Live Fearless and Sing Free


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Why do we have to Live Fearless before we can Sing Free? Is it even possible to live free of fear? How do we tackle the seemingly overwhelming process of overcoming our fears and allowing ourselves to freely express who we are? This is a process I am still in the middle of, and a journey I feel we all need to take in order to truly be the best singers, and the best people, we can be. My goal in these posts is to share some of my journey as a singer and performer and the fears I have dealt with, along with some that I’m still dealing with, and hopefully give you some encouragement and empower you to deal with your own fears. I believe that we were all designed to Live Fearless and Sing Free! So let’s go on this journey together and root out those fears that are holding us back from truly being free.

We all deal with fear in some way. Maybe it’s a fear of public speaking, or singing in front of other people, or even simply admitting you want to sing. Auditions can cause anxiety, performances can cause panic attacks, and sometimes even just having to sing happy birthday to our friends can cause us to shrink back and not want anyone to hear us. There is something very personal and often incredibly vulnerable about sharing your voice with others, it can be a very scary thing.

I have found for myself, as well as many of my voice students, that as we deal with our fears and insecurities about our voice or singing in front of people, it often reveals and confronts fears in other areas of our lives. I believe this is because the root of our “performance anxiety” is often the same root as our anxiety in other areas of our life. Even if getting up in front of a crowd of people to belt out the Star Spangled Banner is not your goal, examining how you feel about using your voice in front of people can help you discover and address any inhibitions you may have about sharing your voice, your thoughts, and yourself with the world. It can help you be bold and stand up for yourself, give you more confidence sharing your ideas in the workplace, or simply help you feel more comfortable striking up a conversation with new people. So while I may direct most of these posts to specific things singers deal with, remember that we ALL have a VOICE. Even if you aren’t singing on stage in front of hundreds of people, it’s important to feel free to share your voice, and who you are, with those around you.
Dealing with fear is one of the first things I talk about in voice lessons, even before working on vocal technique. What many of us don’t realize is that while vocal technique is important, the mental and emotional component is just as, if not more, important. The reality is that our fears have a physical effect on us. There is a physical response to being afraid: Fight, flight, or freeze. Most people get tense or lose their breath when they are nervous, which counteracts your vocal technique. So while the first techniques we work on are breathing and relaxing, those are also usually the first things to go out the window if you aren’t able to control your nerves when you got to perform!

Not only does your fear affect your physical ability, but that emotional connection and expression that makes a truly great performance only comes when we are confident and not holding back our voice or our personality! It takes a great deal of vulnerability to have a truly authentic performance. That authenticity is what makes your performance real and unique to you, it is what makes your performance special. True authenticity requires vulnerability and takes great courage.

Just like our performance is made up of physical and emotional components, I feel like our fears can also be broken down into physical (practical) and emotional fears. In my journey, I found that while I dealt first with the physical/practical side of things, in truth those things were only symptoms of the deeper emotional reasons for those fears…like perfectionism. Practical fears are those things that can be worked out with practice. Things like being afraid of hitting the wrong note, tripping on stage, forgetting the lyrics (that’s my big one!!), having my voice crack, etc. Those are things I can work on in practice and feel confident when I walk on stage because I’ve done it correctly in practice.

While I do have some tips on how to practice through those types of fears, I think the most important thing is really getting to the Root of those fears and dealing with those deep emotional fears that cause us to feel terror at the thought of screwing up. Let’s be honest, none of us are going to have a perfect performance every time. We have all made mistakes on stage…seriously, the stories I have of forgetting lyrics, singing the wrong tune, and even losing a shoe on stage, while funny now, were not so awesome when they happen in front of a huge crowd of people.

So in the next few posts we are going to break down those practical fears and dive in to what may be underneath them. Why is it so terrible for my voice to break, or for me to forget the lyrics? What do I think will happen if I mess up? Why is it so important for my performance to be perfect? For me answering these questions is how voice lessons became like therapy for my whole life!

Even now I’m working through another layer of deep things that can cause me to hold back from being vulnerable and truly authentic, in life and in my performance. I feel like throughout this journey God has often brought me back to those early days of working through my practical fears and the emotional fears underneath them to reveal and confront another layer of what is keeping me from singing completely free. My hope is that no matter where you are on your journey, as I share mine we can all grow in our ability Live Fearless and Sing Free!

 

Remind yourself and show the world how you live fearless and sing free! Purchase yours by clicking the links below!


      Live Fearless Tank Blue   Live Fearless with Ms Forte

Video Update

Just a quick update on my personal journey and what you can expect to see from me in the future!

Therapy Thursday: Having an Authentic Performance

Hey Everyone… It’s been awhile since I posted, and of course I have all sorts of reasons/excuses for that. I decided to try to pursue some performing dreams and started auditioning for a number of things, which took a great deal of time to prepare. But to be honest the biggest reason is the same issue I dealt with when going to all my auditions….I’m super nervous. See I have this “perfectionist” nature where I feel like everything must be exactly right and I want to be put together and “professional” and have people see me and go “wow!” Don’t we all want people to say “wow”?! Maybe it’s just cuz I’m a performer…but whatever. So I have been nervous about auditions…and nervous about putting out videos, cuz the truth is, I don’t have it all together, and when it comes to videos I certainly don’t have it all together! I feel like I am this crazy mix of confidence and insecurity. On the one hand, I am confident in my singing ability and even in my teaching ability, worked through most of the nerves on those years ago…however, my video shooting/editing/people actually being interested in watching what I have to say…not so much. But going through these auditions (and bombing some of them!) has taught me some things…or rather started to teach me some things (it’s a process)… and I think it’s going to change my approach to this blog/videos. I definitely still want to share vocal tips and lessons and practical help for how to use your voice. But I think I’m going to open it up and do a little more “not so structured” for a bit. Even if it’s just for me! So here’s a few things I’m learning through my audition process:
The number one thing I have been told by coaches/actors/singers/casting directors/everyone is BE AUTHENTIC. Give an “authentic performance”, be true to the character and let your choices come from a real place, we want to see YOU, we want to hear YOUR heart/emotions/what the song means to you. Whether you are auditioning for a “character” or singing something as yourself, people want to hear and see YOU, what you bring to the song and/or role. Show YOUR Best self is what they say…but how to do that?! While I obviously don’t have all the answers (or I would be getting many more jobs!) here’s some things I am learning.
How to have an authentic performance/audition.
1) Know who you are
2) LIKE who are…Flaws and All
3) Believe and expect that people will like who you are…flaws and all!
Be willing to risk being honest, with yourself and others. Put yourself out there. It’s scary, but it’s actually what people are looking for. I’m so amazed at how I “think” I’m doing this in songs, but realize that I’m “acting”…and in order to give an “authentic” performance I have to be willing to let people see my flaws and insecurities as well as my awesomeness 😊

SO, since I need to work on this, I’m going to do it here, on the internet, in front of God and everybody so to speak 😊 I’m going to commit to sharing one thing about myself every week. Just being open and honest and real about who I am, my life, thoughts, music, whatever. It may not be great quality, but I’m going to do it! This is my work at not being a perfectionist and thinking that everything has to be totally professional and put together. Hopefully, one day I will get there, but truthfully if I do it will be because I have paid people to help me…cuz I certainly can’t do it on my own! Hopefully, through watching my journey, flaws and all, I can help you find your voice as well!

Warm up Wednesday: Tongue Twisters

So I’m planning to do a full post on the importance of warming up, and tips for a great warm up, etc.  But since I’m heading into tech week for a show and am short on time, I’m just going to give one tip!

Warm up what you NEED!  I always warm up my full range, but might concentrate on a specific area or style based on the song.  Always warm up at least 1-2 notes lower and higher than you need to for the song.  If your song is a belting song, make sure you warm up your belt.  If it is a classic soprano song, warm up your legit voice.  If you are like me and your show covers the whole kit and caboodle of range and style…warm it ALL up!

You can also warm up specific things like holding long notes, connecting your breath, or long phrases.  Coming into Christmas…songs like O holy Night, Silent Night, and O little town of Bethlehem are going to have those long phrases.

Or if you have a patter song or fast song, it’s great to warm up that diction.  Sondheim stuff, Watch what Happens, or God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen tend to go better when you have already warmed up your tongue, jaw, and speech.  Here is a video with a couple tongue twister warm ups:

 

Technique Tuesday : Articulator-your jaw

Hey Everyone!  This week I just want to give you some quick tips on how to keep your jaw relaxed and open while you sing!

Find the hinge that works your jaw and simply open until you feel it release.  That is your natural singing position.  Basically, wherever your jaw naturally “drops.”   Think of this as your neutral position so everything should come back to this.  That’s right…open, not closed, is our neutral!  It actually requires muscles to keep our jaw closed, and we want to keep all of our muscles (except those abs) as relaxed as possible when we sing.  Start with just keeping your jaw in a nice easy dropped position!

Keep the jaw open and relaxed and don’t move it when you change pitch!  Now of course, we are going to have to open and close the jaw when we say words, but in reality we don’t HAVE to move our jaw as much as we do, so when we sing we actually try to eliminate unnecessary movement!  We want to be especially careful that we are not moving our jaw to “help” us change our pitch.  If you are singing one vowel (like ah’s in warm ups) there is no need to move your jaw with every pitch change.  You may need to open it as you go higher to create more space, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  Use you finger on your chin or even just watch yourself in the mirror and see how often you are moving your jaw when you don’t actually need to. 🙂  You might be surprised.

Check out this video for more practice tips:

 

Technique Tuesday: Resonance Part 2! Nasal vs Forward

Hey Everyone!  It’s Technique Tuesday and we are getting into the fun stuff of how to create colors and enhance the tone quality of the sounds we are making!  Last week we talked about how to add bass…Resonance Part 1   so this week, let’s talk about Treble!  So many of us have been told not to sing through our nose that we have often gone too far the other way and have neglected the amazing tool that our nasal cavity can be for us when we sing.  Yes, it is easy to get too nasally and for most of us that is not a pleasant sound, but a) it does have its place in certain styles, and b) using nasal or forward resonance can be a great tool and it is possible to use without sounding nasally if we know how to balance it out!

So let’s clarify, I do not want to teach you to “sing through your nose”, but I may teach you to think about singing into your nose. 🙂  The difference is this:  I don’t want air to come through your nose, rather I want you to feel the vibrations that sending the sound waves to that resonating cavity will cause.  I also feel like often it’s easier to learn how to feel and control the sensation when we aren’t worrying about how it sounds…so just experiment!  Let the sound be nasty, and then we can work to balance it out!

Here’s how forward resonance can help you:

  • Forward resonance can help you sound louder without having to push more air or strain your vocal chords. I recently attended a NATS workshop and I loved how Craig Bohmler (Composer in Residence at Arizona Opera) put it, “Forward resonance is the poor man’s volume.”
  • Forward resonance can also help you eliminate breathiness as well as hold notes/phrases longer. It can help you to focus your air so instead of extra air escaping your mouth, you are sending a more concentrated stream into a smaller area and use your air more efficiently.
  • It can help you mix your head and chest voice and bring your chesty belt up higher!! It helps to keep the powerful sound of your chest, while you are actually allowing the voice to shift.
  • It also helps to bring power and volume to your head voice!

 

So why don’t we all use this all the time!  Well, part of it is that it is easy for it to be too much and sound more nasal than we want.  If we aren’t in control of it, it can take away the warmth and depth of our voice, especially in chest voice/belt.  So it is really important to know how to use that open throat (see this blog:Resonance Part 1    ) in order to create a balanced sound.

Finding forward resonance can be a bit tricky, but is also pretty fun.  It’s a lot easier to demonstrate, so check out this video.  Forward Resonance Video

My biggest caution is this:  make sure you pay attention to the FEEL, not just the Sound!  You can make that nasal sound by squeezing your throat…but that is NOT nasal/forward resonance and can cause tension and strain on your vocal folds.  So make sure that you are focusing on feeling the “buzz” or “hum” in your nose/cheekbones/forehead, wherever.  Just make sure you think about keeping that throat relaxed instead of squeezing it 🙂  Happy Practicing!!

Technique Tuesday: Resonators and how they help you shape your sound!

Technique Tuesday!!

Well, actually this week it’s closer to Technique Thursday…but I got a little busy and then was distracted by the CUBS Winning the World Series!!  WOOHOO!  I’m not normally a baseball fan, but my dad has been a die hard Cubs fan my whole life, so it’s always been my team…growing up 40 miles away from Chicago will do that for you!  So historic games that like that are actually a must watch.  I do apologize for getting the blog out late!

Resonators:

Ok, so we have talked about breathing and how our breath passes through our vocal chords to make sound.  We even covered how our vocal chords can change configuration to give us different sounds and hit higher pitches.  But the truth is that while our sound is produced by our breath passing through our vocal cords and making them vibrate, it doesn’t just come out our throat exactly as the cords make it.  The sound waves produced by our vocal cords pass through our “resonating cavities” – our throat/mouth and nasal cavity before coming out our mouth.  What we do with those spaces as well as our articulation of the words is what creates the quality and color of our sound.  So here is where the fun begins!

There are two main spaces for our sound to resonate…our throat/mouth and our nasal cavity.  I like to think of it like this: I make the sound with my breath and vocal cords, but I EQ the sound by how I shape my mouth and utilize my resonators.  I can create different tone qualities, colors, emotions, and sounds just be changing where and how much the sound resonates, the shape of my mouth, and even how I say words.  All of that is getting a little more advanced, but I want you to see what’s possible when you learn how to control these different aspects of your voice.

So let’s start with your throat/mouth area.  If you have ever taken voice lessons or even sung in a classical choral setting, you have probably heard them term “open throat.”  Just like “breathe from your diaphragm” it seems to be one of those terms that we throw around a lot but don’t always explain well, or even know how to explain or teach.  And honestly, I am one of those same teachers…it’s difficult to explain because the more you try to do it, the less it seems to actually work.  The gist of it is this, we want our soft palate to raise and our throat to relax and open in much the same way it does at the beginning of a yawn.  Now, there is a point in a yawn where often your throat tightens, but we want to hold the position before that happens.  However, the key to this is that I want it relaxed, if you are trying to force your mouth open or your soft palate to raise, it’s not going to work properly.  I once had a teacher say they wanted my soft palate so relaxed that the act of me inhaling caused it to raise because the air just pushed it up.

Let’s take a second and talk about inhaling…through the nose or through the mouth?  There is some discussion about what’s best for singing and some are taught very strictly to do one or the other.  I say, do what works for you.  It may depend on the style or the song, the sound you want, etc.  For me, I typically breathe through my mouth because that’s how I got the feeling of “beginning of a yawn” and could set my mouth in the right place through that breath.  However, I know other people who use “smell a rose” or any number of other things where they inhale through the nose and get the same feeling.  The most important thing is that you are breathing correctly and setting yourself up to sing properly.  (For more on breathing see:   http://msfortestudio.com/2016/09/28/technique-tuesday-breathing-101/

The best way I have found to get used to this singing with an open throat is to just start making noise while you yawn 🙂  Plus, it’s just fun.  It should feel natural.  Keep that large open space and just make some noise!  Then try different things.  The other one I like is an owl sound.  Feel the sound echo in your mouth.  It’s like you are creating a cavern in your mouth.  The bigger the space the bigger the sound.  The more you can cause those sound waves to bounce around, the bigger the sound you are going to get.  This is what I use to get a bigger, fuller sound…like adding more bass to my EQ!!

 

Wednesday Warm Up

Hey Everyone!  So I thought I would do something different this week and give you a chance to practice the Techniques we have been going through.  So I wanted to give you some breathing exercises to help you practice what we learned!  I know, I know, you have been breathing all your life and never needed to practice before…but the techniques we use for singing are a little different and we want to make sure that we are actually conscious of how we are breathing and being in control of those muscles!  You can use these to warm up your breathing before singing, and start building your breath capacity so you can eventually sing longer phrases, hold notes longer, and even hit higher pitches!  5 minutes a day with these can do wonders!  Here are just a few of my favorite breathing exercises:

Basic Breathing Exercise

Breathe in filling lungs from bottom to top (like a balloon) allowing your stomach to expand.  Make sure your chest and shoulders do not move up!  Use your stomach muscles to keep your rib cage suspended (like when you hold your breath) while you hiss out…making your hiss/breath last as long as possible

Book Breathing Exercise

Lay flat on your back on the floor.  Place a book on your stomach.  Breathe in and feel/watch the book move up and down as you breathe (think baby breathing).  Then try keeping the book up as long as possible while you hiss out.

Once you are comfortable doing that laying down…try standing up!  Place the book between your abdomen and the wall and hold it up while hissing out.  You can lean in a little but make sure to keep resistance against the book, don’t let it push your stomach in!

You can even do this without the wall, just by pushing the book into your abs and forcing them to resist.

Timed Breathing

Breathe in (using basic breathing exercise) for 5 seconds…filling your lungs all the way up.  Hold your breath for 5 seconds, then hiss out for 10 seconds…getting rid of all your air.  Continue until these times become easy…then up your time, always using the ratio 1-1-2.  (so next would be breathe in for 7 seconds, hold for 7,  then hiss out for 14)

Control Exercise

Breathe in using the basic breathing exercise…as you hiss out, make the hiss louder and softer.  Concentrate on how your stomach muscles tighten and relax to make the hiss louder and softer.  Remember relax does not mean let go!

 

 

Making Sound 102: why does my voice break?

It’s Technique Tuesday!!  Unfortunately, my computer crashed and with it my thoroughly thought out blog post for today… so you will just have to watch the video and then comment with some questions and I can take the time to try include answers and clarify when I write out the info!  Happy Singing!

 

Technique Tuesday: Making Sound 101

We’ve spent a couple weeks on Breathing…and now we get to find out why!  How does our air affect our sound?  Why is it so important that we have control over our airflow?  How does this help me sing?
Well, the answers come when we understand how our voice works.  I like to think of your voice as a string/wind instrument.  Most of us know that our vocal folds are what produce sound…that’s why we think about sound being made in our “voice box” or throat area…cuz it is.  Sound is made by our vocal folds vibrating together…kind of like when you do a lip buzz or raspberry to make car noises or just entertain a baby 🙂  You notice when you do that if you go faster the pitch raises, and what is controlling that speed?  Yep, how much air you are pushing through those lips!  The same is true of our vocal cords.
The vocal cords produce sound much like a string instrument.  Think about a guitar or violin.  The strings vibrate and produce sound.  The specific pitch is determined by how many times per second the string vibrates.  Pretty much the extent of my physics knowledge is how sound waves work in regard to pitch.  The more waves per second/vibrations…the higher the pitch.  Basically, the faster your vocal folds vibrate, the higher the pitch, and the slower they vibrate, the lower the pitch.
The thing is…when you think about a string instrument, the strings are passive!  The strings vibration is what makes the sound but there is always an outside force that causes them to vibrate, whether it’s a guitar pick or a bow sliding across a violin, something else has to make the strings vibrate.
For us, that’s our air!  That’s right…this amazing instrument called our voice is also a wind instrument.  Think about a flute or trumpet…you blow into it and it makes sound.  Often you can change the pitch or sound by how much air you use.  The same is true of our voice.  If you want to raise your pitch, you need the strings (vocal cords) to vibrate faster, so what do you do?  Blow more air through them.
Granted, this is not the ONLY thing you have to do, but it is the most basic.  We can tweek the resonators or how you say vowels or a number of other things all we want, but the truth is if you don’t use your air to make your vocal cords vibrate, it’s not going to matter.  So get used to using that breath control and making sound!  Work your way through your whole range and start to get used to how much air it takes for each note.
One more note:  while a certain amount of tension in your vocal folds can be felt and is necessary…like tuning a guitar string, if you tighten too much, the string doesn’t play and can even break!  Most of us have a tendency to tighten our throats because we are trying to use our throat muscles (constrictors) to force the vocal folds to vibrate instead of letting the air make that happen.  Try thinking about taking that tension from your throat and moving it to your abs.  Check out this video for more:
https://youtu.be/vqOJMwXDOM8