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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WATER WATER WATER
Drink room temperature water as often as you can to keep hydrated. If you only have cold or hot water available, swish it around in your mouth for a moment. This action will keep related muscles from being startled or stressed by different temperatures. Keep in mind that if you only drink water when you feel the dehydration during performance, the water you intake will be dispersed to the larger muscles in the body, not your vocal cords. In order to avoid vocal dehydration during performance, pay attention to your body's hydration all-day, every-day.
RAISE THE SOFT PALATE
Creating a larger space inside your mouth by raising the soft palate, or fleshy part of the back of our throat, helps achieve a deeper more well rounded singing tone.
One way to achieve this is to think of biting into a large apple. At SingSmart™ we like to call this APPLE AH. To practice, pretend you are about to bite into an imaginary apple and sing AH.
Remember, it takes repetition of this action to retrain those muscles to hold that position so do this on a regular basis for many weeks while you practice. Before you know it, this action will be moved into your subconscious and you will be singing with a lifted soft palate and creating a much warmer, rounder vocal tone..AND, singing will be easier.
Never guess the pitch you are about to sing. Hear the note in your head before you open your mouth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
INCREASE YOUR AIR SPEED
Increase your air speed for high notes and decrease your air speed for lower notes. Each frequency requires a specific air speed to create the absolute best tone. Many singers push too much air, too quickly, while singing low notes in an attempt to make the note louder. All this does is add stress and tension to the tone. Use your ears to tell you when the proper balance is reached. The tone should sound clear and pure before adding stylistic nuances.
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.
NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT
The perception of the audience is the reality. Say that out loud, “the perception of the audience is the reality.” What they think is true, is true. So if you sing with confidence and handle that “creative” phrase you accidentally added like a professional, most of your audience will be convinced that you meant to sing it that way. Professionals sing creative nuances, amateurs make mistakes.
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.
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.
PLACEMENT OF YOUR TONE
PLACEMENT OF YOUR TONE refers to where the tone is centered. Mastering tone placement will make your singing incredibly easy and consistent. Some people are born with the skill of good tone placement and others have to really work at it. To get technical, there is both a horizontal and vertical placement. For example: horizontal placement, the tone can be centered at the front of your mouth, the middle or the back (back never preferred). For example: vertical placement, draw a line from the middle of your chin to the top middle of your head. The higher the note, the higher the placement.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.