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Help with "middle voice"/"mixed voice" and staying connected

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Gruuve
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So, I worked through Jaime Vendera's "Raise Your Voice" book a couple years ago, and made some great gains. For whatever reason, adding grit is really easy for me and comes very naturally...I can pull off songs by AD/DC, Cinderella, Slaughter, etc., really easily now...something I would have never imagined years ago. :cool: However, one issue is that as I descend in this gritty head tone, it tends to grit-out...I kinda lose the clear tone and it ends up being nothing but grit. Eventually when I get near my break, I really can't produce a pitch at all. (I AM quite sure that I'm doing the grit safely...I started with the "witch cackle" approach, I feel it strongly in my soft palette, and I never come away from a song sounding hoarse or anything.)

I still have issues developing my "middle voice" or "mixed voice", and essentially staying connected between registers. I've recently decided to put some dedicated effort into improving that. I'm a natural baritone, so my break is right at G#/Ab...G is sometimes a little bit of a stretch in chest voice, and A is weak in head voice. It's quite frustrating because I am 3-4 chromatic notes short of a pretty decent sounding 3-octave range!

I've recently tried to work on this by VERY softly singing scales from around C in head voice down into the F or lower notes that would normally be easy chest voice. I'm doing it softly and trying to keep the "trumpet-like" tonal character instead of letting it slip into "clarinet-like" tonal character as I descend. I'm pretty sure I'm keeping my chords together in a "true head/zipped up" manner instead of letting them part in a "breathy falsetto" manner. At first, I could barely produce a tone without crackle, but after about a week I've gotten to where I can produce a clean tone after some warm-up, but only very softly. Adding the "dopey boom" (keeping larynx low, even though it sounds like Patrick from SpongeBob...LOL) seems to help with that.

I did find that if I let my chords separate into a "breathy falsetto" kind of sound in low head voice that I can find an area of very nasally midrange resonance toward the back of my throat + lower nasal cavity. I got there by "nay", "nah", and actually quacking like a duck to try to find that midrange resonance. I can push a lot of air through to make that "lower head resonance" in falsetto quite loud...but it doesn't sound very good (kinda like a kazoo...LOL), it's not easy to hit an accurate pitch, and it's really hard to transition from chest register to this "quacky falsetto" and onto the upper nasal resonance and more "zipped up" head voice.

So, in a nutshell, my strategy here is to develop and lower my "zipped up" head voice enough that it overlaps my upper chest voice by a good margin (instead of having a big gap)...presumably, that'll make it much easier for me to more smoothly connect across the whole break area. Is this a good (and the right) strategy? Or am I going about this completely wrong?

Also, I'm starting to get a little bit of feel for a lower area of resonance that pretty much feels like it's in the back of my throat (thanks to the "falsetto quacking")...like I'm chomping down on a balloon in my mouth or something. Is this what I should be feeling? Please give me some guidance in terms of sensations on how to find and develop this resonance better! This *seems* to be in the right range of pitches to potentially make that weak lower head voice much more powerful.

Learning to sing in head voice at all was a major "Aha!" for me. I now *feel like* I'm just short of a major "Aha!" that will get me to what I'm trying to accomplish in terms of middle voice (or "mixed voice" or "lower head voice" or whatever you want to call it) and staying connected. Any help or advice appreciated guys.

Cheers!

Gruuve

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Sounds a lot like what a person would find in Anthony Frisell's method. Of course it would take a while and continue to take more effort. However, that is to be expected in good training regimen. You make noises at first that may sound and feel odd. Until the body acclimates, then the fine control comes back in. Until it, once again, feels natural. Kind of makes me think of Bruce Lee's philosophy, the Dao of Jeet Kune Do. Take everyday moves that the body is capable of. Purify them and give them purpose. Then practice them until they become, once again, everyday reflexive moves.

Like shampooing hair, lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Patience = the magic pill, the secret technique.

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Thanks for the post!

Totally agreed...patience and practice are the "secret technique".

However, I don't want to practice the wrong thing. :/ Should I be continuing to try to lower and develop the "zipped up head voice" sound, or focusing on working the "falsetto quack" into something useable? I *think* continuing to lower and develop the "zipped up head voice sound" is the right choice (it sure is easier to stay connected that way, but it's so soft that it's a long way from being useable). I could really use a little guidance.

Update: Ah! I looked up Anthony Frisell (since you mentioned him) and I'm reading a bit on his site/blog. He mentions exactly what I'm doing (descending pitches very softly with "zipped up" chords), so that would suggest that maybe I am indeed on the right track.

But, I did notice that his stated focus is on tenors and sopranos, so does that mean natural tenors and soprano's, or is this still effective for baritones trying to learn to sing well in the tenor/soprano range?

Cheers!

Gruuve

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However, I don't want to practice the wrong thing. :/ Should I be continuing to try to lower and develop the "zipped up head voice" sound, or focusing on working the "falsetto quack" into something useable? I *think* continuing to lower and develop the "zipped up head voice sound" is the right choice (it sure is easier to stay connected that way, but it's so soft that it's a long way from being useable). I could really use a little guidance.

Update: Ah! I looked up Anthony Frisell (since you mentioned him) and I'm reading a bit on his site/blog. He mentions exactly what I'm doing (descending pitches very softly with "zipped up" chords), so that would suggest that maybe I am indeed on the right track.

But, I did notice that his stated focus is on tenors and sopranos, so does that mean natural tenors and soprano's, or is this still effective for baritones trying to learn to sing well in the tenor/soprano range?

Gruuve: I support your initiative to focus on practicing the right things. Here's how I see it:

1) your use of 'witches cackle' and 'falsetto quack' are ways to get firm adduction and twang established.

2) Top-down phonation exercises are excellent for encouraging the laryngeal musculature to coordinate, and overlap the ranges

3) 'dopey-boom' will help encourage laryngeal release

4) the tendency away from breathy falsetto to a firmer one is good

Tony Frisell focusses on top-down for (classical) tenors and sopranos because they cannot get by without a top voice, and the smooth connection and endurance for them is more challenging and exposed in the typical songs.

I did not see anything about sirens in your survey of exercises you are doing, nor mention of messa di voce. Are you doing those?

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Gruuve: I support your initiative to focus on practicing the right things. Here's how I see it:

1) your use of 'witches cackle' and 'falsetto quack' are ways to get firm adduction and twang established.

2) Top-down phonation exercises are excellent for encouraging the laryngeal musculature to coordinate, and overlap the ranges

3) 'dopey-boom' will help encourage laryngeal release

4) the tendency away from breathy falsetto to a firmer one is good

Tony Frisell focusses on top-down for (classical) tenors and sopranos because they cannot get by without a top voice, and the smooth connection and endurance for them is more challenging and exposed in the typical songs.

I did not see anything about sirens in your survey of exercises you are doing, nor mention of messa di voce. Are you doing those?

Thanks for you post!

1) I've definitely got the higher resonance down, but still working on getting the resonance in the passagio range more pronounced. It's quite pronounced with the "falsetto quack"...if I can find that once I get volume a little louder, then I think that'll definitely help with power in that range. Correct?

2) I'm making a big assumption here that if I extend my head voice down far enough that there's a 4-5 note or greater overlap between lower head voice and upper chest voice, then that will make smoothly transitioning between the two much easier. Is that also correct?

3) Laryngeal release means essentially keeping the larynx low, correct?

4) It seems much easier to keep the chords zipped up going down (hold the similar position as in the higher range), versus trying to find that position on the way up. I'll continue with this approach because it does seem to be working.

Yes, I am periodically doing some sirens (probably should do more) and growing, then diminishing, the volume on each note. Essentially, I'm starting at C4 (with C3 being middle C) which is an easy head voice range, then chromatically stepping downward note by note while trying to maintain the same trumpet-like tone. The loudest volume I can achieve is still around quiet speaking voice at this point, but I assume that if I keep working this way that'll change quickly. (It did when I first started working on "Raise Your Voice" a couple years ago.) This gets very weak around Bb4, but today I managed to get a reasonably clean tone all the way down to B3 or so, and a mostly clean but very weak tone down to around A3 or G2. (I tried to reach down to F2, but that starts to create some discomfort.)

Now...something a little odd is happening though. When I increase the volume on notes (messa di voce) from around C4 down to F3, I'm getting a 2nd sound from my voice box...it's almost like I have a 2nd pair of vocal chords producing a lower harmonic tone. :/ There's no discomfort or anything, just another tone being produced simultaneously that sounds quite unusual. I suspect what has happened is this: I started adding grit early on in working through "Raise Your Voice"...I'll bet I've strengthened the musculature that adds "witch cackle" grit MORE than I've strengthened the muscle at the back of the larynx that handles the head voice pitch. (As I understand it, the muscles at the front side of the larynx handle chest voice pitch, the smaller muscles at the back of the larynx handle head voice pitch, middle voice requires coordinating those to work smoothly together, while some third group of muscles move the "false chords" or some tissue flaps together in a way that produces grit...I'll bet I've strengthened that 3rd "grit" muscle group more than the 2nd "head voice" muscle group.) If that guess is correct, then that 2nd tone will probably go away as I continue to do these exercises. (Although I have to admit, I'd like to be able to keep that tone around for on-demand use...LOL...it's quite an unusual tone...it's a little similar to how Disturbed vocalist's voice sounds when he's not using a lot of grit...it *sounds* like there's a LOT of vocal tension, but there's not...maybe I should record it and post it?).

Thanks again for your post.

Cheers,

Gruuve

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gruuve,

just popping in here to tell you one very important thing about singing with distortion or grit....always remember...when you're done with it, it's critically important to warm down with clean, pure tones and restore the folds elasticity and smooth the folds out again.

those descending head voice slides with "ee" and "oo" are excellent for this ....so is humming or "ng's.

don't end your session or night without doing that.

this lets your folds know that once they've been kicked around a bit, they can look forward to a nice little t.l.c. warmdown....lol!!!

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Gruuve: Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you.

You wrote:

1) I've definitely got the higher resonance down, but still working on getting the resonance in the passagio range more pronounced. It's quite pronounced with the "falsetto quack"...if I can find that once I get volume a little louder, then I think that'll definitely help with power in that range. Correct?

Reply: Consistency of twang (provoked by the quack) will help overall. Don't worry about loud... work for a brightness that is consistent through the region, and is similar to the lower and the upper areas.

The passaggio, depending on the techique used, is either a) a change in vowel resonance, B) a change in laryngeal muscular coordination, or c) both at the same time. The test is the consistency and continuity of tone quality... that it all sounds like the same voice.

you continued...

2) I'm making a big assumption here that if I extend my head voice down far enough that there's a 4-5 note or greater overlap between lower head voice and upper chest voice, then that will make smoothly transitioning between the two much easier. Is that also correct?

I reply: yes! This goes a long way to the smooth bridge technique. As you get more familiar, the registration coordination will become so unified that they will not seem like much of a transition any more... they will seem more and more like a continuum... a single voice.

you continued...

3) Laryngeal release means essentially keeping the larynx low, correct?

I reply: Not exactly. Keep in mind cause and effect, here. Laryngeal release means letting go of the muscle tension that causes the larynx to rise reflexively during phonation. The release enables the singer to position the larynx vertically wherever is suitable for the tone desired. That does not necesarily mean low, but it is certainly not possible to sing comfortably with a low larynx unless the suspensor muscles have been released.

you continued...

4) It seems much easier to keep the chords zipped up going down (hold the similar position as in the higher range), versus trying to find that position on the way up. I'll continue with this approach because it does seem to be working.

I reply: Add to what you are doing a release of the tone, and a re-onset with the same approach. What you are trying to learn is how to onset and sustain a phrase in which the mucle balances and breath energy are coordinated so that you can proceed both upward, and downward, with continuity of tone quality and expressiveness.

FYI, though I know what you mean by 'zipping up', this is not actually happening. Don't misunderstand... Its a very useful image/metaphor, you can keep using it...but does not describe what is visible at the laryngeal level.

you continued

<snip>

(As I understand it, the muscles at the front side of the larynx handle chest voice pitch, the smaller muscles at the back of the larynx handle head voice pitch, middle voice requires coordinating those to work smoothly together, while some third group of muscles move the "false chords" or some tissue flaps together in a way that produces grit...I'll bet I've strengthened that 3rd "grit" muscle group more than the 2nd "head voice" muscle group.)

I reply: This understanding is incomplete. The fundamental (what you are calling 'pitch') results from the combination of action of the muscles which stretch/thin the vocal bands with those that shorten/thicken the vocal bands, as they interact with the breath. The former are called the crico-thyroid muscles (called CT, since they arise from the cricoid cartilege, and insert in the thyroid cartilege) and the latter are the thyro-arytenoid muscles (called TA, since they arise from the thyroid cartilege and insert in the arytenoid cartileges). The CT is on the outside of the larynx, the TAs are deep within the vocal bands themselves.

The grit comment is probably correct, though I do not use that sound myself. I will defer to others who do.

If your goal is a smooth, wide range, the 'grit' component is an add-on, something 'on top' of what you are doing at the laryngeal level. IMO, its very useful, via sirens, to establish the clean sound before adding the grit to it.

I hope this is helpful.

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Steven, thanks so much for your post!

So, I think you confirmed a couple of important things for me:

1) Keep working the head voice downward with a brassy tone (I'll use that instead of "zipped up" ;) ) instead of a woodwind-like tone. After a little warm-up, I can cleanly move from middle C up an octave to C and back down. I have no power behind it below F above middle C (my last comfortable non-straining headvoice note), but I'm starting to get a little more power behind it down to that F. I assume this will improve as I continue to practice along these lines. This is GREAT since G# is my break. I'm going to keep working this way until I have a little power at middle C in "brassy head voice". Thank you for confirming this is the right approach!

2) Work the clean voice instead of the gritty voice. You've confirmed that I've probably strengthened my grit musculature more than my head voice musculature. I guess in some sense, I've been using grit as a "crutch" to produce those middle-to-upper head voice notes with a lot of power. (Maybe my "grit flaps" are unusually large or something?) I'm probably going to have to un-learn some of this now, but it will be worth it. I do LIKE singing with grit in the higher ranges (it adds an "edge" to my voice that makes it sound quite powerful), but it seems impossible to descend to lower head voice pitches without "gritting-out" and losing almost all fundamental tone. (I assume this is fairly normal...I remember reading somewhere that it's quite difficult to add grit without raising the larnyx.) I appreciate you helping me figure this out. I have to know what I'm doing wrong before I can correct it. I do hope that I'll be able to nail the lower, middle, and upper CLEAN head voice pitches with the same power that I can nail the middle and upper GRITTY head voice pitches. Presumably, it's just a matter of enough practice of the right stuff. ;)

Cheers,

Gruuve

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im also a former Ryv user it's a great program... I would try to strengthen the area below the break and get your voice strong up to the A4-C5 area. Then you can blend in the highend of your voice to the strong middle...

Pulling the high gritheadvoice down is extermly hard and unrewarding as the coordination in itself is not suited directly in the passagio.

Roberts program has alot of good exercises for this, to dampen the headvoice and get it into a chestyer typed phonation suited for the passagio

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  • 3 weeks later...

There's a song I'm working on recording over the holidays...figured I'd post this. The verse is all chest voice, the chorus is all head voice. This is a somewhat heavy song, so I'm purposefully using a LOT of grit in head voice. However, I can tell that the exercises I've been doing are helping...a month or two ago, I don't believe I would have been able to drop as low in head voice and still at least produce a fundamental tone (versus just plain "gritting out"). The head voice vocal on the 1st chorus is a bit shakey (very over-sung)...the 2nd chorus is much more relaxed and quite a bit better, 3rd chorus is not quite a good as 2nd chorus, but OK (but I do plan to redo all three, and try some slightly different melodies).

I'd actually like to start the chorus with a little LESS grit, and crank up the grit as I move through each phrase. But I still don't have much power without the grit. I'll be experimenting with that as I continue to work on this song. In particular, "pretender" is difficult to sing in low head voice. As I moved through the choruses, it became less "pretend-errrr" and more "pretend-ahhh", which I believe is the right vowel modification. Correct? Any suggestions here would be greatly appreciated.

All that said, here's the rough draft (bass guitar, bass synth, acoustic drums, and vocals) if you care to take a listen and comment (I'd love to hear your comments, good or bad...seriously, don't hold back, I'm here to improve!):

http://www.reverbnation.com/gruuve/song/19622906-grand-pretender-rough-draft

Cheers,

Gruuve

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Oh...another thought...from listening to myself practicing scales, I think I realized something. I realize (or believe) a lot of the singers I admire (Steve Perry from Journey, Ray Alder from later years of Fates Warning, Geoff Tate from Queensryche, the guy from Boston) essentially sing all the time in head voice (or "legit voice"). I'm thinking they've developed their head voice across such a full range that they seldom (or never) sing in chest voice at all. You don't hear any transition through their break because they don't need to transition. Do I have this correct?

There are other examples though where the singers DO sing in both chest and head voice, and have gotten that transition nailed (I'm thinking David Coverdale from Whitesnake, Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden, Chris Cornell from Audioslave/Soundgarden, etc.) This is what I'd rather accomplish. I *think* the path I'm headed will help me get there. Dickinson sings gritty in chest and clean in head, Cornell does the opposite...clean in chest and gritty in head...Coverdale seems to only be gritty in the bridge area between head and chest. Actually, the thing I notice here is that all three of these vocalists seem to use some grit in the bridge area between head and chest...this range is where I'm weakest. What exercises should I be doing to work on this? Already what I'm doing, some variation, or something entirely different?

Cheers,

Gruuve

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Oh...another thought...from listening to myself practicing scales, I think I realized something. I realize (or believe) a lot of the singers I admire (Steve Perry from Journey, Ray Alder from later years of Fates Warning, Geoff Tate from Queensryche, the guy from Boston) essentially sing all the time in head voice (or "legit voice"). I'm thinking they've developed their head voice across such a full range that they seldom (or never) sing in chest voice at all. You don't hear any transition through their break because they don't need to transition. Do I have this correct?

There are other examples though where the singers DO sing in both chest and head voice, and have gotten that transition nailed (I'm thinking David Coverdale from Whitesnake, Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden, Chris Cornell from Audioslave/Soundgarden, etc.) This is what I'd rather accomplish. I *think* the path I'm headed will help me get there. Dickinson sings gritty in chest and clean in head, Cornell does the opposite...clean in chest and gritty in head...Coverdale seems to only be gritty in the bridge area between head and chest. Actually, the thing I notice here is that all three of these vocalists seem to use some grit in the bridge area between head and chest...this range is where I'm weakest. What exercises should I be doing to work on this? Already what I'm doing, some variation, or something entirely different?

Cheers,

Gruuve

Off the top of my head, full voiced sirens from Vendera's RYV, where you sustain the top note for a long time, have probably helped me the most with this.

Btw. I really liked your analysis on Coverdale, Dickinson and Cornell. I think you're spot on.

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a lot of the singers you mentioned have well developed lower head tones that rival the strength of their chest tones. but a person could misperceive these as chest.

keep doing the descending head voice work....it will pierce into and eventually reveal to you your pharyngeal voice. (cackle). frisell told me it would, and it did.

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Ah, good posts. I have just found an area of resonance that I have not found before...it's between chest and nasally upper resonance. I can't always find it though. So, this is the "pharyngeal" resonance? I believe this may be what I've been missing this whole time, and what has prevented me from bridging chest and head voice well.

What exercises should I do to help me find this resonance more consistently and develop it?

Thanks!

Gruuve

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i personally like slowly executed (and i mean slowly) sirens with the word "meow."

i do them on the loud side and purposefully dwell on the vowel sounds built into the word..."ee" "aw" "oh" and "oo."

"meow" helped me to learn to narrow as i went up in pitch......the "aw" to "oo" i found very beneficial.

you can also break it up for change.......instead of running through the whole "meow," you can run sections

"mee ah" or "ah oh" or "aw oo" ...

another great one is "nyat" ...(neeah) loud and bratty. cry into it....

emphasize the cry...you're aren't doing these to sound good

don't have to do these long...5 minutes is plenty.

after a while you'll (figuratively speaking) carve into a narrow point that resonates like hell...

important...you're training the voice to stay connected on the way up without breaking ..not gonna sing this way

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So, start in chest voice and work up through the break point into head voice, then back down? And yup, I totally get the idea of over-emphasizing, no matter how bad it sounds. Are you doing the "meow" cleanly or with grit? Do you happen to have a recording of yourself doing this, by any chance?

Thanks!

Gruuve

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i personally like slowly executed (and i mean slowly) sirens with the word "meow."

i do them on the loud side and purposefully dwell on the vowel sounds built into the word..."ee" "aw" "oh" and "oo."

"meow" helped me to learn to narrow as i went up in pitch......the "aw" to "oo" i found very beneficial.

you can also break it up for change.......instead of running through the whole "meow," you can run sections

"mee ah" or "ah oh" or "aw oo" ...

another great one is "nyat" ...(neeah) loud and bratty. cry into it....

emphasize the cry...you're aren't doing these to sound good

don't have to do these long...5 minutes is plenty.

after a while you'll (figuratively speaking) carve into a narrow point that resonates like hell...

important...you're training the voice to stay connected on the way up without breaking ..not gonna sing this way

This sounds like a really good exercise

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So, start in chest voice and work up through the break point into head voice, then back down? And yup, I totally get the idea of over-emphasizing, no matter how bad it sounds. Are you doing the "meow" cleanly or with grit? Do you happen to have a recording of yourself doing this, by any chance?

Thanks!

Gruuve

In my own experience, no one has ever told me to use grit when doing exercises to connect the registers. So I'd imagine the same would apply to this exercise. Do it as clean as you can.

That being said, if some grit comes naturally and it sounds and feels very good, let it be. Just don't seek it out or try to intentionally add it. Or if you get any grit that sounds or feels terrible, then in that case you should obviously try to eliminate it.

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gruuve,

forget the idea of starting in chest through the break and up to head....don't think of it in that way.

one voice...from the beginning to the end....understand that it's the vowels that are going to bring you up...the vowel sequence built into the "meow" is designed to move you up and as the vowels become progressively narrower weight sheds and you go up - but connected and strong. don't let up on the gas...start strong and end strong.

if you start with a 6 volume (for example) end with a 6 volume....do not lighten let the vowels do it....particularly the "oo."

do the "meows" slowly and try to sense what is happening ...

feel free to skype me and i'll be happy to show you how i do these.

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And Gruuve, I would take Bob up on his offer. He has nothing to "gain" he is not branding himself as a singing teacher. He's a guy like the rest of us, learning with a combination of on his own, training systems, and even some in-person singing lessons, as in the same room, no distortions, if any, from skype, digital audio editing, whatever.

And spent previous decades singing however he felt, good or problematic. Point being, he can wail, from the recordings he has presented (so few, that I can count them on one hand.)

Luck is being prepared for opportunity when it arrives.

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thanks for your support of my ideas my brother. if some of these folks would just try out this stuff......

You're welcome. I just know that you sing really well which means you must be doing something right. To quote a few others, results count.

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