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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(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.
Never guess the pitch you are about to sing. Hear the note in your head before you open your mouth.
Most people don’t realize how tense their jaw is…because it feels perfectly natural to them. Be sure to stretch out your face and jaw muscles and even make a specific point to monitor your jaw when singing to be sure it truly is relaxed. If your jaw is tense, you will not receive your best tone and perhaps even have trouble hitting some of the higher tones.
Develop the strength and coordination of the diaphragm and become a pro at controlling the speed of the airflow released, the quantity of the airflow released and the consistency of the airflow released.
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.
KEEP IT CLEAN
When practicing your vocal skills focus on creating a pure and clear tone first, free of airiness, rasp and other tonal changes added for stylistic purposes. If you cannot create a clear tone full of life and energy, you are not singing up to your potential.
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.
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.
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.
COPE WITH THE UNEXPECTED
Singing events and challenges occur with every performance. Deal with them the SMART way. Figure out which part of your vocal instrument is out of balance and make an instant adjustment. If you are not sure what actually makes up your “vocal instrument” you would definitely benefit from learning vocal mechanics.
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.
Resonance is commonly defined as the “key to your signature voice.” As singers, we are far more interested on how we manipulate it that it’s textbook definition. Resonance is created by the sound wave/frequency you are creating is shaped and amplified by dancing in a resonating cavity (chest, mouth, nasal, sinus). The resonating cavity we have the most control over is the size and shape of our mouth. So play around with the size and shape of the mouth to hear changes in your resonance. With regard to mouth shape, taller is preferred over wider.
Using your articulators (lips, teeth, tip of the tongue) more specifically to create your words will help you sing better and more easily. So many of us swallow our articulation (meaning farther back in our mouth) and that habit gets in the way of resonance, tone placement and other important singing mechanics. To improve your skill, quickly say the articulator tongue twister five times in a row: “lips, teeth, tip of the tongue. Lips, teeth, etc.” Be sure to really concentrate on exaggerating the movements with the articulators. See where all the action is? That is where you feel the action of articulation when you sing. Keep in mind that you will probably feel like you are moving them in a ridiculous fashion if you are not used to using them actively. Check a mirror, you’ll probably be surprised.
SING THROUGH THE VOCAL BREAK
If you do not teach the muscles the necessary actions to sing through the trouble spots, success will never be achieved. If you constantly stop every time you hear a crack or break…how will you ever get past it? Easy. Practice singing through those notes repeatedly. Don't PUSH through the break, LIFT through the break, keeping your chin in a down position. If your chin starts to lift to the sky and you are not properly prepared underneath (diaphragm, palate, etc.), you're gonna crack.
If you have been around organized singing groups or perhaps even studied training you have probably heard these terms: chest voice, middle voice, head voice and belt voice. Some singers have even had the misfortune of studying under these kinds of principles…unfortunately that usually means they can’t sing very many songs and still sound like one person. When they go up for that higher note in the phrase they end up switching to some hooty, covered, “head voice” sound. We won’t go into the foundation of these terms here, but know that your goal as a singer is to manage the balance of resonance in all cavities so you can sing from low to high with a consistent tone.
FREE YOUR NATURAL VOICE
Don't be a slave to any music style – even your favorite one. Learn to sing with your full and natural voice by developing your vocal strength and coordination. Then add stylistic nuances to achieve any singing style you desire.
LIFT YOUR DIAPHRAGM
So many singers learn to “belly breath” (breathe into the belly) and therefore tend to think that lifting their diaphragm feels similar to holding in their stomach. You can sing like this, but you are only using half your resources and not making full use of the power provided by the muscles in the back. To get your best breath for singing, you want to fill up your abdomen like an inner tube, you should feel expansion all the way around your body…yes, even in your back. Then to compress the air and support the vocal tone release, you lift the diaphragm muscle straight up from the center of your body. If you are used to the other way, it takes some practice to get the new diaphragm muscle memory, but well worth the effort!
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.
NEVER DISRESPECT YOUR INSTRUMENT
Never sing if it hurts to swallow.
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.
MONEY NOTES MATTER
Let’s face it. If you are singing a song with a big money note, let’s be real. You can knock the rest of the song out of the park, but if you miss the money note that’s all your audience will remember. A lot of times singers miss money notes because they are worried about it and if you even think for a moment that it “might not happen” you just increased your odds of it not happening by a great deal. Usually it is only one or two notes of a phrase that reach that “money” potential. When you focus specifically on the note, you compartmentalize it and tell your subconscious to watch out for it. Instead, in practice try concentrating on the phrase. Figure out how to use the phrase to your advantage. Sometimes changing your placement on the note(s) just before your money note can make a huge difference. And of course, during performance…see yourself hitting that note like a pro. If you can see it and you believe it, you’ll hit it almost every time.
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.