Every body can sing!
Every human body has the same anatomy and we all can develop our voices to sing well. That doesn’t mean that everyone’s voice is going to be as awesome as their favorite singer, but it does mean that with proper technique everybody can produce a healthy, free, resonant sound. That means YOU!!
In singing, relaxation is key. Learn to observe and feel your body and understand its behaviors; it will always tell you what’s going on, but most of the time we don’t pay attention. People have various tensions and it takes time and patience to retrain how your body behaves – but it’s totally doable! And a relaxed voice is the foundation for good singing.
So, first things first… for the next 24 hours (any date after reading this post) see if you can practice a relaxed posture in your body and voice during singing. Set aside several 5 minute spots in your day to purposefully sing with a mindset to focus on removing tension when you sing. Don’t allow yourself to indulge in your regular singing habits any time during the 24 hour period. Don’t worry about whether your voice sounds good just make sure you have released all tension in your jaw, tongue, throat, vocal apparatus, face, shoulders and body. Think about freeing up your voice. Your voice shouldn’t feel trapped in your throat or sound muddy. A breathy sound is ok, but it should feel free of all tension.
Repeat several times over the next 24 hours remembering to avoid any other kind of singing. Allow what you’ve learned from the experience to get you in touch with your voice. Then come on back to this post and share your comments. Let me know how it went. Ask questions and share some feedback. Let’s get talking!!
One of my vocal students tweeted the following complaint in regards to singing, to which a short conversation got me involved on facebook. Check out the conversation and add your comments or questions. Let’s see if anyone else out there has similar singing challenges!
uggghhh…why must Hillsong songs be so vocally challenging for me…well except for Mighty To Save. but I will press on #challengeaccepted
Why is “mighty to save” not challenging to sing?? I would always choose that song before my vocal lessons because it didn’t seem hard… Maybe Cosima can tell us why?
Cosima ~From TheVoiceBox:
Ahhh that’s easy! First off, Mighty To Save only has one octave in it. That’s a very small range so if you sing it in a key you are comfortable in there’s no challenge at all. You could, in fact, sing the whole song in your chest voice thereby avoiding singing into your head voice.
Essentially, that’s like using only the speaking range of your voice and I don’t know anyone who has trouble speaking unless they have an impairment.
Secondly, the melody is highly repetitive and is uncomplicated melodically as well as lyrically making it a no brainer. So… you can sing the whole song in your speaking range, and you don’t have to concentrate too hard.
Finally, the song starts at the low end of the scale and slowly makes it’s way up to the octave during the bridge, giving your voice time to set up for the “high” note. What could be easier?
BTW, this would make a nice lesson in good songwriting for worship.
(My response assumes that Cherry had transposed the song into a key she was comfortable in.)
Ever wonder what your voice lesson might be like? Here’s a sample of my lesson notes from a 60 min free mini-lesson given this week. Have you set yours up yet?
3/13 Vocal Evaluation & mini-lesson:
Vocal Evaluation determined beginning range to be: Undetermined at this time.
Possible Choral Alto/Choral Mezzo Soprano
Range at first lesson : C3 – G5
- Intro to vocal mechanics
- The vocal registers and range
- Chest voice, head voice, whistle voice, falsetto, vocal fry
- Breathing for singing
- Recognizing and dealing with tension
- Isolating outer muscles of the larynx to gain control and free the vocal cords
- Bubble exercise – placing finders on cheeks where teeth join to produce a loose lip pucker. Sing through the low end of your range to the high end with minimal effort without tripping over the ‘breaks’ in your range. Remember to control breath support. Avoid letting all the air escape all at once.
- This foundational exercise should become a daily routine. The action of the lips frees up the vocal cords by releasing unwanted outer larynx muscles and setting the larynx up for correct speech-level position. Paying close attention to all the sensations in the vocal apparatus will help you isolate the healthy vocal function needed for beautiful, free singing.
- What to remember – learn to recognize vocal cord adjustments by how they feel.
- Working towards Pure Tone
- Vocal fry – vocal cord vibration with no tone.
- Positions the vocal cords for optimum connection thereby producing a pure clear tone with minimal effort. Also foundational. While most exercises such as the Bubble, are only part of a vocal workout or warm up routine the vocal fry will remain part of how you sing.
- What to remember – expect progress over time with good practice habits.
- Good breathing for singing
- Diaphragmatic breathing – using the diaphragm to draw air into the lungs rather than ‘filling up the lungs’ from the top down.
- Making this part of a daily practice routine will build the support you need to move you toward controlled phrasing and support steady well placed tone while maintaining pitch control.
- What to Remember – Breathing for singing is different than breathing for speech.
- Tension busters
- Relaxing in the jaw and mouth. (see blog for exercises to release jaw and tongue tension)
- Open relaxed jaw and mouth for better volume/diction
Having trouble blending vocals? Here's a reblog from 2008.. Sing On!
Tip of the Week
Jaw and tongue tension can wreak havoc on a vocalist’s endurance during a performance not to mention, make singing difficult and exhausting while limiting one’s full vocal potential. But if you can’t identify and isolate the offending muscles then you won’t gain control. No control – no vocal freedom.
Try these exercises to get started identifying and isolating tension in your jaw and tongue in order to get in the best position during singing.
- Gently drop your jaw down and back while opening your mouth as if to say, “ahhh.”
- Then move your tongue out of your mouth and drape it over your lower lip while keeping it flat and very relaxed. Hold it there for several seconds while singing a comfortable scale with the “ahhh” sound. Be sure to keep it resting very still but not tight. The tongue should feel relaxed from tip to root except for the least amount of effort it takes to keep it extended and over the lower lip.
- Last, retract your relaxed tongue and place it flat, just touching behind the lower front teeth. Repeat the “ahhh” sound on a comfortable scale. Again, the tongue is kept relaxed and still with no tension.
Do this exercise through a series of scales from chest voice to head voice noting whenever there is tension until you can sing through your range with no tension.
For jaw tension try this ..
- Find the joints located just in front of your ears, place your fingertips just by and in front of your ears on both sides of your face and open your mouth. The space that opens up as your jawbone moves is your temporal mandibular joint. Massage these joints using your fingertips or the palms of your hands. Release your jaw further and massage deeper as you exhale.
Do these exercises a few minutes at the beginning of your daily vocal exercise routine and watch that tension begin to melt away.
One way to get those chord progressions to sound fabulous is by making sure you are optimizing your hand position. Here’s a video that teaches you some quick tips for making barre chords ring true.
Elmore Music has some great videos that can get you playing in no time. Check out their 6 Free Beginning Lessons and have a look around their site for more great guitar playing instruction.
So if a guitar player starts to play one of these hit songs, what enables other people to figure out which song it is before the singing starts?
A song like Sweet Home Alabama for instance, is just plain old D, C and G chords…
But it is the WAY those chords are played that makes that iconic song instantly recognizable by anyone in the room.
Strumming makes a HUGE difference. Check out this video for more instruction on strumming.
One of my vocal students has come to a hurdle in her vocal journey. Mary tells me she’s lost strength in her chestvoice after working on having free vocal production in her headvoice with light connection.
This hurdle is so common amongst vocalists. One day they have great success through their range and the next day they have difficulty repeating it. It can be a frustrating process but it doesn’t have to be.
So, how do singers get past vocal hurdles like Mary’s? Conditioning! We’ve got to strengthen and coordinate the vocal folds and the muscles and bring balance between air flow, vocal folds and muscles. We achieve this only through the training process. It doesn’t happen over night any more than training for a marathon does. This is why vocalists need to train through their whole range, over their breaks, from low chestvoice to high headvoice and back, without any noticeable fluctuations in tone production, breath control or dynamic volume.
Vocal training produces confidence, because vocal training develops consistency in the voice. There’s nothing more thrilling for a singer than to have the confidence their voice will perform to their expectations every time in every situation because they have consistency in their voice! Having a daily vocal exercise routine is the singers most effective tool in their pursuit of consistency and PURE VOCAL FREEDOM!