All posts by CurlsnSkirls

... a rusty sewer of some years, working to better those skills.

What is Sound?

What is sound? If you watched this video from earlier posts, you know, and could see that it’s air in motion.

When we’re talking about voice and sound, we mean either talking or singing – right? (Luckily, they use exactly the same parts of our bodies.)

First, let’s talk about getting our bodies to do a better job of putting air in motion when we’re making sounds!

Anybody ever heard of a body-part called a “diaphragm?” Many choir directors will tell their singers to “breath from your diaphragm,” (but possibly don’t explain further).

Here’s a simple exercise to help you feel exactly where your diaphragm is, and what it feels like when you make it work.

WARNING: Do NOT Do This Exercise More Than Once Or Twice. If you feel light-headed STOP IMMEDIATELY! It just means you’re not used to getting so much oxygen!

  1. Sit down on the edge of a solid surface like a chair or sofa.
  2. Scrunch forward so your elbows are on your knees and your chin is in your hands.
  3. Now make one or two emphatic “HA’s” like you’re panting.
  4. You should feel your midsection make quick movements every time you say “HA.”
  5. That’s your diaphragm lifting up to expel the air out of your lungs to make the sound.

Now try standing up, putting one hand on your midsection, and saying “HA.” You should feel the same movement. If not, get into your crouching position again and do one last “HA.”

REMEMBER: Do NOT Do This Exercise More Than Once Or Twice.

Why? Because your head may not be used to so much oxygen getting into your body and you may feel light-headed. (The same reason why beginning woodwind and brass players of any age are told the same thing!)

Here’s a moving model of a working diaphragm

Today’s Gaslighting (updated Dec 2021)

This post was originally published 5 January 2012. The links have been updated. Why is it in the “Music” category? Because it’s so relevant there… and sadly, today’s world in general.

Gaslight was a 1944 noire film that starred Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. The term, ‘to gaslight,’ comes directly from the plot.

Updated 4 December 2021 with the following suggested articles.  See if they ring any bells.

talking tips #3

Just wanted to put these out here for you to look at.

See what you think! Maybe drop me a line (below). Meanwhile, I’m off for a bit of a yarny faff . . . 🧶

❣️ ❤️ ❣️

Here are a couple of books and a couple of exercise programs I’ve found beneficial, and thought you might enjoy knowing about, too. Truth be told, I could do with using those exercise programs more. 🥴 All are TNT (tried & true, to use the online sewing community’s terminology.)

The Actor Speaks: Voice and the performer; Patsy Rodenburg. My copy is UK, Methuen Drama Series; ISBN 0-413-70030-5; Forward by Dame Judi Dench.

  • Ms. Roderburg’s website is here.*
  • Watch and listen to her here (6 min.), and here (10 min.).
  • An excellent NPR interview (from 2002; 29 min.) is here.

The Use and Training of the Human Voice: A practical approach to speech and voice dynamics; Arthur Lessac, 2nd edition, 1967; Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View, CA.; ISBN 0-87484-845-8.

This has great illustrations of consonant use being similar to orchestral instruments, the facial shapes for better diction, and physical exercises to relax specific body tensions. There are also videos on the Lessac Institute site.

The Royal Institute’s 2017 Christmas Lectures started with a wonderful program of sound in animals and humans (60 min.),  “Say it with sound.”

My outline of the program is here.

Callanetics by Callan Pinckney is an exercise program that combines yoga and ballet. It gently trains core muscles and is particularly good for those with back problems. The exercises also help actors and singers with their breath and support work. The program isn’t high impact and can be modified so people of any age can benefit. Note: I remember some sort of controversy when Pinckney sold the company, so be sure to get the original Pinckney teaching.

Flex Effect is a program of exercises specifically targeting the face and neck. If anyone seems to be speaking/singing lower as they mature they should try the Short Program’s Cheek Press exercises. I use the Tongue Press exercise with singers and actors to relax tongue and jaw tensions. Works a treat!

I am not affiliated in any way with any of these programs; they’ve dropped into my experience through the years, I’ve used them myself and with students, and they work.

(If you’re intrigued, Talking Tips #1 is here, and #2 here.)

*Links updated February 2021 to reflect current health guidelines.

talking tips #2

How many of you have called a friend and known from the minute they said “Hello” that something was wrong?

That shows you how instantly and unconsciously peoples’ voices can change.

The violinist’s instrument is a violin, the drummer’s instrument is a drum, the singer’s and actor’s instrument is . . .

Their entire body, not an entirely separate, inanimate object.

So what can they do when something goes wonky and they have to perform?

The violinist or drummer can send out their instrument for repair, and carry on with a substitute. But singers and actors can’t send out their throats for rehab, and carry on with a sub.

“Wait! You can’t equate singing with speaking!” I hear someone say.

Yes, you canit’s the same instrument. I repeat: It is the same instrument.

What makes one sound better can make the other sound better, too.

It takes learning new habits to replace the old ones, and practice-practice-practice!

We’re not talking astrophysics, folks! Just replacing old habits with new.

Just like better sports practices have passed from the pros to the general public. (Think stretching before jogging instead of jogging without a warm-up.)


Don’t like the way you sound?

  • Wish you sounded better on your vlog?
  • Wish you sounded more confident in public?
  • Wish you sounded better every day?

You can.

If you didn’t watch the video, “Say it with sound,” in the previous Talking Tips, please follow the link to see it. The video introduces concepts and terms you will need for Talking Tips #3.

talking tips #1

Spring/Autumn has started in both hemispheres. 🌷🍂🌺🍁 Maybe now’s the time to think about basics.

Many of us take our speaking voice for granted until we have a problem. Here are some ideas to think about and try. They should help you keep talking. 😉

❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

Below is an exploration of sound — what it is, and how animals make it and use it to communicate.

Please have a listen and let me know what you think.

The Royal Institute’s Christmas Lectures, 2017 began with the lecture, “Say it with Sound.”

To tease you a bit, here’s an outline of what’s covered.

  • 0 min. The recording Voyage carried.
  • 2 min. Making Mold, the rat, laugh.
  • 5 min. Crickets’ wing sounds.
  • 7 min. Structure makes a difference.
  • 8 min. Seeing sound with a giant slinky.
  • 13 min. Sounds inaudible to humans.
  • 19 min. Mosquitos’ love duet.
  • 24 min. How cockroaches hiss.
  • 27 min. A camera and a working larynx.
  • 33 min. Why the audience is blowing raspberries.
  • 34 min. Balloons, a shower curtain and a leaf blower.
  • 37 min. Why Resonance?
  • 38 min. Christmas baubles and breaking a wine glass.
  • 43 min. Strings and tea chests.
  • 45 min. How tea chests are like vocal tracts.
  • 47 min. Male deer and mens’ voices.
  • 51 min. Reeps* demos plosive sounds (think consonants).
  • 54 min. Beat boxing meets Verdi.
  • *** GRAND FINALE ***

*Reeps One is an extra on beat boxing, in case you’re interested.

Giving Voice,” The New Yorker, 2013; by John Colapinto If you really wat to get into some details, here’s an excellent article.

A note to parents of young singers:

The human voice doesn’t mature until approximately 30 years of age for women, and later for men, which helps explain why so many men’s voices seem to fluctuate between tenor and baritone for so long.

Remember that boys’ voices shift downward during their teen years. Young women have a much less noticeable shift, and consequently reach vocal maturity sooner.

A note to maturing singers:

Both men and women may experience a deepening in vocal quality as they mature, but this does not mean an inability to sing higher notes. Sometimes the physical technique may need to shift slightly to accommodate body changes, but if the technique is solid to begin with, it should be a matter of slight adjustments.

Talking tips #2.

much loved heirlooms

Aeons ago in a galaxy far away there lived a young woman about to go out into the stars to live life on her own.

The young woman’s two grannies, being far-sighted and wise women, had taught the young woman the needle arts. They knew from their life experiences the young woman would need them in her travels.

It seems they right. But we’ve already noted they were wise women.

As they were generous as well as wise, they decided to gift their young charge with some of their own skilled work. In due course the young woman received these gifts, one of which is shown in these photos.

The young woman began travelling from galaxy to galaxy, always keeping her granny treasures amongst her valued possessions.

One day she met another traveller and they decided to journey together. He soon learned to value the granny gifts, and the skills they had taught the young woman.

Which is why, when the couple decided to have their own young people, the not quite so young woman passed on the granny wisdom to her young people, too.

A story submitted to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

variations . . .

I’ve often photographed fabrics that might work well together, entire outfits, and checked out colours and accessories by photographing them. These different views often present surprising suggestions.

Late one evening I suddenly wondered if a long unworn necklace might be a good match for a certain fabric.

Lo and behold, I became fascinated by the necklace ~ rediscovering its beautiful ingredients.





WordPress Photo Challenge

silence is golden

silent halls

This was taken during a visit to the bookstore on the University of Chicago campus, just before it moved.

These doorways always remind me of a seminary, or a cloistered nunnery… or a cloistered something!

To come from a bustling campus into a gorgeously cramped space full of books for sale, and then into this back hallway, with no echoes of anything ~ sheer bliss!

WordPress Photo Challenge