Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Time!!

HO HO HOOOOOOOH.............

Yup, it is Christmas time again. It really snuck up on me pretty quickly!! Dang!!

Thankfully, I am in a much better place emotionally than I was a year ago. I had recently returned from living in Long Beach, CA. Coming back here was heartbreaking. I felt defeated. Unsure of what was next. I remember not wanting to play holiday music because I was so NOT feeling festive. The first few months in Indiana found me moody and emotional. Lots of tears. Lots of eating (we won't discus how much weight I've gained since winter 2010- UGH!) I don't think I really got back to myself in alot of ways until summer 2011. I began to feel more hopeful again. I could see that God was working on things.

This Christmas, I feel very inspired. I have grown a lot spiritually this year. I feel even more secure in who I am and what my role is. I had a prophetic word spoken over me recently that confirmed alot and leaves me feeling very confident in what God's cooking up for me. I am super excited because my best friend Eric is coming to town next week for an almost 2 week vacation. Watch out- Eric & Earl's Excellent Adventure: Winter Takeover is ON!!! While he's here, we'll shoot some new performance clips for my YouTube channel as well as a couple of vocal tip videos. Good times!!

I decided to include a clip of me singing a bit of Luther Vandross' "With A Christmas Heart". I did this in 2008, but this song never gets old. It's one his most beautiful songs, in my opinion. I love the lyrics. I hope you enjoy!!

Have a very Merry Christmas!!! Marinate in love, peace, and joy!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Let It Flow- A Primer on Breathing

In the world of singing, there remains to this day much confusion on the topic of breathing. There is disagreement among teachers and directors as to the most efficient way to control it. The diaphragm is given much more credit than it properly deserves. Too many singers learn to push as much air as possible to achieve a powerful sound needed for their demanding music. I have had a number of students tell me that their previous teachers would spend half of their lesson time on breathing exercises alone, with no great improvement to their technique as a result. Due to the great misinformation that singers have to contend with, I will finally address the issue of breathing in this article.

First, let's get clarity on what really happens when we breath. Once the brain registers that we need air, it sends the signal to the diaphragm to get things started. This dome-shaped muscle is thin and separates the chest (thorax) from the abdominal cavity. It descends upon inhalation and creates a vacuum, causing the lungs to fill up with air. The vocal folds open, allowing the air to pass through trachea into the lungs. Sitting beneath the diaphragm is the viscera, or organs housed in the abdomen- stomach, liver, intestines, etc. In order for this principal muscle of inhalation to fully contract, these organs must move out of the way. The result is the protruding or moving out of the lower belly. The lungs now can get the appropriate amount of air needed as the rib cage expands around them. This is INHALATION, pure and simple. Remember this is where the diaphragm holds court and performs actively.

Upon EXHALATION, the diaphragm abdicates its power. It does not rule this part of the process. Yes, folks, I must turn your world upside-down now. THE DIAPHRAGM IS PASSIVE DURING EXHALATION!!! *brings out smelling salts* This muscle has been esteemed higher than is warranted for far too long. The muscles that are actively at work to get air out of the body are the abdominals and intercostals, which are between and around the ribs. As the lower abs begin to contract inward and upward, the viscera also moves in the same direction. The organs press up against the diaphragm which allows air to be expelled from the lungs. The intercostals are contracting at the same time and also work to smoothly move the air upward through the trachea and towards the vocal folds. The true support muscles are the ABDOMINALS AND INTERCOSTALS!

An important concept that is largely overlooked or forgotten is that the vocal folds serve as the valve that actually gauges how much air can escape the body. No matter how well a person can inhale and use the proper support muscles, if the coordination of the folds is not well-developed, she still may not sing with great power or ease. There must be a balance between proper air flow/support and vocal cord closure for healthy, efficient singing.

In my teaching studio, I don't spend a great deal of time on breathing exercises. This is because most students don't have big problems with their breathing. Most of the time, their issues have to do with lack of coordination in the muscles of the larynx. If that's the case, why spend time on breathing when it's not the primary issue? Too many vocal instructors and choral directors attempt to fix every vocal problem with breathing because they don't know what else to do!! Oops, did I just go there? Anyhoo.... I will have students do a couple of breathing exercises to just to gain an awareness of what the body is doing. I will only use them repeatedly if a student has some very ineffective habits that need serious reprogramming.

Here are some useful exercises to build awareness of the breath function and which can be used to build more efficiency in your breathing:

1) The clutch- Place one open hand over the lower abdomen and the other hand in a closed fist pressed into your solar plexus. As you repeat each consonant 3 or 4 times, you will feel the lower belly gently press in while the solar plexus or upper belly gently firms outward. Don't press it out, just allow it to do what comes naturally. You should use 't', 'p', 'k', 's', and 'sh'. This exercise comes from noted nonclassical vocal pedagogue Lisa Popeil.

2) The 'surprise' breath- A gasp of surprise quickly brings a fair amount of air into the lungs. What we will do away with is the noise that comes with it. Place an open hand on the lower abdomen. Exhale fully. When you are completely out of air, open the mouth and gasp with surprise but do so without an audible vocal noise. The belly pops out effortlessly. Be sure not to lift the shoulders in the process because that can actually inhibit the expansion of the ribs. This exercise may also be performed with the hands wrapped around the rib cage.

3) The 'angle' breath- Sit in a chair with your torso at a 45 degree angle and your arms resting on your thighs. Exhale fully. Breath in through your nose for a slow count of 4 or 5 beats, then exhale through the nose for the same count. You can feel a deep expansion of your rib cage all around the body and especially in the back. It very difficult to raise the shoulders in this position so I use this one often for students who habitually breath very high and shallow.

4) The classic 'slow leak'- With hands either around the ribs or on the lower belly, exhale completely and feel the inward contraction of the lower abdominals. Once you have completely exhaled, gently sip in new air as the belly releases and slowly moves inward. The ribs will also slowly contract inward, though that should be as slow as possible. Inhale for 4 or 5 beats and exhale for 8 to 10 counts.

Though your actual performance posture may not always be ideal depending on your chosen genre's stylistic demands, it is important in the training process. A comfortably high chest and relaxed shoulders will allow your breath to flow more efficiently and comfortably. That needs to be the case whether standing or sitting.

I hope this piece gives you greater insight into what all the fuss is about concerning breathing for singers and speakers and that you will find the balance needed between how you breath and how you phonate.

Now, go make some noise!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Training the Child's Voice in the Private Studio

Singing is one of the most important means of communication that we are blessed to experience. It is the means by which we express our innermost thoughts and feelings in a language shared by the whole world. We sing songs as symbols of words to inspire uplift. Often, it is forgotten how integral singing is to our existence. When at play, children seem to almost instinctively sing as part of their games. These same young voices are instruments capable of producing a wide array of tones and timbres. In order to access this wide range of sounds, though, the sounds produced at play are not enough. Proper training in healthy vocal production is needed.

Recently, I have been asked quite a bit about the appropriate age to begin voice lessons for children. Parents realize that their kids have either an overwhelming enthusiasm for singing or some substantial native talent that they want to properly nurture. They just wonder if formal lessons are safe for the youngster to undertake and worth the financial investment. First of all, I stress that the most important issue with kids is their attention span and not the perceived talent level. I've had some clearly gifted 7 year olds come in but they did not have the focus and maturity that is needed. Once that is explained, I relay that I believe lessons can successfully begin at age 8. I have trained a couple of 7 year olds, though, because they had the requisite focus, attention span, and teachability in addition to natural musical instincts. As long as the training is based in healthy technical habits and applied correctly to songs, there are no inherent dangers.

Many people wonder what young singers can actually learn in private voice lessons. Some have believed that their physically immature instruments cannot acquire any real technical skills until their voices fully develop at puberty. But I am one of many who work with kids on a regular basis who believe that these voices can develop quite a lot of facility if guided correctly. We must remember that singing is an intricate psychomotor skill, not so different from the learning of piano, dance, or athletic moves. It's all about the systematic training of correct muscle memory which builds healthy technique that will strengthen and protect the voice. And if the goal of vocal study is establishment of good vocal habits that will carry over into adulthood, vocal technique has to be of primary importance! Of course, this must be balanced with singing good songs, but it will be difficult to expand repertoire if the instrument is limited in the sounds it can produce.

The very same technical issues that need to be taught to adult singers need to be taught to kids. The building of tone production practices is essential. Child singers need to develop the ability to produce tones without undue tension and restriction. They must be taught proper breathing techniques and good body posture and alignment. Range extension is still important for kids, even though it must be applied relative to their still-growing voices. Many of the exercises that I use with my adult clients are used in the sessions with my youngsters, though sometimes with modifications. I also make sure that I introduce them to correct terminology concerning how the voice is put together and how it works. They learn about head and chest voice, the larynx, vocal folds, diaphragm, and resonance. They need to start learning a singer's vocabulary from the start of their study.

We are seeing some fine examples of superstar singers who have become elite vocal athletes because of some fantastic vocal training starting at a young age- Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Adam Lambert among others. It is a worthwhile investment to begin lessons with a child who has the love for singing coupled with a sense of focus and discipline. The teacher must have a great knowledge of vocal pedagogy and a personality that can provide a safe, nurturing environment for the young singer to embark on this great journey of singing study.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How To Practice

It pretty much goes without saying that practicing is essential to mastery of any endeavor. Anyone who is serious about his singing recognizes this fact. It goes with the territory. What I see as a problem is that students often just don't know HOW to practice efficiently. They blindly jump in without a game plan that will allow them to optimize their practice room time. Well, not to worry- that's why I'm writing this little entry. Here are some helpful guidelines to make your hard work more effective.

1) Set goals for the practice session. Go in knowing what you will be working on. What songs will you tackle? Will you be rehearsing songs you've already learned well? Are you just running problem areas? You can always tweak your plan as the session goes on, but have a plan to start with.

2) You should ALWAYS start your practice time with warming up. Do some physical stretches as well as tongue stretches before launching into your vocal exercises. Humming, lip trills, and 'ng' sounds should start out the workout.

3) If learning new songs, you need to break them down and learn them incrementally. Don't start out trying to sing the tune full blast with words. This can be taxing to the instrument. Begin by vocalizing the melody on a lip or tongue trill, hum, exercise syllables (goog, mum, wun, nay), or a single vowel (I like 'oo') so that the vocal muscles can get used to creating the pitches accurately. Learn the lyrics independently of making pitch. Let the articulators get used to making all your word sounds efficiently. Only then should
you start singing on the text.

4) If you are working on numbers that you have already learned but have problems, take the trouble passages and phonate them on exercise sounds to get your vocal coordination back on track. Then add the words back in.

5) Record yourself often as you practice. The immediate feedback you get from hearing yourself goes a long way in fixing problem spots in your songs and in your technique.

6) Practice in front of a mirror. This goes for technical exercises as well as songs. Watch for undue facial tensions, bad vowel shapes, and high, shallow breathing.

7) If you've had a long or very intense session, wrap up with a vocal cooldown. You will essentially do a shortened version of your warmup in reverse. It's important to bring the vocal folds back to their normal speech state.

These tips will help you to make your practice sessions more productive and, in the process, allow you to be a better artist.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Know What You Did Last Summer.......

I have really come a long way as an artist in the past 2 years. I finally accept my gifts as a singer and a writer fully. I am learning to not compare myself to the artists that I have long admired. I realize I am just as valid creatively- I am not inferior, just uniquely ME!!! It took me years to get here. The time spent in California was integral. And I will get back there, BTW....... but I digress.

Faithful followers of E2C will notice that I've been posting more frequently as of late. About a month or so ago, I felt this gentle internal prodding to start writing daily vocal tips that I would place on my Harville Vocal Studio page on Facebook. Because I am a wordy fellow, that quickly progressed to short instructional articles which now also appear on this blog. I began to get very positive feedback from my voice teacher and singer colleagues very quickly. I decided to also post some of those pieces on Very soon, one of my babies was chosen as a featured article. This led to me getting an offer to write a column on singing and vocal training for a new online Christian magazine, which debuts in November. I am very thankful for the opportunity to share my knowledge of and passion for the voice and singing. What's very interesting about all this is that I had just read a devotional which talked about talents and gifts, asking if there were some areas that we were not tapping into. I have always written very well so I see now that God has led me into using that part of my skillset in conjunction with my work as a vocal trainer.

I have started teaching voice at HGS Music in nearby Highland, IN. It's a very well-run local music school with a nicely laid out facility. My fellow teachers are a cool bunch- I dig the vibe. I'm really enjoying the diverse group of students in my studio there. Some elementary school kids, some high schoolers, and some adult beginners to formal study. Very cool!!

I have been blessed to have 2 of my videos be featured on Just before I started posting my articles, my clip for "Hang On" was featured while I was also the featured artist. Right now, "Let Me Go (Part 1)" is the TMV SPOTLIGHT VIDEO of the week. I am very humbled and encouraged to have my work affirmed.

I have been making connections with some wonderful vocal coaches here and abroad. It's great to share ideas and knowledge with esteemed peers. Methinks God is up to something.........hmmmmmmmmmm

And the planning to return to my beloved Long Beach, CA continues. I was hoping to make it back my this fall but that had to be pushed back. The target is now early 2012. I you're praying folk, please join with me in agreement that all things will fall into place as they need to make it happen.

It's been an interesting summer, I would say......... :-)

By the way, I know you love the title!!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Singer, Know Thy Voice!!

The voice is an acoustic instrument. Like a fine Steinway or Stradivarius, your sound results from the basic tone produced by the actuator (the vocal folds in this case) being enhanced by resonating inside a box (the throat and head cavities). The instrument should be built to optimize the resonance that will give the finished tone warmth, projection, and beauty well as your unique timbre. This comes through thoughtful and systematic training. We must understand the workings of our instrument to get the most mileage from it.

Nonclassical singing does rely on amplification but that should not mean that singers shouldn't develop their natural tone to its optimal level before stepping to the mic. A pianist will know the spectrum of tonal qualities she can get from her axe through sheer technical facility and musicianship without the crutch of gadgets. We singers should have the same standard. Singers, we need to drop the quick fix mentality and commit to excellence and mastery on our instrument. Whether you sing opera, pop, metal, Latin jazz, R&B, hip-hop, country, or blues shouldn't matter. MASTER YOUR VOICE!! Let's not let technology keep us mediocre!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vocal Cord Closure

One of the essential elements in creating great tone is good closure of the vocal folds. Without it, a singer will be unable to develop a voice that is powerful, clear, and connected from chest register into middle and then head voice. A speaker will lack presence and character. The control of the breath is weakened because the the cords can't efficiently function as a valve for the air flow. Unfortunately, too often traditionall vocal training left its recipients with the misguided notion that the only concerns in regards to technique are 'support' and 'placement'. This has produced a profound ignorance as to the realities of vocal function. But I digress.......

A vocal technique that addresses the concept of vocal cord closure is a must for the modern singer. Tools are needed to condition the voice to create a wide array of sounds safely. Using a bit of 'cry' or 'whimper' in the voice will engage the muscles in the larynx to bring the edges of the folds together more efficiently and create good compression. Vocalize on the syllables 'goog', 'mum', 'no', and 'bub' with the slightly edgy cry. You may feel a bit silly but you will be doing wonders for your instrument. Just know that even Luciano Pavarroti said that singing is crying on pitch. This will aid in connecting the registers and gaining more strength for the mix and head voice.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tongue Tension

As I previously mentioned, the tongue is often a source of unwanted tensions for singers. It is important to be aware of the engagement of the hyoid or digastric muscles at the base of the tongue, near the chin. Just the awareness of their activity helps in loosening their grip. Place both thumbs under your chin and sing an ascending passage. If you feel pressure from the tongue pushing downward, those muscles are getting in the way of efficient tone production. Also, if when watching yourself in a mirror you notice your tongue pulling backward in your mouth, it is being disruptive to good singing. WE DON'T WANT THAT!!!!!

I like to start my warmup time with some tongue stretches before I actually vocalize. This routine I learned from Nate Waller, who was my speech pathologist when I was preparing for vocal fold surgery. Since then, they have become a regular part of my daily regimen.

So here goes:
1) Stick the tongue out of the mouth pointing upward. Hold for 3-4 seconds and release. Repeat 3 times.
2) Stick the tongue out pointing downward for 3-4 seconds then release. Repeat 3 times.
3) Stick the tongue out to the each side of the mouth for 3 repetitions, holding for 4 seconds each time.
4) With the tip of the tongue behind the lower front teeth, extend the body of the tongue forward and out . Hold for 4 seconds. Repeat 4 times.
Make this a regular part of the vocal warmup process. You will be so very glad you did!!

I like to monitor the activilty of the muscles under the chin throughout my practice time. If I feel that my production of sound is getting more difficult, I place the thumbs under the chin to check for tightening of those evil tongue muscles. Often, that is the source of the imbalance. If you're like me and had a lot of problems in this area early on, you must remain vigilant in self-monitoring.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Using the pharyngeal voice to build a strong mix

There is still alot of debate in vocal teaching circles concerning the healthiness of belting. Even finding a consistent definition is tricky. It's a sound that is often identified with Broadway or gospel singing. It is a big, loud, powerful sound that can be quite stirring. The potential problem with pure belting is that the chest voice range is pushed higher than is optimal, which can make a singer hyperfunctional. In my opinion, it is better to develop a strong mix or middle voice that can can be leaned into for more power.

One exercise that can help in that area is the pharyngeal voice or 'witch's voice. The use of this device dates back to the baroque period and the training of the castrati. This ugly, bratty sound helps to bridge the chest into the middle area easily without pushing or straining. Use the sounds 'nay', 'naa', & 'waa' in your practice. As you ascend the scale, don't get intentionally louder- the pharyngeal resonance will give a sense of more power without your help! Just keep the sound ugly without strain. Be sure not to jam the sound into your nose. It works wonders without taxing the voice.

A great scale pattern to start with is the octave arpeggio with the top note repeated:

nay- nay-nay-nay-nay-nay-nay-nay-nay-nay
1 3 5 8 8 8 8 5 3 1

The repeat of the top note give the muscles a greater opportunity to remember the proper response. From here, you can add the octave & a half pattern as well as the mixed octave scale. These two amp up the challenge by covering more range more quickly.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Daily Vocal Warmup

The modern singer is a vocal athlete. Dancers and elite sports professionals know the importance of preparing the body correctly for performance. Vocalists need to be the same way! Just like the skeletal muscles should be systematically stretched before demanding usage, so should the muscles of the larynx that are involved in phonation. The principle of veisel dilation is the same- blood needs to nourish the muscles with oxygen to increase flexibility and decrease the chance of injury. DON'T SKIMP ON YOUR VOCAL WARMUP!!!!

A singer should NEVER go into a lengthy rehearsal, recording session, or performance without a thorough warmup. It should last somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes to make sure that all the musculature is properly coordinated, with the head and chest registers easily connected and the full range engaged. Physical stretches are also helpful as are stretches for the tongue.

I begin the vocal warmup with glissandi, or slides, either on a hum, 'oo', lip trill, or tongue trill. Either starting lightly in head voice and descending or sliding up easily from chest voice work well. The first scales will be on sounds that serve to stretch out the voice- lip trills, tongue trill, and the 'ng' sound. I use the octave and a half pattern and then into the mixed octave scale. These exercise sounds allow for a very effective warmup over a wide range without undue pressure and unwanted muscular interference. And they can be revisited throughout the day to keep the voice fresh.

Now we move on to the dumb or crying sounds. These exercise syllables will help you balance good cord closure with efficient air flow- not too much, not too little. Use syllables such as 'mum', 'goog', 'bub', or 'wun' with a slightly exaggerated goofy sound. This will keep the swallowing muscles from pulling the larynx up and constricting the throat. Then change the sound from the dumber approach to more of a whimper or cry, bringing the larynx to a more natural, neutral position. This is not supposed to be a pretty sound. Its job is to deactivate those overactive swallowing muscles that interfere with easy tone production.

Then, the ugly but invaluable pharyngeal sounds are employed. They were referred to as 'the witch's voice' in times past and that's exactly how you should sound!! No sounding pretty here!! With a bratty, witchy tone, we will use the syllables 'nay' and 'naa'. These sounds will allow again greater air flow and a produce a tone that is deceptively powerful but actually quite easy to make- no strain needed. The exercise allows a very easy, effiecient connection of the chest and head registers, creating the much needed middle voice or 'the mix' that is so important for most modern vocal styles. Remember, the goal is not prettiness. The ugliness in the exercises is helping to build a solid technique, so enjoy the chance to sound like a looney as you build a killer voice!!

Once you have gotten through this portion of the warmup, you may move onto exercises that work on agility, sustains, and dynamics, but only after the voice feels loose and the cord closure is well coordinated with the breath.

This is a map of the basics of the daily warmup. It will vary according to many factors, such as energy level, time of day, amount of sleep, the size of the voice, and many others. But this is a general approach that we will use as the core of regimen. It is very imporant to find a knowledgeable voice teacher to help you develop the proper routine for your voice and its unique demands.
Remember, you are a vocal athlete and you must train with that idea in mind.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dealing With a Rising Larynx

A common problem for vocalists is the rising of the larynx, or voice box, which houses the vocal cords. For the most part, your larynx should not move up much when singing higher. The vocal folds stretch and thin to create higher notes and that's most efficiently done if the larynx stays more neutral or slightly lowered for classical singing. When it rises, the lifter muscles responsible for moving it for swallowing purposes are engaged. This is not very efficient for most singing and can lead to fatigue and other unwanted problems.

When practicing, monitor the voice box by lightly placing a finger over the larynx and pay attention to any tendency of it to move too much when ascending. To combat a rising voice box, add a pouty or dumb approach to your sound. Use syllables such as 'mum', 'goog', 'bub', or 'wun' with a slightly exaggerated goofy sound. This will keep the swallowing muscles from pulling the larynx up and constricting the throat.

So here goes!! Using 'goog', we will phonate on the following pattern. Make sure it is produced with a Bullwinkle or Rocky Balboa dopey sound or as if saying 'duh'.

goog goog goog goog goog goog goog goog goog goog
1 3 5 8 8 8 8 5 3 1

This is not supposed to be a pretty sound. Its job is to deactivate those overactive swallowing muscles that interfere with easy tone production. Remember to keep a finger placed lightly on your larynx and you should notice it staying down even as the pitch rises. It may also helpful to do the exercise with your fist lightly on the chin to make sure your jaw stays loose. One you get the hang of it, you can move on these patterns:

1 3 5 1(next octave) 3 5 4 2 7(in original octave) 5 4 2 1

1 5 3 8 5 3 1

This is an extremely effective exercise......and its silliness makes it fun!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vocal Resources- Volume 1

Hello all-

I've decided to post a list of great resources for the contemporary singer. They mostly cover vocal technique training but some also address style, performance skills, vocal health & maintenance, and creativity. These are among the products and sites I most highly recommend.

-"Singing For The Stars: A Complete Program for Training Your Voice" by Seth Riggs. This is a classic written by one of the biggest vocal teachers of the last 30 years who has trained the likes of Stevie Wonder, Prince, Michael Jackson, Tamia, Deniece Williams, Angela Winbush, Bernadette Peters, Bryan Adams, Luther Vandross, Ricky Martin, Cher, and Tina Turner. This is one of the 2 books that inspired me to teach voice.

-"The Rock N Roll Singer's Survival Manual" by Mark Baxter. The other of the 2 books that inspired me to become a vocal trainer. This is a unique book that is very detailed in its explanation of vocal anatomy and physiology but presents it in a way this is not intimidating. He does a great job of explaining breathing, support, resonation, and phonation for modern singers. There is also a complete section dealing with the psychological and emotional issues that we singers face. This is an awesome book that all non-classical vocalists and teachers should have!! This is the website of the leading company for vocal training programs founded by leading Nashville coach Brett Manning. The flagship "Singing Success" set includes 12 CDs, a DVD showing Brett at work in his teaching studio, and the concise booklet. The fantastic follow up program, "Mastering Mix", also has 12 CDs and is a powerful advanced tool. There are several other great products offered that I highly recommend. I am an affiliate and endorse these products.

-"The Ultimate Voice Training for Singers" by Billy Purnell. This 4 CD set is a top-notch vocal technique program created by the Riverside, CA based vocal teacher who, like Manning, was trained by Seth Riggs. Very thorough and highly effective! It is available through Billy's website-

-"The Total Singer" by Lisa Popeil. This set was put together by a leading vocal teacher and researcher based in Southern California. It is an innovative approach to teaching both technique and style. The program includes 2 CDs, one dedicated to exercises for pop voice technique and the other with classical vocalises. The DVD addresses the elements of singing such as breathing, support, registers, larynx positions, and vibrato as well as tips for various musical styles. A worthy investment!

-"Basics For Vocal Technique" by Cathy Segal-Garcia. This is a great little 28 page booklet that is easy to understand while being very detailed in its content. It's available at

-"Vocal Technique: A Guide to Finding Your Real Voice" by Dena Murray and "Advanced Vocal Technique: Middle Voice, Placement, & Styles" by Dena Murray & Tita Hutchison. These are the first 2 books in Dena's trilogy of books geared to the modern singer. This work is based on materials she used when she served as head of vocal technique instruction at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. She takes some of the mystery away from the workings of the voice and then gives exercises to strengthen it and expand range.

-"The Contemporary Singer: Elements of Vocal Technique by Anne Peckham. This comprehensive book is based on the curriculum of the Voice Department of the illustrious Berklee College of Music, which produced such singers as R&B/jazz phenom Lalah Hathaway (one of my favorite vocalists in the world), passionate singer/songwriter Paula Cole, and in-demand backing vocalist Stacy Campbell(Janet Jackson, Pink, Tina Turner, Lalah Hathaway). It covers the anatomy of the voice, how to practice, registers, diction, vocal health, and performance tips. The CD gives vocal workouts for high and low voices as well as demonstrations of certain exercises. A well done book that should be in the library of the modern singer.

-"SING! The Vocal Power Method" by Elisabeth Howard. This is the updated version of the original "Born To Sing" program from Elisabeth and Howard Austin. It is very thorough set which clearly explains the elements of breathing & support, phonation, resonance, and registers before tackling the various vocal style: classical, jazz, pop, gospel, etc. Available with 4 CDs and a DVD, it is a worthwhile course to have.

Now before leaving you,let me remind of his point: NOTHING replaces the importance of having one-on-one training with a qualified voice teacher!! Every person is different and it is vital to have educated ears and eyes present to pinpoint the areas that need to worked on in each singer's technique. With that being said, the resources listed above can be of great benefit to those who are looking for tools to lead them to greater knowledge of their instrument.


Friday, July 1, 2011

And Now.....

July 1st......

For the past 2 years, this has been an important date. Big changes happened. In 2009, my roomie and best friend Eric flew to Chicago from Long Beach, CA to begin Operation: Move Earl to Cali. 4 days later, we would embark on the roadtrip from the only city I had known as home to my new life in SoCal. A major chapter for this then-40 year old.

Last year on July 1st, we moved out of the house we were renting with another friend to a great apartment on Redondo Avenue. It was my first taste of apartment living. We had a balcony facing in the direction of the ocean, giving us an incredible breeze. We had a garden which yielded tomatoes, rosemary, and basil. We lived across the street from a great rib/sandwich place- YUM!!!

Those who know me well know that I hated to leave Long Beach. I loved the people...the energy...the ocean...the opportunities. They also know how much I long to return. I truly feel that it's where I belong at this point in my life. There's much left undone. While I was there, I returned to my identity as an artist and fully accepted myself as a singer/songwriter. I started recording my CD. I started a community show choir. I got work with my roomie's nonprofit. I worked on the planning committee for the Long Beach Dance Festival. I got to be a part of great conversations for the purpose of building bridges between evangelical leaders and openly gay Christians. So many wonderful experiences, and I feel like I left so much unfinished.

My goal is to return to California by fall. Now, this is a bold desire, being that this is now July already!! But I'm learning to live life more boldly. I'm taking a chance on God!! There is much to get figured out. But I truly feel like I am called to be there to fulfill my destiny. I have gifts, abilities, and ideas that are uniquely Earl 4.2 and are needed out there. Gary is my hometown and I love it, but I feel like my home is out west.............

Saturday, March 12, 2011



OK, coming up in the Missionary Baptist Church tradition, Lent was not heavily stressed in my experience. So I've never really obsessed about giving up some specific for the 40 day period. But this year, I've decided to give something up. No, it's not one of my favorite foods or TV shows. What I'm giving up is something that I have toted around for a very long time unnecessarily. It's something that has held me back from pushing forward as a musical artist for too long.

So, you ask, what is it already?!

Wait for it.........

It is FEAR. Specifically it is the fear of my inadequacy as a songwriter. Though at this point in my life and career I have come to finally really like my singing voice(and let me tell ya, that took a mighty long time) and my playing style on the piano(though I still fight occasional insecurity ). But I have continued to wrestle with self-acceptance as a songwriter. I started seriously writing my freshman year of college as I was playing in my first band and starting my formal musical training. I got positive feedback early on. But that little voice in my head still wasn't totally convinced that I was any good. As with my singing and playing, I kept pushing forward. But this was the area that I had the most insecurity with.

Fast forward to 2010. I finally left Gary, IN and was living in Long Beach, CA (I can't wait to go back but that's another blog). My roomie and great friend Eric Leocadio asked me to perform at some functions associated with his non-profit organization, the Catalyst Network of Communities. As he prepared publicity posts, he asked a question that was pivotal for me. He asked me if I considered myself a singer/songwriter. Hmmmm.....I had never really used that label before. But the truth was that I am a singer who was just starting to embrace his own songs that would be a staple of my show. It would be me singing and accompanying myself. I realized right then and there that I was in fact worthy of that identification. I had just gotten to the point where I ceased to compare my songs to those of the folks who inspired me and learned to look at my own songs as equally valid. This was a major breakthrough!!! Thank God for that and for my pal Eric for being the 'catalyst' for my progression!!

2011 has found me reassessing and planning anew for the next step in my career as a voice teacher and as an artist. As Lent approached, I knew that I wasn't going to delude myself with giving up pizza or M&Ms. I had watched a sermon by Joel Osteen where he talked about 2011 as a year of resurrection- for dreams, callings, careers. That stayed with me. It was a couple of days ago I realized that I have limited myself by not looking at my writing as an equal part of my journey with my singing, playing and teaching. What potential opportunities would I possibly be blocking by not fully exploring my role as a songwriter? So, I made the decision that I would finally silence that little voice that has tried to stifle Earl the writer. I am going to more fully explore where that aspect of my artistry can take me.

So, there you have it. For me Lent is not about giving up something that I enjoy like french fries and M&Ms(hmmmm-that's a recurring theme)but instead ridding myself of something that keeps me from soaring as high as I possibly can. Isn't that more of what God would want for me?

I have to thank Cari Cole, NYC based voice teacher and artist development coach, for the great articles and blogs she has written that helped challenge me to let go of the blockages.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Singing Success

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Singing Success Vocal Training Program

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Study Singing?

The point of developing a strong vocal technique is to free you up to communicate more clearly through your singing. When your voice is freed up from undue tensions and blockages, singing so much more fulfilling for both you and your audience. It is sooo much fun!!!! So, learn your instrument!! Study with a knowledgeable and skilled vocal teacher who can guide in mastering your me!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011