When you listen to a singer, do you listen? Or, do you REALLY listen? Critical listening is an invaluable skill for a growing singer. You can learn so much about stylistic nuances, performance choices, and vocal technique by listening very intelligently to what a singer is doing each and every moment. Which notes are breathy and which are compressed? When do they Belt or use Head Voice, Mix, or Chest Voice? Does the singer ever use Vocal Fry or other textures? What is the dramatic intention or acting choice? What about vibrato or straight tone? Next time you listen to your favorite singer: start... stop... replay... then replay again and again. It’s one thing to be a fan. It’s another thing to be an artist. Artists REALLY listen.
Singing is Joyful. Yet, sadly it often has FEAR surrounding it. Do you sing more quietly because you’re scared of someone hearing and judging you? Do you avoid telling people you sing? Do you constantly say negative things to yourself about your own voice? If so, fear might be one of your biggest vocal challenges. But consider replacing fear with JOY! “I have a wonderful gift to share.” “I make good vocal choices and I'm kind to my singing voice.” “I draw inner strength, confidence, and bravery from my vocal life.” And most importantly: “I trust myself”. These thoughts can help you before auditions, performances, and other situations that scare you. Singing doesn’t have to be a fearful noise. Let it be a Joyful one!
Want to sing powerful high notes with more freedom? Then LEAN BACK! Okay, so maybe posture from “The Matrix” movie isn’t ideal for singing, but THINKING about leaning back can really help. Singing high with Chest Voice and Chest Dominant Mix can sometimes cause your beautiful, tall singing posture to wilt and weaken. The upper abdominals tighten, the shoulders slump down, the neck collapses, and the jaw thrusts forward. Instead of letting that forward pull get the best of you, use a gentle BACKWARDS LEAN to counter these tendencies. Glide your head back, bring the ears over your shoulders, and softly tug your shoulders back and down. LEAN BACK and you’ll notice that your voice instantly GOES FORTH!
Do you feel that your Head Voice is WEAK and lacks the strength and support of your Chest Voice and Mix? The Head Voice can, in fact, be powerful like your other vocal registers! There are three things to focus on in your technique when trying to strengthen your Head Voice - larynx position, jaw freedom, and breath support. A great exercise to help promote all three of these skills is singing “HWAW” on 1-5-1 in your Head Voice. Be mindful that your larynx doesn’t rise too high. Keep your jaw relaxed, narrow, and downward. Make sure that your breath is small yet flowing and energetic. Above all, though, don’t be TIMID! Never fear making a bold and big sound with your Head Voice!
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!
Why is it sometimes so hard to say “I Love You”? After all, those 3 little words are what we desperately long to hear. They have the power to heal us, to uplift us, and to make us whole. Today is Valentine’s Day. The day of Love. So, whether you’re alone or you’re with someone special - don’t forget that you always have love in your life as a singer. Don’t forget the beauty you’ve been given. Don’t forget to take time to tell your voice what it longs to hear from you. Can you do it? Even if it’s hard? Can you say to your own voice: “I LOVE YOU”? After all, you and your voice are a match made in Heaven.
Do you want to take your Riffing and Scatting to the next level? Try a TRANSCRIPTION! Instrumentalists very often learn entire instrumental solos from the great improvisers and soloists. When these solos are written out, they are called Transcriptions. Musicians such as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane are examples of pioneers and masters of improvisation. Start by choosing a solo that sparks your interest from a master soloist or vocalist that you love. Then, take the time to learn the notes and rhythms very precisely. Once you have done this, choose one vowel (Like “OO”) and sing the improvisation. This exercise is a great way to awaken your voice to both rhythmic and melodic ideas that you may not otherwise encounter in songs. It's time to take your Riffing to VIRTUOSIC heights by singing note-for-note with the greats!
Appreciate not only good singers, but also MEDIOCRE ones! Did you know that studies have shown people are able to lift more weight when they are next to someone lifting just a little less? We would think it would be the opposite! As it turns out, though, we get a confidence boost when we aren’t always comparing ourselves to others with a superior skill-set. Listening to out-of-tune singers won't do the trick - the disparity is too great. However, by staying aware that there are singers who aren't quite as proficient as you actually results in BETTER singing! Remember, it’s not about judging others negatively. It’s about recognizing how far you've come on your vocal journey, rather than constantly focussing on how far you have to go. Celebrate ALL singers! Yourself included!
Understanding the intricate functions of the Larynx can be so intellectual that it makes you YAWN. Still, it’s not so difficult that you can’t SWALLOW it. Because that’s really all there is to it! It’s as easy as a SWALLOW and a YAWN! Every day we do these two tasks without thinking. When we swallow, the Larynx lifts to its highest position. When we yawn, the Larynx drops to its lowest position. When we sing, we ultimately want to find a balance between these positions. As you're practicing, occasionally check in with your Larynx and even place a finger on it. Is it moving as high as when you swallow? Is it being shoved down to the place where you yawn? If so, you’re probably straining or depressing too much. So, there’s no need to YAWN when it comes to understanding your Larynx. Laryngeal-mastery is something that any serious singer can SWALLOW!
Have you ever asked yourself - “What STYLE of voice do I have?”. The truth is, nobody is BORN with one particular singing style. Individual style develops over time and is influenced by the music you enjoy hearing and singing. This means you can and should sing multiple styles! But, what happens if you love a certain style but have difficulty producing it with your own voice? Immerse yourself in it! Be disciplined in listening to various singers you admire and notice the nuances of their musical choices. Then, copy copy copy! Stylistic aspects can be mastered gradually through skillful mimicry. Solid vocal technique still must accompany any style you sing. However, with practice and attention to detail, you’ll be able to sing the musical style you were "born" to sing!
True or False: locking your knees while singing makes you PASS OUT? Under the right circumstances, it is indeed True! But why? Standing completely still with locked knees causes blood to collect in the veins of your legs, reducing blood flow to your brain. It’s called Orthostatic Syncope and it’s a common occurrence in choral concerts, graduations, and anywhere else people stand for a long time. But that’s not all! Additionally, 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, keep moving, and sing out - you’ll never pass out!
“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!