What does it take to learn how to sing? Take a look at these four important factors for success, courtesy of Palm Springs, CA teacher Angel V...
As a singer myself, I have to develop discipline and really strong practice habits to stay on top of my game. I have had the opportunity to study with great musicians and singers throughout my life, and they all have something in common. I like to call it the four P’s of great success as a singer:
Practice + Patience + Perseverance + Play = Creative Expression.
Like the proverbial building constructed on sand, a weak foundation creates an unstable building that won’t stand the test of time. It’s very important for all of us as singers and musicians to have solid practice techniques in order to develop our instrument and make it a stronger one with every performance. A full, strong voice will have the stamina for a full capacity of creative expression when it comes to singing.
A complete practice routine should include:
- Warm Ups
Our vocal cords are like any other muscle in our body; they need to be warmed up before we can sing a song, the same way we need to warm up our legs before we can run a marathon. Warming up your voice with lip trills, runs on your middle range, single tone exercises, and breathing exercises are essential before you start any technical vocal work. Your voice will respond better once you give it the proper warm up. Consider your vocal warm up the way you tell your vocal cords that they are going to be doing some weight lifting!
When I started taking voice lessons, I used to warm up my voice two to three times a day for about 10-20 minutes, depending on what songs I was working on and the technical work my voice teacher had laid out for me. Nowadays, I warm up my voice every morning, before seeing my students, for at least 30 minutes, then do some technical work, and so on.
- Technical Work
With every lesson I teach, I work on breathing with my students. Strong breath management is the basis for learning how to sing well. You cannot sing the right note if your breathing is not in place. It’s just impossible. I recommend dividing your technical work into stages: breathing exercises, flexibility, and range extension, for starters. And if you are tired or straining in any way, STOP! Take a break.
- Song Performance
Start by choosing a couple of songs in a style that you like, and make sure that they are within your singing range. To find that out, look for the lowest and highest notes in the song. Most of the song should be within your middle range, although it is possible that it may have a few low or high notes outside your comfort zone – in that case, work on those notes and see if with time they become easier for you. You can always transpose the song to a lower or higher key if that will make it easier for you to sing.
- Cool Down
After all your hard work, spend about 5 to 10 minutes doing some warm up exercises to cool down your voice. To do this effectively, keep the exercises within the middle range of your voice. This will ease the process of your voice going back to your normal everyday vocal use by allowing the tissue temperature to lower. This is very similar to what we should do after doing vigorous physical exercise.
Learning any instrument – especially vocal technique – requires patience, especially if there are any bad habits to undo. The payoff of being patient with your instrument while learning how to sing properly is that you will have a well-trained instrument capable of greater expression. Every now and then you may have what I like to call an aha! moment in singing, but most of the time progress comes after a long period of work that peaks and then plateaus for a while. As long as you keep working at it, you will always be growing and learning something new about your instrument.
You need to always stay focused on your goals as a singer. Something that has helped me with this is to keep a clear picture of where I am going and what it is that I want to accomplish. I always keep track of my short-term goals and how those are helping me reach my long term ones. I always celebrate my accomplishments and learn from my mistakes. If I have a performance that wasn’t my best, I allow myself to take a break and see what happened and allow myself to feel what I am feeling, but I do not allow that to discourage me from reaching my goals. It’s a work in progress and it’s only getting better.
Music, especially singing, should always be FUN! So don’t ever forget that. You should love and enjoy what you are singing. And you should enjoy it before, during, and after each and every performance! Be proud of yourself and your hard work. Celebrate your singing and every opportunity you get to share your talent!
Angel V. teaches singing, guitar, dance, and more in Palm Springs, CA. He received his Voice Performance/Music Business degree, along with minors in Piano and Guitar, from Berklee College of Music. Learn more about Angel here!
Photo by Fire At Will [Photography]