Vocal Technique - Coaches

January 25th, 2012 | by VoiceCouncil

Take Control of Your Environment


What change can you make so that your rehearsal or performance space works for you? -asks Mister Tim

My son has a habit of letting his glasses slide down to the end of his nose, then craning his head into a strange position so he can see through the lenses.

He is very skilled at being able to walk, read, even use a computer with his glasses in this strange position. Still, it would be a lot easier if he just pushed his glasses up.

Not that I have any room to talk. I work in a studio whose primary engineer is 6’8”. The main mixing desk and chair are taller than normal to fit his physique.

After years of aching neck, back, and legs from putting my smaller frame in his work space, it finally dawned on me that I could bring in a smaller portable table and chair that fit me better.

Worse than that, I was once working through how to best mic a kazoo for live performing.

Finding the best sound coming from the resonator hole on top, I lamented to my wife that I wished someone would make a kazoo with the hole on the bottom so that it would be easier to mic.

She was kind enough to point out that I could just turn the kazoo over.

Your Singing Environment

As musicians, we have countless tools that help us do what we do.

Because of habit or familiarity we may use these tools in such a way that is not best for us or, as is far too common, can actually be harmful.

Move mic stands. Ask for a different chair. Ask the sound tech to change the monitor mix.

If needed, ask if you can move the monitor, or instrument stand, or your placement on stage.

Vocalists who are also pianists can be fastidious about the height of their benches. The relationship between keyboard, finger, arm, shoulder, neck can all be thrown out of balance by environmental factors.

Singer-Guitarists: do you bring your instrument to you, or do you go to it? If you slump down to your guitar and then try to sing, your voice will be affected.

When you are running a sound check it is your right to change/move/adjust so that everything will be in place for you to have your best performance.

Nothing is sacred: rehearsal space, performing space, studio headphones, clothing, pre-show routines, diet, brand of microphone… if you want to make a change so you are more comfortable, DO IT.

Take control of your environment so that you are free to make your music.

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Gary Teed – When You Say Nothing At All (cover)

Excellent song choice. You sing with a simplicity and sincerity that perfectly blends your personality with the mood of the song. Your neck shows some visual signs of strain, as if you are pulling your head forward to see down to your guitar.. Can you bring your guitar up more to your chest? Use a strap? If you can set your head back more on top of your shoulders I think it will help you relax even more.

Dan Emino – Blackbird (cover)

Nice style, I like the personal touches while staying true to the heart of this classic song. You have a good sound that seems to really work for you, so I’m going to suggest some challenges for you. See my column from last week: I don’t think you need to change your sound, but you could add to your toolbox. Dynamics: how soft can you get? Could you go all the way down to an intense whisper? When you get loud and high could you color your vowels differently? Growl? Use more or less chest voice up high? Experiment with different sounds!

-Mister Tim

Mister Tim is a modern voice artist who respects the history of the vocal arts while not being afraid to push into new, uncharted territory. He artistic directs an eclectic array of vocal ensembles that range from traditional choral to cutting-edge, technology-based, ultra-modern vocal rock bands. A published composer, award-winning recording artist, and in-demand performer and teacher, Mister Tim is also a viral video star, sponsored kazoo player, and dedicated husband and father. He created and sings with 2010 Harmony Sweepstakes champions Plumbers of Rome, internet sensations moosebutter, beatbox online teachers and performers Mouth Beats, and all-original vocal band THROAT. He also tours with his solo vocal live-looping/beatbox shows.
www.mistertimdotcom.com and www.vocalitysingers.com

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  • Martin DeBourge

    Excellent article.
    One thing I am surprised you didn’t mention: band members who smoke.
    I’ve noticed this can also be problematic when rehearsals are being held at the smoker’s residence. Controlling this environment doesn’t always go over well.

    Usually, I’m able to plead my case if I liken it unto a guitarist being asked to work his fingers in sub zero temps.

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  • MisterTim

    Martin, there are many, many environmental factors I did not mention, but smoke-related, that’s a big one.  I have such a violent reaction to smoke (can’t sing a lick!) that I keep myself out of any and all places where I might have to face that.  Not all singers have that option, but I like the way you plead your case.

    Don’t even get me started on singers who smoke…Related is fragrances: I have an allergic reaction to perfume and cologne, so I specify on my rider that all environs be fragrance-free.

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