April 6, 2013

voice lessons, 10 ways to keep your voice rocking, vocals, voice instruction

10 Ways to Keep Your Voice Rocking

Recently inspired by a vocal student of mine, I decided to write easy ways for aspiring singers to get the most out of their voices. Singing for 10+ years in choirs, bands and musicals, vocal coaching for two years and spending time with upcoming bands, you learn a lot about the ins and outs of the voice. While I’m no professional, I noticed that no matter what genre, style, or amount of experience one may have, certain things never change. So I decided to share some of the simplest ways to change and strengthen your voice. For all of the singers out there, here are 10 ways to keep your voice, body and mind rocking for years and years to come.

10)  Passion Vs. Play
When it comes to singing, the most important thing you want to ask yourself is whether this is something you’re passionate about or if this is just a fun hobby. If you’re looking to make a career out of this, just do local shows here and there or singing at a karaoke night. The level of dedication will vary and it is up to you to decide which path you want to take.

9)      Listen and Learn

One of the easiest ways to improve your singing abilities is so simple that I’m sure you've done it today without even noticing it! LISTEN TO MUSIC!!! However…A thing I noticed with amateur singers is that they have a vocalist or band they love, look up to, inspire to be and listen to ALL THE TIME!  When they sing, no matter what they do they either sound EXACTLY like the artist they listen to ALL OF THE TIME or try so hard to sound EXACTLY like the artist that they end up sounding horrible, get discouraged and wonder “Why do I sound just like them?”, “Why can’t I sound just like them?” or “I want to change vocal styles but I always end up sounding…just like them.” Three rules to remember when it comes to listening to music for inspiration: 1. Don’t ever try and sing exactly like the singer. You’ll either be disappointed or you’ll sound like a copycat. The best voice to have is your own.  2. If you want to sing different styles/genres, listen to different kinds of music. Don’t expect R&B vocals if you only listen to pop or metal vocals if you only listen to rock. 3. Also remember these songs are recorded in a studio. The actual vocalist at times doesn't even sound as good as what plays through your radio. So don’t compare.  

8)      Know Your Range
Sing in a range that is most comfortable to you. If you are not sure of your range, the easiest way to check is with a piano. Use your speaking voice as a reference, not your singing voice because some people sing higher/lower than they should. Start at middle C on the piano, play each key until you have a match and vice versa for a lower voice. If your voice is between:
Middle C to High C= Alto
High C to C above High C= Soprano
Low C to Middle C= Tenor
C below Low C to Low C = Bass
But remember just because you’re an alto doesn't mean you can’t sing soprano or if you’re a tenor you can’t sing bass. Work with your voice to learn your limits and extend your vocal boundaries. Don’t push your voice farther than it can go.

7)      Vocal Warm-up
A simple vocal warm-up is extremely beneficial to properly upkeep your voice and avoid unwanted damage. Simple ways to warm up your voice is humming along to notes (in your range) on a keyboard/piano. Singing vowels (A, E, I, O, U) along with the keyboard. There are lots of different ways to warm-up but too many to name all of them.

6)      Practicing
Practicing is the most important part of building that voice you’ll love. When thinking of practice, know it doesn't follow the same rules as other musical instruments. Practicing for hours is not a realistic way to improve your voice because vocals chords are thin and easy to ruin. If you are a beginner, practice time should be between 20- 30 minutes a day. More advance singers should practice between 40-60 minutes with at least 20 minute breaks. Also know that “under practicing” is possible as well. Realistically, you cannot expect your voice to last through a 40-60 minute set if you practice one or two songs/ scales a day. Work your way up to longer strides of time. Practice at the volume you plan on singing the song. I know there are a lot of closet vocalist out there (I used to be one of them) that sing softly so no one in the house can hear you. Unfortunately if you always practice at a low volume, your voice will sound nowhere near the same at full volume. If you are serious about having the best practice regimen possible, it is best to look for a vocal coach that can discuss one with you based on your style and experience.  

5)      Realistic Goals
For those just starting out and even those who have been singing and rocking for years, you should always set goals for yourselves. Start off small with something easy, doable and attainable that can be done in a week. “This week I’ll practice at least 4 times” or “I’m going to learn a new song this week.” These are simple and fun ways to develop your craft and remind yourself you are making progress even if it’s small steps at a time. It’s better to achieve small goals then to set one huge goal and fail. If your goal is to be a Rock star, set small goals that will help you get there. Don’t expect to just wake up and rock without any hard work and dedication.

4)      Exercise
Some of us love it and some of us hate it, but singers must make exercise a part of their daily routine. You would be surprised how much 20-30 minutes of cardio can change your voice. It helps your breathing, energy, vocal range, note holding and volume. If you want to start off simple try jogging; but for those who want maximum benefits, kick your cardio into high gear. Things like jumping jacks, high knees and hopping are simple ways to up your cardio.

3)      Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is a must for those who want their vocal chords in the best shape. Certain foods are beneficial to the voice like veggies, fruits (non-citrus), eggs, lean meats, fish, some pastas, and herbal teas. There are neutral foods that tend to have neither a good nor bad effect on the vocal chords which is too many to name, but there are certain things a dedicated singer should rarely or never consume. Things to stay away from: milk products, MSG, sugars, junk foods, overeating, highly acidic foods, carbonated drinks and caffeine. All of these things tend to cause dry throat, excessive phlegm, excessive coughing, a term some singers know as “Vurping” (burping with slight food regurgitation), vocal cracking, shaking or disconnection (sometimes all three), and poor volume control. Of course there are a lucky few that are completely unaffected by what they eat, but most of us will have problems with at least one of the things on this list. You are what you eat! You’d be surprised how many singers notice better vocal control, stability and broader range just from diet changes. Also, remember if you plan on performing or singing in any way, eat at least an hour before hand or that dreaded “vurp” might happen to you.

2)      Staying Hydrated
Sounds simple right? Well it is! Drink lots and lots of water. Water is a singer’s best friend. It keeps your vocal chords hydrated, and hydrated vocal chords create the best conditions for singing. Know that it takes your body between 20 to 30 minutes to hydrate your vocal chords and that’s only if other parts of your body didn’t need it first. People usually recommend crazy amounts of water, but it’s not a true way to properly measure water intake since diets, height and weight all play a factor. A simple way to test if you’re drinking enough water is…looking at the color of your pee. Sounds crazy but it’s true. If your pee is clear or very light you’re drinking enough water. Any other color means you need to up your water intake.

1)      Confidence
Without a doubt confidence is the #1 thing needed to keep your voice rocking for years and years. Confidence helps you perform better and fills you with positive feelings that will help you gain even more confidence. If you have stage fright, start small. Sing in front of your family, close friends, your dog, anything with ears. If even that idea sounds terrifying, try practicing in front of your mirror. Pretend that you’re on stage singing to millions of fans and it’s a guarantee that you will feel better about yourself.

So for all of those aspiring singers out there, remember these 10 tips and rock the world with your talents!  Stay positive, stay strong and remember you can do anything you put your mind to. 


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