Perhaps the most popular musical instruments the world over, singing is also one of the cheapest because no instrument is required other than your own voice. Whether it’s just for fun singing along to your favourite songs on the radio or performing on stage in a big production, virtually anyone of any age can learn to do it. However even after puberty our vocal chords change throughout our lives, so it’s a good idea to learn how to take care of your singing instrument, or voice so to speak. If you don’t, you may risk damaging your voice and no longer be able to sing or in extreme cases talk! As such we’ll go through some of the “do’s & don’ts” that our vocal teachers practice at all 8 of our Rimmers Music Schools.
Practice Perfect, Perform Perfect
Like any musical instrument, practising your singing is of the utmost importance to maintaining the level that you’re at whilst also trying to improve. Perhaps more akin to a sport than some other musical instruments, singing requires a great deal of physicality and if done incorrectly can take a negative toll on your body. The old saying of “practice makes perfect” really is true, but only by practising perfectly will you get a perfect performance.
When practising singing you should always stand with you back straight and with your feet and hips in line with your shoulders, which themselves should be pinned back. This pushes out your chest which gives your lungs the maximum amount of capacity whilst also allowing you to breath as easily as possible. If you’re sitting down, the same rules apply, although your feet should be firmly planted flat on the ground so that your torso can relax as much as possible when in the correct position.
Similar to any of the wind instruments we sell, a large part of the proper technique required to sing is breathing. Singers who can breath deeply and correctly will always be able to get more power and longer notes out of their voice whilst also being able to last longer as a singer. By breathing deeply, we don’t just mean taking a deep breath, we mean taking a breath from deep within the very pit of your stomach. When you exhale whilst singing your stomach should stick out slightly, which should give you the power to hit those notes at the very top of your range. A tried and tested exercise is to practice lying down with a book on your stomach, and aim to move the book up whilst you sing a note well within your range. Alternatively you could place the book on your chest, but in this exercise the book should remain still at all times. If the book does move up and down, it means that you are breathing from your chest rather than your diaphragm of stomach. Once you can consistently complete these exercises successfully, you’re ready to move on to the next section.
Much like any physical activity, you should always warm up before singing. You wouldn’t go for a jog or play a game of football without stretching so the same applies here, although instead of stretching your arms and legs, you want to stretch your vocal chords. Do so by practising your scales at first in the middle of your range, at the low end of your range, then the top end and finally back in the middle. Whilst doing so, remember to relax and not strain too hard, particularly at the top of your range. Focus more on consistently hitting and holding the right notes as this means you have better control of your voice. After this your should practice dynamics by at first singing a comfortable note softly and slowly increasing in volume and back again. The aim is to sing as quietly and as loudly as you can, but again don’t strain you voice. By practising both of these techniques on a regular basis, you should find that not only your control over your voice improves, but also your range will improve as those high and low notes become easier to reach.
Different vowels produce different shapes within the mouth, which in turn effect how you sing. Vowels are the most important parts of the words when singing songs as these are where the most emphasis is placed. Practice running though your different scales again, but this time with a different vowel shape each time you run through. It’s worth noting to keep your neck upright but relaxed when doing this as the vowel shapes should come from the back of the throat and not the neck.
After practising for a while, you feel your voice begins to dry out and you can’t hit the same notes you could earlier on. This is the ideal time take a break and have a drink of warm water, although make sure it is warm water and nothing else. Thick drinks such as milkshakes or smoothies can coat the vocal chords making it harder to sing, whilst any form of alcohol or fizzy pop will dry out your throat and also leave unwanted bubbles in your stomach (where you’re trying to sing from). In a sort of 3 bears scenario, the water has to be just right at room temperature; if it’s too hot it will scorch your vocal chords and too cold will tense them up.
Listen To Yourself
How you think you sound and how you actually sound may well be two entirely different things, so it’s always a good idea to record yourself either singing a song or practising your scales. These days most smartphones have a voice recorder so it should be easy to do. You could well find that the difference is between your perceived and actual singing is quite a bit, and depending on how critical you are of yourself you’ll either be pleasantly surprised or at least have a better idea of where you’re at. Either way, any singer should be able to find areas that need work, regardless of their skill level. Taking a step back and analysing the way that you sing is the best way to find out if you’re really practising proper technique and by fixing these problems early on, you should be able take better care of your voice which will allow others as well as your self to enjoy singing for years to come.