Why do we practice proper posture in Voice Lessons when in reality we'll be dancing, sitting, crouching, or even laying down when we perform? Well, consider an ATHLETE. They aren't running marathons on a treadmill or competing on how much they can stretch their hamstrings. They are conditioning the body in optimal ways so that it can do many things on the court, track, or field. Similarly, when we do vocal exercises, we're conditioning our vocal and postural muscles to perform optimally on the stage or in the recording studio. Start thinking of the Vocal Studio as your GYM and the stage as your FIELD. Without becoming rigid - stand up straight, keep the back of your neck long, and your sternum lifted. If you've trained your body under these controlled conditions, your voice will have an advantage when it comes time to perform in any situation!
Are you going through a PHASE? Most great artists in history have gone through different creative phases. For example, Picasso had his famous Blue Period. The Beatles had their Psychedelic phase. Creating Art is a lifelong journey and so it's natural to gravitate toward certain styles or habits as you explore and experiment. If your heart is drawing you to a particular style, singer, or artist - follow it! Spend a few weeks or months - or even years - learning Michael Jackson's songs, exploring your range, or singing your favorite Jazz saxophone solos. A deeper understanding of any one element of your artistry makes your whole artistry all the better. So, don't just do what you think you're "supposed" to do as singer. Go with your own creative flow. Embrace your PHASE!
You've probably noticed that the ACOUSTICS of a room can change the way your voice sounds. Don't we all sound lovely in the shower? Reverberations of sound against different materials and across varying spaces affect the way our voices resonate. If we practice in a small carpeted room every day and then go audition on a large wooden stage, we might end up confused and thrown off. We often sing differently when we perceive that our voice sounds differently. The best way to combat this problem is to practice in a wide variety of settings. Monitor the vocal adjustments you make in each environment. Then, when you do find yourself in a space with poor acoustics, you'll trust your training and you won't overcompensate! Don't just sing in one place. Sing EVERYWHERE!
"Am I a good enough ACTOR?" Often, singers doubt their Acting skills or don't consider themselves to be gifted in this area. However, bringing your Acting to life as a singer isn't about trying to perfect your Acting chops. Rather, it's about simple COMMUNICATION. If your audience can clearly understand what you are saying, what story you are telling, and the journey that you are going through - then they will FEEL the emotion of the song. Overacting actually comes from doing too much "ACTING". So, keep your focus on being specific with the story you are communicating at each moment. You'll be amazed how the Acting somehow takes care of itself!
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 an 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!
Everyone knows that if you want to make it in the Music Industry, you've got to have CONNECTIONS! But, for most of us, that seems very discouraging. We don't have an uncle who is the President of Sony Records or a cousin who won a Grammy. Yet, we can still take heart! "Connections" are not always these obvious examples. In fact, they RARELY are. Connections will happen to you naturally if you are dedicated to your craft and respectful to everyone in the industry. Your colleagues, your teachers, the people you meet at auditions - all of them can become Connections. The stage manager, the sound person, the custodian - also Connections. You truly never know who will be the one to open a huge door for your career. Remember - Connections aren't something you HAVE, they are something you MAKE. That's why it's called "making CONNECTIONS!"
We often forget that casting directors WANT us to succeed at auditions! In the back of our minds we think, "They don't want me"..."They don't like how I sound"..."I'm wasting their time." It's important to remember that casting directors DO want you to succeed because their job DEPENDS on it. They would LOVE to have too many amazing singers to choose from. This just means that their production is going to prosper since they've found droves of wonderful people for its success! You only have a couple minutes to show who you are and what you've got. Will you allow negative thoughts to take over? Or, will you walk into that room believing that your gifts and your JOY are in high demand? If you remember that you are WANTED - you'll start to change your energy and confidence in the audition room!
"Not all who wander are lost!" In fact, this is the key to finding your voice! Singing is less like walking down a straight road and more like WANDERING through a beautiful expansive park. We must wander around on many different paths - sometimes looping backward - sometimes going off in a totally unexpected direction - sometimes veering from the path and having to climb back on. The more you wander and get lost, the more you learn your way around. Your voice is not a destination at the end of some narrow path you force yourself to walk upon. You are already in the park. You just have to learn your way around more. Thinking this way will free you from rigid mindsets and will make your practicing a "walk in the park"!
Can you move your Tongue and Jaw INDEPENDENTLY of one another? This is a very important vocal skill. Test it out by trying a G or K sound with the back of your Tongue. When you form these consonants, does your Jaw tighten? Or, is your tongue free to articulate them? Next, try an N or L sound with the front of your Tongue. The same should be true and the Jaw should remain loose. These simple consonant tests will reveal whether or not your Jaw and Tongue have been inappropriately coupled. Keeping the Jaw loose as your Tongue articulates will create new possibilities of freedom for your singing and ESPECIALLY for your songwork!
MENTHOL. Who doesn't love it? It offers a cooling sensation, it has an invigorating feel, and it smells good! We've all been there... we have a cold and start coughing. So, we grab a cough drop with menthol, rub a menthol cream on the chest at night, or even use steamers with menthol steam. But, what many people don't know is that menthol can have adverse effects for you as a singer! Although the cooling sensation of menthol can feel good, it also has a NUMBING effect and DRYING effect on our vocal folds. These two things certainly don't bode well for our singing. When we're feeling sick we want to be very much AWARE of how our throat and vocal folds are feeling, not the opposite! So, when you're looking for throat lozenges be sure to look for drops with honey. Drop the menthol and reach for the HONEY!