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Archiv für August, 2011

Online Singing and Relaxing Lessons

27. August 2011 1 Kommentar

by Matthias Krause

For years I thought, my voice is restricted. I’m a bass. Whenever I reached for the high notes, a huge barrier was piling up. Breaking through that wall was not possible. Oh, but then again, there was this whistlely voice that comes from a different place in the voice. Breathy, restricted to a few tones and too weak to be used. In fact, that voice was rather shameful to use. I bet many singers know that feeling. If you don’t what I am talking about  you can stop reading now.


Then I took voice lessons for a year. Classical voice lessons did not help me further, maybe because my teacher was female, maybe because I did not practice every day, maybe because it was not the right technique. A few years later, after seeing that there are websites that teach you how to tie your shoelaces the right way, I dared the internet to teach me how to sing. Just like those many language podcasts, maybe singing could be taught in the car. Don’t freak out yet, when you know all the advices of “standing straight, head up, face back”, because what I discovered is amazing:

It’s all about relaxing the throat. It’s all about isolating the vocal folds from the surrounding muscles, and train them. It’s all about developing a daily workout routine for the vocal folds – and doing it daily.


And there are actually quite a lot of programs out there. Mostly American vocal coaches teach their “secrets” online – if you are willing to pay a fee. Prices are always around 200 Dollars for a “Masters class” and don’t count on extra support unless you want to pay for that extra. Which is more than your normal “music school” but generally cheaper than 2 hours Skype lessons with those trainers. The secret of how to acchieve a mixed voice. There are video lessons, Audio CDs and YouTube blogs. Many of them use the internet channel to sell their videos, others press “real” CD collections. Some go broader than just teaching the mix, by giving breathing exercises, lessons on how to find your vibrato, etc. And its hard to actually judge them since all of them have different ways of teaching the same thing. The videos are generally more helpful and can be stripped down to an mp3 which I use in my car while commuting.


I stumbled across Eric Arcenaux and his AAproach, since he as some nice freebies on the internet. His lessons are covering male and female voices which can be cumbersome in the beginning, as many of the exercises require you to go up the scale and back down. If you don’t have the range yet, this means often to wait or skip ahead. Brett Mannings “Mastering the Mix” program has 12 CD’s but again, 50% of the tracks are for women. At least he gives you a chance by separating male and female exercises and demonstrations. The male exercises of two CD’s fit easily onto one.

I also liked the approach of strengthening the head voice before connecting the two parts. I didn’t like that many of the tracks are normalized, so that actually soft parts and loud parts have the same volume and knowing when to sing soft is often difficult. The amazing thing is that an exercise which was hard on the one morning becomes okay the next day and easy oh the third.

I could feel my voice growing. Although he keeps saying that you should never sing higher than comfortable, another coach has actually perfected to teach relaxation. Per Bristow. Per’s teaching is video based, he focuses as much as possible on relaxation and not so much on “hitting the right notes”. Four video lessons sound little compared to the 12 CD’s from Brett, but it is worth giving Per a shot.

One of the key exercises is the lip roll through the bridge: Poke your fingers slightly into your cheeks, close your lips without pressure and sing a bubbly “Buh” – you will sound like a helicopter – and just slide from bottom to top while keeping your Adams apple in a neutral position (check that with a mirror)

So where am I now? Six weeks after I started with Eric and doing research about Speech Level Singing and their variants I can relax my throat and pass my bridge. My head voice got stronger and I got the grip on finding the tones in between chest and head voice, and crossing the bridge. I’m not there yet, but I keep practicing and I strongly believe that after a few more weeks, my vocal folds are strong enough to stay “in the Mix”.

Since many of the exercises are repeating across programs, I can definitely say that it is enough to get one or at maximum two of those programs. The tip I would give is check out a few sites and see to which trainer you can relate most. Oh, and be aware – they all try to sell their products like Americans: Lots of words, many promises, and endless luring. Just ignore the marketing.


Matthias Krause sings with the Southern Comfort Barber Mates, Eindhoven. His choral life began early thanks to the wonderful opportunities offered at the Jugendchor am Staedtischen Gymnasium Prenzlau. With his move to Eindhoven began his addiction to Barbershop harmony.

Rushing Slowly – Vocado’s New Album “Northern Lights”

by Vocado & Florian Städtler

Sometimes it’s better to let the music speak. Or at least the people who made the music. This post features one of the up-and-coming, North European vocal groups that represent the second generation coming after the role model groups Rajaton and The Real Group. Founded in 2004, it would be wrong to call Vocado a newcomer. Listening to their fantastic, best-selling debut album “Northern Lights” shows a self-confident and mature ensemble with flawless technique and a carefully chosen repertoire. The easiest way to learn more about Vocado and hear the special kind of “Northern Lights” shine is to get your own copy of the album. But let’s hear, what Amanda, Joel, Malin, Emma, Lukas and Anton say about their debut in their personal liner notes and with a little video message below.


Liner Notes

“Almost seven years after Vocado was formed, we are finally ready to release our first album. Our motto has always been a Swedish proverb, “to rush slowly”, meaning that we don’t try to push things before we are really ready for them, and rather wait too long than too short. This has obviously  been both our advantage and our disadvantage.

When the recordings of this album finally started, a year ago, we had a basic idea of what kind of album we wanted to do. A studio album but with a natural and sometimes acoustic sound, to give justice to the different types of songs in our repertoire. Over time, the concept of “Northern Lights” developed and for us the connections between the songs we had chosen started to grow.

“Northern Lights” means to capture a typical Swedish and Nordic mood, but it is also how we want to believe that our sound can be perceived. Light, subtle and a bit mysterious. We are very proud of the result and hope that you will enjoy our music!”  – Vocado, July 2011

  1. Hall mig kvar
  2. Coffee Time
  3. Lullaby of Birdland
  4. My Funny Valentine
  5. Sashenka – Wednesday Night
  6. Sashenka – Sunday Morning
  7. Kevlarsjäl
  8. Innan isen lägger sig
  9. No More Blues
  10. Imorron…
  11. Lover’s Dream
  12. I Didn’t Want to Clap
  13. Empty Hearts


A Little Video Greeting from Vocado

Did you get your copy of “Northern Lights”? What do you think? Do you know other albums that have been launched or will be launched soon? Let us know, we would love to share your tipps! Of course Vocado is on Facebook and Twitter, go there and stay tuned. And go see them live if you can and support them by buying “Northern Lights” at

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Acappellazone – A Dream Come True For A Cappella Fans

by Nina Ruckhaber (Jazzchor Freiburg, GER)

I can look back at many years of being an a cappella fan. One drives to concerts in the area, visits festivals and gets to know bit by bit more and more a cappella groups – nationally and internationally.

The a cappella scene had been a some kind of subculture for quiet some time. The choir-like singing in small groups did and still does not address everybody. At concerts, one usually meets people, which sing in choirs themselves and thus are familiar with the scene. If you try to inspire people in your surroundings which do not care much about music, you will too often struggle. This has hardly changed – except for the phenomenon Wise Guys. They are the most successful and most visited a cappella group in Germany, which attract crowds of people with their “vocal pop” music.

If you have a closer look at the a capella scene, one finds many small groups which make music on a high standard. At concerts, one can listen to the really cool and interesting arrangements – vocally perfectly performed. The high standard of many of those groups can hardly be find in the mainstream music market.

Slightly, this subculture of the a capella scene develops toward the public and more and more people are reached with this kind of music. Of course, I am personally very happy about this development.

This Vocal Blog, founded by Florian Städtler, is the perfect platform for artists and fans for exchanges. Besides A Cappella Online, this is another important meeting point for the scene.

A couple of weeks ago, another platform established, which makes a dream come true for a capella-fans: ACAPPELLAZONE. Acappellazone is an online shop, which offers a great variety of a cappella CDs for sale. The perfectly designed website, invites to browsing and allures to give ones savings to artists, in order to be able to listen to the beautiful sounds of the a cappella art at home.

The offerings of the zone is broad: starting with the internally famous Naturally 7 and Rajaton over lone wolves like Martin O. to choirs like the Jazzchor Freiburg and Vocal Line.

To artists Acappellazone is very attractive, as their major target groups make use of the platform and get informed about the variety of groups – ones they even did not know before. Artists can also take advantage of banners on the website to draw attention on ones music. Thus, the platform has a high potential for artists to attract more listeners of their music. Such promotion is otherwise only possible at concerts.

To a cappella groups it is very comfortable, when they can outsource the sales and shipping of their CDs to such a provider. They can sell their music on their own website as well as on Acappellazone’s one. “The Swingle Singers”, for example, have outsourced their entire sales for CDs and have directly linked their online shop to the Acappellazone website.

Besides CDs, one can also buy DVDs, notes, merchandising material on the platform. However, these sections are presently at an early stage and about to develop within the next couple of weeks.

The search function on the website facilitates users their search for their desired a cappella group. The detailed descriptions of any product on sale and a filter make it possible to find a certain style or group on the website. A comprehensive list of artist provides a good overview on all a cappella groups joining the platform. Shipping takes about one to three days and thus is very consumer-friendly. Online newsletter inform subscribers steadily about new products available on the platform.

As a fan, I really hope that all a cappella groups will join the portal soon. Acappellazone is on its way to become an important corner stone for sales in the a capella scene.

Another milestone to arouse the public interest in a cappella music.

With lots of effort and energy Florian Städtler provides a growing space for a cappella much in his event agency. “Thank you!” for founding “Vocal Blogs” and “Acappellazone” and finding this market niche.

Nina Ruckhaber is singer and organizer with the pioneering Jazzchor Freiburg (cond.: Bertrand Gröger) and one of these 100% acappellified people. She was one of the chosen few who sang a solo with Bobby McFerrin during one of the “Vocabularies” concerts with Bobby.

Let us know what you think about Acappellazone: Would you want to sell your stuff there? Is there anything you would want to find there? What’s your experience with a cappella online shopping?

And The Winner Is: Sonic Suite!

by Sonic Suite (Germany)


Back home (meaning Berlin, Münster, Hannover and Weimar), still amazed by what we have experienced in Graz:


9 a.m. Münster, Germany. Pouring Rain. Hair looks terrible. We are starting our road trip throughout Germany heading to Graz, Austria, where the festival takes place. Most of the time we spend sleeping, while Tilo is driving. The remaining time of the journey consists of oranges, crossword puzzles and nonstop music hits (from the radio, or alternatively directly from us). After a while we enter Austria and our sound technician Kai gets to prove his driving skills. So many mountains and tunnels, not a good time for reading, so we play word games and have intense discussions about the rules (at this point thanks to Nik Grunwald for introducing us to these games).After passing Klaus, Graz can finally be read on the street signs. A little later we are standing in front of a mountain and are happy that the Dom is in and not on top of the mountain! The menu of the restaurant at the bottom of this very mountain has a lot of German words which we have never heard before because it is Austrian German, but in the end we are full and happy.


The place we stay at for the next days is a school located somewhat outside of Graz, which we share with three other a cappella groups. It feels a little bit like taking a school trip and the girls make plans to trick the boys, but we fall asleep too soon. As the next day arrives the school trip is over, it is competition day!

We are leaving for sound check in the morning, everything coming from the speakers to the audience sounds fine. Our monitor sound is not quite perfect yet and once again, we wish for in-ear monitoring (soon, soon!). Afterwards, we take a little siesta, some are reading at the pool, which is followed by ironing, rehearsing and dressing up (in this order) .


The evening comes closer. As we arrive at the venue “Hartmuth und die Hitmaschine” are looping themselves right into the heart of the audience and of Sonic Suite. We are impressed and thrilled by all the creativity, talent and enthusiasm in this room!

Our moment is now coming closer, we are walking towards the stage, taking our mics and switching them on. The host of the evening, Fii, is announcing Sonic Suite and we walk on stage. The moment Indra and Frieder get into the groove of “Weren’t You The One” we all stop thinking about this being a competition and just do our very best. Jury member Kim Nazarian (New York Voices) is clapping along, sweat runs down our smiling faces, Victor and Vinh sing the battle of their life over “Best friend’s Blues”  as if they really had a girl to fight about and with the last mellow chord, everything is already over. Now it is time for a beer and enjoying the rest of the evening!


There are many great moments later that evening: Musix, The Boxettes from London, MICappella from Singapore, Maytree from Korea and of course the legendary Fii from Austria. Then finally, the moment arrives when the Jury is walking on stage to announce the diplomas (there are bronze, silver and gold diplomas), the audience favourite award plus the ranking for 3rd 2nd and 1st prize. Each group sends one member on stage as a group representative. Sonic Suite is represented by Indra who takes his place besides Neo from the Boxettes. All members of Sonic Suite feel their heartbeat accelerating. After the announcements for bronze and silver diplomas, it becomes clear that we have a realistic chance to get a golden diploma.  Then, for the first time, we have the slight feeling that we might have achieved something. When shortly after that thought we hear “And the winner of this year’s 2011 in the pop music category is…-wait for it-…Sonic Suite!”


Indra with judge Andrea Figallo

WOW! Really? What is happening? Luckily the adrenalin shoves aside the tiredness and we perform a joy-infused “Hey Now”, with Lena singing her soul out!

The whole evening, it flashes through our minds that we actually won. After hitting the dancefloor with some brandnew moves we head home and the feeling of a school trip crawls back into our thoughts. But again we fall asleep before we can put some toothpaste onto the boys’ doorknobs.

The prize winners’ concerts the next evening are all absolutely awesome and I am very proud to surprise Hi-Five with a “Je kan met mij ook Nederlands praten, hoor”.


On our way back to the school/hotel we once again sing hits from the 80´s, 90´s and today loudly in the car in various keys, but always from the bottom of our hearts („and so we goo to the eeend ooof the road“, „Heal the woooorld“ , „part time loveeeer“ , etc. ). Our baritone Vinh is singing us to sleep from the shower room and the next morning our intense short trip and adventure in Graz is already over. 8 a.m. Pouring rain. Hair looks terrible. But this time we got a golden diploma and an award in a frame.


Sonic Suite with judge Kim Nazarian (NY Voices) and The Ward Swingle Award

We have met so many fantastic groups and people, a lot of them are visiting on a regular basis, because of the atmosphere and the feeling. Thanks to the whole team once again for the perfect organization and a huge thank you to all the groups for inspiring us!


Our resumée:, it was „legen – wait for it… dary“




Thanks to the winners for this great blog post. And thanks to everybody who makes his or her comment: Because you were in Graz, too. Because you think that Sonic Suite is awesome. Because you want to complain that your group didn’t win. Because you wanted to say something about competitions in general. Because…just go ahead – thanks for joining the conversation.

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