#1May 24th, 2007 · 07:20 PM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
Vocal Tips & Tricks
Here are some simple ideas you can use to make your vocals sound better.

Listen listen listen! Your ear is your voice, not your throat.

All the rules that apply to normal music practice (and some that don't) apply to vocal practice.

Practice regularly (daily if possible). Find a coach. Read books, study other vocalists. Listen to their CDs, sing along. Stretch, warm up and use strength training exercises. Your voice is a set of muscles like any other set that any other musician uses, don't over do it.

Listen listen listen! Your ear is your voice, not your throat.

Learn breath control; sing from your belly.

The muscle that controls your breathing is called your diaphragm and if you watch a baby sleeping, you'll notice that when (s)he breathes, what primarily rises up and down is not the chest but the belly. Hiccups and "Getting the wind knocked out of you" are both forms of diaphram spasms. If you've experienced either of these things, then you know how crucial a role the diaphragm plays in breathing. The point is that singing has everything to do with breath and that good breath control will result in better vocals. Breath control comes from the control and stability of the diaphragm. If you think you need to push harder on something, either to be louder or clearer or more stable, push harder on your diaphragm, not your vocal muscles. Your vocal muscles should, for the most part, be relaxed. Sing from your belly.

Listen listen listen! Your ear is your voice, not your throat.

Sing with something, anything.

Find a good quality (preferably organic) long-sustaining pitch source.

A guitar, a piano, a sitar, a fan, a blender, a blow dryer, a lawn mower, anything. No seriously, I mean anything. Anything that has a constant pitch and can produce an extended and sustained tone. Preferably something that sustains a tone for a long time and that doesn't interfere with your stomach, chest throat mouth or head areas, also preferably something with which you can select the easiest note for you to sing in your range. For most people a guitar or piano will suffice though if you can get an electric guitar and crank up the volume this will probably be your best bet. When you're only plucking one string you can crank up the volume louder than you think on an electric guitar. Careful! Don't crank it so loud you can't hear yourself anymore.

You need to sing with something to be sure that you're holding a steady note. A string will vibrate at a more or less constant rate and will not vary it's pitch by much at all. A string does vary its pitch a small amount over time, sharper on the attack, flatter on the decay, small amounts of fluctuation during vibration. However, compared to the average (and even trained) human voice, the amount of a string's vibrational flux is negligible and is perfectly suitable for singing with.

Listen listen listen! Your ear is your voice, not your throat.

Slow down. Take baby steps. Start with just one note.

Waaaaay down, yes I mean way down.

Now using your trusty pitch source, strike a note and sing it. Hold that one single note for as long as you can. Make a contest out of it. It's like holding your breath. How long can you hold a note? 10 seconds, 15? 30? A minute? Remember not to run completely out of breath to the point of wheezing, that is not good. Consider your note broken once you really begin to run out of breath and stop the instant the note becomes strained. Do that for a week straight before you go on to moving between notes.

Listen listen listen! Your ear is your voice, not your throat. Have I gotten through to you yet? Let me explain.

Listen! Your ear is your voice.

Most people get this backwards and they think that by pushing harder on their vocal muscles that they will in some way enhance their voice. Only by really listening to your voice and what it sounds like and what it is doing will you understand what it is your vocal muscles are actually doing to it and thus understand how to manipulate those vocal muscles to do what you want with your voice.

While doing your one note singing exercise, don't think about or pay attention to how you sound, pay attention to how the string sounds and match the pitch. This is absolutely fundamental. Vocal practice is primarily ear training first and muscle training second. Most instrument training centers first around how to properly move the muscles and appendages concerned. Vocal training centers first around how to detect the whether and how far off a note is from another, in other words, how far off is your voice from that note you should be singing. As mentioned before, sing one note for a week or a month or as long as it takes for you to know with absolute certainty that you can and are singing what you are hearing. Your ear is your voice.

Listen listen listen! Your ear is your voice, not your throat.

Learn to sing effortlessly through direct experience.

Try the simple exercise of making each of the standard vowel sounds: A E I O U but use the european style vowel sounds, so phonetically it sounds like: "Ahhh, Ehhh, Eeeee, Ohhh, Ooou." Sing one note and keep that note steady, now while keeping that note going, shift between each of the vowel sounds. Move your mouth around, move your throat around, open your mouth wide narrow your mouth down. Discover through direct experience the easiest and most effortless way to clearly enunciate each of those vowels without stress on your vocal muscles. This is difficult! Don't get frustrated.

First begin to sing a note, then listen very closely to how the note sounds, then finally try to pay attention to how your voice box and throat muscles feel in the position they are in. After you've listened and payed attention to how your voice sounds and how it feels to make that sound, then and only then should you shift your voice box and throat muscles to a different position to get a different sound. All the while you should be singing and keeping this note going. Now revert back to listening to your voice. Then feel your throat, then change. Always begin with listening.

Listen listen listen! Your ear is your voice, not your throat.

An anecdote on science

A vocal coach was telling me about how they did some studies (and you know they talk a lot) to see if they could figure out the neurological basis for the cognition of vocal intonation. Many experiments and electrode attachments later the scientists conducting this study were stumped and had no further information on how the brain does what it does when people sing, much less how to help people become better singers with the information they were hoping to garner.

The coach told me that as part of the study they were comparing different techniques to figure out which ones yielded the best results in terms of helping people figure out how to sing better and make their voices both do what they wanted and sound more pleasing. The age old but winning technique that the coach imparted to me that has supposedly been in use for hundreds of years is simpler than the scientists could have ever imagined. It's called visualization. No this isn't a Tony Robbins seminar or any new age mumbo jumbo, it's really pretty simple. All you do is "visualize the sound" you want to hear. Sight and sound don't particularly mix well in this context, so this might require a bit of explanation.

They say that the sense of smell is the most closely related to memory. Think of a time when you smelled something that triggered a particularly powerful memory, for many people the smell of popcorn triggers the memory of a movie theater, or the smell of freshly baked goods might trigger the memory of mother or grandmother. Now try to remember something you've smelled or tasted before, like an apple. Simply try to remember what an apple actually tastes like. You can do it, it just requires a bit of imagination. Now try to remember what an apple looks like, all of this with as much detail as possible. Now for the last test, try to remember exactly what your favorite song sounds like, full orchestration and everything, what key it's in, all the different parts. Try to do it as a whole, don't try to remember specific details of the song, just try to "hear" the song in your head. Got it? No? Keep trying. Yes? Good. Sort of? Well, that's about as close as you need to get.

So now here's how this all fits together: when you're singing, once properly warmed up and using correct vocal technique and while not straining, simply imagine how you'd like your voice to come out, think about it for a while, really concentrate on it, even "visualize" to the extent that is possible, and then... well... just do it. Just let it out. Simply take that visualized or imagined sound and "put it into" your vocal chords and see what happens. You might be surprised; hopefully in a good way.
#2June 5th, 2007 · 06:30 PM
48 threads / 7 songs
429 posts
United States of America
wow  this really helped!
#3June 5th, 2007 · 06:34 PM
30 threads / 5 songs
757 posts
Australia
you got it in a nutshell very helpful and well  structured tutorial .
handy stuff
#4April 4th, 2008 · 02:26 AM
340 threads / 59 songs
4,344 posts
United Kingdom
Anyone reading this thread will be interested in this site :
Vocalist - Singer - Singing Teachers Resource - www.vocalist.org.uk

A very well informed and packed site, lots of good stuff from breathing lessons to free web hosting (for singers).
#5December 12th, 2008 · 05:55 PM
2 threads
1 posts
United States of America
great tips here!
#6December 12th, 2008 · 06:24 PM
179 threads / 52 songs
1,927 posts
Canada
Thanks so much for this! My band really needs to work on our vocals, and this will help tremendously.
#7December 14th, 2008 · 09:03 AM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
glad y'all like it
#8December 14th, 2008 · 01:38 PM
1 threads
United States of America
Sing with something
Great post,
   on the "sing with something" note, I thought the tracks at http://mysingingsucks.com would do the trick.  They offer tracks/scales to sing along with.
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