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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So many students avoid improving certain mechanical skills because they claim that it is their style. While it is true that certain things a singer does, shape of their mouth, how they pronounce words, etc., contributes to their signature voice… improving how you create your tone will only make your signature voice better. Don’t back away from understanding your voice; learn all you can about your instrument in order to create your best sound.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OPEN YOUR MOUTH WIDER
Nine times out of ten this will help you achieve a stronger, more defined vocal tone.
NEVER DISRESPECT YOUR INSTRUMENT
Never sing if it hurts to swallow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 are having trouble getting your body completely involved with singing, try doing some cardiovascular activities, like jumping jacks, for a few minutes before getting started again. Sometimes your instrument simply needs an airflow wake-up call.
PREPARATION MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Singers are very much like athletes. Take care of your body/instrument by stretching out the vocal muscles and relieving the body of unnecessary tension before singing.
Never guess the pitch you are about to sing. Hear the note in your head before you open your mouth.