Do you suffer from a Riff ADDICTION? Riffs are one of the singer's best stylistic tools to heighten a melody or lyric. A well-placed Riff can bring a musical moment to an exciting peak or to a soothing resolution. Riffs also work as perfect transitions between words, musical ideas, and phrases. As great as these things are, we've all heard singers rely on Riffing TOO MUCH! When this happens, the benefits of Riffing are completely lost. It's much like an artist using red, red, and more red on the same canvas. If you're a singer capable of incredible Riffs, just remember you don't have to use every Riff in your arsenal in one song. It's far better to use Riffs in moderation. Friends don't let friends let Riffing become a problem. Please Riff responsibly!
Have you ever seen singers singing with books in front of their ears? If you have, you may think they've lost their minds. Maybe all those intense breathing exercises finally sent them to the loony bin. Or, maybe this "old-school" vocal trick still WORKS! Try it! Grab two books or any two hard-surfaced objects. Press the spine of the books in front of your ears and begin singing. VOILA! You've instantly gained a more accurate idea of how you sound to other people. Your ears no longer can judge your internal resonance. Instead, they experience your sound as it appears to others. So grab those books and start cultivating a new relationship with your resonance! (WARNING: do not try this in public unless you're ready to become one of those "singer types").
Get TOUCHY FEELY… with your Larynx! Many times we are afraid to touch our Larynxes and their surrounding muscles. We've been taught this is a sacred forbidden vocal area that must never be touched or even thought about. Poor Larynx. As it turns out, a gentle touch may be just what it has longed for! For guys, the Larynx is your "Adam's Apple". For ladies, it's still in the same spot (just much tinier), but you will easily find it! Often, it can be difficult to know whether or not the Larynx is rising, lowering, or staying put. However, placing a finger or two lightly on your Larynx will instantly reveal to you how it's behaving as you practice your singing. We never want to hold the Larynx in place or force it anywhere while we sing. Yet, as a tool for gaining the finest insights into our vocal technique... get TOUCHY FEELY!
Where does STYLE come from? Think about the clothes that you wear. Do you wear them because you like them? Because you think others will? Or, perhaps because you've seen others that you like wearing them? Your unique vocal style will be similar. It's a combination of personal instincts of what sounds good and feels good coupled with the celebration of outside influences. Don't worry too much about "copying." Your interpretation will never be an exact replica of another singer. Instead, think about achieving sounds that feel good to you within those inspirations. And remember, your style can EVOLVE. Just like what you wear - you can always make subtle or large changes to your approach to suit every occasion!
Studies have shown that it takes professional sight-singers approximately TWELVE times singing through a new song before their breathing functions optimally. This means that the mind focuses first on learning the notes and only later can vocal technique be added. What can we learn from this? First, give yourself TIME to familiarize yourself with the notes, rhythms, and lyrics of a song. Don't be too hard on yourself about technique initially. PLAN your breaths ahead of time. Mark them on your music with a dash. Take many breaths at first. Breathe at any punctuation marks or ends of ideas. In the initial stages of learning, give yourself the best chances by approaching a song step-by-step. Don't get immediately frustrated with learning new music. Breathe. Plan. Practice. Succeed. Repeat.
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!
Could TENSION actually be the secret to relaxation? In fact, YES! A helpful way to eliminate tension is to contract a muscle group for 10 seconds or so and then release this contraction. Sustained contractions allow muscles to release in an exaggerated way. Take a minute to contract and release muscles in your feet and legs, then your abdomen, followed by your arms and shoulders, and finally your neck and head. Do you notice any difference? Do you feel looser? Is your awareness of muscle relaxation heightened? Functional muscle tension is necessary for maintaining optimal body alignment. Yet, unwanted muscular tension hinders optimal vocal production. So, make tension the victim of it's own trap! Use TENSION for newfound vocal freedom!
Diversity makes the world a better and more beautiful place! Just like we ask our leaders and politicians to engage everyone's experiences, we as artists must also seek opportunities to engage with other artists from different backgrounds. It begins by being open to seeing and listening to material you might not otherwise choose. But it doesn't stop there: TALK to other artists that are different than you. What inspires them to make music? How do they go about writing, learning, or performing a song? How does their unique style help them to share their soul? There is no better way to expand our artistry than by engaging with people very different from ourselves. And, we might indeed make a few new unexpected friends along the way!
"I only sing in the shower. I would join a choir, but I don't think my bathtub can hold that many people." HA! Ever hear that one? Most showers are made with materials that amplify sound waves. Your voice sounds better because of the resonant acoustic properties. But, you don't actually have to be in the shower to sound good. Your HEAD is it's own resonance chamber! Making adjustments to your larynx position, jaw, tongue, mouth, and soft palate will all change how your own personal resonance chamber functions. So, instead of staying relying on ceramic tiles - amaze yourself at what resonances you can create without the help of those resounding walls. Vocal technique is the art of making your shower portable!
Less is MORE! When it comes to having confidence in our performances, LESS goes much further than we think! When we don't feel confident, we tend to do MORE. We look around a lot, we gesture with hands and arms, or we pace. But movement is about quality, not quantity. Trust that your acting and singing choices can speak for themselves. Even if you don't feel that trust yet, you can fake it by lingering a bit. Keep your eyes where they are for at least 3 seconds before moving them. Move your hands 5 times slower than you think they should move. Don't move your feet more than once per verse. Take a long pause physically somewhere in the song. Your audience will start feel the importance and the GRAVITY of your acting choices. And that's what confident performing is all about! … more or less...