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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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.
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!
UNIQUE VOICE UNDER CONSTRUCTION
Remember that your voice has its own unique fingerprint and is constantly changing with our actions, environment, health habits, etc. With this in mind, listen to your own voice often and use vocal training tools to keep your voice on the right track. Stylistically embrace the changes that occur over time, but discipline your vocal machine to remain in balance to support your artistry. Embrace your uniqueness and enjoy your voice.
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.
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.
Humming should be easy and sound alive. If you cannot hum well, you are not singing up to your potential. Humming is a good way to determine which part of your vocal instrument is not warmed up or pulling its weight. When you hum you should be able to feel the resonant vibration on the front of your face.
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.
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.
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.
SING THE STORY
Singing is acting through song. Why sing the song and not convey the message? Get emotionally involved with the lyrics. Figure out what would make you spontaneously speak the words and sing them with conviction.
Be sure to get your rest. Singing well is a very physical art form. If you are tired, your voice will show it. A tired body/instrument will not allow you to produce your best possible sound.
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.
Learning the facts about tone placement and resonance make a huge difference in the abilities of a singer. In simple terms, a singer has numerous body cavities (nasal cavity, chest cavity, etc.) and amplifiers (bones, ligaments, etc.) that act as resonators. Focusing the vocal tone through the proper resonating chamber with the proper support is a major key to controlling and developing your personal sound.
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?
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.
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]
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.
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.
NEVER DISRESPECT YOUR INSTRUMENT
Never sing if it hurts to swallow.
Vibrato is a natural or forced fluctuation of a singing tone. Do not concentrate on learning how to sing with vibrato. Instead, concentrate on the basic foundations of singing, breathing and support. When the proper coordination is achieved, vibrato will occur naturally. While forced vibrato can be used effectively, natural vibrato gives the tone a life of its own. Pure and natural vibrato is an unexplained musical phenomenon and can only be achieved through balancing the breath in the vocal instrument.
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.