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Top 10 Tips for Vocalists

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Students are always asking me what to remember technique-wise when they sing. My approach is to get a technique in your body so that "thinking" about technique is at a minimum.

The more you have to think or worry about singing while you perform, the further away you get from singing from your heart: soulfully with intent. Athletes train for many years to be able to rely on their body to support their athletic decisions; it's the same with singing. It may come as a feel-- to drop your jaw -- while singing higher notes that won't release, or something you notice onstage, like you are hunching over. Pros can self-correct quickly, and the audience never knows.

That said, as you develop your vocal instrument, some techniques will become seamless, while others require focus. In the studio, for instance, having a microphone technique and a technique for projection goes a long way in getting a great performance.

Here are some tips:

  1. Drop Your Jaw  This technique pointer is crucial to the first and second rules in pop singing. Dropping the jaw -- lowering in a vertical direction-- allows you to #1 hit pitches without pushing and #2 sing without vibrato to reach the placement of these notes.
  2. Body stance  Keeping your chest up and shoulders back is key to supporting your diaphragm. If you hunch over, it's easier to go flat, and pitches easily can migrate to the back of your throat. You end up working harder with less sound and poorer quality.
  3. Loose jaw Think of how guitarists or pianist warm up their hands to get them more flexible. This is what the exercise dumb-duh does for singers. Because your jaw is loose, you have more flexibility to create more vowel shapes and sing higher notes easily.
  4. Send the sound up and over  Sound has direction, and it has energy. Onstage and in the studio, pick a point across the room and send the sound there. The sound carries in a way that is focused and lifted.
  5. Command the stage  Your body stance and energy communicate who you are to an audience before you sing a note. With chest up and shoulders back, imagine your arms are embracing a big beach ball. This is the breadth of your stage.
  6. Sing through the microphone to a point in the distance  Be mindful of the dynamics of the microphone, and project the sound forward. You can sing into a microphone and not project but the sound is more confined. Try it both ways and see the difference.
  7. Keep your eyes open Being emotional and evocative is good, but closing your eyes shuts out your audience. Your eyes are the windows to your emotions - let your audience in on that.
  8. Don't expel for more tone  Having a reservoir of air is essential in great singing. You don't have to effort for air. Not expelling allows you to use that air more effectively and have more mouth sound (shaping the sound as well). Pop singing is about mouth sound and having a distinct vocal tone. Expelling, of course, can be effective with a breathy style. It doesn't work to get more volume or tone.
  9. Fake it until you make it  No one is perfect, and anything worth doing is worth doing badly to start. They call it artist development for a reason. Start where you are and take baby steps until you get where you want to be.
  10. Work with a coach  Athletes don't do it on their own, and neither do singers. Whitney Houston's mom is a professional singer, so was Mariah Carey's. Even if you have natural talent, it still needs to be developed. You won't know what you actually have until you work it.

This excerpt taken from The Singer's Newsletter #82 email from the vocalcoach@teridanz.com from her upcoming book Nail It Every Time: The Pro Singer's Guide to Everything Vocal with singing tips and more. Reprinted only with permission. All rights are reserved. More vocal tips are published on http://www.a2z-singing-tips.com. This essay was first published May 4, 2009 on The Modern Vocalist.com the Internet's #1 community for vocal professionals, voice health practitioners and pro-audio companies worldwide since November 2008.


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