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How to Record Yourself Singing

How to Record Yourself Singing (& Still Sound Great) Without a Pricey Microphone

Singers, How to Record Yourself Without a Pricey Microphone

Singers, do you ever record yourself singing? It’s a great idea as you practice. But what if you don’t have a top-quality microphone or video camera? Don’t fret. In this guest post, Jesse from Hear The Music shares some helpful pointers…

 

 

Many voice teachers encourage their students to record videos of themselves singing, as you can review them afterward and identify ways you can improve.

But if you’re just starting out, you may not want to spend hundreds of dollars on recording equipment to do this. You may be wondering, “How do I record myself singing — and still sound good — with only tools I already have?”

Luckily, all you need is a laptop with a webcam or a smartphone!

Here are some helpful tips on how to make yourself look and sound as great as possible.

Positioning

Music videos, like the ones you see from your favorite artists, often incorporate all sorts of wild camera angles, swooping shots, and fancy visual effects. Going on the assumption that your video will be used for self-evaluation and improvement, none of that is necessary.

Instead, keep it simple. Position your camera about chest level and try to get your entire body in the shot. If your foot is out of frame, you may never know that you subconsciously tap your foot as you sing.

One of the limitations of using your phone or laptop webcam is that the microphone and camera are attached to each other. Normally the microphone would be right in front of the singer, and the camera a ways back. Finding the best positioning for this setup is a bit of a balancing act. You want to be able to see as much of your body as possible, while also keeping the microphone close enough to record at a good volume.

If you’re having trouble getting a good balance, you may want to record yourself singing the song twice: once to watch your body movements and mannerism, and another with the camera much closer to get a good recording of your voice.

Simple Room Acoustics

Acoustics are the properties or qualities of a room that determine how sound is transmitted in it, and it is literally a science.

Some basic rules are:

  • Don’t record in a small room with flat, square, bare walls. This causes the sound waves to bounce all over the place and mess with each other. Larger rooms with furniture, carpet, curtains, and wall coverings will make your recording sound much better.
  • Eliminate all the background noise you possibly can. Keep kids and pets out, close doors and windows, turn off the TV and unrelated music, wait until the construction crew outside your window stops jackhammering.
  • If the room still sounds echoey, throw some pillows against the wall and hang up some blankets. They make great cheap acoustic panels.

How to Record Yourself Singing – Best Practices

Keep in mind you’re making a video to showcase and critique your singing abilities, not trying to win a VMA award. (Yet.)

Here are some simple best practices to get you started:

  • Look into the camera. This is the same thing that you (hopefully) will be doing when you perform for other people, so you want to know what it looks like to them.
  • Sit or stand naturally. Don’t tense up just because you are being recorded.
  • Don’t wear distracting clothes. Clothes with lots of stripes or funky patterns may not record right and create some weird effects. Plus you want to be able to focus on you and your music, not your outfit.
  • Beware of your background. Try to have a neutral, plain-looking wall behind you. Same idea as your clothes. You want the focus to be on you and your music.
  • Use lots of light. You want to have plenty of light shining on you from the sides and from behind the camera, but not from behind you.

Next Steps

Once you get the hang of recording yourself and are confident in your abilities, you may want to start looking into producing a higher-quality music video for other people to enjoy.

The easiest way to get a dramatic increase in your recorded music quality is to use an external microphone. These days you don’t need a large expensive home studio system to get great results. Great microphones that simply plug into your computer via USB can be found for less than $100. The improvement will be immediate and glorious. Before you go out and buy something, though, you need to know how to find the best microphones for singing.

Once you have a good microphone, you can use a better quality video camera. In fact, you may already have a great one and not even know it!

When you have those two pieces of equipment you will be able to create videos that rival 90% of the music videos on YouTube! So what are you waiting for? Start recording today!

jessePost Author: Jesse
Jesse owns Hear The Music, a blog dedicated to helping people find great music, and helping them learn to create their own. On his site he offers advice to artists recording music at home, interviews with YouTube stars, and helpful reviews of recording equipment.

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physical activity to strengthen your voice

Will Cardio & Physical Activity Make You a Better Singer? [Video]

cardio to strengthen your singing voice

Can doing physical exercise and cardio help you become a better singer? The answer is yes! Learn how to strengthen your singing voice and which activities are best in this article by voice teacher Rebecca R

Imagine this scenario: you’ve signed up to run your first marathon. Maybe you ran cross-country back in high school and have kept up with running as a regular form of exercise. Because of this, you don’t use a training plan, and instead continue your normal exercise routine. When the day of the marathon arrives, though, you struggle to complete the entire course and end up injured. You’d probably feel like your body betrayed you, right?

While this scenario is a VERY exaggerated circumstance, it gets the point across: in order to accomplish a physical goal in the healthiest way possible, a certain amount of body awareness and training is required.

And although it doesn’t demand nearly the same endurance training as running a marathon, singing is a very physical activity. While just two tiny muscles are responsible for forming the sound of your singing voice (your vocal cords), the act of singing is a whole-body experience.

So, what’s the proper way to train? Adding physical activity to your musical practice to develop stamina and strengthen your singing voice is a great idea. Here’s how it can help you sing better:

1. Your body is your instrument.

In nearly every introductory voice lesson I teach, the student is always surprised by how physically demanding the lesson is. Often, he or she feels like they just went on a jog. That is exactly how any student should feel after a voice lesson!

When you sing to the best of your ability, you are using your entire body. Your feet ground you, your legs support you, and your torso expands and works to provide the breath support needed to fuel your singing. Even if you’re sitting in a chair, leaning against a piano, or laying on the ground, you are using more than just your throat and head to sing.

If learning how to strengthen your singing voice is a goal for you, the first step is to map out body awareness. Ask yourself the following questions the next time you sing:

  1. Which muscles are engaging when I breathe? When I’m singing a phrase of music?
  2. What do my feet feel like under me? Can they feel the ground?
  3. Where do I feel my torso expand when I inhale? In the front? On the sides? In the back?
  4. Am I holding any unnecessary tension in the body? Maybe in the shoulders or the jaw?

2. Breath, breath, and more breath!

Lung expansion is a saving grace for any singer. For most circumstances in everyday life, we inhale and exhale subconsciously without needing to actively engage our lungs. When we sing, however, we use up to 90% of our lung capacity depending on the range, style, and length of the song.

Unless you also happen to be an athlete, chances are you don’t perform many activities throughout the day that require a lot of conscious breathing. Enter cardio exercises: jogging, running, swimming, circuit training, you name it! All of these forms of exercise, in addition to their overall health benefits, will improve lung expansion, which helps you access more of your lung capacity and fuel your voice through any practice session, lesson, or performance. Good breath support gained through cardio exercise is what ultimately will provide the stamina to sing safely for hours, days, and years.

Editor’s Note: For more breathing exercises, join our next live, online class! View the schedule and reserve your spot here.

3. The Importance of Posture

While having good posture may seem obvious, I don’t think most singers realize that posture is something that needs to be worked on and strengthened regularly. Just like training the lungs with cardio, we need to strengthen our body to support good, natural posture while releasing tight muscles.

Yoga or pilates will accomplish both of these goals, along with added mental benefits! By strengthening your instrument (your body) and loosening up tight muscles, you will sing more freely and with more ease. As an added bonus,you’ll be able to warm up your voice much more quickly if your body is already warmed up!

Here’s a quick little trick for when you need help setting up your posture: Inhale fully and deeply without raising your shoulders or tightening your neck. Then, as you exhale, imagine your spine growing longer in both directions, up out of the top of your head and down toward the ground simultaneously.

How Much Physical Activity Do I Need to Sing at My Best?

While the minutes spent and intensity of all physical activity will vary from person to person, here’s a basic schedule you may want to follow:

  • 3 times/week: Cardio should be reserved for long vocal practice days. On cardio days, I’ve found that my lung capacity is at its best, and the energy I feel after cardio helps fuel long practice sessions. To get all the benefits of the cardio when you sing, try to fit it in before you practice.
  • 2 times/week: Yoga or pilates is reserved for my non-practice/non-performance days. Yoga classes that are lengthy and provide a hearty workout (such as Vinyasa or power yoga), as well as pilates classes, build strength and flexibility, which can leave the body sore and in need of some recovery. It’s best to avoid activity that might add temporary tension or tightness on singing days — or save the workout for after your singing.
  • Every day: Gentle yoga and stretching can be done anytime and is highly encouraged, particularly before you sing. I always reserve time for some gentle yoga on performance days, audition days, or long rehearsal days — the gentle stretch not only allows my mind and body to calm down and feel grounded but also makes warming up vocally easier and quicker.

Give it a Try…

Follow along with the video below for a quick stretching sequence you can start using today.

Singers, what kinds of physical activity do you engage in? Leave a comment below and let us know how it’s helped!

RebeccaRPost Author: Rebecca R.
Rebecca R. teaches singing, piano, and music theory in Ridgewood, NY, as well as online. She teaches students ages 6 and up, and a variety of experience levels. Learn more about Rebecca here!

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How to Be a Better Singer... With One Overlooked Secret

How to Be a Better Singer… With One Overlooked Secret

How to Be a Better Singer... With One Overlooked Secret

Wondering how to be a better singer? There’s more to it than knowing how to use your voice. Read on as teacher Tony F. explains…

 

Do you love to sing? Is singing the first thing on your mind in the morning and the last thing at night? If you can answer yes to those questions, you might be what’s known as (cue the Star Wars theme music, maestro)… a singer.

Symptoms may include: rocking your head to a favorite song as you sing along while driving down the road… an unbalanced addiction to karaoke parties… or a tendency to sing along with songs you don’t even know, just because you can.

While there’s a lot to learn about keeping your voice healthy, developing your ear, and improving your pitch, here’s something you might not have thought about: your voice is actually all in your mind.

Here’s what I mean…

1. Your Mind’s Eye

Yep, you’ve got to see yourself singing. Imagine yourself singing five years from now. Can you see it? Good. Now imagine yourself singing 10 years from now. And 20 years. And maybe even 30 or 40 years from now. Can you see yourself with gray hair… singing like you did when you were young?

When you can see yourself, in your mind’s eye, singing confidently in front of a group of listeners, you’re one-third of the way to actually doing it. And don’t just see yourself singing… take it to the next level and see yourself in full control of a powerful and stylish voice. Are you starting to get a clear picture?

OK, now see yourself smiling. There’s sheer joy in singing when you keep yourself in the moment. See the troubles of the world fall at your feet. See your audience swept away in the moment with you. And see yourself floating weightless through every note, phrase, and inflection.

Practice this kind of visualization in your spare time and before every rehearsal or performance. Your voice will thank you.

2. Your Mind’s Ear

Can you hear music when no music is playing? I’m not asking if you can recall your favorite song and the way it sounds. I mean actual notes and scales. Can you hear those? You should be able to, if you quiet your mind and listen.

Set aside any distractions like your mobile device or your social accounts, and listen. Start by thinking of the first note in a scale. DO. Got it? Doesn’t matter if it’s a C or G or E. Just start with DO.

Now move up the scale past RE, MI, FA, SO, LA, TI, and all the way to DO. Listen closely. Do you hear the sound of each note in your own voice? If you can’t, you might need to find somewhere even more quiet and secluded. And you might need to practice focused listening.

Focused listening starts in your mind’s ear. When you can clearly hear notes in your head and in your voice, and when you combine hearing yourself sing with seeing yourself sing, you’re two-thirds of the way to actually doing it. But you’ve got one more area to deal with as you learn how to be a better singer.

3. Your Mind’s Voice

Most successful singers (or successful people in anything, really) will tell you they’ve had to battle a nagging, negative voice inside their head. Have you ever heard that little voice in your mind, the one that says “you can’t do it”?

Have you ever started to sing and thought, “What am I doing?” or “Who do I think I am?” If so, you’re not alone. But here’s what will set you apart and what will get you over that hurdle…

don’t be afraid to mess up. Tell that nagging voice in your mind who’s boss.

Remember, you’re in control of your thoughts. And if you’ve been practicing your visualization and listening techniques, you should be able to think thoughts like…

  • “I’m gonna sing the notes off this scale!”
  • “I can sing circles around this song!”
  • “I love singing so much, no one and nothing is gonna stop me!”

You can do it. Start right now. When you change the thoughts in your head, you’ll be well on your way to being a better singer!

TonyFPost Author: Tony F.
Tony F. teaches vocal training in Colorado Springs, CO, as well as through online lessons. With over 25 years of live performance experience, and has also written jingles for radio and websites. Learn more about Tony here!

Photo by WFIU Public Radio

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Don’t Crack: The Singer’s Guide to Vocal Registers [Audio]

Don't Crack - The Singer's Guide to Vocal RegistersAs a singer, learning how to adjust your vocal cords is what helps you sing low notes and high notes with ease! This is what happens when we talk about vocal registers. You may have already heard about head voice and chest voice, but what else should you know? Here, voice teacher Elaina R. breaks it down…

 

If you’ve ever heard a teenage boy’s voice crack (or heard your own voice break, as you try to reach a high note), you already know something about vocal registers. It may seem like your voice is simply your voice — after all, you only have one set of vocal cords — but vocal registers can make it feel like your voice is split into several different pieces.

Here’s what’s going on in your larynx to cause those changes – and what you can do to avoid the dreaded crack in the future.

What Are Vocal Registers?

Vocal registers are caused by shifts in your vocal cord positioning. A good way to visualize this is with your hands. Try clapping normally, then try “clapping” them using just a portion of your palms. Notice a difference? The same thing happens with your vocal cords.

The Three Main Vocal Registers

There are three main vocal registers that I want to address first, starting with the lowest and ending with the highest. To get a better idea of what these sound like, watch this funny video that uses pop music to illustrate different registers.

  • Chest Voice (also known as modal voice)

A quick note on the term “chest voice” — it has nothing to do with your chest. I have no idea why it is called that.

What it sounds like: Strong, lower. Most people speak in chest voice.

Vocal cord production: Thick, fat vocal cords vibrating evenly along the length of the cord.

Listen:

  • Head Voice

Same deal here — head voice has nothing to do with your head.

What it sounds like: Higher, lighter. This is what female opera singers predominantly use.

Vocal cord production: Long vocal folds, partially touching (only about a third of vocal cords vibrate during head voice singing).

Listen:

To learn more about chest voice vs. head voice, take a look at the video below by teacher Melody M:

  • Whistle Tone (also known as flute register)

Whistle tone is relatively rare, but I am including it here because I have it and lots of people ask me about it. I consider it one of the three main registers because there is a strong, defined break between whistle and head voice very similar to the one between head and chest voice.

What it sounds like: Very high, pure. Mariah Carey is one of the most famous users of this upper register.

Vocal cord production: Long vocal folds almost entirely touching; only a small area vibrates, producing sound.

Listen:

  • Mixed Registers

If you mix blue and yellow paint, you get green. This color mixing applies to vocal registers too. There are middle registers possible between basically all vocal registers.

  • Vocal Fry (also known as glottal fry)

Vocal fry isn’t really a combination of any two registers; instead, it is considered an “extended technique” or even a vocal fault for classically-trained singers.

What it sounds like: Low croaking.

Vocal cord production: Thick, floppy vocal cords that are barely moving enough to produce sound.

Listen:

  • Chest/Head Mix (also known as middle voice, modal voice, healthy belt, just “mix”)

What it sounds like: A mix of head and chest voice, very useful for singing high notes in pop and musical theater without sounding strained. High belters such as Ariana Grande and Idina Menzel use this a lot.

Vocal cord production: Longer vocal folds partially touching (a bit more vibrating space than in full chest voice).

Listen:

  • Head/Whistle Mix

I don’t know how popular this one is, but it does exist.

What it sounds like: Lighter, easier notes at the top of the coloratura soprano head voice range (D-F6 for me); slightly heavier notes normally at the lower end of whistle range (F#-A6 for me).

Vocal cord production: Slightly more vocal cord vibration than in pure whistle, but not much.

P.S. If you’re wondering where falsetto is, I didn’t forget about it… I just didn’t think it merited mentioning as a mixed or true register. Here’s why.

So, Why the Cracking?

Cracking between registers normally occurs when a singer snaps from one register to the next. So if you’re singing in chest voice and you abruptly switch to head voice, you might crack.

How can you overcome this? In theory, the answer is simple: learn how to sing in mixed registers and glide in and out of registers.

I used to be a belter, and I had a horrendous crack between my chest and head voice. Only after years of work am I able to glide smoothly from one to the other and fully exploit my chest/head mix. With lots of practice and the right voice teacher, you’ll get there too.

Post Author: Elaina R.
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ypsilanti, 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!

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How to Sing With Confidence | The 3-Ingredient Secret Sauce

How to Sing With Confidence

Feeling nervous about an upcoming performance? It’s a totally normal feeling! Getting used to being in the spotlight can take some time. Learn how to sing with confidence in this article by voice teacher Sphie H...

 

How many times have you listened to your favorite musical artists, bands, and pop stars and pictured yourself in their shoes? Many people dream of unleashing their inner rock star, but very few actually set forth in doing so. It takes a lot of courage to learn how to sing and, for some, understanding how to formulate the first note can be a challenge — let alone imagining the excitement of singing on a stage!

With the guidance of the following few, simple steps, all of the butterflies will melt away and you will be on your way to discovering your voice in no time. So, what are the ingredients in building confidence as a singer?

1) Have Patience With Yourself

The first ingredient in learning how to sing with confidence is patience. Learning how to sing can be a very similar experience to a baby learning how to walk. When a baby learns to walk, they learn step-by-step. In singing, the process is not very different. You are learning not only how to listen to the notes but also how to formulate and re-create the notes you are listening to.

Because your body is your instrument, it takes your entire body to learn how to sing, so be patient with yourself. It is the baby steps in learning that formulate the bigger picture. Finding fulfillment in the building blocks allows you to feel confident in the work that you have achieved.

2) Practice Often

The second ingredient is practice. When I studied opera as a teenager, I sometimes loathed stepping into the practice arena outside of my teacher’s guidance. It felt like wandering through a foreign territory only to find myself at a dead end.

I thought to myself, “I don’t want to sing opera. I want to sing soul.” I felt in my youthfulness that this soulful voice was somehow going to jump out of me and one day it did. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was all of those years of practice that had helped me to achieve it.

Practice helps strengthen both quality in tone and the relationship in building your own voice. Practicing singing is like an insurance policy for you voice. The more you practice, the more you know your voice. The more you know your voice, the more confident you are singing in any situation. Preparation is the backbone of self-confidence.

3) Take Risks

The third ingredient in building self-confidence as a singer is in taking risks. You may have heard the quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” When applied to singing, the same rings true!

We often hear this voice in our head when we first start singing that sounds much different than the voice that actually comes out. When applying the building blocks in practicing scales, exercises, and simple tones and in mastering them one step at a time, we then feel comfortable enough to take risks in the creation and formulation of new exercises. If you hear something in your head, but don’t know exactly how to create the sounds, try anyway. Taking risks in singing means stepping into uncharted waters of sound and testing all of the different sounds available to you. This can be as simple as humming a line to your favorite song out loud.

Every great singer has to know how to hit the “bad” notes a few times before they understand what it means to hit the “good” ones. In the end, confidence in singing comes from knowing both the “good” notes and the “bad” notes and how to move more fluidly and comfortably between all of them. The truth is, you will never know unless you try and it takes more courage to try than not to. Having the courage to take risks will build confidence in knowing your voice.

Learn How to Sing With Confidence

When it comes to learning your voice, it takes patience, practice, and a little bit of risk-taking! Ultimately, you are the captain of your own ship. Learning how to sing is an art and a balance of the above three items. With the combination of all three ingredients, you will find yourself well on your way to singing even more vibrantly and confidently in no time.

Post Author: Sphie H.
Sphie H. teaches singing, piano, yoga, and more in Indianapolis, IN. She offers her students in-home lessons, as well as lessons in her own home studio. She’s been teaching for over a decade and aims to offer a relaxed, versatile, and professional approach to her lessons. Learn more about Sphie here!

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15 Yoga Poses and Breathing Exercises for Singers 500x300

15 Yoga Poses With Powerful Benefits for Singers

15 Yoga Poses and Breathing Exercises for Singers

You know how important breath support is for great singing — but are you regularly incorporating breathing exercises for singing into your warm-ups? Read on as voice teacher Shannen R. shares 15 yoga poses to try out, designed to help with various elements of your singing… 

 

Get ready to free your vocal cords of strain, increase your breath capacity, and get the strength you need for powerful belts and the control for soft tones. Going beyond simple breathing exercises for singing, the following yoga poses free your neck, shoulders, and spinal muscles of tension. Your breath and sound will move freely, and your core muscles will grow stronger so you can manipulate your voice.

15 Yoga Poses and Breathing Exercises to Try

1. Three Part Breath
Benefit: Strengthens your breath support for belting and long notes

People tend to breathe shallow and in one favorite cavity of the body. Learning to use all cavities of the body will give you enough breath for belting and for long, held notes. Start either lying flat on your back or propped up with two yoga blocks, one block at the highest level and the second block at the medium height.

2. Seated Breath
Benefit: Guides you to use your full breath capacity

While the Three-Part Breath teaches you how to breathe into all your front body cavities, now we’re going to explore our back body cavities to use your ultimate breath capacity. Start seated with your legs crossed and your feet flexed.

3. Eagle Arms
Benefit: Another breathing exercise for singing, this enhances your ability to hold belts

The hardest area of the body to breathe into is the upper back. To find breath here, we will practice eagle arms. This will also give you the ability to hold belts and soft, unwavering tones.

4. Kapalabhati Breath
Benefit: Activates your core and clears your sinuses 

In yoga we practice breathing techniques called pranayama. Kapalabhati breath, translated from Sanskrit to “breath of fire,” will activate your core and clear your sinuses to give you beautiful, open notes instead of nasal and strained notes. Repeat this for 5-15 continuous rounds.

5. Ujjayi Breath
Benefit: Supports evenness of breath

To hold long notes and maintain the correct pitch with an unwavering tone, your breath must be even. Ujjayi breath, another pranayama technique in yoga, is the practice of finding evenness of breath. Repeat for 5-15 rounds.

6. Neck and Back Twist
Benefit: Relaxes your muscles to reduce vocal strain

A lot of times when your voice strains to reach a note, your vocal cords are being pulled by tight muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back. To release these muscles, practice this easy restorative twist on a yoga bolster, a few stacked pillows, or stiff folded blankets. You may hold this twist for up to five minutes.

7. Seated Neck Stretches
Benefit: Relaxes the neck muscles to reduce strain.

Another way to stretch out the muscles in your neck is with seated neck stretches. These stretches will target the back and the sides of the neck, and can be practiced multiple times throughout a day.

8. Self Massage: Neck Massage Tool
Benefit: Another relaxation exercise for neck muscles 

One of my favorite neck massage tools is from Daiso, the most adorable Japanese store you’ll ever find. For this exercise you’ll need a towel and the neck massage tool, which can be purchased here or at your local Daiso store.

9. Self Massage: Neck Massage With Tennis Balls
Benefit: Another exercise for relaxing neck muscles

If you don’t want to buy the Daiso neck massager, you can use tennis balls to relax your neck, which will help you avoid strain and increase your vocal range.

10. Self Massage: Back Massage
Benefit: Relaxes the muscles in your spine 

If your spine is tense, EVERYTHING goes wrong. This is because your spine is connected to your brain and is in charge of relaying messages to your body. If there is any tension in the spine, it can cause blocks in the message pathways, and result in excess anxiety and other mental obstacles. Spinal tension can also cause postural problems, which limit your breathing and create muscle tension.

In the video below you’ll learn how to massage your whole spine with two tennis balls. Don’t be alarmed if it feels very tender the first time. Give light pressure and do not practice it for too long. The more you maintain a self-massage practice, the more comfort you will find.

11. Self Massage: Shoulder Massage
Benefit: Relaxes your shoulders, which can affect your neck, throat, and vocal cords

The shoulders can be a tough place to get! Nail those shoulder knots that are pulling on your neck, throat, and vocal cords with this massage.

12. Spinal Twist
Benefit: Relaxes your spine, creates better breath capacity 

Roll up a big fluffy towel and get ready for the cheapest and best spinal reliever of your life! Space in the spine will create more space for your breath to travel, giving you more breath capacity when singing.

13. Tadasana
Benefit: Relaxes your muscles to reduce vocal strain

The key to singing is good posture — I’m sure you’ve heard this a billion times. Tadasana, or mountain pose, teaches you how to stand correctly and builds the muscles needed to avoid hunching the shoulders forward or arching the back so the ribs puff out. Correct posture will help you avoid straining your voice, and encourages evenness of breath to create controlled sound and power for belts.

14. Puppy Dog Pose
Benefit: Lengthens the spine and leads to greater power and control when singing

A variation of the ever-so-famous downward facing dog, this pose will lengthen your spine, creating space in between each vertebrae, and is another great way to open up the shoulders. Space in the spine equals space for breath, which leads to more power and control when singing.

15. Back Release and Shoulder Opener
Benefit: Relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck, and leads to a fuller vocal range

This forward fold and shoulder opener combo will have your spine, shoulders, and neck melting with relief! This pose will relax all of your throat muscles and vocal cords so you can access a full vocal range.

If you have any questions or if any of these stretching and breathing exercises hurt, make sure to check with a qualified teacher. Feel free to contact me through TakeLessons for additional help!

 

Post Author: Shannen R.
Shannen Roberts is a yoga instructor, singer, pianist and keyboardist, singer and songwriter, and founder of self-help site The Strange is Beautiful. She teaches in Valencia, CA, as well as online. Learn more about Shannen here! 

 

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Sight Singing Practice and Tips

6 Noteworthy Sight Reading Tips for Singers

6 Noteworthy Sight Reading Tips for SingersAre you a singer looking to improve your music reading skills? You’re in luck! In this article, voice teacher Elaina R. shares everything you need to know about sight singing exercises and tips..

 

One of the most impressive feats for a singer is the ability to pick up a piece of music and read it. How can you get to that point? With patience, dedication, and lots of practice, you can master the art of sight singing!

What Is Sight Singing?

Sight singing is sight reading for singers. When singers sight read, they need to think about three factors at once:

  • The rhythm
  • The pitches
  • The words

Singers are lucky that they only have to sight read one line at a time; pianists, organists, and some other instrumentalists have to read several lines at once! However, only we singers have to read lyrics as a well as notes. This complicates things, especially when those words are in a foreign language (as often happens for classical singers).

How to Sight Sing – Tips & Strategies

Ready to get started? Sight singing can seem daunting, but it just takes practice. Here are a few things you can do to simplify the process.

Before You Start…

Orient Yourself
Check out the key signature. What key are you in? Is it a major or minor key? How many beats are in each measure? Is there a tempo marking?

Scan
Quickly scan the piece to root out surprises. Is it in mixed meter? Are there tempo changes? Any hidden high notes? This is all helpful information.

Get Your Note
Play the opening chords, or at least your first note, on a piano. The more information you and your ears have, the better.

Tap the Beat
Establish the beat for yourself by tapping it on your leg or collarbone. This will help you stay in rhythm when things get crazy. I recommend that you practice singing with a metronome to get your rhythms as accurate as possible.

As You’re Singing…

Think Solfege
If you know what key you’re in, you should know where the movable ‘do’ is (read this article if you’re unsure what I mean). If you know where ‘do’ is, identifying ‘so’ and other key notes becomes easier. Thinking in solfege helps many singers sight read more accurately.

Rhythm, Pitches, Words
If you start to get lost, this is your order of priority. When you practice sight reading, words are not very important; sing “la la la” if you have to. Pitches, while important, are not as important as the rhythm in sight singing. If you sing the wrong pitches and the right rhythm, you’ll know exactly where you are in the music and be able to catch yourself, even if it sounds bad. If you sing the wrong rhythm, on the other hand, you’re in danger of losing your place in the music and having to stop.

Sight Singing Practice and Exercises

All you really need for sight singing practice is a piece of music you’ve never seen before. However, sight singing is a lot easier in shorter spurts. Before you start attempting to sight read full-length songs, try using one of the many resources available for singers who want to sharpen their sight singing skills.

Sight Singing Online Programs
There are online resources that provide clips to sight sing and audio tracks to check your work. If you prefer to practice at the computer rather than at the keyboard, this may be a good option for you. One popular service is SightReadingFactory.com, which costs $35 per year (about $3 per month).

Sight Singing Books with CDs
This is how us music school folks practiced sight singing in college. Although the teacher usually played starting pitches and accompaniment as needed, good sight reading books come with CDs so you can practice sight singing exercises at home. Here is one good example.

Sight Singing Apps
Need sight reading practice? There’s an app for that! These apps combine sight reading exercises with audio starting pitches and tracks to help you. Music Tutor Free seems to be the most popular free option.

Sight Singing Exercises With Others
One of the best ways to improve your sight singing skills is to join a choir. Choristers learn lots of music on a regular basis, and reading all of that music as a group really helps singers get comfortable sight reading.

And of course, working with your voice teacher on sight singing practice within your lessons is a great idea, too. Whatever route you take, learning to sight sing will help you become a better and more versatile singer. Good luck!

View all Takelessons.com Free Sheet Music Resources.

Post 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!

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how does the voice work course

How Much Do You Know About How Your Voice Works?

how does the voice work course

Here on the TakeLessons Blog, we talk a lot about singing tips and tricks for making your voice shine. And as you’re learning how to sing — especially if you’re working with a voice teacher — you’ve probably already learned how things like posture and breathing can affect your voice.

But how much do you actually know about how your instrument works? Understanding how your voice works is a big key to singing well, yet many vocalists never take the time to study it.

We recently connected with Elissa over at Voice Body Connection, who has been working on an online course designed to help you learn just that. Still not convinced? Here’s how Elissa explains it:

We start using our voice mere moments after we’re born. But here’s the thing… no one sits us down and hands us an instruction manual. There’s no explanation about how we should make sound, we just do it! A couple years from now we’ll start learning speech and language, and all that will include much more explanation. However it’s likely going to be years before we start any sort of vocal or singing lessons which will draw our attention to the quality of our sound (if ever, of course!). By that time we’ll have some pretty well engrained patterns and habits.

So here’s the problem with never having learned how our voice works: When something goes wrong with it, we don’t know how to fix it. If no one taught us how we produce sound in the first place, it’s very difficult to troubleshoot when we’re not able to make the sounds we want. We’ve got to understand what’s going on.

We think of our voice as something intangible. In fact we often use the word “voice” metaphorically. That way of thinking is lovely, but our voice is also something very concrete. It comes out of our body, and there are significant muscles and cartilage and bones and organs that contribute to our ability to make sound. It’s valuable to know what all of these are, which is why we go over them in our Spotlight on Anatomy blogs and in Vibrant Voice Technique training.

Think about it this way: if you’re a real car person, you’ve gotta learn what’s under the hood. It would be silly to grab a wrench and start messing around if you’ve done no research about how the car is put together…you might mess something up! By a similar token, we all know it’s foolish to start IKEA furniture together without following the (inscrutable) instructions. It’s useful to spend the time understanding how things work. After all, how we understand a thing informs how we use it.

Let’s repeat that, because it’s the big thesis:

How we understand a thing informs how we use it.

So, how does the voice work?

OK, so… how much do you know? Do you want to learn more about how the voice works? You can learn more about Elissa’s course here — and if you register before December 19th, you can even get a discount on the price.

Curious in the meantime? Here are some vocal health resources we like:

Readers, what’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about your voice? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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3 Reasons Singers Should Also Learn How to Act

3 Reasons Singers Should Learn How to ActGreat stage presence can really enhance your performance as a singer! Here, voice teacher Molly R. shares how learning how to act should be on every singer’s to-do list…  

 

Enviable high notes. A pure tone. Easy vocal runs. Low notes that can carry for days. Flexibility throughout the range. These are just some of the things singers say they want to achieve when they first start voice lessons — among many, many other goals!

As a voice teacher, I do my best to work with them so that they find success in making their voice feel and sound great — but to me, there’s something many singers are missing in their “wish list” to become a better singer: how to really sell your song as a singing actor!

Here are the reasons why it’s so important that a singer also learns how to act.

1) It’s good for your body!

When we stand still, our sound will also be stiff and still. Experiment time: think about something that gets you riled up or giddy with happiness. What does your body do? It moves. It paces, it gestures. It expresses. Nothing is left bottled up.

When we move, the breath and the voice move — simple as that. As a result, the audience gets a more exciting sound, and that’s a very good thing. It’s also a big part of stage presence for singers. We were meant to move and express, not just stand there. That’s not natural! Although, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t practice good singing posture as well.

2) It makes you a true standout.

There are lots of great voices out there, and competition is stiff. What can set you apart from the crowd is if your audition panel or audience really feels a true connection with you! And the only way to get that connection is if you make absolutely sure that you know exactly what you’re singing about.

So don’t treat your songs as mere lyrics — do what the great artists do, and treat each one as a mini play or movie. Create a backstory for your character. Put other characters in your song and visualize them. The more layers you add to your performance, the more compelling it will be. Once you add layers, you’ll be creating a unique and authentic stage presence.

Once in a while we’ll have a challenging song where we say to ourselves, “But I can’t relate to that! I’ve never had my heart broken/been cheated on/had someone I love die/been in love/etc.”

In cases like these, it’s time for you to use your imagination. So maybe you never had a lost love — but everyone’s experienced some sort of sadness! Channel that. Simply sing about about something else you have lost to really bring the authentic emotion to the song.

3) It increases your job prospects!

If you start by learning how to really act your pop or jazz songs, after a while you may feel ready to audition for musical theatre roles, if that interests you! Who knows? After doing some musical theatre and getting some stage time under your belt, you may want to try straight plays!

Singing actors are also meant for the cabaret stage. In these intimate venues, performers string together an eclectic group of songs to tell a story. If you study acting, you’ll feel a lot more at ease about your performance and find it easier to add in the “banter” in between songs that’s essential in this type of performance.

Stage Presence for Singers

There’s no need to feel intimidated by the world of acting if you’re completely new to it. There are many qualified voice teachers and acting teachers on TakeLessons to help you get started! Whether you want to improve your singing or get started with acting, you’re sure to find the right instructor for you.

Additional Resources

Looking for more help? Here are some articles and guides we like:

Singers, have you taken acting lessons? Did it help you with your stage presence? Let us know about your experience 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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How to stay motivated for singers

21 Powerful Tips to Refuel Your Passion for Singing

how to stay motivated as a singer

Struggling to find singing gigs? Not feeling inspired? If your passion is dwindling, it’s time to take action. Don’t give up singing just yet! Read on as Sacramento, CA voice teacher Kevin B. shares his advice…

 

Let’s face it — when you have a job or any kind of regular commitment, there are going to be some days when you just don’t want to do it. This goes for everyone — even musicians who couldn’t imagine doing anything else!

If you find yourself feeling this way, don’t freak out. Don’t think that you’ve become jaded or depressed, or that you don’t care about your art anymore. The fact that you’re willing to resist the call of the TV, put on the big-kid pants, and go do your craft just shows how much you do care, and it sets you apart from thousands of musicians everywhere.

But here’s where the problem lies: being a singer, much like being an actor (or any other sort of entertainer for that matter), is not a job where you get the luxury of being able to lack enthusiasm. You’re front-and-freaking-center, and when you don’t want to be there, it shows. So suck it up kid, and put on a smile!

Or better yet, refuel your passion. Here are 21 ways to do so.

1

1. Re-envision your dreams – and be specific about them!

I’m willing to bet that you remember the experience that set you on this path. Whether it was that musical that made you cry, or that singer that blew you away with his skill and presence, you haven’t forgotten what makes you hit that practice room when it’s time.

Much time has probably passed since then, and you’ve got a good grip on your skills, your strengths, and what you bring to the table. So now is the time to turn your dream from an ambiguous entity into a concrete goal: is there a certain part you want to play? An ensemble you want to join? A venue that you dream of performing in? Whatever it is, you’ve been working hard, and you’re well on your way to achieving that dream! That ought to put a smile on your face.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

2. Leave the student behind – just for a bit

Whatever you’ve been learning in your voice lessons, chances are you’ve taken it with you in your everyday music listening. When you listen to music, your head is probably racing to apply everything you’ve learned: “Oh, he’s totally singing with a high larynx in that part!” “Oh man, she was not in tune on that belt!”

This is normal, but turning off that part of the brain also has its benefits. You enjoyed music before you started taking lessons, and enjoying music with that same blank slate that you used to have can help you remember why you started doing this in the first place. Give it a try!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

3. Apply what you’ve learned to a new genre

Most of us, I’m pretty sure, have thought about singing multiple genres before. And one of the things I love about studying voice is that so much of it applies to many different genres, or even all of them!

Sure, you loved how you got that perfect vibrato going on your Italian art song, but what about using that same technique on the classical crossover song you love? You’re really nailing the breath support with your music theater repertoire, how about seeing how well that support works on that old jazz standard your grandpa used to play? You’ve worked hard on improving your instrument, you deserve to play around with it!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

4. Challenge yourself

You should feel challenged in your lessons. If you don’t, that’s definitely something you should take up with your voice teacher. However it can also feel empowering to challenge yourself on specific things.

After all, no matter how much your teacher gives you to work on, you only have them for a certain amount of time each week, and there’s bound to be more things to work on than just what you’ve talked about in your lessons. Just think of how much fun it will be at your next lesson when you get to say “Hey teach, look what I can do!”

Keep Your Singing passion alive

5. Learn from the pros

Sometimes it takes a pro’s touch to get your spark back. Fortunately, there are many opportunities available to learn from the best! The queen mother of all such opportunities is a master class: if you have the chance to attend – or better yet participate in – one of these, be there. Period. In the absence of such an opportunity, you can also find interviews or master classes on YouTube to help you stay motivated and get back on track.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

6. Keep a practice log

When I was seeing a personal trainer to keep in shape, he told me to write down all the workouts I completed. That way each time I went to work out, I would see what I did the previous week, and I could decide whether to do the same thing or try something more challenging.

For many vocal students, practicing can be the same way. In terms of keeping your passion on track, the benefit it has is that you get to look back and realize how far you’ve come.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

7. Go to a concert

This probably seems like an obvious one, but it always strikes me as odd when musicians spend all their time practicing their craft, and no time watching it! Seeing someone up on the stage doing what you love might just make you wish you were up there, and then – BAM! There’s your motivation to keep singing.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

8. Focus on finding that music job you’ve been wanting

Sure, you’ve thought about how wonderful it would be to get paid to sing. Perhaps, though, you didn’t think about how empowering it would be. When people pay you to sing, to do what you love, it boosts your confidence, and confidence is a singer’s bread and butter.

If you don’t know where to start, ask your voice teacher. They’ll be able to tell you if they think you’re ready for such a thing, or at the very least how to get you ready. For those interested in being a professional singer eventually, this is an important step!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

9. Switch it up!

When it comes to practicing, repetition is the quickest way to kill enthusiasm. There’s no more effective way to kill a piece of repertoire than to work on “that one phrase” over and over again. If you haven’t learned to spare yourself from this kind of torture, now you know.

Instead, work on “that one phrase” for a while, then switch to another piece of rep, or at the very least a different part of the song. Singing should be hard work, but there’s no reason it has to be boring work!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

10. Try on a new hat

No, not literally. What I mean to say is try a new role in music. If you haven’t tried your hand at songwriting or composing yet, you might be surprised to discover how empowering it is. If you’re not the creative type, try learning a new instrument or even learning to dance. Not only might this give you a new perspective on your singing, but it’ll help you beef up your resume!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

11. Absorb the arts – namely the ones that inspire your music

There’s a reason that they talk about painting, architecture, and literature in music history classes. It’s because the different schools of the arts influence one another. The lyrics to art songs come from poetry, and many pieces of music correlate to paintings and other art. So go to an art gallery, a poetry reading, or a play! As a student of the arts, you are a part of a rich, vast, and diverse culture, and that is something that should be celebrated!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

12. Take on a new project

Singers should have voracious appetites. You should want to get involved as often as you can with as many different projects as you can. If you’re feeling particularly unenthused about your studies, maybe you just haven’t found the project that really fuels your passion yet. There are an abundance of talented musicians out there, so go find them!

If you’re worried about the time it will take out of your week, stick to something small. Find a pianist who can pick up music really fast, practice with him or her once a week, and then just like that you’ll have another project under your belt.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

13. Make a lunch date with a teacher or mentor

The best teachers I know are the ones who will do anything for their students. If you’re struggling with how to stay motivated (or anything else related to your singing), your teacher or mentor will likely have advice for you. They’ve probably experienced what you’re going through at one point! If nothing else, you’ll get to spend a lovely afternoon with someone who cares about you!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

14. Take a break!

Perhaps your problem is that you’re just working too hard! One of my favorite pieces of life advice I ever got is: “Music should be inspiration for life, and life should be inspiration for music.” Musicians should be happy people who live a fulfilling life. So make time to do what you love, and you might just end up falling in love again with what you do!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

15. Go kill it at karaoke

As I’ve mentioned before, confidence is a singer’s life’s blood. So if your compliment reservoir is running low, go and fill it! Pick that perfect karaoke song, have a couple drinks with friends, and soak up any compliments you get from the experience.

If you’re under 21, see number 12 and find a duet partner to do open mic nights with you. Often these places are filled with lackluster musicians, so if you put even a little effort into your performance it’s bound to get noticed.

Keep Your Singing passion alive

16. Invest in your future – even if it’s something small

Sometimes in the midst of all our hard work, our destination can seem so far away. To stay motivated, find a way to bring home the reality of the next big thing in your singing life.

Have a recital coming up? Go buy the dress you’re going to wear! Have a rock show coming up? Maybe it’s time for a new mic. You’ll have to do these things anyway, so why not do it now? Spend the afternoon daydreaming and getting pumped… and then go practice, so you can nail the performance!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

17. Add to your collection

Another investment that you can make to fuel your enthusiasm is in the form of books and DVDs. Singers should have large collections of repertoire books, as well as DVDs of live performances to model their craft after. If you need an enthusiasm boost, maybe it’s time to beef up your collection. It can only help you grow!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

18. Discover something new

The best singers are curious people. So, get out there and be the first among your group of friends to discover an opera or musical that nobody has ever heard of. The music that can give you your new inspiration could be out there, but if you don’t seek it out you will never know!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

19. Research one of your favorite singers

In keeping with number 18, be curious about the people who have helped you get where you are. If you have an idol, you should know where they grew up, how old they were when they first got signed, who their first record label was, and so on. If you haven’t figured out from reading so far, I believe in learning from the pros!

(Editor’s note: You can also learn what not to do from watching famous singers!)

Keep Your Singing passion alive

20. Network

Sometimes the answer to how to stay motivated won’t come from a mentor or a professional singer, but someone a little closer to your level.

If you’re in college, you’ve got it easy – join the local chapter of a music fraternity and you’re instantly connected with individuals just like you. If you aren’t in college, go to lots of shows and network there. If you get enough musician friends, perhaps you could even start a weekly meet-up, and get fuel for your passion every week!

Keep Your Singing passion alive

21. Summer programs

There are a million reasons to look into summer music programs, one of which is that there’s nothing quite as motivating as spending a few weeks continually working and improving your voice, surrounded by individuals who are doing the same. Summer programs are often expensive, but if you can spare the dough, the rewards will be more than worth it.

 

The most important thing to remember is that you have to make time for these ideas. That might mean skipping hanging out with your girlfriend on Tuesday night so that you can rehearse with your duet partner, or taking a night to watch a recorded master class when you would normally watch Netflix.

To become a singer, you need to have a fire in your heart for it; neglecting that element of the music is just as bad as singing off-key, breathing in the middle of a word, or any other technical mistake. So go get your passion on track, if it isn’t already… and then rock that practice time like the awesome singer that you are!

Readers, how do you stay motivated and make sure singing remains a passion? Leave a comment with your own tips and advice!

 

TakeLessons Teacher Kevin BPost Author: Kevin B.
Kevin B. is a private singing instructor in Sacramento, CA. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music at California State University, Sacramento, and has performed in many musicals and operas in Sacramento. Learn more about Kevin here!

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