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After a whole year of practice bel canto and techniques, My personal experience

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mcharis
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2015 UPDATE, how I sing after a whole year of practice, I think its getting there!

 

 

Hello fellow singers!

 

As you can see I am new to this forum and from a quick look I notice it has nice activity. I felt the need to write my experience, it is a long one and I wanted to share, it may help some people and people who will read this (if you have the patience and you want to kill some time) may help me with their own insight and knowledge.

 

Little things about me: (you can skip that part and read below the juicy stuff)

Im from Greece (so excuse my grammatical mistakes), I sing since I was a kid, opera and pop music (in English language, never Greek, and somehow I don;t have an accent, I have been told this by many people, so i assume it must be true, my talking voice has an accent).

 

My very first singer I was singing along, was Nana Mouskouri, when I was 5-6 years old, then at the age of 13-14 years old and after, I fall in love with Malin Bergreen from Ace of Base (you have to admit her voice is hypnotic), Maria Callas, Mariah Carey, Janis Joplin (because of her I got nodules, I don;t recommend her as a singing model, but she is always in my heart as one of the best singers ever been recorded, I don;t sing with her anymore, I just listen) , Donna Summer and Linda Perry.

 

My strongest vocal ability is opera, it comes to me naturally and without an effort. I had teachers who were impressed with my abilities and I was able to do hard things which I learn by myself and I had teachers who dislike the way I was singing, maybe because the way I was mimicking Callas technique some teachers don;t agree or like it, BUT before you jump to conclusions, after a long research I came to the conclusion that Callas technique was perfect, and I never had any problems with my voice "mimicking" that type of sound. Unlike pop singing which it was always a struggle for me.

 

My observations about healthy singing and my recovery from Vocal Nodules and my experience with various of teachers.

(who unfortunately it is a negative one with very few teachers to actually be able to make my voice to come out without an effort.)

It was dark times for me when I realize I had nodules, worst period of my life. I used to sing like Joplin, I use to work in night clubs and I was smoking. If you want to kill your voice or your singing career, dreams and get deep into depression, thats the way to do it.

I stop singing for a long period of time and thank god my voice heal and im able again to sing and dream.

 

Bel Canto Technique, after a long research and various teachers, it is the only technique that makes my voice to be released without effort and to produce a round full sound.

There is an amazing teacher in New York, Bel Canto Teacher, who I did few lessons and she did miracles to my voice, unfortunately she was for my pocket pricy back then, 100 dollars per lesson, but she worth every single penny, especially if you are serious about singing, someone should make some type of investment.

 

If people are telling you that Bel Canto tries to make your voice to sound lighter, or it is only for opera singing, it is a huge misconception!

Run away from such teacher. Bel Canto technique brings out the real voice and enhances rich sound no matter what you are, from soprano to mezzo to contralto. if your voice is naturally heavy or thin, a teacher should be able to respect it and teach you according to the nature of your voice.

 

From lesson one, doing Oh, dropping the jaw, I relaxed and I bring the voice out from the diaphragm, after few attempts I produce a sound almost like a tenor. I think it was an F3, my range is from E3-G6. I am dramatic soprano.

 

After few exercises, I was producing a great quality sound.

But like I said, I was struggling with money, I move out from NY and life got the best of me for awhile plus I had nodules already when I started with that teacher, the worst timing in the history of any artist.

 

So 2 months ago after my long recovery, I wanted to start lessons again and maybe pursue a career as well, I also write music and I want to give a serious try as an original artist.

Because of my location and lack of teachers at the city I live, I thought to try some skype lessons.

That was my worst experience!

I took some skype lessons with a teacher who claims to teach bel canto and he was trying to make my lower register thinner.

He was always telling me to sing quietly and thinner. I did with him 4 lessons, at the 4rth lesson when I attempt to sing the aria he gave me to study, my voice hurt right away with his technique.

Keep in mind that I was preparing the aria for almost 2 weeks and because I remember the way the previous teacher was telling me to produce the sound, I was doing this and my voice didn;t hurt at all. And of course i was very happy for it. But I stop the lessons right away.

There is a difference between singing relaxed and quietly, and someone to try to force you to sing "lighter", If someone "forces" ones voice to be too quiet or thinner, depends how you try to produce that sound, it actually may hurt!

 

My second skype teacher she also claimed she knows bel canto and that she can teach me to sing healthy with a full voice.

We did an hour and half, we did relaxing neck exercises and talking about stuff and some vocalizes and my voice was hurting for 2 days. She even dare to claim that it was natural and it was ok for the voice to hurt!

AVOID, RUN from such teachers! don;t even take the time to explain yourself or to complain, close the skype or the door behind you and NEVER LOOK BACK!

 

My biggest question was, what happen to good old classical exercises? Marchesi, Garcia, Boboni and others?

I struggle much worst trying to position my mouth like beaver (literally that what she was telling me) while I try to hit the voice at my teeth and some weird stuff, then singing a simple Oh.

 

So after my 2 attempts to find a decent teacher and the lack of teachers at the area I live, I started doing some things on my own and I decided that no teacher will ever make you learn your own instrument unless I myself start learning with proper education my own instrument, and I have very satisfying results. Of course a good teacher will guide you much faster.

Because of my range and my strong chest register, i start my exercises from E3 with humming and I build up.

I do the yawn position in Ohs and lip rolls. I notice much better results starting from that low, than starting my exercises from the middle C.

Then I do "Hungeee" and then I use Marchesi's exercises which they are very melodic and very pleasant to do with all vowels. I don;t play piano myself, I use Finale notation and I play them from there. Very helpful tool!

The reason why I choose Marchesi's exercises, is because I doubt just doing hungee's and lip rolls really builds a voice or teaches you how to sing. I believe such type of exercises are a secondary tool to keep you on track how to position the voice and or to relax the voice.

 

Things that I DON"T DO: when I do the exercises or i sing, if I feel the slightest of strain, I stop and I keep my focus to find again the proper position for the voice to come out without an effort.

When I try to feel my soft palette to rise, my throat to open, my neck muscles to be relaxed, I know its right because it doesn;'t hurt going low or high, the sound that I produce is clear, full, with healthy vibrato.

I record myself when I do the exercises and when I sing, it helps me keep a track of my progress and I can hear the sound.

When I hear that my voice sounds muddy, that means that my vocal cords are tired or I use wrong placement.

Anything that sounds weird or out of place, I stop that voice placement right away.

So far, I get tired after an hour or even 2 hours of singing or exercising. Of course it is not continuously, and when I say "tired", I mostly mean that my body gets little tired, like it tells me, "ok we had enough, time to stop now and to relax". I feel no pain, no strain, and the next day Im ready again to do my exercises.

 

With this Bel Canto yawn technique, and all the above that I mentioned, Im able to hit notes above G6, but not melodic yet and i don;t really use them often, rarely until i build a stronger voice, and today I started a new exercise that will help my head register better. Doing WOO like a siren but very soft, like when we were kids without the intense screaming part.

 

After my personal experience and the way I started educating myself about vocal health, I also notice Mariah Carey's Singing. I want to write this because there are so many people out there advertising her 5 octave range and how to sing like her.

Im sure many of us would love to sing like that and sound like her. But even from her earlier songs, I can hear now the strain and the force she uses at her middle and upper register. At her earlier singing she is not effortless at all, if someone pays attention, she does struggle slightly with her middle register to produce a full sound and she sings many times using throat muscles to produce that clear bright sound which causes a lot of strain. I know this because I used to do it also.

Another thing that I notice, is that on most of her songs, she uses the high register of her voice a lot and she belts non stop. No matter the technique, the quality of the voice etc... someone cannot run the Marathon everyday.

I mean surely people can try it and they might be able to run it for a few days, but after awhile they will need to rest for a long period of time.

I don;t know if she is a real soprano or mezzo or alto, what i know is what she did, trying to run the marathon like that, she completely blown away her vocal cords and now she sings always at her low register.

 

Glutathione:

I read this article:

http://www.holisticprimarycare.net/topics/topics-a-g/functional-medicine/1473-glutathione-shots-reverse-vocal-cord-polypsquickly.html

 

basically what is says is, that the vocal cords are filled with Glutathione, and if you have vocal nodules it may help a lot to reduce them significantly, but if your voice is already healthy, eating foods that boosts or contains glutathione, it may even help to prevent nodules or other bad stuff and coat the vocal cords a lot!

 

Food that boosts glutathione levels:

http://ezinearticles.com/?Food-Sources-That-Boost-Glutathione-Naturally&id=1177

 

http://www.livestrong.com/article/335859-food-sources-of-glutathione/

 

I guess thats why people use to say to eat a raw egg is good for the voice!

But don;t eat raw eggs from the market today, seriously, the last years companies have poisoned so much everything and all those diseases that I m not sure if its good anymore.

 

Yoga and Belly Dance

Belly dance help me a lot with my diaphragm, it is a great form of dancing and yoga takes my breath to another level.

 

Both have help me a lot to sing stronger and better.

 

 

So thats all from me.

Thank you for reading and if you want to add your own techniques please do, I would love to read it.:)

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Things that I DON"T DO: when I do the exercises or i sing, if I feel the slightest of strain, I stop and I keep my focus to find again the proper position for the voice to come out without an effort.

This, right here. The guiding principle. The body is built to "train" or learn a behavior in a way that repetition is doable, endurable.

Which is not to say that a body cannot benefit from stretching and trying new things but, in the end, it will repeatable or it won't.

And I know others are going to talk about hard work and putting in time. But any endeavor by man should lead to proficiency, the "trained" effect.

And it starts with paying attention to the voice. When a singer is straining and in a way that seems to take away from the voice, I think it is important to examine what is going on.

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Thank you for your reply!

exactly! :)

this is what I had in mind to make a post and point it for people who train themselves or might have teachers who might not teach them correctly, but for some reason I end up writing the story of life!

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First of all, welcome to the forum :)

Thanks for sharing your experience with singing and with all those different coaches, it is very important to listen to others as we learn from example, imitation and stubbornness.

I hope you are better of your nodules now. Are they gone? What's their current state?

How did your voice sound when you discovered you had nodules? And later on?

Haha, so many questions, sorry if I am bothering you.

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Hello Xamedhi,

they are gone!

here is how it happen, at the age of 18 I started smoking a little bit so my voice was little hoarse.

then I started working at clubs with very loud music and talking with people loudly.

I had no energy to sing at all and basically i was screaming not singing.

then I started singing rock with Janis Joplin, I believe at that point after a couple of months I had nodules.

From a dramatic soprano that I was able to hit E6 and make my dog run away from the room, I couldn't hit an F5! One time a guy was laughing at me.... it is very bad feeling, I wish he could hear me now! he would leave the room like my dog.

I stop smoking, I stop singing/screaming rock and I had at the room I was sleeping , a humidifier with lots of steam with eucalyptus all night and day for months.

My voice started to get much better. The teacher that I had helped me a lot but like I said I had to move from NY so I didn;t complete with her the training, I strongly believe she would had help me with the nodules, she had excellent knowledge of the human voice.

Then I did some exercises with a teacher for nodules for 2 months, but they shrunk when I did aphony, I wasn;t talking for days, and they shrunk to almost not visible, but because I was still using wrong technique, at the higher range of my voice, every time I would attempt to do vocalizes my voice would hurt for days, and I stop singing for 3 years completely.

The feeling with my nodules are exactly the regular symptoms, decrease range, after singing my voice would hurt, breathy sound, cracky voice and loss of power. Also I had to use force for my voice to project full and strong.

I guess it was better that I realize it when they decrease, so I didn;t had to do surgery.

When they shrunk to very very small ones, one doctor told me that he wouldn't even notice them If I didn;t mention to him that I have them.

The symptoms were breathyness after B5 and pain If I was singing with wrong technique and swelling.

Today, there is nothing like the above, I can exercise, I can sing, I can hit the high notes with clear sound, thats very important!

I do have some brethiness but it is because of wrong placement, when I place my voice correct the breathiness is gone, but I do take it slowly and I don;t use my high register as much until my voice get rid off the bad old habits and get used to of the new healthy ones.

I think it must be 5-6 years that I lived with nodules. So because my brain was picking up right away the strain and the pain, and most importantly the use of the muscles of the neck I know the feeling, I m able to recognize it today and to eliminate the unhealthy habits.

Hope this helps :)

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Wow. Pretty detailed testimony, haha. Thank you very much. I would like to study something related to the voice eventually, like ENT or voice therapist or something like that, so it is very helpful and enlightening all you are telling us :D

Thanks for your time, mcharis :P

I'd like to hear some of your singing, do you have any recordings you can post here? SoundCloud, DropBox or a Box link?

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All the lifestyle changes you made had some good effect but I would have to say the most important one is the decision to not scream or abuse the voice. This is more important than the smoking and whatever diet you eat. I am not saying that those did not have an effect. I am sure they did, just not as much as the abuse of the voice, whether it was the vocalizing too loudly at a club or the attempts to imitate Janis Joplin.

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Sure I have recording here, If you use headphones lower the volume, don't say I didn;t warn you

it is from my computer mic and I went to the other room to sing.

It is far from good or decent, but to get an idea of my voice how it sounds after my recovery of nodules. Please keep in mind I started 2 months ago practicing very slowly after 3 years of absence.

What I believe I need to fix:

1. Pitch

2. Volume, I need to my manage it because the voice is thrown here and there....

3. Pronunciation of the words

4. Breath, while my breathing is much better than before, it still needs works and control

5. Tone

6. Flexibly and to strengthen my voice to all notes

7. My high notes needs more work to use proper technique.

if you or someone else has any tips for me and what else I need to fix, please post them, I would like to read them.

I bought a Sennheiser e935 and im waiting for it to come, after 1 or 2 months I will do another "public" recording to see my progress.

:)

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Ronws,

I agree with you completely. Many people smoke and they can sing perfectly fine. Diet is sometimes more important than we think, I had reflux, I forgot to mention this, and I remember it was very strong at that time when I first experienced the loss of the voice. It may also contribute to the damage at my vocal cords, in few words, the universe completely conspired for my voice to get nodules. From very strong reflux, to yelling and work until very early in the morning, to screaming, to hormonal imbalance.

Another thing that I forgot to mention are the hormones, I don;t know if you are a dude or a girl, but women who may suffer with their hormones and they go through their hormonal circles very intense, meaning their hormones makes them to be the bitch from hell, and I know and I have accept it that I am one of them, I cannot sing those special days and I feel my voice to be rougher than other days, more heavy.

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Nice, good one, Power. I miss that kind of jocularity. Though my boss appreciated one of my old nuggets. He was leaving to do some errands and said, "I'll be back."

And I said, "Thanks for the warning."

Well, mcharis, I am 6' 6", 230 lbs (2 m, 104 kg), I have a handlebar moustache. I could write my name in the snow. So, I guess, I am one tall, ugly-looking woman with a unique talent, though my penmanship could use some improvement.

:lol:

I don't think women's hormone cycles actually affect their singing. There's not been any evidence to support it, or deny it.

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Sure I have recording here, If you use headphones lower the volume, don't say I didn;t warn you

it is from my computer mic and I went to the other room to sing.

It is far from good or decent, but to get an idea of my voice how it sounds after my recovery of nodules. Please keep in mind I started 2 months ago practicing very slowly after 3 years of absence.

What I believe I need to fix:

1. Pitch

2. Volume, I need to my manage it because the voice is thrown here and there....

3. Pronunciation of the words

4. Breath, while my breathing is much better than before, it still needs works and control

5. Tone

6. Flexibly and to strengthen my voice to all notes

7. My high notes needs more work to use proper technique.

if you or someone else has any tips for me and what else I need to fix, please post them, I would like to read them.

I bought a Sennheiser e935 and im waiting for it to come, after 1 or 2 months I will do another "public" recording to see my progress.

:)

Very Nice. I can hear the beauty in your voice. Yeah you may need some more work to get back in shape. But what I hear sounds really nice. You picked a song from my favorite opera. che gelida manina is practically the only aria I sing anymore.

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Charis, that is also one of my favorite pieces and one of my favorites by Sarah Brightman, my favorite voice, bar none. Pretty good for a "crappy" take. You will like the Sennheiser. I have the e835. They are good at taking high volume high pitched sounds. Very tight pick-up patterns.

In this piece, you had some slides I am not used to hearing but it was neat, such as a very personal rendition. But I am not an expert in opera or singing, even though I like both and I listen to all genres of music.

A number of the singing teachers here are more accustomed to helping students with pop and rock music, since that is what the majority of students are looking for. But basics are basics, mostly and, as I have found through personal experience, transfer across genres. I have found that what worked in a Led Zeppelin song also works in a Garth Brooks song, for example, though the popular and common misconception is that singing country is easier, when it is not.

I have noticed a number of teachers talk about teaching "bel canto" but one of the more traditional singer - teachers I have read on the subject is Debra Lynn. Admin Videohere (Bob) convinced her to join our forum but she doesn't post much, being busy with her professional life, elsewhere.

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Oh thank you both ronws and geno for your kind words!

And wow you are a tall one! if you have any songs also, post it here :)

@Geno, I check your music page, I love it!

I have lots of practice to do!

O mio babbino caro, is not of my most favorite arias to be honest, I love Lakme the Bell Song and Flower Duet and from the dramatic I like so many! Cavaleria Rusticana, Madame Butterfly, Tosca and many more...

I believe I will like it a lot! I test one sennheiser with some other mics and I liked it the best, but I think I should have bought the e865 which is condenser.

The music that I write I cannot call it opera, I don;t know how to it yet, so when its ready and I will upload some songs covers and originals, I certainly will need tips the way I sing pop.

As for the changes in the voice because of hormones, they indeed have tested some women and they do effect the voice.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20537860

Before the period someone might experience your voice to be more heavy, to have lumps, less flexible etc if the hormones are out of place.

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Rather than chew up bandwidth in your thread, it would be better if I emailed you file links.

And I stand corrected on the research about female singers. But I imagine that most singers find a way to work around that or take a day off. I just don't think it's some huge impediment.

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Yoga and Belly Dance

Belly dance help me a lot with my diaphragm, it is a great form of dancing and yoga takes my breath to another level.

If you like it, good, keep doing it.

If you're doing it to build support, you could be spending your time much more efficiently, such as with transverse abdominal muscle exercises and actual breath exercises.

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  • 1 year later...

McHaris:

 

Thanks for sharing your insight.

May I just comment that there are those singers and teachers who talk about avoiding at all costs any kind of tension or strain, but it is not always true, nor desirable.

It all depends on the singer, and how you wish to sound.

Analogy:

I'm working out with weights.  A dumbbell curl of ex. 15 lbs. has become too easy (the key thing here is working out IN GOOD FORM).  You add additional resistance to this 15 lbs. say to 17 or 18 lbs. but you perform the curl in good form.

You have to exert more energy to make this additional weight doable, you simply don't stop trying, right?

There are elements of vocal training that are not much different.

I am convinced many singers miss out on their full potential because of this "fear of strain or tension."

It's more about how you strain, than if you strain.

Another example: I want a truly consistent, full, powerful, full voice c5. Not just to be able to "touch it" in an exercise.  A real, bonafide, solid, ringing off the walls c5. 

These notes will not suddenly appear without some element of strain in the initial stages.  But again, proper strain and push.

I personally think (and my opinion is not shared by many) that it all has to do with breath management and the transfer of tension.

 

 

  

 

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I do strain my voice the way I think you mean it, or to name it better: I do use "force" or push it and I do a lot, but I do not feel my vocal cords to "bleed", when I feel that and I feel mostly when I do not properly warm up my vocal cords, I stop singing or I place the muscles again at the proper position, I don't know if I name the sensation right.

But I use force after the vocal warm up or else the vocal cords will hurt for days.

the point is not if you strain or not the voice, the point is if you do strain it and hurt for days and you cannot hit the notes anymore, you are doing something wrong. If you do strain it and you can sing over and over again for hours everyday for years and years with no vocal problems (aside common cold etc), then I think 100% you are doing it right.

 

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Yes, there seems to be this "fear of strain" in some singers and teachers to such a degree that the voice never really gets the workout it's asking us for.

It never gets optimized.  And you can hear it some singers.  There's a tentativeness to their singing.

 

 

 

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