Be a Vocal ARTISTE! Put your vowels on a color spectrum! Think of the primary vowels (A, E, I, O, and U) as primary colors. We can make every shade of vowel in between those vowels, the same way we can find every shade of color in between the primary colors. Then, apply these colors to your singing. If an EE vowel feels too bright, try heading toward EH. Or, if an OO vowel feels too closed, try moving in the direction of OH. If your tongue weighs down the AH vowel, try brightening it with EH. What shades of vowels can you find that best enhance your vocal artistry? Get ready for your most colorful singing ever!
Imagine a person who embodies CONFIDENCE and AUTHORITY. How do you envision this person standing? Most likely, they are standing up straight with an elevated sternum, relaxed shoulders, and a long back of the neck. How do we achieve this ideal alignment? One great strategy is to imagine the top of the head "gently suspended from the ceiling by a silken thread." This image helps good posture to not feel "postured", but to feel SUSPENSORY instead. Any time you're feeling insecure, making this physical and mental adjustment is one of the most effective ways to communicate self-assurance nonverbally. This will promote positive feedback from others and cause you to embody this persona naturally over time!
When you're learning a song you've heard other artists sing before, challenge yourself to make NEW choices! First, try stripping the song down to its bare elements. Take away as much Style as you can and sing it through plainly a couple times. Then, as you add Style back into the song, consider how the stylistic choices feel in your voice. Why do you think the original artist made their choices? Is there a choice that feels better for you? Challenge yourself to try something different. Even if you end up sticking with many of the original artist's choices, your performance will be stronger once you're conscious, engaged, and intentional in every musical moment!
Do you have EYE TENSION when you perform? It sounds silly because we often only think about things like jaw, neck, and tongue tension. Yet, have you ever seen singers performing and looking like ZOMBIES or deer caught in the headlights? These are singers who have not freed their gaze and allowed us to see into those proverbial “windows to the soul”. Luckily, It’s an easy fix! Don’t think so hard about how you sound or how you look. These thoughts will cause your eyes to lock up. Instead, simply SEE the room you are in when you sing. Take in the objects and experience the environment visually and naturally. This focus takes the pressure off of you and instantly makes you look more “at home” during your performance. You’ve done all the work. Now it's time to SEE and to BE!
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!
Performing is a full-body experience! Usually, we put most of our focus on the TOP half of our bodies: our heads, our brains, our necks, and our faces. However, try focusing on the other end: your FEET! As you get ready to sing, make sure your feet are a good distance from each other. Generally, they should be hip-width apart. Shift your weight from your toes to your heels and from side to side and find your ideal balance. Flex and release your toes. Send your energy into the ground and feel the roots that hold you up. A strong EARTHY foundation will support your body, your breath, your sound, and your mind in surprising ways - especially while singing high notes. So, get out of your head! And, instead, sing with your WHOLE body - head to TOE!
Vocal PRACTICE. What does that really mean to you? Does it evoke feelings of something that’s a chore, a task, a necessity, or a duty? If so, maybe think of another example of PRACTICE - A Yoga Practice. A Yogi “practicing” Yoga doesn’t have a relationship of HARD WORK with their Practice. Instead, they enter into a sacred space. A space where they are FREE to move, play, breathe, explore, feel, experiment, fall down, lengthen, strengthen, tone, fail, succeed, and love. What if we saw our Vocal Practice this way as well? What if we saw our Practice as a very "imperfect", yet beautiful inner experience? If we did, we’d probably find a much greater Joy whenever practice time rolls around. In fact, we’d probably want to get to practicing right away! NAMASTE!
What makes a singer succeed in the Music Industry? Those with the greatest longevity and prowess generally share THREE qualities - Humility, Hard Work, and Generosity. Pro-level singers are typically HUMBLE because they do not feel the need to try to impress others. Rather, they relish the work that they do with great passion! Singers with music industry success are HARD WORKING, knowing that there is always room to improve and to challenge themselves. Lastly, top singers have a GENEROUS spirit and seek to inspire many people through their work. Strive for Humility, Hard Work, and Generosity at any level of your vocal journey! The rewards will last you a lifetime!
KNOWLEDGE is power! That’s why the most important part of the Audition process comes before you even walk through the door! You want to be able to enter an audition room thinking "I KNOW this." This knowing feeling comes from having done everything in your power beforehand. Make sure you've practiced your material inside and out. This will ground you psychologically and physically, allowing you to release nervous tension, calm your breath, and support your sound. A calm mind and a relaxed breathing system are big keys to expressing yourself freely and artistically. So, make sure you KNOW your stuff. If you do, the casting panel will also KNOW exactly what you are capable of!
Vocal Tension CHECKLIST! Are my neck muscles calm when I sing? Check! Are my shoulders and collarbone staying still with my inhalation? Check! Does my chest remain tall as I sing through my exhalation? Check! Is my jaw staying back and is my tongue staying high as I sing? Double Check! Is my larynx staying in the position that I’ve chosen for my stylistic needs? Check! Are my vocal folds finding a balance between compression and decompression? Check! If any of these things aren’t happening, then you should CHECK in right away! But, if you’ve mastered this Checklist, then get ready for your very best singing. Just remember to bring the Soul. CHECK!!!
The PASSAGGIO is the area in our range where our voice tends to break or crack. All singers are familiar with this PESKY spot! When trying to sing in this region, we want to make sure that we keep a narrow embouchure, a stable larynx, and recruit some nasal resonance. Here’s a great exercise for when you are having difficulty navigating the passaggio! Try singing “MA-AWN-NAWN-NAWN” on a 1-5-3-1 interval. The “AWN” syllable will help to ensure stability and resonance as you ascend to the higher note. Work through that troublesome spot with this exercise and you’ll see it smooth out more and more. And you’ll fear the Passaggio less and less!
Riffs aren’t harder than SCALES! Most Riffs in any style of music are variations on just a few simple scales. You can build your Riffing vocabulary by working these scales into your regular warm-ups and vocal practice. One of the most common scales you'll hear in Riffs is the major pentatonic scale (1-2-3-5-6). Try singing a pentatonic pattern instead of the usual 1-2-3-4-5 ascending scale. Then mix it up in as many ways as you can imagine! Leap between notes; start in the middle of the scale; sing on different vowels or words. Just remember to start slowly, and don't speed up until you feel comfortable at the slower pace. There's never a need to get frustrated! After all - Riffs aren’t harder than SCALES!
Is there a difference between Listening and Hearing? Absolutely! Hearing is the PASSIVE way we listen to a sound, while Listening is the ACTIVE way. Both skills are needed in order to master our singing. When we work on our vocal technique or perform, it’s actually important to NOT listen to ourselves too carefully. To do so often tightens the body and the breathing system and causes us to be overly critical of ourselves. Instead we want to FEEL the sound while Hearing ourselves more ambiently. The time to Listen is after the fact. Play back recordings of your lessons, practices, and performances. This is the best time to analyze and understand if your technique is translating. Your ears are an amazing tool! Just understand when it’s time to Hear and when it's time to Listen!
“No PRESSURE!” But, are you aware that your voice has its own built-in pressure release system? As we approach higher notes or sing louder, the pressure within the larynx can get to be too much. YET - you can manually decrease this pressure by adjusting your larynx into a lower position! Place your finger on your “Adam’s apple” as you gently yawn and you’ll notice your larynx lower quite a lot. You can call upon a more subtle lowering action during singing to give your vocal cords extra room to stretch and loosen as notes get higher or stronger. This will improve your control, tone, range, pitch, and much more. So, practice using your new release system and feel the glory of singing with... NO Pressure!
From all of us at New York Vocal Coaching - we wish you a JOYous New Year! May your New Year be filled with happiness, music, love, and amazing vocal achievements. Reflect on your vocal journey and embrace the developments you’ve made this past year. Listen back to your recordings, recall all the songs you’ve sung, and celebrate your vocal discoveries. Be sure to share your list of vocal goals for the New Year with your Voice Teacher or with a family member or friend who supports your singing. We hope that you are proud of yourself because we are so proud of you! Get excited for 2021 - the best singing you’ve ever had! Here’s to a blessed New Year of Making A Joyful Noise!
New Year’s Eve means it’s time to set new vocal goals! The key to a successful goal is that it’s challenging yet attainable. If your New Year’s Resolutions are too difficult you may be inspired by them initially, but then burn out quickly. On the other hand, setting the bar too low won’t be productive either. Remember that yearly goals are simply stepping-stones on the path to achieving your dreams. They aren’t the dream itself. So, vocal goals can be as simple as adding five minutes to your practice each day! Or they can be more ambitious- like going on twice as many auditions this year than you did last year! Just make sure that the goals you set for yourself are something you want and can achieve in just one year’s time!
True or False: locking your knees while singing makes you PASS OUT? Under the right circumstances, it’s indeed True! But why? Your primary inhalation muscles are your External Intercostals (which expand your ribcage), and your Diaphragm (which contracts downward to pull in air). For exhalations, the Internal Intercostals close the ribcage and the Diaphragm returns to its upward position. However, the muscles of your back, abdomen, and legs also indirectly affect the QUALITY of your breathing. Locked knees or flexed quads cause tension in the lower back and abdomen - limiting Diaphragm and ribcage movement. Prolonged shallow breathing can cause light-headedness and, in extreme cases, passing out. So, keep your knees loose and sing out - you’ll never pass out!
Our EMBOUCHURE (or mouth shape) can greatly affect the resonance of our voices! Try experimenting with different mouth shapes to achieve various resonances and stylistic characteristics! First try a NEUTRAL mouth shape. It’s important to be able to sing our entire range without any drastic changes to our Embouchure. If you’re looking for increased strength and brightness, attempt to SMILE while singing! If you’re attempting a style with a darker resonance quality or need increased vocal flexibility, PUCKERING your lips will help you achieve this effect. Lastly, SNARLING the upper lip is an Embouchure that promotes a lighter sound by encouraging nasal resonance. While we want to first master all vocal coordinations with minimal Embouchure changes, we can later choose to color the sound with a wide variety of mouth postures as we see fit!
Do you have EYES in the back of your head? No. You can only see what’s in front of you! Yet, for your singing life it would really be great if you had eyes back there. Because if you did, you'd be more aware of the back of your neck. The muscles at the back of the neck include the trapezius, the occipital, and capitis muscles. These muscles tend to tighten during singing. This causes the back of the neck to shorten, the chin to thrust forward, and the head to lift upwards. All of these tendencies result in unwanted pressure on the larynx and can be a huge hindrance on vocal freedom. So, while you may not have eyes in the back of the head, pay attention back there anyway. It's bound to be a real eye-opener!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at NYVC! Today is a day of GIVING. At NYVC, we feel that every singer is truly a GIFT. We are so thankful for you and your beautiful voices from the bottom of our hearts. As you spend time with your family, take a moment to appreciate the gifts that have come your way this year. Also, consider all the gifts that you plan to give to others in the year to come. Most of all, never forget that your voice is a gift. Music is a gift. YOU are a gift. May your Christmas be blessed with love, singing, and most importantly... JOY!
It’s Christmas Eve. This evening is all about anticipation. The anticipation of a whole new era of Love, Peace, and Joy. As you softly sing “Silent Night… Holy Night…”, discover how your singing voice actually can be a prayer. A prayer for all those that you love. A prayer for a more peaceful world. A prayer for Joy to surround you with every breath that you breathe and every song that you sing. As your voice becomes a prayer, may you anticipate all the blessings that await your future. And may you offer your humble and prayerful song with hope and thanks in your heart. After all. It’s Christmas Eve.
“I’m so sorry, I haven’t had time to practice.” This is the bad news you may dread bearing to your Voice or Speech instructor. The ironic thing about voice, though, is that it’s an instrument you carry with you everywhere you go. Of course, it’s important to understand vocal technique (breath, phonation, resonance, and articulation). However, simply being mindful of your instrument will allow you to work on your voice all day everyday! Observe whether your breath is being taken deep in the body. Make sure that your vocal folds are closing in an efficient way. Let your voice be lilting, melodic, and varied and allow consonants like M, N, and NG to resonate. Stretch your jaw, tongue, neck, and ribcage and think about your alignment. Vocal practice isn’t just an extracurricular activity - it’s a LIFESTYLE!
Songs are like shoes! They need to be in a style that you like and that complements you. But, they also have to FIT. This means they may need to be tailored so they don’t feel too tight (high) or too loose (low). In most contemporary styles, singers can change song keys to suit their comfort (aka Tessitura) while still displaying flashy technical aspects. If transposition is something you don’t understand, work with a musician or vocal coach/teacher to help you choose the key and arrangement that sounds best on you! With Classical and Musical Theatre you generally have to sing in the original key. While this may demand a little more legwork in your repertoire search, it will eventually lead you to discovering roles you were born to play. Hey… if the shoe fits!
Every vocal journey is filled with highs and lows. It’s easy to become discouraged or feel that your voice simply isn’t good enough. When you find yourself singing the blues, take this self-esteem boosting challenge: write down one thing every day that you LOVE about your voice or singing style! Whether it’s your range, your tone, your captivating stage presence, or that one note you hit like nobody else can - there are more amazing things about your voice than you realize! Finding one positive attribute a day will keep your mind focused on your strengths, rather than dwelling on your weaknesses. Never stop striving for improvement, but take time every day to appreciate the skills you already have. You’ll be amazed how much faster you grow with the right attitude!
The Ancient Romans described the LARYNX as the "first and supremely most important instrument of the voice.” And that it is! The Larynx houses your vocal folds which are responsible for your voice being able to make SOUND. Your Larynx also regulates the way that BREATH moves in and out of your body. The Larynx contains many muscles that dictate the PITCH and the STRENGTH of your voice. Finally, where your Larynx sits at any given time can control the STYLE of your singing. You may not think about your Larynx very often. But, smart singers know that it is “supremely important” to do so. When in Rome…
When it comes to vocal style, CONSONANTS can make an even stronger statement than vowels. Do you start your words strong with a firm punch? Or with an airy and breathy tone? When you finish your words, do you perhaps hum on an M or N for a few seconds like Sarah Vaughan? Or, do you spit your consonants out with conviction like Michael Jackson? Consonants can also affect the vowels you sing. A strong consonant like G or B can make it easier to belt. An N or SH might make it easier to find a lighter place in your voice. Making deliberate choices with your Consonants will enhance your personal vocal style a hundredfold!
Many singers are seeking to break into the Music Industry. And obviously, the competition is very stiff. Yet, SONGWRITING can save the day! While it’s indeed possible to set oneself apart on vocal chops and performance skills alone - it’s MUCH easier to break into the industry if you can write a great song. Plus, singing your own songs gives you a larger degree of control over how your artistry is seen and heard. If you aren’t yet a Songwriter, don’t fret. Now is the time to start writing down lyrics or poetry when you feel inspired. Now is the time to start learning the piano or guitar that you’ve been meaning to learn. Now is the time to think of your artistry as something entirely your OWN. By taking these steps toward Songwriting, you'll begin to feel a new sense of EMPOWERMENT over your career's future!
“Sing from your DIAPHRAGM!” That's something every singer must do! Right? Hmmm. WRONG actually. In fact, it’s impossible to sing from your Diaphragm! The Diaphragm is a muscle that mainly inhales. It's active during inhales and passive during most exhales. Singing happens when we exhale. So, instead of singing from the Diaphragm, we instead need to ISOLATE our Diaphragm when we inhale. How do we do this? It's as simple as making sure our inhalations are deep, calm, effortless, and free of upper-body tension. It may come as a surprise to you that "singing from the Diaphragm" is a myth. Yet, even though you cannot sing from your Diaphragm - nobody can stop you from singing from your Soul!