Straws to the Rescue

Julia Belluz writing for Vox:

Orbelo suggested the “straw technique” — strengthening your vocal cords by humming through a straw or blowing into one with a liquid (“like when you’re a kid and you blow bubbles in chocolate milk”).

Turns out, it seems everyone in the voice community knows about the magical straw technique — to “reset and free the voice” and “stretch and unpress” your vocal cords and folds.

The National Center for Speech and Voice says the method has “roots in Northern Europe and has been used for several hundred years.” Its popularizer, Ingo Titze — a vocal scientist and executive director of the center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City — has published academic papers on the approach.

Apparently, the straw technique can not only give you a voice that’s stronger and more difficult to lose, but it can also relieve a tired voice.

Yup. And here.

via @DrBaritone

Update to German Learning Morning: FSI

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.11.06

In the past few months, as part of my German morning reading, I’ve read several full books of comics in German including three Asterix books and one giant Lucky Luke volume. In the past week, I’ve pivoted back to using the Foreign Service Institue German course.

However, it’s not just reading. These are courses developed by the US government for diplomats and which are now in the public domain. The course comprises dialogues and then exercises where you alter sentences or just try to say the translation as quickly as possible. Each accompanying audio track is between 20 and 30 minutes, and if you want to feel like you’ve worked your brain to exhaustion, then this will do it.

This is a tedious way to learn to be sure, but I did this faithfully before moving to Germany, and it was invaluable. When you begin speaking the translations fluently without thinking too hard and without pauses, then it can feel very good. The course is brilliant at drilling sentence structure and flow into your mind, and the vocabulary is usually very useful. I also find that it makes certain concepts, such as the cases (nominative, dative, accusative, genitive), feel instinctive in a way I never got from other learning methods. I can also use their pre-made vocabulary lists at the end of each unit for my morning journaling. Any extra words still get added to my monthly Evernote note.

There are a few negatives about using the FSI German course, of which you should be aware:

  • They use some outdated words, and you have to be careful using them. I’ve never heard anyone refer to a bus as an “Omnibus” or a taxi as a “Taxe”, even though those are legitimate words. And I would never refer to anyone as “Fräulein”, even though the speakers of the FSI course do regularly. This is Mad Men era German, and you should have other sources to provide you with more modern language.
  • The audio quality is very degraded, and sometimes it can be hard to understand what the readers are saying without reading along, which sometimes defeats the purpose.
  • Again, because this is Mad Men era German, it’s very male dominant. It’s usually men speaking to other men about business. When women are around, they tend to be secretaries or housewives.
  • The vocabulary is very tilted towards diplomatic relations. There’s lots of talk about embassies and consul generals and such, which is irrelevant to most people.

Nevertheless, I still find them valuable. Even with the limitations listed above, most of the situations are still situations you’ll find yourself in in modern Germany.

Singers Getting Paid

Good article from Cindy Sadler writing for Classical Singer:

Know when to say no..If they are paying everybody but the singer, they don’t deserve professional quality work. They should be getting a student or an amateur for whom the event could be important and worthwhile. They should be getting what they pay for.

This is one of those difficult issues for young singers, and for every person it’s different. The sooner you ask yourself what you feel you’re worth, however, the better. Listen to your feelings before and after jobs and ask yourself if you felt appropriately compensated for your time, effort and expenses.

Then stick up for yourself. Very few will do it for you.

Can’t sing? Do it more often — ScienceDaily

From Science Daily, reporting on research from Northwestern University:

The ability to sing on key may have more in common with the kind of practice that goes into playing an instrument than people realize, said lead researcher Steven Demorest, a professor of music education at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music.

“No one expects a beginner on violin to sound good right away, it takes practice, but everyone is supposed to be able to sing,” Demorest said. “When people are unsuccessful they take it very personally, but we think if you sing more, you’ll get better.”

via Can’t sing? Do it more often — ScienceDaily.

Singing well requires practice. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re tone deaf. Just keep singing.

The age-old art of musical page turning is under threat from the accursed iPad – The Independent

Simon Usborne writing for The Independent:

But about five years ago, Haywood caused a stir with a new approach. He reaches for an iPad and rests it against the stand. An app displays the same, scanned page of Chopin’s “Scherzi”, but I am now truly redundant as Haywood flicks his left foot on to a Bluetooth pedal to turn his own pages, wirelessly and silently.

At first, many concertgoers and reviewers were more interested in the device than the music, but now tablets are used more widely. Several similar set-ups have emerged, meanwhile, including apps that will listen to the music, turning pages automatically (the best time to turn, Haywood says, is a few notes short of the end of the page).

What does it mean for human page turners? Are they under threat? “I think maybe they are,” says Haywood, who says the ultimate solution would be a score that could be projected in front of his eyes, using a Google Glass-like device.

via The age-old art of musical page turning is under threat from the accursed iPad – Features – Classical – The Independent.

Maybe. On an infinite time horizon, musicians will probably use tablet computers or some other digital solution that simplify things and which may make page turners redundant. But I see this process taking a couple decades at least. As I’ve written, the current iPad suffers from some serious drawbacks for sheet music purposes even while it offers some tangible benefits. If you have perfect eyesight and the latest iPad, then things can go pretty smoothly. If you just need Bluetooth page turning, then great. But handwriting? That’s still missing unless you like deciphering illegible scribbles. There’s also the high cost of entry: an iPad isn’t cheap. And the first time your iPad or sheet music reading program crashes on you during a performance is when your trust in the system begins to break down (which happened to me once).

But who knows? New technology has a way of surprising us. The rumored iPad Pro might alleviate some of these issues. If interactions with the iPad suddenly became much more organic than they are currently, then this could become very popular very quickly.