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Getting a Beginner on Track

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tikiman53
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Hey guys,

I'm new here, and I was hoping you guys could help me out a bit.

So I'm 18, and I play the guitar and the piano, and I've always liked covering songs for fun. I've never gotten any singing lessons or done school choir or anything though, so in terms of technique and stuff, I'm pretty clueless. My range is also pretty bad haha. I can comfortably sing in barely more than an octave, and I can sing really high notes, but strangely, I can't really comfortably hit anything in between.

However, I have a good ear, I think. I'm a serious clarinet player, and I've been around music my whole life. I have a pretty good grasp of music theory and I know my way around sheet music. If I listen to a song, I can sing it and hit the right notes and whatnot. Dunno if I'm sharp or flat, but I'm not tone deaf at least haha.

I've been trying to learn recently through youtube videos and reading stuff online, but I still feel pretty lost. I learned about breathing through the diaphragm (which is an important clarinet concept too) and some warm up exercises, like that lip roll thing.

What do you guys suggest I do to improve, get good technique and develop vibrato?

I recently came upon some money, so I can afford maybe a month or so of lessons once I find a good teacher. Would you say that getting a teacher is a must?

And in terms of vibrato, is it something that comes naturally? Or do you have to train yourself to get it? I think I have some sort of quasi-vibrato. I'm not sure if it's just a quiver of my voice or if it's actually vibrato. I'm guessing it's not really vibrato.

In terms of technique, I really know pretty much nothing. I know it'd be hard to tell me all the technical aspects of singing, but do you guys think you can sum up the basic stuff to get me started?

Thanks a lot guys! Sorry if this post is really long. One last thing: I'm not trying to be the next American Idol or become some sort of international superstar haha. I just want proper technique and the ability to sing a lot of my favorite songs--as well as some of the stuff I wrote--well. I'm a high school senior right now, and it'd be really cool to get good enough to join an acapella when I go to college :) or do open mic stuff. Oh, and it's always been one of my dreams to be one of those youtube musician guys. That'd be really cool

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Hi tikiman53, why don't you post a clip of you singing to hear where you are technically and then we (I'm not really saying ME hahahaha cause I am not that good yet, still working on improving) can give you some pointers... But just like Videohere says, breathing and breath support!!! I like this video, it really helped me a lot:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Muzzzicman#p/u/27/b1drBvUKxrw

This gives you a good excercise on support... Pretty much it's keeping the ribs expanded so that the diaphragm doesn't release all the air quickly; you don't really need much air, actually it's very little air you need in order to sing, so this really helps! Also make sure you don't lock your stomach, while you're releasing the air, keep the ribs expanded and let the stomach come in naturally, no tensing, no bulging!

Also, something that has helped me greatly, because I usually constrict and I'm trying to get rid of tension, is thinking about an inner smile. I got this exercise from Singing and the actor (a great book that I recommend that starts with the very basics, you can get in Amazon and it costs about 30 bucks):

-Think about something funny and try to laugh

-Feel that smile down at your larynx (just behind your Adam's apple) and try to keep it there

-Assign it an effort level from 1 to 10 so that you can use this number later on and embed it into your muscle memory (for me, it used to be a 2 when I started, but now it feels like a 1, probably cause my muslce memory is more used to it now)

-Try to keep that feeling there and chew lazily and roll your tongue in your mouth to make sure you're not constricting other muscles, but make sure you keep the same effor level

-Also make sure that you don't lock your stomach, make sure you are breathing easily and that the stomach goes in naturally.

-Then, try to voice some "zzzz" or "vvvv" and work on keeping that "open" feeling.

Doing this exercise was really a breakthrough for me, it helped me greatly and I totally feel a much freer sound!

Also, though some people might not agree with me, try to get some good book on vocal technique (I personally use Ccomplete Vocal Technique and singing and the actor, and haven't really used others deeply enough to recommend them, but raphaels mentioned some coaches who have their own training material and I'm sure it's great as well) and THEN try to get a Skype lesson. This is MY VERY PERSONAL OPINION, because I think it would be good to go to a teacher once you have some basic understanding of technique. But again, others might entirely disagree with me :D

And about vibrato, you can totally develop it! I didn't have any vibrato before, but now my vibrato is quite good and I can use it pretty much on all vowels and pitches, but you have to practice it!

Hope this helps, and do post a clip :D

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My brother has played the clarinet, piano, guitar, bass, drums, and sings (he's more talented than I am. And more succesfull musically. He was for a while writing jingles for other websites.) Anway, think of singing like playing the clarinet or oboe. The vibrating reeds are your folds. Compression of the folds is your embouchre. And the resonant spaces in your head is like operating the valves on a clarinet, changing the size/shape of the resonating space for the note to be supported. From your description, you are mainly having a problem with the passaggio.

Hope is not lost for you. Ronnie James Dio started out playing the french horn and he credits the breathing for that with how he sang.

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Don't forget relaxed tongue in there, one of the fundamentals too. Look up the basics in this forum and ask away on specifics. A vocal lesson when you think you're getting stuck is superb too. Skype lessons are not expensive and could be a great pointer in some direction.

Cheers

Fred

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I'd like to chip in with recording yourself. Recording yourself is a very useful tool. Audio at the very least, and video allows you to look at posture too. It is pretty painful to begin with, but you get past that and can use it for refining songs and really hearing your mistakes.

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Hey, guys. I took your advice and busted out my webcam. Haha, I dunno if the quality is that great, but you can hear everything and stuff, so it'll do. I don't have a microphone or any fancy equipment, but my laptop webcam is surprisingly good. Here are two snippets I recorded today. Please, guys, don't be too soft on me. I'm only gonna learn if you guys go hardcore and tell me all my mistakes and get me on the right track. And yes, I'm in a bathroom. :). I heard they have good acoustics. I just came back from a basketball game and I was screaming like crazy and my voice was kind of hoarse, but it doesn't really get much better than this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNE98zEUTjY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqo7sFQGggc

Without guitar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUfIEuLRIkk

And also, do you guys have vocal exercise routines that you do everyday? And if so, what do you guys do?

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Hey, I had a quick peek. I don't really want to critique, as I am only a learner myself, and I'm interested to see what much more knowledgeable people than I say, however, I just thought I'd mention that the guitar (excellent guitar btw) is quite dominant in the sound and as far and listening to your voice, I think it would be easier if you re recorded without the guitar.

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As for training every day yes. I used to have marathon 3-4 hours runs (lots of reading in between exercises however) which always hurt my throat. As per Steves advice over here http://www.punbb-hosting.com/forums/themodernvocalist/viewtopic.php?id=1783 my daily routine is now a light warmup followed by 30 minutes exersices and a little extra for what I feel was lacking from previous days.

And most importantly I have a setlist I swap around every sunday with about 4-6 songs which I sing through every day (5 this week, about 20 min). I take the time while I rest my voice to analyse, break up parts, remember lyrics etc and whatever I have to do to remember how to sing the song. Sometimes when my voice just don't want I whip up a stool and learn it on piano so I'm prepared for a later session.

PS I can understand if this forum can be a daunting resource at first glance but as mentioned above look up the very basic foundations like breathing, support and resonance (and tongue position) and concentrate on just them for a few weeks (month if you need, these you will constantly find new exiting things to do with as long as you sing I think). If you have fewer subjects its easier to find resources and it will feel less daunting. I know, I've been there not long ago :)

Cheers

Fred

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