Tips for Auditioning for Summer Stock Theatre

4 Must-Read Summer Stock Theatre Audition Tips for Singers

Tips for Auditioning for Summer Stock TheatreThinking of auditioning for summer stock theatre in your area? Here, voice and acting teacher Liz T. shares her tips for audition success…

 

Summer stock theatre is a tradition that started in the 1920s, in which talented actors, singers, and dancers from the big city would perform and work on their craft for an entire summer at a local theater, very common in New England and the Midwest. Today, summer stock is still alive and thriving, and is one of the most rewarding experiences as a performer. I encourage you all to pursue summer stock auditions! Here are some tips to help you have a successful summer stock audition.

1. Research theaters

So you’re interested in performing musical theater all summer long? Terrific! The first thing you should do is research summer stock opportunities all across the country, and what shows each theater will be producing in their season. Some may do one show for 12 weeks, and others may do six different shows in 12 weeks. Every theater is different.

Remember to audition for shows and roles that are appropriate for your vocal style, age, and so on. Keep a journal of all the shows that theaters are producing this summer — that way when you go to an audition, you’ll have already done your homework and will be familiar with their season. Perhaps a theater is doing your favorite musical of all time, “West Side Story”, and you want to audition for Maria — watch the movie, read the script, and study the music beforehand, so that if you receive a callback, you are already ahead of the game!

2. Prepare for your audition

Now that you’ve made a list of the summer stock theatre opportunities you want to audition for, I suggest killing two birds with one stone! Traveling across the country to auditions can be very expensive and time-consuming. You may be able to find open call auditions in Boston, NYC, and Chicago where you can audition in a room full of 25 different summer stock casting directors at once. Many college students first start auditioning at StrawHat in NYC, NETC in Boston, MWTA in St. Louis, and UPTA in Memphis. These are great starting grounds to get your feet wet in auditioning. I suggest researching these auditions as far as a year in advance to plan for them — so start now for 2016! You will have to submit an application and a small fee for an audition spot, and these spots fill up quickly!

3. Audition, audition, audition

Now that you have your audition lined up, it’s time to bring your “A Game” and practice, practice, practice. Not only will you have to be a strong singer, but you also need to be a strong actor and dancer. So if you are lacking in one of these areas, I suggest brushing up with some acting, dance, or voice lessons before the big day. Your audition will be very quick, and you will be competing with as many as 10,000 union and non-union actors for a limited number of roles for the summer. At these big cattle calls, you will be given 90 seconds to sing your best 16-32 bars, and do a short monologue.

When picking your audition material, pick something you are comfortable with, and that you can do in your sleep (in case the nerves get the best of you!). This is not the place to try something risky. I suggest showing off your strengths, whether you are a belter, or can sing four octaves. Try not to sing a song that’s overdone; remember the directors will be tired after hearing so many people each day, so do something that’s a breath of fresh air!

Once you’ve nailed your 90-second audition, don’t go anywhere, because usually within the next hour the theater will post a long list of callbacks, which could be held that night after the dance call. The dance call can be a bit intimidating as well, but don’t stress, just do your best, and always smile!

4. Once you’ve landed the role

If you made it through your research, audition, callbacks, and have landed a role in summer stock, congratulations! Getting a role in summer stock is no easy task; many great singers audition, but it all comes down to who is right for which part. If you’re offered a role, I suggest you do some more research and ask questions like “Are housing or meals provided for singers?”, “Is there a weekly pay or just EMC Points?”, “Will I have to pay for travel?”, “How many shows a day?”, and “Will I have days off?” If you ever suspect something is not right in a contract, don’t take it, stick with your gut, and always try to contact a former singer who has worked with the theater/company before.

Finally, if you accept the role, you’ll probably have some time to prepare, so I suggest really working on your character before rehearsals begin. Summer stock rehearsals are very intense, usually six days a week, so it’s also very important that you stay healthy, including eating right and getting enough sleep.

Now go out there, do your research, audition, and land that role you want!

LizTLiz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. 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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how to sing well without lessons

Is It Possible to Sing Well Without Taking Lessons?

how to sing well without lessonsIf you’re wondering how to sing well without lessons, you’ll want to check out this guest post. Here, Washington, DC voice teacher Jacqueline E. shares her thoughts…

 

Is it possible to sing well without taking voice lessons?

In a nutshell, my answer to this is a firm “no.”

So, what does it look like for someone who genuinely wants to learn how to sing well, but can’t take lessons, for whatever reason, and just commits to self-teaching through various methods? The different opportunities to learn how to sing well, then, are observing famous singers of the preferred genre on YouTube or in concerts, listening to recordings, and reading books/articles on vocal pedagogy.

While all of these can be great tools, I’d like to address the problems associated with self-teaching in singing.

Understanding Your Voice

First, when a student watches a good singer, there are so many things about that singer’s body to observe: the jaw, mouth, lips, cheeks, neck/throat, chest, shoulders, abdominal area, etc. But the voice is not an instrument that you can see. The vocal cords and the other parts of the internal vocal mechanism demand an experienced, knowledgeable teacher who can give you immediate feedback based on what he or she hears about the sound you produce in relation to what physical sensations you experience when you sing.

Developing Your Unique Sound

If you learn how to sing by imitating what you hear, no matter how good your ears are, you will most likely end up sounding like the singers you listen to — not yourself. Furthermore, because of the structure of our skeletons and heads, we cannot hear ourselves the way others hear us, which is again another reason to have another set of ears assess your singing. A good voice teacher will bring out YOUR authentic voice, which is beautifully unrepeatable.

Correcting Bad Vocal Habits

Books on vocal pedagogy can certainly be helpful if you want to go in depth about the vocal mechanism. Listening to good singers is a great habit to get in to. But then, how will you know if you are picking up the correct vocal habits? What if you ingrain bad vocal habits over a long period of time? If you have never had lessons at all, you cannot know by yourself if something you watch or hear a singer do is going to be the right way to sing for YOU or if the way that “famous singer” is singing is actually the healthiest way to sing. (One should not equate “fame” with “sings in the healthiest way.”)

Developing Correct Vocal Habits

By all means, I do support the use of YouTube and vocal pedagogy books to help you discover the truth on what healthy singing is (and by contrast, what unhealthy singing is), but ultimately, it cannot be the only route you take. If you gather and synthesize all of this information by yourself, you will direct yourself toward developing bad habits because a live person did not give you feedback. Neither a book nor the Internet can teach you how to identify certain physical sensations while singing (because singing is more about feeling and less about listening), how to develop strong, healthy technical habits, and how to help you get rid of bad ones. A good teacher can.

When you do find a good teacher, my advice is to make sure that person is an accomplished singer who knows not only how to sing, but also how to teach about the vocal mechanism. Being accomplished means having had a lot of professional performing experience (not paying to perform) and if that teacher is old enough, even having students who have had a lot of success. Knowing how to teach means showing you they have a deep understanding of how the vocal mechanism works and can give you a clear cognitive and physical understanding of your instrument.

Vocal technique is inherited from a teacher and develops over long-term study. In short, if you’re wondering how to sing well without lessons, consider this advice. If you truly want to be a good singer with healthy habits, I highly recommend working with a singing teacher — and not just any teacher, but one with good ears and who meets your individual needs!

Jacqueline E Jacqueline E. teaches singing, music performance, and music theory in Washington, DC. She is a classically trained lyric-coloratura soprano, currently working on her Bachelor of Music degree in General-Choral Music Education from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC in May 2015. Learn more about Jacqueline here!

 

 

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singing with an accompanist

5 Tips for Singing with an Accompanist

singing with an accompanistGearing up for a singing performance and need a piano accompanist? Check out these tips to make your (and your accompanist’s!) life easier in this guest post by Corona, CA voice teacher Milton J...

 

Singing with a pre-recorded track for a performance, audition, or singing competition has its advantages with on-demand accompaniment and less resources needed, however, using an accompanist can make that performance or audition even better. Here are some tips on how to practice singing with an piano accompanist.

Sheet Music Preparation

Make sure all sheet music is copied in its entirety with no cut off pages. This is an oft-overlooked issue, as we’re always in a hurry to get things done. Pay close attention to make sure any copies are a direct replication of what’s from the song book. Additionally, use a highlighter to clearly mark the staves for the piano part and any tempo or dynamic changes so your accompanist can easily identify them. Also make sure to clearly mark any changes to the published sheet music you are making in your vocals.

Tempo Matching

Sing a few lines a cappella for your accompanist so he or she can understand the beat pulse you’re going for in order to match tempo together. By providing the pulse you have practiced your vocals with or how you want the tempo to pace the song in your performance, this will alleviate one of the pitfalls of an audition or performance — the dreaded drag and juxtaposition of tempo between the vocalist and the accompanist.

Song Interpretation

Have a clear and direct interpretation of the song or piece you are performing to give your accompanist some musicality to parse from to enhance his or her accompaniment. If you deliver an uninspired or otherwise incorrect interpretation of the piece, your accompanist will not able to derive the emotion or the story you are trying to convey to the audience. The accompaniment serves to help you tell this story or convey this emotion to your listeners — it is important to already have an idea of what and how you will deliver your vocals.

Discuss Audition Plans

If you plan to use the piece you are practicing with your accompanist for an audition, openly talk about your performance plans: how you will indicate you are ready to begin, where you will stand in relation to the piano if need be, and when and how you will acknowledge your accompanist when you are done are all parts of the performance that should be discussed so you are both on the same page.

Search Out the Best Accompanist for You

The piano accompanists that will bring the best out of you as a singer are the ones who understand balance between the vocals and the piano, and the texture the vocals present in the piece. As a vocalist, these are discussions you should have with your accompanist. Come to an agreement in theory and in practice on what proportion of music will be delivered from you and from them.

I hope these tips help you in your singing lessons as you practice for that upcoming performance, singing competition, or audition! Happy practicing!

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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5 Qualities Every Professional Singer Needs to Have

5 Important Qualities Every Professional Singer Needs

5 Qualities Every Professional Singer Needs to HaveWhat does it take to make it in music industry? Learn how to be a professional singer and the five must-have qualities you need in this guest post by Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T...

 

Being a professional singer is a career path you may have been dreaming of your whole life! Even with its ups and downs, it is a very rewarding career choice. Being a professional singer will not happen overnight (no matter how talented you are!), but here are some qualities you should strive for to ensure career success.

1. A “Go-Getter” Attitude

I hear so many singers complain about not getting gigs, not performing, or not writing as much as they should. My advice here is to be proactive! You can’t wait for opportunities to come to you; you have to put yourself out there and go find them!

Be proactive by going out on auditions, sending your headshot and resume to casting directors, and/or writing and recording a demo and sending it to label A&Rs. Stop wasting your time sitting at home, waiting for your phone to ring. Go out there and network! Whether it’s going to hear live music play or participating in a singing competition, you have to be a “go-getter” in this industry, always seeking out opportunities to perform. Every day you should be working on your craft and looking for auditions, places to play or record, and so on.

2. Patience

As I stated earlier, being a professional singer is not something you can just pick up overnight. It is something that you develop over time, with hard work, dedication, and patience. In every talented singer’s career, there have been slow times. Patience is the key to keeping healthy and focused while you are waiting for your career to unfold. You must have patience not only with yourself, but with others that you work with, whether it be musicians, musical director, or composers. If you do not have patience and come across as impatient, needy, or feisty, this may be a big turn-off to people in the industry.

3. Team Mentality

In this business you will be working and collaborating with many different people in different roles, such as other singers, writers, instrumentalists, producers, and technicians. No matter who you are dealing with, you must always stay professional. You have to be a team player, and work efficiently with others. Some of my best friends are also well-known industry artists/musicians, and this is because we have collaborated so well when working together in a musical environment. Sometimes, you may come across someone in the industry who is not pleasant to work with, and this may be very hard for you, but always remember that being a team player will always lead to success.

4. Eager to Learn

Having enough knowledge about your craft is important for singers. Knowing the repertoire you can sing, your vocal limits, and familiarity with other artists/composers is going to help you in this industry. It is a major turn-off in the industry when a singer knows nothing about their art or proper vocal technique. Spend the time and money working with a vocal coach and studying your craft to become the best possible singer you can be, as well as studying what’s happening currently in the music industry. Educate yourself!

5. Openness

As a singer, it will help for you to remain open when auditioning and working with other musicians. Don’t limit yourself by saying something like “I only sing classical music” — experiment with jazz, Broadway, R&B, and everything else. You never know what musical possibilities are in store for you. It’s also important to remain open to any feedback you may hear from an audition or someone just listening to your demo or performance. Everyone has their opinions, and you may not agree 100% with their critique, but being receptive to their ideas may give your voice and career a fresh new element.

I wish you all the success as a professional singer!

LizTLiz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. 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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Get Your Breathing Right Nailing The Foundation to Good Singing

Get Your Breathing Right: The Foundation for Good Singing

Get Your Breathing Right Nailing The Foundation to Good SingingProper breathing is absolutely essential for vocalists. So, what are the best breathing exercises for singing? Read on as Glendale, CA voice teacher Ben M. share his singing tips…

 

In a previous blog post, we discussed the importance of preparing the body to sing with hydration and proper rest. We also discussed the importance of relieving tension in the body in order to give your voice as much space to build and create that rich, full sound you want. The next step in your vocal master class is to get your breathing right.

Breathing is the foundation for all good singing. In fact, without breathing there would be no singing. Vocal cords only make sound once air is passed through them. You might think that breathing is no big deal – after all, you’re doing it right now. You breathe in and out thousands of times a day without much of a problem at all, right? Well, the process gets a little more complicated when you bring singing into the picture, and the fact is that most untrained singers don’t use nearly enough air to sing the way the way they want to.

How Your Voice Actually Works

Let’s start with a basic overview of how singing actually works. I’ve found the easiest illustration of this is the glass bottle. If you fill one quarter of a bottle with water and blow air across the top of it, you will create a relatively low pitch. If you fill that bottle up to three quarters and blow across it again, you will create a relatively high pitch. The other thing you’ll notice is that it’s harder to make a clear tone with the bottle three-quarters full than it is with the bottle one-quarter full. So, what’s the big idea? It all comes down to the space the air has to resonate in.

  • The more space there is available in the bottle, the more room the sound has to roam, which leads to fewer vibrations per second. The fewer vibrations per second, the lower the frequency of the tone.
  • The less space there is available in the bottle, the less room the sound has to roam, which leads to more vibrations per second. The greater vibrations per second, the higher the frequency of the tone.

As for the effort of air exerted, this has to do with producing enough air to achieve the greater number of vibrations required to create a tone in such a limited amount of space.

Now, let’s consider how this concept applies to your vocal cords. You inhale and exhale. Once the exhaled air reaches your vocal cords, it is met with either a wide or narrow aperture. Sing a low note – your vocal cords are configured wide. Sing a high note – now they’re configured narrow. And just like the bottle, the less space available in your vocal cords, the more vibrations per second. This means that the higher you sing, the more air that is required! This is one of the reasons why singers report more difficulty singing high notes as opposed to low – high notes require more air than what your regular speaking voice calls for.

So, we’ve established that we need to have access to a lot of air. The next step is figuring out the most effective way to produce that air. Breathing exercises for singing are essential for this. Here are three techniques to consider:

1. Breathe to expand, not to raise.
A common tendency among new singers is to fill up with air vertically instead of horizontally. Take a deep breath and sing a phrase of a song. Did you shoulders move? If so, you are pushing a good amount of that valuable air into your shoulders, where it has absolutely no use to you. Locate your diaphragm below your chest and above your belly – buried behind muscle, but detectable when you notice your chest expanding on the inhale. The goal is to direct all your inhale air into your balloon-like diaphragm – not your shoulders.

2. Now, expand your breathing capacity.
Pacing yourself, inhale for a count of four so that your diaphragm is fully extended, then exhale for a count of four so that your diaphragm returns to rest. Repeat the exercise for a count of eight, and then for a count of 16. You’re expanding your breathing capacity while training your muscles to ration out the available air – an important tool for singing phrases of varying lengths.

3. Add a tone.
Repeat the same exercise as #2, but this time, allow your voice to create an easy, free-flowing and descending tone for the duration of the exhale. It should sound like the descent of a siren blaring in the distance. You are now teaching your vocal cords to sync with your air supply.

Breathing exercises for singing work well at the beginning of your regular vocal warm-ups. If you’re having trouble figuring out the right way to breathe, a voice teacher can observe your process and help you identify the breathing muscles you need to utilize. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to achieve your vocal goals when you just learn to breathe!

Ben

Ben M. teaches music performance and singing in Glendale, CA. He attended Northeastern University and is currently studying voice at Brett Manning Studios. Learn more about Ben here!

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2015 Online Singing Contests to Check Out

The Best Online Singing Contests to Show Off Your Skills

2015 Online Singing Contests to Check OutCan’t make it out to the next American Idol or The Voice audition? That’s alright! You can still show off your vocal skills and compete for recognition in one of the many online singing contests put on across the country. Below are several worth checking out!

  • The Hal Leonard Vocal CompetitionThe only vocal competition for all of North America aimed at young singers ages 23 and under, this is one of the first legitimate online singing competitions created. There is no entry fee, making it accessible to all qualified North American singers. Video auditions are all submitted through YouTube. Prizes include cash and gift certificates.
  • The Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition: For the under-30 crowd, this international solo competition focuses exclusively on oratorio singing (lengthy musical pieces that tell a story and are typically religious in nature). Initial entries and rounds are online, however finals are held at Carnegie Hall in New York City with substantial cash prizes are awarded.
  • YOBI.tv: YOBI.tv offers singing competitions for those 18 and older, and those between 13 and 17 who have parent permission. The site is free to all who join, and all competitions are free as well. Competitions are divided into 40 weekly rounds, organized into five sets of seven semifinal weeks and concluding in an eighth week final. Contest winners are member-decided, with large cash prizes upwards of $10,000.
  • Singist: For those 18 and up, Singist offers monthly online singing competitions. You can audition to be entered in the monthly contest for free, or sign up for a “Performer Plan” at $4 per month and enter yourself. Video submissions must be original, featuring any song or genre you choose, and not posted on any other site (such as YouTube). Registered Singist users vote on a monthly winner, and social media sharing is encouraged. Small cash prizes in the $5-25 range are awarded to monthly winners.
  • MacroDazzle: MacroDazzle accepts a cappella, karaoke, sing-along, and even self-accompanied singing from contestants of all ages. Competitors over 18 are eligible for cash prizes, and minors are eligible for gift certificates and non-monetary prizes. A $16 entry fee is required for cash contests.

Tips for Entering an Online Singing Contest

When entering an online singing contest, keep in mind that the devil is in the details. Pay strict attention to application deadlines, application requirements, submission formats (tapes, CDs, YouTube videos, etc.), required music genres, and rules to avoid being disqualified or forced to wait until the next competition. Also, be aware you may need all or many of the following items to complete you submission: proof of age (birth certificate or passport), application fee, photo, biographical material, letter of recommendation from your voice instructor, and parent permission forms for minors. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask your singing instructor for help!

Preparing for Your Online Singing Contest

While singing in the shower is a great start, your most essential prep tool for an online singing contest is a great voice teacher. A skilled voice teacher can aid your performance in many ways, teaching you about proper breathing, improving your tone quality and vocal range, and more. Don’t have a singing instructor? It’s never too late. Find one in your area today and you’re sure to see your abilities rise exponentially!

Ready to put in a ringing performance? Court the judges with your singing talents in an online singing contest today!

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Singing Affirmations and Quotes To Remember When You're Struggling

9 Confidence-Boosting Singing Quotes & Affirmations

No matter how much you love singing, it isn’t always easy to perform in front of a live audience. Instead of doubting your talents or fearing failure, learn from the anxious artists and thinkers who came before you. Check out the following singing quotes to keep your vocal goals in focus and your musical passion flowing.

if i cannot fly let me sing

“If I cannot fly, let me sing.” – Stephen Sondheim

If you’re nervous about a performance or frustrated by your progress, remember that singing should be freeing. Embrace the sensation of flying with your voice.

without music life would be a mistake

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Great philosophers understood that music is essential to human happiness. If singing is your passion, pursue that happiness without hesitation!

imagination creates reality

“Imagination creates reality.” – Richard Wagner

Even world-class compositions started as dreams and ideas. If you can imagine yourself hitting every note, that’s the first step toward actually doing it.

keep your face to the sunshine, and you can't see the shadows. that's what sunflowers do.

“Keep your face to the sunshine, and you can’t see the shadows. That’s what the sunflowers do.” – Helen Keller

Never give into doubts and fears, because nothing good can blossom from wallowing in negativity.

the only thing better than singing is more singing

“The only thing better than singing is more singing.” – Ella Fitzgerald

Don’t forget to enjoy every second of your performance!

the greatest respect an artist can pay to music is to give it life

“The greatest respect an artist can pay to music is to give it life.” – Pablo Casals

Think of your performance as a tribute to music itself. Gifts don’t have to be perfect.

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Practice is the only way to achieve your singing goals. Go get your prize.

it's never too late to be what you might have been (1)

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

Every audition, practice session, and performance is another opportunity to achieve your greatest goals.

learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. – Pablo Picasso

Fully commit to your vocal training, so that eventually you’ll know your instrument well enough to lose the rules completely.

 

Performing and auditioning are nerve-wracking for almost everyone. If you stay focused on fine-tuning your instrument and learning from your mistakes, you can combat that anxiety with the knowledge that you already have what it takes. Good luck, and enjoy the journey!

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Singing Affirmations and Quotes To Remember When You're Struggling

3 Simple Tweaks to Instantly Improve Your Singing Voice

instantly improve your singing voiceWant to know the secrets of the best singers out there? Here, Corona, CA teacher Milton J. shares his advice to instantly improve your singing voice…

 

As singers, we greatly admire those vocal artists who seem to be able to create their vocal sound so seemingly effortless and without strain or discomfort. What is it that they’re doing that we as aspiring or budding singers are not? Here are just a few of the tricks of the trade and vocal tweaks you can use within your voice lessons to instantly improve your singing voice.

Larynx Lowering

One trick that will serve to transform how your vocal sound passes through your throat and increase your range is with larynx manipulation. Your larynx is colloquially known as your voicebox, or with male singers, the “Adam’s apple.” So how do you lower your larynx? To start, use the beginning of the yawn. Avoid intentionally pushing down the back of your tongue, as most people do when first learning to lower the larynx. This is because if you push your tongue down, you will feel a tightening of the muscles under your chin, which isn’t what you want for singing at all. Instead, using the yawn technique will help you use your sense of feeling and touch to understand how to control the muscles around your larynx.

Open Throat Breathing

Breathing is a subset of singing that many singers do not realize they must actively think about and foster greater control of. For instance, many of us singers tend to inhale much like we do when we’re sitting, walking, or talking. That is, through the nose and not utilizing the full capacity of our lungs. Because of that, we do not use all of our vocal tools to their best ability. When doing your warm-up exercises, take some time to focus on your breathing. To maximize your inhalation intake, try opening your mouth on an “Awh” shape and open your throat in a yawn-like fashion.

When you finish your exercise, you’ll notice your lungs may feel expanded, your body a little bit lighter, and a few yawns may have passed (this is normal, as your body is adjusting to the influx of air). Additionally, once you move to practicing a song, try breathing through the next vowel you are slated to sing. For example, if the next word after an inhalation is “over,” you would inhale through an “ooh” mouth shape. This will both help to increase the amount of air you receive into your lungs in addition to cutting down the time necessary to create the shape for your next singing word, setting in motion the best utilization of all of your vocal tools.

Diaphragm Engagement

Lastly, another overlooked portion of everyday singing is using the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It plays a major role in breathing, as its contraction increases the size of the chest and, thus, inflates the lungs. Now, if you’re having trouble feeling your diaphragm, lie flat on the floor and place a moderate weight on your stomach area, something like a large book. Push that weight up using just the muscles in your stomach. Simultaneously draw air into your lungs to their full capacity and sing out. The muscles you’re using are your diaphragm.

Thus, strengthening the diaphragm with strength-building exercises will certainly enhance your vocal output. In this exercise, take a deep breath from your diaphragm, and while exhaling, count as high as possible. Count slowly and evenly, then record how much you’ve improved every day. Another strengthening exercise is Belt Singing. That is, take a simple belt and heckle it across your diaphragm. Make sure it’s tight enough so you can push out on the buckle using your diaphragm, but not too tight where it constricts breathing or is uncomfortable. From there, do your warm-up exercises and sing your song selections. When you have finished and remove the belt, you’ll notice your diaphragm will feel as if it’s been through a workout.

These easy tricks and tweaks will greatly improve your singing voice in just a few sessions. Why not try them out with a vocal teacher near you today?

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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how to scream sing

How to Scream Sing Without Hurting Your Vocal Cords

how to scream singDo you love metal, punk, or “screamo” music? As a vocalist, you’ll need to take extra precautions if you’re singing in these styles. Read on for tips from Austin, TX teacher Gfire M...

 

I live in Austin, Texas, the “live music capital of the world,” so I have worked with loads of vocalists who sing in touring rock bands. Some of these students only have one section of a song in which they scream — others scream for an entire set — so I work with them to not hurt their vocal cords. Here are my vocal tips to keep in mind.

1. Breathing Exercises and Vocal Warm-ups

No matter what type of singing you do, before you head out on stage, it is a good idea to do some breathing exercises to control your notes and some singing exercises to warm up your entire vocal range, even notes that you don’t use on stage. Do these warm-ups for 10-30 minutes and you will be more relaxed and confident for your set.

2. Plan Your Set

If you know that one song is really going to be full-on screaming, perhaps plan the next song to be a relatively easy one for you vocally. Obviously, this will not work if your entire set is scream-o.

3. Do Your Cardio and Core Strengthening Training

Any type of rock singing tests the physical limits of the vocalist, so it is a good idea to have a workout plan. Cardio exercises increase your lung capacity, and core strengthening gives you more support when you go for those yelled notes.

4. Drink Plenty of Water and Keep Some On Stage

In rehearsals, in warm-ups, and on stage, it is essential to keep your vocal instrument hydrated. Either room temperature or warm liquids are ideal for singers and screamers, since cold drinks tend to constrict the throat.

5. Know Your Notes!

Even if you are screaming a note in a song, you need to know what note it is so that you can scream in tune. Screaming in tune will help your band sound cohesive — it is just as important as tuning the guitar and bass for keeping your sound musical. Plus the added confidence in knowing where to aim your voice is essential for keeping your voice in good shape.

6. Drink Alcohol After Your Set

Alcohol is too drying for your voice and will exacerbate any ill effects screaming does to your throat. If you are a drinker, wait until after your set is over. Before and during the set you need to stay hydrated in order for you to scream successfully and consistently.

7. Stay Healthy!

Do your best to eat a well-balanced diet and get plenty of sleep. Your body is your instrument, after all!

If you need more tips and techniques, you may wish to work with a singing coach who specializes in teaching how to scream sing. He or she can help you develop your screaming technique and personal habits to ensure you a full lifetime of singing and screaming well. Rob Halford of the heavy metal band Judas Priest, for example, studied singing technique and he is able to successfully scream sing after decades of constant touring.

Some singers are born to scream — so if you are that type of singer, put your vocal care plan into place and plan to scream for a very long time!

Gfire

Gfire teaches music theory, opera voice, piano, singing, and songwriting in Austin, TX. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music from University of Maryland, as well as her Master of the Science of Singing from Ernest George White Society. Learn more about Gfire here!

 

 

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gospel music

5 Vocal Exercises to Help You Sing Gospel Music

gospel musicThere are so many genres to explore as a singer! Here, Austin, TX voice teacher Gfire M. shares her tips for singing gospel music…

 

I have always been fascinated with gospel music! I spent several years studying Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and other famous gospel singers, just so I could get that soulful feel and get those cool bluesy licks into my own singing style. Here are some tips to help you get started with your own gospel journey.

1. Breathing Exercises

In order to be able to hold your gospel notes and vocal lines without gasping for air by the end of the line, it is a good idea to practice breathing exercises to give yourself more control. Singing is, after all, just vibrating breath! One great exercise is called the “one minute breath.” The full exercise — which I don’t recommend starting with! — is to inhale for 20 seconds, hold your breath for 20 seconds, and then exhale for 20 seconds.

Here is a good way to get started: exhale for four seconds (to empty out your lungs), then inhale for eight seconds, hold the breath for eight seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Once you perfect this breath, move onto (still) exhaling for four seconds, then inhale nine, hold for nine, and exhale for nine seconds. Gradually, you can work up to the full “one minute breath.”

2. Vocal Warm-ups

You’ll want to warm up your voice before working on your gospel song. A nice easy exercise is to sing “mah-mah-mah-mah-mah” on a major triad — for women, perhaps start on the G major triad below middle C, and for men, you can start on the C major triad an octave below middle C. Then you can warm up on some of the other pure vowel sounds, including “meh-meh-meh-meh-meh,” “mee-mee-mee-mee-mee,” “moh-moh-moh-moh-moh,” and “moo-moo-moo-moo-moo.” Work your way down to your lowest note in half-steps and then back up to your highest note in half-steps.

3. Choose Your Song

Next, try singing along with several gospel singers whom you admire. If you can hit all the notes that they are hitting, that is a great song to start with. If you find a singer whose voice is similar to yours, then you can learn a bunch of her or his songs and build your gospel repertoire.

4. Isolate a Lick

Almost every gospel singer out there has some vocal tricks up her sleeve! Take the song “Amazing Grace”, for example — the first “A” might have six or eight or more notes associated with it. Mahalia Jackson, on one version of the song, sings the G and A below middle C for six notes before hitting middle C on “-maz.” That is seven notes and we haven’t even finished one word! It is a good idea to break down the entire vocal line and practice it slowly at first, until you can gradually sing it note for note with Mahalia or whomever you enjoy singing with.

5. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!

Any vocal style worth studying is going to take a large chunk of time to really get a feel for its ins and outs. Spend at least a few years studying gospel singing — developing your repertoire, your vocal lines, and eventually your own personal style — with a singing instructor who specializes in the genre.

If you love gospel as much as I do, you will really enjoy your voyage into gospel singing! Give yourself the gift of developing your talent and then sharing your voice with others!

Gfire

Gfire teaches music theory, opera voice, piano, singing, and songwriting in Austin, TX. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music from University of Maryland, as well as her Master of the Science of Singing from Ernest George White Society. Learn more about Gfire here!

 

 

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