5 quick tips for the beginning singer
I started singing four years ago, and although that may not be a lot of time, the knowledge I have learnt since then is, in my humble opinion, immense. I am a classically trained singer, and the amount of knowledge I've learned from my teacher is far too much to adequately be translated onto this page. I will, however, try to put down a few quick tips for singers who may be just starting out, or anyone who enjoys to sing and wants to further their talent.
01 Know the parts of your body
A common part of the body you will keep hearing being repeated is the diaphragm. This is the muscle that will give you 'support' for the sound you create. People subconsciously use their diaphragm every time they take a breath in or out, yet it can be pretty abstract to consciously control the diaphragm muscle adequately to produce the sound required. I learned by observing which part of my body moved when I breathed without moving my shoulders - this is the muscle that you should eventually be able to control at will.
Another important part of the body for singers is the soft palette. Classically trained singers, especially, will have to learn control this muscle very well. This is another muscle that we have to learn how to control, and I learned how to control it through using the gagging reflex - sticking two fingers down the back of your throat. You should feel an upward jerking movement at the back of your throat, and this gagging reflex is the soft palette moving upward. In singing, this muscle should be constantly pulled upward.
Singing, I find, can almost be somewhat like an anatomy class - just as any other instrumentalist must know the parts of his or her instrument, a singer must know his or her instrument thoroughly, which is in this case the human body.
02 Don't be afraid to make mistakes
Many people start out in music hoping that they will be able to play or sing something perfectly right after the first lesson. This is never the case. Every single good singer or musician out there has been through years of practice, failure, more practice, and more failure before finally reaching any level of success.
I find that in singing, one must learn how to croak before learning how to sing. It is difficult to accept the croaking stage, but one must trust that it happens to every singer. Trust your teacher in that she or he knows how to bring out your voice, and if you croak, know that it is only because you are at the first step of learning to sing. Making mistakes is part of the learning process; if one has never fallen, one can never learn to stand.
03 Your teacher is not always right
I just said that one should trust his or her teacher - however, one must also know how to identify a good teacher versus a bad teacher. I have seen both sides of voice teachers. When I first began singing, I had a voice teacher whose primary focus, I later found, was the money and not the student. Sure she could sing, but she couldn't teach at all. When I finally switched over to my current voice teacher, she told me that my previous teacher had taught me so many wrong things that my voice had been damaged rather than trained; it took me more than a year to correct the mistakes I'd learned from my first teacher.
Singing should never ever strain or hurt your throat. It's a strange feeling to get used to, but it should be freer than you've ever imagined your voice to be. You can try out this feeling, if you bend over while standing so that you see the world upside down, and try singing something - of course, not forgetting to support. You will find that the soft palette lifts up without you even noticing, and singing will feel strangely free (although the sound produced may be a little stranger than you expect). This is the feeling that you should aim to achieve in classical singing.
04 Practice, practice, practice
I cannot emphasise enough how important practice is. Learning how to control the diaphragm and soft palette takes weeks, months, and even years of practice. Most music playing bases itself upon muscle memory, and constant practice is the only way to drill your muscles into the position they must be for each and every note you produce. When you perform, the technicalities of music should have already become second nature to you.
05 Be sincere
Music is a form of expression, and to do well in it, you have to truly believe in what you are expressing. Actors call this 'method acting'; musicians don't have a term for it, except knowing what you're doing and truly believing in the music. If you sing Suzanna from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, you are not acting as Suzanna - you are Suzanna. Every single emotion she feels, you must believe in wholly and completely.
For the audience to believe in your music, you must first believe in it yourself. Unless, of course, you are a darned good actor or actress and you can convince the audience of your music without you doing so yourself. I have simply found that beliving in my own music is much easier.