Without airflow no sound - without breathing no airflow! That's just the reality of singing. So, the way you breathe greatly determines the way your voice will sound. Since the vocal cords can only vibrate when there's air flowing through them, it's important for any singer to master the art of absolute control over the air that goes in and out of her body. You want to become the master of airflow, and don't want the air to dictate how long and strong you can sing any given pitch or passage.
Like any other craft, it's all a matter of repetition: the more you practice good breathing, the more automatic it will get, and the more ease you will ultimately feel in your singing.
Here are the most important points to keep in mind for good breathing technique:
- Keep your throat open. If you can hear a lot of air passing through, it's a sign of your throat not being open. Hardly anything should be heard when you inhale.
- Keep your neck straight. Don't tilt your head up or down or turn it sideways. Also, don't shift your head forward or pull it back, since it creates pressure on the larynx and vocal cords.
- Relax your jaw. Don't gasp for air with your mouth wide open. Just keep it in a relaxed, natural position.
- Breathe through your mouth. It's the fastest and most direct way to fill your lungs with air and doesn't create any unpleasant sound when you use a mic.
- Keep your shoulders calm and relaxed. Make sure you don't pull them up or backward. Your arms should hang at the side of your body very loosely. That will free your hands up for gestures during singing without you HAVING to do a certain movement all the time that is just created by tension.
- Expand your ribs when you inhale. Always remember that the lungs are surrounded by the ribs. When you sing, don't collapse - keep the ribs out.
- Keep your torso straight. This ensures that there are no blockages hindering the air from flowing freely. You can have great posture while standing, but also when you sit or even lay down, as long as you keep your upper body straight and the airflow unrestricted.
- Always remember that your body is your instrument. When you smoke or do other things to your body that impair its health, it will also affect your singing. You won't be able to breathe freely and easily. So, you should always take good care of your instrument!
Keep these things in mind and you will see a great improvment in your voice. It will feel more supported and open, and once these things become automatic, it will reduce tension on your vocal tract. I wish you happy singing!
Have you ever listened to a singer who doesn't hit the pitch quite right? Or do you remember sitting in a recital of a violin student who wasn't exactly perfect yet? You also probably know the feeling when you sing and you know the instance the pitch sounds that it was just a little off. No matter how good your intonation is, there's always room to get better. Training your ear doesn't only improve your intonation, but also enhances your concentration in regards to what's happening around you musically and what you do with your voice. Every musician, and especially every singer, should do ear training. Period. When you do this, you singing will become much more accurate and clean. Here are ten easy ways you can get in some ear training between lessons and performances:
- Interval Training: Since every song consists of a combination of intervals, it's extremely important to have a feeling for how far each pitch is away from another one, weather it be a forth, fifth, sixth, major or minor seventh or any other interval. It's one of the core competencies of a good singer to be able to sing clean intervals. Also, knowing your intervals will help you greatly to read sheet music, to hear what's happening in a piece of music and to understand the music much better overall. It's just a matter of practice, so don't be discouraged if it's hard at first. There are excellent resources on the web that help you to practice intervals. Here are a few of them: 1. Interval Chart with songs you know by Aaron Matthew of your-personal-singing-guide.com. 2. Ear Beater is a great free online interval training tool with tons of different lessons 3. Pitch Improver is another great tool and available online or as app for iOS. You can train intervals recognition, perfect pitch, progressions, and chords types. 4. musictheory.net is another great site with awesome exercises for ear training.
- Practice Scales: You'd be amazed what practicing scales will do for your pitch accuracy. It's not easy in ther beginning, but so incredibly beneficial for enhanced voice control. Start slowly, and go through major and minor scales. After you have the scales down, you can start speeding them up. Do them in an upward and downward motion.
- Sing Arpeggios: This is another great exercise for pitch accuracy and overall voice control. Since you sing over a large range when you sing arpeggio, it's also a great exercise for support and legato connected pitches.
- Listen Consciously: While you should never try to copy another singer, there's much to be learned from other artists. Whenever you listen to the radio, attend a concert, or put on your favorite CD, start listening more consciously and try to find out what the artist is doing technically. Is she singing in chest voice or head voice? How is she doing transitions? When, how often, and how do they breathe? When you watch an artist, pay attention to what they do: do they gesture with their hands a lot? Do they open their mouth widely or not so much? Do they have tension or strain? Once you begin noticing what other singers are doing, you have a wealth of information to apply to your own singing - what works, and what doesn't work? What sounds good and what doesn't sound so good to you.
- Face a corner and sing: This will help you hear yourself better. It's almost like hearing yourself over a pair of headphones. The wall reflects the sound waves and they come right back to you. Especially if you have a hard time concentrating on your own voice and hearing what you do, this may be very helpful to you. It sharpens your awareness for your own voice, and since you can hear the nuances much more clearly this way, you ultimately learn better control.
- Match the pitch of an instrument: If you have a keyboard or a guitar, just play a single pitch and match it with your voice. Since an instrument has a much different timbre (color) than your voice, it's not always eays to match the pitch. For most people it's much easier to sing along another human voice than an instrument.
- Record yourself and match the pitch: This is usually a little easier than matching the pitch of an instrument. The very cool thing about this exercise is that you're matching the same voice color, so you have two of you singing. Just record a single, long pitch that you hold, then play it back and sing that same pitch. If you match it 100 %, you will not only hear it, but you will feel the vibrations that are caused by the sound waves. Very cool feeling!
- Record yourself and sing thirds: Being able to sing thirds is very important if you want to sing harmonies, but it also helps you hear the harmonies better. Start with recording a single pitch and singing along a third above. Then, you can try recording a simple melody and then singing along a third above that.
- Start an easy tune on different random pitches: This is great for increasing your harmonic awareness. Just begin singing on one pitch, and then choose a different starting pitch. If you know how to play an instrument, you can also just play the chord of the key and begin singing the tune. Change the starting chord around so you start singing the tune in different keys.
- Don't just sing along: While listening to original recordings can be helpful when you learn a new song, it's actually not so great to just sing along all the time. Because what actually happens is that you sing behind the original a little bit. Basically. you are following the singer. You want to train you abilities to sing without anyone singing the melody or any instrument playing the melody. You will train you ear so much better if you try to sing it acapella or with a karaoke track. Do you remember those people on American Idol who showed up with their mp3 players and sang along? They sounded terrible, and when they were told they coudn't sing, they were shocked or mad, because all they perceived was the singer on the original track, without paying attention to their own voice. So, try to always sing as a true soloist if you want to become one!
Playing it safe is something you don't necessarily want to do if you want to become an outstanding singer. While working on good technique is extremely important and will help you have more control over your voice, there's only so much a perfect technique can do for you as a performer and artist. I'm an advocate for good technique and think every singer should be working on theirs on an ongoing basis. But is the technically most perfect singer the one who is the
most successful? Just think of all the singers who didn't have the perfect technique who made it big. It's not always the greatest singers who are the most loved, but those who take risks and arent't afraid to show some imperfections and vulnerability.
Here are 7 risks you should learn to take that will help you become a better singer:
- Sing out loud and clear, don't hesitate! Having the confidence to go ahead and sing out like you actually want to makes a huge difference. I've seen it time and time again working with my students. Just a little bit of hesitation makes you sing totally differently. Your body tension isn't good, your resonating space changes, and you don't support as good. So, make sure you are confident and sing out loud and clear!
- Ad libs: from latin „ad libitum“, which means „at one's pleasure“. It could also be described as taking the freedom to give the music your own flavour. Don't always just copy the original or what's in the sheet music, be inventive! Make the best of it within your own range, vocal abilities, and expression. It makes a huge difference weather you're just trying to copy somone or truly make it like an original that comes from you. The best compliment you can get from your audience is that they weren't reminded of the original singer at all because you did it in such an awesome different way.
- Take your time! Indulge yourself in that high pitch or that long rest before singing the end cadenza. It builds tension in your audience and is very effective in keeping their ears tied to your voice. The worst you can do is rush through a passage because you have the feeling no one wants to hear it. Get used to the thought that your audience loves your voice and wants you to take your time and enjoy. It's like eating a delicious cupcake. You could just chunk it down, but it will be so much better if you savour every bite and enjoy all the nuances of the flavor and texture. So, take your time!
- Use voice colors! There's nothing more boring than a singer who sounds the same from the beginning to the end of a song. Don't be afraid to sound breathy, raspy, or whiny, or to shout, sigh, gasp, or sqeak. If it fits, do it! If you were an actor, you would sound totally different when you're excited compared to a moment when you're sobbing in tears. Use those natural voice colors when you sing, it makes you more human and your audience will empathize with you so much more.
- Live through the story! You know you put on a great performance when you're totally exhausted physically and mentally (note: NOT vocally!). Live through the story with every cell that's in you, it will help you connect to your audience in a very unique way. Many singers neglect this aspect of singing, but it's what distinguishes a technically good singer from an awesome performer.
- Be vulnerable, not perfect! Show your weaknesses and don't try to make your audience believe you're perfect. You're not! Your audience doesn't long for perfection, but for authenticity, for someone human they can identify and connect with, someone who has struggles just like they do. They just want to know you're giving your all in your performance. Be human!
- Have fun! It sounds like a no-brainer, but it isn't as easy as it sounds. Once you're performing for your audience, don't wreck your brain about all the technical issues you have. Just trust in your artistry and have fun with the music. Only if you have fun will your audience have fun! You need to learn to let go and just enjoy every minute you have with your audience.
And don't forget: Always keep a song in your heart!
Singing does the heart good
A few years ago, I was listening to the radio on my way home from a singing gig. The radio station introduced a new album that had just been released by Tina Turner: Beyond.
I was totally struck by what I heard, because it resonated to deeply within my soul. It wasn't your typical music album, but instead a wonderful collection of Buddhist and Christian prayers. The music touched me deeply, and the words made my heart smile. The most beautiful words were these: rise everyday singing like the birds.
The birds sing every day, as soon as some light appears, no matter what. They just sing. We should learn from the birds and feel the joy in the simplicity of just rising in the morning with a song in our hearts that we sing out. It's scientifically proven that singing makes us happy and can even fight depression. It causes the body to release endorphins that brighten our mood. How simple it would be just to get into the habit of singing a soft song every morning, singing out about the beauty that surrounds us and about things that are on our hearts. Just try it, you will LOVE it!
I've had this CD for more than six years now, and it's still one of my favorites for moments when I want to meditate and just find inner stillness. It's truly amazing what it does for me. It just helps me connect with myself, with God, and with the deep gratitude for life that lies in me. Thank you, Tina!
On my quest to a more organized and productive life, I have noticed that most people get well organized in many areas of life such as office work, family activities, organizing the home, and so on. But when it comes to singing, it seems like there are just sooooo many issues that need to be worked on at any given time, and it's hard to know what has priority over what, and what you should work on in what order.
And although you can't really isolate one issue from the next issue a lot of times in singing - for instance support and belting high pitches go together - it actually does make sense to set specific goals.
For example, if you want to achieve to belt higher, you could specify the pitch you would like to be able to hit, identify the one you can hit now, and find a strategy how to get there. You could do specific exercises daily that help you support better, strengthen your voice, and help you get more stamina.
I made a goal tracking sheet for singers on which you can track your goals. I would suggest you don't work on any more than two big goals at a time. Setting a date by which you want to achieve it helps you really be serious and pushes you to really do the exercises that need to be done.
You can also identify problems that you need to overcome, and track your progress. You can
the tracking sheet for free in PDF format. I hope this helps you specify your goals and be motivated to work on your voice. Let me know how you go about practicing and how you set goals. Always keep on singing!
Singing those high pitches without putting too much strain on your voice is always a challenge. If you keep in mind a few basic principles, it will make belting out those high intensity passages much easier and safer:
- Breathe and support properly! inhale deeply and support from your diaphragm. You should stand up straight and feel your muscles all around your lungs (back & abs) supporting your breath as your exhale.
- Start with chest voice vowels! Begin with the vowel „ah“ (as in „far“) or „eh“ (as in „fan“) in chest voice and slowly go higher
- As you go higher, don't just get louder! Remember that the vocal cords get thinner and longer as you sing higher pitches, but less of the whole mass vibrates. So don't push it too much!
- Keep your throat open, your larynx in a neutral position, and your jaw relaxed! You don't want to create any strain.
- The higher you sing, the less air flows! Picture a laser beam passing through your vocal cords: very small, but very condensed.
- Don't hesitate! Belting only works, if you're not hesitant about hitting those high pitches, so don't be afraid to put all of your effort into them.
- Keep your body tension! It's like lifting up something heavy or pushing a heavy shopping cart: you need that body tension while you sing, especially when you want to belt!
If you follow these steps and keep in mind the "game rules" I explained in my first video tutorial about BELTING, you will soon feel that it actually can be a lot of fun to sing those high belted passages, and that you don't have to be afraid of them!
Have you been working on your belting technique, or are you just getting started? Does it come to you easily or is it rather difficult? Tell me about your experience in the comments, I'd love to hear from you.
Do you sometimes wish your voice could sound louder? Do you struggle to sing over the band? Does the music just cover you up and you're barely heard anymore? Let me tell you a story: although I have been a professional singer for many years, I didn't always have a strong voice. I could always sing, but that doesn't mean I could be loud when I was younger. I sang in many choirs, but was never given a solo part, simply because I didn't stick out. Even later on in life when I was studying voice to become an opera singer, I heard conductors say that they were worried if my voice would be heard over the big orchestra. However, I could prove to them that the mere volume wasn't the most important aspect. My voice just had to carry, and I was good at making that happen despite the lack of a huge vocal volume. There was one instance when I rehearsed for an opera with a coach and one other singer, a tenor. When I stood right beside him, he was so incredibly loud that I almost had to hold my ears shut. I mean, he was soooo loud! But when we performed with the orchestra and sang our duets and quartets, I was always heard over him. I still have the recording of the performance and can't believe how much louder than him I sound. He literally drowned in the orchestra. All I did was put a lot of ping in my voice, or twang. I was always working on putting the important overtones into my sung notes, the ones that dominate all other frequencies. So that is one way to sound louder even though you're not that "loud" per se. But there are more ways to make your voice sound louder.
Another issue is support. In order to even be able to produce those frequencies that cut through, you need to have good support. Sometimes it helps to alter the vowels slightly. Just opening up the vowel the slightest bit can result in a whole different array of frequencies to be created that help you cut through with your voice. Besides, before you even attempt to sing louder, you should definitely have excellent support to avoid putting too much strain on your vocal cords.
You should also pay attention to your resonating space! Does the resonance take place in your throat, are you nasal and flat in your mouth? Work on opening up your resonating space as much as possible!
In popular music, there's one more way to help you make more obvious dynamic differences: if you sing the soft passages softer, your loud passages will sound louder in comparison. Especially since you will be working with a mic most of the time, this will be a great tool. Not only will your loud passages cut through more, but the soft passages will transport so much more feeling when you actually sing them softer.
Do you have some other tricks or ways to help you sound louder? I'd love to hear about it!
As a singer, the time that you can actually sing out full and loud is limited. While an instrumentalist normally can practice for many hours at a time, the instrument of a singer is so much more delicate, and since it is your body itself, there is a point of fatigue that you shouldn't cross in order to not do any damage.
However, there are still a few ways you can practice and perfect your art without actually having to sing out loud. Here are the best ways to make you a better singer while your voice takes a rest:
- Study your lyrics. This is such an important and, unfortunately often neglected part of being an awesome singer. First of all, you need to do your homework of finding the meaning and subtext within the lyrics. You don't just need to have the words memorized, but each and every word needs to mean something. It needs to have a flavour, a feeling that's connected to it.
- Listen to great singers. While you should definitely not copy any other singers, there's still a lot you can learn from listening to a great singer. You can learn quite a bit from just trying to figure out what they are doing, for instance if they're singing in chest register or mixed register at any given time, how they do transitions between registers, noticing how different singers do certain things differently, and finding parallels between their technique and yours. I love listening to great singers and figuring out what they do and what exactly makes them sound awesome. Listening and knowing what is being done in regards to technique can be a great learning experience.
- Sing through it in your mind. While I was studying voice at Southern Methodist University, a bunch of us singing students would sit around a large round table at lunch time and chat about what we're working on. Then, everyone would take out their sheet music and practice their pieces without actually singing them out loud. Not only did we work on memorizing the lyrics, but we also went through all of the pitches, the dynamic markings, the tempo changes, the diction, the expression, the phrasing, and so much more - all just in our heads. It's also a wonderful way to train concentration.
- Speak through the lyrics like an actor. This is an exercise that can help you drastically improve on your expressiveness. Most of the time, the problems that keep you from having great emotional expression while you sing aren't just a singing issue. Usually, it's just as hard to be expressive when you speak. Unless you first practice your expressiveness in your speaking voice, you most likely won't be able to access the many different voice colors that it takes. Try to speak through your lyrics without following the rhythm of the song. Just do it like an actor, make pauses when necessary, speed up and slow down at appropriate places, pay attention to accents you would put on some words or syllables, and think about each words flavour and the way you feel about it to find the right voice color.
- Listen to recordings of yourself. You can learn so much by listening to yourself, since it is the only way to hear your voice as others hear it. You will learn what the most beautiful areas of your voice are, and which aspects you need to work on. You can hear what works and what doesn't. Act as your own coach by listening critically, but giving yourself praise for the wonderful things you do.
So, from now on, there's no excuse for not practicing when you have a cold or are just vocally fatigued 🙂 Do you have any other ways you work on your art without singing out loud? I'd love to hear about them!
Many of my students and YouTube subscribers have asked me for it: a guided warm-up routine that they can listen to in the car, at home, or anywhere on the go. So I created an audioprogram that goes with the Check List I made recently.
In the audioprogram, I explain the principles of the points on the checklist and give you specific exercises for each of the points. After I show you the exercise, you can pause the program and execute the exercise in your own range. Let me know if it is helpful to you, or what I can improve on next time. I do plan on making more programs like this one, for instance for belting, head voice, chest voice, expanding your range, etc.
Does this sound familiar: you sing your heart out while you're home alone and know for sure nobody is listening. You're in the shower, clean the house, drive in your car - and do amazing stuff with your voice. You sound like a million bucks! Then you want to show your vocal coach your accomplishments or make a YouTube video of your awesome cover version, and as soon as your brain demands, "this has got to be perfect now" your voice begins to have a mind of its own, and all those awesome things you could do before seem to have vanished into thin air. Your throat gets tight, your mouth dries out, you have phlegm on your vocal cords, and just can't feel your support muscles anymore.
Or you get up on stage, and your hands just freeze up. You get as stiff as a stick and run out of air much faster than usually. It's the dreaded singer's mind block! And everyone has had it.
When I studied voice at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, I had to get up in front of our voice class frequently and present my pieces. Each and every time I felt like someone must have given me drugs, because I just couldn't do all the things I knew I could actually do. It was still good, but I felt like something was holding me back.
You know what holds us singers back? We do! Our mind plays games with us. Unless we learn how to conquer our mind, we will never cut loose and truly take risks while performing. We need to get our of our own way in order to truly let our awesomeness shine.
This is how I do it: I just concentrate on myself. I mean, I really let the world around me fade away and immerse myself in the song, in the words, in the story, the music, the mood, the melody. I just live through that song as if nothing else in this world existed. Nothing else does exist while I perform that song. No audience, no light, no stage, no microphone. Just me and the song. I don't give a poopoo about what people think, because it's just me there. I just connect with the spirit of the song and l'm loving the song with every molecule that's in me.
When I do this, all the blockages inside of me loosen up and disappear so I can come back into this world and finally connect with my audience. But you know what's awesome? Your audience is magically drawn in when you get lost in your own world. Your emotions that are evoked by your immersion in the music and yourself trigger a deep empathy in your audience. You truly connect with them and can take them on a wonderful journey into your world. Your world becomes their world.
It's not always easy to get there, but once you master getting out of your own way, you can show your true artistry without holding back the tiniest part. Try it, and your performances will never be the same.
Do you get in your own way sometimes? What does it do to you?
Nowadays I do the majority of my gigs alone as a one-woman-show. There are several reasons:
- I get more morey
- I don't depend on anyone else
- I know what to expect
- I cut rehearsal time
- I can change things within the music spontaeously
These are just some very practical advantages of being able to accompany yourself as a singer. I just makes life so much easier to know that you don't have to depend on anyone else. I could tell you countless stories about so-called professional musicians I had to work with that were anything but well prepared. At one point I decided that I didn't appreciate these kinds of musical surprises anymore, like someone totally forgetting the agreed upon tempo, dynamics, or even the sheet music I had sent ahead of time. Not to mention the hobby musicians who were nice enough to help out in church, but just were not quite proficient enough to play the repertoire, which then ended in an unrecognizable accompaniment that sometimes even caused laughter, because it just sounded too funny. Since I made the decision to always accompany myself on the piano, things have been so much smoother and easier - and the musical quality is solely up to me.
But even apart from these practical considerations, playing an instrument as a singer has so many more benefits. The biggest one is probably the fact that you can practice so much better. You never depend on a karaoke track that's usually not in the right key for you anyway. Most singers don't have someone who can accompany them whenever they want to practice, so if you don't play any instruments, this really limits your practice time.
One of the biggest benefits is musicality. When you play an instrument, you learn the theory behind the music, become aware of more possibilities, music terms (which enables to you communicate with other musicians so much better), and just develop so much more sensitivity for musical expression.
Don't worry! If you don't play an instrument, it's not too late to learn. I have had several students who have begun learning the piano or guitar late in life, but still became proficient enough to accompany their own singing. It does take time, but it's not impossible. I can only encourage you to open your mind to the possibility of learning an instrument to accompany yourself. You will be so thankful you you did!
Without exception, I can say that those students who also play an instrument, learn so much faster when it comes to singing. It really does make a difference!
Do you play an instrument? Have you played an instrument many years ago, but it has collected dust? Maybe you should get it out of the attic and start playing again...
Do you want to train your voice to become more agile and flexible? Do you want to increase your range and broaden your overall vocal abilities?
Well, it all starts with a complete vocal warm up. Even if you have lessons with a private voice teacher, there's not always the time to go through all exercises extensively that address all areas of your voice. To help you practice at home on a daily basis, I made a vocal warm-up check list you can use to make sure you're practicing all facets of your voice. I guarantee that if you go through this list on a regular basis - daily would be ideal - you will experience a noticable improvement in your vocal abilities. It's the first step to work on increasing your range, smoothing out register changes, and becoming vocally stronger.
You can download the list for free.
You can also download the free audiobook, which goes through the list and gives you specific exercises:
Please let me know in the comments below if and how this has helped you. Happy singing!
The most important principle here is to begin with low intensity and gradually work your way up to high intensity and volume. Begin with your low voice in a very relaxed way. Don't put too much pressure on your vocal cords yet, so they don't have to be closed tightly yet. Slowly increase the degree of closure, moving into chest register, then into high belting. Only move to the next point on the check list when you feel your voice is ready for higher intensity.
You have probably heard about belting and even tried to do extensive research on the subject. There is definitely quite a bit of information out there on the web. It seems like a whole science about belting has developed in the past few years, claiming the belting technique as the ultimate way to sing high pitches with power.
I have been intrigued by this subject, have watched countless videos on YouTube about what other vocal coaches and experts have to say about the subject, But mostly I have been fascinated by the sound of singers like Whitney Houston, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Idina Menzel, Jennifer Hudson, and Beyoncé - who are all extremely skillful belters that seem to reach the very top (and I mean WAYYY up there!) with incredible ease.
Since I have always been someone who doesn't just believe anything someone says, I didn't just research the physical science behind the technique, but also tried out what works best to find out how it's actually done. It's one thing to just be able to do it naturally, but it's a whole different story trying to explain it to students who have no clue how to do it yet.
So, here are some of the most important aspects I found:
- Belting is NOT chest voice. Although you could describe it as an extension of the chest voice, since it is still a "heavy" register, there's a definite difference between the two. Chest voice is strong and requires a lot of air flow through the vocal folds, since the whole mass of them has to vibrate. When making the transition to belting, there is less mass of the vocal folds that actually vibrates, making for a thinner, but more focused sound. So, essentially you have to get lighter going into a belt, but still think chest voice.
- There is very little air flow. This was actually observed in the laboratory, where a camera was stuck into singers' throats while singing. The vocal folds close tighter than in chest voice, while maintaining the "heavy" mechanism. Instead of using more air to bring the folds into vibration, less air with more pressure is used. So, next time you try to belt those high pitches, try to think "inhale" and make sure you have very good support, as this will allow the air to flow like a laser beam - very condensed and focused. It's a bit like blowing air through an extremely thin straw.
- It's actually not a fat sound. Although it sounds so powerful when someone is belting, it's actually a light sound. But it's not light as in breathy or airy. Just the mechanism gets lighter than in full chest voice.
- It's not loud, it just has the right frequencies. While you will have to get louder in chest voice the higher the pitches get in order to still be able to hit them without your voice breaking into head register, there's a limit to how loud you can get. Once you've reached the limit on how much louder you can get without putting too much strain on your vocal cords (around a C above middle C for women - for guys around an E), you actually have to give it less volume to minimize pressure. This means, that those really high beltet pitches aren't really sung with an incredible amount of pressure. The secret here is to stay open in your throat so it doesn't sound pressed and strained.
- When you're in a real belt, the transition to mixed and later from mixed to head register is very smooth. While transitioning from a loud and high chest register pitch directly into head voice is rough and the break is huge, it's much smoother to go from chest into a belt, then from belt into mixed, and then from mixed into head register as you go higher and higher.
Since it's much easier to understand when you can see and hear all of this, and most importantly, try it out for yourself, watch my videos about belting. I have put a lot of thought and effort into these in order make them very practical. Knowing the theory behind the technique may be important and helpful, but the practical excercises are what it's all about. Because you actually want to do it and try it out, not just talk about it. I hope this is helpful to you. Let me know if there are any aspects you missed or didn't understand. I want to to be able to sing with more ease, hitting those top pitches with confidence. Have fun experimenting!
Sometimes life just happens and doesn't ask you if it's a convenient time for you to get a cold with an achy and swollen troat, stopped up sinuses, and closed up ears. This sometimes comes at the most terrible times, especially when you have a big performance coming up. It has happened to me many times, and there was simply no way to cancel since there would have been absolutely no one to replace me. So, sometimes we as singer just have to rough it out. There are some things you can do when you have to sing although your voice is not at its best.
However, I want to note that you are responsible for your own voice, and that you should definitely see a doctor if you're in doubt. There is a big difference between a common cold and a larynx infection, which demands absolute vocal rest. These tips are meant to be helpful only for times when you have a common cold and a slightly scratchy voice with phlegm and a minor throat infection. In the end, it is your decision if you can continue singing. I am just documenting my experience as a professional singer.
1. Don't talk! Or, at least, try to speak as little as possible. Concentrate on what counts: a short warm up and then just the performance.
2. Rest as much as you can. Your body will be thankful for every bit of rest you give it, so if you can, lay down and rest, or at least don't work too hard. You will get better faster if you give your body the opportunity to put all its energy into healing itself.
3. Drink sage tea with honey. Sage tea is the best medicine for your troat and vocal tract. The honey is very soothing. But be careful: too much sage tea may make you feel a little nauseated.
Other than sage tea, ONLY drink water. Refrain from any other drinks such as sodas, any sort of carbonated drinks and juices. Stay well hydrated as it helps your body help itself most efficiently.
4. Gargle with herb concentrate: Salviathymol is awesome for gargling throughout the day. It soothes the inflammation and helps the healing process.
5. Don't take any lozenges with menthol, as it dries out your throat and irritates your vocal cords in the long run. While you may feel temporary relief, it's really not a good way to treat a swollen and achy throat. The best lozenges by far that I have found are GeloRevoice.
6. To help your body and also your throat, Laryngsan is a wonderful thing to help your body heal from the inside out. Drink a glass of water with a few drops of this concentrate made of camphor and peppermint oil, and you will feel improvement soon. It boosts your immune system and is wonderful for your throat and vocal tract.
7. Let the adrenalin help you! Once you're on stage, give it your all. Usually the adrenalin that rushes through your body also has a positive effect on your voice. It boosts circulation and brings your heart rate up, which makes your vocal folds more agile. Phlegm is reduced, because the body goes into an „emergency“ mode. Just take advantage of this natural medication that makes you feel great for the moment.
8. Sing only what's necessary! Don't do long warm ups or any long moderation. It will only make your voice unnecessarily tired. Only use your voice for what's absolutely important that day.
9. Sing intelligently! When you feel sick, the greatest danger is that you tend to sing with less support, simply because your body feels weak. Be aware of this and pay special attention to your singing technique, especially your support. Also, try to bring moments of vocal relaxation into the song whenever possible. If it's possible, put the less demanding songs in the beginning, and the most demanding toward the end of your performance. After belting out with all your strength, you will most likely be more hoarse.
Final words:You're probably worried that you may do some damage to your vocal cords if you sing despite being sick. I used to be worried about that, too. Several years ago, I was very sick, and couldn't even get a tone out when I was speaking. I had three big, very important performances coming up that week, which I absolutely could not cancel, because there was no replacement. For instance, I had a recording session with the National Police Orchestra at the radio station.
I went to my ENT specialist (ear-nose-troat doctor) and had him check my throat and asked for advice on what I should do and that I was concerned I would damage something if I went ahead and sang in my condition. He assured me that in order to damage the vocal folds, it would take years of constant misuse or abuse. Although my throat was swollen and there was an inflammation, there would be no permanent damage done. He was right! I did all of my performances, spoke very sparingly during that time, tried to sing intelligently, and I wasn't actually much worse afterwards. I aced the performances and really concentrated on my technique. I put all of my energy into my voice. The week after, I already felt much better, and my voice was almost back to normal.
I also have a few colleagues who have to sing as much as I do, and even when they're sick, they sometimes have to keep singing for several hours every day. Even though they have been doing this for many years, their vocal cords have no damage at all.
As a singer, you sometimes simply have to rough it out. In the end, you have to decide if you are capable of singing, or simply have the feeling that you have no more control over your voice. It's your decision. Always remember, though, that you only have one voice, and it's one of your greatest assets that you should protect and care for.
This is a question that I always talk about in the first lesson of any new student of mine. It's just a good idea to know what to expect when you start working on your voice intensively.
And this is also where the differences begin in comparison to learning another instrument or language, for instance.
While with a lot of things, you can practice over long periods of time and see quite fast results, singing simply does take time. First of all, it's owed to the fact that your vocal chords are very delicate membranes and start getting tired after a while, and also it's your body that's your instrument. Like learning to do gymnastics, playing tennis, dancing, acrobatics: anything that involves your body takes time, since it's not only knowledge that has to be acquired, but also muscle memory. Your muscles have to slowly get used to the kind of workout they're getting and build up to withstand higher intensity. This takes time.
When you start on new paths in regards to your vocal technique, you may feel that everything is getting harder instead of easier in the initially. It's like getting your body used to doing push-ups when you've never done any before. It may feel difficult and you may not think that it will every bring you the results you are after. But believe me: as long as you have a good coach who really knows what he or she is doing, you should trust him or her, and especially trust yourself that your voice will do what you want it to do some day. But the key is: be consistent!
I can't stress enough who important it is to practice on a regular basis. You won't see noticable results if the only time you're really working on your technique actively when you're in your voice lesson. The biggest break-thoughs come when you're practicing alone! You begin noticing moments when something goes exactly the way your vocal coach explained it to you. And when this happens, you can repeat it again and again, until in becomes an automatism. There will be more and more things that become automatic over the course time. And the time will come, when you won't have to think about support, breathing correctly, relaxing your jaw, changing registers, keeping your larynx relaxed, and so on and so on. It just becomes second nature!
So, the actual answer to the question how long it will take to see progress is simply: the more patient you are and the more conscientious and frequent you practice, the faster and the more permanent the progress in your vocal technique and your sound will be.
What's your experience? Have you seen a change yet? Or are you frustrated because there seems to be no progress? Tell me about it!
Have you ever noticed that when you're speaking, you don't really think about what you do with your voice? You just do it! You actually do quite acrobatic exercises with your voice when you're in the middle of a relaxed conversation over a burger and fries, and then you suddedly make a high-pitched squeak, because you just dropped ketchup on your white shirt, right before you start growling because you see that prof walk across the restaurant who just gave you a C on your term paper. But you don't even notice what you do with your voice when you are sighing, sobbing, growling, ranting, screaming, hollering, whispering, cheering, murmuring or grunting.
It's because all of these sounds are not made consciously, but they're rather controlled by the emotion that trigger the sound that expresses the feelings. So why is it so difficult when we sing to find the "button" to turn off and on those sounds we want and need to sound so much more authentic and emotional? It's just a matter of paying attention! Often we just sing plain pitches when we think of singing, we actually sing too much. The sound is lacking those human elements that are the essence of emotion in our voice. Imagine someone saying these words with an absolutely neutral voice, like a robot:
"When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love." (Make you feel my love - Bob Dylan, Adele)
If that person really meant it and felt what the words describe deeply, then there would be a lot of sound going on that's not just "clean" and "plain" pitches. And that's exactly what makes the difference between a singer who just sounds pretty and hits the right pitches, and one who really hits home and won't be forgotten.
My advice to you is to start paying attention to what you do in your speaking voice much more. If you learn the craft of bringing all the little nuances of emotional sounds into your voice, you will set yourself apart from most other singers. Plus, you will have so much more fun singing when you're really putting so much into it and live through it.
What's important in singing just as it is in life: Don't be afraid to take risks! Don't just play it safe! That's just plain boring! You won't get anywhere like that. Your greatest learning experience will always be made when you take risks, sometimes fall flat on your face, learn from it, and next time do it better. You need failures from time to time to learn! Just don't ever make the same mistake twice 😉
Just think of some of the most successful singers - have these ever played it safe? Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Elton John, Billy Joel, Adele, Megan Trainor, and I could go on and on.
They all certainly have an edge, something that makes them absolutely unique and authentic. Their voices are very distinct, and they have their own unexchangable style. You need that edge to be an awesome singer. Those colors in your voice that make you unique. You just have to go and find these colors!
Of course you want to practice as much as you want in order to improve your vocal technique. Although the saying, "practice makes perfect" is true, for the singer we must add an important aspect. Since the vocal chords are very delicate membranes who only can do a limited amount of work before getting tired, we need to take the apect of rest very seriously.
Sometimes rest can even do mere wonders! Your voice needs to get a few days of rest from any straining work sometimes, and afterwards you will often find that you feel a new ease, a lightness and effortlessness that you didn't have while you were practicing very intensively. Although it's exactly that time of intense practice that actually improves your vocal technique and trains those muscles involved, it's the time of rest when it actually all "sinks in" and goes deep into your memory. But don't think that you can't practice on days when you don't actually sing out loud. You can! As a singer, you have so much more work to do than singing for hours and hours, just like a pianist will play for hours and hours every day. While the pianist's fingers don't get worn out easily, the singer has a slight disadvantage, since the vocal chords - even with a lot of practice - are just very delicate. On the other hand, as a singer you can do so much work while actually not singing out loud. You can do lyrics research, speak the works, make them hit home inside of you, and also through your speaking tone do so much for your phrasing and expression, so that when you do sing out loud, you are really prepared. When you have memorized the lyrics of a song, your performance and practice sessions will be so much better, because you can concentrate on what's most important.
When I studied voice at the university, we all had to do a lot of singing. But you would find all the singers in the lunch room every day, sitting around the table with their binders of sheet music in front of them, mentally studying their pieces, looking at the words, memorizing, reading the notes and singing them in their head. That was a large part of learning the music and perfecting it.
I have experienced that taking a few days off from singing can really do so much for your voice. often the rest will just make things so much easier. Your voice almost feels brand new and can take on much bigger challenges because it's well rested. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to give your voice rest.
So on your journey to become the best singer you possibly can, give your voice a breat every once in a while, before putting new challenges on it.
And remember: Always keep on singing, and always keep a song in your heart!
Ideally, your voice should work at its best at any given time. But the truth is, life isn't always perfect, and neither is your voice. You have probable experienced that your voice often depends on your daily shape. There just are days when your voice has an ease to it and it seems like you hardly have to put forth an effort. Then there are days when, no matter what you do, your voice just seems like an ice block not wanting to be flexible at all.
While these are just things that are part of life, there are also many factors of irritation to the voice you can control and avoid.
1. Inhaled substances: you may instantly think of smoking. While this is obviously something you should avoid as a singer (unless raspiness is something you're trying to achieve on a permanent basis), there are many other inhaled substances that may be harmful to your voice. For instance, extreme pollution, fumes of chemicals (painting, household cleaners like bleach, air fresheners, etc.), mold, dry air, dusty air, can all create a very uncomfortable and even damaging environment for your voice if exposed over a long period of time.
2. Ingested substances: alcohol and drugs are just two of the obviously irritating substances for your voice if used excessively. But did you know that for instance, dairy producs can thicken mucosal secretions that interfere with vocal production? Also, too much caffeine can dry out the vocal mucosa. Medications can also affect your voice by causing phlegm or drying out your vocal chords.
3. Substances manufactured within the body: Allergy, acid reflux, bronchitis, asthma, vocal-fold disorders such as vocal nodules, vocal polyps, vocal cysts can all be a cause of your voice not functioning properly. Especially vocal-fold disorders often stay untreated because you don't feel sick. But it can be the cause of many vocal problems, which usually can't be corrected just by the correct singing technique. I've had students that had a natural abnormality of the vocal chords like asymmetric chords, which resulted in breathiness. When you know what the cause is, and that you're not actually doing something wrong technically, you can then look into possible treatments which - if successful - can dramatically improve the quality of your voice.
4. Other disorders: Facial paralysis is a disorder that greatly affects your ability to control the resonating space. In the same way, any disorder or abnormality that affects the throat, tongue, lips, face, head, respiratory tract will affect your voice negatively.
If you have had severe vocal problems and it seems like absolutely no singing technique has been able to fix them, you may want to have a doctor check you. If you're healthy but have some unhealthy habits, do yourself and your voice a favor and start living healthy: eat right, don't drink or use drugs, get enough sleep and general rest... then your voice will pay back the favor and make you a very happy and content person. Because singing is very good for you - it's scientifically proven!!!
Many people imagine the daily life of a singer as glamourous and full of free time. Just on the weekends, you get up on stage for a couple of hours, perform your show, and then you go home with your pockets full of money.
Well, it's actually quite different. I've been a freelancing singer for many years, and I can tell you that there's a lot of work involved. One concert or show may take months to prepare, depending on different variables: do you perform your own music or do covers? Do you perform alone or with other musicians? Do you just sit/stand and perform or is there staging/dancing involved? Generally, you could say that the more people are involved in the show on stage, the more preperation and rehearsal time you will need. But even if it's just you on stage, there's a lot of preparation that goes into it. As a matter of fact, you life consists of constantly preparing for future gigs.
The upside is that you can decide when you do all of your preparation. If you're not a morning person, you can absolutely sleep in every day. And you can take an entire day off whenever you want to, or even much more. It's totally up to you when you do what you need to do. But you know what? If you want to be a great artist, you WANT to take as much time as possible to put into your planning and preparation, because you have a burning passion, and you have a ton of ideas that you want to realize.
And the truth is, there are many different ways as a singer to make money other than being on stage. For instance, I love to teach, so I have a lot of students who come to my studio during the week. On the weekends, I have gigs, sometimes 3 or 4 on a single weekend.
I also compose my own music and do a lot of recordings, and I do studio work on a regular basis for commercial spots or music productions. In addition, I stage musical theatre shows for a musical theatre company. So, there's a lot of work that goes into all these different areas.
And, of course, I do YouTube videos on a weekly basis.
Between all of this I have to rehearse with other musicians, organize all my gigs, look for repertoire, communicate with venue management/concert organizers, catch up with emails, Facebook and WhatsApp messages, post on Twitter and Instagram, write blog articles and cook up ideas for future projects to keep the ball rolling.
The great thing about being a freelancing artist is indeed that you actually have the choice of how much or how little work you want to do. But the fact is, the more successful you want to be, the more work you will have to put in.
Doing tours is especially exhausting, but at the same time very uplifting and rewarding. But you will be very tired and worn out physically at times, I guarantee it.
I've been fortunate to be able to shift my areas of work from doing more gigs to staying home more and teaching when I had my baby daughter, and now that she's getting a little bigger, I can shift back to doing more gigs again. It's great to be in control of your time!
You should know that the famous singers you admire don't just live in fame and glamour, they put in a LOT of work!!! But you know: that work is actually fun, because it's your passion!
No, I'm not talking about computer technology, but about that quality of a tone that has a quality of brilliance and cuts through all other frequencies so your voice is heard over the band or orchestra.
The actual definition of the word "to ping" is "
Now, while the open "a" is the vowel that can be sung with ping the easiest, you can certainly put the ping in the other vowels, too. Just remember to keep them as open as possible and well supported. Relax your jaw and just let it fall naturally. There shouldn't be any strain, especially in your neck or shoulders. Also, make sure your tongue, larynx and pharynx are relaxed. This way, you should have to problem getting the ping in your high belted notes.
Instead of giving you an anatomic or medical description of the glottis, I think I can help you much better if I explain what the glottis is and what it does. After all, you need to be able to "operate" it in order to use it properly.
Simply put, the glottis describes that lid you can put on whenever you hold your breath. Whenever you take a long dive or have to hold your breath for a little while, you first inhale deeply, and then close the glottis, so that no air can escape. Once you start exhaling slowly, you start to open the glottis.
Also, whenever you shout out "ah" or "oh" loudly, you will hear a hard glottal attack, which means that you actually hold your breath for a split second before allowing the sound to come out. Once you start the sound, your glottis is sort of "pushed" open by the pressure of the air flowing through.
Now, whenever you're singing, you generally want to avoid a really hard glottal attack, because it just doesn't sound pretty. However, sometimes - especially when you want to use it for expression - you can use this glottal attack in a smart way. You can control how soft or hard the glottal attack happens.
Here's an example:
You probably know the song "What a wonderful world" (famous by Louis Armstrong). When you sing the phrase "what a wonderful world", first try singing it with the glottis open. Putting a "h"-sound (like breathing out) right before the "w" helps you do this..., so you actually sing "hwhat a wonderful world".
Next, try to do it with a hard glottal attack, which means you only open the glottis when you start the word "what". What helps you achieve this here is holding your breath right until the moment you begin singing "what a wonderful world". It sounds a little bit like you're putting a short "uh" right in the beginning of "what".
Sometimes, especially when you're singing about something very heart-wrenching and desperate, you may want to use a soft glottal attack to make the sound more weepy. At other times, whenever you're singig a song that wants to express anger or frustration, you may even want to use a hard glottal attack on your beginning vowels, for instance when you're singing the word "I".
By the way, one of the reasons why I don't start most of my warm up exercises directly on a vowel, but put a sounding consonant before it, is to avoid a hard glottal attack, which is actually straining on your voice when done too much and too intensely. Instead of "ah", I do "nah", instead of "ee", I do "me".
Just keep in mind, that by knowing how to use the glottal attack, you have yet another stylistic tool available to vary voice color.
Keep on singing, and always keep a song in your heart!
I know that if you really love singing with all of your heart and it is a great passion in your life, your goal probably isn't just to sing in the shower. On your journey of learning and improving, you have one goal in mind that keeps driving you: to be a successful singer, to fill concert halls with people who have come to listen to YOU, and to be known and respected as an artist your fans adore. But how to you get there, and what can you do to achieve your goal?
Let me tell you my story: I was fortunate enough to be born into a very musical family. My mom was a professional classical guitarist who played in theaters and opera houses and taught classical guitar at the conservatory in Frankfurt, Germany. My dad was a trained singer and recording artist, appeared on TV and radio shows, and my parents had regular gigs together performing their own songs.
I guess, it was totally natural for me to start doing music myself: at age 6, I started taking piano lessons, and of course, I would sing all the time. In my room, I secretly pretended to be a beautiful opera singer and tried to sing just like one. I just loved to sing so much, and I was pretty good at it. Singing was like breathing to me - I couldn't live a day without it.
However, it wasn't until much later that I started any formal training. And although that formal training helped me get light years ahead of the level I was at before (I guess in opera, you can hardly do without formal training), it was always the fact that I kept on practicing and practicing, singing and singing even more which helped me get really good. The funny thing is: even though I receieved a full ride scholarship to study vocal performance, I sometimes thought it weird that I was now really on the way to becoming a professional singer. I had to literally learn to accept that and to believe it myself. That was a big step: believing in myself as a singer!
But that is so, so very important. Believing in yourself enough so you never give up on the journey. There were times when it seemed like I wasn't going anywhere. Sometimes I had no idea what my voice prof wanted from me, it was like she was speaking Greek. But I didn't give up, I just kept on practicing, and it was always at those times in that little practice room when I sang alone that I had my biggest vocal break-throughs. I practiced a lot, simply because I loved singing so much, and I loved music so much. I practiced more than most other students, you would find me in the practice room any time I had some free time. I sang my heart out, studied the music hard, understood the music, and my voice did all kinds of awesome things that I had never thought possible. I was on the president's list every semester, and was nominated for all kinds of honors societies.
I believe that talent certainly may have played a role, but without all of the hard work I put in, I would have never come that far.
Here's another story: I went to a competition one year, and didn't even survive the first round. But I didn't let myself get discouraged. I went back to that same competition the next year - and won it! So you see, it definitely pays off to keep believing in yourself.
The more you keep on singing and practicing, getting advice and learning from it, the better you WILL get. It's a law!
And while practice may not make perfect (can absolute perfection really be achieved by a human being?), it certainly does bring you one step closer to perfection. And that should always be your driving force.
Keep on believing, keep on working hard, and keep on enjoying the process!
You've experienced it: a stereo system is only as good as its speakers!
In the same way, an instrument is only as good as its resonating space. Have you ever listened to an electric guitar that's not plugged into an amplifier? You can hardly hear any sound coming from it, because it doesn't have a resonating space. An acoustic guitar sound warm and beautiful, because it has a wooden body as a resonating space. Also, a grand piano sounds so much louder and fuller than an upright piano, because it has a much larger resonating space.
It's no different when it comes to your voice: the vocal chords are the mere producers of raw sound. The characteristics and the volume of the sound that is finally heard, depend on what spaces in your body resonate with the sound waves created by your vocal chords. The great news is: you have a lot of influence on that!
You can influence the sound of your voice with the following varables:
Wheather you sing in your head voice, chest voice, mixed register or belt determines the sound of your voice dramatically. Try singing a C above middle C in head voice, then in chest voice, and you will notice that it has a completely different sound to it. While in the chest voice the resonating takes place mostly in your chest area, and thus the sound is very meaty and powerful with high intensity, much like when you're yelling, the sound is completely different when you sing in head voice: the sound resonates much more in your head and isn't as natural, but reminds more of a classical singer who has to project his or her voice over an orchestra. In your mixed register, you utilize the lack of exact placement of resonating space in head or chest to achieve a very relaxed sound. So, always keep in mind, that the register you sing in largely determines the sound of your voice, depending on what you want to express.
The position of your soft palate determines how much space exists in your mouth and throat. You can position it to have a very narrow space or to have a very wide space. Whenever there is a very narrow space, the sound will be very nasal, because it cannot move into your mouth cavity to resonate there. Hence, it can only resonate in your nasal passages. One exercise to control your soft palate is to change between an "aaaah" and a "ng" as in "sing". The "aaaah" produces the largest space, while the "ng" closes it up complety. The more open you are, the less nasal your sound will be, and the more you can utilize the resonating space in your mouth and head (for example, your sinuses).
Your tongue actually is connected to your soft palate, so the two go together. Have you ever watched and listened to a ventriloquist? He has a puppet which seems to be speaking on its own, while you actually know he's producing all the sound. How is it possible that you can understand all of his words without him moving his mouth or lips? The answer is: tongue placement! He uses only his tongue and soft palate to shape the vowels. Try saying all the vowels while having your lips slighly opened but without moving them. You will see how the tongue placement makes it work.
Your larynx is located back in your throat and influences your voices color. When singing, you ideally want your larynx to be fairly relaxed most of the time. Only when you want to drastically change your voice color, should you lower you lower your larynx too much. However, to have a relaxed and natural sound without straining your vocal apparatus too much, you should have your larynx in a mid-position.
If you remember Pee Wee Herman, you probably noticed his voice being really funny. He lowers his larynx to sound that way. When you sing, however, you don't want to sound funny or artificial, unless you want to do it in a comedic way. There are moments when you can use the lowering of the larynx to get a specific sound, but these are just instances.
Your support is the foundation of your sound. Without support, you have no basis to sing strong, let alone high notes beautifully. When your support is good, your vocal chords can resonate in the proper way to even start sending out sound. With a weak support, the sound won't travel to much of any resonating space in your body. Ideally, however, you want to use as much resonating space as possible. That said, make sure you always have good support.
With this knowledge in mind, you can now utilize the resonating spaces of your body to direct the sound waves your vocal chords produce in order to adjust the sound.
Do you have a problem area that hinders you from using the ideal resonatig space? Feel free to leave a comment and share 🙂
Singing in chest voice or belting are some terms many singers use to describe when they're singing high pitches on high volume.
But do you know what the actual difference between singing in chest voice and belting is? Learning to distinguish between the two will help you sing middle and high notes much better, with less strain on your vocal chords, giving you a lot more stamina.
1. Chest voice:
Chest voice is what you speak in all day long most of the time. It's how you speak when you're having a normal conversation, when you're at a club talking over the music in the background, and whenever you call out to someone to get their attention. It's what we're most used to whenever it comes to speaking. And it is the register in our voice we should use for the majority of songs in order to sound natural. However, when you want to produce higher pitches that are also loud, you will notice that you may feel your throat getting scratchy and hoarse, and if you do it over a longer period of time, you may have the feeling your throat is really beginning to hurt. That's probably because you're not singing in a belting voice, but instead just increase the pressure and volume of your chest voice to get higher. This is when it's time to sing in a belt rather than in chest voice. It gives you so much more power without putting too much strain on your voice.
In contrast to singing high pitches in your chest voice, you minimize air flow when singing in a belting voice, thus reducing the friction and strain on your vocal chords. Pretend you're trying to blow the air through a very, very thin straw. You need a lot of air pressure, but only a tiny bit of air actually passes through, because the small opening causes a barrier. At the same time, the air flows freely out of the other end of the straw. The straw is your support, and the freely flowing air is the air moving through your vocal chords making them vibrate.
It's also important not to lower your larinx too much when singing high, strong pitches. You want your larynx to stay rather relaxed, which will also insure that you sound natural and not artificial.
I have created two videos with five exercises each for belting. In the first video, I also describe the difference between chest voice and belting. I guarantee that you will find belting so much easier and natural after doing these exercises.
My approach to singing has always been that it should feel easy, natural, and effortless.
Singing should never present a problem, leaving you with unsolvable frustrations that take your joy away from singing. It should feel good and give you the feeling that you're connected to your instrument (body) in a very natural way. I've always found it very uncomfortable to listen to singers whom I thought sounded very artificial, pushed, and plain unintelligible, because you couldn't make out a word of what they where trying to say due to their strange pronounciation (dark, flat, nasal etc.).
On the other hand, I have always loved listening to singers who make you forget they're even singing, because they simply touch you so deeply that all you hear is mere beauty and warmth. As I always tell my students: the most important thing is your message – which you just happen to be singing!
Here are some tips that have proven to be very helpful in finding your NATURAL voice:
- Before you start singing your song, speak it like you really mean it. Notice your natural inflections. When do you get higher and lower, when do you get louder and softer, when do you get more intense or more relaxed? Then, do it in a very similar way when you sing.
- Check your vowels! Your vowels should sound natural as if you were speaking. If you notice your vowels are not the same when you sing, you should try to adjust them. Not only is it hard to understand the words you're singing, but it sounds weird and unnatural when you sing vowels in the wrong color, e.g. too dark, to bright, too nasal. One of the greatest compliments I get often is that every word can be understood when I sing. This should be your goal, too!
- Let your breath flow! Have you ever listenend to a singer, and after a while all you heard was their breath? It just sticks out and doesn't fit to the rest of the singing, because it doesn't flow with the music. If you sing a calm song and have a rest before the next phrase, don't wait through the rest and then breathe in the last second taking a sudden gasp. In the same way, don't sing a very upbeat, fast moving song without taking a good, deep breath between phrases. Make your breath be part of the sound, just as if you were speaking. I mean, we never notice someone breathing when we're having a conversion, because it's just part of the flow.
- Check your color! Does your singing voice reflect the color of your speaking voice? Normally, it should not be too extremely different from your speaking voice. If it is a whole lot darker or brighter in comparison, you should check if you may be pushing down your larynx too much or don't allow enough space for resonance. A good indicator also is weather your voice feels tired easily when singing. This is usually a sign for you not singing in your natural voice color.
- Don't push it to where your voice gives out! There's nothing worse than a singer who is totally overdoing it to where his or her voice isn't just at the limit but way beyond. Not only could this damage your voice, but it also sounds unnatural and may be plain embarassing. I'm not talking about totally connecting with your song and giving all that's in your heart and body to convey what's coming from deep inside your heart and soul. I mean the point where it's not done in good taste anymore, when it's obvious that the singer is going beyond their vocal capabilities. Just make sure that you know where your limit is!
If you apply these 5 basics, you will make sure your voice always sounds natural and like YOURS. Don't copy anyone, but develop your own style with its own little quirks and oddities, weather it's a raspy or crystal clear voice. Be yourself and enjoy it!
You hear almost every major artist do it: vibrato! Ah, it's what makes them sound great and professional, but how in the world did they learn it? And - most importantly - can anyone learn it?
Well, in this article I will give you my two cents about learning vibrato, on how to do it and how NOT to do it.
There are a lot of approaches and opinions out there that vocal coaches teach: Some use the alternating pitch approach, in which the students is advised to start out alternating between two close pitches very slowly, and then gradually speed it up until it resembles a vibrato. The problem I see with this approach is simply this: it sounds fake and artificual! Have you ever listened to someone's vibrato and thought "oh, she's really singing two pitches"? If you did think so, it most likely wasn't a singer that you thought sang well. Such a vibrato that was wide and wobbly has always turned me off.
Another approach which is often used is the accent-approach: the student sings a pitch and then gives little accents to the pitch, much as if you were pushing in your abs with your hands. This results in an even more wobbly and wide vibrato.
Since for me, a natural sound of ease was always what I liked in singers, I take a much more natural approach. This may not show any quick results, but it's much more likely you will find your "natural" vibrato.
It's simple: Listen to singers you love and pay attention to how their vibrato sounds. Sing a long pitch which is very comfortable to you and try to add some vibrato. Even if it's just the slightest bit of vibrato you may feel for a fraction of a second, THATS GREAT!!! Just do it over and over again, let's say a few minutes every day whenever you're practicing. You will see that you will find the way it's done, and once you've experienced how it feels - even if you can't really control it yet - it's a great success. I guarantee that as you keep practicing, it will become easier to access and to control.
On the other hand: if you have a very wide, wobbly vibrato, you should do exercises to sing long, straight pitches. Personally, I think listening to a singer who has a huge vibrato that never rests can be very tiring. So, you need to smooth it out and try to control it.
Since vibrato is both a stylistic tool (straight tone = more tension, vibrato = less tension), it's also something that helps your voice be more relaxed while singing. It's a good thing to know how to do vibrato, but also how to sing without. You should be able to control it, weather you want it to be a little faster or slower, straight tone or with vibrato.
Just remember: Be natural!
Since your body is your instrument, it's very important that you treat your body with utmost care. If your body feels weak, so will your voice. So the first basic step to keep your voice healthy and working well is to keep your body healthy, strong and fresh.
In the past, a lot of people thought that only fat people could sing opera, since big bodies must produce big vocal volume. However, the truth actually is that the most important thing is a strong and fit body. Weather you're very thin or have a few pounds extra isn't what decides over the quality of your voice.
Singing requires your body to support a very controlled breath and have a general tension at all times. For that, you definitely need some muscles, especially around your mid-section: abs and back. If you have tried some of my exercises for support, you may be surprised how MUCH you need your muscles and that - if you do the exercises right - you feel like you've just done a hundred sit-ups. Therefore, if your body is weak, you won't be able to use your voice to its fullest, because you're missing some energy.
Exercising regularly not only improves your quality of life because you simply feel better, but it also helps you to have a strong body to support those high notes, those looooong passages that require a lot of control, and those very soft passages that need to be extremely supported by your abdominal and back muscles.
Some basic rules
There are a few more things you should consider to keep your voice working at its best:
- drink a lot of water (at least 8 glasses a day)
- eat a healthy and balanced diet
- exercise regularly
- don't eat or drink extremely spicy or acidy foods or drinks right before singing, since it will cause a lot of mucus to be realeased on your vocal chords
- don't speak extremely loud for a long period of time (e.g. party all night or speak over loud music)
- get enough sleep
- always do a vocal warm up routine before you start singing songs
- don't sing extremely straining songs for a long period of time - take a break if you feel you are getting raspy. Just be smart and pay attantion to how your voice feels and decide for yourself what you can or cannot handle vocally
If you get sick
If you happen to get sick, which unfortunately happens to all of us, take your time go get well. Don't take any strong medication if you just have a regular cold. Try to use natural remedies that help your body help itself. If you have a raspy throat because of a cold, drink sage tea with honey. Cough drops with menthol tend to dry out your throat, so it's better not to use them. The best thing you can do for your voice when you're sick is just to give it rest.
As a professional performer, I sometimes can't take the time to rest when I'm sick and have to perform regardless of my condition. Whenever I have to do that, I try to be smart, e.g. I don't speak but just try to limit my vocalisations to what is absolutely necessary (a concentrated warm-up and the performance itself). I drink lots of tea with honey. The best throat lozenges I have found as a singer that really help me vocalls are GeloRevoice. They are really awesome, and I use them whenever I feel raspiness coming on and know I have to perform. If I take them throughout my performance day, it really helps, and at least my voice doesn't get worse by singing.
I also try to choose my repertoire intelligently. If possible, I try to start with the lower, less intense, softer pieces - by the time I work myself up to the more demanding pieces, my voice has actually gotten better. I have indeed already experienced my voice being all raspy in the beginning of a gig, and afterward it was so much better. Singing with good technique and intelligenty actually helped my voice get better.
Before singing any demanding repertoire, you should warm up your voice thoroughly, just as you would warm up your muscles prior to any physical exercise. Since your vocal chords consist of muscles and membranes, it is very important to get them started slowly in order to avoid damage.
Generally, you should always start with exercises for the lower voice at low volume, then working up your way slowly in pitch and intensity. Since everybody is different and every BODY is different, the time it takes your voice to be completely warmed up varies from person to person.
Start with the easy exercises that allow your voice to be very relaxed, until you have the feeling you can now move to higher, more intense singing without putting on too much strain. Only when you feel that an exercise is executed without too much effort from your vocal chords, you should move on to a more demanding exercise.
Remember, your SUPPORT might get strained, and you might have the feeling that you have to put forth an effort. However, you're only trying to protect your vocal chords, as they are the weakest element. You want to train your support muscles and everything else involved. If you experience any hoarseness, it's a sign that you're putting too much strain on your vocal chords.
As you move to higher, more demanding exercises, make shure you are very focused and go to the limit without overdoing it. But do go to the limit, to the very top AND the very bottom. Don't only focus on one end of the scale and remember that a strong middle and low voice is the foundation of a strong top voice.
For some ideas for exercises, watch my videos about basic and advanced warm up routine:
It's simple: there's no sound without breath! You simply have to breathe in air in order for your vocal chords to produce any sounds.
The air passing through your vocal chords and making them vibrate is what creates sound.
Your breath should be able to flow with as little barriers as possible. In order to achieve this, you should keep your throat open and relaxed. You can tell that there are no barriers when you don't hear much of a breathing noise. The more air you actually HEAR going in, the more friction is going on, because you probable don't have an open throat.
When you yawn, you actually open your throat very wide, but you should stay pretty relaxed.
Whenever I take a deep breath while singing, I imagine the air passing over my tongue, falling down into my lungs due to its own weight. I don't suck in the air actively, but insted just let it fall in, deep into the bottom of my lungs until they're filled. My lungs expand, which makes my ribs to out.
Like the shape of and instrument's resonating body, your posture is crucial to the sound of your voice.
Here are the most important things you need to know about good singing posture:
- since your lungs are the power house of your breath and determine how the air passes through your vocal chords, it's important to be able to control the speed and pressure of the air.
- this is achieved by standing upright and tall while having relaxed shoulders, neck, legs, and hips. Imagine you're wearing a corset and have a very straight torso, but the rest of your body is more like a marionette, your arms hanging very loosely and relaxed at the sides of your body.
- keep tension in your mid-section, always lifting up - this assures that the muscles around your lungs, which control airflow, stay firm. Keep this position throughout your singing, weather you're inhaling or exhaling. Never collapse!