How To Sing Better!

How To Sing Better
This week, I’d like to answer  questions from two readers of my Hot Tips For Smart Singers Newsletter…  I will keep their names private. But you can read their questions -  minus any strictly personal information they may have included.

How to sing better
2 Themes:  
1. Are scales and vocal exercises really helpful? Do they teach you how to sing better?
2. How to sing high notes more easily by starting high and going up from there.

I found your site while looking for warm-ups etc. I’m a 56…  My singing is inconsistent and limited so I’m looking for ways to improve. I always end up not choosing certain songs because I can’t sing them well. Last night I did simple major scales from low E to C just making different sounds to loosen/warm-up.  I was shocked how it made an immediate difference both in keeping me from feeling tight and I actually sang a song that I generally did in a low key in a higher key.  It was easier and sounded better than ever.  Is that possible that just doing those scales made such a difference so fast or was it in my head?

Yes, I think that scales and other kinds of “warms up” can be very helpful. If for no other reason than that they help you to get your breath co-ordinated with your vocal cords. Kind of like warming up your body before you play football or before you run a long distance. But the process for singing is more delicate and precise.

Also, with vocal warm ups, you do not have to think about words, emotions or a difficult melody. You are only singing a series of notes that take you through various parts of your range. There are some very simple exercises that will lead you up to the top notes and down to the bottom notes, without you even knowing how high or low you are singing. I especially those exercises that are more like making “sounds” than like singing – for this purpose. You discover the extremes of your voice in a playful way. Your ears hear how easy it is to sing through out your range. Then you work more consciously on making those notes reliable on a day to day basis.
As an example: The bubble lips exercise is one of those helpful, playful exercises. That’s the one where you put your lips together and make a sound like a horse blowing air through its lips. In singing this exercise, you also make a sound as your lips are “bubbling” and the two together (sound and lip movement) allow you to gently move air and sound through your entire range with little pressure on your throat. In a short video lesson (sing high notes), I show you how to do the exercise. (That particular exercise comes at around 3:20 in this video. You’ll see what I mean.)

Doing this kind of vocal work can also help to teach both your mind and body that the upper & lower notes are never “out of reach.”  Never “up there” or “down there”… Thus the wider range songs become easier and easier.

If you would like to try a very simple 20 minute warm-up, here is my latest that I created for singers who are beginning to use scales etc. The warm up ends with a sing along song – just to get you singing after doing some of the exercises. You can listen to a sample from that warm up here - Sing With Me! If you like what you hear, you can get it for $4.99 in my store.

Remember your pianissimo exercise? You mentioned something about improvisation. Well, I was playing around with an idea & I found that if you start with the high note going higher, the voice seems to thin out more rapidly.
In other words you start out with an “ooo” already in the high note,  then break into the ah. And then do  a descending scale in ooo.  I’ve included an example of what I mean:

MP3 sound file:Start High – Then Rise.

So you start in your high notes and keep going up. Of course, as you are going up, the “ah” part becomes more challenging. So to tackle this you can either bend your knees as you approach the note (thinking low).
Or, what I do is -  jump up and down.  This seems to give the voice more balance and less wobble. I don’t know, maybe the results are in my head, please let me know what you think. Stay blessed.

Good question. And nice to have your sound file for reference. Yes, it is clear that when you begin higher in your range, and then move up, you are already starting the tone using thinner, shorter vocal cords. (Well sung higher notes demand that the vocal cords be thinner and that they vibrate over a short section of the cords. Much of this is automatic when we sing.)

So in starting with the lighter vocal weight, it should be easier to “move on up” the scale. This assumes that you are starting your first note well – without strain. And the OO vowel (as in mOOn)  – is also quite helpful in singing with less weight in the throat. The AH vowel can sometimes spread and make the top too broad. So your approach with OO is smart! It makes sense.

Bending your knees is also an action that I use with singers who are tight on the top notes. You can also lean forward from the waist. This “breaks” the tension and can loosen up your diaphragm – if that area is also tight.

I’ve never tried jumping up and down. Doesn’t the sound go a bit crazy when you do that? But you know, I am seeing after my many years of teaching and singing, that a lot of good singing comes from having fun during the learning process. Sometimes in a lesson – we will just stop and laugh about the crazy sounds we are making. Laughing can cut the tension and allow more natural, less tense energy to lift the voice. So maybe, jumping up and down does that for you!

Thank you both for your questions!
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