The Long Term Voice

Whether you are a performer, a teacher, a sales executive or a spruiker you are an elite vocal athlete and your whole self – body-heart-mind – is the vocal instrument. I encourage everyone, at every level, to warm up the voice for a minimum of three minutes a day paying attention to posture, breath and sound. While a few minutes of regular loving attention to your voice keeps the larynx fit and agile, extending those minutes into a session of physically active, mentally focussed training practice builds the necessary muscle tone and creative power to prepare you for a lengthy season of rehearsals, performances or presentations, without undue stress or strain.

Being in Voice Warm Up App is available in the iTunes App Store for AU$4.49.
It contains audio instructions for 3 minute Mini Vocal Warmup, a 15 minute General warmup suitable for regular practice and for preparing for rehearsal, performance or presentation, a bonus 15 minute Humming warmup, as well as a wealth of documented information relating to voice work.Screenshot 2013.05.10 13.36.58

I’m also developing a version for Android machines, it will be a few months before this is available. All the files – audio and documentation, are available here on this website for download, using Paypal as a secure payment system.iOS Simulator Screen shot 19.07.2013 11.07.45 AM

 

Voice and singing teachers, choral directors – if you would like to try out the app before recommending it to your students, please contact me directly for a promo code.

Covering All the Bases: 5 Essentials Elements of Warming Up

It’s pretty much known that I am a warm up freak. I love warming up.  I love finding new ways of warming up. I love getting other people to warm up, hence the development of the Being in Voice smartphone app.

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warming up with bamboo poles

I have certain exercises that I use, from time to time, but really it’s important to warm up with exercises that fit the circumstances.  What works for you warming up at home by yourself for an audition might not work for a group warming up for an ensemble production. What works with one group might not work with another group.  It is important – nay essential! – to find a consensus within the group, so that everybody gets to own the warm up. Warming up is working, it should be enjoyable, something to look forward to.

getting the message across

getting the message across

Whatever you are warming up for, whether it’s for a day at the chalk-face or a 5 minute pitch presentation, an interview with the boss or a 3 hour Shakespeare performance, there are certain bases that must be covered:

1) stimulate blood flow to the muscles – the body’s core muscles plus all the large external muscles (arms and legs) and the minute and complex internal muscles of the vocal apparatus (including the articulators); challenge those muscles and the heart and lungs to function at a slightly more demanding level than normal, everyday resting state

2) open the mind’s attention to the actual physical state of the body, from the inside

3) generate freedom of movement throughout every joint in the body

3) open the mind and the ears to the potential of vocal sound throughout the whole body and flowing into the space

4) ensure the free flow of vibrations throughout the whole body and into the space – only possible when the body is warm, relaxed and alert

5 stretch and play with the full range of vocal sound – pitch, resonance, colour and articulation

5) bring the attention into clear focus.

And of course, if you are working with a group, you want to complete the warmup process with everybody clearly engaged with everybody else and ready to begin working straight away.

Did I leave anything out?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

You’ll find lots of exercises in the eBook “Four Great Vocal Warmups” – free if you register your email to receive notice of blog updates and an occasional newsletter.

What are your favourite warmup exercises?  Is there a difference between warming up and training?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

The Art of Editing

Last week, I finally finished editing my thesis document, and emailed it to my supervisors for their approval (or disapproval…)  I’m sure it can still be improved upon, and I will accept their comments and suggestions with good will, but I am very very happy to have arrived at this stage – for the time being. 20121111-214327.jpg

After a busy weekend that included making a professional showreel, attending two performances and running a full day workshop introducing a class of acting students to the joys of voice and speech work, I found myself with that lost feeling that I should BE somewhere… or BE DOING something…  What was that thing I kept putting off till I’d finished with the thesis?  Oh yes, sort out the website.

If you’ve made it this far – and if you’ve been here before – you’ll have noticed that it’s different.  Not better, just different.  I’ve now tried 4 different themes and only settled on the current bland grey outlook because it’s not as terrible as the others were.  I’ve discovered that I’d rather edit a 70,000 word thesis than edit a WordPress Theme any day.

Soon, I’ll be able to twist my head back around to the front again, and feel my way towards creating something more dynamic and inviting.  I am open to suggestions! What colours work for you?  Do you prefer one column, or two?  Is there a snazzy new font that keep you reading right to the bottom of the page?  Let me know in the comments!

Warming up for an Execution

I have the great honour of being, temporarily, part of an ensemble theatre company for a pretty special production.MaryStuart_Flyer

“Mary Stuart” was written by the German poet, playwright and philosopher Friedrich Schiller around 1803, and while it is considered part of German classic theatre, it is rarely performed in English.

Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble have chosen to present this play with a very specific, brief rehearsal schedule. Two rehearsals a week, over three weeks, followed by 2 techs, and then four performances.  This is something you can only do (well!) when you work with a team who have developed a shared vocabulary, shared ideology and shared aesthetic.

In this case, the entire company apart from myself have been working together for at least two years, and they have just finished a successful three week season of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  Our director, Christina Koch, has been a member of the company since its inception around 8 years ago, and she brings with her a genuine and well-informed passion for the text in all its complexity.

I am thrilled to be part of this production.  We open on Wednesday at 7.30 pm, and we are all – as far as I can tell – excited and terrified in equal measure.  We have the privilege of sharing a good long warmup before each rehearsal, usually led by Christina, but sometimes on our own. It allows us to tune up our bodies, our voices and our brains, to spread our sounds throughout the space of the Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio, and to feel each other’s vibrations connecting us, literally,  to our scene partners and to the story.

I hope to see you in the foyer after one of the performances.  Costumes are minimal, so we don’t need long to come out and say hi.

What is your experience of working with classic texts?  Share in the comments section below.

Adventures in Voice

Today is my last day in the US.  It’s been quite a trip, and though I will miss my family, and my friends over here, I’ll be glad to get back to Brisbane and settle down for a few months.

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The Knight-Thompson Speech and Accent training was so rich and full, I need time to process it, and practise at integrating it into my own work, both teaching and performing.  I’m very keen to try it out with colleagues, so if you would like to join me for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon sometime soon, I’d be delighted to share my progress with you.  Don’t be put off by the technical looking diagram at the side here, it’s just the Cardinal Vowel chart, and the Knight-Thompson approach is to demystify it, and convert it into a visual tool for making some cool noises in a very entertaining way.  I long to create an app that would allow the user to slide the symbols around, creating the visual representation of different oral postures on demand! It would make a great complementary app for the Being in Voice Warmup App.

This work is all about clear, intelligible speech, in whatever accent you happen to use, and a clear understanding of the physical actions you are using to create that clear speech.  Once you understand that, somatically, from inside your mouth, you are in a very powerful position to be able to shift the focus, and discover and create new accents.  Of course, there is work involved. You need a lively, inquisitive attitude as well as an attentive ear and flexible, adaptable muscles, and that takes practice.  So what doesn’t?

If you are interested to find out more, but can’t make it to Brisbane to join me, why not check out their website, or get a copy of Dudley Knight’s book, “Speaking With Skill”.  It is a wonderful resource, and you will enjoy working your way through it, however if you are new to this kind of work you will enjoy it even more working with a skilled teacher.

Owen models a Being in Voice baseball cap

This trip has enriched my life in so many ways, and provided many opportunities to grow my own voice.  I met some wonderful teachers and actors on the Knight-Thompson workshops, all keen to learn more, advance their skills, and share their experiences. Playing with Outlandish, Omnish and Somenish is just the best fun since waterslides were invented.  Playing with funny voices with my grandkids was a hoot. I got to read some pretty wild characters, and together we discovered a magic spot on the path to Owen’s school where our voices suddenly turned very funny indeed. Fortunately, there is another spot where they turn back to normal again. Phew!

So let me know in the comments section below how you find Accent and Dialects, and if you would like to take part in a free experimental workshop in Brisbane, sometime in the next couple of months.