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Hello from Israel - New to the forum (and to singing)

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JohnnyL
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Hi all,

My name is Johnny, I'm a 34 year old guitar player and started vocal training after I felt that being strictly a guitar player limits me as a musician (working musician but still...).

I was surprised to discover that I can hit noted pretty well when I put my mind to it and that I can actually produce a full voice. After two month of vocal training I'm more or less in the same stage I was when I was studying guitar for two month - I hear vocalists do amazing things while I understand that I'll need to work very hard to get remotely close. The difference is - that while I was learning how to play guitar I was a student without a steady job or a family and could find time to practice for hours. Now, I make time after the kid is asleep (instead of watching TV).

So, beyond the training that I get from a teacher I want to 'live it' a little more. - I'd really appreciate your insights, links to Youtube videos and tips that would help me develop:

1. are there any breathing exercises that one can do while working at an office (without startling the colleagues... yep, I'm basically asking for quite vocal exercises...)

2. when I sing with 'proper' technique my voice is very round and smooth - imagine a beginner opera singer trying to sing a blues-rock song. My regular talking voice is not as smooth, and most of my favorite singers have some or a lot of distortion in their voices. I've looked at some of the many videos trying to explain how to get vocal distortion but I didn't understand the explanations they provided. Anyone can link me to a video that gives a good explanation for beginners? or previous post in the forum? not sure I can do another practice session hearing myself howling like a jackal. My wife and all of the dogs in the neighborhood are getting annoyed...

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1. yes but you will not benefit as much from them, they're not an adequate replacement for real vocalizing that makes noise. Solution? Put a pillow over your face and sing into that. Lowers the volume a LOT - you could practice like this after the kids are asleep if you ever find you are going too loud. Of course, while you're in the office, breathing exercises might be the only option, and if that's all you can do it's still better than not practicing. I'm not going to recommend any breathing exercises since I don't have much experience with them because I am a student and have loads of time and area to do the better exercises that make noise. The pillow idea is just something my teacher came up with when he needed to practice in an apartment.

2. Distortion is an advanced skill because it is very elusive and hard to control and you can seriously hurt your voice with if you do it wrong. So with only 2 months training you are probably nowhere near ready to learn it unfortunately. The time will come when you'll have developed enough vocal maturity to move onto that skill, but for now you're going to have to find a way to sing clean and get the roughness in a subtle way that doesn't involve noticeable distortion. Maybe adding a little slight grit or rasp on one or two words of a whole song, or shooting for intensity rather than an actually gritty sound - things like that, are about all you could get away with at the moment without risking doing some bad things to your voice.

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i think a good silent breathing exercise is to practice expanding all around your waist, then blow a consistent amount of air slowly than how you normally breath and without closing off your throat. to make it easier you can exhale on a v and just get used to the idea of keeping the expansion and slowing the breath. breathing is more complicated than that but i think doing that is a good start.

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Relatively silent breath exercise.

First, let the belly relax to inhale. Practice that only. Do not force inhales. Do an ess for exhale. it's not too loud and it will teach you how to meter air out if you plan to go past a few seconds.

Second, find a place you can sing, without a pillow. You need to hear yourself.

Don't worry about distortion. Make the clean note, first. The rest can come along later.

And Jesse Dupree made enough money from being a "Jackyl" to be part owner of a biker bar (Full Throttle Saloon) in South Dakota.

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Thanks for the tips so far. I have no problems singing at home but I'll start applying at the office (not the pillow thing though :) ). Any other tips, even regarding good articles, would also be appreciated.

Regarding vocal distortion as long as I know it will come when I'm better - I'm a calm and patient young padawan...

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Johnny, I feel your pain! I learned guitar in my late teens and early 20's, and here I am pushing 50 and really wanting to work on my voice seriously after decades living in my comfort zone.

Depends on your office situation, but I can get away with a fair bit of quiet humming while I'm at work. The very basic 1-3-5-octave and back down, repeat a half-step up, and so on, working from my break up through my head voice is what I usually do.

It helps if you can play a radio or CD's of music you like, and people will notice less that your are singing along. Of course if you're doing telephone work or something that can be problematic. But there may also be ways to incorporate singing technique into your speaking voice. Not something I've looked into to much in an office setting, but I sometimes work as a hawker at a Renaissance festival, and singing rather than shouting is a good way to preserve your voice in that kind of situation.

I don't know what your commute situation is like. I have the mixed blessing of being tied to the good old 'Murican alone-in-the-car commute, which I don't like generally, but it gives me the opportunity to really work the voice. For better or worse, it's only 20 minutes each way, but that's a pretty decent amount of time for vocal training. If you're on public transportation that's probably noisy enough to give you a chance for more quiet vocalization.

Also, when you have a chance, sing for and with your kids. Learn some kids songs if your usual subject matter is less than appropriate, or change the lyrics if you like. My 2 year old daughter's favorite song is "Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer," so I sing that with her a lot, sometimes with guitar but usually a cappella, and I find a key that is comfortable or challenging, depending on what I'm going for. She doesn't care what key it's in, or how good or bad I sound, she just loves the experience of singing with someone. My 4 year old son seems to have the most melodic sense and likes exploring the different sounds he can make, and my 7 year old son has a very poetic mind. I am starting to clue him into some of the symbols and metaphors in the folk songs I sing, and that really piques his interest. It always makes me happy to see them engaged in physical and social pursuits rather than being glued to a screen.

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Jim - these are all great tips. I partially apply some of them already - but you gave me ideas on how to expand the application.

Johnny, I feel your pain! I learned guitar in my late teens and early 20's, and here I am pushing 50 and really wanting to work on my voice seriously after decades living in my comfort zone.

Yep, I found out that to be a better guitarist I need to be a more complete musician. And for me it meant picking up an additional instrument (my voice).

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Well, I'm done pushing 50. Done reached it in March. Anyway, a long time ago, I decided I was a singer who played guitar, rather than the other way around. But I think playing an instrument helps me with all aspects of music. And such as the advice of a lot of classical sources on instruction from a century ago. They always advised that a singer learn another instrument, such as piano. It helps with phrasing and rhythm because it requires a physical connection, I think.

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Ronws - I believe it works in both directions. It helps understanding the other band members when you play with them... not understanding how singing actually works doesn't do good for a band member who writes a song, or even offers a cover. Not playing an instrument means the same for singers - in some cases there is no realization on how hard/easy it is to learn a part or how playing backup works. This reminds me I need to apologies to my band's vocalist on all the songs I wrote without knowing how singing really works... :D

I also believe that the most famous guitar players see themselves as complete musicians more than just 'guitarists'. Even those who don't sing at least know a few things about producing and/or playing other instruments.

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Thing is, while a lot of singers do play an instrument (David Lee Roth plays guitar), not all instrumentalists know what it takes to sing.

One beef that Bruce Dickinson had was that others in the band would contribute lyrics that read like Shakespearean prose and expect him to sing it in the upper 4th octave. Just a singer can learn phrasing and arrangement from playing an instrument, I think instrumentalist can learn about songwriting by singing, themselves, even if they are not the "lead" vocalist.

Then, you have bands like Kansas who had two singers, believe it or not. A lot of the songs relied heavily on Reinhardt for harmony and some lead vocals. Plus, he did most of the patter with the audience.

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