Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Chat with Dr. Edward Bassingthwaighte - Holistic Singing Veterinarian

 

So how is it that a holistic singing veterinarian in Australia has come up with a method of treating animals that can help humans in vocal performance? Listen and learn...

- Watch the video interview above ...
 - or listen to All Things Vocal Podcast audio below, or on most podcast apps

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PLEASE REVIEW at ratethispodcast.com/atv

Singer, songwriter, public speaker and holistic veterinarian, Dr. Bassingthwaighte brings joy into any room he shares with all creatures great and small. It doesn't matter if he's placing his gentle, intuitive hands on a hurting dog or horse, singing songs he wrote to audiences or to me in vocal lessons, or just having a conversation of any kind. In this delightful chat, I got to ask him about his holistic, groundbreaking work in the healing arts and how he came to know what he does. He even takes me through an exercise in awareness that he designed - and you are invited to do it with us! Writing songs and singing have become very important to his own well-being, and we talk about that, too. Join us for the podcast interview, and we welcome your comments and reviews!

More about Dr. Edward Bassingthwaighte:


Edward is a perpetual student of life, an explorer of human potential in all dimensions of being. He has recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and is passionately devoted to expanding well-being in himself and others.

He is the founder of the Whole Energy Body Balance Method (an integrated, comprehensive system of embodied awareness, movement, healing bodywork, and energy-work for pets, people, and horses).

He practices as a holistic veterinarian, makes music as a singer/songwriter, creates visionary abstract art, loves to dance, grows food, loves walking in nature, and has a deep, devoted spiritual practice of movement (chi gong), meditation, and service to life. 

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Monday, August 23, 2021

How To Sing Tired... When To Cancel Vocal Performance [UPDATED 2021]


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You're so tired you can't hardly string a sentence together, yet you have to sing that day! What can you do? OK, first of all the bad news: physical fatigue is a leading cause of vocal fatigue. Singing or even speaking a lot while tired can limit your vocal control, pitch accuracy and shorten your vocal range. It can cause vocal strain and even lead to vocal damage. There are some things you can do to limit vocal stress when singing tired. But you also need to recognize the point where you should cancel your performance - and be courageous enough to act on it! Let's dig in to all this:

How physical exhaustion can hurt your voice:


When you are physically dog-tired, drained, exhausted, sleep-deprived, you've 'hit the wall' or are 'under the weather' for whatever physical or psychological reason, your body does not want to support your voice. It just doesn't want to work that hard. This is because it takes more glucose and oxygen to work the bigger muscles of your core - your gluts, low abdominal wall, back, thighs - than to work the smaller muscles of the throat, larynx, vocal cords, tongue and jaw. Delegating the effort necessary for good singing to these smaller muscles is detrimental to them, causing tension to set in at all the wrong places. 

Also, the big muscles in your back that determine your posture so your ribcage is open and your diaphragm is stretched - they don't like engaging in their duties either. So your breath control is compromosed, and your shoulders and neck muscles try to help, but just interfere with the free operation of your larynx and your facial articulators.  Not good!

7 wise things to do when singing tired:

  • DRINK UP! 
Take extra measures to be well-hydrated. Dehydration of your vocal tissues can put the nail in the coffin as far as your voice is concerned. Steaming your throat in a hot shower is a great idea because it gets water into your throat tissues immediately. Water at your performance is, too... maybe with either a little pineapple juice or cayenne-pepper-plus-lemon-juice added to keep throat tissues lubricated. Herbal tea with honey is fine, but stay away from black and green tea (which are dehydrating). 
  • EAT UP! 
Raise your immediate energy level: Before your performance eat something simple, easily digested and full of nutrition...especially protien. Maybe add a good vitamin/mineral supplement. But don't use sugar to do this! I once ate waaaay too many M&Ms at a recording session and got all my tracks too fast to sing later. Trust me... if you try to pump your tired self up with surgery snacks you'll get hyper and then crash. Oh, and chocolate can create phlegm your voice will have to deal with. Hold the chocolate celebration til after your performance.
  • DON'T NUMB YOURSELF! 
Alcohol or other mood-altering drugs are really bad ways to try and get through. They can numb your alertness and can mask pushing, straining and dehydration of your voice. You won't sound nearly as well as you think you do, and your voice will suffer the consequences.
  • WARMUP and COOL DOWN! 
Make sure to use mindful, well-executed vocal exercises to warmup. It's extremely important to know how to 'pull' instead of 'push' your voice as you sound it.  In fact, consider doing a warmup with your vocal coach by phone or webcam before your performance. Then when your show is over, do a short series of gentle vocal exercises such as staccato scales, lip bubbles, tongue trills or sirens especially in your head voice, to cool your voice down. Cool-down exercises can help your voice recover a lot faster.
  • SUPPORT YOUR VOICE! 
It doesn't work to 'just relax and sing'. Something has to give. Something has to provide power. For your voice that should come from the pelvic floor, which along with good posture will help give your voice the balance of breath support and control. Even (and especially) when you don't feel like it, you must make your big muscles work! They won't like it, but the intricate instrument of your voice sure will.
  • DON'T SLUMP! 
While singing, you must keep yourself flexibly tall... avoid like the plague the typical slumped posture of tiredness that will sabotage your breath control. Don't freeze to conserve energy either, remember - the voice wants access to movement.
  • USE CORRECT TECHNIQUE! 
Bad technique plus singing tired is a recipe for vocal disaster. The use of correct vocal technique for breathing, keeping an open throat and communicating authentically becomes all the more necessary when you're tired. And yes... all this takes MORE energy!

If you sing tired but wisely:

  1. You should notice that after your performance your vocal cords don't feel strained at all. In fact, you should be able to sing even better at the end of your performance than at the beginning.
  2. You should feel even more physical (instead of vocal) exhaustion... and you'll probably be hungry! 
  3. Your voice should feel and sound great the next day, instead of trashed.

Here's when you should cancel your performance:


If you really can't gather the low placed, big muscle energy to float your voice on top, or the tall, energetic posture necessary to open your ribcage and control your breath, then by all means don't sing. If you do, you risk short or long-term vocal problems because...
  • You will guard.
You may start the 'guarded stance' habit. This is a fear-induced inward crunch that tries too hard and can become a spiral downward to terrible vocal technique and real vocal dysfunction.
  • You will push.
You will end up pushing too much breath through your cords to get them to work, you will experience less vocal ability and problems with notes and passages you can usually easily accomplish.
  • Your voice will suffer.
I've done this wrong. I've sung when too exhausted and have set my voice back as much as three weeks. You see artists in the news all the time with vocal damage that started with vocal fatigue which I believe for busy artists is linked to physical fatigue. I don't take chances anymore. 

Don't let your busy life, successful career, or your fear of canceling a show cost you the health and longevity of your voice. If your voice matters, blowing your voice out even for a Grammy performance is ironically counter-productive for your career. Out of courtesy to those involved in the show, cancel as soon as you know you need to. But remember that if you have a pulse, you're allowed to get sick! From experience, my advice is:

- Either be able to summon the energy needed to be capable of supporting your voice and applying good vocal technique, 
or cancel your performance and live to sing another day!

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Monday, August 16, 2021

Deep Dive Into Performance Anxiety & Mindset - With Ingela Onstad of Courageous Artistry


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My interview with veteran classical artist and certified mental therapist Ingela Onstad is laced with so much helpful information that I couldn't edit it to be any shorter. Whether you want to conquer performance anxiety or you just want to get even deeper into the flow state when you perform, don't miss any of this interview!

Topics we cover include:

  • Ingela's journey and why she decided to add mental health therapist to her career as a renown classical vocalist.
  • How Ingela uses Maslow's famous 'hierarchy of needs' triangle to explore biological root causes of performance anxiety (fascinating!)
  • Ingela takes us on a deep dive into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system responses that act as gas and brake pedals for our brains.
  • Tools and daily rituals we can use to successfully cope with anxiety.
  • When and from whom should a performer seek professional help?
  • We talk about the 'acting technique' strategy of laser focusing on the one heart to focus sensory feelers into a singular purpose.
  • We discuss a famous TED talk by Amy Cuddy on body language and how the phenomenon 'act as if and ye shall be' is really a thing.
  • Ingela demonstrates a breathing exercise she uses to quell anxiety before performance. We talk about how singing the first song replicates this kind of breathing, and can relax a case of nerves for the rest of the performance set list.
  • Why it's toxic to us when someone asks if we're nervous before we go on stage!
  • Ingela talks about how the brain is hard-wired for negativity, and how we can counter that with realistic positivity that our brains can actually believe.
  • She explains the R.A.I.N. strategy for dealing with anxiety.
  • She tells us where we can find her and her services... www.courageousartistry.com

About Ingela Onstad:

Ingela is a classical soprano, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and mindset coach for performers.

Her coaching business, Courageous Artistry, supports performing artists in their quest to perform at the top of their abilities. She specializes in helping performers address fears that affect not only their careers, but also their well-being.

She has thousands of hours of clinical experience as a therapist and sees clients with a broad range of ages and issues. Ms. Onstad has presented on the topic of performance anxiety at institutions across the United States

In addition, Ms. Onstad is a soprano who has enjoyed a varied international career in opera, concert work, and contemporary music. Operatic highlights include performances throughout Germany, Canada, and the United States. She continues to maintain an active performing career.

Find out more about Ingela and connect with her at www.courageousartistry.com

What about you? What have you dealt with as far as mindset, anxiety or just unfocused brain in performance? Ingela and I would love to know if you try anything we talked about, and how it works for you! Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Entertainer VS Artist - Which Is Better?

Hmmm... audience or song first?

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When you're performing on stage, which do you think is the stronger mode to be in... over the top pedal to the metal or still waters run deep and nuanced? In other words... is it better to be an Entertainer or an Artist?

OK, dear voice, I'll cut to the chase: If your goal is a successful career as a music performer, you need to be both entertainer AND artist. Are there successful performers that are primarily one or the other? Yes. But strengthening the mode you're weakest in will significantly improve your performance impact, and therefore your career value. 

Now let's talk about the differences between these two modes, and how it's possible to use both.

THE ENTERTAINER MODE: Audience First, Song Last.

An entertainer ALWAYS communicates directly to the people in front of them. The goal is to get the audience to respond positively and energetically to the performance. They use words and actions that make the audience laugh, applaud, physically and verbally respond as if the performer is speaking or singing with them. Entertainers are usually, but not always, extroverts. 

Pros:

  • You know how to interact with the audience to get them verbally and/or physically involved, laughing, answering your questions, singing along, swaying, clapping and sometimes even dancing to your performance. 
  • You can connect directly and personally with your audience to form a bond that can turn them into fans and supporters of your music.
  • You are comfortable performing in front of a lot of people and are less likely to be plagued with performance anxiety or stage fright
Cons:
  • You are too present with your audience, like an actor communicating with the usually forbidden 4th wall in stage acting. You are often focused on the wrong heart, and sing every song at the same volume level, with the same emotional dynamics even when they are inappropriate with the actual material you're communicating. For instance, you sing a sad song with a smile. Or you sing a lyric to the audience that is NOT written to the audience, such as...
  • You sound at best, like a talented bar singer or Vegas entertainer who is just performing everything at the same level. Unless the lyric is a crowd rant, there is no real meaning being communicated. At worst, you sound inauthentic or numb. (Granted, there are bar singers out there who are better artists than some on the radio. We're not talking about them:)
  • Your vocal health can be compromised by constantly pushing sound to the audience without enough breath control. 

THE ARTIST: Song First, Audience Last

Performing as an artist, the performer is primarily connected to the song itself. The goal is to spark a specific reaction from the heart to whom the song lyrics are written. To do this, an artist must have a deep and authentic connection to 1. the material being communicated, and 2. the one heart they are trying to get a response from. An artist performs a song like an actor going into character. They are often, but not always, introverts.

Pros:
  • You are able to use the scene the song is set in to direct your choices of vocal nuances, tone and dynamics that will get the strongest authentic response from your target heart. 
  • An artistic performance will lead to a much more interesting experience for anyone else who is listening, and you'll get more of what I call the 'gravy' responses of audience applause and industry that could become interested in your career.
  • Singing in artist mode tends to be a deeply creative and satisfying experience. 
Cons:
  • You aren't present enough with your audience. While you are deeply connected to the material you're singing, you may make inappropriate choices of 
    • muddy articulation (you're not really concerned that anyone outside your performance bubble understands your lyrics)
    • a boring lack of physical movements and stage performance skills.
  • You fail to connect with your audience by acknowledging their applause, making eye contact or thanking them, often turning your back on them which leaves them feeling unseen and unappreciated. 
  • You may be prone to performance anxiety or stage fright, resulting in weak vocal technique and voice-sabotaging tension. You find it difficult and stressful to talk to fans or press when you are not singing. You may have problems being fully present in interviews. 

ARTIST-ENTERTAINER: Song and Audience Balance

Real performance magic (and career value), comes by balancing and switching these two modes at the right time. Here's how to do it: 
  1. Be in song-first artist mode when you are in the act of delivering the song,.
  2. Be in audience-first entertainer mode at all other times.  
  3. SOMETIMES switch modes deliberately in the middle of a song.
Here's an extreme example of that, from one of the best at combining these modes: Bono/ U2:


Artist Mode: 
  • Be very clear to whom each song in your set is directed. If it is a story song to your audience, make sure you focus to the one heart of the room like a laser beam instead of to everyone like a flashlight beam. 
  • At the first note of the song's instrumental intro, go into character and focus your mind into the scene of the lyric. 
  • Then communicate to the target heart so well that you get the response you want, even if it's just in your imagination. You'll pull the listening audience into your performance like a magnet.
As I wrote in my Instagram feed a while back:

Sing to one heart, and the Ocean will hear you.
Entertainer Mode:
  • Before you even take the stairs to the stage, send your presence out to the whole venue where your audience is waiting. Walk onstage with them firmly in your mind's grasp, and acknowledge them at least non-verbally before you begin your first song. 
  • Be physically active. At least move your hips at the mic stand! Push the envelope of what is psychologically comfortable for you, consider bigger, freer movement. Consider a stage performance coach to help you use communicative body language, both for artist and entertainer modes.
  • At the end of your song, make it plain (after a moment's artistic pause) that you are breaking character with your song, and disconnecting so you can connect with the audience. Look at them. If you must turn your back to get some water or change something, make sure they know you are still with them.
  • At the end of the show, again, acknowledge the audience appropriately. Tell them how to reach you and get your music, and leave an imprint on them that you value their contribution to your event. If safe to do so, interact with them after the show.
Why it can be hard to do both:
  • You may feel very strange or fake trying on the mode you're not that familiar with. 
    • An artist may feel that entertainer mode is over-acting. But on stage... well, great singing is not for the squeamish. Get out of your safe box and do something crazy to please and connect with people who may become your supporters!
    • An entertainer may feel bored in acting mode because they aren't loudly extending themselves in every direction as much as they are used to. Or they may feel fake because they don't know how to get into character. Get out of your limitations and learn how powerful a voice focused on a single heart can be.
  • If you have more of an introverted personality, you will need to practice getting out of your safe zone. But you can do it. Many famous entertainers are actually introverts who learned to act like extroverts. Consider working with a stage performance coach such as Diane Kimbrough who can teach you to expand and use your natural moves to much greater effect. 
  • If you have more of an extroverted personality, it may be hard for you to focus inwardly enough for artist mode. But you can do it, too. Take acting lessons - especially from good coaches who can teach you how to go into character. 
  • Or take a lesson with me. I work with both modes and with combining them. I'd love to help you!

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Monday, July 12, 2021

In-Ear Monitors: Don't Use Just One! (Updated)


  I use custom ear molds with Sensaphonics ears and the Shure PSM 900 Wireless System. 

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Anyone who has ever performed live knows you need some kind of stage monitors that will help you sing accurately and deliver confident performance magic. The mix of instruments and voices, the sonic envelope, ambiance and volume of sounds you hear in your monitors can make or break your performance, because your vocal apparatus responds to what your ears hear. Hearing too little of what you need will usually result in pushing your voice excessively, which can lead to vocal fatigue and damage as well as limit vocal control. Too much monitor sound, or the wrong mix of sounds, can sabotage confident breath support as well as control, and can cause you to sing out of tune, among other issues.

In my career, I have most often used stage wedge monitors, but finally made the plunge and got a set of in-ear monitors to use myself and to be able to advise my students.

Personally, I really love hearing the whole room when I perform, and getting ready for my first in-ear show I wondered how I would do with those monitors inserted in both ears, isolating me from the sound I'm so used to. I actually ended up LOVING them!! 

We've all seen artists on stage, even on the major music award shows, with one in-ear monitor dangling on their neck. When I asked several singers and doctors about wearing them in just one ear, and received conflicting advice. However, the jury is now in: For the safety of your hearing,

...never use just one!


I got to chat with the real expert on the subject of in-ears: doctor of Audiology Michael Santucci, who was manning his Sensaphonics booth at a NAMM event. When I asked him about using just one side of these monitors, he stated in no uncertain terms that it creates a serious risk to hearing to use just one in-ear. He explained why, but rather than try and call that up for you verbatim, here is Michael Santucci and Mike Dias of IEM manufacturer Ultimate Ears, explaining it in Mix Magazine:
Santucci explains: "One danger from too much isolation comes when musicians decide to “fix” the problem by wearing an earpiece in only one ear. When players take one out, their brain loses its ability to do binaural summation, where two ears together add up to a 6dB increase in your perception of loudness. If you're hearing 90 dB in both ears, your brain thinks it's hearing 96 dB. If you take one ear away, then that one ear has to go from 90 to 96 to sound like 96. And now the other ear is open and getting bashed by the band, the P.A. and the crowd. So this loud sound coming into the open ear causes you to turn the other ear up even more. In terms of ear safety, using one earpiece is a dangerous practice — it could actually be worse than using none at all.”
Mike Dias continues the discussion: “There's a common misconception that an artist can use just one earpiece and still use stage monitors, but this results in the worst of both worlds,” says Dias, who offers a simple experiment to demonstrate this. “Have someone stand onstage with a beltpack using one ear and turn it up to a comfortable performing level. Now shut the beltpack off and run the stage monitor to a comfortable level. When you turn the monitors and the single earpiece on, the artist inevitably thinks the in-ear sounds weak and cranks it up to compensate. But when you turn the wedges off, the artist will notice that the earpiece is too loud. In the case of one-ear listening, you don't get the benefit of hearing protection and you don't get the accuracy benefit of the in-ears.”
I don't know about you, but I value my ears too much not to heed this advice from this authority. If you find yourself in the habit of dropping one of your in-ears on stage, and you have the budget, it might be worth an upgrade to ambient sound in-ears, which gives you the ability to 'dial in' just the right amount of ambient sound. 

Or, you might do like I do; put them in both ears but insert them just loosely enough that a little outside sound can leak in without them dropping out of your ears. BUT: Just know if you wear them loosely, you won't get nearly as rich a sound in your mix. It's really best, if you use them a lot, to work with a sound engineer BEFORE the tour to get your snugly-inserted in-ear monitor mix just right, and then rehearse with them that way so you get used to the feeling and the sound of snugly wearing your in-ears.

More In-Ear Tips:

  • Don't forget to clean them after every use! That wax build up can create problems.
  • Be careful how much bass you have in your mix. Bass overtones can cause you to be pitchy.
I really like the advice given in these Youtube videos I found:
  • from the Shure company...  https://youtu.be/Q_cQx6qd4VQ

  • from audio professional at Kettner Creative... https://youtu.be/bfWeA0FP62A

 Now what about you?

Do you use in-ears on stage? How are they working for you? What tips can you share about them? I'm very curious! 

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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Sofia Evangelina Interview - Teen Phenom in Pursuit of Excellence

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Today's interview is with a joyously driven and phenomenally talented teen pop/R&B artist who has a stunning voice and a journey full of wild successes in the arts and athletics. She has an amazing mother who watches over her and gives advice informed by her own business success and global travel, and a fully supportive father. Yet it's Sofia who drives her own boat. This phrase in her bio defines her well...

Small frame, big voice, with an old soul and an urban spirit

She has chosen to dedicate herself to award-winning excellence in such diverse fields as painter, dancer, Canadian national championship team snow skier, actor, singer, songwriter, performer. Now she is laser focused, zeroing in on her music career. She has released a dynamic single "Endure" (see below) and will be releasing 5 more this year. She's also performing back onstage now that things are beginning to open up again.

Sofia's creative energy, willingness to learn, and empathy for others truly inspire me; I'm so honored to work with her as vocal coach. As you listen to this interview, we want to ask YOU... what dreams do you have from deep in your heart that you haven't pursued? For the sheer joy of it and to make the world somehow a better place, perhaps it's time! Join us for the sweet conversation. 

More of Sofia:

VIDEOS:

1. Acceptance speech for 'Best Album' at Young Artist Awards 40th Gala in LA 

2. Listen to 'Endure' on several links: https://lnk.to/ENDURE

3. Watch Sofia's Malmute Husky 'Laska' join us for vocal exercises!

Monday, June 14, 2021

How to Practice Your Voice Without Irritating the Neighbors - UPDATED 2021

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and go online to hear. 
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PLEASE REVIEW at ratethispodcast.com/atv
I received a very practical question in my email ... Julia in Albuquerque asks,
I live in an apartment complex and like to practice at night. What should I do about the noise? 
Singers sometimes need to do vocal warmups and practice songs in hotel rooms, houses shared by others or on postage stamp lots, artist dressing rooms, public bathrooms, between-set-alleys, band buses, a back corner of the venue itself. How can you do this without annoying neighbors or giving away the sound of your not-yet-warmed-up-voice? Here are some suggestions:

Quietest solution:

Silence! Mime or lip-sync your songs. Use your facial and body language, flex your pelvic floor power, do everything but make a sound. Use silent vocal exercises like lip or tongue trills - try the "Mental Body/Voice Connection Routine" which is in my 6-disc Power, Path & Performance vocal training course. Tell you what; I'll just give it to you as a signup bonus right now! (If you don't see this signup box below, go to the blogpost site online

Cheapest audible solution:

Consider getting a pair of HearFones. These gadgets are like having a PA system that requires no electricity or batteries. Wearing them will also have the added benefit of keeping you from using too much air pressure. You won't push your voice loudly because it will sound like yelling at yourself! So you'll most probably be prompted to use better techniques for opening your throat and balancing breath support and control. A win-win for you AND your neighbors!

Good will/kindness solution:

Try garnering a little good will by contacting and alerting neighbors about when you intend to practice, being willing to work around times they especially need quiet (working night shift and need to sleep, baby's napping, etc). If you're singing with your instrument or your band is joining you for rehearsal, try using quiet practice gear and maybe some headphones. Your neighbors (and family) could become supportive friend-fans and organic show promotors!

Location solutions:

  • For an apartment, hotel room or space you don't own, you can try warming up and singing in the shower! You can also try vocalizing into a pillow or window curtains.  However, don't practice in 'guarded stance'. A hunched over, too-careful posture and numb delivery could lead you into bad vocal technique, causing you to tighten up instead of loosen up!
  • You can always practice in your car... but if you practice correctly you must be mindful of how you are singing. SO.... don't tailgate, stay away from other cars, or better yet... park and sing! Oh and don't let your posture slump. 
  • For your home, you might consider dedicating a space for playing/listening to/practicing music. In my home, my music room is located over my garage, and there is carpet on the floor. It really is a great situation for me and my students. So is, of course, the fact that I'm mostly working online with lessons, background vocals and production right now.

High end solutions

If you want to go the whole distance (and have the funds to do so); 
OK you... now go practice! Got neighbors? Where there's a will there's a quiet way:)

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