Many singers have trouble finding songs and learning songs. TECHNOLOGY to the rescue! Thanks to technology, there are some helpful resources for musicians these days. For obtaining sheet music, some great websites include sheetmusic.com, musicnotes.com, and Scribd. You can purchase sheet music separately or subscribe for a monthly fee. The first two sites have software that allows you to play the accompaniment or melody in multiple keys and tempos. This makes learning melodies and rhythms easier and is useful for rehearsal. Well-known websites like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube are also great for karaoke tracks and backing tracks. Creating playlists on these sites is a convenient way of organizing all the repertoire you’re working on. Recruit technology for better learning, searching, and practicing! Welcome to the vocal FUTURE!
Unwanted vocal tension can appear in many ways. AURALLY - the voice may sound unstable or crack, the vibrato may be too fast or too slow, or the voice may sound constricted or tight. VISUALLY - you may see a tight or shaking jaw, bulging in the neck, or excessive tension in the face. KINESTHETICALLY - you may feel tight in the throat, restricted in the tongue, or rigid in the rib cage or abdominal region. Whatever the signs of tension may be, it’s important to determine the SOURCE. Work with your voice teacher to target the origin of the tension so it can disappear! Then, in your practice sessions, work to cut it off at the ROOT!
How many DIFFERENT Vocal Registers did you use TODAY? Did you only sing in your Chest Voice? Or, maybe you were practicing songs and exercises in a light Falsetto or Head Voice. Maybe you’ve grown “obsessed” with the Mix coordinations. Be careful not to neglect the full spectrum of your Vocal Registration. Instead, spend some energy on the strong parts, the flexible parts, and the blended parts of your voice each day. One of them may be easier for you or may be more appropriate for the song you're working on at the moment. However, giving your voice a "full-body workout" is the best way to strengthen your overall sound, expand your range, and balance your tone! How many registers will you use TOMORROW?
“What the heck does the LARYNX have to do with Musical Style? Isn't Style determined by tone, rhythm, musical choices, articulation, resonance, and performance values?” Yes! But you also must master your Larynx! Try singing a song phrase with a High Larynx, then a Neutral Larynx, and finally a Low Larynx. You’ll probably notice how dramatically and quickly the sound changes! Different genres of music call for different Larynx positions. A slightly raised Larynx is common in pop or rock music. A Neutral Larynx is often used for folk or musical theatre singing. A slightly lowered Larynx is native to classical and traditional sounds. To be a versatile singer, you should get comfortable with the full spectrum of what your Larynx can do. Once you've figured this out, you're already on your way towards creating diverse and stylistically-appropriate sounds!
Breathing Technique can certainly make you a better singer. But, it can also make you a better PERFORMER. In life, we often take a breath to create anticipation for words to come, while thinking, or for emotional or dramatic effect. In performing, you can also deliberately choose where you breathe to bring your text to life! As an exercise, try changing WHERE you breathe in a song that you’re currently working on. Observe how this alters the delivery of the text. Does it make it more believable? More interesting? How does it affect the mood of the piece? Be intentional with your breathing not just in technique practice, but also in your songwork. If you do, you’ll breathe LIFE into your performances!
Add some POP to your Vocal Technique in 3 easy steps! First, focus on keeping the root of your tongue slightly elevated in the back as if you’re saying the word “key”. This creates a smaller and brighter resonance space that Pop music uses. Second, examine whether your larynx position is high or low. A Pop sound typically requires a more raised larynx in comparison to a classical or traditional sound. Third, try varying the texture of your voice between breathy, clean, and tighter vocal fold Compressions. This is a very common stylistic element among most Pop singers. Incorporating these 3 technical adjustments will go a long way in making your sound POP!
Want to learn a new breathing trick for singing? Then ask your DOG! “Panting” is a fun and easy way to perfect your inhale. Yep, panting - breathing in and out 3 or 4 times in quick succession - like your favorite pooch. First of all, this alleviates excess breath pressure by limiting the amount of air you’re able to take in. Try it before you sing a phrase and note how much LIGHTER your singing feels. Secondly, it primes and PREPARES the breathing muscles. Panting for singing is like a gentle sprint for a runner - a great warm up for the task ahead. Lastly, it helps the body to LET GO! Great singing requires your body to move air freely, and panting practices just that. So, do your breathing a favor and practice your puppy pant! You CAN teach an old voice new tricks!
Nasal Resonance doesn’t mean sounding “nasal”. In fact, when done right, Nasal Resonance is one of the most valuable tools for singers. “Bad nasal” involves vocal cord compression and laryngeal constriction that create a bright twangy sound. So, it’s not actually nasal, but it often gets confused for Nasal Resonance. “Good nasal” involves head resonance without the squeezing. To discover this, try pinching your nose and speaking as you gently sigh. Do you notice a buzz in your nose or in the front of your face? If so, you’ve found Nasal Resonance! Once you’ve mastered this, try singing musical phrases with and without this trick. Finding Nasal Resonance independently of compressed "nasality" (or, brightness) will offer your voice freedom like it has never had before. And, it will certainly be “good nasal”!
THINK for a moment - about what kind of posture you believe a singer should have. Probably a few things come to your mind - a chest and sternum that are tall and confident. A long and lithe back of the neck. Flexible knees and hips with feet planted squarely into the floor. A ribcage that is open and pliable with breath. A jaw that is free to move. Now that you’ve THOUGHT of what a singer with ideal posture looks like, it’s time to remember one of the keys to perfect posture. That is, that posture isn’t something that we DO or something that we HOLD. It also should never be a big LABOR or a lot of WORK. Instead, great posture can be done with just a THOUGHT. So, next time you’re losing it, all you need to do is ... THINK for a moment!
“Get TALLER as you exhale!” This is a classic Vocal Tip given to singers to improve posture, breathing, and technique. But what does it mean? Well, when we exhale to sing, there is a tendency to let the air escape too fast and too aggressively. We tend to squeeze the upper abdominals and thrust the chest downwards. These habits lead to pitch problems, register imbalances, lack of stamina, and even vocal strain. Luckily, it can all be fixed by getting TALLER! As you sing a phrase (particularly a long phrase), imagine your sternum, the back of your neck, and the crown of your head all growing taller and taller. You’ll notice an immediate difference to your vocal freedom, control, and stamina. In short, good singing can be as easy as getting TALL!
Inspiration can come from many different places. So often as singers, we look to other singers for such inspiration. And rightly so! However, there are many other avenues we can explore to further our vocal, musical, and artistic growth. To start, we can listen to INSTRUMENTAL music. By listening to the greatest musicians we learn phrasing, dynamics, and other stylistic and expressive tools. Another avenue to explore is VISUAL art. By viewing drawings, paintings, and sculptures from the greatest artists, we learn continuity, focus, and attention to detail. Or, why not read or see a DRAMATIC work? There’s a lot to learn about storytelling, truthful communication, and emotion. Whether it be instrumental, visual, acting, writing, dance or any other artform - improve your vocal artistry by learning about great art of ALL kinds!
Where is the line between ACTING and LIVING? There’s a well-known story about Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. In preparation for a difficult scene, Hoffman hadn't slept for a few days. Olivier asked him why he was putting himself through such an ordeal. Hoffman said that he wanted to be convincing in the role. Olivier replied, "Try ACTING dear boy”. Many actors feel the need to live every experience that their character is going through. But, Acting is really more about being able to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Do your homework of course. Investigate the life of your character. Research who they are, where they’ve lived, and what they want. Ultimately, though, using your imagination and preparing your character will do the job. And, it will save you from unnecessary pain and sleepless nights!
Often we are told to practice our singing in rooms with excellent acoustics. Singing in the shower or in a "live" room is an empowering feeling! It feels as though we can create incredible sounds effortlessly. This is indeed a great strategy for gaining confidence and boldness. However, don’t overlook spending at least some of your time practicing in a "dead" space with poor acoustics. You can think of this as "high altitude training" in which you are putting yourself at a deliberate disadvantage. While it's important not to push too hard in this environment, it’s helpful to get your voice accustomed to different acoustic scenarios. This will benefit you greatly in the recording studio and also in audition rooms or performance spaces that muffle your best intentions. Practice in many different environments so you are ready for success in any situation!
You’ve practiced your vocal technique. You’ve practiced your songs. You’ve practiced your performance. So, don’t forget to practice your AUDITIONING! It’s easy to forget that Auditioning is really its own skill. While there are similarities between performance and Audition situations, there are also key differences. In Auditions, you’re usually in front of a few strangers who you can see in a well-lit room. The acoustics of the Audition often vary from where you rehearsed. The Audition accompanist may not play your music like you expected. All of these variables (and more) make Auditioning a very different experience than performing. So, try simulating the audition experience as much as you can as you prepare. And most importantly, make sure that you Audition A LOT until the skill of Auditioning becomes as exciting as opening night!
“Am I too old to sing?”. This is a question asked by 17-year olds. This is a question asked by 30-year olds. It’s asked by 50-years olds. And, by 70-year olds. But, if it’s a question that virtually everyone asks themselves, then there’s something wrong with the question. Singing is meant for everyone to enjoy and to succeed at regardless of their age. It’s actually quite reasonable to sing into one’s NINETIES very beautifully! Often society puts pressure and expectations on people of all ages regarding what they “can” or “cannot” do. So, you have two options. You can listen to those pressures and stay silent. Or, you can dare to “Make A Joyful Noise!”. If you do, it will keep you forever YOUNG!
What’s the MOST important thing to remember when you’re about to sing? Is it good posture? Perfect breathing? Proper resonance? Of course, those are all very important. But, what is the #1 thing to remember? What is the underlying reason for ever singing… ever? JOY! Unfettered, unrelenting, overflowing, and exuberant JOY! The voice is the original musical instrument. It’s an ancient and sacred act that our ancestors used for worship, celebrating rites of passage, and recounting history. Today, every time we sing, we’re singing with the Joy of millions of voices that have come before us. So, the next time you get ready to sing, practice, worship, or perform - don’t forget the true purpose of your instrument's design. Let it be an instrument of pure Joy!
Do you ever listen to other singers and say to yourself "I DON’T sound like that” or "I WON’T be that good" or “I CAN’T sing”? It's important to remember that the artists you admire had to start somewhere. A great singing voice isn’t something people are born with. Every singer at a certain point in their life makes an inner decision of “I CAN sing”. This decision translates into a variety of action steps. Practicing every day. Studying with a Voice Teacher. Listening to new artists and analyzing their work. Seizing opportunities to perform. Making a full commitment to vocal excellence. These action steps are what truly make singers great. But, the hardest part is making that inner decision. Some people make this decision at an early age. Some make it later in life. But, the truth is, if you believe you CAN… you WILL.