Singing and weight lifting - what’s the connection? Weight lifting is great for the body. It can build strength, coordination, and improve overall health. Yet, it can be tough on the voice without proper breathing technique. Holding your breath as you lift is known as the VALSALVA Maneuver. This turns the body into a lever, helping you to lift heavy weight. However, it also increases subglottic pressure (breath pressure below the vocal cords) to excess. It can also lead to neck tension, very squeezed vocal cords, and even exertion headaches in some cases. To avoid the Valsalva Maneuver, consciously EXHALE during physical exertion. Try a SS, SH, or FF sound to keep the breath flowing as you push through your workout. Swell your muscles and not your vocal cords!
Singing is a SPORT! It’s truly a MUSCULAR event. And, any muscular improvement requires training, workouts, personal wellness, rest, and a healthy diet. Thus, as Vocal Athletes, we must not neglect the whole of our Athleticism if we want our voices to excel. Singers are often astonished after beginning a workout program that involves cardio, stretching, weight training, dietary changes, and overall physical fitness. Almost as if by magic their VOICES improve suddenly by leaps and bounds! Why? It's because singing really is a SPORT! So, try becoming a “two-sport athlete” by getting your body AND your voice into their finest forms! See you at the gym (and in the practice room)!
Your voice and body are ONE! It’s easy to REMEMBER that our body is made up of organs, muscles, tissues, blood, and many other components. Yet, it’s easy to FORGET that the voice is part of this equation. Your voice can be affected by a variety of factors, such as hydration, fatigue, humidity levels, emotional health, fitness, and overall physical well-being. The next time you are wondering about your vocal health, consider your entire body and take stock of how you’re doing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a singer, your top priority is to take great care of your body and voice together. After all, it’s all ONE instrument!
“HEY! Keep it down in there!!!” This is NOT what you want to hear when you are practicing your singing! Yet, it is actually critical for your vocal progress that you find a practice space where you are FREE to make sound. Improving your vocal technique requires that you make lots of “ugly” sounds and plenty of mistakes. If your practice environment causes you to have to keep your voice quiet, or to make only “pleasing” sounds, then your growth will be severely stifled. So, be sure to find a practice spot where you feel 100% free to experiment, to make some bold mistakes, and to “Make A Joyful Noise!”
To really feel like a SERIOUS voice student, try taking a popsicle stick and placing it against the back of your tongue. Do you feel your tongue pushing back? If so, that's a sure sign of unneeded tension. It's vital to achieve a calm state of "nothingness" with the tongue. The best way to tame it is NOT by insisting that it "Relax! Relax!". The best way is to TEACH it how to do... "nothing." Once you get the back of your tongue to settle down, try saying "AH". Do you feel it push against the stick now? Once you get an "AH" without your tongue pushing back, try to wean yourself away from the stick. This principle will not just eliminate tongue tension, but will also apply to your body and voice overall. Instead of trying to suppress tension by thinking "STOP BEING TENSE!" - just work on being mindful enough to actually do... NOTHING!
Get more Resonance at no extra cost! Resonance is essentially everything that you can change ABOVE the vocal folds. With Resonance, there is less pressure, effort, and cost to the vocal folds themselves. The good news is - you can get Resonance for FREE! Want more “brightness” in your voice? Don't try to over-compress the vocal folds to create it. Instead, use TWANG. Twang is a narrowing of the vocal tract via the AryEpiglottic Sphincter. This sounds very fancy, but it's easy to accomplish. Try experimenting with Twang characters like witches, nerds, cats, or even a duck. Or, try a vocal exercise on a bright NAAN-NAAN while making sure the larynx and embouchure stay fairly neutral. Twang gives your voice stronger Resonance without costing the vocal folds a thing. It really is the vocal deal of the century!
One of the most common places that singers hold vocal tension is under the CHIN. The Digastrics, the Mylohyoids, and the Geniohyoids are the major muscles located there. The main purpose of these muscles is for swallowing. However, they can also tighten during singing. Try placing a finger beneath your chin as you practice. You should not feel this area get tight or bulky, particularly as you move to higher notes. If it does tighten, you can either massage the muscles or hold them gently. If you still have problems, try some jaw and tongue stretches to free up the tension. All of these muscles are connected to the Larynx, so it’s very important to make sure they remain free at all times. But, if you do struggle with tension beneath your chin, don’t get discouraged! Keep your CHIN up!
Are you an ADVENTUROUS singer? Or, do you stick to what you’re already good at? It's certainly important to know what styles suit your voice. However, it's also important to step outside the box. After all, how can we realize the amazing possibilities of our voices without taking some risks? Start stretching your musical ears and tastes by finding a few songs that aren't in your typical style. Even if they are not “your thing”, try to truly COMMIT to them. You may not end up ever performing, recording, or auditioning with these songs, but your skills as an artist will be stretched and developed. Open your ears and soul to the ADVENTURE of working on styles that are outside of your everyday vocal life!
Now more than ever, Vocal Styles are being MERGED. You hear a Legit Soprano singing over distorted Rock. You go see a Broadway Musical and hear Hip Hop music. You listen to a Pop song and hear undercurrents of Reggaeton. This is all the more reason to explore multiple styles of music in your vocal training and practice! It’s time to stop thinking of yourself as just ONE kind of singer. Usually when we ask people what kind of music they like, they will answer “I like pretty much everything”. So, when you ask yourself “what do I sing?”, you can answer “I sing pretty much everything.” While it’s always good to specialize in a genre or two, be aware of the ways musical genres continue to intermingle. Not only is all this MERGING an exciting trend - it’s also an amazing encouragement for your EMERGING vocal capabilities!
Today is the day to give THANKS! Have you ever stopped to think about what a beautiful gift the voice is? Through speaking and singing, the voice allows us to communicate with others, express our true selves, and create an INFINITE number of glorious sounds. The best part about this is that the voice is a gift freely given! You were born with it! This Thanksgiving, alongside the other blessings in your life, don't forget to be thankful for your voice! Use it today to tell your loved ones that you love them and are grateful for them. Or, maybe sing a song of Thanks for all the goodness in your life. All of us at NYVC are so blessed to be a part of your vocal journey. Make A THANKFUL Noise!
VOCAL REGISTRATION! Is this a "fancy vocal term" or a concept that's unfamiliar to you? It doesn’t have to be! Vocal Registers are merely shifts in the function of the vocal cords, the vocal muscles, and the resonance of the sound as you move across your range. Each Vocal Register will FEEL a bit different to you. Pay attention while you do your vocal exercises. What sensations do you notice as you move through registers like Vocal Fry, Chest Voice, Mixed Voice, Head Voice, Falsetto, and even Whistle? Identifying and remembering your registers PHYSICALLY will help you to blend them seamlessly and also incorporate them into your songs. CONGRATS! You’ve just become a better singer AND you know another fancy vocal term!
Whether it’s over an orchestra, in an auditorium, or across a crowd of people - it’s common to want our voices to CARRY. Unfortunately, it’s also common to tighten or squeeze parts of the throat in an effort to do it. The famous saying “Many hands make light work” applies here. Instead of the brute force of projection alone, it's better to use SEVERAL ideas instead. First, make sure that your breath is not being shoved out, but rather allow your sound to be carried on a steady flow. Next, take advantage of the brighter resonances of your voice like TWANG. Higher overtones help sound waves to travel. Finally, allow your larynx, neck, tongue, and jaw to feel relaxed and loose so that your sound doesn’t get constricted. These many vocal hands will make your work light. Keep calm and CARRY on!
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 chance by approaching a song step-by-step. Don’t get immediately frustrated with learning new music. Breathe. Plan. Practice. Succeed. Repeat.
Got a FROG in your throat? Well, maybe it’s actually your TONGUE! If your voice sounds froggy, swallowed, or choked, then the root of your tongue might be the root of your problem. Make sure your tongue root isn’t pressing down and back. This often gives a false feeling of strength and security, but it comes at a cost. Tongue retraction puts pressure on the larynx and blocks your most free and natural resonances. That’s exactly why it sounds like a frog and not like you. If you struggle with these habits, try vocal exercises with your tongue fully extended on a “HAA” sound. Observe whether it wants to pull back. Try to keep it from doing so as notes change. You'll notice an immediate improvement. So... HOP to it!
What is RESONANCE? Resonance is “sound waves vibrating within a space”. Those spaces are the pharynx, larynx, nasal cavity, and mouth. Yet, Resonance can often cause sensations and vibrations in other parts of the body too. Simple spoken exercises can help you locate these vibrations. Find Chest Voice by calling out a strong “YO!”. You'll likely feel a slight vibration in the chest. Nasal Resonance can be felt by humming on “MM”. You should feel vibrations behind your nose. To experience Head Voice, make a high-pitched owl sound on “HOO”. You should feel slight vibrations in various places in your head. Your Resonance is beautiful. Hopefully, you FEEL that this is true!
Many singers fall into the habit of beginning and ending phrases with sounds that aren't actually in the words they're singing. Some common examples include “M”, “N”, “H”, as well as glottal stops and vocal fry. These sounds can all be used as vocal effects, particularly in contemporary music. However, it’s important to start from a NEUTRAL place. All phrases should be able to be sung with clear and even tone before extra effects are added. One way to practice this is to do a voiced Lip Trill that immediately leads into a phrase. Do the lip trill on the phrase’s starting note and then transition into the lyric. You can even do this at the end of your phrases if you're struggling there. Make sure your stylistic details are CHOICES and not habits!
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!
What part of your body do you LEAD with? The way you present your body to the world has a big effect on your emotional state and your energy. Some people lead with their chests, presenting a sense of confidence and strength. Other people lead with their hips, like the swaying swaggers of Mick Jagger or Elvis Presley. Some of us lead with the tops of our heads as we walk with our faces down at the ground or our phones. When you sing, think about what part of your body is leading. Your voice may come out of your mouth and nose, but perhaps you feel the energy coming from your chest during a strong song. Or, perhaps your hips need to get involved in a sultry or jazzy song. Maybe you even lead with your eyes during highly energetic songs. Leading with different parts of your body will LEAD you to many new performance options!