“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.“(Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p.3)
We all need something fun TO DO for your anxiety and breathing? Well, keep reading; hopefully, you’ll already be singing or humming by the end of this article!
On March 18, 2020, the Official Quarantine Karaoke Private FB Group was created, and it has grown to over 541,000 members in less than a month! To me, as a Voice Professor, Strength Coach-Scientist and Singer, the coming together of people of all ages, cultures, and experiences because of song is no surprise! If you scroll through the feed of the Quarantine Karaoke FB Group, the heartfelt performances make it clear that the people aren’t singing for the sake of fame or fortune. They are posting in hopes to share their meaningful stories through their joy and love of singing, just because they can. Sonja Lea, a former student, who invited me to the FB group, confirmed that her passion for karaoke is because “she loves singing and likes to be good at it.” What a gift, the creator of the FB Group Joseph Meyers has given to people at this time!
So, can anyone learn how to sing? That’s the most common question I get. My answer, “if you can talk and breathe, you can sing.” Breathing for singing is a learned technique, so it’s less about the voice and more about the breath.
Fun Fact: I also make sure to let every individual know, that their voice quality is as unique as their fingerprint.
From my Doctoral Research: “New Sophisticated BrainBodyVoice™ Science can now support why we generally activate a different neuromuscular sequence in the body when we sing, versus when we speak. What does that mean? Well, most people are mistaken when they think singing is an aerobic activity, like long-distance walking or jogging. However, singing is actually an anaerobic activity like lifting weights or performing a repetitive explosive power activity like boxing.” – Dr. Veera Khare Asher
Fun Fact: The Vocal mechanism responsible for making sound is comparable to the size of your fingernail. Thus, a fine motor skill.
Athletic Strength & Conditioning science further explains how we have to engage with intentional practicing, just to activate the singing voice:
- an efficient coordination of your whole-body and focused mindset…
- …for a highly complex gross and fine motor skill…
- …while always including an element of physical ‘power’!
Fun Fact: In Singing, it’s important you start with shorter practice sessions. So start with 10-20 minutes. Also, don’t be hard on yourself to make your song perfect in your 1st, 2nd or even 3rd try. Experiment and enjoy the process. You’ll be amazed how once you start, you’ll have a hard time keeping to short practice sessions!
Have you ever noticed that Karaoke is rarely done ‘softly’ – and that the louder you sing, the better it ‘feels’! Eventually, know that the more you do it, (i.e. practice) the more efficient and joyful it gets! Professional singers, like elite athletes, make things look effortless because they’ve achieved a certain level of skill. However, one element that sets a singing performance apart from a sport skill performance, is the storytelling aspect. The lyrics of a song allow for emotional expression within each word, phrase, verse, chorus, and bridge. The greater the depth of that feeling, the greater the intensity, and thus, the greater the opportunity to translate that emotional energy into powerful singing. Now, the mind is focused, the breath is optimized and the entire nervous system is in a present state of control! The more dynamic the result, the higher the probability the singer has experienced some level of ‘flow state’.
Fun Fact: The Precision Form Training & BUBBLECHEEK™ applications created with BrainBodyVoice Science™, can put you in control of your breathing & mindset by the conscious control of your CNS (Central Nervous System).
Personal: Ryan Frizelle, DJ/Artist and entrepreneur, ” I, 100% feel like I am in a flow state while singing a song when in a lesson with Dr. Veera. Singing helps me remove the overthinking that often goes on in my head and gives me mental clarity”.
Personal: Mariah Maglalang, emerging operatic soprano and freelance singer: “Dr. Veera gave me survival tools necessary for both SINGING and LIVING; strength, confidence, and self-expression. All of these were already within me, but Dr. Veera provided me the encouraging space that allowed me to dig deep and have fun in the process!”
Fun Fact: With BrainBodyGlottis™* Science we can still activate the same level of Flow State as with BrainBodyVoice™ Science, but without any vocal sound. This is usually reserved for Athletic and Sports Performance, or recovery of injured voices.
*(i.e. Glottis: Noun: the part of the larynx consisting of the vocal cords and the opening between them. It affects voice modulation through expansion or contraction.)
So what accounts for this exponential growth rate for karaoke during a pandemic? In my opinion, the mental and physical health crisis that we are experiencing may not resolve when the stay-at-home order is lifted. So the more people sing now, the more they will experience how singing can improve anxiety while addressing breathing. I predict the trend of singing will continue even when we go back to our new normal! The solution of singing is helpful, as karaoke distracts us with the fun of the ‘task,’ versus adding another item to our chores.
Fun Fact: Try to add a dose of singing or humming to your chores. For example, even during pre-COVID times, there have been various experiences where singing was accepted and quite common. *In cooking: many hum or sing when they chop food; *when driving: singing out loud has always been accepted; it’s the opposite of distracted driving because your focus and reaction time can be improved. *Golf swing: My Mom’s pro golf coach told her at one time to start humming before she swung the club! *Sewing: It’s easier to thread a needle when you are humming. TRY IT!
Sharing: Sky Nelson-Isaacs from his book Living in Flow, The Science of Synchronicity and How Your Choices Shape Your World, p. 23-24. “Getting into flow by giving our focused attention to the task at hand is not always easy to do. Csikszentmihalyi identified the challenge level of a task and the skill level of the performer as important parameters affecting our ability to find flow while performing that task. If skill outweighs challenge, we become bored; if challenge outweighs skill, we become anxious. In addition, both skill and challenge levels must be high. Finding flow is about putting ourselves in situations that are appropriately challenging and that we are skilled enough to perform. Csikszentmihalyi calls this appropriate balance between skill level and challenge level the “flow channel”.”
Fun Fact: Karaoke is a great way to practice finding a balance between the skill of the performer and the task of the challenge when it comes to the complex coordination of singing out loud. When considering skill vs. challenge, paying attention to the type of song and vocal range are important. Those elements are what you will consistently improve upon as you progress.
Sharing: Chris Cuomo of CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, who tested positive for COVID-19 and continued to broadcast, describes so accurately the mindset that we are all preparing for in the case we get sick, “This is a fight. It’s going to get worse. We’re going to suffer. And you have to accept that not with fear, but with almost a fanatical sense of passion to fight. Because that’s the only way you’ve ever made it through anything hard in your life, and this will be no different. Let me be proof,” he said. “We have real vulnerability.”
When we are feeling vulnerable, we usually try to find ways to be in control. The panic and anxiety that erupted related to toilet paper, is a good example of that. Being in “Flow State” may be a better option than toilet paper acquisition.
Sharing: As author Sky Nelson-Isaacs further explains about “Flow State” in his book Living in Flow, with another quote by Csikszentmihalyi, “[t]hus the flow experience is typically described as involving a sense of control – or, more precisely, as lacking the sense of worry about losing control that is typical in many situations of normal life.”
With life being far from normal today, learning how to activate “Flow State” or “Flow Channel” is incredibly relevant.
My Personal Story: When I was 10 years old, I had measles, that progressed into double pneumonia. That illness got so serious, I suddenly stopped breathing, but recovered, all while still at home in the arms of my father. He was a medical doctor. That night, I was rushed to the hospital and my recovery entailed for me to be in an oxygen tent for 2 weeks. When I tried to sneak out of the tent, I will never forget that moment…”I couldn’t breathe regular air. I was literally suffocating on the air that the nurses and doctors could so effortlessly inhale.” So when I committed to a life and career in singing, sports and performance coaching, I had to come to terms with the handicap of having asthma. My invention and performance tool called the BUBBLE CHEEK™ was literally innovated to help me breathe to get the most out of my lungs. Never did I think the science and innovation that went into developing techniques for singers and athletes would become so relevant today with the effects of COVID-19, bringing awareness of deep breathing for performance to the world, and in this case, just living.
The added frustration about today’s situation is that the more we know about the virus, the less it seems we can do to prevent or treat it.
Sharing: Dr. Barbara Dyer, a fellow voice professor at Loyola Marymount University, with expertise in understanding the science and physiology for singing and voice performance shares that, “working with new BrainBodyVoice™ science and related applications may be the solution for anxiety and breath performance, that we’ve needed to help evolve our discipline, as a support to others.”
The scientific evidence aligns with what voice lessons have already demonstrated in students of all ages. However, Dr. Dyer and I share and agree that “it’s fine to take a drug, as we live in a miracle age of drugs, but we are always looking for ways that take us off the drugs, too. If possible, a pill should only be a short-term solution.”
Sharing: Dr. Dinesh Chhetri as a medical voice doctor (i.e. ENT/otolaryngologist) at UCLA commented that “it’s hard to be anxious when you are singing.”
Personal: Justin Deninger, singer and music producer, on his experience with applications that integrate BrainBodyVoice™ Science. “As a singer and avid gym-goer, I instantly connected with Dr. Asher’s physical analogies and strategies which put more emphasis on posture, core support, and alignment to work in conjunction with breath control, both in and out of the practice room. My vocal technique approximates my toes all the way up to the crown of my head in order to be prepared for every vocal phrase, whether classical or pop.”
My work crosses all performance lines now addressing a spectrum of disciplines because singing, which has gone unnoticed, has been holding the secrets to breaking next level thresholds to overall human performance optimization and injury prevention. The most unique finding in the BrainBodyVoice™ or BrainBodyGlottis™ sequencing for a technique like opera singing, and it’s specific characteristics for singing unamplified in large halls, is proving to be a possible missing link to what may have been lost in translation between ancient warrior practices and modern-day science.
Sharing: Info for Athlete or Sports focused: Strength Coach-Scientist Matt Hank, MS, CSCS*D, RSCC, USAW, USATF more about the new applications that consider the voice or glottis, focusing on Posture Speed and Power in Athletic Performance.
FINAL NOTE: Start with the intention to want to sing…OUT LOUD! So here and now, I am writing this article and sharing quotes from conversations I’ve had with my community of artists and athletes, teachers and coaches…. as to why SINGING or CHANTING or even PRAYING out loud, should be a daily prescription in these times of COVID-19 and onwards.
Step-by-Step on how to get started on KARAOKE!
1. Choose a SONG: Don’t worry that’s the hardest part. So if you can’t think of anything, just start with a playlist you listen to or start scrolling through some of the performances on the Quarantine Karaoke to see which songs you feel most connected to! Make a Decision on a song; you can always change it.
3. Choose one BACK TRACK: You’ll probably get several options. So Play them and SING ALONG while reading the words.
4. Then PRACTICE with the track, matching the timing and melody, as best you can.
5. Finally, PERFORM while RECORDING (Hint: “over-feel it, vs. over-think it”) Record yourself privately first if you don’t want to go live right away. Even recording yourself will help take that complex whole body and mindset coordination to the next level getting you into FLOW STATE. You may hit notes and do extra riffs you never did when practicing.
Save your RECORDINGS in a Folder so that you can go back and see how much you’ve accomplished and progressed! This is a critical part of enjoying the process while celebrating it too!
As we say in the biz, “Break a Leg”, “toi toi”, “in bocca al lupo”, “merde”…. ACTIVATE YOUR BRAVE, TRY YOUR BEST, and HAVE FUN!
FINAL Fun Fact: The extreme sports equivalent of a BrainBodyVoice™ Application can be demonstrated in Aerial-Harness and Wire singing activating with PFT/BUBBLE CHEEK™. This advanced and expert activity, demands an elite level of performance achieving elite scores in the unique metrics of COP (center of pressure), ASP (athletic spine performance) and SubG (subglottal pressure) for the possibility of training for life in outer space. Truthfully right now, I feel like a lot of us would consider that option!
“Dr. Asher’s Doctoral research and development of her BrainBodyVoice™ Science is a topic that she presents with authority and passion. This new ancillary topic of correctly training aerial singers is cutting edge in the professional performer’s arsenal of skills.”Dr. Carol Kimball, Emerita Professor of Voice and Vocal Literature, Barrick Distinguished Scholar, University of Nevada, Las Vegas,
Author: Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature; Art Song: Linking Poetry and Music
Editor: The French Song Anthology; Women Composers: A Heritage of Song; Art Song in English: 50 Songs by 21 American and British Composers