- Simon Chate
- Contact Simon
Tips for Singers
Here’s a few tips to help keep the voice in good shape:
Always warm up
Whatever you do, don’t underestimate warming up! This is one of the most important things you’ll ever need to know as a singer. Just like world class athletes wouldn’t even consider competing without first limbering up their bodies, singers need to warm up the voice in preparation for the muscularly challenging work of singing.
Warm up gradually
It is important not to launch into your most challenging and vocally demanding warm ups straightaway. Make sure you slowly build up the intensity of your warm up exercises. Start very gently and gradually increase the intensity of volume, effort and range. Once the voice has been warmed up, start singing with several of your less vocally challenging songs. This gives the voice the time to continue to stretch and warm up before reaching for the larger, more demanding material.
Rest before performance
This may seem obvious to some, but it’s easliy overlooked. We perform better if we’re rested so try to minimise the amount of stress and strain on the voice before a show. Have a look at the Vocal Abuse Checklist to see how you can minimise the chances of hurting your voice.
During singing, whether in performance or rehearsal, try to avoid eating food, especially sugary or creamy foods, or drinking alcohol. Some foods play havoc with mucous levels, and it is very easy to increase mucous around the larynx and add to the overall fatiguing of the voice. Wait to have your meal after you’ve finished the performance.
Drink lots of water
Ensure that you always have plenty of water available to rehydrate your instrument.
Breathe from the Diaphragm
Full abdominal breathing actively engages the Thoracic Diaphragm, a trampoline-like muscle stretching across the bottom of the ribcage below the lungs. By developing awareness and control of the process of abdominal breathing the singer learns to fully support and empower the voice, controlling, developing and sculpting the vocal tone. Abdominal breathing is essential to the development of vocal projection.
Vary your exercises
To fully develop your as a singer you will need to have a wide range of vocal exercises at your disposal. It is important to practice with different vowel and consonant shapes, as well as varying the pitch, volume, rhythm, tempo, duration, range and vocal qualities used.
It is vital for the singer to like their own voice, however many singers will express a dislike for their voice upon hearing it recorded. By recording lessons, rehearsals, performances, etc., the singer will be able to recognise areas for further development such as intonation (pitching), as well as become more familiar with and warm to their own voice.
Drop the jaw
If you’ve ever heard people sing through a partly closed mouth you will understand that this simple technique - dropping the jaw - will improve vocal tone tremendously. The jaw should drop down, lengthening the face, to allow the sound vibration to move outward, as opposed to widening the mouth which will create a more twangy nasal sound.
The larynx tends to move up and down somewhat during singing, however in speech level singing, ideally the movement will be minimised as the larynx is relaxed. The positioning of the larynx can have quite dramatic effects on the sound. For example, the lowering of the larynx will darken the tone while raising the larynx will brighten the sound considerably. Experiment with different larynx positions to increase the tone colours available to you.
Another factor that will determine vocal tone is the position of the tongue in the mouth. By bringing the tongue forward and touching its tip to the back of the bottom teeth the tone will become brighter and clearer, as this tongue position will create a shallower, reduced space for resonance in the back of the mouth. This forward tongue position allows the sound to freely move forward, and also allows more vibrant resonance in the sinus and resonating cavities in the front of the head. By pulling the tongue back, down into the throat, a deeper resonating chamber occurs, promoting a darker. more classical tone.
Reduce and Release
While it is true that the effort required to sing higher register notes increases with pitch, there is a distinct difference between shouting - pushing the chest voice harder in the hope that it will move up to reach the higher pitched notes - and releasing up to these notes. This will very likely cause strain and some pain to the voice. What needs to happen here is a release upward into the mix voice. The sonic vibration will be felt in the body in an upward movement as pitch ascends, and rather than stopping around the upper chest and throat, as with shouting, the vibration continues to move up and can be felt right up into to top of the head. This release is difficult to describe, however here is an attempt...with rising pitch, the chest voice relinquishes the sound towards the head voice, however rather than just flipping up into falsetto, the voice quality changes, allowing a thinning of the sound to occur. The chest voice continues to add its resonance to the higher resonance of the head voice so that the two are happening at the same time. This thinning and blending of the head and chest voices is commonly called the mix or middle voice.
Find the right key
Whenever you are choosing a song to rehearse or perform, ensure that the musical key is appropriate to your voice. Know the song, its high and low points, and know your own vocal range. Obviously the singer needs to be able to reach all the notes relatively comfortably, however bear in mind that taking a song too far down in pitch can often have the effect of making it sound dull and uninteresting. The closer that the song is to the top of your range, without going too far, the more exciting it will sound and feel to all.
Cooling down the voice at the end of your session is just as important as warming up in preparation for singing. By running through a few low-impact cool down exercises, the voice is prepared to return to its normal non-singing state. These exercises are therapeutic for tired vocal folds and have the effect of calming and relubricating them.