Canadian Musician

STEP UP TO THE MIC… HOLY $#!%, NOW WHAT???

Angela Kelman

How To Test A Microphone

April 22nd, 2014

AK_BookCover_FINAL_LowRez 2

Quote Of The Day:

Well I have a microphone and you don’t so you will listen to every damn word I have to say!

Adam Sandler

Ha! Funny quote…and oh so true. Those of us with the microphone will be heard. However, learning how to check it and set it up properly is really important in the overall scheme of our performance.

Recently I went shopping for a new microphone for an upcoming lounge gig I am doing. It’s been years since I have done an intimate gig such as this and I wanted to be sure to get a microphone that could handle the range of vocal dynamics that I will be singing with: from intimate and low notes to full on Diva notes in my upper mid-range.

I was lucky enough to bring home 4 superior quality microphones to test at a rehearsal. These mics ranged from $200.00 to $700.00. Knowing me, I’d like the most expensive one the best but wanted to give them all a fair shake. I have had experience with setting up sound systems for years, but in this instance, I brought in my producer/engineer friend, Allan Rodger, to help me set up the system perfectly and be another set of ears to help me decide on the right mic.

The first thing he did was flatten out the eq’s on the board and individual channels. He also approximated the gain on each individual mic channel to be the same volume. This made it a level playing field for all mics and gave a true reflection of what parts of my voice were enhanced or neglected when hearing the mics this way. This was a big “AHA” moment for me. It really did level the playing field. At first blush (before Allan did his magic and I was checking the mics by myself), the $700 Neumann was seducing me but as I sang over all of them for an hour, it, thankfully, wasn’t the one I ended up choosing. (Stay tuned for my next blog on the test results on different models and makes of mics).

One more thing… you probably know this, but in case you have forgotten, never blow into a microphone to test it. There are intricate parts on the inside that can be damaged by forcing air into the mic. If you have to be discreet, click your tongue into it or say “check” or “test” or better yet, sing a little bit of something that is “rangy” if you have the freedom to be overt when checking your mic.

Until Next Time… Breathe and Happy Singing!

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

Pink At The Oscars

March 10th, 2014

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Quote Of The Day:

 “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why oh why can’t I?”             -Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz

 This past week I was tempted to give my opinion on a facebook post a friend and fellow singer made who wasn’t impressed with Pink’s performance of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” during a tribute to Judy Garland on the Oscars this past Sunday, March 2nd. My friend said she thought the performance “stank” and “who breathes that much in a ballad and in such odd places?” Then she posted a link to Eva Cassidy’s version of the song, something I will address in a minute.

Well if you read any of my blogs or follow my tutorials on youtube, you’ll know I am a big advocate of breathing often. I have to agree that Pink’s choices of where she took her breaths were odd a few times, but the main reason she has such excellent pitch is because she had all that air to work with. Also, breathing often will keep nervousness at bay. She may have breathed in those odd places for that reason exactly. She may have felt a little panic starting to sneak in and took in air to help quell the shakes. I’ve done it myself in high pressure situations. Can’t deny it was an amazingly emotional performance, which breathing often and, sometimes in odd places, helped to project. Personally, I think she did a magnificent job overall. Here’s the link if you missed it http://youtu.be/DDgTbx9u-fo

 Now let’s chat about Eva Cassidy. Amazing singer technically and emotionally. But, I have an observation about her from a vocal coach perspective. I realized that she is a singer that runs on one breath a long time and creates an emotional angst by eeking out the last bit of breath by, what I hear, sounds like pushing from her throat. Hmmm, seems there was another singer recently who had the same style… her name, Adelle. Most of you will remember that Adelle had to take a year off and had to have surgery on her vocal cords from what I believe was her infrequent breathing and lack of diaphragm support connection, thus using her throat to push out the sound. Regardless of stylistic and technical vocal approaches, Eva Cassidy, who left us far too soon at the age of 33, could deliver a song on an emotional level most singers strive for. Here is her version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Enjoy. http://youtu.be/ccCnL8hArW8

 One last note, sometime in recordings of songs the engineer or producer think it’s a good idea to remove the sound of the singer taking in their breaths between phrases. I have never liked this approach as I feel hearing the singer breathe gives a human and even more intense emotional element to the song. The removal of breaths can’t be done in a live performance and perhaps we all notice them more because of this.

 

In closing, the above blog is just one small woman’s opinion…mine. But I have been a professional singer for 35 years and a vocal coach for over ten years. If you are going to sing, I really hope you breathe often (in what feels like the natural places in the song) and support from your diaphragm as to not hurt your voice. This technique will help you deliver a song with not only great pitch and power when you need it, but also a level of emotion that will make people weep.

 

Until next time… Breathe and Happy Singing!

 

Angela

 

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

 

www.angelakelman.com

 

Sing Everyday…Forever

February 16th, 2014

Quote Of The Day:

“Use it or lose it” – Jimmy Connors

Recently on a wonderful trip to Palm Springs I had the opportunity to go and see a friend play sax and flute with a wonderful jazz quartet. The second sax player on the gig was also one of the vocalists for the band. When the man sang his featured songs I was mesmerized with the beautiful tone, fabulous pitch, and amazing control that he possessed. Why was I blown away with this particularly engaging singer? Because he is 82 years old.

His name is Don Shelton and he was a part of the vocal groups called, The Hi-Lo’s and The Singers Unlimited from the 50’s to the 80’s. He also spent 25 years in Chicago singing National jingles. Check this clip of The Hi-Lo’s and Frank Sinatra. Don is far right on the screen.

http://youtu.be/-hWq322lgmA

After the quartet’s set I got an opportunity to chat with Don and ask him how he still sings so amazingly well at 82. It was a pretty simple answer. He sings everyday. I was so impressed and inspired by this man. When I think of singing octogenarians I usually think of “warbly” sounding voices. This man still sings as well as a man less than half his age. Gives me faith that if I keep singing everyday I’ll still be able to pull off the big disco diva notes with bang on pitch and power when I am in my 80’s, hence the “use it or lose it” quote off the top. After all, singing is a lot of muscle training and memory much like athletics. Gotta go… time to do my daily vocal workout.

 

Until Next Time… Breathe and Happy Singing

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

 

Tips On How To Find The Right Vocal Coach – Part 2

January 30th, 2014

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A few weeks ago I wrote about getting out there and finally finding a vocal coach to help you sing they way you have always dreamed you could. Always remember that you are the one who is paying for the lessons. This gives you the right to ask pertinent questions of the potential vocal coach to make sure that they are the right fit for you and that you won’t be wasting your time and money.

The big thing for me is to ask the question of whether they are classically trained or not. As you are reading this blog from the Canadian Musician Magazine website, I am assuming that you are looking for a pop approach that would include styles like rock, metal, r&b, soul, country and jazz to name a few. If the vocal coach in question is classically or musical theatre trained, it’s important to ask the following questions:

1) Are you willing to teach a pop production way of vocalizing?This includes singing powerfully with good technique in your full voice and using the breath to add texture and emotion to your songs.

*some classically trained vocalists and teachers are very much purists in their vocal beliefs and absolutely disdain the pop singing approach which some have said “ruins ones voice”

*at the other end of the spectrum, I have encountered some musical theatre performers that have been coached to “belt”. Not a word I like to use as sometimes the mechanics of getting power from this approach are not explained properly and the singer ends up “yelling” out their song and potentially doing damage to the voice.

2) What is your approach to breathing within the body of a song? (Meaning, do they advocate frequent breathing or running a long time on one breath?

*if the vocal coach tells you that they will be teaching you to run on one breath until it’s gone… run…away. In my world, success of singing pop music depends on frequent breathing of various sizes of breath. This will enable you to maintain great pitch, call upon power when you need it and infuse the song with amazing emotion by using your breath to “colour” the tone of your voice.

3)What is your terminology for the different placements of the voice. For example, chest voice, full voice, head tone or head voice. Does you approach advocate staying in full voice high into the vocal range?

** this is important because you need to understand where your sound is resonating and realize that pop placements are different from the classical or even musical theatre placements. If you are going to sing a rock song, you want to be sure to keep it in a placement like full voice where you can get power, be on an emotional edge, and still maintain control. Often in classical singing, you would be coached to “flip” into your head voice much lower in your range than when singing pop music. Pop is all about pushing the boundaries with good technique to stay in the right placement for the song giving the song the power and emotional edge that is correct for the style. A wrong placement example would be someone singing Aretha’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T in a head tone making it sound like “the church lady” lol. So Wrong…

To me, these are the 3 most important questions to ask a vocal coach. If you decide to go with someone and it doesn’t quite feel right doing what they are coaching you to do, keep looking for someone. Just because they may be an expert in their field doesn’t mean they’ll be the right expert for you. Feel free to email me through either of my websites if you have any more concerns about finding a vocal coach.

Until Next Time… Happy Singing!

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

 

 

Tips On How To Find The Right Vocal Coach

January 2nd, 2014

 

Quote Of The Day:

 

“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves”…Thomas Edison

And so begins another new year complete with resolutions and big dreams. Some of you will be resolving to get out there and sing because you know there is a singer in you and it’s finally time to let it out. I say go for it!

I chose the above quote because I see amazing things happen with my students all the time. They are putting themselves out there, getting on a stage in front of their peers, breathing to keep the nerves at bay (and for great vocal technique) and are nailing songs they never thought they were capable of with perfection. There is no greater joy for me as their coach than to share that moment with them.

But, how did they know we would be a right fit for each other and that they would be able to flourish under my guidance? When searching for a vocal coach there are some things you want to be clear on before you hire someone to make sure that they are the right fit for you. This will ensure you get the desired results without wasting time and money on someone who doesn’t share the same vision regarding finding your voice.

Identifying Your Style

 To me, this is the most important part of the equation. If you are hoping to sing any kind of pop music: rock, country, soul, indie, hip hop to name a few, it is important that you find a vocal coach who specializes in this approach. In my opinion, going to a classical music vocal coach would not be the best way to go. The reason I say this is that classical voice technique and pop vocal technique are like apples and oranges. I have also experienced students whose voices have been changed to fit the vocal coach’s style and not the style desired by the student. There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding pop vocal technique. When learned and delivered properly, pop technique will not ruin your voice. Trust me, after 35 years of singing for a living, I have only lost my voice once due to illness. I know how to deliver a song with power and emotion and have never been hoarse or lost it from misuse because I sing with proper pop technique.

 Stay tuned for part 2… questions you should ask a potential vocal coach to be sure they are the right fit for what you are looking for.

Until Next Time… Breathe And Happy Singing!

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

 

Great Example of Perfect Breathing For Singers

December 2nd, 2013

Every so often a singer captures my attention because they are a living, breathing (pardon the pun) example of what I try to teach my vocal students. As you may have deciphered from most of my blogs about vocal technique, breathing is the foundation on which my entire 5 Point Singing System is based. I believe that if you are not breathing correctly, nothing else will work for you regarding great pitch, power and the ability to deliver a song with emotion.

A few years ago while watching the Grammy broadcast, Alicia Keys performed her huge hit, “If I Ain’t Got You”. I was immediately engaged upon hearing her first breath. If you realize it or not, that air intake you hear from a singer is a big part of the emotional delivery of a song and is one of the things that will help give us “goose bumps” when we are listening. Check it out here:

http://youtu.be/FUYikToUnVM  (you might have to copy and paste this as I had trouble linking it. If not, search Alicia Keys Grammys 2005)

The frequency of her breaths as well as the amount of air she takes in for big notes are all factors in the brilliance of how well she delivered that song. I never get tired of watching this clip. In fact, I love singing this song myself as it is so well crafted and such a joy to sing. The breathing rhythm (where you need to take your breaths) is absolutely paramount in delivering this song flawlessly. If you barrel through a space where you should have taken a breath you may find yourself singing flat or not having the power you need when engage your diaphragm support.

Great breathing, regarding frequency and size per breath is the secret to singing any song well. Next time you write or learn a song, think about where your breaths should be placed and I guarantee you will sing the song with so much more ease, great pitch and power if you follow the breathing rhythm.

Until next time… Breathe and Happy Singing!

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

Tips On How To Sing Well While Drumming

November 13th, 2013

Blog Post #48

Quote Of The Day:

Q: What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend?

A: Homeless

Okay, big laugh for those of us in the music industry. There are tons of jokes poking fun at all musicians in a band, but somehow drummers usually get the “s**tty end of the stick”, (pardon the pun), when it comes to being the butt of a lot of jokes.

Seriously, there is no greater musician than a drummer who can sing. He has all four limbs moving at once and then adds in a vocal part. I have often been in awe and have always had the utmost respect for singing drummers. There are a few tips, from a vocal coach perspective, that drummers can do to enhance their performance.

Check out this picture of Don Henley from the Eagles, one of the best singing drummers – ever! Note his “sitting up tall” posture. This is absolutely necessary for any singer who is standing or sitting to sing. When your diaphragm muscle is not encumbered by slouching over, you will have the ability to take in a proper singer’s breath, (air in/tummy out) and be able to use your diaphragm support (the pulls towards your backbone) properly, which is necessary to sing with great pitch and power.

The second thing I love about this photo is his microphone position. It comes straight across his mouth, it’s not tipped up too high making him crane his neck up to reach it, or positioned too low making him do the double chin move to sing down into it. Both these positions will create strain for the singer. Straight across with his chin parallel to the floor will help him hit all those fantastic notes we are used to hearing from him.

In summary, the two biggest things to remember when singing and drumming at the same time is good posture and good mic technique. If you are a proficient drummer and singer you will be in demand for sure.

 

Until next time… Breathe and Happy Singing!

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

 

 

Stage Performance Tip #2 “Making An Entrance”

April 24th, 2013

Quote Of The Day”

“A live concert to me is exciting because of all the electricity that is generated in the crowd and on stage. It’s my favourite part of the business, live concerts.”

Elvis Presley

Like most of us, I have seen my fair share of live acts over the years. One of the things that always stays with me after the show is how “efficiently” the artist entered the stage. To me, this sets the tone of the whole performance. The amount of time that elapses between the “Put Your Hands Together For…” and the first note or drumbeat of the first song, in my world, is an indicator of how energetic the performance will be. When there is much anticipation coming from the audience, you can feel the electricity building. When the artist is introduced and saunters on to the stage, has to tune his guitar, or fiddle with his pedals or other gear it really sucks the energy that was just created to set up the show.

Here are a few tips to make sure that your show has the energy right from the moment you are introduced.

1) Make sure that all instruments are tuned and ready to go before you hit the stage and you can start to play promptly after your introduction. Have everything you need already in place so that you are not rearranging things once the show begins.

2) If you are a solo artist with a band backing you up, have the musicians and singers in place, on stage, before your introduction. This way your name gets excitedly introduced and the first beat of the song comes within seconds to keep up the energy as you walk out on stage over the first song intro. This, to me, looks and feels really pro.

3) Starting the show with a song that has great energy or a great groove is always a good idea. Opening with a slow song or ballad isn’t my favourite way of creating the right energy (unless all your songs are slow and introspective).

4) Let your personal energy exude from the moment you set foot on stage as it is infectious to the audience. If you come out with a frown on your face looking like Eeyore, or hung-over from partying too hard the night before, you have the power to take the audience down with you. In this scenario what little energy you have will be sucked out of you and make it even harder to perform.

Enjoy the ride. There’s nothing better than the energy moons aligning during a show. That’s what keeps us all hooked.

Until next time… Breathe and Happy Singing!

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

 

 

 

 

Preventing Strain On Your Upper Notes – Part 2

March 1st, 2013

Just to re-cap from part 1, the first step in singing those Rockstar or Diva notes perfectly is to be sure you are breathing with a proper singer’s breath and that you are getting in the right amount of air for each phrase. This is the most important step in nailing the biggest notes in the song with great power and pitch. If you don’t have your breathing figured out, nothing else will work.

The second part of the equation is engaging the right amount of Diaphragm Support. You will never use more diaphragm support than on the big Rock Star or Diva notes. This means that you will have filled up your air tank with a breath (air in/tummy out) and then you will create a big “pull” of your abdominal muscles (or what I generally refer to as your diaphragm) towards your backbone in a very quick and purposeful manner. This action is clearly described in a past blog called “Calling Voice”. That diaphragm movement is the second most important step in making the big notes without strain. Practice the “Calling Voice” exercise where you take in a big singer’s breath, pull your diaphragm quickly back towards your backbone and “call” (not yell) the word “HEY” as if you were trying to get someone’s attention across the street. This gives you the idea of how much energy has to come from your diaphragm to support the big notes. Keeping an open throat is really important to the success of the exercise. There should be no strain in your throat area if the power is coming from your diaphragm support. If you are disconnected from your diaphragm support you will be pushing from your throat which will eventually cause fatigue and loss of voice.

The final part of the equation to making big, floaty, effortless notes is “Vowel Modification”. Again, refer to a past blog with this title for more detail. Essentially, it means you will be changing the shape of your mouth to make the note float out easier. The way I describe it is that you “think” the modification, but you “sing” the actual word. Here is an example. (Forgive me for using a dated reference, but she was one of the most incredible singers… ever). In Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, there is a key change and she comes sailing in with big Diva notes on the words “And I”. The word “and” is not as tight as the word “I”, but can still use some modification. Here is the phonetic way I would modify these words:

“Think” “AHND” but “Sing” “AND” – all this does is drop your jaw lower so the note can sail out easier

“I” is a tougher modification because it is a dipthong (a vowel sound that has two vowel sounds within it – “A-EE” when you break it down). Our jaw tends to come up and create tension on the second vowel sound “EE”. So the way you would modify this word is:

“Think” “AH” (which will change the shape of your mouth to be more open with a dropped jaw) then add the tiniest of a “y” closure at the very end of the word but “Sing” “I”. Even if you don’t close with the small “y” sound, by the time you are forming the word “will” which follows it, your mouth shape has gently closed the word without the jaw coming up thus creating tension as your mouth sides pull back towards your ears. Try it both ways and see how big the difference is when you don’t close the word with a pronounced “EE” sound. Still sounds like the word “I”, but with a lot less strain.

Let’s review the 3 most important steps in making your big notes perfect:

1. Breathe Big (maximize your air tank with a proper singer’s breath – air in/tummy out)

2. Pull Big (pull your diaphragm support back towards your backbone quickly and with purpose)

3. Drop Big (drop your jaw to modify or open up a tight vowel sound)

If you follow this sequence, I guarantee that you will nail your most challenging notes in the song everytime.

Until next time… Breathe (Pull and Drop)

Happy Singing!

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

 

 

 

How To Prevent Straining On Your Upper Notes – Part 1

February 21st, 2013

Quote Of The Day:

“Am I afraid of high notes? Of course I am afraid. What sane man is not?”

Luciano Pavarotti

Wow, if Luciano was afraid of hitting high notes, the rest of us mere musical mortals may never even attempt it. Take heart, I truly believe that there is a foolproof method to hitting the high notes in your full voice with precision and effortlessness. You too can be a Diva or Rock Star. (Before you comment, I am aware that Luciano sang opera : 0).

In my years of singing and coaching pop vocal technique, it has become very clear to me, that in following a particular sequence of actions, you can make the big notes without straining or cracking your voice.

The first part of this equation is breathing. In my world, breathing correctly is the foundation of great singing. The first thing you will need to check is the direction of your breathing. A proper singer’s breath is “air in/tummy out”. Also in regards to breathing, you need to take in the right amount of air for the phrase. If you are singing in your Diva or Rock Star placement, which is the upper end of your full voice, you will need to fill up your air tank substantially to support the big note. Place your hand on your abdomen to be sure that your tummy comes out and presses against it when you take in your breath. Be aware of not raising your shoulders up and sucking your tummy inwards when taking in air which is something I call “backwards breathing” and is highly  detrimental to hitting the big notes with ease.

Another little rule of thumb I like to share with my students is to get in a big breath as close to the big note as possible. If the phrase is 8 words long and the big note happens on word 5, you would want to create an opportunity for a breath, maybe after word 3 or just before word 5, for example. Having enough air in your “tank” to support the big note is imperative. If you don’t get a chance to take in more air, you may have already used 70% of your breath and what is left may not be enough to get under the note to sing it with correct pitch, power and emotion. If there is absolutely no place to breathe close to the big note, then be sure to get a “super big mondo” breath at the beginning of the phrase. However, I am a big advocate of breathing often for mechanical and emotional reasons and creating spaces to breathe in order to deliver the goods in perfect pitch and with power. This is my modus operandi and has never failed me.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week. Until then, practice your singer’s breath. Check out this video from my 5 Point Singing System program to show you how.  http://youtu.be/bPwq_3idxlQ

Happy Singing,

Angela

www.5pointsingingsystem.com

www.angelakelman.com

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