Honing your skills

Do you ever wonder how your favorite singers on American Idol got to be so darned good? (I’m referring to the singers in the finals, of course!). How can people possibly sing like that?

Well, let me tell you one of the secrets that is not really a secret! These singers are singing every day: sometimes for hours and hours. Many of these singers have been practising their singing skills since they were a child.

Now refer to your singing history. How long have you been singing? How are you going to add more hours of singing to your bank.

One of the best ways to get more practice each week is to join a choir, a band, or  sing karaoke regularly. It sure is a lot more fun working on your skills when you are actually “performing”. The more you sing, the more you become aware of the control you can have over your breath control and larynx (your voice box in your throat).

Singing everyday will always move you forward. As long as you are focused on correct technique, you will continually see improvement in your voice.

I’m not a big fan of commercial radio…..

You are not going to hear the best singers in the world on commercial radio. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there are loads of great singers making a living on commercial radio….but there are loads of mediocre singers making a fortune. It really is sad how the industry has progressed.

My concern is for the young and ill-informed singers of the future. Where are they going to hear great singing to learn and copy from?

There are great singers all over the world who work hard everyday at their craft. These singers will never sing on commercial radio. They may never make a living with their beautiful instrument.

I encourage all singers to explore and expand their thoughts about what makes a great singer. Go to coffee house, theatre productions, local concerts of all genres and styles of music. If you only listen to the radio, you are missing a world full of great singing.

And more importantly, learn from the variety of voices available. Recognize that your voice is as unique as theirs is. Explore many styles.

In the end, be yourself….be your own voice….be your authentic self. That’s great singing.

Do you know your chest voice from your head voice?

Hi everyone,

I watched the American Music Awards last night. Very entertaining but I tend to over-analyze the singers’ voices instead of just enjoying the show.

I can’t help but wonder if some of these singers know the difference between their head voice and their chest voice. I have a hard time listening to singers who don’t mix their head voice (high voice) well with their chest voice. There is no doubt that the chest voice is what is predominant in all these singers, but some know how to mix much better than others.  On the other hand, fans have fallen in love with Christine Aguilera’s shouty chest belt, so why would she bother to try and sing “better”?

Now, let’s define what “better” means to me. And to do this we need to make sure that everyone understands the difference between their head voice and their chest voice.

Your chest voice is the voice closest to your speaking voice. If you sing near the pitch that you talk and put your hand on your chest, you will notice that it vibrates. The resonance is mostly coming out your mouth. The “resonance” is the sound that we hear after our breath goes through the vocal cords, and reflects off bone, teeth, sinuses and soft tissue. As you start to sing higher, the resonance should shift from you mouth to higher up in your head. It actually splits and feels like it is going through the top of your head, as well as out your eyes, nose and mouth (the front of your face). This is a sensation that not all singers are familiar with.

Instead, a lot of singers will not “allow” the voice to shift gears into this split resonance, and instead they try and keep that “beefy” sound that they can create in their chest voice. This is the average singers interpretation of “power”. What they don’t realize is that it is definitely not the best way to get power out of the voice, and frankly, I think it’s very unpleasant to listen to.

To find your head voice, one just has to do a light sigh on a pitch above their “passagio”. The passagio is the “break” or “bridge” between the chest voice and the head voice. For men this is around E flat to G (above middle C), and for women the bridge is around A flat to C (above middle C).

MIXED VOICE: Of course, no one wants to sing just in their head voice….well, unless you are an operatic soprano or one of the Bee Gees. However, it is important to be able to sing in your head voice….to become familiar with it. Without your head voice, you cannot sing “in the mix” and mix is where it all happens. The mix is a wonderful blend of both the chest voice and head voice. Some singers find this naturally, and others struggle endlessly. Without a good mix, singers will fatigue quickly and struggle with pitch and consistency. Without a strong mix a singer is always missing a part of their voice.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments. I will try and blog more about “the mix” next time. Susan