Tag Archives: estill voice training

End of 2016 Wrap Up!

To all my students (and parents) from 2016:

I just want to say thankyou so much to all my students this year.  You’ve worked hard, and when I talk to my friends who are instrumental music teachers complaining about how their students never practice, I always gloat, coz mine DO!  Mwhahaha.  And you are all sounding awesome and making great progress on all your very different vocal & musical journeys.

As a teacher  & musician I have also learnt & grown this year.  In January I took my second 5-day Level 1 & 2 Course in Estill Voice Training, and passed my written exam towards becoming an Estill Certified Master Teacher.  I then put my preparations for the practical exam somewhat on hold, when I decided to make my own music and creativity my number one priority for this year (and probably for all years to come)!  I finished a group of 12 new songs, recorded home demos, and am currently in discussion with a few different producers, to find a person or people to work on what will probably be 3 new EPs released under my solo stagename.  I’ve resumed practice of my jazz repertoire, with intention to start doing jazz gigs again after a long break, and began working on some funk material with a friend with view to starting a new band next year!

Now that I’ve gotten my creativity & own musical practice firmly back into my routine, I can put some focus back on my Estill practice.  I’m hoping that with regular practice I’ll be able to be ready for the practical Estill CMT exam by halfway through or the end of next year (it involves some very challenging fine isolated control of the vocal mechanisms, some of which are going to take a while) after which I’ll become a CMT “candidate” and then have to have my teaching observed on each mechanism & section of the work twice each by two different teachers before I finally qualify!  Phew!  It’s a long process, and I’m not in any rush, and prioritising my own creative work over my vocal coaching qualification has improved my quality of life & mental health out of sight.  

Sometimes it’s important to check your priorities!

That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped studying & learning about the voice and how best to serve my students.  I’ve had some one on one and group sessions with my mentors Steph and Gerald at The Voice Gym; and have taken or referred a few of my lucky students to sessions at The Voice Gym too. I’ve learnt a lot from sitting in on or listening to recordings of my students’ sessions with my mentors and in discussion with them afterwards.  I’ve accompanied one or two students on a trip to visit otolaryngologist (ENT) Dr Amanda Richards at Pinnacle Surgery for a vocal health checkup, which is always fun, to get to see the vocal mechanism in action on camera!

Through these things and also just the practice that comes with teaching the mechanisms over and over with each new person, I have felt my understanding of these exercises & mechanisms become much deeper during 2016.

Which brings me to my new focus for 2017 as a teacher:  to go more deep and work with everyone a little more slow & focused.  

In the past, I’ve often had a subconscious fear of my students getting bored – as the anatomy-based approach can sometimes be quite involved and although it can elicit exciting changes quite fast, it is really a “long distance” run rather than a sprint, requiring dedicated work to make small changes to your vocal habits in order to arrive at the sound you are wanting. 

And there is so much to get through, and so much to learn!  A one hour session often hardly seems like enough!

So in the past I have perhaps burned through the different techniques & mechanisms quite fast with everyone, instead of taking a long time on each one, in an effort to make sure everyone stays interested.  It’s a great thing to have a general overview awareness of all the different mechanisms and what they do and are useful for, especially as they are all obviously connected and affect each other!  But it’s also important to do slow, focused work on the areas which are most important to you and your goals, and for some of you (especially those at a more professional level), this is where I’m going to focus in 2017.  The plan will vary greatly from person to person of course, relating to their individual goals and needs, but I will be for everyone, as a teacher, consciously taking things a little slower and working a little deeper on each mechanism, working on the important exercises with you until you have really got them under control.

Of course I still want it to be fun!  That’s always been my M.O. as a teacher, having heard so many horror stories of people giving up singing or music because they were made to sing songs they didn’t enjoy and do pointless exercises that made no sense. 

I will still be making sure we sing actual songs, and songs that you enjoy!  And linking the exercises as always back to their relevance in the song you are wanting to sing.  And as always, you are the client, and I am here to serve you.  If you feel that how I am structuring the lessons is not working for you in any way, you can always bring this up with me, and we will adjust to suit your needs.

Phew!  Okay, thanks for reading this far!  Here’s some quick important stuff:

Three things for my students to do:

1.  If anyone hasn’t yet joined the Facebook group I run for all my current & past students, feel free to do so at the below link!  Mostly I use it to occasionally post some interesting video of someone using their voice in an interesting way so we can analyse it together, and you’re welcome to share anything else you like there too, or discuss anything relating to singing & your practice:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/396830587109253/

2.  If I haven’t yet given you a copy of my first album (recorded back in 2012, pre-Estill!) remind me next time you come in, as I give a free copy to all my voice students, just for fun.

3.  Plan for your singing journey in 2017!  We will have already gone over this a bit in our final sessions of this year, but it’s important that you in yourself have a good strong idea of what direction you want to go in, what you want to achieve, and have a reasonably clear plan (this is the main part I can help you with) of what steps will get you to your goals.  

Set aside 15min to sit down with a notebook, and ask yourself:

a.  Do I want to perform in 2017?  Where and when, to whom, and how often?
b.  Do I want to do any recordings?
c.  What’s something I haven’t done with my singing yet that I’d like to?
d.  What am I proud of from my work in 2016, or what am I really enjoying about my voice right now?
e.  What about my vocal technique could use some improvement, what do I want to work on more in 2017?

My Main Practice Tip For The Holidays is:

LITTLE AND OFTEN is better than HEAPS HARDLY EVER.

The way our brains work, it is much better to do 3 minutes of practice, 5 times a day, than it is to do 5 hours of practice once a week!

I’m constantly thinking about how I’m using my voice while i’m speaking, I practice my onsets while I’m cooking, I do sirens while brushing my teeth, I practice FVF retraction at traffic lights.  This is the best way to develop your control, rather than blocking out some huge amount of time only once a week.  

Keep singing your songs for fun as well as doing serious practice, PLAY with your voice, and get curious!  

Finally, don’t forget to make sure we have sorted out when we are starting up again, how often and how long your lessons are going to be, and what payment plan you’re going with.

I hope you have a restful, fun, musical and safe festive period, and I look forward to seeing you in 2017!

Much love and keep singing!

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Joyful Singing – Strong Speech – Vocal Health
http://bectilley.com/
info@bectilley.com
0408 504 599

Vocal pain gone = Definitely a good thing!

I took this screenshot of an email I got a while back from a new student after her first lesson.  This kind of message makes me really happy!  If I can save just one person from vocal pain or potential damage, that makes it all worth it… (Luckily I get to help many more than one!)

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Adventures with a voice student and an ENT!

Last Thursday was my 25th birthday, and I had a very exciting experience – I went with one of my singing students to her appointment with an ENT (Ear, Nose, & Throat specialist).  

This student has been taking lessons with me since February, and is similar to me in that she is an energetic, outgoing, and outspoken young lady (she is about 14 years old).  Previously she had never done any singing training, but enjoys singing and has a lovely strong voice, particularly in her lower range (thick folds).

However, I did note that she found it quite difficult to go up into her higher range (thin folds/stiff folds); she has improved somewhat with exercises designed to help tilt the thyroid cartilage and go into “thin folds”, however still often had a breathy or croaky/crackly sound in her higher range and definitely found it challenging.

She also had the kind of speaking voice and vocal habits in speech that reminded me of other people I have known who have regularly lost their voice or had voice issues; outgoing people who talk loudly around their friends or when they get excited, tend to shout a lot or have to talk in loud environments; I could hear from her speaking voice that she could easily lose her voice if she pushed it too much.  While I have worked with her on retracting the false vocal folds to avoid vocal trauma, I felt there was potentially something going on which I didn’t have a solution for.

I am not a speech pathologist, so I do not have sufficient knowledge/qualification to diagnose a student with any kind of vocal pathology; but if I hear something in a student’s voice that seems to be something other than just lack of control, I will always recommend that the student see a speech pathologist or ENT to check that there is nothing potentially dangerous going on (like vocal nodes or nodules) or any other kind of vocal pathology or speech habit that needs special training.

My student has had some sinus issues as well, so when she went to her GP to get a referral, they recommended that she see an ENT.

There are only two ENT’s in Hobart, so there was quite a long wait, but finally we went in to see Dr. Nusa Naiman.

I was like a kid in a candy store – nerding out about voice stuff gets me very excited, and while my student and her mum were happy to have me there to help describe the issue to Dr. Naiman, I was also extremely happy to have the chance to learn what was going on with my student’s voice (for future reference) and potentially see her vocal folds!

Luckily for me, after asking some questions, Dr. Naiman went straight to getting an endoscope in to see what was going on.  It’s a painless but apparently slightly uncomfortable procedure; my student first had a couple sprays up her nose from a bottle of local anaesthetic spray, waited a few minutes, and then Dr. Naiman inserted a very thin tube with a tiny camera on the end.  The camera tube goes up the nose and down the back of the throat, into the airway just above the larynx (voice box) so we could see her vocal folds.

What we saw, and Dr. Naiman pointed out, was some irritation/reddening around the arytenoids (cartilages at the posterior end of the vocal folds) and the end of the vocal folds themselves (probably, I am guessing, due to some pushing/constriction of the false vocal folds when shouting/singing/speaking too loud).  And when the student attempted to demonstrate what I had noticed – the breathiness/crackling/difficulty in the higher register – Dr. Naiman pointed out that the vocal folds did not close completely in this higher register – the technical term for this is “incomplete adduction of the vocal folds” which creates a breathy sound as air escapes through the gap or “chink” where the vocal folds are not closing completely.

I was pleased to know that there were no vocal nodes/nodules or anything that serious going on with my student’s voice.  Dr. Naiman recommended 2 weeks of vocal rest (no shouting, whispering, or singing; just minimal speaking) to allow the redness to subside, followed by some sessions on some exercises to help with the incomplete adduction, from a speech pathologist who specialises in voice.  Luckily, I had just recently met one:  Helen Sjardin, who has moved back to Tasmania in the last couple of years and knows Dr. Naiman.  There aren’t a lot of speech pathologists in Tasmania (or, apparently, elsewhere either) who specialise in voice, so this is lucky for us!

I’m looking forward to attending some sessions with Helen and my student, and learning some more about incomplete adduction and exercises that can help with fixing it.  I had a very enjoyable lunch conversation with Helen the week before, and hope to maintain regular contact with her and work together to best serve our various clients and expand my knowledge about the voice!

My next post will be about the relationship between the different kinds of voice specialists – from voice coaches, to speech pathologists, to ENTs – so stay tuned!  

The Value of Coaches

Quick note before this blog:
YES, I do offer vouchers for singing lessons, if you would like to buy a session for someone near & dear as a last minute/late Christmas gift!  
Email me at info@bectilley.com to get yours!  🙂

Now, about the value of coaches…

My job has various titles.  You could call me a “singing teacher”, or “voice tutor”, or, the one I like the best, “vocal coach”.

I have enlisted the help of coaches in varying areas of my life, with great results.  If you want to get good at something, if you want to get results, you need to learn from the best.

I have my own vocal coaches in Melbourne, Stephanie and Gerald of The Voice Gym, who have taught me vocal physiology & anatomy through the Estill Voice Training Model.  Of course I’ve had many other vocal teachers throughout my life as well.

I’ve taken advantage of coaching sessions from productivity/life coaches, as well as top notch relationship/authentic relating coaches, and unmasked hidden patterns holding me back in all areas of my life.  I’ve joined an award-winning local “group personal training” fitness group called Booty, run by a totally awesome personal trainer (who I plan to get a one-on-one session with when she has space available).

All of these sessions have completely skyrocketed my productivity, wellness, motivation, knowledge, and abilities in all areas of my life.

Most of the new students that come to me are complete beginners, or singers who have had little to no formal training.  They all get excited by the great results they feel and hear after just a little while of working together; and the knowledge they gain in each and every session.  Of course I love working with singers from all backgrounds and levels of experience!

But I want to reach out now to the more experienced vocalists – singers who have been singing for years, maybe with training at an institution from great teachers, maybe self-taught but with years of experience.  Singers doing gigs, recording albums, moving forward with their passion.  These singers might tend to rest on their laurels a little.  I know; I was the same.  You’ve had a few teachers, perhaps, and feel like you’ve kind of heard it all before.

How many times can you be told to “breathe to your diaphragm”, “place the sound forward”, and open your mouth more?  

One day, a friend told me about The Voice Gym teachers and highly recommended I go see them.  I am usually very careful/stingy with my money, but I happened to be going to Melbourne anyway and took the plunge.  I am SO glad I did!  I learnt more about how my voice works in that first hour session than I had learnt in almost 20 years of singing lessons, including during my Bachelor of Music.  I quickly signed up for the week-long Estill Level 1 & 2 course they were running in Sydney in January 2013.  It was no cheap feat to attend the workshop, spare the time, and fly to Sydney.  But it was SO, so worth it.  Learning this stuff changed my life as a singer and as a teacher.  I continued to study for the rest of the year and in September took and passed my Estill Ceritificate of Figure Proficiency Test.

I have taught Conservatorium graduates who were studying at the same time as me, and had great feedback about the work that we do together.  I have taught singers who have been gigging for years and seen the excitement in their faces when they realise the simplicity behind moving past that one area of their voice that has been bugging them for so long.

Getting a coach is VITAL to success and pushing past the barriers that are holding you back.

To illustrated this point, below I have pasted a recent email from Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich and general  well known expert-on-awesomeness.  It landed in my inbox today and really made me nod my head in agreement.

Check it out below, and you know where to find me, fellow singers, if you want to increase your awesomeness in 2014 and put yourself firmly on the path to greatness!

————

What do Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods have that you don’t?

No, not $100mm. They have something you could get today. But curiously, almost nobody does.

Atul Gawande, a surgeon and staff writer for the New Yorker, posed a fascinating question:

“…I watched Rafael Nadal play a tournament match on the Tennis Channel. The camera flashed to his coach, and the obvious struck me as interesting: even Rafael Nadal has a coach. Nearly every élite tennis player in the world does. Professional athletes use coaches to make sure they are as good as they can be.

But doctors don’t. I’d paid to have a kid just out of college look at my serve. So why did I find it inconceivable to pay someone to come into my operating room and coach me on my surgical technique?”

Why do the world’s top athletes, singers, and entrepreneurs have coaches…and we don’t?

STOP! Notice how we automatically get defensive when we try to answer that question:

  •  Well, they can afford it”
  • “It’s their job to be the best, so a coach makes sense”
  • “Maybe later in my career, but I’m not ready for that”

In fact, it’s exactly the OPPOSITE!

The world’s best didn’t become that good on their own. They had help, lots of it.

This is the same as people who say, “I can’t invest until I get rich.” WRONG! You get rich BY investing.

How could a coach help you? Let me give you a few unconventional examples (the word “coach” can be applied creatively):

High-end hairdresser: A highly skilled hairdresser might cost 3x (or even 20x) the normal price…but can show you why a certain look suits you better than the normal Supercuts look you’ve been getting. (Btw, see what I mean? Would you have ever thought of a high-end hairdresser as a coach?)

Personal trainer: When I used to work out on my own, I would go to the gym, do a bunch of random machines, and wonder why I wasn’t getting results. The first time I worked out with a trainer, he showed me how to improve what I’d already been doing. This has been one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

Stylist: I have a stylist friend who says, “Of course I’m better at this than the average person. It’s not that I’m a genius…it’s that I do this all day, every day.” I’ve seen her before-and-after work, and it totally transforms the person.

Business coach: I paid a business coach tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of flying from NYC to LA, once/month for 15 months, just for 45 minutes of his time. It was another one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Not only did it pay for itself (many times over), I’ll keep the knowledge I learned forever.

Other examples: Language coach, cooking instructor, relationship/dating coaches, and many more!

The very best coaches can spot your problem areas and, since they’ve worked with tons of clients just like you, they can gently recommend strategies to help you overcome them…skyrocketing your success. I’ve seen it myself MANY times with MANY different experts I’ve worked with.

HERE’S THE POINT: You can do it on your own — and you should! But at a certain point, you’ll want a little extra help to become the very best. I remember scoffing at paying for SAT tutoring back in high school. I said, “I can just read the books.” Until I finally got one and I saw what a big difference it makes to have someone there, working with you day after day.

So, I want to challenge you: What’s ONE area where you could use a coach?

Eliminate your barriers (the #1 barrier is about cost: “I can’t afford $100/hour for the next 10 years!”) and strip it down: What if you just hired a coach for 2 sessions? Could you ask for a longer payment plan?

I changed my perspective from

“I have to do this on my own” + “people charging are just trying to scam me”

-to-

“I need help, and I’m willing to invest in myself to be the best”

And it has been absolutely pivotal in my success. If I can share just one thing with you today, it’s this: Be willing to invest in yourself, even for $20. Know that someone out there has seen your problem and can help you solve it.

That’s my challenge to you: Find ONE person you invest in, even for $20, to tackle your biggest goal for 2014.

-Ramit