How to Sing
Our voice is the most easily accessible musical instrument although unfortunately not all of us have the ability to use it. Give it a go, with confidence, and get honest feedback from those with good judgement, who are comfortable enough to honestly share it, before taking your ‘talents’ to the mainstream.
1- Join a local singing group. This is the best way to receive free tuition and guidance from someone who hopefully knows what they’re talking about!
2- Do not drink caffeine, milk or alcohol before singing. Warm water is most appropriate.
3- Always warm up your voice. Warm each of your 3 voices up in turn (see point 7) and do not force notes out of frustration. If they’re not coming, take a break and try again in a couple of hours. Although you want to push your voice just like any other muscle, damaging your vocal chords could result in a major step backwards.
4- Be confident. To sing to our full ability we need to sing confidently and loudly. Do not be ashamed of your practicing. If you are slightly self-conscious, inform those in earshot of you that you are ‘just practicing’.
5- Before trying to sing to songs, try singing to individual notes. Perhaps stand alongside a keyboard or even an online tuner.
6- Keep good posture. Stand tall but comfortably, shoulders back and down and with a high chest. Have your chin line parallel to the floor (looking up to the ceiling will not allow you to sing higher!), and relax your jaw. Sing from your diaphragm, not from your throat.
7- Learn what range you can sing in. An appreciation of your vocal range is crucial to ensure that you do not strain your voice and damage you vocal chords. Do you sing higher pitched songs that you hear on the radio at that same pitch, or do you sing it an octave (12 notes) or two lower? Either way you should be in tune, however you need to become comfortable of ‘where’ you can sing. Practice will help you do this. The voice that most people tend to sing in is their “mix voice” or “passaggio”. The mix voice is our most comfortable range that we tend to sing and speak in naturally, however we are also equipped with a lower range “chest voice” and an upper range “head voice”. In general we want to improve our “mix voice” as this will be are most commonly used instrument, however it is also important to occasionally practice your other voices to increase their power (they tend to be quieter). Practice passing through each of your voices without them breaking.
8- Ensure proper breathing. Consciously appreciate where to place your breaths in your rehearsals.
9- Develop an understanding of dynamics. Listen to dramatic songs and appreciate how a change in tone and volume carries the atmosphere of the music. Use these dynamics in your singing to better engage the audience.
10- Practice speed and agility. Practice hitting notes without thought and wobbling. Do this as quickly as you can up the scales. Do this for at least 20 minutes a day when starting out to help you gain a subconscious awareness of the relative position of the notes.
11- Work on your diction. To captivate an audience they need to be able to understand what you’re saying. Practice correctly sounding out all vowels and consonants.
12- Practice! Practice for at least 45 minutes every day but do not over do it. Record a vocal piece at the end of every week to check your progress. Be as critical as possible when listening back to them.
Be fit and healthy. This will improve your breathing.
Don’t sing nasally. This can be off-putting and negatively affect your diction.
If you are singing in a lower octave and can hear a scraping sound, stop singing immediately as this suggests that you are damaging your vocal chords.
If this occurs commonly, seek medical advice as you may have developed a ‘node’ which may need surgery.
Some people are simply tone deaf. Although you can practice to ‘un-naturally’ appreciate tone, this is going to be an uphill struggle. Be honest with yourself as to your ability.