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How can I improve my singing voice?
I want you....to sing from your diaphragm!
My experience in vocal arts.
I've been involved in music for as far back as I can remember. Some say I recorded live tracks in the womb. Our family has a rich musical background stretching back half a century or so. My grandfather was involved in the Army band as a drummer and turned it into a bluegrass side gig called "The Stompers".
My uncle Doug has sung lead vocals for a few bands over the years. He currently sings with a crazy group called "Dr. Zarr's Amazing Funkmonster" (try saying that 3 times fast), and as funny as it sounds, he's had great success!
I myself have sung with a few bands in the recent past and have even had some vocal training from an opera singer. Nowadays, I mainly write my own music and sing for churches (I recently led worship in New Zealand of all places).
Why write a hub about music and singing? Honestly I love music, and its always good to write about something you love. It appeals to people from all walks of life. Music has the power to bring people with completely opposite opinions and ideals together at times. It's been with us since time began and we'll never be without it.
I've been asked many questions about how to get better at singing, guitar, timing, etc., that I thought I would touch on a very common one. What's the proper way to sing?
I tell ya....I've heard many vocal talents before and while some usually have a good voice, about three quarters of them have no idea how to actually sing. "Well, that's just arrogant of you", you might say. No, not really. Catch what I said; some people with a good voice can't sing properly. Sure they might sound great at times, but the constipated look on their faces along with the "roid-rage" veins on their necks shows how much they're straining to achieve a good sound.
In this particular hub, I'm going to detail out the different ways to warm up your voice as well as proper singing techniques that are very simple to emulate. Ladies and gentlemen, let's get ready to breathe right!
Vocal arts 101
I'm mostly a famous singer
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR DIAPHRAGMS!
Okay, let's go on the assumption that you have a sterling voice. Now, you need to know proper breathing techniques. A singer who doesn't breathe right is like a car without an air filter. It's not the first thing you would normally think about, but it's absolutely essential if you want to sound great and keep your voice intact.
Some time ago, I didn't take the advice I'm about to give you and it nearly cost me my vocal ability. I almost blew my voice out one night singing live. It wasn't readily apparent until after I had finished that something was wrong because my throat hurt so badly. Take heed, so the same thing doesn't happen to you.
First things first, you need to know what your diaphragm is.
Diaphragm - the muscular wall around the rib cage that separates the abdomen from the area around the lungs. While the body has many diaphragms, we are going to be focusing on the "thoracic diaphragm" in this instance. This particular muscle helps to move air into and out of your lungs when it rises and falls. So obviously this is a very important muscle.
- Sitting up straight exercise. Sit down on the end of a chair with your back straight. While taking a deep breath, place your hand between your sternum and your navel. Hold that breath for a moment. Feel that extra pressure in your chest? Did you feel that muscle going up? That's the diaphragm. Now exhale slowly. Your diaphragm falls with this motion. You have some control as you breathe out, but at some point near the end your diaphragm takes over.
- Lie on your back exercise. If you're still struggling to understand how to use this muscle to breathe, lie down on your back, face up, for about 10 minutes. You will automatically and naturally begin to breathe more from your stomach because of gravity. Place your hand on your stomach and just feel how it moves up and down. This will help you understand more about the dynamics of breathing with your diaphragm. See, you're an expert already. You've been doing this your whole life anyway!
- In the mirror exercise. Just as the name suggests, stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself breathe. Put your hand on your stomach again and try to take breaths more from your stomach than your chest. It might seem hard at first but this will help you to determine if your technique needs work. If your shoulders are rising and arching a bit when you breathe, then you're doing it wrong.
Let me Demonstrate.
WARMING UP YOUR ENGINE.
Hopefully by now, you're a bit more comfortable breathing correctly. Let's go ahead and move on to the warm ups.
Now, in some ways these are going to feel like vocal push-ups. The reason being is that even in the warm up, you're going to strengthen your voice. Your vocal cords are attached to your larynx (which is a muscle). Because this is a muscle, it can be made stronger with a decent workout.
I remember when I started doing these warm-ups years ago, thinking they were just going to help me keep my voice from blowing out. After a few days of doing these, I was pleasantly surprised to hear myself hitting much higher notes than before. My vocal cords had been practically weight training every day. It effectively increased my vocal range!
- Vowel Scale Exercise - A, E, I, O, U. Go through the vowels by using a scale technique. This is as if you were to say the letter "A " and, while holding it, change the pitch of your voice to go up an octave a second. In all, you want to go up 4 octaves from where you start. Once you hit the peak, you come down the way you went up until you reach the octave you started at. Sing this scale 3 times for a simple warmup. Do more if you want to increase the range of your voice. You can do this for both the high and low registers of your vocal ability. Oh, and make sure you're opening your mouth completely. (I f you know anything about scales in music then you'll completely understand what I'm talking about here. For those who don't know for sure, I've included a video to demonstrate what I'm talking about. )
- Humming Scale Exercise - Same as above except that you're humming instead. Open-mouthed or closed. Don't clench your teeth while doing it (Bad habit that can actually lead to you not opening your mouth completely when you sing ). If you're struggling with clenching, take a finger and feel at the spot underneath your temple where your jaw meets your skull. Now slowly open your mouth and close it. Do you feel how that place moves? If you feel the separation, then you're doing this exercise properly. (Don't make the "temple thing" a regular practice as you want to get to a place where you're comfortable not clenching your teeth. )
SOME HELPFUL TIPS.
- Try drinking a cup of warm water with lemon and a little honey. This will refresh your throat.
- Try not to sing through your nose. That nasal sounding stuff sounds awful.
- Get yourself a book about singing. Doesn't hurt to do some research.
- When singing a song, never pause or hold your voice on consonants, only on vowels. Example : Wrong - "Awwwayyyyyy in a manger." Right - "Aaaawaaay in a manger."
- Get yourself a karaoke machine and practice your favorite songs alone. It helps.
- Don't try to sing songs that you know you don't have the range for. You may end up with hurt cords in the end. If you insist, sing at a lower key that you're comfortable with.
- Practice, Practice, Practice! 2 hours a day, 5 days a week for 10 years is what it usually takes to be an expert at anything really. (This is not always the case, but in general.)
- Take this seriously! Even if you want to just be known as the karaoke king or queen of the Midwest or whatever, don't give up and never surrender your dreams! (Melodramatic I know. )
- Have fun!