Nera

Monthly Archive: March 2014

VocalizeU review

Here is a tool that you can use for your warm ups and my review on the app: http://www.vocalizeu.com/Mac_iOS.html

It is called VocalizeU and it’s free for the iPhone. Actually in the app store there are two versions, one for free, the other is 0.89 €. I downloaded the free one and played around with it. It’s a simple application, it is really easy to use. The main screen has two options, Tools and Vocal Warmups. Under Tools you’ll find a recorder, videos and a metronome. Yes, you can record yourself and listen back to your warm ups with this thing, if you haven’t already done so with your Voice memo app on your phone.

The videos take you to the YouTube page of the app, I haven’t really gone into that. The metronome is self explanatory. (use it!)

Now what interested me really was the Vocal Warmup part. The first time you open the application, it asks you if you are a male of a female. After that it generates the warm ups according to that selection. You can either chose a particular scale or generate a workout.

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The workout will give you 8 warmup exercise, using lip rolls, wee, gee, goo, boo, buh, mum and nay. The workout is about 20 minutes in total, with the individual exercises being 2 to 3 minutes. The video demonstrations you can find either from the link in the warmup exercise or under Tools ->Videos-> Phonetic sounds. It does generate different warmups every time based on those sounds. I tried twice this morning.

1st time workout:

  1. Lip trill, long scale
  2. Mum, octave repeat
  3. Gee, long scale
  4. Lip trill, broken arpeggio
  5. Same thing, wonder if it’s a bug
  6. Wee, descending arpeggio
  7. Boh, octave repeat
  8. Lip trill, long scale

Arpeggio: is a musical technique where notes in a chord are played or sung in sequence, one after the other, rather than ringing out simultaneously.

Every exercise has a small text box attached to it, where it is explained what is the purpose and what is the sound you should produce. They have short built in video links with people saying wee or boh or lip rolling, in case you don’t know how to.

Second time:

  1. Wee, descending arpeggio
  2. Lip trill, broken arpeggio
  3. Wee, descending arpeggio
  4. Lip trill, broken arpeggio
  5. Boh, long scale
  6. Boh, octave repeat
  7. Lip trill, long scale

Now you can do these either with the piano or have a female voice too. You can see from the second example that they have a few times the same exercises. Yes, sometimes repetition is the key, but I’m not totally convinced. I mean is it really planned or is it a bug?

I do like the other part better, where you can choose your warmup scales from the following:

  • One and a half octave aka long scale
  • Broken arpeggio
  • Descending arpeggio
  • Five tone
  • Octave repeat
  • Octave repeat sustain

With these you can select like before if you want only the piano or the voice to accompany you or both and you can choose the tempo and if it’s an ascending or descending scale.

I thought that the five note scale with the female voice is pretty useless. Just like it is said in the small info box, it is used as a diagnostic tool. It’s not that I have anything against a five note scale, but the examples are AA or staccato A. I suggest you use the scale at the beginning of your warm up with humm or lip trill instead and switch of the voice. For that, it’s a great exercise.

I think the lady who sings the exercises is awful. I’m sorry, maybe it’s just matter of taste. When she demonstrated the descending wee, she is too airy at the top. This brings me to my concerns regarding this app. If you are a beginning singer how do you know what to do? I mean, yes, it’s great that the example exercise go up to E6, but what if you can’t hit even the E5? It seems this app is designed for the more experienced ones and then it’s insufficient. Why? There is no way it can tell you what is wrong, if anything, with what you are doing. Too much to ask for maybe? I am guessing that the idea is to have this on your iPhone for quick warmups and then buy the actual software with more tailored tools to download for your mac.

All the exercises are the same that I’m used to, yes, they work( if you know what you are doing) no doubt about that. As for how good or bad it is? I think it’s worth checking out, especially in case you don’t have a piano at home or you can’t play the scales or just a portable thing where you have your warmups ready. I think the key to this app, is to know what each exercise is used for and how to do them correctly. Then you can tailor it to your own purposes. For example I’d do this:

  • Humm, 5 note scale
  • Lip trill, 5 note scale
  • Lip trill, octave repeat or Lip trill/long scale
  • Nay, long scale
  • Gee, long scale
  • Gee, octave repeat sustain
  • Wee, descending arpeggio
  • Lip trill, long scale (cool down)

There, have a nice workout!

Lately

“Lately I have had the strangest feeling…” sang Stevie Wonder in his song called Lately. It’s a break up song. It is also a song that I performed some years ago in the town square of Joensuu, Finland after a summer class. Almost 15 years ago. If you don’t know the song:

Anyway, the result of that summer course was that I met Aija for the first time. The other thing that happened was that afterwards, while I was standing in cue in the local grocery shop a man came to talk to me and asked if I have a fan club. I said I don’t, he then replied that once you do he’ll join.

I still don’t have a fan club, you can like or not like my page on Fb or follow me here or there, it’s up to you. What I’m really trying to say is that I feel like I’m at a crossroad and I should decide whether to turn left, right or just go straight ahead whatever that means.

People say I don’t know what I want, maybe. Maybe, maybe not, I know what I want, the problem is I have no idea how to get there. Another thing is, talking about the subject with family, friends and just anyone, is not helping. Why? Because even people with their best intentions, the advise they give you is based on guessing and more likely on their own presumptions and what would they do in a given situation. I’m not saying that they are bad advises, I’m saying that they might not fit with you.

So I am still at the starting point of not knowing what to do, or where to go. I haven’t had any great revelations so far. The only thing I know is that Finland is not the place for me to live, even with all the positive things it offers. Yes, I can choose from all the countries in the world and that’s the problem. Yes, I know technically it’s impossible to move to the States for example, there are certainly some limitations, if you want to get really specific and of course there are other countries that are not on the list, basically because they are not secure.

According to studies having multiple choices doesn’t really help you. You would think that that’s freedom, that you could choose anything. Well, the fact is, we are unable to gasp all the available choices. I think(can’t remember) you’d have to narrow it down to 7, then it would be easier. You can read more about that in this book,  The Art of Choosing, that I found fascinating:

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Choosing-Sheena-Iyengar/dp/0446504114

Unfortunately the book doesn’t answer my questions either. What now, what next?! But after all this talking and thinking and moaning and questioning myself, I really found the solution. The secret is to stop thinking and start doing. And no, it will not matter where you live. And it will not matter if you fail, just keep doing things. And by doing things I don’t mean doing things that are huge, just small stuff. Yes, I am repeating myself, I know, but it takes a while to really realise “the secret”. Write some lyrics, knit a mitten, preferably two, go out and build a snowman, do some warm ups. Just do.

I’ve understood finally that nobody knows anything. Sounds funny? You don’t believe me? That’s okay. In the end people know(well, some do) what works for them. It means if you take the same path as they did, it might not have the same outcome. Find what is the path for you. And yes, it’s okay to waste hours and plenty of coffee in talk, but in the end, you got to remember that it’s you who decides what to do.

What does this have to do with singing? Probably not much. With being an artist? A lot. I think it’s essential for becoming a true artist to struggle, to have doubts, hopefully combined with self revelation once in a while.

My late new year resolution is this: Do more, think less. That means sharing stuff with you that isn’t perfect. I wrote this:

The embrace of the snow

If you’ve never been up on the mountain after a storm
You’ll never know how it feels, the embrace of a snow
Like ice custard hugging the trees,
It’s so beautiful, I can barely breath
Snowflake, snowflake falling down on me
What’s your name?
Snowflake on my nose tip
The embrace of the snow, it’s not icy cold
A warm soft pillow under your feet
You look at the snow and you know you’ve never been so free
You’ll always come back, back for more, until you meet your end in the embrace of the snow
You won’t feel cold, the soft pillow will burry you deep
Like ice custard, hugging the trees
She will hug you too, till you no longer breath
You go out thinking, it was all worth it

 

Online

I took a guitar course on Coursera, an online learning platform or how you want to call it. It was a good course and well executed. Now I can play a two octave A chromatic scale and wow everybody. Kidding! Finally I learned what is what and where on the guitar and have a pretty clear idea about the instrument. It’s still a long road till I’ll play and sing the same time perfectly-ish, but it’s a solid start. And yes, like my friend said the last time I saw him on the train to Helsinki, the guitar is in the end a simple instrument and quite logical. Unfortunately the barre chords will be the death of me or at least of my left hand.

Anyhow, I noticed they have another course that I think might be good for upcoming musicians and good repetition for the rest of us, called Develop your musicianship:

https://www.coursera.org/course/musicianship

It will start on the 1st of April. Just like the guitar course, it is done by Berklee college of music, the prestigious music school in Boston that the likes of John Mayer, Aimee Mann and  a few others attended that have gone and won a few Grammy’s (http://www.berklee.edu/awards/alumni-grammy-winners) so I’d figure that it would be good. It is beyond basic triads, yay!

On a side note, I can’t believe how long I’ve waited to start learning to play the guitar and how simple in the end it is. I admit that knowing the theory stuff helps. I think I said before that I’d like to learn to play it well enough so I could go out and play. And yes, sing. Before I started, I wrote a list of songs that I want to learn. I’m doing that now. It is good for my brains, trying to memorise the chords, the forms of the songs as well as the melody and the lyrics.

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Maybe next time you’ll see me bosking in one of the big European capitals. 😉