because vocal training develops consistency in the voice. There’s nothing more thrilling for a singer than to have the confidence their voice will perform to their expectations every time in every situation because they have consistency in their voice! Having a daily vocal exercise routine is the singers most effective tool in their pursuit of consistency and PURE VOCAL FREEDOM!

Using the iPad on your Vocal Journey

Did you know that most people, when trained, can learn to sing really well? To be one of them, you need two things: 1. vocal training, 2. a good sense of pitch. The Erol Singers Studio app gives you not only world-class voice lessons to develop your voice, but also instant visual feedback on your pitch during the lessons, so you also develop an accurate sense of pitch. It’s a complete voice and ear training program that comes with dozens of voice lessons that were designed by an award winning singer and vocal coach to help you learn about your voice and become a better singer.

During practice, target notes and your actual pitch are simultaneously displayed onscreen, so you can actually see and correct any pitch problems before they become habits.

The app comes with 36 unique voice lessons ranging from beginner to advanced, each individually crafted to build a specific skill, each with detailed instructions and audio examples for both males and females so you know exactly what to do.

All the essentials you will need are already included, and you don’t need to make any additional purchases to get all the benefits. With regular use of the app, your breathing, tone, range, and vocal flexibility will improve, and you will sound better singing your favorite songs.

See how fun it can be to develop your voice and be able to sing songs you never could before!Erol Singer’s Studio is not only the most beginner-friendly voice training app on the market, but with its support for standard sheet music notation, accurate pitch analysis, and exercises for all levels of singers, it is also the most powerful one for more advanced singers.

“Certainly the best App for singers in the App Store! … A Killer App!”
– Apps4iDevices

“This is a near perfect system. I am thrilled with the scope and effectiveness of this app. … I’ll be sharing this with many others.”
– Forum comment on Vocal Health section of the User’s Manual

How I use the Erol Singers Studio App
BEGINNERS:

  • Listen to you to detect vocal range, and customize the lessons to a comfortable range for the students voice type. I use this feature from the first lesson; it makes the notes much easier to sing, which helps the student to focus on learning.
  • Shows when the student sings the right notes and help them sing on pitch
  • Teaches correct singing techniques that are widely used around the world
  • Allows practice that encourages the students that may be shy about singing in front of others.

INTERMEDIATE SINGERS:

  • Helps students identify and focus on parts of their range where have problems
  • Increases range and tracks progress
  • Improves the quality of their tone
  • Helps smooth vocal breaks
  • Improves musical ear

ADVANCED SINGERS:

  • Provides effective warmup/cooldown exercises
  • Keeps the voice in top shape with a thorough voice exercise program
  • Improves sight singing when following the music notation instead of the note bubbles
  • (Optional) See the “Ear Training for Singers” package mentioned below

AS A TEACHER:
– I’m not much of a piano player so scales and arpeggios take some concentration. This app gives me some great exercises I can use with my students so I get to focus on the student
– Helps my new students see when they’re flat

I hope you check it out. The price is right at $14.95 on iTunes. Erol Singers Studio is a serious tool that’s fun. The app that will truly improve your singing. It comes with 36 lessons included (covering beginner to advanced), with an option to buy more exercises such as the “Ear Training for Singers” bundle that includes an additional set of 60 exercises for scales, intervals, and arpeggios that will greatly expand your musicianship.

What Makes a Singer Confident Their Voice Will “Perform” Every Time?

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I hear it all the time.  Someone sings on a worship team in their church and they want to improve their technique or they are thinking about quitting because “it hurts to sing.”  They feel like they have no real control over their voice and singing is stressful and, frankly for some, just no fun.

I sympathize with these people because more than 15 years ago that was me.  I had vocal fatigue after singing on Sundays and by Monday I was ready to quit.  My technique was not getting me any closer to improving the problem and I knew it.  

I went to a vocal coach only to be disappointed by their lack of sincerity in wanting to really help me with the problems I faced and I walked away from the lesson no better off than I was when I arrived.  A pure waste of my $$ and time not to mention I felt very discouraged.

Maybe that’s you.  Maybe you are reading this and thinking, “Girl, you are telling my story!”

I’m here to tell you that there is help!!

Help for me came when I met a girl that had great singing technique and asked you how she found her voice.  She hooked me up with Speech Level Singing (Seth Riggs) and it changed my singing forever.  Yes, there is help for you!

If you cant go to a good coach you can do something about it.  There are some good Speech Level Singing Coaches out there and Brett Manning is one of them.  Hop over to SingingSuccess.com and take a peek at the free video tips and other information.  I promise you, this is not a gimmick sales pitch.  The Singing Success Program really does work and you really can learn to sing better and higher with ease and control right in your own home or car or anywhere you can play a CD or MP3.

Now, I wish you would come to me and let me be your vocal coach but let me tell you, you can get Brett Manning, a 5 Star Speech Level Singing Vocal Coach, anywhere and anytime with the program.  I used Singing Success and recommend it to all our vocalists at Calvary Chapel Perris Valley.  It works that good!

Contemporary Vocal Warm Up and Solfege Technique

Breath Support, Sight Reading and Pitch Recognition are part of a singers training. Have a look at this video I ran across yesterday to see why I was very impressed with the proficiency of this man’s students.

The teacher is using what is called the Solfege Technique. He teaches timing while using breath support techniques PP & K, then Sirens to get the class singing through their breaks. Then watch and see how quickly his class picks Mi right out of the air! Wow!!! I’m impressed. Then some great sight reading to finish it all off. Wish I had some of this when I was in High School.

“This isn’t easy stuff we’re doing!”

. . . says the teacher when they are finished. . . . Ya think?

Sight Reading Music

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Some of us worship musicians are timid about reading music.  It’s a bit daunting if we aren’t used to it but Monica on InTune at the MusicNotes blog gives some great pointers to help us learn to sight read better.  Her article suggests tips for piano, keyboard players and vocalist, but the techniques work great for guitar players too.  

Remember, sight reading is just another part of being a musician.  Tackle it with confidence and watch your skills improve.

 

Get Christian Sheet Music at MusicNotes.com

Free Singing Lessons

One of the things I hear all the time is, “I can’t sing” or ” I want to be a better singer.”  

Most worship leaders and worship vocalists have trouble with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to their voices.  Let’s face it, most of us didn’t intend to become singers it just kind of happened,… one day there we were at a bible study or small group meeting and we were coaxed into leading a few songs.  Our voices just had to come along for the ride and after wards we were wondering if our voices were up to the task.

Today Musicademy shares several free singing lessons from their Seminar CDs that cover breathing, vocal health and harmony.  Be sure and have a look, these are classic techniques that will help even the most timid singer become more confident and strong.

 

For more on singing visit SingingSuccess.com

 

Speech Level Singing Journey

Hey all, I just happened upon an interesting blog.  Really, this wasn’t planned at all!  If your a skeptic or you were wanting some real time proof you can follow the journey of Robert Simpson as he blogs about his progress through the Singing Success Program.  Hop over to his page and read all about it.

Singing Question of the Week: Can I improve my tone quality?

There are a lot of worship leaders that really care about their vocal instrument. (If you haven’t already had a chance, read an e-conversation on how I overcame vocal damage and can sing better, longer and higher today than I did when I was “in my prime.”)    How we use our voice can mean the difference between a long lived vocal ministry or a short one.  Here’s a tidbit from Brett Manning on tone quality.

 

Q.  Can I really improve my tone quality?

A.  “Tone quality improves when the correct musculature is engaged in the singing process. Feel underneath your chin with your forefinger and slide it inwards to the point where your neck meets the muscles under your chin.  Now swallow.  Notice how your larynx (Adam’s apple) raises up and the muscles under your chin tighten up as you swallow?  These muscles that are engaged in the swallowing process are opposed to those engaged in the singing process.  The use of these muscles while singing creates a myriad of problems that can take years to correct if left unchecked.  For good tone quality, you must learn to sing without the outer muscles of the larynx.  Doing so will set free your natural voice, drastically improving tone quality and ease of use.  Naturally, the Singing Success program contains techniques that will help you do this.”

 

 

If your voice is tired after a worship set and you feel like this is a question you might ask, or you are interested in improving your vocal tone and want to get some great vocal instruction, read more about Singing Success and Brett Manning.

Thanks Brett, for all you do to give us the tools to find our own Singing Success!

 

Permission to print by Brett Manning and SingingSuccess.com

More Capo Info

I recently got a call from Ric Flauding, one of the musicians without whom my CD would not have been possible. Ric composes, orchestrates, arranges and plays guitar beautifully. His knowledge and experience far exceed my own. And in the few hours that I’ve spent with him and his wife Denise I’ve grown as a musician and person, and come to truly appreciate them as friends and fellow worshippers.

Anyways, Ric calls me the other day about an article he was writting on the capo. We had a great conversation about using capo’s and about one of my pet peeves- offering our best to God as musicians. I’ve said it on my blog before, “If we are created in the image of God and He is the creator of the universe, then why does the christian music scene seem to be following behind the secular?” And, “I wonder what the great writers of the music of the church like, Handel, Vivaldi, Mendellsonn, Bach and others would have to say about the quality of some of the music we call great.” (ok, so that’s another post)

So, as I said we had a great conversation. Ultimately, we talked about capos and the article. To read what Ric has to say visit Soniccontrol.com. It’s informative and covers some very good, very practical instruction.

Get a cut capo here.