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Through my extensive practice I have been treating a lot of singers (professional or not) and just regular people with speech problems.

Some of them are quite easy to deal with, while with the others it is extremely hard, to put it mildly.

In general, both described above categories are quite troubled.

Some of those people, unfortunately, have been suffering for a decade or two, if not even more.

Some of them almost lost hope for their vocal recovery, while the others never gave up and continued their search.

Finally, the person arrives to my studio.

They are trying to look and act brave until we start the process, which is in its nature very tedious, very intense vowel-on-vowel, syllable-on-syllable, word-on-word instruction with simultaneous herbal remedies intake.

It is indeed not for the faint of heart and also definitely not for the person with below average I.Q.

It requires an intellectual understanding, in depth; it also requires the motor skills to be present, as the intellectual understanding works hand-in-hand with motor skills to recover the voice and bring it out on the surface.

I always said it before: “It is an integration and synergy between the mental, physical, emotional and vocal state.”

That’s what “in my books” defines the holistic approach to voice mechanics.

Needless to say that all of my voice repair clients are holding on to their emotions which they are desperately trying to keep inside.

When I deeply engage into them, so to speak, all of their frustration, anger, anguish and what-not is almost uncontrollably pouring out of them.

Interestingly enough, it is more pronounced with the regular people (not singers) who are experiencing speech disorder.

Moreover, when I begin to open up what was stored inside for so long, I often uncover more vocal and other issues than originally was determined.

This is completely normal when I, for example, treat sulcus vocalis, I suddenly uncover that the person also has muscle tension dysphonia, and what have you.

Just like during surgery, often some more deep and dangerous problems cannot be seen on x-ray or ultra-sound, and then during the surgery, the surgeon discovers something else which was not even anticipated.

So the voice repair client has to be prepared to face the unexpected and take it with a “grain of salt”.

Sometimes, I compare it with a complicated baby delivery, those which are conducted with the forceps, especially when the fetus is wrong positioned in the womb.

In most of the cases of the described above, the baby is still delivered healthy. Thank God!

The complications, however, could be very unpleasant and painful for the mother in question.

I hate to say it, but in the case of non-surgical voice repair, some discomfort and some unexpected surprises could also occur.

In other words, the voice repair process is definitely not always a “picnic”.

If you feel that mentally, physically and emotionally you are ready for such an endeavour, you are very welcome to contact me and get more in depth details.

Until then, I wish you all a speedy vocal recovery with whichever means you will find most suitable for you.

When you got any voice disorder, your life could change (and not for the better), momentarily…

Just in the recent past, you were a regular person like everybody else, and that one morning when you woke up, you felt that your voice is a little shut down and that you had to clear your throat extensively to bring any sound out to the surface.
“That was quite unusual” you might have thought, and hoped that all of it would go away soon.
You started thinking that your bedroom was quite dry and maybe, in the recent past, you had some cold, and maybe the new showed-up symptoms were just the residuals of the latter.
You went through your day, still feeling uncomfortable with your voice and even feeling that something just got stuck inside of your throat.
By the evening, you also started feeling a pain in your neck and shoulders, and overnight, your throat was ‘literally’ on fire, as the gastric acid began burning your vocal cords.
Due to that, some of you have even experienced a shortness of breath, which could be very scary for anybody, as you feel that you could not take a full breather.
With all these symptoms, no doubts, you lost your sleep.
You couldn’t sleep also because you were worrying, not knowing what is happening to your voice and to yourself in general.
You got thrown out of balance and out of the regular routine of your life.
To focus at work became a real challenge.
For those who have to speak during the working day, it became a nightmare.
And for those whose singing is a full time occupation, the threat of loosing their careers and their livelihoods, became unbearable.
Could those speakers and singers claim their lives back?
Yes, the majority of them can!
That is the good news!
Is it easy though?
The answer is NOT AT ALL.
The “hardware”, so to speak, is broken.
The mechanism which allows  the voice to work in the fullest capacity possible, is dysfunctional.
Let’s imagine that one of us owns a very expensive Mercedes Benz.
Suddenly, that beautiful, prestigious car, stalls.
What would you do if that happened to your car?
   A. Wash, polish and wax the car?
   B. Put it in the garage to “rest” and hope that it will fix itself?
   C. Look for a highly qualified mechanic to fix the mechanical problem, which perhaps occurred
        under the hood of your car?
If you chose the latter, you most likely still have a hope.
The majority of vocal coaches and speech therapists offer to the sufferer  to take a vocal rest.
They also recommend to do the acupuncture and to see the osteopath or chiropractor.
The ENT doctors “prescribe” Gaviscon for acid reflux, which is actually available over the counter.
None of them offers to work on actually what’s broken, i.e., voice mechanics.
Unless you do so, you will forever be looking for a “magic pill”, or shots of botox.
To claim your life back, you have to understand what it takes and execute it in a full force; work smart, not hard, and with minimum effort, aim to achieve maximum results.

Let’s suppose you woke up feeling ill and experiencing sore throat, cough and a fever. Naturally, you think that you got a cold or caught some kind of a virus

Nothing too dangerous, you may think…

So, for the next several days, you do everything to get rid of the symptoms. And yes, you were able to get rid of pretty much all of them, except your throat is still bothering you.

Moreover, after you knocked down your cold or your virus symptoms, you discover that, not only that your throat is still sore, but your voice is acting kind of weird.

It’s sounding kind of hoarse and raspy and you have to clear your throat every 15 minutes.

The time passes by and you are completely recovered on every level, but your voice is still sounding

Hoarse and not coming back to its normal state.

In this instance, you decide to go back to your family doctor, just to get a referral to an ENT specialist.

After waiting three to five months for that appointment, to your dismay, you find out that you actually have either a paralyzed vocal cord or spasmodic dysphonia!

How devastating it must be?

I agree, the devastation goes beyond words.

People who never had any problems with their voices are now practically disabled.

Some of them had to change their professions, as they could not teach anymore, be a crown attorney in court, or even continue to be a doctor’s assistant or just even an office secretary, where the person was required to answer the phone.

The worst part, especially for singers, was when the doctors, at best, gave them the diagnosis (not always the accurate ones), but never told them how to treat the problem, let alone cure it.

On that note, the effected people, (and especially singers), decided to go to a regular vocal coach in hopes to rectify their voice/vocal problems. They got regular style vocal coaching, but the voice problem was still remaining and never got addressed.

In some cases, the voice condition actually became worse.

For some reason, people in general do understand that, if some kind of internal organ problem occurs, they will be referred to a specialist who can attend to their specific problem.

The family physician is not the one who specializes in internal medicine.

Granted they have already been referred to the ENT specialist, but that is another story altogether.

The ENT specialist is not necessarily an expert in the voice mechanics. In real sense, to restore the voice mechanics to whichever degree possible, takes a vocal expert who specializes in such matters.

Yes, the ENT doctor could, for example, prescribe medication for the acid reflux occurrence, or the Botox injections, especially in the case of spasmodic dysphonia, which is, unfortunately, also only a temporary measure.

But beyond that would be only a surgical procedure offered, which also could be detrimental to your voice, (scar tissue and other post-operative residuals), or even your health and life in general. So your first measure would be to search for a voice/vocal specialist who has the holistic understanding how to approach the vocal issue mechanically, mentally, physically and emotionally, and how to cater it to a specific person and personality.

The regular vocal coach will not qualify for such tasks.

It is an incredibly intense and tedious undertaking which requires the special skills from the voice expert and, especially, patience and compassion towards the injured individual. As for the actual vocally injured person, it also requires willingness and ‘lovingness’, open heart and soul as well as patience, to except such services.

The vocal expert and the vocally injured person should outline the mutual goal and enjoy achieving the results.

Approximately a month ago, I received a student from the US who has been a professional singer all his life, but for the past while, he had begun experiencing some vocal problems; like a loss of high range, a raspy/hoarse voice and a collection of excess mucus in the throat, coupled with minor acid reflux.

He was experiencing fatigue with his voice and could no longer sing for prolonged periods of time.

That made my client very insecure and resulted in him refusing and cancelling upcoming gigs.

He originally arrived to me, per-registered for 20 hours of non-surgical voice repair sessions, but ended up taking 30 hours to learn the new vocal technique and to lose the bad habits adopted for the last 40 years being on stage.

The voice repair was actually complete within 10 (maximum of 15) hours; the rest of the sessions were dedicated to mastering the actual singing performance.

It was not easy, as I told him, jokingly, even before we started, that it is not easy to teach the old dog new tricks. And no, it was not easy, but in the end, it was very rewarding on both ends.

Please read from (his own words), how he felt right after he arrived home:

“ My 2 gigs right after I got home went great.

I also mentioned before I left that I had a song to sing for a producer in France that I was looking forward to trying out the new technique — it worked great– I had just one day to do the lead and harmonies– there were a lot of harmonies– so I was singing pretty hard for a little over 7 hours.

Next day I felt fine — tired physically, but that goes along with being old :) Everything worked and it really helped cement some things — the circles and peripheral singing — that’s been a real hard one to get, but it’s making sense now and I know with implementation and practice it will become second nature.

The way I was able to make it make sense to my mind was to say “keep your eyes on the road” — which of course, is what you were saying — you used the GPS analogy, but I’m more old school :)”

Now, a month later, we have received another e-mail from the same client, who now has had the opportunity to test out the Vocal Science technique, combined with his performance skills (and my expertise on that matter), even further.

Please read below:

“The gigs this past week went great– one major thing that I’m noticing is in what you stressed about keeping our eyes on the (singing) road. It’s starting to come more naturally now and when it does, the audience reaction and connection is deeper and better in relation to how clearly I see the road (in fact, one of the gigs was a solo gig and I made way more tips than I have there in the past — do I owe you a commission for that? :)

We know that as artists, singers and just as people, that we want and have to connect with the audience to allow the cycle to happen– yes, of course, we have to talk to them and relate that way, but the deep meaningful connection happens on its own if we just connect with the song– that’s what the audience feels — it’s the difference between singing at them or to them.

If we’re constantly monitoring what we sound like and what we look like, where is there room for the song?–that ability and opportunity for a deep connection goes right by us and we’ve missed our chance. As you like to say, go figure.

I know this is very simplistic, but whether it’s sports, singing, or cooking etc. it’s the basics that are often the most overlooked and the most important. As always, thank you :)

I think that the above is very profound. And Bob has been an incredible person and a very diligent and dedicated student; taking instructions with gratitude and adapting the newly learned skills right into his craft.

And as we see, it worked “by the book”, so to speak.

We know about some singers who are so, ‘me, myself and I… and my voice’, that cannot connect with the audience, as they have been listening to themselves and “enjoying” their own voice instead of singing it for the audience.

The others have another extreme.

Their singing is not up to par and some of them are literally losing their voices right on stage and during their performances. However, the majority of them have good showmanship, which often they pass to cover-up their inadequacies in the actual singing field.

I would call them the ‘Entertainers’ and not Singers.

However, the ideal combination of two would create the ultimate performance, as the technical and artistic merits would be in perfect harmony, (no pun intended).

The audience, in my opinion, should become more demanding and claim and feel entitled to experience the real true performance from the artists for their hard earned money.

Should you just work on your physical body, or should you just work on your voice?

The answer is: NONE of the above mentioned choices are right!

As per usual, I am receiving multiple e-mails from all over the world.

90% of those e-mails consist of quite long letters with all kinds of stories, primarily about the voice problems these individuals have been experiencing. The majority of them possess the notion that if something is wrong with their voice i.e. it sounds hoarse, their throat hurts and feels scratchy, they have excessive mucus in their throats and some have already been diagnosed with acid reflux, muscle tension dysphonia, and whatnot; it must be happening only on a physical level.

They do not realize that the majority of vocal issues become present because of the misuse of the vocal mechanics (speaking or singing). However, you cannot dismiss either of the above. If the physical body is already out of whack, so to speak, the wrong mechanics of the voice will reinforce all of the physical imperfections.

If the person is not exactly mentally and physically fit, it will surface that much stronger when the person’s voice will get drowned to the lower position; and thus will attract the mucus and gastric acid to the vocal box and the vocal cords in particular.

As sad as it sounds, when the speaker or singer is experiencing the symptoms of a raspy and hoarse voice, they run to the doctor just to be labeled with either acid reflux or muscle tension dysphonia, especially if no growth like nodules or polyps are present.

They are offered something like Gaviscon which you could buy over the counter and which could assist with the minor stomach trouble, but definitely has not much to do with fixing the voice, or even getting acid reflux off of the vocal box.

Once (mechanically speaking) the voice is flat and sits low in the position, no Gaviscon, or any other remedy, will get it out of there, unless the voice is physically recovered, lifted and restructured to the different set of muscles.

Once the voice finds its new “home” at the upper facial cavities, the surface of the vocal box will be released from the pressure of the sound; and thus will become available to except natural herbal and homeopathic remedies, which actually will aid a great deal to the damaged vocal anatomy.

What does it tell us?

It tells us that the remedies alone, (even the natural ones), will not be able to solve the vocal disorder on its own. It also tells us that to work on the vocal mechanics would be much easier if the vocal box would be lubricated, the vocal cords would be strengthened and all of the impurities, (like mucus and acid), will be eliminated.

So, one more time again, we are back to the holistic approach to vocal mechanics and overall to the human being.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading the “Vocal Buffett, blog. “Part 1”

There, we were talking mainly about the amateur singers who were trying to sing anything and everything under the sun with no proper training, knowledge or even talent.

In this blog, we will talk about the diet, nutrition and exercise for those who want to choose, or have already chosen singing and/or performing, as their career.

There is a saying: “We are what we eat”.

I would also say: “Because of what we eat, we are what we sing also”.

How so, you may ask?

The person who is at least reasonably fit and well nourished would definitely sound much healthier i.e. much clearer and much stronger.

There is also a saying that: “in a healthy body, is a healthy spirit”.

My regular readers probably remember that in some blogs written in the past, I stated that the voice is a spirit, which has to be discovered, uncovered and than flown away and on top of the physical body. If the spirit is healthy and pure, it will soar that much higher and its trajectory will be that much longer.

If the singers throat is full of mucus and the vocal cords are burnt by gastric acids, the lift of the voice (the spirit) will not be as high; and thus the high, (and low range for that matter), will be greatly diminished.

The Vocal Science technique, and the standards of professional singing for that matter, suggest that even the lower range approach cannot be achieved without lifting the voice off of the vocal box (off of the vocal cords) and settling the sound in the upper vocal chambers (sinus cavities).

Let’s now imagine a ballerina trying to jump to the arms of her partner off of the thick carpet instead of the hard flat surface (special floor). How high could she jump, not having a proper, clean resistance under her feet?

My guess would be, not high enough.

The figure skaters like Elvis Stojko, or Patrick Chan for that matter would never be able to perform their quads or even triple combination jumps if they were taking off ‘with’ the ice instead of ‘off’ the ice.

The fact is that in that instance, they would need to do triple or quadruple revolutions with not enough height off the ice, which would make it completely and utterly impossible. So, if the singer were to eat a lot of spicy foods and consume a lot of dairy, he/she, most likely, would possess a lot of mucus in their bodies and up their throats.

If they ingest a lot of acidic foods (like tomatoes and oranges for example), no doubt that they will also acquire what is called an “acid reflux”.

In 1999, I had an article written about me by the Toronto Start newspaper named “coach me if you can”, where the journalist, after experiencing 5 hours of my instruction, exclaimed:

“It is definitely not for the faint of heart”.

Indeed. It is not.

The person who wants to become a singer/performer has to be physically, emotionally, mentally and vocally fit.

Sometime ago, I caught a part of the movie which was called Mirrors, which was about the life of a ballet dancers. The episode that became very memorable to me was about the 2 dancers who came to the theatre management to discuss their contract to perform as a duet “pas de deux”.

They were handed a contract, which after reading it, the male dancer outright returned it back to the manager’s hands.

Then he looked at his female partner to be, who looked quite fragile, in my opinion, and asked her: “how much do you weigh?” She looked at him with fear in her eyes and said: “100 pounds”.

The male dancer looked at the manager and said: “I have to lift her 6 times. That is 600 pounds!” The manager smiled and handed them an appropriate contract, which they accepted.

That is a clear example how the professional artist (be it ballet, figure skating or singing for that matter), think.

Could you imagine if the female ballet dancer, weighing 100 pounds (as we just learned), decided to go out and eat a meat-heavy dinner, pizza or cake? If she did, she could have come back on stage weighing 101, or even 102 pounds!

Remember that her partner, for a certain amount of money, was prepared only to lift 600 pounds of her in total. Also, he could have just simply dropped her and thus cause an accident, God forbid.

I personally witnessed a pretty heavy (by any standards) dancer attempted to be lifted and be nearly dropped.

Believe it or not, it has occurred on our Canadian stage during The Phantom of the Opera Musical Production. Thank God the accident did not happen and, to my delight and comfort, that it was not a classical ballet performance.

So the weight and height and the overall health and fitness, will play a crucial role in an artist’s (amateur or professional) performance. The physical body is the internal and external instrument, which if played correctly, will sound like a million bucks…

To my knowledge, at least 90 percent of the population loves to sing.

Some of them are doing it for the recreational purposes; others say that they do it for recreational purposes, but secretly hope that one day, someday, they will become singing stars. And lastly, the other category simply consider themselves to be already professional singers, as they occasionally perform in different venues and sometimes, they even get some remuneration.

In this blog, I will refrain from talking about the real professionals with names and reputations, however, even they could stand some extra mentoring and instruction and not only vocal instruction per say.

However, out of 90% of song lovers, only 3 to 5% make it to the big stage.

Why is that, you may ask?

There is a bouquet of reasons, which pertain to that occurrence.

First of all, before reaching any heights at all, the majority of those wannabe singers end up with a variety of vocal problems.

Some of them are trying to become Opera singers, while having no prerequisite for it whatsoever.

Why only do we have a handful of Opera singers known to the world?

Because, in my opinion, you have to be born with more than an extra-large vocal box, long, thick and strong vocal cords, healthy larynx, highly arched upper pallet and a big mouth opening, to say the least.

It’s like a classical Ballerina requires to have their arms and legs at a certain length and very ‘good feet’ i.e. with a very high instep, so they could hold their weight on their toes.

Usually, in both fields, those components are given with birth, and then, combined with the proper training. That is how the star is born.

It is simply a combination of naturally given talent and excellent training. The lack of either of those prerequisites, especially the ladder, may finish one’s singing career, for example, before it takes off.

So, evidently, not everybody could become an Opera or Rock Star, and if they are trying to do so without the given components and with no training, the vocal injury will most likely take place.

Any given singer should have a check with reality before they start singing “escapades”. They need to assess their abilities and not to jump right away to the very hard tunes with the very high notes.

The size and proportions of one’s body, the size of the mouth opening (inside and out), the facial structure, the size of the lips – all have to do with the proper, full and nicely toned sound.

The voice is the muscle and it has to be trained correctly.

If the size of the vocal box is not adequate, the wannabe opera singer most likely cannot be trained to reach a highly professional level.

However, some pop styles and country styles could be achievable with a, not exactly, perfect vocal anatomy.

So know your limits and work on their expansion, but so very carefully and not without professional supervision.

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