Think about Story Telling, Musicians and Bards…

A long, long time ago in medieval Gaelic and British culture, a bard was a professional story teller, verse-maker and music composer, employed by a patron (such as a monarch or noble), to commemorate one or more of the patron’s ancestors and to praise the patron’s own activities. (Wiki Definition)

Bards kept track of the history of their people and would observe humanity and sing about it; whether local or foreign they would tell stories, counsel against wrong behavior and sing about the consequences of attitude.

Shakespeare would not have been far removed from the Bards. The Bard order having become troupes of performers and artist guilds over time would have a lasting effect on musical story-telling. I am personally very fond of the telling a story in music!

It is often called the language of the soul and the best example I can think of is David playing skillfully for King Saul to drive evil spirits away and refresh him (I Sam 16:14-23).

In fact, according to an Assyrian bas-relief, King Sennacherib asked for a tribute from King Hezekiah in the form of male and female musicians. It seems that they were first-class performers BUT David stood out among all virtuosos!

David’s divinely inspired compositions excelled in many ways. His songs include both contemplative and pastoral psalms. They range from expressions of praise to narrative history, from the joys of the grape harvest to the pomp of the palace inauguration, from reminiscences to hope, from request to entreaty.

We must remember man is not the inventor of music but rather the mouthpiece of history, stories, news, emotions and will; a messenger of words in rhythm and tone that can affect the course of things to come.

Yes, music can alter our moods and even Neurologists have discovered that music activates many unexpected areas of the brain like emotion and memory. Even Crazy_Eyes can vouch how one of his songs drove several women wild with anticipation. I will ask him share the details with you if you and him so desire.

Here is a good example of a song with story telling including a warning in a Bard-like fashion and based on one of my favorite books: The Pilgrims Progress.

Take a listen as he tells you about a place and an experience.

Nate Currin – Vanity Fair

Also thebuddha is a great storyteller who engages our senses with his words and  expresses the emotions of others in his music so well!

Speaking of which, I have missed his storytelling these last few days and I hope he is okay? I hope he brings us a good story!

Until next time, keep the story alive and sing me a song!

 

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Measuring Sound and Your Voice

Yes, you produce sound or noise every day!

The difference between your sounds is caused by intensity, pitch, and tone.

What is Intensity?

Your sound is a wave and waves have amplitude, or height. Amplitude is a measure of energy, how much oomph you put into it! The more oomph you give the higher the amplitude.

When energy increases, Intensity increases. Simple, hey?

The smaller the space the less energy is required to achieve the same Intensity. We tend to call higher intensity sounds, louder. Loudness cannot be assigned a specific number, but intensity can.

Intensity is measured in decibels.

The human ear is more sensitive to high sounds, so the next time you are stranded, twist your knickers and make the highest sound you can. You will be heard as this type of sound will travel further. That is why we scream for help when in trouble as  a natural reflex that is effective in getting attention! REEEEEEEEEEE……

Decibels and intensity, however, do not depend on the ear. They can be measured with an instruments. A whisper is about 10 decibels while thunder is 100 decibels.

Listening to loud sounds, sounds with intensities above 85 decibels, may damage your ears. If a noise is loud enough, over 120 decibels, it can be painful to listen to. One hundred and twenty decibels is the threshold of pain but thebuddha may dissagree on this.

Sounds and their Decibels

Source of SoundDecibels

Boeing 747

140
Civil Defense Siren130
Jack Hammer120
Rock Concert110
Lawn Mower100
Motorcycle90
Garbage Disposal80
Vacuum Cleaner70
Normal Conversation60
Light Traffic50
Background Noise40
Whisper30

What is Pitch

Pitch helps us distinguish between low and high sounds.

Pitch depends on the frequency of a sound wave. Frequency is the number of wavelengths that fit into one unit of time. Remember that a wavelength is equal to one compression and one rarefaction. Frequencies are measured in hertz. One hertz is equal to one cycle of compression and rarefaction per second.

High sounds have high frequencies and low sounds have low frequencies. Thunder has a frequency of only 50 hertz, while a whistle can have a frequency of 1,000 hertz.

The human ear is able to hear frequencies of 20 to 20,000 hertz. Some animals can hear sounds at even higher frequencies. Sounds that are too high for us to hear are called ultrasonic.

What is Tone & Harmonics ?

When a source vibrates, it actually vibrates with many frequencies at the same time. Each of those frequencies produces a wave. Sound quality depends on the combination of different frequencies of sound waves.

How is this knowledge useful in everyday life?

The more harmonics a sound has, the fuller the quality the sound is. All the different overtones of a sound help give it a unique pattern. This is especially true for a person’s voice. Everybody in the world has a different voice print, or pattern of overtones within a certain range.

What specific voice type or vocal range do I have?

If you do not know what your range is then you need to find out. It is important to know what range your voice is in to perform songs confidently.

It’s best use a five-note scale, singing up and down the entire scale until your voice cracks or you cannot hit a note. It is recommended that you sing the scale with a vowel sound — try “ah” — making sure to pick a comfortable middle pitch to start the scale on. From there, move your voice up a pitch. It is generally recommended to scale up in half notes — a small step musically — so you can ascertain exactly which notes you can and can no longer hit. 

Here is a Two Minute Video on how to find your range.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IejHKpfHso

The famous French vocal teacher Tarneaud defines the typical ranges of the four voice types as follows: Sopranos can typically sing B3 to F6
A
ltos perform D3 to A5
Tenors belt A2 to A5
Bass singers rumble out B1 to G5.

Basically, Sopranos and Tenors Sing High — Altos and Basses Sing Low, simples

Congratulations you have now discovered your Range and how we measure sound!

So keep the sound alive within your range and watch your intensity while delivering good pitch! You all are such good students here… 🙂

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Throat Singing – The Mongolian way

Throat-singing, also called overtone-singing, is a range of singing styles in which a single vocalist sounds more than one pitch simultaneously by reinforcing certain harmonics (overtones and undertones) of the fundamental pitch. In some styles, harmonic melodies are sounded above a fundamental vocal drone.

Originally called overtone-singing in Western scholarly literature, the identification by acoustical researchers of the presence of harmonics below the vocal drone in the deep, guttural styles, as well as overtones in the more melodic styles led to adoption of the term throat-singing (a translation of the Mongolian term höömei).

Throat-singing necessitates activating different combinations of muscles to manipulate the resonating chambers of the vocal tract under sustained pressurized airflow from the stomach and chest. As with operatic singing, the technique requires years of training to master.

Throat-singers usually accompany themselves on the distinctive Inner Asian fiddle, with its pegboard often carved in the shape of a horse’s head. For an epic-narrative performance, however, the fiddle is replaced with a two-stringed plucked lute or a long board-zither. In the past, throat-singing was performed by men in ritual contexts.


Picture from: NIU Mongolian Throat Singer Brings Sounds Of Nature To Retirement Center

Female performance of throat-singing was thought to cause infertility or to bring misfortune on the performers’ menfolk for seven generations. Since the late 20th century, however, a number of female musicians have begun to challenge those taboos.

Here is an example of Mongolian Throat Singing.

Tuvan Throat Singing

To start the throat singing journey they would encourage you to start with Khöömii, basic – begin by producing a long, steady note with an open, relaxed mouth and throat. By altering lip and tongue positions to say vowels, “oooo… ohhh…. ayyy…. ahhh….. eeee….”, you will hear different overtones in ascending pitch. Cupping a hand to your ear may help you to identify these initially. Maintain one tone as you tighten your throat and stomach muscles slightly. If you choke, try a lower fundamental.

If you begin coughing, go into this tightening over a period of time to avoid damage to your voice. Hard coughing is punishing to the vocal cords…

You should now be making “electronic” sounding vowels. If any of these are extended with subtle changes to the tongue, lips, or jaw (changing one element at a time as in any controlled experiment), separate overtones will gain definition. The sounds you create are feedback leading to finer mouth control.

It may be difficult to sort out the overtones created by each position. Discover them as you work out a scale above one steady fundamental. Eventually simple melodies will emerge within a limited range. As you consciously create melody, avoid the temptation to alter the fundamental. This is basic Khöömii.

By now you should have picked up that Khöömii is steeped in Mongolian culture with origins in Shamanism (Mongolia’s national religion) and many songs are dedicated to Genghis Khan himself.

Interestingly enough the kids and I are currently learning about Mongolia and Genghis Khan and one of the stories I stumbled upon is definitely worth sharing.

In The Book of Virtues (Great book btw!) I found this story about Genghis Khan, his merry party of hunters and his favorite hawk.

This hawk was a trained hunter and at a word would fly high up into the air, and look around for prey, and if found, would swoop down upon it swiftly as any arrow.

So after a very long day filled with no success, his party took the nearest way home and Genghis went searching by a longer road for a drink.
His pet hawk left his wrist and flew away, knowing how to get home on his own.
The king searched but the hot days of summer had dried up all the mountain brooks.

At last, he found some water trickling down over the edge of a rock. He knew that there was a spring farther up. In the wet season, a swift stream of water always poured down here; but now it came only one drop at a time.
The king leaped from his horse and took a little silver cup from his hunting bag. He held it so as to catch the slowly falling drops.

It took a long time to fill the cup; and the king was so thirsty that he could hardly wait. At last it was nearly full. He put the cup to his lips, and was about to drink.

All at once there was a whirring sound in the air, and the cup was knocked from his hands. The water was all spilled upon the ground.

The king looked up to see who had done this thing. It was his pet hawk. The hawk flew back and forth a few times, and then alighted among the rocks by the spring.

The king picked up the cup, and again held it to catch the trickling drops and this time he did not wait so long.
When the cup was half full, he lifted it toward his mouth but before it had touched his lips, the hawk swooped down again, and knocked it from his hands.

And now the king began to grow angry and tried again, and for the third time the hawk kept him from drinking.The king was now very angry indeed!

“How do you dare to act so?” he cried. “If I had you in my hands, I would wring your neck!”

Then he filled his cup again. But before he tried to drink, he drew his sword.
“Now, Sir Hawk,” he said, “that is the last time.”

He had hardly spoken before the hawk swooped down and knocked the cup from his hand but the king was looking for this.
With a quick sweep of the sword he struck the bird as it passed.
The next moment the poor hawk lay bleeding and dying at its master’s feet.

“That is what you get for your pains,” said Genghis Khan.
When he started looking for his cup, he couldn’t find it.

“At any rate, I will have a drink from that spring,” he said to himself.
With determination he began climbing the steep bank to the place from which the water trickled. It was hard work, and the higher he climbed, the thirstier he became.

 At last he reached the place. There indeed was a pool of water; but what was that lying in the pool, and almost filling it?
It was a huge, dead snake of the most poisonous kind!

The king stopped as he forgot his thirst. He thought only of the poor dead bird lying on the ground below him.
“The hawk saved my life!” he cried, “and how did I repay him? He was my best friend, and I have killed him.” 

He clambered down the bank. He took the bird up gently, and laid it in his hunting bag. Then he mounted his horse and rode swiftly home.
He said to himself, “I have learned a sad lesson today, and that is, never to do anything in anger.”

Rewritten: By Nadeshda
Source: The Book of Virtues

So what does this story have to do with Mongolian Throat singing? Well not much really but it’s a good story none the less and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Obviously getting angry and cutting up your friends is never a good idea and we already know that you shouldn’t shout as this will stretch and damage your vocal chords.
If you are still curious and want to learn Mongolian Throat singing, here is a fun video on how to practice throat singing in a super easy way.

I think you will enjoy watching this guy!

How to do Mongolian Throat. (Tuvan / Tibetan / Didgeridoo)

Until next time, keep the song alive and make a joyful sound!

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QUESTION: I think I have damaged vocal cords, can it be repaired?

Short answer: It depends as nerves can heal with the right energy, and nutrients and appropriate protection and use of the injured area. Probably best to discuss the specifics with a practitioner.

Longer answer will lead to more articles: Back in 2012 nearly six percent of the U.S. population had a vocal disorder, often caused by vocal cords that have stiffened due to scarring.

Vocal cords experience a LOT of TRAUMA and see more action daily than any other part of the body. In a single concert a singers vocal-cords can collide tens of thousands of times like mini-car crashes just happening over-and-over again.

Scarring can occur in a number of ways; including cancer and overuse from singing, normal wear and tear and shouting over a group.

The vocal cords, or folds, are made up of three layers: a surface layer, the middle layer (gelatinous) and the deepest layer (muscle).
When the middle gel-like layer is damaged, the top layer sticks to the bottom layer and interrupts vibration, causing hoarseness and this called vocal scarring. 

I would highly recommend seeing a voice specialist in your area to confirm this and not go on a hunch, many times rest and proper care is possibly all you need.

Firstly; I am not a Voice Specialist but you need to make an honest assessment. Do your research, understand your symptoms. A Voice specialist will work with you in understanding your current situation and help you to make progress.

If you have specific questions about:

  1. The normal structure and function of the vocal tract;
  2. Processes of voice production;
  3. Disorders of the voice such as laryngeal nodules, polyps and neoplasms;
  4. Contact ulcers, spasmodic dysphonia, vocal tremor;
  5. Vocal fold paralysis resulting in hoarseness and weakness of the voice.

Get in contact with:
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorder.
They provide free information and assistance in this area.
Here is a link:
https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice-speech-and-language

If you do have permanent damage I would suggest picking up an instrument to make beautiful sound or even consider some practiced farting.:) BUT please do it in tune !

Let me tell you a story where there was a famous flatulist
(yes, this is the correct term) who was paid handsomely for his windy tunes!
Along time ago in dreary twelfth-century England there lived a famous flatulist by the name of Rolandus le Fartere. As the court Jester he was paid handsomely with acres and acres of land to fart before King Henry II at Christmas time. Every year he was called to perform “Unum saltum et siffletum et unum bumbulum
(one jump, one whistle, and one fart).

Make a merry sound and don’t let anyone stop you! I hope this article helped you understand that there are resources available and I will be looking at some methods to prevent voice damage in the coming weeks and some home remedies!

Until then, keep the song alive !

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Quirky things Singers do?

So this weekend I had a show and noticed that most of the drinks had ice in them as I sipped away at it, I felt my throat tighten up. Silly me, I had just warmed up my voice and then cooled it down within a few minutes sipping a nice refreshing cool drink. Blegh, but thankfully I spotted some hot tea and a nice cup of tea saved the day!

I do enjoy teas of many kinds but please note that Green Tea isn’t that good for singing. Don’t get me wrong, I love Green Tea but it has a drying effect that reduces the lubrication around your vocal folds. It can make you more susceptible to developing things like a sore throat or even a vocal node. 

Drinking Green Tea is just fine on the day when you are NOT singing though.

As I was driving home earlier today I started thinking about this and generally about singers and what they do or don’t do before singing. I often achieve some of it but rarely all. Just knowing about them helps me to understand why my voice is sounding a certain way and what can I do better next time.

I haven’t had much time this week but I thought you may enjoy looking at some of these quirky habits with me even though I cannot cover all of it in one article the obvious point being;

Certain things you do, or don’t do, will hinder OR help the tone of your voice.

I digress but one of my quirky habits, highlighted in a conversation with the thebuddha the other day was that I collect scarves. Not a silly amount of them, I don’t think I ever have more then 10, but I wear them to protect my voice from cold drafts and they keep my vocal chords warm and ready.

Obviously, it’s best for colder weather but a silky-soft scarf that can you can tuck into your bag is ideal in a high AC environment, before a gig and after your warm-up. Now please, if it doesn’t suit your disposition or “aesthetics” don’t go buying a silk scarf just because I said so, okay?

YOU need to find your own groove and not follow everything you read on the internet, just know your voice, know what effects it and follow the best route for you.

On that note, here are some points to consider and get you thinking about what could help you get a better result.

  1. STEAM IT UP ! Yes, get a steamer to pass warm steam over the vocal chords before and even after a gig as it produces a healing effect. If your throat feels scratchy and sounds groggy, get it warm.
  2. SHUT UP ! When you are performing a lot, you need to make time to be quiet before and after the show and NEVER yell or scream outside your performance, if you can help it.

  3. AVOID CERTAIN DRINKS: Mucous producing foods such as dairy, stimulants such as caffeine and spicy foods, soft drinks, refined sugars, chocolate and iced drinks all effect the sound of your voice. LOVE THE TONE, skip the food and drinks that irritate your vocal folds.

HOLD ON! Sometimes these things just cannot be helped especially if you are like me and end up running around super busy and thirsty or hungry and you grab what you can, when you can.

This brings me nicely to point number four…

  1. DON’T WORRY: Just relax breath in deeply through your nose to your toes. Slowly exhale for as long as possible through your mouth. It’s going to be okay! Relaxing and knowing your voice will help you to naturally figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Now DON’T SKIP the warm up and go sing your heart out !

My next point will offer a counter complimentary melody to theBuddha who has graciously provided me with a space here to blabber away about something I love.

Obviously he is going to  tell you to “Shut up and play him a song”! so when you are done with that…

  1. SHUT UP AND SING ME A SONG !

Sorry I missed my early segment of writing today but I really enjoyed writing it now and I hope you enjoyed reading it too.

If in doubt just read Point Number Five again and have a holler of a day!

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Resonating Sound and the Voice – Part Deux

(Ed. Note: This is submitted by Nadeshda. Be sure to give her a rousing round of applause and express your gratitude! It’s much better than the article you were gonna get today!)

SO here we are again, singing and chilling like we mean it , well you better be. Get your favorite beverage, take a couple of sips and let us start talking about this singing business again.

You may wonder how I got involved in all of this, it was through a regular Friday night meet-up discussion about instruments and all things musical. One day I bravely shared some of my vocals and people enjoyed it. This started my involvement with sharing, teaching and learning about ‘How to Sing’ on playguitar. Also, theBuddha asked me too and he is very inspiring and good at getting people busy with all sorts of fun stuff while being excellent at what he does ! (Ed. Note: Damned right!)

Let me get another cup of coffee and while I do that listen to a song I wrote and shared with some of my friends. Shhh, I didn’t warm-up properly for the song but still managed some good tone, I wonder why?

Another Day by Nadeshda

So this phone recording came out okay and I think that years of proper training and proper breathing allowed me to do the sneaky recordings. I shouldn’t but some of these things we will be working through will become second nature to you and sometimes when you are caught in a last minute affair you will sound okay but let’s learn the basics first before cutting any corners, m’kay.

I have sung  in choirs since being a wee lass and swimming since I have been three years old, so breathing properly has always been drilled into me somehow and singing lessons to wazoo has filled my brain with endless information that honestly, sometimes I forget.

I am hoping this series helps me to remember and blesses you in the process.
We really shouldn’t sing without warming up our voices correctly so let’s get on with the lesson.
So without further waffling let us look at:

Resonance

What is it and how can I get it to sound good? This is the question today.

We know it when we hear it and sometimes we feel it on the inside but what is it really ?
I can safely say that it is volume of sound, easy listening and it lingers. We find it in ALL instruments.

What part of our body does the resonating? 

The Vocal Tract which is a container of air and has an opening called the mouth. We know the power source of singing is the ribs, diaphragm and the lungs which in turn push the air through the vocal fold into the Vocal Tract to form sweet, sweet sounds when all things are working together beautifully.

SILLY FACT: The average length of a vocal tract for males is about 17 cm and 14 cm for females.

The shape of the tract helps to solidly the sound and tone and the following video illustrates it perfectly while synthesizing vowels on a 3D MRI. The stereolithography (Rapid Prototyping) produces glottal waves using a Rosenberg-Klatt waveform with 1/f fluctuation of its cycle. Male and female models were used to produce the vowels.

Vocal Tract Model Synthesis Video

So how do I get better Resonance?

I am so glad you ask these wonderful questions as I am going to give you some homework and you will enjoy the results.

Let’s wake up that sweet, sweet sound!

Try the following exercise and repeat until you notice a difference. When you are done, sing a song you are comfortable with.

  • Open your mouth and take a breath through your nose and with a basic speaking volume, sustain a comfortable mid-range pitch, through an “NG” tongue position.

To help you find this tongue position, say the word “Sing” and maintain the tongue position of the “NG”. The back of your tongue will lightly close with your soft palate. Keep the tip of your tongue resting against the back of your bottom teeth. Feel the sound vibration vibrate along the roof of your mouth and under your nose.

2) Do this a couple of times using medium volume and try producing different sounds after your beautiful “NG” sound. Here we go…!

  1. NG-EE (Mean)
  2. NG-EH (Hen)
  3. NG-UH (The)
  4. NG-I (Him)
  5. NG-A (Same)
  6. NG-AA (Apple)During the last two vowels (below), DO NOT shape your lips for the sound. Your mouth should only move a wee bit, just let it flow and let the sound naturally resonate in your mouth. Try these too…
  • NG-OH (Moan)
  • NG-Ooo (Moon)

You are doing great! Congratulations you have completed your second singing lesson; now shut up and go sing me a song!

Comment if you notice a difference in resonance, tone and sound.

Happy Singing!

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So you want to learn how to sing?

Today is pretty much the best day ever.

Why?

Well, I woke up and did my normal things (including an obscene number of hours dedicated to practice) and then rooted around to see what I’d write for the site today.

After some confusion, I discovered I didn’t have to do a damned thing today! WOOHOO!!!

That’s right, there was an article already here by the time I got to the computer.

We have a guest! (Put your damned pants on, we have a lady present!)

And, they’ve done my work for me!

I am not a vocalist. I will do vocal work. I don’t prefer it. I much prefer making bitchin’ solos. I’m not very good at it, unless you count artist mimicry as a specific skill.

So, once again, we have an expert guest!

She’s even a lady guest! Like I said, put your pants on! She’s a nice lady and deserves our attention and respect.

If you’d like to hear the voice of an angel, click this link to hear Justify – By Nadeshda. She doesn’t yet have an album that we can promote, but you can hear that sample track and imagine what she’s capable of doing in a real studio.

So, let’s all put our hands together and give a warm PlayGuitar reception to the Lovely Miss Nadeshda! Be sure to thank her for sharing her time and expertise with us and this will, ideally, become a fairly regular thing!

Without further ado, I introduce Nadeshda and her singing lesson!
Continue reading “So you want to learn how to sing?”

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