Through my experiences as a voice teacher I have encountered all kinds of situations that have produced equally many questions about singing and vocal training. I've listed a number of them here. These answers are short and condensed versions of what I teach in personal coaching, sessions and workshops.
• How do I get power on the high notes without damaging my voice?
Basically it comes down to a good body support and avoid blowing too much air. What burns your vocal chords is the excess air being pressed through. Training your voice compression, meaning the muscle's ability to close, is essential to producing a clear focused sound. With a physically strong yet flexible voice you sing louder with less effort.
• How often should I practice my exercises?
Everyday. Even if it's only 15-20 min. per day - it brings results much faster than practicing say one time a week for 2 hours. Ideally 30-45 min daily.
• How should I breathe when I sing?
Diaphragmatic breathing - deep into your lungs is most beneficial. The lungs are pear shaped with most volume in the lower parts. Therefore most leverage comes from expanding your abdomen and thus allowing the air to flow down, rather than lifting the chest when breathing. Observe how a baby does it. That's how you should breathe.
• How do I make a natural vibrato?
Well, vibrato is muscle vibration and natural vibrato is a result of an optimal balance of compression and airflow. It is possible to work with shaking of the tongue or jaw to create a vibrato, but it's not recommended as it almost always sounds artificial. Use a technique that supports your natural voice sound.. and the vibrato will come as a pleasant side effect.
• What is the difference between "head voice" and "falsetto"?
Falsetto is just another term for not-supported head voice. Supported head voice can be blended with the chest voice, over time creating the "voix mixte". A flexible middle range where the transitions in the voice are no longer audible.
• I'm singing off pitch sometimes. What can I do about it?
If the problem is hearing the pitch.. listen carefully to every tone you sing in conjunction with the harmonies. It's important that you can actually hear the difference. In most cases however, being off pitch is happening because the voice function is out of balance. When you train your voice appropriately however - singing in pitch comes by itself in most cases.
• My voice gets dry when I get nervous before a concert. What can I do?
It's a common phenomenon caused by emotions. A short meditational technique to center yourself just before going on stage can be very helpful. And - drink lots of water.
• Why is my voice working well some days and other days nothing seems to work?
Because the voice is where you express yourself.. and when your moods and general body rhythm go up and down from time to time, so does your voice. Your voice reacts to your state of being. However, it is my clear experience that with consistent training, the ups and downs get considerably less over time.
• I have been told that I must choose between either singing classical music or pop/soul music. I can't do both. Is that true?
Well.. for sure you can sing any style you like. That's not the issue. As a professional singer in order to sing a part in a Mozart or Verdi opera one night - and perform with your soul band the next night, you have to be extremely comfortable technically. And even then, the very different nature of the musical styles will be a tremendous challenge.
In other words.. a flexible head voice function which is crucial for any classical singer - is easily disturbed when you sing other styles. Particularly pop/R&B and rock music because they call for a very different, often more "raw" vocal sound. As a classical singer it is of utmost importance to keep the vocal chords smooth and flexible in order to sing a classical repertoire.
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