Here's is a small sample of some of our free singing tips. Most of our tips via e-mail are longer and more detailed than we are able to provide here.
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ENERGY NOT EFFORT
This is one of the most confusing concepts in singing. Energy in the tone is what we want and Effort is something we want to desperately to avoid. Energy is created naturally when our vocal instrument is in balance and our body is involved in the singing process. It feels good. It feels easy. Sometimes it occurs naturally and other times we may have to make adjustments. Effort usually occurs when singers use their throat muscles/membranes and vocal cords improperly to create volume. We should actually feel and see very little happening in our throat area.
When learning to sing your full range and accomplish the desired one voice (same power with similar tone throughout the whole range) singers often experience cracks and breaks. One way to test this is to practice a siren. Slide on the syllable “he” from the bottom of your range to the top. If you do not experience cracks or breaks, try it on all syllables at all volumes. When you find yourself faced with this challenge, it is the common response to “try harder” or “give more effort” on those notes. This is not the way to solve this issue. What you want to do is to lighten up just a bit on these notes, let them float like a feather instead of trying harder and stomping on them. Understand that most often this is caused because muscles and membranes not having the memory they need to make the transition you require, as quickly as you want it made. Repetition will give them memory, so keep practicing. Lighten up just a bit on those notes and sing through the break. Don’t develop the habit of stopping when you “crack” or it will come back to bite you later.
Training in front of a mirror can help a singer discover many things about their instrument, as well as confirm that other actions are being done correctly. Be sure to rely on a mirror during vocal training, but be able to leave the mirror to face an audience.
UNIFY YOUR VOWELS
You know how you can sing one word on a specific note easily, but another word seems much harder? You could probably use some practice and training on unifying your vowels. The ability to unify your vowels and make them sound as if they come from one instrument, having about the same high and low frequencies and blended with no cracks or breaks is one skill that separates the accomplished singer from an amateur.
YOU CAN SING
Making an impact on a room is as much about expression as it is physical ability. Take the time to understand your current skill level and exercise your vocal machine to help it become as balanced as possible at your current level. Make a plan for improvement, but ACCEPT your current level and love it. Face every song performance like a football player approaches the field. Forget about everything else except for the current play and how much you love the game. Say to yourself, YOU CAN SING and give it everything you've got.
VOLUME AND POWER
Volume and power should be gained by using the muscles in the back and abdomen. If you are losing your voice after 4-6 songs or if you hear a lot of “effort” in your tone (it doesn’t float in a pure fashion), then you are probably using your throat.
The most efficient way to learn a song is actually to NOT sing it right away. By listening to a song you can learn what you are supposed to do a lot faster, without creating any bad habits you are only going to have to break later. If you can think sing a song from beginning to end, anticipating every breath and melody nuance, then you are ready to sing. It’s like a playbook for football. Study the play first before jumping in the game. Not successfully “think singing” the song before you actually sing it is like a ball player running around the field with no idea of the play.
ELASTICITY OF THE VOCAL FOLDS
The vocal tone is created as airflow bursts through the cleft of the vocal cords causing them to vibrate/oscillate. The vocal folds can lose elasticity due to misuse, lack of use and/or increase of age. Be sure to train your voice with vocal exercises on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape.
Communicate the music's message. During performance it is very important to communicate the message of the song. If you make a "mistake" don't point it out to your audience. It is most likely they did not even notice.
GET OVER IT and GO FOR IT
So many talented young singers come into my studio with a good voice and with work, really shine on their vocal skills…but when it comes to performance they suffer the “I’m afraid I’ll look stupid” syndrome. Why do we do that? We see music videos and concerts every day when artists give us their all, and yet we feel less stupid singing like a statue than we do really going for it? Makes no sense, but this is not a random occurrence. And unfortunately, when you don’t really “perform” the song, you will never be able to give your absolute best performance. Why? Performance involves some sort of emotional connection with the song, when you put the emotion on your face and in your body, you will sing completely differently than the statue, no matter how knowledgeable.
QUIT BAD HABITS
Quit smoking. Quit talking too loudly. Quit talking too much. Quit clenching your jaw. Quit holding your breath. Quit beating yourself up for vocal imperfections.
BUILD YOUR SONG PERFORMANCE
Think about how a well-constructed roller coaster builds in intensity and suspense throughout the ride. Your song should have the same sort of ups and downs. For the best results, plan the dynamics (volume and intensity) of your singing. Don’t just sing as powerfully as you can from the get go. Figure out the emotional and natural build of the music and sing accordingly. As an example using a basic song form, you would do your initial build from Verse 1 through Chorus 1, bring them back a bit for Verse 2 only to get a slightly bigger build (than the peak of Chorus 1) on Chorus 2 before exploding into the bridge. Remember, singing is as much an art form as a skill.
Never hold your breath while singing. The airflow is what creates and carries your vocal tone, so keep it flowing. Avoid Clavicular Breathing and Belly Breathing -- instead, learn the proper way to breathe for singing, called diaphragmatic breathing. Fill the lower portion of your lungs as if you had an inner tube around your waist, evenly filling the entire area.
OPEN YOUR MOUTH WIDER
Nine times out of ten this will help you achieve a stronger, more defined vocal tone.
INCREASE YOUR BREATHING SKILLS
Increase your breathing capacity and control by doing breathing exercises every day. Be sure to avoid patterned breathing. Singers must negotiate phrase lengths of all different sizes, so it is important to be versatile.
Low notes are often sung with too much, or more specifically too fast of an airflow. Try decreasing your airflow speed, keeping it focused, not pushed, to achieve a more natural, more relaxed tone.
ALWAYS ON THE PHONE?
If you speak on the phone at work you should be aware of the adverse effects this causes your larynx. When you speak you're listening to your voice through the tiny ear piece which has a small electronic sound. Subconsciously you adjust your voice to make the sound more intense. This situation over a period of time will aggravate your larynx due to over-energizing the point where the two vocal folds meet. Be sure to breathe deeply and keep your voice animated by changing the pitch frequently.[Tip excerpted from The Rock-N-Roll Singer's Survival Manual]
Wishing your voice was pro quality won’t get it there. You’d be surprised what one hour of specific vocal practice five days a week can do. Sorry, this doesn’t usually apply to singing your favorite songs during commute time or singing the same song over and over again in your bedroom. While you may make some improvement this way, making a productive practice vocal plan would be much more efficient and of course, help you make much faster progress.
DARE TO TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
So many singers practice the same song, the same way, over and over and over again. If it didn’t work the first twenty times, why is it going to work the twenty-first? Try altering different aspects of your singing and attempt to find an easier way to accomplish your best sound. For example, increase/decrease articulation, increase/decrease the amount of airflow, increase/decrease diaphragm support, alter tone placement, alter resonance…get the picture?
Breathing properly for singing requires the shoulders to remain down and relaxed, not rise with the breath intake. A singer will gain power to their voice by strengthening the muscles in their rib cage and back.
(E)XERCISE YOUR VOICE REGULARLY
So many singers shy away from actually doing exercises, claiming they can train and warm up by singing their favorite songs. While some professionals will do this in a pinch, most of them train using exercises and warm up their voice prior to performance the same way. Pros know that warm ups will take you through muscle movements that a song never could. Not only will warm ups tell you where you voice is “not awake”, but using them during training can help you develop necessary muscle memory for difficult passages you encounter later. Today it is easy to accomplish these tasks as there are many vocal exercise CDs available. There is even a dynamic and interactive style vocal warm ups system now available at http://VocalWarmups.com. Here is another quick tip…when you go to sing your song, you should be singing it like you sing the vocal exercises. Most of us will exercise with good placement, support, resonance, etc., but when we add words and our favorite melody all that goes out the window. Work at being consistent. If we were a football quarterback, would we practice throwing the ball one way and then throw it completely differently during a game? I don’t think so.
QUIT SINGING THROUGH YOUR NOSE
Nasal tone qualities occur when there is too much resonance in your nasal cavity and not enough sympathetic resonance or overtones being created in other cavities. One quick fix is to simply open your mouth taller.