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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformanceMusical Miscellany(Moderators: JP, BGuttman) Adele, vocalists and their surgeries...
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robcat2075

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« on: Aug 11, 2017, 06:03AM »

So you think you have embouchure problems?

Article takes a look at vocal chord problems and how the other half suffers...

Why do stars like Adele keep losing their voice?


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...Their solution requires the revival of an all-but-vanished singing method that is not just beautiful to the ear, but also easy on the throat. Some of their ageing and beleaguered clients described it to me as a kind of fountain of youth. But their cure is not without controversy. It is based on a provocative theory that has been gaining ground among a small cadre of international talents: that we have all been singing completely wrong – even Adele.



Once again, we've been doing something all wrong!
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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #1 on: Aug 11, 2017, 06:32AM »


Quote
...Their solution requires the revival of an all-but-vanished singing method that is not just beautiful to the ear, but also easy on the throat. Some of their ageing and beleaguered clients described it to me as a kind of fountain of youth. But their cure is not without controversy. It is based on a provocative theory that has been gaining ground among a small cadre of international talents: that we have all been singing completely wrong – even  Adele.






"Even" Adele? Especially Adele!. I'm no professional singer, but I can tell from listening to her that she's using a technique that's no better for her vocal chords than that of Janis Joplin or Stevie Nicks. I know a classically trained singer, and mentioning Adele in his presence is like that old "Three Stooges" routine.

"Adele!!! Slowly I turned...step by step...inch by inch..."
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 11, 2017, 07:04AM »

They don't say much about what they do differently, but it is intriguing.

I'm not so sure all of it makes sense.  They talk about the dangers of singing too loudly, but we now have microphones.  I heard a PBS segment this week talking to someone who'd had a long career in musicals.  She said the old ones were written much higher, because that was how they could be heard before amplification became routine. 

I do suspect a lot of voice teaching is wrong, even dangerous.  I see choir directors with no background giving advice that seems dangerous to me, and insisting on those long vocal warmups with no specifics on how they need to be done. 

If I could learn to sing more relaxed I would work on it.  I tire easily singing in choir especially if it's high.  I've tried some ideas but none worked. 

I wonder what they would think of Ms Haefele.  (the multiple note singer all over youtube) 
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Tim Richardson
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« Reply #3 on: Aug 11, 2017, 08:27AM »

There have been some other mentions on this Forum about playing from a more relaxed state, but they were for the most part ignored.

However, drop a name like Adele and now there is some interest.

...Geezer
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wgwbassbone
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« Reply #4 on: Aug 11, 2017, 11:15AM »

Adele hates touring. When she tours she suffers from anxiety and she's mostly exhausted. Couple that with her bad vocal production it's a recipe for disaster. She's not the first and will not be the last.
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« Reply #5 on: Aug 11, 2017, 11:26AM »

Not just stars... the number of singers at my music school in college that found a node on their chords and needed surgery... that was impressive. And there were young college kids, in their physical prime, and just starting to get a singing load...
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robcat2075

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« Reply #6 on: Aug 11, 2017, 11:34AM »

I never know who to believe on "voice". They all seem to have someone else they think is ruining people.  Don't know


Is it possible that some people will not have durable voices no matter how they train, just as some people will never run 4 minute mile no matter how they train?


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Robert Holmén

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« Reply #7 on: Aug 11, 2017, 11:37AM »

Not just stars... the number of singers at my music school in college that found a node on their chords and needed surgery... that was impressive. And there were young college kids, in their physical prime, and just starting to get a singing load...

I worked for a Univ of Wisconsin housing department a while back.  During the summer we rented out the dorms most of the time to various conferences.  One was a volleyball camp for young girls, I'd guess 12 to 14 or so.  Many of them, a scarey percentage, had zipper marks on their knees. 
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 11, 2017, 01:20PM »

I wonder what they would think of Ms Haefele.  (the multiple note singer all over youtube) 

I know a vocal instructor (who is also an exceptionally great vocalist) and she doesn't dig Ms. Hefele in terms of vocal health, but I didn't get a chance to really ask why.
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 11, 2017, 01:44PM »

Tim, I think the person you heard on NPR was Barbara Cook (she died this past week).  Cook was a trained soprano with exceptional range (she was the original Cunegonde in Candide and the original Marian the Librarian in The Music Man).

There are many singers who didn't get voice training and strained their voices.  Kay Starr was an example.  She needed all kinds of vocal cord surgeries just to keep going (mostly polyps).  Then there are the performers who abuse themselves with narcotics and alcohol.  But that's another matter.
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 11, 2017, 03:07PM »

I'm no expert on the subject of vocal maladies, but there is something I rarely see discussed as often as I think it should be discussed, for what it's worth.

Rate of use.

I'm not much of a singer, but I've worked with some good ones and some great ones over the years. I pick their brains whenever I can because what they do and what we do is pretty similar.

Years ago I worked with an opera singer from England while I was a pianist on a cruise ship in Italy. We hung out for a while after the show, mostly talking shop as musicians the world over love to do. She seemed impressed by our band's ability to throw together her 90 minute show so quickly (1 hr rehearsal) and the sound guy's ability to get the sound just right (great team on that ship.) I was impressed by the power of her voice (she really didn't need a microphone) and her sense of pitch and time, which was frankly better than 99% of the classically trained singers I've worked with or seen/listened to. She talked about her training and her "routine" and how she'd been lucky to avoid the injuries that many singers experience.

According to her, vocal injuries most often happen from one or two things: overuse and/or pushing the voice further than it is capable of handling.

Pushing we can all understand. You're a "close mic" singer like Chet Baker and all the sudden you try to belt out like Little Jimmy Scott, you're probably going to hurt yourself. I've actually done this sort of thing before - I can actually sing pretty loud, but I don't sing as my vocation (nor should I) and my "professional" singing is usually limited to singing coros on salsa gigs and occasionally backgrounds vocals on pop tunes. One time during an outdoor salsa gig, I started doing the "answer" on the chorus of Bailando - without a mic. Not a good idea. That night, while at home drinking some water, I felt a sharp pain in the left side of my throat, like I'd swallowed a piece of broken glass or a razor blade. I walked into the other room because the pain was so intense I thought I was dying and didn't want my girlfriend to witness that. After a couple of minutes the pain subsided enough I could breathe again, and I could swallow water by turning my head to the left while I did so. The pain would come back every now and then, usually after singing a lot or after a day of teaching where I was having to talk a lot. I actually lost my voice after giving three lectures over the course of three and a half hours on a thursday and didn't talk or play for the rest of weekend. I have really focused on a few things to help mitigate the problem. 1) no more singing without a mic, and not if I don't absolutely have to. 2) Make notes for classroom lectures efficient and involve class more often. Also, require reading before certain units. This also allows me to cover more stuff, which is a plus. 3) Cut down on alcohol, dairy, and don't hang out in smoky environments.

Overuse - this is something you're going to find far more often in popular music circles than you will in classical circles. Most opera singers aren't doing gigs every day, and when they are, they're rarely doing more than a couple of hours - maybe 30 minutes to an hour of singing tops for a lead in an opera? Less in a pops setting? Cover band singers get the worst of this. When I was the musical director on a few ships I worked on, I had to deal with singers being signed off for medical reasons pretty regularly. Production show singers (which only did 2 shows on two different days) would have issues from strain and overuse on occasion, but we usually had "laryngitis tracks" recorded in case that happened. Singers in the cover bands were doing at least 4 hours a night 6 or 7 nights a week. Now you can argue that someone singing popular music most likely hasn't been formerly trained, and you're right - many haven't been, but more than you'd think have. I don't think it matters as much in this type of environment, I think the training just prolongs the inevitable. Very few people can handle that kind of strain over time. One of the strongest singers I worked with, a Janice Joplin/Eva Cassidy inspired southerner named Melanie, sounded like she had vocal chords made out of Iron. Big strong voice, years of experience playing every venue imaginable, had never had an issue. One night she was doing a set and her voice just quit. It scared the hell out of her, she'd never experienced anything like that before and she'd been singing since a young age. That particular gig was hard. The Cruise Director put them on a 13 day on/ 1 day off schedule because they were the most popular band on the ship and they sold a lot of booze. It wasn't fair to her, or the band that had to pick up the slack when she was recovering.

The opera singer I mentioned earlier? She figured the reason she hadn't had any major voice issues in the 20 some odd years she'd been performing was because she'd never had to sing so much. She was well trained, had studied with some of the best singers in London and Italy, she took great care of her voice and her overall health, but she attributed her lack of injury primarily to avoiding overuse.  She was friends with a somewhat famous "popera" singer who'd suffered an injury after going on tour. She claimed she was "doing more singing in a week than she'd ever had to do in a month [during a normal show run]." I find this analogous to my own experiences playing in orchestras Vs. every other gig I've done. In an orchestra concert, I may have the horn up to my face 10-20% of the total time we're performing. Maybe more if it's Wagner. Wind Ensemble - maybe 35% of the time. Jazz combo - 25%-50% (although over a longer period of time.) Big Band - maybe 30-70%? Brass Quintet - maybe 80-90% of the time? Most classical singers aren't singing the whole time during an opera, and they shouldn't - opera stuff is hard, and the human voice isn't meant to do that for long periods of time. It's like combining gymnastics with football. It's dangerous.

Tours are difficult regardless of the genre. If you've never been on a tour you may not realize how the combination of inconveniences can lead to precipitous health issues if you're not careful. Cramped travel conditions, nothing but fast food and BBQ once you get away from the coasts, dry air everywhere screwing up your throat and sinuses, drinking.... If you're a vocalist, it's even worse. Most pop acts are doing 90 minute to 2 hour shows, and they're singing a lot. Once or twice a week this isn't a big deal. 5 nights (or more) a week for months? Coupled with constant travel so you're hardly ever getting a full night's sleep? This is a recipe for vocal injury. Once you hit the big time you should have a manager that can schedule a tour that won't kill you. Still, it's difficult. It's hard work, long sound checks in new venues the engineers aren't familiar with, bad diet, no sleep, it all adds up.
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« Reply #11 on: Aug 11, 2017, 06:50PM »

Adele hates touring. When she tours she suffers from anxiety and she's mostly exhausted. Couple that with her bad vocal production it's a recipe for disaster. She's not the first and will not be the last.

In what way does she have bad vocal production?
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wgwbassbone
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« Reply #12 on: Aug 13, 2017, 12:00PM »

It's forced, usually not in the right "place" due to poor support.
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« Reply #13 on: Aug 13, 2017, 05:27PM »

It's odd, but I couldn't find the vocal technique actually named in the article. I'm assuming Warner and the teachers and coaches he quotes are referring to bel canto singing.

The body--flesh and blood--has limitations. Unfortunately, managers, tour organizers and the like aren't always aware of that. Too often, younger singers and players aren't aware of their own limitations. Similarly with experienced singers and players who have never experienced serious problems. If they are subject to a stressful situation where they have to sing or play for an extended period, it can be overwhelming. That anxiety leads to stress, stress leads to tension, tension leads to pushing, pushing leads to overuse, which eventually leads to injury.

Still, I feel sorry for singers who have a beautiful voice (the inherited gift, or perhaps "natural talent"), who are then pushed too early to do too much before they really know how their voice works: Annie Lennox, Adele, lots of others...
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