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Inch Wide. Mile Deep.

Hi!! Did you miss me? I missed me, too! 

Literally and metaphorically! Because this post is about finding my way back to myself.

If you feel lost, stressed, out of touch, or overwhelmed, I want to assure you: you are not alone.

Today I'm going to explain how I'm resuscitating myself after much neglect, and then I'll wrap up by offering five resources that you can use, too. 

If I help just one of you, it will be worth it.

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As you may have heard, I'm moving away from teaching online voice lessons to pursue performing and adventure.

This is NOT because I don't love you all. But because I have simply, unequivocally, not been fully aligned, or in love, with myself.

Here's the hard truth that I have learned over and over: If something in you INTERNALLY is out of whack, no EXTERNAL circumstances will fix it.

And I mean NONE. Nada, nothing, zilch. 

(No matter how many people you help or how many YouTube subscribers you have!)

I am learning this the long, hard, but ultimately best, fashion -- living it firsthand in a meandering, high-and-low, lol-filled way. And meanwhile I can tell you guys about it. 🙂

So here's my new approach to literally everything:

Inch wide. Mile deep.

Depth. Focus. Attention. Pause. Calm down. Everything is ok. You can take a moment. You're safe.

When you work in marketing (as I have been), DEPTH is kind of a dirty word. Instead you want REACH. 

Ugh.

(By the way- it might surprise you to read that I have been working in "marketing," but that is essentially what I was doing; yes, I began as a Voice Finder, but I ultimately spent the majority of my time and funds trying to market and reach people, and that, woefully, became my job description.) 

Marketing is about numbers and clicks and analytics and ticker marks. The intention starts to mutate from "How can I say something true?" to "How can I say something to the most people and get the best results?"

I'm sure you guys have experienced this on social media. It is all about MORE. 

Life, business, and literal CONSCIOUSNESS starts to feel like skating across the top of an ever-expanding, murky pond. You have no chance to rest, and not a moment to dive beneath the surface and explore.

And the ultimate question -- WHO AM I? -- starts to feel like way too luxurious a thought. So we keep running and avoiding.

My friends, it's really nuts. And it's not sustainable.

****************
Time to take care of yourself, ask the hard questions, and put loving effort into yourself. Furreal.

Historically, I've never been great at self care. Until recently, it felt like a chip was broken in me for basically three decades. I put success and results (external reward) over feeling good, loved by myself, and nourished (internal peace).

I thought the whole "take care of yourself first" adage was a lie for selfish people and I was doing a world of good by putting myself last.

I owned the badge of the "hot mess" -- ya know? -- the "messy-hair, wrinkled-clothes" type. I would have rather stayed up all night working on a project or video or website, manic with thoughts and ideas, than chill out, cook nourishing food, go to the gym, or make sure I got to bed on time.

So I became cloudy, dissociated from myself, anxious, and mournful of a self that I had lost: the Fel who had time for herself, who embraced being alone, who was a dedicated creator and artist, who could be in the moment and relax.

I stretched myself for miles and miles, a couple of inches under the surface.

But now -- *orchestra swell* -- it time for the reverse.

Inch wide. Mile deep.

Take the time. I promise it's okay. Stop racing. Pause. 

Risks are okay. They're necessary, even. Heck, I have no idea what my career is going to become. Who knows! (Maybe I should re-watch my own TEDx Talk on YouTube.) But I'll figured it out. The way forward is by going within.

I am not ungrateful for the past many years. Communicating with hundreds of thousands of people online has its benefits, rewards, and thrills.

Service is so important, yes!

But -- and forgive me if I'm telling you something you already know, but for me it's been SO HARD TO TRULY ACCEPT -- self care is the most essential thing you can do for the world.

The whole put-on-your-oxygen-mask-before-you-help-others rule is no flipping joke.

The struggle is real. But if you're used to putting others' needs first (family members, a partner or spouse, your job), you must STOPPIT right now. Tune in. Give yourself the time, the effort, the care. If you don't, I will slap you!!

Helping others -- *IF you yourself are neglecting yourself* -- will only morph into a host of negative emotions, physical ailments, and long-term resentments.

It ends today! Ya feel me? You can do it. So can I. We are doing it. Oh baby, it feels good.

In summary, moving forward I will look messy only in small doses, like, say, on alternating Wednesdays. 🙂

Inch wide. Mile deep.


*************

RESOURCES

Thanks for reading this far into the email. You're going deep with me and I dig that.

Here is a quick list of resources that have personally helped me in recent months. I've always wanted to send stuff like this but it didn't always fit with the whole "Voice Finder" singing-teacher image.

Not anymore! It's a new dawn! 

We'll call these resources the "Fel's Self-Resuscitation List." 🙂 I hope some, or all of them serve you. <3


FEL'S SELF-RESUSCITATION LIST

(these are NOT affiliate links, I don't get commission to plug these, I just sincerely believe in them)

1. Book: The Brain Fog Fix: Reclaim Your Memory Joy and Focus in Just 3 Weeks by Mike Dow

I've always been so confused by all the conflicting ideas out there about food. What is good for my body? Seriously, someone clear it up! This book for some reason really clicked with me and helped cut through the noise.

It's not about "eating to look sexayyyy" or any of that shit. 

It's about eating to help you function and feel good, literally in your noggin-brain-bin, and by extension, lots of other stuff will fall into place. You'll glow and radiate and look like a million bucks. Self-love first, and you'll look like a hottie while you do it.

2. Un-Gadget: The Light Phone

Do you check your smartphone literally constantly to stave off anxiety and/or existential thoughts?

Yeah, let's stop doing that ASAP.

Enter: The Light Phone. It's a credit-card-sized phone that is JUST A PHONE. That's it. It rings, it dials, and it has nine buttons. 

It is but a humble PHONE! 

The cool part is you don't have to change your number and it's only $5 a month. The way it works is you can have your smartphone forward to the Light Phone during days/nights/weekends/vacations when you want to be FREE of your other phone. 

That way you're reachable for emergencies but are unshackled by the burden of having to check for texts, emails, DMs, bloops, blips, flicks, jorp-jorps, and all the other horrifying notifications that compete for our time and attention and make our brains want to explode.

3. Actual Gadget: FitBit

I literally JUST got a FitBit and I'm like WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG? Go ahead, make fun of me! I don't care! 

I'm 10 years behind the curve but I think it's true love.

4. Book: Tapping the Healer Within by Roger Callahan

Some of you may know that I'm a practitioner of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) but I just started dipping my toe into its older brother TFT (Thought Field Therapy).

TFT is essentially self-administered acupressure. Yes it's "woo," if by "woo" you mean alternative, disruptive, badass and not sanctioned by our most beloved hegemonic institutions 🙂 

TFT is self-administered, risk-free, and all you need is the book linked above. I'm a HUGE proponent of trying out new stuff if it means it will inch you closer to living harmoniously with yourself, and so far TFT has gotten me incredible results in just a couple days.

It's definitely a bit weirder (at first) than EFT, and it requires a certain level of self-insight and intuition about what exactly to tap on, but it's been much faster and has delivered more dramatic results.

Check it out if you're brave and cool!

5. Fel's Homemade Calendar: Operation Artist Warrior (.jpeg below)

I mentioned this resource to my Singing Transformation students during a webinar and they were like "Omg, Fel, send it to us!" So, here I go.

This is a monthly chart I made for myself to log my progress toward the goal of becoming an "Artist Warrior." Basically, a strong, resilient, artistic badass who takes care of herself.

The way it works: print it out, fill in the month name at the top, then proceed through the days, checking off which activities you've done that day.

These icons are specific to me. You can ignore some or change their meaning for yourself. It won't be a perfect fit for all. But maybe some of you will like it.

The icon key is: 

SNOWFLAKE = I took a cold shower 😀
YOGA LADY = I did yoga
BALLERINA WITH A WEIGHT = I did some form of exercise
GUITAR = I practiced my guitar
MICROPHONE = I practiced my singing
WINE GLASS = I went on a solo artist date with myself
HAND PAINTING = I drew or painted
SOUND WAVE = I worked on audio engineering or production



**************

Whelp, that's all for now.

Thank you for listening and thank you for a being a fellow human on this earth.

Please take care of yourself. Keep going. I will, too. We got this.

Love,
Fel















 



Why Do You Want to Sing?

The real, deep reason why you want to sing is either EMPOWERING you or HOLDING YOU BACK.

How can you tell which it is?

Read my story below, and then hit reply with your response. I want to hear from you.

(Warning: It's a long post...but it was important for me to write.)

***************************

It was freezing outside, and the sun hadn't fully risen. I checked my alarm clock and saw I was late for freshman English class.

I rolled out of my twin bed and hustled to my dorm bathroom.

While brushing my teeth, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a scale. On a whim, I decided to step on.

My heart sank.

I'd gained 20 pounds??

I felt totally awful looking at the number, but even worse when I turned back to the mirror.

What had happened?

I felt despair and confusion, a sense of futility, and the feeling that I'd failed myself.

But I had no idea what to do.

I guess I have no choice but to start working out and dieting....maybe?

I didn't even know what losing weight felt like.

Worse, I didn't even know if it was possible. 

In my mind, I wasn't someone who "worked out." I wasn't someone who was "in shape" or would ever "look good enough."

I was just a theater nerd who liked to prance around and sing songs and eat whatever she wanted (pasta all day!) and not really think about her body.

So what was the point of trying?

But the achiever in me wasn't prepared to give up.

Over the next many years I proceeded to yo-yo in weight by about 15 pounds each year, working out hard, then going for long stretches without touching a treadmill or a dumbbell.

I watched my body get stressed, gain weight, lose weight, gain strength, lose strength, and generally feel like crap most of the time.

As far as my body was concerned, I was still lost.

I felt frustrated, full of despair, and just as confused as I was on that day freshman year when I stepped on the scale.

All the while, I thought -- is there even a point?

  • I thought -- no matter what I do, I'll just never be "hot enough." 
  • I thought -- I'll never be part of the "gifted elite class of hot people" who exude confidence and sexiness.
  • I had such a skewed perception of my own body and potential, that I continually sabotaged myself at every turn.


Why? Because:

To me, the point of fitness was to look good to others.

But oh my goodness, I was so, so, so wrong.

One afternoon this past March, after sitting hunched at my computer for hours on end, I stood up and realized my whole body ached from neglect.

I hadn't worked out in weeks. I was eating corn chips for lunch about 3 days a week. I hadn't touched a vegetable in who knows how long.

I knew I had to change -- not my body, but my point of view.

I was done using the world as a distorted mirror that showed me whether I was good or not.

I wanted to wake up and feel great in my clothes, to feel capable of running, sprinting, or dancing, or doing whatever the hell I wanted in my own body (and still sometimes eat pasta)!

When I finally realized this, it was a turning point.

The point of fitness (it turns out!) is to FEEL GREAT in your own skin!

To look good by your own standards and goals! Not for anyone else! For yourself! I'm screaming!

Working out lets you connect with your muscle tissue, and your skin, and your bones, and your lungs, and to celebrate your super capable bod every time you hit the weight room or the yoga mat.

I decided to COMMIT to working out, to eating more healthily, and to doing whatever it took to stay in touch with my body.

Not for anybody else, but for me.

Since then it's been slow, but every day feels like a chance to shake hands with myself and be like "Hey, Fel. I believe in you. I love you. Let's move our bods and celebrate the day."

*************************

So what the heck does this have to do with SINGING?

I need you to ask yourself : Why do you want to be able to sing?

  • If you want to sing to PROVE to yourself (or to someone else) that you're good enough....
  • If you want to sing to feel worthy, like you're one of those "gifted, elite, talented class" of people who sing....
  • If you want to sing to once and for all feel like you have a right to be seen or heard....

You are sabotaging your own progress!

You, like me on my fitness journey, are not honoring the true reason why we sing.

So, what's the reason why we sing?

Take a deep breath.

We sing to feel joy.

That's it. End of story.

🙂

The "joy" has many wonderful, related effects, of course:

  • We sing joyfully to connect with others.
  • We sing joyfully to shed light on our humanity.
  • We sing joyfully to process emotion and share our deepest feelings.
  • We sing joyfully to get out of our own heads and feel connected to our bodies.

But at its core, singing is about joy.

Do you agree? Can you relate to this?

My singer friend, have you ever told yourself:

  • "There's no point in my learning to sing, because I'll never have the tools? I'll never be good enough?"
  • Have you let past bad experiences with voice teachers who told you "you just don't have what it takes?" hold you back from following your dreams?
  • Have you had a "yo-yo diet" of making singing progress, only to feel discouraged the next month and like you've "lost it all"?

If so, I'm here to help. Once and for all.

*********************

It's time to get in touch with your SINGING JOY. 

Once you let go of your sabotaging thoughts and your negative feedback loops -- and find EFFECTIVE METHODS THAT WORK -- there are no limits to what we can do together!

I want to show you exactly what I mean. I want to provide you with incredible tools both for your technical progress and for a huge mindset reboot.

It all starts with my free training series.

I am obsessed with this training series because it's so, so, so effective and in-depth (and 100% free).

It's called:

UNLOCK YOUR TRUE SINGING POTENTIAL: YES, MY DUDE, YOU CAN BECOME A GOOD SINGER.

RSVP - LIMITED SLOTS AVAILABLE >

If you can relate to my fitness yo-yo-ing story, and see the ways it parallels your own singing mindset, this voice training will be life-changing.

SIGN UP TO RESERVE A SPOT AT MY FREE TRAINING >

Sending love and JOY,
Fel

P.S. My free training series features over 90+ minutes of voice lessons, but also includes live events with me over the next couple weeks -- so I have to keep slots limited!!

Don't miss this!! I only do it a couple times per year, and will most likely discontinue it after this year.

CLAIM YOUR SPOT AT MY FREE TRAINING SERIES > 

Live Lesson Replay!

If you missed my live YouTube lesson on June 29, 2017 you can still watch it! I'll leave it here for a limited time.

The topic is: What separates AVERAGE singers from AWESOME singers?

(Psst! I even sing a song I write at the end.)

I've got lots more free trainings coming up, including a re-release of my 90-minute voice lesson series called Unlock Your True Singing Potential: Yes, My Dude, You Can Become a Good Singer. 

The ONLY way to get notified of these events is to be on my mailing list for Singing Transformation, my elite training program. Sign up HERE or beneath this video so you don't miss more upcoming trainings and events this week! xo Fel

Being An Old Man Helped My Singing (No, Seriously)

What do a park-dwelling Birdman, an old hunchback, and a golden-kneed soccer player have in common?

Watch my latest singing tips video to find out!

In this video, you'll learn how my performing onstage with my musical improv group gave me insight into a new strategy for relieving vocal tension. Specifically: that my playing *old, male characters with hip-loaded posture* helped me to bust singing tension!

Here's my conclusion: loading your hips, tucking your pelvis under, and bending slightly at the waist can help to un-tense your neck, shoulders, and throat. (This is similar to the "butt clench" technique I often advocate for belt singing -- thrusting your energy DOWN into your lower body can help to free up your upper body.)

Yup, I know it sounds crazy. And no, I'm not kidding about this!

 

(NOTE: In the video, when I play my weird old man characters, I stick my neck out a bit, kind of like a "chicken-neck." Resist the urge to do this. The most important part is sinking into the hips, not craning your head forward.)

You, too, can wield the power of singing with a more hip-loaded posture, and feel firsthand how it helps to relieve tension in your neck and face.

Practice using the tips contained in this video -- and let me know what you think!

Improvisationally yours,

Fel

Sing Better By Opening Your FACE

Today's topic: Your FACE affects your singing!

Don't believe me? In my latest video, you'll learn how a personal vocal struggle led me to investigate the inside of my mouth -- specifically, my soft palate and cheekbones.

What did I discover?

An open, expanded, relaxed face and soft palate are crucial to creating a full, open, and beautiful singing tone.

In my personal experience, having a locked right side of my face (caused by tension and stress) can seriously limit vocal range and vocal tone.

Your face is a key RESONATOR for creating beautiful singing tone -- so if you're droopy, tense, or not creating space as you should be, you are seriously cutting off what's possible for you as a singer!

In this video, I'll give you some cues for expanding not just the middle of your soft palate -- but also the left and right sides -- which will, in turn, make pitch and tone much easier for you.

I'll also show you a (hideous!) face stretch that you can do before and during warmups.

Give it a watch and let me know your thoughts!

Love and weird face stretches,

Fel

How to Be a Great Singer Using Musical Phrasing

In today's video we'll explore the question:

What separates a good singer from a GREAT singer?

The answer, in my opinion, is musical phrasing. 

Good singers get the job done and not much more. They think about individual notes and whether or not they can hit them right, and then stop there.

Great singers think about how those notes relate to each other and how they can sculpt them into something memorable and moving.

This is musical phrasing. And it's tons of fun.

Phrasing can be altered by adjusting the following 4 components:
1. Dynamics (how loud or soft you get)
2. Rhythm (how fast or slow you sing the notes)
3. Onset (how you start the line)
4. Cut off (how you end the line)
(Admittedly, there are some more factors, but those are the broadest and most apparent.)

The easiest component for a singer to adjust and make their singing instantly better is the first one -- dynamics, or singing volume.

Watch in the video below as I explain how vocal dynamics have a huge effect on phrasing.


After that I'll demo a "good" version of "The Star Spangled Banner," followed by a "great" -- or at least better 🙂 -- version that has noticeable dynamic variation.

 

In this video I'll also teach you a simple vocal warmup that will help you rehearse dynamic range and learn to control your volume as you sing.

Please enjoy, and let me know your thoughts on phrasing in the comments below!

(And remember to share this with any singers you know hoping to take their voice to the next level!)

xo Fel

How Singing Can Improve Your Entire Life

Last Thursday I hosted a Facebook Live Event with my Singing Transformation class and we discussed a key revelation I had recently:

Singing does not stop after you're done singing.

Instead, it is a state of BEING that CONTINUES well after you finish creating sound.

Crazy, no? Allow me to explain! Check out the video below -- excerpts from the event. We'll also sing through a couple key vocal warmups together!

 

In the video above, you will:

  • Sing through an easy example of a Singer Ritual/vocal warmup session -- 2 simple vocal warmups, the lip trill (starting at 3:38) and an "NG" exercise (starting at 6:08)
  • Sing along to the warmups with "Visual Cueing," singing cues written on the screen to help reinforce technical concepts like singer breath, mouth shape, and resonance (Visual Cueing is a technique I developed to teach Singing Transformation)
  • Learn how singing is a state of physical, emotional, and mental alignment that extends long AFTER you warmup.
  • Discover that this is your singer superpower! Singing doesn't stop after you're done singing....

Singing sets the tone for your life. Practicing a daily Singer Ritual helps you establish a state of presence and joy that can extend into the rest of your day.

What do you think? Does the idea of singing as a state of BEING get you psyched?

Did you sing along to the warmups? How did they feel?

Leave me comments to let me know!

xo Fel

How to Hold a Difficult Emotion While Singing

If you've ever written to me and said:

Fel, when I sing a song I become very overcome with feeling and want to cry, and then I lose my technique.

or,

Fel, how do I show real emotion when I sing?

-- then the following process will serve you incredibly well.

But first, a quick story . . .



This past Friday I attended a business conference, and in one of our small group exercises, I started crying.

Yup.

My attempt at a "business suit"

If that sounds weird, it's because it kind of is. But this was no ordinary business conference. The goal of our group exercise was to relive a past memory and to hold the feeling of that memory in our bodies.

(Among other things, one greater goal of the conference was to expand our consciousness, to learn to hold feelings, and to use these skills in the service of creating heart-centered businesses.)

What does it mean to "hold a feeling?"

To me it means: not buckling under its weight, or letting your mind reactively race in anxious thoughts. Instead, you learn to embody the feeling, hold it in your heart, head, stomach, whatever, without getting freaked.

In turn, the feeling (1) doesn't flee from you, (2) doesn't overwhelm you, (3) becomes a welcomed part of who you are.

As I did this exercise, I realized the process was almost exactly aligned with the dramatic process of getting into character onstage, whether for a play or for a song performance.

Getting into character basically means: are you able to hold the character's emotion -- without fleeing or worrying that "this is too much"?

That's what today's post is about!

So let me ask you: what makes a good song performance?

We're all familiar with the answer: good pitch, pleasant sounding tone, and consistent technique.

Now let me ask you: what makes a great song performance?

A great performance conveys real emotion, vulnerability, and connection. In short, the singer touches the audience in a memorable, true, and vital way.

The first (good performance) is simple. Practice your technique, my dudes, and you'll get there (I'm here to help with that if you need daily guidance).

The second (great performance) requires some special sauce. This sauce is made with the ingredients of empathy, self-awareness, and a performer's ability to hold a feeling without running from it. (Yay Italian cooking metaphors!)

This process of holding a feeling will serve you tremendously not just in life, but in your song performance.

HOW TO HOLD A DIFFICULT EMOTION WHILE SINGING

Step 1: During your song preparation, determine the feeling behind the song (e.g. hope, joy, jealousy, despair, etc.). (These don't have to be "bad" feelings per se, because even joy can feel overwhelming sometimes.)

Step 2: Get centered in your breath. Visualize a connection from your feet to your butt, to your belly, to your heart, to your head, and then back again. At this moment, you are grounding yourself and connecting with your body.

Step 3: Recall a time from your own life when you felt the feeling from Step 1. Close your eyes and step forward. Allow the feeling to overtake you. Feel it in your body. Notice where it lives. Does it have a color? A shape? A direction? Let it come to your body for a few moments.

Step 4. This is the really cool part! Physically take a step back, outside of the emotion. Literally step back, "out of the feeling." In doing so, you return to your grounded state of Step 2. This is called "Second Position."

High-quality graphic by Felicia Ricci

While in "Second Position" consider the feeling. Where did you feel it? What is the positive intention behind the feeling? How might it be trying to help you? (E.g. Is the jealousy trying to keep you safe? Is the joy trying to lead you to fulfillment?)

Take some time to observe and understand the feeling. Is it necessarily "bad?" Or is it just....a feeling?

Step 5. When you're ready, physically return to the original feeling, stepping forward, but keeping your expanded Second Position consciousness or mindset. This means you literally take a physical step back into the original position but you try to retain that feeling of groundedness and expansion.

At this point, it's sort of like you blend the two states. You're able to both understand and "hold" the difficult feeling, simultaneously. As you return to your feeling state, recall the feeling of being grounded in Second Position, even as the feeling comes.

Recall the wisdom you had of accepting the feeling for what it was. You knew that even fear, even jealousy, even _______ (fill in the blank) is an important part of who you are and can exist in you without hurting you.

Step 6. Repeat this exercise as many times as necessary until you and the difficult or overwhelming feeling are best buds! Remember, you can always step out of the feeling to Second Position if it gets to be too much.

This ability to not only feel but to self-regulate and hold feeling in a grounded (and non-reactive) way is one of the greatest performance skills I know!

And while I certainly have good and bad days in achieving this, I'm committed to practicing the process, to serve both my life and my performances onstage.

What about you? Will you use this technique to hold complex, difficult, or overwhelming feelings -- and to ultimately understand and integrate them into your performances (and life)?

Please leave me a comment!

xo Fel

P.S. If you're digging the idea of holding deep emotion onstage, but still want to develop consistent vocal technique to support that goal, I'd love for you to check out my Lazy Singer's Warmups.

These vocal warmups are fun, quick, and effective at growing your voice in just 10 - 33 minutes per day. No complex thinking required. Just a little bit of commitment each day.

Check out my favorite vocals warmups here!

Why You Need A "Singer Survival Technique"

“We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”  --Archilochos

Last month I began performing onstage with my musical improv group Thank You, Places: An Improvised Musical at the Philly Improv Theater. Every other Friday we make up a one-hour musical, on the spot!

If you're thinking: That sounds hard, Fel is so BRAVE! -- well, I have news for you:

It freaking ter-ri-fies me.

Seriously. I think I was more nervous on February 17, 2017, our opening night, than I was when I first went on for Elphaba in Wicked (and that's not a joke).

The face of a woman doing everything she can not to freak out

Why was performing made-up songs so psychologically stressful for me? You already know the answer, I'm sure:

No preparation means you have nothing to hold onto, no rules to follow, and no way to anticipate the challenging parts of a song. 

In contrast, if you want me to do "regular" musical stuff, I will jump at the chance. Give me a score or a script to study, and I'm golden. I can rehearse and plan, I can get the feelings of the songs in my body, mind, and voice. I can deliver what I've practiced with consistency. This is my bread and butter.

But making up lines and songs on the spot -- all while maintaining good breath support, vocal control, solid singing technique -- this was another challenge ENTIRELY.

But, as the cliché goes: the Show Must Go On. So here's what I did.

I developed a "Singer Survival Technique."

Before I explain what this is, I want to point out that even if you're not performing in an improvised musical troupe like me, having a Singer Survival Technique is crucial.

As a singer, you're not always going to be able to rehearse everything. Being able to be spontaneous while singing, deal with the unknown, and find your way back after an unexpected mistake or change in a song is an essential skill.

(Examples: You're asked to throw together a quick act when an unexpected opportunity comes up. Or you decide to make up a riff or alternate melody, mid-performance. Or you're invited onstage without notice. Or you and your band change something about a song a couple minutes before you perform it. These things happen all the time.)

So it's time to arm yourself with something that will help you, no matter what.

Here it is:

THE SINGER SURVIVAL TECHNIQUE

Pick one, almighty, broad-strokes cue. Then, while performing, do that cue.

The end.

Now. This technique may sound overly simple and, of course, there's more to it. Namely, it only works in the clutch after lots of thought and preparation.

So what are the steps to prepare? To explain, I'm going to tell you:

(1) What exactly a broad-strokes cue is,

(2) How to pick this almighty cue,

(3) What you need to do *everyday* to ensure this Singer Survival Technique works when you need it most,

(4) What you need to do *right before a performance* to ensure this Singer Survival Technique works.

1. What is a "broad-strokes cue"?

A broad-strokes cue is basically a big, general movement that involves a big, general image. In times of stress, humans lose fine motor skills (tiny movements) but we retain broad/gross motor patterns (big movements).

In the army, soldiers are taught to rack the slides of their pistols with a broad movement of their palm, rather than with individual fingertips. Likewise, martial arts like Krav Maga reject overly detailed movements in favor of simple strikes that are easy to execute.

Relying on broad movements increases the likelihood of a successful performance in moments of confusion, chaos, danger, and stress.

Singing is the same, especially improvised singing. With no rehearsal, or even any preconceived idea of where the song is going, all you have to rely on is your skill in the big stuff -- the basics. For most singers, this is breath support, alignment, and relaxation.

If you make those things as automatic as possible, or use a broad-strokes cue to help you remember, you can use the rest of your brain to think about the other, less broad stuff (face shape, vowel modification, interpretation).

2. How do I pick this cue?

This is where your singing Practice Log becomes crucial.

I encourage all singers always to track their singing practice and determine which singing cues work best for them. (You can download my free Practice Log here.)

As you practice, keep track of the cues that are most effective for YOU.

Which images or prompts are the most "magical" for achieving a desired result? If you practice regularly, you will become quite familiar with these.

To develop your own personalized Singer Survival Technique, take your favorite cue or set of cues and combine them into one almighty broad-strokes cue.

Here's my own, personal example:

When I sing, I am absolutely lost if I am not 1) breathing from my diaphragm/lower body, (2) fully aligned without a "chicken neck."

So what is my Singer Survival Technique?

"Butt clench with arrow down."

That's it.

For me, it works. (Without getting too much into the nitty gritty, the butt clench helps me to activate my breath, reduce tension in my neck and face, and stay vertically aligned, while the down arrow keep my energy grounded and my larynx relaxed.)

While I was performing onstage with Thank You, Places, I was thinking about lyrics, melody, character -- all that juicy stuff -- but always, ALWAYS, in the back of my mind -- and sometimes quite actively -- I thought:

"Butt clench with arrow down."

And whattaya know? My voice didn't bail on me. It was there. And I was able to sing freely with good supported technique, even when I didn't know what the heck was going to happen.

3. What do I need to do *before a performance* to ensure my Singer Survival Technique works?

In order for your Singer Survival Technique to work, you have to get the juices flowing before your performance with a basic warmup set.

Take particular care to stretch, breathe, and relax your ribcage, back, face, jaw, and tongue. Busting tension is one of the most crucial parts of maintaining good technique. This is a whole other topic in and of itself, but just know that a warmup is essential.

Equally essential: as you warmup, visually reinforce your Broad Strokes Cue, picturing the image or thought as you work through your warmup set.

4. What do I need to do *everyday* to ensure my Singer Survival Technique works?

The answer is simple and un-sexy: practice, practice practice.

Practice your skills daily, with extra emphasis on the basics, and log your findings in your Practice Log. Your basics are the meat and potatoes of your singing technique. They will ultimately compromise your Broad Strokes Cue.

In the words of Bruce Lee: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Breath. Relaxation. Busting tension. These are the essentials, and more important that any "fine motor adjustment" could ever be.

Brick by brick, you are laying a solid singing foundation for yourself.

(If you're confused about what to practice, and you want a quick 'n' dirty solution that will help you bust tension, open up your voice, and build solid technique without wasting time, you might want to check out my Lazy Singer's Warmups. These will help with both numbers 3 and 4 -- warming up before a performance, and warming up daily.)

(If you want a more in-depth, holistic look at singing technique and building a solid foundation from the ground up, check out my comprehensive course Singing Transformation: 360 Degrees of Vocal Training.)

***

Whoa, that was a long post! But I wanted to share this because it has been illuminating to find myself totally terrified and in a new singing situation. It really puts things in perspective -- and hopefully lets you see that even people who have been singing for 25+ years (like me) need to take proactive steps to maintain good technique.

What do you think? Are you excited to develop a Singing Survival Technique? What are some ideas for your Broad Strokes Cue? Share below in the comments! I'll be sure to check them all out.

xo Fel

What Puppies Taught Me About Singing

You read that right -- puppies! Allow me to explain...

One of my students, Claire S., is an assistance dog trainer. She's enrolled in Singing Transformation and noticed that a lot of my teaching revolved around the following principle:

Singer's should QUIT....while they're ahead.

It might sound weird. But it's a tried-and-true method -- not just for learning how to sing. As Claire told me, it's also great for training service dogs!

Before we talk more about puppies, let's first discuss:

What does it mean to "quit while you're ahead" when you practice singing?

In my opinion, the best warmups sessions should end on a "high note" (no pun intended). If you use my 3-step practice system, your typical warmup session might look like this:

  • PART 1: Breath Activation and Stretching (relieve tension, make sure your singer "engine" is working for you)
  • PART 2: "Open Up Shop" (get the juices flowing)
  • PART 3: Skills Work (a couple of challenging exercises, to develop whatever skill you're working in)

**The quitting happens in Part 3.**

At this step, you might sing through a challenging exercise one time and feel like, "Okay, that was decent. But I can do better." So you sing through it again.

This second time? Damn -- it felt really good! It wasn't perfect, but you can hear progress. You feel relaxed, and for the most part, very jazzed about how it sounded.

My advice to you is: STOP. THERE. Log your progress, write down what worked, but then close up shop for the day.

Why?

While working on a singing skill, it's easy to push yourself to the point where you're straining, pushing, or feeling frustrated.

When you quit while you're ahead, you avoid that negative spiral, AND you end your session on a positive note -- thereby reinforcing to your subconscious mind that you CAN do it.

But don't just take it from me. Take it from Claire and her experience training little cutie dogs: 

Claire wrote:

"Fel, [quitting while you're ahead] is the same principle I use when training assistance dogs.

"When we were training a new skill, if we stopped at the point when the puppy had just reached a new skill level, and celebrated it together, they would be able to do it really well the next session, and also be super keen and confident.

"On the other hand, if I pushed them to keep going after the new milestone had been achieved they would begin to go backwards and everything would unravel...next session they would be less confident and clear about what to do."

"Shorter sessions clearly proved to be the best training method, as the puppies improved much more rapidly and with less stress. Their cute little minds had time to process things in between sessions."

Didja hear that?

Our cute (singer) minds deserve a break in between training sessions, just like those adorable puppies.

Listen to the puppy... "Don't over-practice!"

What do you think of this technique? Are you willing to give it a try?

Leave me a comment here on my blog, I'll read every single one!

xo Fel