Why British singers lose their accents when singing

In our most recent Every Body Can Sing workshop we found out one reason why British singers lose their accents when singing.

It partly has to do with the articulators and resonators f the vocal tract. Specifically, your lips, tongue, palate, the space inside your mouth, the space behind your nose, and the space in your throat (pharnyx) itself. When you speak, you change the shapes of these structures and spaces to create language.  And when you sing, your words get stretched out, so the vowels get longer and the consonants generally get shorter, strung together, or dropped.

British standard dialect has a lot of ‘articulate’ speech, which generally goes away when singing.   Other countries like Sweden (ABBA) and Australia (Keith Urban) do the same, and we perceive the sound as ‘General American’ dialect, because general American is one of the most ‘neutral’ languages.

Here’s an article if you want to read more about it.


Old School 19th Singing tips on Posture and Respiration

The 19th century Italian schools of singing had alot of cool things to say about posture, and how it affects singing.

In the Noble Posture, the sternum is raised along with the upper chest ‘like a soldier in a relaxed position’. This frees the lower ribs and subsequently the lungs for maximum outward movement when inhaling.
All the muscles concerned with the action of healthy balanced singing are now ready to engage. If this Noble Posture is maintained as long as possible during the action of singing an unexpected benefit occurs: the muscles of inhaling are not allowed to ‘collapse’ during exhaling but act as natural antagonists to the muscles of breathing out. This antagonistic relationship or ‘vocal struggle’ (called La Lotta Vocale in the Italian School) has the exhalation resisted by the inhalation muscules and a controlled stream of breath at the larynx is possible. The breath is kept alive by ‘leaning’ the breath against the nobly raised front wall of the chest (called appogiato). 

noble posture 1


Every Body Can Sing!

How is singing like dance? This workshop will help you find a new connection to your breath, body, and voice. We will explore the physical foundations of healthy vocal production, in all genres of singing. If you’ve been afraid to sing you will see that it’s simply a learned physical task, much like dance, and if you’ve sung for years you will learn something new about your voice.

WARNING: This will be fun!

Book your tickets here! At this price we will sell out quickly!



Do you have bunged up sinuses? Just sing NOOOOOOO

Why do we sing those crazy ?/mi/ and /ni/ sounds in lessons? Image

Here’s some really cool research on humming and sinusitis:

Healthy sinuses have a high concentration of NO (gaseous nitric oxide) production.

NO is known to be increased 15- to 20-fold by humming compared with quiet exhalation.

NO is known to be broadly antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial.

One case report shows that a subject hummed strongly for an hour at bedtime the first night, and hummed several times a day for the following 4 days as treatment for severe chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS).

The morning after the first 1-hour humming session, the subject awoke with a clear nose and found himself breathing easily through his nose for the first time in over 1 month. During the following 4 days, CRS symptoms slightly reoccurred, but with much less intensity each day. By humming 60-120 times four times per day (with a session at bedtime), CRS symptoms were essentially eliminated in 4 days.

The article hypothesized that strong, prolonged humming increased endogenous nasal NO production, thus eliminating CRS by antifungal means.



William James on Habit, Education, and Our Nervous System

“Seize the Very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make…”

A New Year can be an opportunity to form new, positive habits.  I am inspired by this article on William James’ Treatise on Habit. 

Psychologist and philosopher William James wrote Habit (public library; public domain) in 1887 — a short treatise on how our behavioral patterns shape who we are and what we often refer to as character and personality.

When we look at living creatures from an outward point of view, one of the first things that strikes us is that they are bundles of habits…

James begins with a strictly scientific, physiological account of the brain, exploring the notion of neuroplasticity a century before it became a buzzword of modern popular neuroscience and offering this elegant definition: Plasticity … in the wide sense of the word, means the possession of a structure weak enough to yield to an influence, but strong enough not to yield all at once.

He then bridges the body and the mind to shed light on how “habit loops” dominate our lives:

Any sequence of mental action which has been frequently repeated tends to perpetuate itself; so that we find ourselves automatically prompted to think, feel, or do what we have been before accustomed to think, feel, or do, under like circumstances, without any consciously formed purpose, or anticipation of results.

He eventually brings us to the question of education, whose responsibility it is to chaperone the formation of habit:

The great thing, then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.

He proceeds to offer three maxims for the successful formation of new habits:

  1. The acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, we must take care to launch ourselves with as strong and decided an initiative as possible. Accumulate all the possible circumstances which shall reenforce the right motives; put yourself assiduously in conditions that encourage the new way; make engagements incompatible with the old; take a public pledge, if the case allows; in short, envelop your resolution with every aid you know. This will give your new beginning such a momentum that the temptation to break down will not occur as soon as it otherwise might; and every day during which a breakdown is postponed adds to the chances of its not occurring at all.
  2. Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Each lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up; a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again. Continuity of training is the great means of making the nervous system act infallibly right … It is surprising how soon a desire will die of inanition if it be never fed.
  3. Seize the Very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you
    aspire to gain. It is not in the moment of their forming, but in the moment of their producing motor effects, that resolves and aspirations communicate the new ‘set’ to
    the brain.

Reblogged from Brain Pickings


How does Craniosacral Therapy help singing?

When I was in my mid 20’s, I had chronic low back pain.  I used to sleep on heating pads.  I felt a grip in my back when I would stand and sing. My voice teacher advised me to go to The Skylight Centre for Craniosacral Therapy.  I would lie down on a table, and practitioners would put their hands on my head, sacrum and feet.  The stress would drain away and I would enter this deep state between sleep and awake. And the back pain went away.  I was so inspired that I studied Craniosacral therapy (CST) after returning to California in 2007.  I found success practicing CST on singers and musicians, and I began to include craniosacral unwinding and jaw massage in voice lessons.  Students would completely relax their jaw tension and sing with a softer, easier tone, yet still be aware of the muscles needed for singing.  Because CST is such finite work, it also enhances the body awareness needed to individually sense and train the small muscles and structures associated with singing.  Imagine a meditation sit of 30-60 minutes where your muscles are not stiff afterwards, but deeply relaxed.