Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Let's Learn to Sing! 3 Tips for Aspiring Vocalists

The popularity of shows like American Idol, The Voice, America’s Got Talent, X-Factor and Glee has really brought singing into the spotlight. While singing your best requires ongoing practice
and a great coach, here are some tips to give your voice a boost:  

1. Keep your Face Natural and Open Your Mouth!
Watch a singer like Beyonce, Tony Bennett, Josh Groban, or Christina Aguilera. While they’re all about expressing the music, they rarely distort their face except for expressive eyes. In particular, the jaw and throat don’t show the tendons and strain often seen in an amateur singer.  ZOEN expert Daniel Foran offers the following exercise to help the jaw and tongue stay relaxed:

“Say, “ya-ya-ya-ya-ya.”  Do you feel the tongue move? Is your jaw moving with it? It shouldn’t be.  Next, place a finger lightly on your chin and observe yourself speaking the exercise “ya-ya-ya-ya-ya,” in the mirror. Make a conscious effort to relax your jaw and be sure not to move it.”
Photo Attribution: C. Fox

2. Getting “Pitchy?”  Brighten Up!

Simon, Christina or Cee Lo often critique a singer as getting “pitchy.”  When the tendency of the voice is toward the underside of the pitch, or singing “flat”, consider this:

  • Don’t Swallow Your “Ah” Vowels
Sing the syllable “nah,” full and open.  Now sing the syllable “nee” on the same pitch.  Feel where the “nee” is in your mouth?  Now sing “nah” again and put it in the same place in your mouth as “nee” but keep your sound full and open.  Singing your “ah” vowels more “forward” helps curb sour flat notes that bring nasty faces to the judges.

  • Get the Right Key
Here’s a simple old recording studio trick used by producers to help cure flat singing: transpose up a half step.  For example,  if you’re singing in the key of F and singing flat, transpose the song to F#.  In combination with brighter “ah” vowels, this could save an entire performance or session.  

3. Stand Tall and Breathe!  

Think again about those TV judges--they frequently point out “locked knees” or “stiff shoulders.”  Some posture basics:

  • Chin level to ground or slightly raised.
  • Shoulders back and relaxed, chest forward.  “Open up” your torso to your audience.  Experiment by singing in a slouch and compare the sound.
  • Stomach muscles poised, ready to expand.
  • Knees flexible, slightly bent--never locked.
  • Feet apart, roughly shoulder width and one more forward than the other.

While one or more of these tips may work for you, keep in mind that there’s no replacement for the guidance of a professional teacher and consistent practice. The popular singers we admire may have started out in DIY mode. But at some point they had to work with a coach and learn proper technique to remain healthy and sounding great.   

Are you a singer or aspiring singer?  What are some techniques or tips you’ve learned?  Please share below!

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