Learning how to sing
How to become a great singer/performer
- Vocal instruction: Find a good instructor in your area to teach you proper technique. If you can’t afford this option, follow the instructions below.
- Vocal warm-ups and practice: you can find many options on YouTube for vocal warm-ups. Go with the best style that suits you. My suggestion would be to go with the one that offers the most range in order to expand your abilities. Never sing first without warming up. Vocal warm-ups are like a lubricant for your vocal cords. They are also like lifting weights for your vocal cords. Eventually, they become strong and sturdy. If you don’t do these, it’s like running first without stretching. You will pull a muscle! Please do this prior to singing for at least 15 to 20 minutes. I always warm up for 30 minutes, especially prior to competition.
- Don’t over sing: (i.e. no yelling) – If you over sing you will strain your vocal cords. If you get hoarse, you’ve strained your cords and need to rest. Continued strain on your cords can lead to vocal nodules, which I have experienced in my early practice, and they are terrible and hard to get rid of. They require steroids and weeks of silence or even worse surgery, so please don’t do this. The way to avoid, don’t pick songs that are out of your range
- Learn your vocal capabilities: What I mean by this - is learn your vocal style and what you can do with it. Who are you as a singer? What does your voice allow? What kind of music moves your soul the most? If you are trying to pursue this professionally, you will need to find this vocal style and range. You can’t be all over the place and you have to know your sound. It needs to be part of your vocal DNA. They want originality and if you can’t provide that, your chances of getting through that door are slim.
- Practice, practice, practice: As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect” and it does. I started really singing at age 12 but did not truly become a great singer until I was about 19 (I’m 33 now). I had raw talent and I practiced my rear end off to get where I am now. I took classical vocal instruction from a world renowned opera singer and he taught me that without practice, you will never truly learn to sing. Your vocal warm-ups and practice are the keys to your success. They may sound weird at first but you will come to know them as your best friend.
- Get a good microphone and speakers for proper projection – Having a good mic, speakers and an amplifier are unbelievably important. I traveled with a band for a while in my earlier career in music and let me tell you without a good mic and speakers your voice is in a world of trouble. If the mic has a lot of noise you don’t clear sound, if the speakers and amp are subpar you can’t hear yourself sing. This leads to over singing and I’ve told you what happens when you do that. It’s bad news for your vocal cords people. So always test that out prior to purchasing, singing with a band or even as simple as karaoke!
- Learn the dynamics of your voice and the song you are singing: Crescendo – De crescendo. When to go loud and when to go soft. You need to really learn the song you are singing in order to know when and where to implement this. It shows your connection to the song. If you stay loud or soft the whole time during a song it shows you don’t know how to use your voice. It can also be abrasive, annoying, and screechy or it can come across as nerves or passiveness. You need to be confident in order for people to really pay attention to your voice and the song, not on what you are doing wrong.
- Learn the difference between head and chest voice and how to use your diaphragm: This takes time and practice. When people first get started they generally stick to one zone. Head or chest. Your head voice is where you can go soft and use your higher register. Your chest voice is where you get your boom and your power. With most songs there is a wide range of notes to play with you and are going to need to learn the difference between these two and how to easily switch back and forth. This is where learning your voice comes into play. Once you get good at this, it will become second nature. Your voice will also become strong enough, with practice of course, to use your power in your head voice. For example, most power singers today and yesterday (like your 80’s female/male, rock/pop singers) use power in their head voice. Those screams do not come from the chest! If they did, they would blow their cords. This all comes with proper use of your diaphragm and breathe (please see below). If feels like your pushing or squeezing something. Like when, please excuse the description but this is what I was taught, you have a bowel movement. You squeeze your diaphragm! Push! I would use the description of having a baby but not everyone here can relate to that. The diaphragm helps you project your voice. You will need to learn to use this in every area of your voice. Once you get your head and chest voice figured out, put them all together with using your diaphragm. This will become a fluid response once you piece everything together. It will help you with your dynamics as well. Your voice is like a puzzle. It has many different pieces that once put together will make a perfect picture.
- Breathe control: This is so important! You have to learn how to use your breathe. This is comes also with using your diaphragm, they go hand in hand. You always must get plenty of air. Learn where to take your breathes in the breaks of the song. If you run out air, you can’t project and your diaphragm becomes deflated. Breathe helps define the loudest, most powerful and even the softest most delicate moments of a song. You must learn how to use it for your benefit and also you don’t pass out holding a long note.
- Learn pitch and tone: This is all about using your ears and hearing. If you can’t hear the sounds you are making you will be flat, sharp and pitchy. No scooping over or under the notes. You hit those notes spot on or don’t sing the song. Pick another one. If it’s too low or too high either change the key or get out. Guaranteed you will be flat or sharp if you don’t. You need to sing in front of someone else if you can’t tell on your own or get a pitch control device. If you can’t get your pitch and tone under control, your future as even a good singer will be short lived. Now you may sound good to yourself but no one else will want to hear you. It’s like cats screaming, nails down chalkboard... Not good. Get my drift?
- Get your nerves under control: I can’t express how important this is. I have been in the middle of showcase, a VERY IMPORTANT SHOWCASE, WITH SOMEONE VERY IMPORTANT, and BLEW IT! All because I didn’t step out of the moment and get my nerves under control. You have to learn how to get your train of thought centered and focused. Pray, meditate, or imagine people in their underwear! Whatever it takes to calm you down, do it. During times of great importance it is so critical to know how to control your nerves. They mess with your breathe control and break up your concentration and that is a recipe for failure. Practicing in front of others constantly, will help you build your confidence. If you are pursuing this business for the hopes of making it big, you HAVE to develop a thick skin! It is TOUGH out there and people can be cruel and try to tell you that you will never succeed. Do not let them in your head. Keep pursuing your passion. In whatever capacity that may be. As long as it still makes you happy, then it is worth keeping it alive.
- Use your emotion: This also shows your connection to the song. You really need to learn how to express yourself in a song. Interpret it. If you can’t connect, don’t sing it. If there is no emotion, people can’t relate to you. You are just another voice singing a song. You have to capture the meaning and purpose of the message of the song. This draws the person listening to you in and paints a picture for them. Make them cry, make them laugh or get them excited. Whatever the point of the song is, make sure you make it.
- Stage presence: Finally, stage presence. If you plan on taking this to the stage, this is an important tool for your success. This too, takes practice and study. Watch those who have already made it. Watch how they use their body language, how they connect to the audience and how they use the stage to portray the moment of the song. Sometimes they will use every single inch of square footage on that stage and sometimes they will stand front and center. It all depends on the song and the moment they are trying to create.
- Where I got my info: Years of experience in study, practice, mentors, competition, travel singing (“on the road again”) almost making it (on more than one occasionJ) and teaching excited students!
Please feel free to write comments, ask questions, or add some of your own experiences and I’ll share it!! Even if it’s just for play or something more driven, music is therapy and is food for the soul. I encourage everyone to give it a try