Archive for June, 2011

Stress and singing

June 6, 2011

Stress tenses certain parts of the body, such that your vocal apparatus is misshapened, and singing becomes so much more difficult.  Being calm is easier to move into the next emotion in the musical interpretation.   But as any stressed out singer (any most major pros were at one time starving-stressed) can tell you, it is entirely possible to sing when stressed.

 Stress can even help certain types of singing.   For example, if you’re sad, and emote sadness, singing sad songs can sound better.   Of course, singing happy songs is more difficult.

 As for your instructor– she got it partly right.


Skype and latency

June 6, 2011

Where did the information Skype is half-duplex come from?  I did a quick search, and some people believe it’s half-duplex in sound card and full duplex in USB stereophones.   This information doesn’t make sense either.

Anyhow, Skype, like Voice over IP, suffers mostly from latency–an inherent problem with the Internet that is difficult to solve.   There is a lag time due to electronics relay and congestion delays (not the speed of electricity).   Echo is usually used in telephony to reassure the talker’s own talk– telephony without echo sounds funny for the talker.

Telephony is designed to carry principally the higher frequencies of normal speech, which is what is needed for speech understanding.  Bassy parts of speech are unnecssary for speech comprehension, so is truncated to reduce bandwidth requirements.   As such, if one listens carefully to a regular phone call, it sounds tinny.   Bell Labs probably spent hundreds of millions of dollars doing research on this one topic and designing telephony to fool our hearing effectively.

Our minds are very clever at reconstructing the intended sound, so even though the sound may be tinny, a hearer can actually reconstruct most of the true sound.   However, telephony does not capture the true sound.

Skype is worse than regular telephony for a number of reasons:

1. Latency.
2. Lesser bandwidth, which means greater truncation of sounds.
3. Inferior receiver sender equipment.
4. Lesser proven reconstruction technologies of initial captured sounds.

Cell phone usually have inferior microphones and can even be worse.

Land lines are what telephony technologies are designed for, and will sound best, if one buys the more expensive equipment.

It makes me mad to hear singing instructor who believes they are doing students a favor by saving a few dollars with Skype.   In addition to the problems mentioned above, the best way to use Skype is with a headset, and I haven’t seen too many expensive Skype headsets yet (which tells me that its receiving sound exterperlation and its sending mic is lower quality).   And if both sides are using headsets, the problem that comes about is occlusion effects in singing from wearing headsets.

In summary, telephony equipment is designed to create an illusion of the sender’s true send, and actual sound is vastly superior.  Then in the order of quality– 1. great land line telephony equipment both sides   2. great cellular equipment   3. great sound cards   4. great headset  5.  great Skype, 6. and mediocre and inferior equipment all under.    I’m aware that I’m bound to be attacked by Skype advocates who say, you can hear this or that well.   My response is– listen to it carefully and try to reduce the power of one’s own mind to reinterpret, and you’ll see that telephony including Skype is inherently inaccurate.

Talking and singing

June 5, 2011

Well, here’s my two contrarian cents worth on talking and singing, from an amateur.

Imagine returning to prehistoric times, well before sophisticated languages with consonants and vowels, where all kinds of apelike sounds were being made by man, and suddenly a human starts to sing melodies.   Must have been quite enchanting.   Soon, I’m sure there were lots of singers.   Yes, singing before rhyming, singing before sophisticated words, singing before full lyrics development, singing before Western sets of sounds, singing before Eastern sets of sounds, singing before prehistoric civilization’s sets of sounds.  You get the idea.   Just like prehistoric art found in caves were drawn before anyone knew how to manufacture a canvas for art, so singing was sung before a single song was written.   Before any set languages were established between tribes.   Lullabies were sung likely before words were formalized.

So, we can see how singing is more ancient than, and likely more fundamental than speaking.   That is, speaking is a limited form of singing.  If one can sing properly, one’s speech is a restrictive form.

The question, in my opinion, is not how is it speech and singing are different; the question should be, how is it speech resulted from singing, to the extent that natural singing is lost.   And the next question is, how is it possible to recover this natural singing?

How we learn speech, and not how we lost singing, is more researched, so let’s start there.  We know a baby has more sounds than the modern language he speaks has, and we know that over time, he loses many of these sounds.   He practices talking and learns to express his thoughts, his desires, his feelings, his fears through talking, and as he gets older, he finesses more of these, and loses more innate sounds.   He stores body tensions, and then sublimates certain sounds and lose others.  Over time, he loses his singing voice and acquires a different set of skills for his talking voice.   Yes, he with society placed limits on his innate sounds and became worse and worse as a singer.

So, no singing and talking arise from the same skills with talking a more restrictive form with a great deal of finesse built up.   Singing is lost due to societal pressures, tension, and lack of practice.

Can they be the same?  Yes, because talking can utilize the resonance, timing, rhyming skills that singing teaches.

Is there evidence on the above?   I know of anecdotal ones:   Elvis, Judy Garland, and Pavarotti.  Judy came from a family of vaudeville entertainers and was performing as a child.   Pavarotti was a singing instructor’s son who earned money as a child from singing.   Elvis, if I recall correctly, was praised for his early childhood singing.   It’s not because they had the best hereditary voice– it’s because they did not lose their innate voice.   Tiger Woods was not the best athletically gifted golfer, but he had parents who provided him an environment, such that he did not lose his innate golf-suited skills.

Having said all this mumbo jumbo–what does this have to do with speaking and singing, giving the evidence of the above study.  

1. Unless a singer has half a brain, the study makes no difference.   And as we see from above, one’s potential is far greater than one’s current skill set, and the objective is to restore one’s innate skills.


Posture and acid reflux

June 5, 2011

Why posture and why what I mentioned below works for singers:

 The basic idea for singers is to reduce the acid from weakening the esophagus and particularly the nasal pharynx– mostly liquid acid, not gaseous acid.   For singing, I’m not writing about the pain  and potential cancer of acid reflux, but instead its effect on muscle control and resonance.

 The acid in a sense, immobilizes these live tissue.   By sleeping at an angled plane, the acid is less able to crawl up at night– this is why sleeping angled and not bending over when awake are effective.  If acid is able to crawl up to the vocal cords and weakens these, it’s very difficult to sing on pitch, because loss of vocal cord control.

 The effect on the vocal tract (excluding the vocal cords), and the nasal pharynx are less direct.   But the most direct treatment approach is still same– get the liquid acid as far away as possible.  If one pulls up one’s posture by uplifting the rib cage and head to proper alignment, the extra 1 to 2 inches gained will be quite significant in its effects, and this may fix the upper esophagus valve (whatever its name) automatically, because the upper esophagus tract is aligned and this upper valve (which is really an airway) is then in good operational condition.

 The lower esohagus-stomach valve, and I suspect even hiatial hernia (sp?) is more challenging.   Medicine does not yet know what causes the weakening of this valve, but there is a theory that it is due to extended bad posture weakening this valve.   This theory makes sense, because essentially, it is saying– if you pull on a valve muscle long enough in the wrong way, it will weaken.

 So for the lower esophagus valve, the first step is to prevent the potential damage by ensuring one’s posture is aligned.   The second, if the damage has occurred, is to stop further damage and allow the body to heal, by, again, aligning the posture.  The third, again, is complicated.

 When all these are aligned, the muscles are in good tone, which means one’s singing tone will be far better.

 Unfortunately, getting good posture is more difficult than it may appear.


Acid reflux

June 5, 2011

Zegerid, Nexium, Prilosec, Previcid and other proton-inhibitors are usually different forumulations of the same; their differences come in how quickly and how much is absorbed by the individual.   Zegerid is newer, but my personal experience is that Zegerid’s immediate effects are faster, but all these worked about the same for me.  My gastro doctor says that Zegerid is superior for a percentage of people; but remember, everyone is an individual.

I’m not a pharmacist or doctor, but my understanding is IT IS UNNECESSARY TO PURCHASE THESE BY PRESCRIPTION.  The prescription forms of Zegerid and Previcid are basically twice the dosage of their OTC versions.   Zegerid has a powder prescription version that is again a bit faster than the pill version.

Here’s how to buy these items cheap.   Look in the Sunday newspapers under Walgreens and CVS ads, and use their promos, coupled with Walgreens monthly discount booklet coupon and even use the meds website coupons.   How cheap?   Previcid normally costs about $22 for 42.   Walgreens raised its price to $24, had a $3 coupon in its booklet, and Previcid gave away a $25 voucher with its purchase.   I figure voucher is worth about $17.   So effectively– 42 Previcd for a net of $4.   If you double the dosage, such that it becomes the prescription formulation– 21 (3 weeks of Previcid) for $4.  

Everyone is different, so Zantac can work well for some people as well.   But Zantac has far more side effects.   Additionally, proton inhibitors are a very safe drug, in for long term usage, as compared to other drugs.

 Cheaper than $4?   I didn’t have to use proton inhibitors for over 3 years by making these changes:

 1. raise my bed and drank antacid before sleeping.

2. change my posture including sitting posture.

3. less fats in my diet.