Consider the tools that artists use to create. A painter uses paint. A potter uses clay. A carpenter uses wood. So, what do singers use to create? A MULTITUDE of vocal tools! These tools include vibrato, straight tone, breathiness, rasp, larynx positions, mouth shape, tongue positions, twang, nasal resonance, volume, diction, and register shifts. And this is just to name a few! So, be creative as a Vocal Creator. Experiment, explore, and exaggerate. Take risks, take liberties, and take Joy! You'll be surprised what amazing, unique, and soulful sounds you can make. You won't end up with a painting, a pot, or a table. But, you'll discover what it means to be a vocal artist with your own creative STYLE!
Your RIBS and your BELLY are the keys to great breathing for singing and life. However, many singers hold a lot of tension in these areas without even realizing it. Are your ribs not expanding properly when you take a breath? Then try some side stretches! Reach your arms to the sky and then reach them from side-to-side while breathing the ribcage open. Is your belly tight when you inhale or are your abs overly developed? Then try a backbend or a nice Cobra pose! As you lengthen your abdominal region, breathe open your belly. These stretches not only feel fantastic, but they also help your breathing to become everything you want it to be - deep, effortless, and natural!
Use your inhale to SET UP your vowels! Each vowel creates a unique pattern of resonance and a unique airflow pathway. So why not breathe in the shape of the vowel you're about to sing? This saves you time and energy because when you're ready to exhale, your instrument is already in the perfect position. You won't have to use that precious moment between inhaling and exhaling to get your entire vocal apparatus into the right position. Practice this on all different vowels by making the shape of the vowel first, then inhaling, and then singing. When it comes to breathing and resonance - it always helps to be prepared!
Have you explored every nook and cranny of your voice? While it's never wise to push your voice, it's actually a great idea to occasionally explore your voice's EXTREMES. Have you found the highest possible note in your Head Voice? What about your lowest possible note near your Vocal Fry? You also might consider volume. Experiment with your loudest and softest volumes. How about Larynx height? Have you felt the sensation of your highest and squeakiest Larynx? How about your lowest and hollowest Larynx? Knowing the extremes of your voice is one of best ways to improve your technique and artistry. Almost all of our singing is done in the middle of all these extremes. However, understanding extremes will help you to make the more nuanced adjustments that your technique needs!
Don't know much about HISTORY? Well, there's no time like the present! Think of one artist who inspires you. Have you ever researched an artist who inspired THEM? Or, maybe even researched the artists who inspired THAT artist? It could go on and on. However, there's tremendous value in seeking out this type of musical history. This discipline reveals a wealth of artists, songs, styles, and information that can be used to enrich your vocal and musical life! Go to the library or go online and start investigating. Find interviews of artists you admire. Read biographies, autobiographies, or books on fascinating music history topics. Listen to recordings from a specific year or decade. If you take this journey to the past, you'll become an artist brimming with appreciation, nuance, depth, and soul! And who knows? You might even make history YOURSELF!
Will the Music Industry decide your destiny or will YOU decide? Answering this question will likely determine whether you have what it takes to make it as a professional artist. Many performers have a "wait and see" attitude when it comes to their career. They go into the industry hoping someone will notice them, discover them, or "make them" an artist. In contrast, there are artists who already KNOW that they are artists - regardless of whether they ever get the jobs they want. They don't need the industry's approval. Their singing and their craft are just "who they are". Ironically, these artists who do it for the pure LOVE of their craft, without worrying about the results, usually have the greatest success. So, dig deep and consider the artist you really are in your heart and soul. If you know this, you won't have to find your destiny. Your destiny will find YOU!
Artists are people who love to think OUTSIDE the box! But, what if we jump back IN for a second? Being systematic, deliberate, and intentional in the way we approach practices, rehearsals, or performances can be a game-changer for our vocal life. First, identify the exact TASK you're about to undertake (exercise, song, etc.). Second, define the GOAL of that task. Thirdly, ask yourself HOW this goal will be achieved through techniques, repetition, or experimentation. And finally, MONITOR the progress of your goal as you work and stay focussed on moving toward it. All of this sounds pretty simple. And, kind of boring too. However, the lack of a strategic approach often robs artists of the improvement and success they're looking for. So, if your vocal progress is a bit slow these days... Get back IN the box!
Singing with ACCOMPANIMENT can be tricky for some singers. If you struggle with Rhythms, make sure to listen for the DOWNBEAT in the Accompaniment. That's the first strong beat of the measure. Look at your music to see which words fall on this strong beat to guide you. If you struggle with Pitch, there are often clues in the Accompaniment. See if you can locate your Pitch somewhere in the Accompaniment before you sing. Often the piano or another instrument will "double" your melody. This can be very helpful for staying in tune. Mostly, though, remember the Accompanist should follow YOU. You shouldn't follow the Accompanist. Knowing these truths will help you sing with more confidence and not second-guess yourself as a musician!
Have you FOUND YOUR SOUND? Many singers doubt whether they have found "their voice" or "their style". In reality, though, "your sound" is as simple as the CHOICES you make. As an exercise, pick a common song with a simple melody. Start by singing the song as plainly as you can. Then, change it up! Experiment with all the stylistic tools out there: dynamics, sustains, rhythm changes, word emphases, melodic alterations, riffs, vibrato, straight tone, texture changes, and others. Before you know it, you'll be making choices that are 100% original and discovering a sound that is truly your own! Once you know you can CHOOSE it, you'll never LOSE it!
Our bodies may appear symmetrical, but life gives each of us plenty of ASYMMETRY. Carrying a bag on one shoulder may make you lean to one side or tense up one shoulder. An injury may lead you to favor one side or the other. If you play a sport, one of your arms or legs may be stronger than the other. We can EMBRACE our unique asymmetry. However, when you're singing, try to balance out your posture. Stand on both feet equally. Square off your hips and shoulders. Make sure your body isn't tilted one way or the other. Otherwise, you can actually end up favoring one vocal fold over another or causing vocal limitations of many kinds. Symmetrical posture is singing-friendly posture!