How to Get Started Singing Coloratura

Intro to Coloratura Singing | Exercises & Examples

How to Get Started Singing Coloratura

Interested in opera singing? You may run into the word “coloratura” in your studies. Here, vocal instructor Molly R. will give you the inside scoop on what the term means, and what you need to know to get started with the technique…

 

Coloratura! A fancy word for a very fancy vocal device. Coloratura is ornamentation done in classical singing: think trills, big leaps, and intricate melismas (also known as vocal runs). The most intricate coloratura singing involves cadenzas, which are improvised vocal flourishes. There’s even a very special voice type, the coloratura soprano, who’s expected to be a vocal virtuoso who sings well above high “C” (C6)!

An Example of Coloratura Singing

Certain opera composers, such as Mozart and Rossini, are known for writing music that contains coloratura showpieces. Perhaps one of the best examples of powerhouse coloratura singing is one of the arias the Queen of the Night sings in Mozart’s “Magic Flute.”

These arias can be quite daunting to the novice singer! However, the key to mastering ANYTHING is starting small. There are plenty of vocal exercises and songs that will prepare you for more advanced repertoire later on in your studies.

How to Sing Coloratura

Singing requires many skills beyond controlling your breathing and hitting the right notes. Here are the first steps to take when learning how to master the art of coloratura singing.

1. Become REALLY well-acquainted with your lower support muscles.

In order to sing good, clean, and accurate coloratura, you must “sing where you laugh.”
The best vocal warm-up for this is a simple staccato exercise, which will strengthen your core and increase overall flexibility throughout your vocal range. Here’s an example of an exercise to try:

2. Practice intervals and pitch accuracy.

Accuracy is key so that your notes are dead-on and not sloppy or out of tune. A really fun “go-to” in my studio is Kim Chandler’s series called “Funky ‘n Fun.” Although geared for non-classical singers, her exercises that focus on intervals are tremendously helpful for the ear AND the voice!

3. Get some “old school” books written by vocal masters.

There’s a wealth of information on coloratura singing written by experts who are well-versed in the practice. Having resources to reference to will aid in your practice and understanding of valuable singing techniques. Here are a few of my top picks:

  • Mathilde Marchesi’s “Bel Canto” – This book’s exercises start small, with simple two-note “shakes” and three-note “trills”, building you up for more elaborate ornamentation as the book progresses. These exercises can easily be played on the piano by a novice!
  • Estelle Liebling’s “Vocal Course for Coloratuna Soprano” – Estelle Liebling is a student of Marchesi and teacher of one of the finest coloratura sopranos, Beverly Sills. These exercises start simply and build in complexity. Liebling, like Marchesi, stresses clean, pure-tone, and rock-solid lower support. These are indeed the two main things a singer must master to sing coloratura!
  • Estelle Liebling’s “Coloratura Cadenzas” – This book is for later in the coloratura soprano’s studies. It provides various options for cadenzas a soprano may insert into many famous arias. Do note that these arias are not to be studied until a student has mastered the basics — but it may be a good idea to have this book on hand to see what musicality is necessary for singing a cadenza.

What Are Some Songs for the Coloratura Soprano?

At this point, you may wonder what some popular but simple coloratura songs sound like. Below are a couple suggestions for  repertoire that may be helpful for beginner coloraturas before they build up to coloratura opera arias.

“Poor Wandering One” from “Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan

This is the place to start! It’s short, in English, and has a section that will definitely get a soprano on the right track for singing good, clean high notes.

“I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s “Messiah”

Handel oratorio arias are excellent preparation for florid singing. It’s also wise for a soprano singer to learn “Messiah”, anyway — it’s a staple among classical music repertoire and chances are you may be asked to sing it at some point in your career. Many of Handel’s operatic arias are must faster, but the slower tempo of this piece allows your voice to really get the hang of the trill.

Final Thoughts

Coloratura singing is NOT one of those skills you can learn on your own. It’s very important that you have the eyes and ears of a trusted voice teacher guide you through it, and most importantly, assess when you’re ready to tackle more advanced repertoire.

There are many fantastic vocal instructors on TakeLessons.com. If you don’t have a teacher already, browse around to find your ideal instructor and get started now!

 

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

Photo by Baldwin Wallace University

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15 Awesome Facts About Your Voice

15 Awesome Facts You Never Knew About Your Voice

Vocal health for singers is an important topic. After all, as a singer, your voice — and, actually, your entire body — is your instrument! It only makes sense to fully understand how it works, and how vocal health really affects your performance.

Here on the TakeLessons Blog, we’ve shared tips for improving your tone, strange (but effective) ways to protect your vocal cords, and how posture affects your singing. We’ve debunked the myth that drinking milk is bad for your voice, and that not all lozenges and sprays marketed to singers are created equal.

But there’s even more to learn about your instrument. Check out the infographic below to learn awesome 15 facts!

Awesome Facts About Your Voice and Vocal Cords

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Vocal Health for Singers – Additional Resources

Want to learn more? Here are some articles to check out to get your voice in top shape:

Editor’s Note: Joanna from The Voice of Your Life blog pointed out a few things that we thought are worth adding in:

Lung capacity is important, but not as important as training to MANAGE the outflow of air. I agree that swimming is a great exercise for singers, because it requires both. Many people I see with damaged voices have tried to push out (expel) too much air; this is the opposite of real breath support. 

Also, recent acoustics research resonators are mainly in the throat, even though we experience them in nose and face. 

Thanks Joanna! 

Readers, what other resources have you found helpful for vocal health tips? Let us know in the comments!

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Quiz - What Genre Were You Born to Sing

Quiz: What Genre Are You Destined to Sing?

Gypsy jazz. Hip hop. Americana. Rock. Pop. Country. Opera. There are so many styles of music, and so many amazing songs to sing in every genre.

So, which style of music should you devote your craft to? What kind of music were you born to sing? Are you a pop princess or a country songstress? Are you an opera baritone or rock star? Take this quiz and find out!

So the next time you ask yourself “What song should I sing?”, consider a staple from one of these genres.

Choose a song that stands out to you, and work with your voice teacher to refine the style.

Don’t have a singing teacher yet? Start your search on TakeLessons.com, where you can find instructors who can teach you online or right in your neighborhood. You can even search for teachers who specialize in certain genres, like Broadway singing and country singing. Your voice coach will give you the guidance you need to transition smoothly to a new style on your musical journey, or just help you sound even fiercer in the one you’ve chosen!

Heather LPost Author: Heather L.
Heather L. teaches singing, piano, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as online. She studied opera and piano at Westminster Choir College, and performance art and improvisational acting at East Carolina University in North Carolina. Learn more about Heather here!

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Opera arias for beginning classical singers

8 Beautiful Opera Arias for Beginner Singers

Opera arias for beginning classical singers

Interested in classical and operatic singing? Here, voice teacher Molly R. shares her picks for the most beautiful opera arias to sing for beginners…

 

It is always exciting when a vocal student is ready to start studying his or her first operatic aria! One of the best things about being a classical singer is knowing you have so many great years ahead of you. After all, you’re considered in your prime in your 40s!

That being said, realize that the voice you have now and the repertoire you’ll first study will be very, very different from what you sing later on in your career. It’s absolutely crucial that you sing repertoire that is not too heavy for your young voice, or you may damage it. Fear not — here is a list of some of the most beautiful opera songs, all of which are marvelous starting points for all voice types.

Opera Arias for Sopranos

“L’ho perduta”

This cute little aria is from one of Mozart’s greatest hits, “The Marriage of Figaro”. The character singing it is Barbarina. Believe it or not, the soprano who first sung this role was 12… so this is indeed suitable for a young singer with operatic aspirations!

“O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi”

This is another short but wonderful aria that everyone knows and loves. It’s beautiful and perfect for a lighter, lyric voice. Do be careful to avoid dragging the tempo: many sopranos have taken it too slowly.

Opera Arias for Mezzo-Sopranos

“Voi che sapete” from “Marriage of Figaro”

This charming aria, sung by the page boy Cherubino, is a terrific intro to the “trouser roles” often sung by mezzos. With a lilting melody and a chance to show off some chest voice, it’s a true winner.

“Must the Winter Come So Soon?” from Barber’s “Vanessa”

This is a beautiful aria from an American opera that is not performed too often. It may not be a long aria, but the vocal line is gorgeous. It’s essential that young singers prepare a few arias that are in English.

Opera Arias for Baritones

“Se vuol ballare” from the “Marriage of Figaro”

Let’s face it: this opera has an aria for everyone! This aria, sung by Figaro, is a solid choice for beginning baritone. It’s a perfect moderate tempo — and also has a few high notes.

“Vecchia zimarra” from Puccini’s “La Boheme”

It may be another short aria, but it packs a powerful punch since it’s from a very dramatic opera! This one is a favorite for a reason. Puccini didn’t write an awful lot for baritones!

Opera Arias for Tenors

“Quanto e bella” from Donizetti’s “ L’elisir d’amore”

This moderate tempo aria is ideal for a light lyric tenor! The character is the lovestruck Nemorino, and this opera song has been sung by many of the greats, including Luciano Pavarotti.

“Lonely House” from Kurt Weill’s “Street Scene”

Weill’s music may be challenging to learn, but this haunting aria suits a young singer’s voice. This aria will also give a strong actor a chance to set himself apart from other tenors that just want to stand there and sound pretty.

Want more song recommendations by voice type, beyond opera? Check out our song ideas here, including best picks for auditions, talent shows, and gigs.

Your voice teacher is another great resource for suggestions. He or she will undoubtedly have many more ideas for you as far as opera arias go. If classical singing interests you, it’s even more important to be working with a voice coach, as opera is a lot tougher to sing than many other genres.

Have fun exploring the rich and wonderful world of opera!

Readers, what are your picks for the most beautiful opera songs? Let us know in the comments! 

 

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

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11 Signs You're Going to Rock Your Singing Audition

11 Signs You’re Going to Rock Your Vocal Audition (in GIFs!)

11 Signs You're Going to Rock Your Singing Audition

Even if you’ve picked out the perfect song to sing for your audition, it’s normal to feel nervous! But take a deep breath — if you’ve got the below 11 things down pat, you’re on the right track… 

 

Auditions are a fact of life for a serious singer. After all, they are the job interview for the performer! If you’re wondering how to prepare for a singing audition, I’m here to help you with some important singing audition tips.

Although auditions can seem daunting, there are plenty of things you can do to feel confident. Here are 11 signs that you’re going to rock your vocal audition!

1. You are rested.


True, it may be harder in this day and age to get the suggested eight hours of sleep every night, but the more quality sleep you have the night before, the better! A relaxed body means better sound, as there will be a lot less tension.

2. Your materials are together.


This means your sheet music is in the right key and clearly marked for the accompanist. The pages are also back-to-back and neatly organized in a binder. If you’re using sound files, they should be easily accessible and cued up at the correct time.

3. You know your lyrics backwards and forwards!


Confidence is key, and knowing that you REALLY have your songs down pat will help you soar through the audition!

4. You’ve done a good warm-up.


This means at least 15 to 20 minutes or so of light vocal exercises. It’s best not to do too much more than that, as you risk tiring yourself out. Think basic lip trills, hums, and sirens — you can never go wrong with those! It doesn’t needs to be anything fancy.

5. You are dressed appropriately.


This means you look professional, but you are also not restricted in any way by clothing or shoes that are too tight, which can affect your breathing and overall comfort level. Remember — a comfortable body means free tone!

6. You’ve picked songs that are right for your voice type.


The tessitura of each song fits you like a glove. These songs are so worked into your voice that someone could wake you up at 3am to have you sing them— and you’d still sound good! That’s when you know you have the perfect audition songs for your voice.

7. The “coast is clear” – meaning your throat and sinuses!


You’re free of congestion and excess phlegm. This means your vocal cords will come together nicely to make beautiful sounds. Problems with congestion? Please don’t panic. Just do more lip trills and sirens!

8. You’re hydrated.


This is one of the most important singing audition tips to keep in mind. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of a dry throat when you have to sing! Just make sure you didn’t over-hydrate, because that can dry out your vocal folds, too.

One of my favorite things to suggest to singers is to cut an apple into quarters: this has the perfect ratio of water as well as citric acid to break up any light congestion. It’s the perfect pre-audition snack!

9. You know what you’re singing about.


Now this is a biggie! Singing the right notes, rhythms, and words is essential, but what good is all of that if you aren’t connecting dramatically? Those that choose to be compelling over perfect are almost always those that get hired!

10. You realize that the audition starts before you begin singing.


This means being kind and respectful to any audition monitors, stage managers, and definitely to your accompanist, should you be working with one! You never know who has the final say in whether or not you get hired or cast. Smile, be friendly, and be prompt! Being a diva will get you nowhere.

And lastly….

11. You are prepared to have FUN.


Yes, I said it. Auditions can indeed be fun. You are going to rock any vocal audition you do if you treat it like an intimate performance, rather than something you have to do.

 

With these singing audition tips, you’ll have an easier time dealing with the butterflies that try to creep up. If you are not already working with one, a voice teacher is also essential for preparing you for your auditions. There are so many great instructors with backgrounds in rock, pop, musical theatre, and more. He or she can help you find the songs that fit your voice, as well as coach you further in the essentials listed above!

Break a leg! Remember that auditions do get easier the more often you do them… so get out there and show them what you’ve got!

 

mollyrPost Author: Molly R.
Molly R. teaches online and in-person singing lessons in Hayward, CA. Her specialties include teaching beginner vocalists, shy singers, children, teens, lapsed singers, and older beginners. She joined TakeLessons in November 2013. Learn more about Molly here!

 

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50+ MORE Best Songs to Sing at A Talent Show

50+ MORE Best Songs to Sing at a Talent Show

50+ MORE Best Songs to Sing at A Talent Show

We’ve showcased a few good songs to sing at talent shows, but we heard you wanted more! Here, Brooklyn, NY voice teacher Liz T. shares 50+ more options, along with the three helpful steps to ensure an amazing performance! 

 

Singing at your school’s talent show is a great experience for young performers! Many singers, however, are shy to sign up because they are nervous or don’t know what to songs to sing. I’m here to help you work through these concerns!

First off, WHY should you sign up for a talent show? Performing in front of others has many benefits. You’ll learn how to overcome stage fright, how to sing with a microphone, and — depending on your set-up — how to perform with a background track, pianist, or band (or maybe even accompanying yourself!). If you want to become a famous singer someday, it’ll also prepare for you for those bigger gigs!

First Step: Choose a Song

If this is your first talent show, or if you are new to performing, choose a song you know — one that you have practiced a lot and that you feel comfortable singing. You will sound better and look more comfortable on stage when you feel confident and at ease with the song you are singing! Also, some of the best songs to sing at a talent show are ones with simple lyrics that you can remember, just in case those nerves kick in!

Next Step: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

If you really want to “wow” the crowd, I recommend working a voice teacher leading up to your performance! He or she can help you prepare for your talent show, including choosing the best song to sing, working through stage fright, and polishing up your overall performance. Even with natural talent, a singing coach can help you bring your skills to the next level. Singing isn’t easy, and it’s smart to have a strong foundation!

Final Step: Have Fun!

Ready to perform? The crowd is waiting! But what should you do if the nerves kick in? Sometimes we can’t help but get those jitters and butterflies in our stomachs when we step onto the stage. Here are my tips for how to deal with them:

  • Be prepared! Know your material well, and bring extra copies of the music or backup CDs. This will help you in case something goes wrong with the equipment or you lose your sheet music –you’ll be ready!
  • Bring water, and hydrate yourself regularly. One side effect of nerves is a dry throat, so drinking water will help!
  • Do some meditation, yoga, or stretching right before you go on stage. This will help those tight muscles and body jitters!
  • Bring headphones and an iPod, and listen to your song right before going on stage so it’s fresh in your mind.
  • Have fun! Your friends and family will be cheering you on.

What Are the Best Songs to Sing at a Talent Show?

Still unsure about what to sing? Here are some talent show song ideas, along with the artists who either wrote or popularized the tune:

Traditional/Folk Songs

  1. Amazing Grace
  2. God Bless America
  3. Danny Boy
  4. This Land is Your Land
  5. Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver
  6. Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel
  7. The Rainbow Connection
  8. Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary
  9. Shenandoah
  10. This Little Light of Mine

Oldies

  1. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
  2. Imagine” by John Lennon
  3. Killing Me Softly” by Roberta Flack
  4. Respect” by Aretha Franklin
  5. Lean on Me” by Bill Withers
  6. In My Life” by The Beatles
  7. Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas
  8. What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
  9. Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley
  10. Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder

Broadway/Musicals

  1. Dancing Queen” from “Mamma Mia!”
  2. Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz”
  3. Anything Goes” from “Anything Goes”
  4. The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” from “Man of La Mancha”
  5. My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music”
  6. Tomorrow” from “Annie”
  7. Fame” from “Fame”
  8. Hopelessly Devoted to You” from “Grease”
  9. Beauty and the Beast” from “Beauty and the Beast”
  10. Footloose” from “Footloose”

Jazz

  1. Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald

    2. “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
    3. “Misty” by Sarah Vaughn
    4. “I Got Rhythm” performed by Judy Garland and others
    5. “Georgia on My Mind” performed by Ray Charles and others
    6. “At Last” by Etta James
    7. “Feeling Good” performed by Michael Bublé and others
    8. “Fever” performed by Peggy Lee and others
    9. “Blue Skies” performed by Willie Nelson and others
    10. “Someone to Watch Over Me” performed by Linda Ronstadt and others

’80s/’90s Pop

  1. Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

    2. “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt
    3. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson
    4. “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
    5. “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey
    6. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston
    7. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
    8. “Turn the Beat Around” by Gloria Estefan
    9. “Your Song” by Elton John
    10. “Piano Man” by Billy Joel

Contemporary Pop

  1. Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones

    2. “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift
    3. “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars
    4. “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
    5. “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes
    6. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
    7. “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles
    8. “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
    9. “Stronger (What’ Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson
    10. “Waiting on the World to Change” by John Mayer

Duets

  1. I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5

    2. “When You Believe” by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston
    3. “Lucky” by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat
    4. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
    5. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
    6. “Anything You Can Do” from “Annie Get Your Gun”
    7. “Summer Nights” from “Grease”
    8. “All I Ask of You” from “Phantom of the Opera”
    9. “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher
    10. “One” by U2 and Mary J. Blige

I wish you all the best of luck in preparing for your talent show, and hope to work with many of you soon!

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M. in vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including musical theater, classical, jazz, rock, pop, R&B, and country. Learn more about Liz here!

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6 Singers Who Made Vocal Mistakes

13 Famous Singers With Surprisingly Bad Vocal Habits

6 Singers Who Made Vocal MistakesBelieve it or not, your favorite singers aren’t always perfect. Read on as voice teacher Elaina R. reveals the bad vocal habits you can learn from… 

 

It’s easy to turn on the radio and assume that famous singers always sound incredible. I promise, though, that’s not the case. Every single singer has experienced vocal faults at some point (even if editing and Auto-Tune buffs every track to perfection).

Here are just a few examples of some of the things that can go wrong, as demonstrated by some of the rich and famous.

Vocal Fault - PitchyWho:

  1. Régine Chassagne (Arcade Fire)
  2. Taylor Swift

What:

Singing a pitch is a complicated coordination between the brain, vocal cords, and breath. Some people don’t have this coordination quite right all the time, and therefore they don’t always sing the notes they want to sing.

In the video above, Taylor Swift is singing flat, meaning she is singing just slightly below the correct pitches. Even good singers sing flat every once in a while. Régine, on the other hand, has trouble hitting accurate pitches in general and tends to go sharp (higher than she intended). Listen to her last note in the song for a good example.

How to Avoid It:

Like any other skill, learning to match pitch requires practice. If you have a lot of trouble singing in tune, devote five to 10 minutes a day to practicing this. I have my students use Pitch Analyzer ($1.99 in the Apple App store) and a keyboard to do this. Just open the app, play a pitch on the keyboard, and try to match it with your voice. Pitch Analyzer helps you figure out if you are flat, sharp, or just right.

Vocal Fault: Nasal Singing

Who:

  1. Rebecca Black
  2. Miley Cyrus

What:

Humans can breathe (and therefore sing) through both the nose and the mouth. The soft palate, located on the roof of the mouth behind the hard palate, lifts and lowers to block off the nasal passages from the rest of the breathing apparatus. Singing with a lowered soft palate lets air out through the nose, causing a nasal tone.

How to Avoid It:

Learn to lift your soft palate. If you have ever “plugged” your nose without touching it (when changing a diaper or jumping into a pool, for instance), you already know how to do this. If not, try making a really nasal sound, then doing the exact opposite. If your soft palate is all the way up, you will not sound any different if you plug your nose with your fingers.

Vocal Fault - Throat Tension

Who:

  1. Katy Perry
  2. Christina Aguilera (last note especially, at 1:53)

What:

Throat tension is not only damaging, it sounds more like yelling than singing. In these videos of Katy and Christina, the vocals often sound closer to yelling than to singing. Note the frayed, pressed tone and the lack of vibrato. If you watch closely, you will also notice that you can see both women’s necks visibly straining.

How to Avoid It:

There are two ways to decrease throat tension in singers. First and foremost, try to relax your throat. Work in front of a mirror or place your hand around your neck so you can feel your throat muscles better. You can also move your neck around while you sing (from side to side, as though you are shaking your head “no”) to keep it from stiffening.

The second way to decrease throat tension is to focus on the fundamentals of singing. Singers throats usually tense up to compensate for a lack of proper technique. Make sure your breath support is working, your soft palate is up, your posture is relaxed, and your energy levels are high as you sing.

Vocal Fault: Tongue Tension

Who:

  1. Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)
  2. Kermit the Frog
  3. Sarah Brightman

What:

Your tongue is a huge muscle that stretches from the front of your mouth all the way back and down, where it connects to the muscles under your jaw. If any part of the tongue becomes rigid during singing, a distinct, clogged sound emerges. The best example of this that I can think of actually isn’t a singer; it’s Kermit the Frog. If you tense your tongue and talk, you’ll find that you sound like the little green guy.

For singers, this clogged sound results in modified vowels, as well as a general distinct tone quality. Both Sarah Brightman and Eddie Vedder’s sounds are characterized by this sound. Singing with tongue tension causes vocal fatigue and can eventually lead to vocal problems, so it’s not something you should ignore.

How to Avoid It:

Many people are completely incapable of consciously relaxing their tongues, even when they aren’t making sound. Start by resting your tongue on your bottom lip, so you can see it well in a mirror, and relaxing it (a relaxed tongue is fat and motionless). Once you accomplish that, put your tongue back in your mouth and learn how to sing vowels without tensing your tongue. (The mirror is your best friend.) When progressing to words, focus on moving your tongue without making it unnecessarily rigid.

Vocal Fault: Jaw Tension

Who:

  1. Eddie Redmayne
  2. Kathleen Battle

What:

When singing, the jaw should be loose and free. Tensing the jaw not only makes it harder to sing, it also sounds (and looks) weird. Eddie Redmayne’s clenched, shaking jaw and matching vocals attest to this. Although Kathleen Battle (an acclaimed classical singer) still sounds lovely, it is obvious from watching her sing that her jaw is doing some bizarre and unnecessary work.

How to Avoid It:

Avoid jaw tension by paying attention. Stretch it out before you sing, look in the mirror, and put your hands on your jaw to feel the muscles. If you notice yourself clenching, stop singing, stretch it out, and try again. Always make sure that you are breathing, standing, and resonating well. Just like the throat, the jaw tends to clench when your singing technique is incomplete.

Vocal Fault: Damaged Vocal Cords

Who:

  1. Mariah Carey
  2. Kelly Clarkson

What:

Vocal cord abuse and overuse (such as singing or talking too much or too loudly, yelling, or using improper singing technique) can damage your vocal cords. Singers who perform lots of taxing music often suffer from vocal cord damage, especially after years of performing in tours and concerts.

Kelly still sounds good, but the newly acquired raspy quality and her avoidance of high notes are both red flags. In Mariah’s recording, her cloudy tone quality, squeaking, and inability to hold out notes all point to severely swollen vocal cords. Singers can even get calluses (nodes), polyps, or vocal hemorrhaging (bleeding welts) that require surgery. Adele, Sam Smith, Tove Lo, Keith Urban, John Mayer… the list of celebrity victims goes on and on.

How to Avoid It:

Be kind to your voice! Don’t scream and yell, and don’t overuse your vocal cords. If you suspect that you have hurt your cords already, or if you don’t know how to sing or speak properly for your health, consult a voice teacher or a vocal therapist immediately to avoid really hurting yourself. If it hurts to sing or speak, consider taking a few days off and going on vocal rest (no talking or singing whatsoever). It’s amazing what good a few days of quiet can do.

Banishing Vocal Faults

While celebrities sing off-key through their noses, you can learn to sing in tune, with a raised soft palate and healthy vocal cords. Find a good teacher, ask him or her about these vocal faults, and practice a little every day. Soon, you might be singing better than some of your favorite famous singers!

Elaina RPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She received her Master of Music from the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

Photo by Jana Beamer

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what can you do with a music degree

What Can You Do With a Music Degree? Tips for Singers

what can you do with a music degreeIs it worth it to get a degree in music? Find out one teacher’s take, in this article by San Diego, CA voice teacher Reina M...

 

The voice is a very versatile instrument — and while most young artists aspire for fame on a global level, as a singer you can do many things.

You can become a prima donna in the opera, you can sing at the opening of the World Series, or you can go on a world tour like Beyonce or Madonna. You can become the voice of a Disney princess, record an audiobook, or provide voiceover talent for radio and television commercials.

If you’re nearing college, you might be wondering: is it worth it to get a music degree? Should I go to a prominent music school to receive a degree in Vocal Performance, or will I be just as successful finding gigs on my own? In this post, I’ll share with you what I’ve learned.

Musician or Hobbyist? Deciding if You Should Get a Music Degree

As you’re trying to decide about a music degree, my advice is this: If you plan to become an artist who can sustain a lifestyle with music, it’s important that you apply yourself to learning as much as possible. This commitment to lifelong learning is what will solidify your status as a musician!

This especially applies to vocalists. Music is a language you learn, just like any other foreign language, and there are many vocalists who “speak” conversational music. They get by and can be quite convincing. They can sing what is sung to them, they can recite what they hear, and they may even have original song ideas. Unfortunately, these song ideas will ultimately become a byproduct of the other musicians they are performing with, because conversational singers cannot clearly articulate what they are trying to convey.

On the other hand, there are fluent vocalists who learn their preferred key signatures to the songs they sing, they lead the band on when to change and what to change into, and they may even be able to transcribe the thoughts in their heads for the musicians they play with, enabling them to rehearse more efficiently.

Getting a music degree exposes you to an array of opportunities, and allows you to educate yourself in all areas of the voice.

There’s a caveat though….

Getting a Music Degree: What You Can Expect to Learn

I went to school to study how to be a singer. I received a BA in Music with a Vocal Performance emphasis. I thought I would be taken more seriously by instrumentalists if I were educated, and if I could tell a guitarist or keyboardist what key I was singing in.

This did prove to be true, but I soon realized that it didn’t matter how much I knew if I did not walk into an audition or performance without confidence and a clear idea of what I wanted. I spent four years learning all the background knowledge, but the truth is, there’s always more to learn as you work toward your music career.

It has been 10 years since I graduated college. At first I was convinced it was a waste of time. It was the first eight years after college that I learned how to book shows for myself, how to market myself as an artist, and how to write the music I really wanted to sing. I diversified my instrument repertoire by learning the ukulele; I continued learning and growing.

What Can You Do with a Music Degree? My Personal Outcome

Having experienced college and the life of a starving artist, I am thankful that I went to school and can rely on music to financially support myself in my ongoing musical endeavors. With grand hopes of becoming a star, I did not foresee becoming a music teacher, a title I now wear proudly.

It can feel like a prison to have to work a “real” job and only get to live your passion on nights and weekends. While obtaining a music degree will not guarantee you the success you may be hoping for currently, in the long-run a degree will allow you to use music in other ways if, by some twist of fate, fame is not in your stars.

Reina M.Post Author: Reina M..
Reina M. has taught singing lessons in San Diego, CA since 2005. She earned her B.A. in music from Seattle University and currently sings jazz, R&B, and soul for her original band The Dynasty. Learn more about Reina here!

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Am I Tone Deaf

Am I Tone Deaf? The Truth Behind the Misconception

Am I Tone Deaf

Do you think you’re “tone deaf” and destined to be a bad singer for the rest of your life? Think again! Read on as voice teacher Elaina R. dispels the myth behind tone deafness…

 

Am I tone deaf? An alarming number of people ask themselves this question. But the truth is, tone deafness is a pretty rare phenomenon. Don’t give yourself up as a lost cause simply because you can’t carry a tune. Instead, learn what tone deafness is – and what common issues could be causing your pitch problems.

What Does “Tone Deaf” Mean?

For the tone deaf, hearing the pitch and processing it in the brain is impossible. Tone deaf people cannot distinguish between musical pitches because that is the way their brains work. There is even a medical term for this condition: amusia.

According to scientists, congenital amusia (amusia not caused by brain injury) only affects 4% of people. So if you are having trouble singing in tune, it probably isn’t because you are tone deaf; it’s because you haven’t figured out the complex coordination between the brain, vocal cords, and breath that leads to pitch accuracy. In my years of teaching, I have met many students who have difficulty singing in tune, but not a single one of them was tone deaf!

Are you still asking yourself, Am I tone deaf? Take this free tone deaf test from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to find out. Unfortunately there is no known cure for amusia (it’s just the way your brain is), so if you truly are tone deaf, singing probably isn’t the best choice for you. However, you can still enjoy playing a different instrument, such as drums.

So, I’m Not Tone Deaf. Why Can’t I Match Pitch?

Singing a pitch is a complicated coordination between the brain, the vocal cords, and the breath. First, the singer hears the pitch. Then, the singer must adjust their vocal cords so that they are just the right thickness to replicate the pitch. Finally, the singer uses their breath to make their vocal cords vibrate, producing the pitch.

Failure on any one of these three fronts can make a singer sing out of tune. For most people, the second step — getting the vocal cords to just the right position to sing a particular pitch — is the hardest. Even people with perfect pitch sometimes sing out of tune for this very reason!

The Many Faces of Pitch Problems

I think of pitch-matching ability in stages. Some people start off at Stage 1, while others naturally start at Stage 4. Wherever you start, with the right kind of practice, you can progress through the stages until you make it to Stage 4.

Stage 1: Usher

I have no idea how to match pitch. I am always way, way off.

With students like this, I usually start with simple free vocalization, having the student slide up and down their range and think about how they are making the changes that lead to the pitch going up or down. Then, I introduce pitch-matching exercises in a limited range, using an app like Pitch Analyzer to gauge accuracy. The more you practice matching pitch, the faster you will get better, so aim for five to 10 minutes per day.

Stage 2: Stagehand

I can match most pitches, but I sometimes sing off-key.

Singers at Stage 2 still need to practice matching pitch every day. Unlike Stage 1 singers, though, you can start stringing notes together, practicing matching three- or four-pitch sequences rather than single notes. You should also practice large intervals of an octave or more (large intervals tend to be more disorienting).

Stage 3: Background Singer

I sometimes sing a little flat or sharp.

Stage 3 singers have usually mastered the coordination between the brain and the vocal cords. For these singers, the problem is vocal technique. A singer who is often flat, for instance, may need to bolster their breath support or raise their facial resonators more. A singer who is often sharp may be using too much energy or air to fuel their sound.

Stage 4: Diva

Me, sing out of tune? Puh-lease!

Whether by nature or nurture, Stage 4 singers are deadly accurate. Their brain, vocal cords, and singing technique work in tandem to produce spot-on pitches. The challenge for Stage 4 singers is to stay in tune during difficult moving passages or vocal extremes.

Here’s a recap:

4 Singing Exercises to Improve Your Pitch

Am I Tone Deaf? No!

If you are not one of the 4% of people who is truly tone deaf, you can learn to sing accurately. I have never had a student whose pitch accuracy has not improved with time. Just find a good singing instructor, practice every day, and slowly but surely, you will learn to sing in tune.

Elaina RPost Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here! 

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Kids Sing

10 Funny Songs to Sing With Your Kids

Funny Songs That Will Get Your Kids To SingThere is no one in the world who couldn’t use a little more laughter in their lives! And turning that laughter into learning and creativity? Priceless! But how, you might ask? One easy way is to introduce funny songs to sing with your children. Music offers an array of benefits for you and your family–funny songs even more so!

Why Do Funny Songs Work?

Music involves the brain at every level, with exposure increasing verbal and spatial skills, aiding emotional development, and improving body movement and coordination. And when you add silliness to the mix, creativity can be heightened as well. Spontaneously creating your own funny songs to sing boosts language skills, and acting ridiculous can help your child come out of his or her shell!

Also, let’s not forget all the benefits of laughter, such as its ability to boost your immune system and energy level, diminish pain, protect your heart and body from the effects of stress, and much more.

10 Funny Songs to Sing With Your Kids

Beethoven’s Wig
A song about–you guessed it–Beethoven’s Wig! (It’s very big.) Sung to the tune of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, kids will be having too much fun to realize they’re getting exposed to the world of classical music. Looking for more entertaining classics from various artists? This website is a great resource.

The Name Game
You probably drove your parents nuts with this when you were a kid, now it’s time to pass the torch. It’s a great song for boosting language skills in preschool and kindergarten students!

Please Don’t Play Your Violin at Night
Want to incorporate some Mozart into your child’s repertoire? Try this rendition of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Purple People Eater
It’s a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater–and it’s sure to make your kids laugh.

Oh Where is My Hairbrush?
This and other funny songs to sing by the VeggieTales gang can turn any normal activity or passing thought into a reason to break into song and dance. It may even inspire your own renditions, such as “Oh Where are My Car Keys?” for Mom and Dad, and “Oh Where are My Shoes?” for the kids.

Witch Doctor
Originally created for and recently remade by America’s favorite singing rodents, the Chipmunks, this song is sure to make babies and toddler-aged children giggle.

Yakety Yak
Appropriate for older children, you can poke fun at each other with this 1958 classic. Don’t talk back. Just sing it!

Boom Chicka Boom
The Learning Station offers a wide array of funny songs to sing with your kids as part of their project to promote “healthy music for a child’s heart, body and mind.” Boom Chicka Boom is one of their latest, using tongue twisters and wordplay to boost language development.

Parts of the Body Song
Music is a great educational tool for learning new things,, and you can help your little one learn body parts with this goofy rap song. Once you get through the common body parts, try making up your own more specific verses with your child.

I Didn’t Mean to Burp
Now that you’ve learned the parts of the body, why not move on to the next phase… bodily functions. What more could a kid ask for in funny songs to sing? Feel free to make up your own or dredge up those old campfire faves – just keep them rated PG.

Take It a Step Further…

If your child loves to sing and dance, consider signing them up for private music or singing lessons! Finding funny songs to sing can really help your child identify their love of music. Whether they want to sing or play an instrument, private lessons can help your child hone the skills necessary to excel.

Give your kids the most important gifts of all–the gifts of laughter and learning through music. Incorporate these funny songs into your daily life, and you’ll be creating fantastic memories along the way!

Want more? Find even more songs to sing here!

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Photo by David K