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A Couple of Questions from a Beginner.

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Hey everyone,

As I'm awaiting for more feedback on my Frank Sinatra cover (it's on my TMV profile), I'll bring to you certain problems that I do notice persist while I am singing.

First of all, when singing and nearing the end of a musical phrase, I tend to die off a bit, meaning my pitch gets shaky and my voice gets weaker. Evidently, the culprit here is lack of support - the problem's been diagnosed, but now, what do I do about it? I try to make a conscious effort to fix it, but I honestly have no idea what to do to give my phrases more support through the end.

As any beginner, I'm also very interested in expanding my vocal range. I want to be able to go higher without strain. I've been progressing at this (with much thanks to beyondtenor), but I'm still no where near where I want to be. I have yet to develop a solid bridge between my chest voice and my head voice. I would happily pay for lessons, but I'm only sixteen, with no stable amount of income. My parents are less than supportive of me singing, they believe I should do something "practical". I believe that's a bunch of crap. (I yearn to be a musician)

And lastly, for now, how does one stay in key with other people? I can moderately stay in key on my own, but when I have to duet (my friend and I were messing around the other day), I have no idea what to do. She has more musical knowledge than I do, and she hears that we're singing in different keys. My ears are unfortunately untrained, and I can't distinguish it. Quite simply, how do I know that she and I are singing in the same key, and how do I adjust myself so that we are singing in the same key?

Thanks so much,

Richard T.

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Yeah so it's about "the support". Do you feel you're lacking the air in the end of the phrase? So it is really shacking coz you're pushing out the last out of your lungs, that usually makes your voice shaky coz you cannot let the air flow out at a constant rate. I guess you knew that already.

Well to think "simple" solutions, is, how do you make your breathe last longer? There's basic things, like, how much you can inhale? how much you SHOULD inhale? What is the rate the air is flowing out when you are singing?

First, i'll tell you these really "simple" facts, well that's obvious and no science. These are advices that probably don't solve your problems, but are facts that join this problem..

1. Inhale abit more than usually to be able to sing longer phrases. But if out inhale as much as you can, you are in really tensed position, and probably not gonna make it, it'll make you just sing with excess compression that'll tire your cords.. Or a breathy tone.

So it's gotta be "necessary, but not too much"

2. Inhale during phrases/inhale more often than you've done during singing. If it fits in the middle of phrase, you can inhale(why not?) during the phrase. It is silly if you have a 3 sec pause during the phrase that doesn't have any vocalizing and then you keep your breath like under water :P I guess this is not a natural way that someone does, but if it is... you can repair that.

Well. Breathing should be natural and if it feels ok and relaxed etc it's ok in the basic level.. So this is about taking air in. Your problem probably is in the "exhaling" area.

1. Avoid breathy tone. Breathiness means more air out than you should. At first, you should avoid it even if you eventually would want to add that as an effect, or texture to your sound.

Pure vocal fry may be the most "effective" if you wanna exhale so slow as you can. Relaxed. It's the sound where folds are the most amount of time closed during "vocalizing" I guess. I haven't measured it but i guess I can do it about a minute. Then i'll start to feel light headed, coz 1 minute without breathing in gotta be hard!.. If you add some note to the fry, the time you can hold one note will get abit shorter. But not so much. If you have followed CVT, it's twanging that'll help you, in SLS/SS they talk about cry/whine. The sound should be like a baby crying. lots of buzzy closure. There the air efficiency is the greatest..

This crying maybe good way to approach this. Support, controlling your air is another, and is still needed even when crying but that's so "unprecise" without a good teacher and real sessions with him that I'd say you could start whining :D The sound helps. You can just shout out whit that crying sound in it and you don't need to think to support.. just do it and it will turn out good :P

I listened your song abit you've recorded. It was pretty ok basicly.. You can still add that cry abit and see if it helps..

about the range, if you can go to the headvoice, that's a good place to be. Then if you want to go more higher, and have like 4-5 octaves range.. I'd say you should get a teacher! I'm sorry to hear about your parents. Some are like them. They don't realize you have to have something as a hobby you really like! If your life is only working 24/7 and beside that you'll do nothing you enjoy, you'll find yourself really depressed! I don't know what kind of music you like the most. If it's Rock/heavy metal, SCREAM OUT AND ROCK OOOON!!!!! The purest thing about rock is to rebel parents!!! :D If it's pop/classical something I wonder why your parents don't like about what you do. well. don't bother about them. Just do your thing!

Staying in the same key needs experience.. You should listen what she sings and how do you sing. You may want to train with your friend. Let her take a note and then you sing the same note simultaneously. Start from the basic things. And then maybe some simple melodies together etc. See first what you CAN do nicely. And start from there. Hope these helps!:P

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that was the most non-technical response i've seen here in a long time. now if the "pros" want to chime in and tweak this explanation a bit, i'd say we're on our way to a great discussion.

may i recommend some "learn to sing/sing better" products from my experience with using them?

rob lunte's "4 pillars of singing"

jeannie deva's "contemporary vocalist"

books and cd's'dvd's by people such as dena murray, hilary canto,

tom arpell, jamie vendera

(most are here at tmv)

simply put, here's a plan for you:

1. learn to to properly warm up and warm down (take it from me, never skip warming up!)

2. learn breathing

3. practise the vocal exercises (some sound utterly ridiculous, but believe me they work.)

these exercises will help you with all you are after!

4. and most importantly, understand that to get to certain levels it's gonna take time and patience.

singing is a lifelong awesome journey..somedays you'll feel like there's nothing you can't do wrong, and others like you're starting from scratch.

but stick with it, and if you can't afford lessons grab the vocal products and start learning.

i sincerely hope i've helped. bob

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Thanks so much for such a detailed response! I'm rereading this through for the second time, and I love it! Honestly, I'd love to try the products, but once again, no source of income. :(

As for warming up... I realized that I have no warm-up routine. :o

And how does one "learn" breathing? I'm not well educated when it comes to these musical exercises, if you could expand on some, that'd be great!

You've helped loads, thanks Bob!

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well, if funds are an issue, why not cruise around youtube and grab the free videos that these folks listed above were nice enough to post. there's a wealth of free advice out there...just make sure it's from a good source.

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I've found that how one approaches the piece musically can greatly aid in breath management (except, maybe, in some Bach which defies any singer to manage breath succesfully):

Shape each phrase so there is an "arc" to it - i.e., it has a beginning, middle, and an end - rather than just singing note-to-note.

Your mental idea of the end of each phrase should be "aimed" at the silence that follows the last phonated note of the phrase, rather than the last phonated note of the phrase (be that silence created by a rest or by a near-instantaneous pause for inhalation). The idea here is that psychologically you prepare yourself to sing beyond the last note of the phrase - i.e., mentally, make that silence PART of the phrase,

Do not release the tautness of your lower abdominal muscle (which controls the compression of the breath as you phonate), or close your mouth, or allow your soft palate to relax, until you've reached the silence after you stop phonating. The ONLY correct way to stop phonation is using your BRAIN - i.e., tell yourself "stop phonating". Only then can you release to allow the vacuum in your lungs (created by using up your breath in the previous phrase) to fill, close your mouth, etc. You should probably never drop your soft palate until the entire song/aria is finished. Keeping the palate raised through the entire piece is a good habit to get into. Much easier to simply get used to having the palate raised at all times than to allow it to drop, and have to keep reminding yourself to raise it over and over again.

It also helps to set the tempo for your song based on the longest, most difficult phrase. For example, when I sing the Largo section of "Cara sposa" from Handel's opera RINALDO, I figure out the tempo at which I can successfully sing the entire phrase "a pianti miei" in which the "pia-" in "pianti" is sustained for 3 1/2 measures, followed by 1 1/2 more measures of "-ti miei". So what I am better off doing is setting the entire Largo section at a tempo that will enable me to get through that one really nasty phrase on a single breath. It also helps that repetitions of text combined with upward modulations of the same musical pattern are clearly intended to communicate a growing sense of urgency, which makes a slight accelerando (and crescendo) appropriate entering that sustained phrase.

But not every composer was quite so helpful as Handel (who was, after all, one of the all-time masters at vocal writing). Bach, for instance, was an absolute sadist when it came to vocal writing: he essentially wrote music that was designed to be played on violin (his second instrument, after keyboards, and what I suspect he may have used to try things out when composing for voice), then stuck words on it and expected people to be able to sing it despite the fact that there is often no obvious or even marginally graceful to interpolate a breath.

Karen Mercedes

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Once again, thanks!

After reading your response singingwithspirit, I must say, I'm quite lost at to what exactly my soft palate is. If I am correct, it's the softer part on the roof of your mouth at the back of the mouth. Following your advice of having the soft palate raised, how do I do that exactly? I wasn't aware of my soft palate being raised at all prior to posting this clip. What does it "feel" like, when the soft palate is raised?

Richard T.

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hehey, I'll continue my "untechnical" answers :D

I must say that when it comes to breathing I really don't have the knowledge how muscles works etc. And it seems there are always argues about support, and how it works and how it should be done so.. I don't try to be "specific enough"

Ok the way you realize your soft palate: That's right, it is the soft tissue in the back, roof of your mouth. It raises and lowers, naturally when swallowing, or, when you are in example, blowing the balloon.

Do this: Breathe normally thru your nose. Keep your mouth closed. Then "close your nose", like you would do when you start to blow a balloon, during the exhale. So you should think blowing up the balloon. You actually should even "push" abit air to see if your cheeks go "full of air" so it's same thing like blowing up the balloon. Now if your cheeck went "full of air", and the air doesnt escape thru your nose but you keep the air inside your mouth, you have a fully raised soft palate! Then after this, to lower the soft palate "breathe out thru your nose" to empty your mouth from the air and keeping your mouth shut. it's that easy :)

This maybe a good way to realize what your soft palate is and how it works. In singing, I feel that you should not fully raise your soft palate, coz then you'll lack head resonance, and makes your voice sound darker, more "shouty" quality but depends how you wanna sound like. Raised soft palate tho somehow enforces closure and compression, so it encourages to healthier sound production. I find it difficult to lower the soft palate if I wanna brighter sound(I have naturally pretty dark color in my voice) it tries to add breathiness to my voice if I do it and needs concentration to balance the whole thing. I've used to sing fully rised soft palate, It has helped me, but now i feel it's more restricting than helping, at this point.

- masquttii!!

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