Category Archives: Speech Level Singing

“…those that ‘can’ and those that have to work at it…”

Good Thursday Vocalists!

Have you ever thought about how people who like to sing fall into two categories,.. those who can sing and those who have to work at it?  The truth is, even those who can sing need guidance.  Singing / vocal lessons are for anyone who wants to sing well.

Even the most gifted singers take lessons. Take Michael Jackson for instance.  He worked as hard at improving and maintaing his voice as he did at making great quality productions.  He had a super talent even as a child.  If you listen to his earliest childhood recordings you can identify some great singing but also some technique that needed improving and he did just that and took his voice to the highest level he was capable of.  He improved his range to about 4 octaves and sang effortlessly from F1 to C6.

I’ve often referred to the following “rare audio. In a hotel room in ’94.”  The recording was taken during a vocal session by phone with renowned Speech Level Singing creator, Seth Riggs.  Yes, even Michael Jackson appreciated the benefits of vocal lessons.

So remember, if you want to sing as good as your favorite singer, they took lessons to get that great voice.

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Vocal Tip: Blending Backup Vocals

Photo: Musicademy

Photo: Musicademy

“Coordination of the vocal cords takes a sense of awareness of how your voice works, vocal mechanics, and an ability to identify, isolate and control vocal function. Most singers have no idea what their voices are doing apart from training and would benefit from a few good lessons to help them on their way.

Blending in with other vocalists is a balance of lyric, tonal quality, timing, dynamic and sensitivity. Not only does a vocalist need to be flexible vocally but they must be flexible when it comes to following and mimicking genre and stylistics. Each group or band has their own style that is developed through the preferences and style of the leader or type of group such as a classical choir, barbershop singers or rock band as well as all that the individuals bring to the group as a whole. Learning to sing in a number of styles makes the backup vocalist a valuable part of the team. Any backup vocalist should know it’s important to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and be willing to devote themselves to always be improving their talent so they can be the best fit in any situation. Good luck, God bless and Sing On!”

(reposted by Cosima on an earlier post)

Visit Musicademy for more on BGV

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Filed under Lead Worship, Singing, Speech Level Singing, Vocal Lessons, Vocal Tips

Today’s Vocal Tip: Every Body Can Sing!

Singing Tip

Singing Tip

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!!

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What a voice lesson looks like!

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?

NAME: xxxxxx
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

Lesson Goals:

  • 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

Foundational exercises 

  1. Isolating outer muscles of the larynx to gain control and free the vocal cords 
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. What to remember – learn to recognize vocal cord adjustments by how they feel. 
  2. Working towards Pure Tone
    1. Vocal fry – vocal cord vibration with no tone.
    2. 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.
    3. What to remember – expect progress over time with good practice habits.
  3. Good breathing for singing
    1. Diaphragmatic breathing – using the diaphragm to draw air into the lungs rather than ‘filling up the lungs’ from the top down.
    2. 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.
    3. What to Remember – Breathing for singing is different than breathing for speech. 
  4. Tension busters
    1. Relaxing in the jaw and mouth. (see blog for exercises to release jaw and tongue tension)
    2. Open relaxed jaw and mouth for better volume/diction

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This week in The Studio

Tip of the Week

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.”

tongue tension

  • 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.

tongue tension 2

  • 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 ..
Jaw tension

  • 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.

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Filed under Singing, Speech Level Singing, Vocal Tips, worshipone.org/blog

Overcoming hurdles through training.

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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!

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Lets Start at the Very Beginning . . .

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The average person has no idea what voice type they have,.. or their range. If they were asked to describe their voice they could find it difficult to identify whether they we’re a tenor, baritone or bass, or an alto or soprano. That’s fine for the average person, but if they want to be a singer then identifying voice type, range, and some voice habits they may have is a very good place to start.

Typical voice habits can be a big obstacle to discovering voice type and range that, over time, become nagging or even serious voice issues that might look like this:

A singer, starting on a relatively low note, begins singing gradually higher and higher, their voice might falter or flip over notes, only to become breathy and weak. Some may find they hit a barrier that keeps them from reaching the upper part of their range. Vocal strain then becomes an ever increasing problem.

These common singing habits are easy fixes when you know how to address them correctly. But without knowing how to overcome these common problems a singer will continue to struggle and could easily hurt their voice, even give up singing altogether.

How about a little exercise? Repeat the phrase “nay, nay, nay, nay” in a comfortable speaking voice. Feel the vibrations in your chest, throat, face and nasal cavities. Notice how relaxed your vocal cords feel? Can you identify all the places you feel vibration? Can you mentally identify and isolate the vocal cords?

Now repeat the same exercise in a comfortable speaking voice only this time while saying, “nay, nay, nay, nay” try a sliding-up sound. Something like the sound of a question. If you did it right it will feel very comfortable… like speaking, but you are moving into singing.

Now again, repeating the, “nay, nay, nay, nay” sound while rising higher and higher and then falling down again. If you focus on the vibrations and the relaxed position of your vocal cords you might find that your voice is freer and you’ve moved past some of the vocal habits I spoke of earlier.

This little exercise is one of several “First Steps to Vocal Freedom.” It may seem silly but, trust me, you will begin to love those silly sounds over time as they help you transform your voice and reveal the true singer within.

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