To become the best vocalist possible and to sing with the most freedom we must learn how sound is produced in our body and become a good steward of the instrument God gave us. After all, unlike other instruments, when they break you can buy a new one...you can't buy a new body! So we must learn how to take care of it! Here we go!
It all begins with a good deep breath and the air goes up into our lungs, into our trachea at that point the breath enters our vocal folds where pitch is formed. Even the sound of a cough has pitch.
All sound is based of frequencies. For example the musical note A above middle C is called A440, for the mHZ of sound cycled per second. The higher the note the higher the frequency, the lower the note the lower the frequency. Another example, a healthy body has a frequency of around 65 mHZ. Viruses begin around 58mHZ. Cancer starts around 42mHz. All living things have a frequency because God's voice spoke everything into existence. Essential Oils have their own frequency, Rose Essential Oil is the highest frequency of any known substance on earth mHZ.
The vocal folds produce sound when our breath hits it. The pitch is determined based on how many times our vocal folds touch in a second. So for A440 pitch to be produced the vocal folds must touch 440 times per second! To think that happens so quickly for every note we sing in a song and speak. What an amazing instrument God made!
Let's dig a little deeper!
The higher the frequency/pitch we need to sing, the more air we need to produce it. The tricky part is that the higher the note, the longer the vocal folds need to stretch to get that note! At the same time our throat area is more narrow, which means less space for the air to flow. So the higher the pitch we need to sing, the more relaxed and the better technique we need. You can see the vocal folds at work in the following video. When the lady in this video reaches a higher note, watch how everything stretches and narrows.
So as you watched the video you see that the lower notes the throat area and vocal folds are thicker, shorter and more relaxed. The higher the note the more stress and stretched the area becomes. Taking good deep fully expanded breaths is crucial for good pitch and good tone. One of the most important things to learn as a singer is how to breathe correctly for a healthy and effective voice. There are tips on this page but the best way is to have a trained vocal coach check to make sure you are doing it correctly. If your shoulders go up or you are sticking out your stomach you are not breathing correctly. A full breath is when you entire rib cage and abdominal area is fully expanded and stays expanded while singing a note.
Proper diaphragmatic breathing allows your tone to be correct, your vocal folds to stay healthy and allows you to even scream and not lose your voice. Breathe the same way you do when you sing if you must scream! Low, deep breathing is essential! Think about it, a baby can have colic and cry for hours and never lose their voice. Why? Because they are breathing correctly, they haven’t learned bad habits yet! Proper breathing prevents your vocal folds from becoming thin and dry. Pictures of a breathy/airy voice compare to that of a smoker or one that is dehydrated.
One tip to make sure you are breathing correctly is to put your hands on the back of your neck and then take a deep breath. It prevents shallow shoulder. I have many exercises and tips to help you become successful at this often difficult part of singing.
There is a huge myth that musician and athletes that have been taught that is quite damaging for performance and as a person. "Practice makes perfect." This creates a perfectionist mentality and is quite damaging.
As musicians we need to have a daily warm-up and work out routine that builds consistency and easy in singing. Here are some tips.
Another crucial issue is correctly warming up and working out your voice. Again, vocalist are athletes. Singers must eat healthy and take good care of their body to have the best voice. They must know how all their muscles work for the instrument to perform correctly.
Before you work-out, rehearse or perform a 20 minute warm up is crucial. The vocal folds have to actually warm-up to a certain degree for them to produce various pitches. The more warmed up you are the wider you range and the more freedom you will have in singing.
Also, a customized warm-up and work out for your voice is highly beneficial for the longevity for your voice. If you are interested in getting your own customized warm-up and work-out routine go to the Contact page to set up a vocal coaching sessions/lessons. Everyone has different vocal needs and a different voice a generic warm-up/work can sometimes hurt your voice.
Adding a good daily vocal work out routine will dramatically strength your voice, give you endurance while singing, increase range and many other things that will add to ease in singing. The two things that I remind my singers at each lesson is to drink the correct amount of water and do a proper work out daily. Student who do not do that are constantly having issues with their voice in various areas.
Yes, you can sing for awhile, without doing all this. BUT if you want to have a very effective voice that lasts for years and have full freedom in singing, good technique is essential. For a full explanation and a vocal check-up schedule a vocal coaching session!
One of the best ways to keep your voice healthy is with good technique and habits. Before your perform, rehearse or do a daily vocal work-out you MUST warm-up your vocal folds to the proper degree for the needed notes. Generally 20 minutes of warm-up exercises (not work-out ones) will allow for a more productive and safe singing experience. Read more about the importance of warming up and a daily vocal work-out in the Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance article on this page.
Good tone and proper tongue placement when signing is also crucial to healthy and easier singing. You should never sing with your throat. Singing should always be towards the front/mask of your face. That means you should feel vibration while you sing towards the front of your face. You should feel your lips, teeth, nose vibrate depending on your ariticulation. A good way to practice this is with the lip trill or lip buzz exercise or a hum chew exercise, you will feel the notes vibrate by your lips, nose if you are doing it correctly.
Myth: You get a nasal sound by singing with your nose. Truth is, you get that sound when you do not use your nasal cavity for sound. Think about it, when you have a cold and congested you can't use your nose to talk and you sound funny! So to have proper tone placement you need to place the sound to the front of your face which includes your nose!
Your tongue should ALWAYS be at the very front of your mouth right behind your teeth when singing. Any other place causes bad tone and lots of stress. Also you should not visually see or feel your larynx or “voice box” moving up and down while you sing. You should feel it vibrate, but not move based on pitch.
To increase range don’t just start singing lower and higher notes constantly. Use proper exercises that are safe to accomplish this goal.
Break bad habits! Coughing and clearing your throat does extensive long term damage to your vocal folds. If you must pick between the two, productive cough is better. If you feel the urge to clear your throat try drinking water, chewing gum or swallowing hard to get rid of the oh so wonderful mucus. If you do clear your throat you are damaging your vocal folds and creating more mucus…so it is counter-productive.
To have a voice that is consistent, in control, artistic and strong is what you want as a singer. There are basic techniques as proper tone, voice placement, correct breathing and breath control among others that help us to achieve those goals.
Unfortunately when we compare ourselves to other singers bad habits sneak in as we try to sound like others who we things are better than us. One of the biggest secrets in freedom in life and as a singer is stop comparing ourselves to others.
God gave us each a very unique voice and we first need to thank HIm for that and then learn how to properly use the voice He has given us. Then...we are able to walk in freedom in singing.
Numerous warm-up and work-out exercises can help build the voice to ensure good vocal habits and ease in singing. Contact Carolyn for more information for customized vocal exercises. 985.788.3457