What is your Vocal DEFAULT Setting? There are constantly new musical trends and styles emerging that require singers to ADAPT. Adaptability requires a balanced, reliable, and healthy "Vocal Default Setting". For example, if we always sing too loudly, then it's hard to move gracefully to softer sounds. Or, if we always sing too softly, then it's difficult to find the power we need. Ideally, our Default Setting is a moderate volume that allows us to sing comfortably and also transition into softest and loudest extremes. Optimal Default Settings aren't just about volume though. You'll also want a neutral larynx, vocal registration that's not too heady or too chesty, and tone that's not too bright or dark. By spending some time building a Vocal Default Setting that lives in the middle, you'll have the easiest time accessing the full spectrum of what your voice can do!
Try a phrase used for Speech Coaching: "I ate an apple in an igloo." Separate the words as you speak and put your fingers against your larynx. Feel how the air and vibrations stop and start between each word? This is a common occurrence with sounds that begin with vowels. They often cause GLOTTALS - which are abrupt vocal cord closings. While Glottals can be effective in singing when they're controlled, in SPEAKING you may want to limit how often they occur. Try linking each word to it's preceding word just like you would when singing a legato phrase. "Iyadeanapplinanigloo." Unless you want to emphasize a particular word, you can always elide words together. This allows continuity of breath - making your speaking voice sound and feel calmer and healthier.
Great vocal technique is often about taking things APART more than putting them together. When we make a "yawny" sound, typically the back of the tongue lowers, the larynx lowers, and the soft palate ascends. When we make an especially "nasal" sound, the back of the tongue goes higher, the larynx rises, and the soft palate lowers. These relationships tend to feel natural. BUT! With a bit of coordination, we can combine elements of both! For example, try lowering your larynx and lifting your soft palate, but with the back of your staying tongue high. Or, try letting your larynx and tongue rise, but without letting the sound enter the nasal cavity. Modifying one or two elements of what feels natural can result in new resonances that your voice needs. The more you can DISSOCIATE the elements of vocal anatomy, the more possibilities your voice will have!
It's time for your Alignment CHECKLIST! Follow these 5 Steps to great posture and alignment for your singing. FIRST - distribute your weight evenly between both feet on the floor. SECOND - lengthen your spine and your neck. THIRD - allow your shoulders to fall away from your ears. FOURTH - slightly tilt your tailbone and widen your lower back. FIFTH - inhale and expand your ribcage and low abdomen. By going through this simple and easy Checklist before you practice or perform, you will always be able to guarantee that your body is in it's optimal position. Great alignment? CHECK!
We all strive to be EXCELLENT in our artistry. However, no artist, performer, or singer is PERFECT. It's important to make the distinction between Excellence and Perfection. To be Excellent is to EXCEL. It is the ongoing state of excelling and doing well. In other words, Excellence is a process and not a final result. Perfection, on the other hand, is static. It is something that is already fully whole and complete. This is why Perfection is never attainable for any artist. Nor should we desire to attain it. Because if we were Perfect, we would be DONE. But, thankfully we can never be Perfect. So, our artistic and vocal journey continues every single day. Our Freedom comes from letting go of the desire to be perfect. Our Joy comes from the constant state of pursuing Excellence. And our Excellence comes from our Joy and Freedom to sing!
How are Vowel sounds made? Each Vowel has its own FORMANTS. Formants are resonances of the vocal tract. The pharynx creates the first Formant and the oral cavity creates the second Formant. The first and second Formant are called Vowel Formants because they are responsible for the way we hear the strength and color of each vowel. The configuration of the tongue, larynx, soft palate, jaw opening and pharynx determine the resonance of these Vowel Formants. As a result, there are endless ways that singers can articulate and modify vowels. However, our first goal is to produce consistently clear and understandable Vowel sounds throughout our vocal range. Once you've got your vowels all sounding like themselves, you can modify them for more strength and color. Or, in other words, you can FORM your FORMANTS!
The LYRICS are the obvious way to find out what a song is about, what action you should be played, or who you are singing to. However, what many singers forget is that the ACCOMPANIMENT gives clues too! Often the composer offers extra insight into the character and acting through the music. The next time you're listening to a song - listen to the Accompaniment exclusively. See if you can find the emotional journey of the character via the music. Ask yourself: how does the Accompaniment enhance the journey? What do the rhythm, dynamics, harmonies, and flow tell you? Chances are - it's A LOT. Next time you're singing a song, take the time to listen to how every part of the song works together to tell a story. Your performances will be richer, more honest, and more exciting!
HEAR what you FEEL! At NYVC, we always encourage our students to record their Voice Lessons. Listening back to these recordings is an important part of understanding how what you FEEL connects to what your listeners HEAR. When you're practicing at home, recording is important discipline as well. Especially if you're developing a new skill or rehearsing a song. Once you've finished a song or exercise, listen back objectively and evaluate what you heard. This will help you progress faster and will make you a better self-teacher. As a bonus, when you're listening to other singers, you'll naturally begin to understand the mechanics behind how they make their sounds as well. HEAR what you FEEL!
Happy Hanukkah from the staff at New York Vocal Coaching! Hanukkah celebrates a Miracle of endurance. One day's worth of oil miraculously lasted for eight days! We sometimes accomplish similar feats of endurance - exhausted bodies and minds power us through difficult weeks to reach important deadlines. Or, a tired voice manages to last through an extra performance or even several performances. What do you think makes these Miracles possible? Good technique? A rush of adrenaline? Confidence and positive energy? Or something else? No matter the cause, take time this Hanukkah to celebrate the personal Miracles you've accomplished. Maybe even light a candle of gratitude for the BRIGHTEST Miracles in your life!
One of the greatest secrets to becoming a professional artist is this: "Don't always wait for someone ELSE to give you a job." While auditioning is an excellent chance to hone your skills and to work in the industry, it shouldn't be your only avenue to success. You must think like an entrepreneur and create your OWN opportunities too. Find collaborators - writers, designers, directors, musicians, composers, people with the same gumption as you - and go make something happen! It's important to branch out and not just surround yourself with other performers. Create something new and you can add "Producer" to your resume too!