Some wise words from Aaron Anastasi.
Whether you’ve only dabbled with singing, or you’ve been singing professionally for years, I want to give you a few singing tips that should, in a short amount of time, move you farther along than where you are right now. Don’t believe the lie that because you weren’t born with an American Idol winner’s voice that you can’t improve. With the right knowledge and practice you can improve dramatically. In this article you will acquire singing tips and exercises that target the following three things:
- How to sing in a way that doesn’t end in embarrassment
- How to sing with sustained power and tone
- How to maximize your vocal tone
The wrong phrasing, during a performance, can create an embarrassing situation. When singing, each stop or break you take in-between words and sentences is called phrasing. Phrasing sounds most natural when it’s done during punctuation marks, like periods and commas. Depending how much you choose to sustain certain notes, additional phrasing may be required. This is when you need to catch a quick breath and finish a phrase, without the break being to noticeable or sound awkward to the listener.
While what I’m about to tell you may seem overkill, it may save you from an embarrassing situation. This technique is used by public speakers all the time. In fact, I learned it in my speech class at Princeton, and you may have even seen in done in the movie The King’s Speech. It will help you avoid the odd sounding inhale in the middle of a word or phrase and make it sound more natural. This will also help you avoid running out of air toward the end of a phrase. It’s difficult to sing on pitch or with any power when you don’t have the proper amount of air to work with.
All you really need to do is sit down with your lyric sheet and mark out your phrasing, where your pauses and stops are going to be. How much air, and how much you decide to ride each note, depends solely on you. So, as you mark of your sheet, sing along to find out where the most comfortable pauses are for you and make a note of it. You can uses slashes (/) or whatever will help you remember where to take your breaths. And this will help you discover the trouble spots in the song of which you may not have been previously aware.
Singing with Sustained Power and Tone
I don’t have to try to convince you that the most vital thing to a singer is having enough air. It’s pretty obvious, right? But once you have a good breath and you’ve got some idea of how to sing from your diaphragm, and maybe you’ve even read some of my material about how vital posture is, how do you translate that into a nice full, sustained tone with power through out a phrase? That comes with practice. So without saying too much more, I want to give you an exercise that will help you with breath support and sustained tone, and will also be a good one to help give you an exercise that can help you develop more stamina in you singing so that you can powerfully sing the larger phrases when you need to without having to catch that quick breath.
The Bent Flame
I call this exercise the bent flame because that is the purpose: keep a flame bent without blowing it out. You also want to try to keep the flame from flickering or from blowing wax on you hand! All of these guidelines serve a purpose, and that purpose to get you used to sustaining a breath and getting the most out of it rather than letting the air slip away too quickly.
If you have a candle, that usually works the best for this exercise. Once you light the candle hold it about a foot away from your face. Not only do you not want to singe your eyebrows, but you want to give yourself some room so that you don’t blow the candle out to quickly and partially reproduce a light singing situation. Now, blow on the flame and see how long you can sustain the breath at a steady pace and bend the flame!
When speaking of vocal tone, this is a reference to the timbre or the color of someone’s voice. It is the thing that distinguishes one voice from another. And, while every voice is unique, there are vocal tone categories. You may have heard people refer to someone’s voice as shrill, or booming or warm. These are some of the many different ways that voices are categorized. The question is: how can you get the best possible vocal tone out of your unique voice? The quick and dirty answer is that it is dependent primarily on how much space you create in your mouth and throat for the air to resonate, or reverberate, in when you sing.
I want to give you a singing tip that will go a long way. If you apply just this one thing, you will create a warmer, fuller tone and be able to hit higher notes!
Dropping the Jaw
Dropping the jaw is one of the most important concepts you will learn when it comes to singing. Let me start by saying what dropping the jaw is not. It doesn’t simply mean lowering your chin. This will naturally happen when you drop the jaw, but the two are not one and the same.
In order to get an idea of what dropping the jaw feels like, take your fingers and follow your jaw line to where it stops, under your ear. You can feel a little dip there. Keep your finger there and begin a yawn. That little dip will open up a greater amount of space, and notice how much more space you’ve created inside you mouth and the back of your throat. Now try and do this with your mouth closed. That is what it means to drop your jaw. The application of this one piece of knowledge can possibly increase you singing ability more than any other single thing.