I love these bands because their combination of flexibility and strength mimics what muscles do. I use them to provide resistance for my jaw, neck, back, etc. when I do mobility drills. For singers, I recommend the 1/4 inch, 1/2 inch and 1 inch sizes.
If you're a fan of acupressure massage, the Backnobber is a must. It allows you to create strong and focused pressure in muscles of the back that are otherwise hard to reach. I use mine on my shoulders, mid-thoracic spine and lower back.
This old-school biofeedback system is a great way to keep yourself honest in core muscle work. You inflate the pad to a certain level and then put it under your back or your stomach while performing exercises. You can check to make sure your transverse abdominals are contracting properly, separate your psoas from your low back, and work your deep neck flexors in isolation. I love the simplicity and effectiveness of this unit.
Rock Tape is the best brand of Kinesio Tape out there. This type of tape is designed to mimic human skin, and can help guide your body into proper alignment. There is enough to think about in singing, so if you can tape your shoulders/diaphragm/lower back, etc. in the right direction, you can be more free to act and stuff.
The only thing about Kinesio Tape is that regular scissors don't work well for cutting it (the adhesive sticks to the scissors too much). So, it's best to get a pair of carbon scissors to cut it accurately and safely.
Part of the reason many singers love an "ee" vowel is that is provides resistance for air; the tongue rises in the front, and this creates an occlusion (or narrowing) that focuses the airstream. A way to take this idea to the next level is to use an expand-a-lung. It's a mouthpiece with a dial that provides variable resistance to air coming in and leaving. You can breathe through it before you practice to regulate your breathing and to increase the connection to your core muscles.
If you're interested in improving your breathing, a Breath Slim is a great investment. You fill the device with a small amount of water, and you breathe in and out, using the water to create resistance. This trains abdominal and diaphragmatic musculature, as well as building carbon dioxide in the bloodstream (which does lots of good stuff for you--see the link at the top of this section.) You can get 15% off a BreathSlim with the code BYRNE15, or get 20% off two with the code SAVE20.
The nerve that controls singing is the vagus nerve (CN X). One of the most effective ways to enhance that nerve's function is through warming the abdominal area (the vagus nerve enervates many parts of the abdomen). Wearing a neoprene belt under your clothes when singing gives vagal feedback and also allows you to feel diaphragmatic movement more easily. This is also good to consider if you have any digestive problems or heart issues. Plus...slimmer waist.
MyPurMist is the gold standard in humidifiers. It creates mist instantly, and the temperature of the mist is easily adjustable. The water never boils, so it's safer to use, and it's self-cleaning, too.
The Core360 Belt is a new product on the market that provides sensory feedback in your abdominal area to encourage diaphragmatic breathing. If you are feeling stress, find yourself breathing shallowly or if you respond to deep pressure in bodywork, this may be the thing for you.
Colored glasses can be a very effective way of either activating or calming the instinctual part of our brain that controls reflexes like breathing and throat opening. Blue is the most activating, Red is moderate activation and Green is calming. If you have acuity issues with your eyes, Yellow can be helpful.
For my eyes, pinhole glasses are magical. Using them in conjunction with other eye exercises, I have reduced my nearsightedness to the point where I rarely need glasses; with pinholes on, I see better than 20/20. In addition, my muscle tests are stronger while wearing them. They work by focusing the light into your retina (the back portion of your eyes) which reduces the strain on your ciliary (focusing) muscles. Additionally, the black color stimulates the rods in your eyes that are used in peripheral vision and low-light conditions. Overall, a very cool piece of gear.
So, this handheld massager is used as a sex toy, but it also has many non-sexy uses that are relevant to singing. You can put this anywhere on your face, chest, back, etc. to invite vibration into bones that may need to be awakened. As singers, we instinctively respond to vibration in the body, and the targeted power of this unit can help you find new resonance.
A Z Vibe is an oral stimulation tool that vibrates (kind of like an electric toothbrush). A singer uses one to check the sensation in various parts of the mouth and throat. If you have a sensory deficit in your tongue or palate, it can make it hard to achieve the fine motor control necessary for singing. As a bonus, putting the Z-vibe between your teeth and letting it vibrate improves your ability to contract and differentiate your pelvic floor muscles (strange but true.)
You know how you hear your voice back on recording and it doesn't really sound like you? That's because you normally hear your voice though bone conduction and everyone else hears it through the air. Bone conduction headphones alter the loop of your hearing in such a way that you can sing or speak and hear what your voice sounds like to other people in real time. Once you hear yourself as others do, pushing decreases, pitch improves and singing confidence grows.
Bone conduction headphones provide a singer with a chance to experience sound being transmitted through the bones of the skull. The term "placement" in voice refers to bone conduction--singers "hear" their voice through their bones more than their ears. Using bone conduction headphones improves this vital sense for singers. I use the Treks Titanium bluetooth version, or if you don't want to spend as much, you can get the wired version.
A tuning fork can be used to find places where resonance is lacking in your body. Basically, if you can't feel a part of your face/skull/chest/back/etc., it's really hard to place your voice there. To test yourself, you slap the tuning fork on your palm and then place the prong end on various parts of your body. You should be able to hear and hum the "C" pitch the tuning fork vibrates. If you can't hear it, your nerves need to be woken up in that part of your body.
A Brock String is a string that has five beads on it. It is used to test visual suppression; many of us have a suppressed eye and are not aware of it. Why this especially matters to us as singers is that, if we have an eye that is not being used, we can have some problems with the jaw, tongue and even the larynx on that same side. Vision is a very high-priority sense for our brain, so if you use the Brock String to strengthen the suppressed eye, problems further down the chain can be reduced or removed.
I use this massage peanut to increase sensation in my body. I like to roll my feet on it to improve my connection to the ground, and also to roll it on either side of my spine against a wall to release my back.
Dry brushing for your body is a simple but very effective way to improve your proprioception. When I do sensory testing on singers, I consistently find that those who brush their bodies regularly have a more accurate perception of body position. I do 2-3 minutes a day of brushing right after a shower, brushing towards the heart to prevent lymph from pooling in the extremities.
The Blue Yeti is my go-to mic for home recording. It's extremely simple to use (just plug the USB cable into your computer) and gives you great quality audio for singing and for voice-over. It has different settings for recording groups, duets and solos, making it one of the most versatile mics out there.
Many venues in NYC use the Shure SM-58 as their in-house mic, so it's a great idea to have one around the house to practice with. If you pair it with a small monitor (I use the Roland CM-30--see below), you can get a great idea of what you will sound like in performance. Also, working more with amplification helps to make you aware of over-singing and prevents pushing.
This Roland monitor is what I pair my Shure SM-58 mic with to create a reliable home amplification system. The CM-30 hits the sweet spot between giving you enough sound but still being appropriate for small spaces.
Blis K12 oral probiotics are amazing if you are trying to fight off a cold/sore throat, or if you're just interested in boosting your immunity. Unlike probiotics in pill form, these probiotics are a lozenge that dissolves in your mouth and fights germs at the source.
A thermometer is the most reliable way to tell how well your thyroid gland is maintaining your metabolism. In case you don't know, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that surrounds your larynx; it is responsible in one way or another for pretty much all body functions (singing stimulates the thyroid, so there's yet another reason to practice your voice.) Your temperature first thing in the morning should be between 97.8-98.2, it should rise during the day (ideally to 98.6) and then drop as bedtime approaches. I find it a pain to have to leave a thermometer in my mouth several times a day, so I use this super-accurate instant-read thermometer instead. Just move it around your forehead for a few seconds, and you're done.
The partner to ideal body temperature is pulse. If your metabolism is working well, your pulse should be between 70-90 bpm (hard-core cardio athletes will usually have a lower pulse.) This model also measures perfusion, which is the level to which your blood is saturated with oxygen. Perfusion is a reliable way to tell how well you're breathing; your number should ideally be between 95-99 (below 90 is a definite problem.)
Red light is very good for our metabolism, and since most of us spend a lot of time looking at screens all day, we have too much blue light coming at us, especially at night. This light bulb and holder are basically a super-cheap home sauna. I like to sit under it for 15 minutes or so when I'm feeling sunlight-deprived or as an antidote to too much computer time. Red light is also excellent for reducing pain/soreness.
This is the clamp I use for the heat lamp above. You can affix it to most surfaces, and the clamp swivels to cover more of your body. There is also a protective metal covering to prevent you from getting burned by the lamp.
Gelatin is an ideal food for singers (as long as you're not vegetarian.) It has a great amino-acid profile, meaning it's high in amino acids that calm us down, and low in ones that inflame us. Also, it's wonderful for your joints (including the joints in your larynx.) This is the best brand out there, and it dissolves in hot or cold liquids completely (i.e. it doesn't thicken them, like Jello). I put it in milk, orange juice, tea, coffee, yogurt, cottage cheese...the list goes on.
Coconut oil is the magic oil, as far as I'm concerned. It's anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal (and Auntie Em). It boosts your metabolism, helps you absorb calcium and Vitamin D and helps your thyroid function better (which is key for singers.) This brand is excellent: because it is refined, it's easier to digest and has no "coconutty" flavor, so you can cook anything in it.
If you are a visual learner and do well with bio-feedback, Voiceprint software can be very helpful. You can see the overtones your voice creates, allowing you to balance brightness and darkness, match vowels, check for breathiness and much more.
If you've found that working on your vision, your balance or your muscle strength has helped your singing, I recommend the following downloadable products to take your training further. These are from a company called Z Health that I train with, and I've seen great results in my own body using these methods.
Drinking straw: Singing your song through a straw improves your head voice, prevents pushing and focuses your air. See here for more info.
Paper bag: Do you know why they always make someone who’s having a panic attack breathe into a paper bag? Because carbon dioxide (the product of exhalation) calms us down. And it works before any stressful activity (like, say, an audition). Seal the bag around your mouth and nose and take slow breaths in and out, recycling the air–repeat for 30 seconds to a minute, and you are guaranteed to feel more chill.
Gauze: Using a gauze pad to hold out your tongue while you are singing can be very illuminating. It will show you which words on which you tend to tighten your tongue, and this awareness can make good changes in diction and freedom of tone.
Tongue Depressor: You can use a tongue depressor to check the strength of various muscles in your tongue. By pressing the tongue up into a depressor, you can exercise the supra-hyoid muscles that are essential in belting. If you press the tip of your tongue out into a depressor, you can work the thrust muscles of the tongue that helps improve clarity of diction and reduce the tendency to “choke” the sound.
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