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Video- how to not sing flat

Video: How to Not Sing Flat | Singing Tips

Singing on pitch take practice — and if you’re struggling with singing flat or singing sharp, you’re not alone! Even some famous singers have trouble hitting the notes perfectly at all times.

Fortunately, there are some great ear training exercises you can do to get better at recognizing when you’re off. Then, use the right vocal techniques to correct yourself.

In this video, singing teacher Arlys A. demonstrates how to recognize if you’re singing flat, and how to not sing flat once you notice it:

Video Recap: How to Not Sing Flat

  • Singing flat means you are singing below the correct pitch.
  • Use a tuner or a piano to check yourself!
  • Try sliding up to find a note until your pitch matches the correct note.
  • Having trouble? You’re not alone! Keep practicing intervals and individual notes in the song you’re working on.

Additional Resources for Improving Your Pitch

Want to learn more? Check out our live, online singing classes taught by professional singing teachers, or sign up for private voice lessons!

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Video- How to Do a Vocal Cool-Down (3)

Video: The Importance of a Vocal Cool-Down | Singing Tips

You probably already know all about vocal warm-up exercises… but do you know the importance of cooling DOWN your voice after singing? The “vocal cool-down” is a great way to end the night if you’ve been singing for a long time, such as at a performance or gig.

In this video, teacher Francisca M. demonstrates three easy exercises to try out…

Video Recap: How to Do a Vocal Cool-Down

  • The Siren Wail – move from your highest (comfortable) note on an “ahh sound,” sliding down to the octave below
  • Chords – move from your highest note down 5 steps
  • Bubble Trill – Similar to your vocal warm-up exercises, incorporate lip trills into your cool-down

As Francisca mentions, try to spend around 10-15 minutes cooling down your voice after a performance or gig, until your voice feels comfortable and normal again.

Additional Resources About Vocal Cool-Downs

Want to learn more? Check out our live, online singing classes taught by Francisca and other awesome singing teachers, or sign up for private voice lessons!

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Video: vocal exercises to increase range

Video: Vocal Exercises to Increase Your Range | Singing Tips

Singers, ready to reach those high (or low!) notes? In this video, teacher Arlys A. demonstrates some easy vocal exercises to use as you work on increasing your range:

Video Recap: Vocal Exercises to Increase Your Range

Try incorporating these exercises into your practice routine:

  1. Lip bubbles or lip trills
  2. The “oooh” slides

From there, work with your voice teacher to find songs at the right level for you — it’s crucial to find the balance of challenging yourself, but not straining your voice!

Here’s an idea of what your voice teacher may work with you on, as described by teacher Emmanuel N:

  • First step: Discovering your current vocal range is our first step. I will play a virtual piano, and you will sing each note I play (if you have mimicry then this will be easy) until we have found your vocal range. If you know your range already then we skip this step.
  • Second step: We then discover your weak spots – where your voice sounds weak, where you have trouble, and where you need help. After this we can then start to increase your vocal range.
  • Third step: I will then teach you and give you tips and suggestions on how to sing lower or higher – depending on what you want. Here is where our lessons will vary completely seeing as each student is different.
  • Fourth step: Every time we discover a new voice I will teach you to bridge your voices together so there is no gap between them. Typically this is our last step with each voice.

Not sure of your current vocal range? We love this video, which you can follow along with to determine your vocal range in one minute:

Make sure to stand up straight and fully support your voice as you’re working on these exercises, too. Posture can make all the difference!

Additional Resources About Increasing Range:

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How to sing better (almost) instantly

Video: How to Sing Better (Almost) Instantly | Singing Tips

Want to sing better… almost instantly? Learn to be a great singer — fast! — with these tips from voice teacher Arlys A.:

Video Recap – How to Sing Better (Almost) Instantly

There are two foundations of singing you should know if you want to become a better singer! Can you guess what they are?

(1) Posture

Make sure you’re not slouching! Your body is your instrument, so keep an eye on how you’re holding it! Stretching and physical activity can also help you loosen up.

Additional Resources About Posture:

(2) Breath

Once you’ve situated yourself, focus on your breathing. Avoid shallow breathing — you should feel your ribcage open as you breathe in. This will instantly change your sound for the better!

Additional Resources About Breathing for Singers:

Want to learn more? Check out our live, online singing classes taught by Arlys and other awesome singing teachers!

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6 Helpful Diction Exercises for Singers [Video]

MO - 6 Helpful Diction Exercises for Singers [Video]

Improve your technique (and your next performance) by working on diction! In this article, singing teacher Liz T. shares some great exercises to try out…

 

Imagine you’re at a concert, and your favorite artist gets up on stage to sing. You recognize a popular song from her album starting, but when she opens her mouth… you can’t decipher any of the lyrics.

As a singer, paying attention to diction — that is, the way you enunciate your words — can make a big impact on your performance. It’s a crucial part of connecting with your audience and even having proper vocal health!

If you struggle with you diction when you sing, though, don’t be ashamed. It is truly something all singers struggle with! It doesn’t mean you are a bad singer… but the better diction you have, the more your audience will be able to enjoy and appreciate your performance.

There are tons of diction exercises you can try, which will help you train yourself. Start adding these to your practice sessions, and you’ll notice a difference!

1) Practice Tongue Twisters

Try speaking your favorite tongue twisters first, and then try singing them! I recommend focusing on ones with letters or syllables that are more difficult for you. Start slow, and then work up to a faster speed. Really make sure you are articulating each sound. You can also try speaking or singing the alphabet to get the shapes ingrained in your muscle memory.

Here are a few tongue twisters that are great for improving your diction:

  • She sells seashells by the seashore.
  • Red leather, yellow leather.
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • Who washed Washington’s white woolen underwear, as Washington’s washer woman went West.
  • Mommy made me mash my M&Ms.

2) Study Phonetics (IPA)

For this exercise, take a look at the song you’re currently working on, and break down each word in the lyrics. Break apart the vowels, consonants, and diphthongs. Feel free to write in your score, if you need to spell a word differently for it to make sense in your singing.

Many singers refer to the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) when singing. This is a system derived from Latin that is used today as a standardized representation of sounds. It’s a great tool for singers to use and study!

3) Practice Vowels

Take some time focusing on each of the vowels: ah, ay, ee, oh, and oo. Add a consonant at the beginning (such as “mah, may, me…”) and sing through the list, making sure each one is clear.

4) Practice Consonants

Next, focus on consonants, like D, T, and N. Practice speaking the different sounds, repeating each a few times.

5) Do Some Lip Buzz/Trill

Warm up your lips, tongue, and teeth with simple lip buzzes and tongue trills.

6) Incorporate Breath Support

Pick one of the tongue twisters above, and practice saying it all in one breath.

Now that you’ve read the descriptions of the diction exercises, here’s a video you can follow along with:

Whether you are performing live on stage (using a microphone or not) or singing in a studio, you should always use clear and accurate diction! And if you’re struggling, remember that clear diction may not happen overnight. Keep practicing these diction exercises, and work with your voice teacher to improve your technique. Good luck!

 

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons 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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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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9 Must-Read Tips for Singing High Notes

how to sing high notes tips

Looking for the best tips on how to sing high notes? Check out this helpful article by voice teacher Tristan P

 

Do you struggle with singing high notes? You’re not alone! It’s something that most singers need to practice, especially if you’re just starting out.

If you’re ready to take your singing beyond karaoke night, you need to truly understand your instrument. Ever sung a note and felt strained? This can happen if you’re not using the right technique — and doing this regularly can lead to permanent damage!

If learning how to sing high notes (or low notes, for that matter) is one of your goals, it’s best to work with a professional vocal coach. This ensures a safe environment to explore and expand your range.

That being said, the following tips can help you prepare for what you’ll work on with your instructor. These 10 tips are what I teach my own students, as a no-frills approach to belting out high notes.

Preparing to Sing High Notes

1. Warm up properly

We all know the importance of warming up your voice. But you may not have heard of this — I’m a big fan of what are known as “semi-occluded straw phonations.” Basically, this means singing into a straw. It’s a tool that is well-known within the voice science and voice rehabilitation community, but more singers should know about it! Here’s how to do this vocal exercise:

2. Warm up with a song

Next, continue your warm-up with a song that’s realistic for your voice (not too high, not too low). Imitate the singer you want to sing like! If there are particular sections of the song that are difficult for you, isolate those sections and work on them by themselves.

Some song ideas:

  • Tenor: “There Are Giants in the Sky” – “Into The Woods” by Stephen Sondheim
  • Baritone: “That’s Life” – Frank Sinatra
  • Soprano: “Blank Space” – Taylor Swift
  • Mezzo Soprano/Alto: “Stars and the Moon” – “Songs for a New World” by Jason Robert Brown

3. Eliminate strain objectively!

As you work with your voice coach, he or she will observe you as you run through your warm-ups and exercises, and help you recognize when and where you’re straining. If you’re practicing on your own, however, there are some ways to monitor yourself. One option is to record your voice. Listen back to your high notes: do they sound strained or easy?

If you have a mirror, you can also watch yourself as you sing. Or, better yet, use a video camera! Watch for signs of strain, such as grimacing faces and a tense neck.

If you look or sound like you’re straining, STOP! Take a break. Learning how to sing high takes years of diligent practice. Resist the urge to rush!

How to Belt High Notes

4. Make sure your registration is correct

A big mistake beginners make is singing in the wrong voice. Your larynx can actually produce four distinct voices, and understanding them is important. Here are audio examples of what these voices sound like.

  • Vocal Fry Voice

  • Modal/Speaking Voice (some call this chest)

  • Falsetto/Reinforced Falsetto Voice (some call this head voice)

  • Whistle Voice

The most important thing to remember is: Don’t belt in your modal voice when the song is asking you to sing in your falsetto voice! Likewise, don’t sing in falsetto if the song is asking you to belt. Your teacher can help you recognize these voices as you practice.

5. Use singing vowels

(Note: This section is for singing high notes in modal voice only)

As you progress in your singing lessons, you’ll come to know your vowels! A lot of singing exercises focus on these specifically, and practicing them can make a big impact on your projection and enunciation.

As you practice, you’ll notice that different vowel shapes have different effects on your voice. Modifying these vowels can also create a particular sound color. Here are some examples:

  • Uh/Eh = Heavy, range-limiting sounds. Has a dark, powerful quality (loud)
    Listen to: Adele

  • Ooh = Medium, high-range sounds. Has a restrained, speech-like quality (low-medium volume)
    Listen to: Sia, Justin Bieber

  • Aa = Medium, high-range sound. Has a piercing, brassy quality (loud)
    Listen to: Barbra Streisand

I recommend figuring out which vowel sounds works best for each individual phrase in the song you’re working on. For reference, pop uses more “Ooh” type sounds while musical theater uses more “Uh” and “Aa” type sounds. Also, keep in mind you are not limited to these vowels.

6. Consider your larynx position

This is a more advanced concept that your teacher can explain further in your lessons.

The gist is this: your larynx naturally rises with certain vowels and as you increase in pitch. Trying to hold onto a low larynx while attempting a bright, speech-like belty high note is going to cause issues! Likewise, trying to sing a lower-larynx sound with a high larynx will also cause problems.

For reference, opera is a genre that encourages a lower-placed larynx. Contemporary musical theater is a style that generally encourages a higher larynx. Depending on the song you’re singing, you’ll want to work with your teacher to place your larynx correctly and practice the right technique.

Here are some examples to listen to:

  • Relatively low larynx – Dark, rich sound.
    Character example: Yogi Bear

  • Relatively high larynx – Bright, speech-like sound.
    Character example: Nerd

7. Use twang

Twang refers to the amount of “er” present in your sound. The higher you sing, the more twang is necessary.

Trying to sing a high note without enough twang may result in strain. But be careful: trying to sing a high note with too much twang might sound nasal.

There are also shadings between a sound with little twang and a sound with excessive twang. You might think of a Country Western cowboy for an idea of excessive twang. Listen to this example:

8. Check your intensity 

How much intensity (volume) is required for the note you’re trying to sing? Is it a low-intensity low note in the verse? Is it a big, HIGH-intensity modal belt in the bridge? What about a high-intensity falsetto high note? Match your intensity appropriately!

Before increasing intensity, make sure your registration, vowels, twang, and larynx positions are appropriate.

9. Adjust your head position

On high-intensity high notes with a high larynx, lift your head! A very common belting technique is the head lift. You can see it in the greatest belting divas of our time, including Beyonce and Whitney Houston!

The head lift (among other key functions) assists in raising the larynx, which is necessary for powerful belting. For operatic tenors, however, a more neutral/low head position is ideal as it promotes a more neutral/lower larynx in line with the classical sound ideal.

  • High head position – More belty, shouty sound
  • Low head position – Sweeter, more neutral type of a sound

Before altering your head position, make sure your registration, vowels, twang, larynx position, and intensity are functional!

Now, Sing that Perfect High Note!

Once all of the above variables are in place and functioning perfectly, you will have attained mastery over your high notes. As you progress, I recommend altering every piece of the equation (steps 4-9) in every part of your range for great practice!

And remember: if at any point along your journey you come across an obstacle, re-evaluate all of the above variables. (Hint: Often times, your vowel is the root of your problems!)

Good luck!

TristanPPost Author: Tristan P.
Tristan P. teaches singing, guitar, songwriting and more in Olympia, WA, as well as online. His specialties include RnB, pop, musical theatre, and rock styles. Learn more about Tristan 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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What Does it Mean if a Singer is Classically Trained?

MO - What Does it Mean to Be a Classically-Trained

What do you think of when you see the words “classical singing?” Perhaps opera comes to mind? Here, vocal instructor Molly R. explains what being classically trained really means and how it can be applied to any genre of singing…

 

Suppose you’re a rock or pop singer looking for a voice teacher — while some teachers may stress that they’re all about rocking or teaching a certain vocal method in their bios, many of them mention being classically trained. With that said, what does it mean to be a classically-trained singer? Will it help you achieve the sound you want?

I’m a classically-trained singer. I received my degree in vocal performance after studying a healthy diet of art songs, oratorios, and opera arias. Now that I’m a voice teacher, I find myself counting the number of my classical singing students on just one hand! The rest of my students sing commercial music styles — metal, pop, R&B, and others.

The bottom line is that in order to sing healthfully, you should use the classical technique. Although, this is a different ballgame from classical STYLE.

Classical Technique vs. Classical Style

Classical technique is a lot less complicated than it sounds. To learn this technique, a few things must happen. First, we must breathe and support very low on our bodies – this is coupled with proper balance and posture. Next, we must sing clear, round vowels with an open throat. These are the principles I was most focused on as a young classical singer, tackling songs from the greats like Puccini, Schubert, Barber, and more. Any singing style or genre could surely benefit from these practices, right? That’s exactly right!

Classical style comes from artistic choices you make when you sing. For example, you may choose to be a little breathy in a lower register for a sultry jazz tune, or you may make the sound sassier, brighter, and more “in your face” (literally!) if you’re belting a Broadway song. In rock, we don’t sing the words out nearly as full as we do in an aria — it’s much more conversational.

(Editor’s Note: For more on different styles, check out our Ultimate Guide to Singing Styles and Genres!)

Use a Healthy Mix

Putting together the classical technique with your preferred style is where it’s at, as far as I am concerned! A healthy singing technique and a rockin’ style are the best of both worlds. Don’t assume that all classically-trained teachers won’t welcome other genres, because many of us do! In fact, rock was my first love.

Sharing what I know from the classical world has helped my rocker students feel a lot more confident in their abilities. They’ve mentioned an increase in stamina after long rehearsals and gigs because they breathe and support just like the opera singers do (and those singers have a lot of singing to do — talk about vocal athletes!). They realize they need not scream or push to produce a lot of good sound.

Classical vocal training also stresses the importance of a good warm-up and being mindful of proper vocal hygiene. Although, I wouldn’t suggest sticking to a regimen of solely vocal exercises in lessons. Do spend time doing exercises that cover a variety of vocal skills, including flexibility, diction, breath control, and dynamics. All of these things can and should be applied to your songs, whether they’re classical Mozart arias or metal Judas Priest covers!

Apply it to Any Genre

I hope these facts will ease your fears about your classically-trained teacher “turning you into an opera singer.” Good teachers are respectful of your preferred styles of music and should never consider turning you into someone you’re not. Quality voice teachers want the best for all of their students and want to ensure many years of healthy singing. The classical technique can do that for you, regardless of the styles you choose to sing.

As an example of a legendary rock star who was classically trained, check out Pat Benatar. She’s still rockin’ and sounding great in her sixties because she was taught solid classical technique on Brahms art songs long before she was a “Heartbreaker”!

Classically-Trained Pop and Rock Singers

A few pop and rock singers have studied the classical technique, believe it or not! In addition to Pat Benatar, Madonna (after she made it big) worked with a teacher on the “24 Italian Songs” to prepare for her role in “Evita.” Lady Gaga worked on classical technique every day for six months to prepare for her big “Sound of Music” medley at the Oscars.

Contrary to popular belief, metal singer extraordinaire Ronnie James Dio did NOT take vocal lessons, but he did say he was greatly influenced by the singing style of tenor and great singer Mario Lanza!

 

I can safely say that my classical training has improved my singing across every genre I’ve attempted. It’s the perfect starting point for anyone wanting to learn a healthy and correct singing technique. Apply what you’ve learned from classical training to any genre you want and you’ll be unstoppable! Happy singing!

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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The Ultimate Guide to Singing Styles and Genres

The Ultimate Guide to Singing Styles (Red)

There are so many different singing styles and genres out there — how do you keep track of them? What are the best vocal exercises for singers of each genre? Music teacher Heather L. answers these questions and more in this ultimate guide…

 

We, as human beings, have been singing since we discovered that we had voices. Of course, a lot about singing has changed since that time. Different cultures around the world through the centuries came up with their own scales and modes, and different types of music and singing emerged.

These styles, or genres of music, are just as diverse and varied as the cultures themselves. Each genre has its own special characteristics that make it different from others, and each genre presents unique challenges for singers. Here’s a list of the most common genres of music, and how to sing each one.

But first:  Take our quiz to find out what genre you’re destined to sing!

Pop

If music is food, then pop is candy. It’s fun, but not necessarily funny. Romantic, but not overly sentimental. With dance and rhythm at its heart, pop music has dominated a lot of American music over the past 30 or so years, and many singers have come and gone. But several have come to be considered the greatest entertainers of all time: Whitney Houston, Madonna, Prince, and the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Pop Singers

  • Learn how to control your vibrato without tension.
  • Experiment with different vocal sounds, like short, popping sounds and fast runs.
  • Focus on improving your movement on stage and take dance lessons, if necessary.

Famous Pop Singers

  • Tori Kelly

Tori chose a really high key for this song. She also chose to accentuate the lyrics of the song with a short, light texture in her voice. That kind of texture makes everything easier to sing in your high register.

  • Whitney Houston

At 2:05 in this video, Whitney uses a fast run on the end of the word “all.” Notice how she doesn’t make it overly dramatic and uses those runs only a few times in the song. Sometimes, too many runs can be distracting from the song’s message.

  • Bruno Mars

Bruno sings tenderly because it’s a tender song. His voice is so free of tension that he seems to float up into his falsetto.

 

Rock

You might be surprised to learn that rock is a grandchild of the blues. After it became heavier and more dance-ably rhythmic, the music began to “rock” — and rock and roll was born! It grew up to become rougher and edgier, and now, rock vocal sounds are as diverse as in any other genre.

Today, rock singers include voices as different as Adam Lambert, Tom Araya of Slayer, James Hetfield of Metallica, and Bono of U2. But that rougher and edgier part of rock has to be, at least in some ways, a defining characteristic of the rock voice. Otherwise, it might be confused with an adult contemporary or pop voice.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Rock Singers

  • Try out different vocal flairs, like a little growling or vocal fry at the end of song sections, but don’t overdo it.
  • Get comfortable singing a huge range of dynamics, from whispers (used sparingly for the health of your voice) to healthy, supported shouting.
  • Don’t be afraid of your own vibrato.

Famous Rock Singers

  • Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury was known for quite a theatrical kind of rock. Notice how easily he transitions from one dynamic to another, using subtlety when it’s needed for effect, and rough growling when the lyrics call for it, like at 2:20.

  • John Fogerty

In a great example of what I call a “defiance rock song,” John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival sings this song with the emotional sense of defiance. He clearly has a hold of being what we now call a “singing actor,” though it’s doubtful that the vocals were planned as such.

  • Ann Wilson

In this video the lead singer of Heart, paying tribute to the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin, keeps a true sense of her own voice, but doesn’t change the vocals so much that it’s disrespectful to the original. She’s clearly not afraid of her own vibrato, using it as a tool to accentuate certain lyrics, like at 4:24.

 

Opera/Classical

Often considered the most formal and restrictive of all genres of singing, classical and opera singing actually require the greatest amount of freedom. Much of it’s sung with uncontrolled vibrato and total emotional release. It is, however, the least conversational of all genres. Because it lacks the intimacy of that conversational quality with the audience (think folk music), it has the tendency to give audiences the impression of admiring a beautiful painting from afar.

The classical genre includes secular arias and religious oratorios, as well as motets. Opera singing is similar, but it’s part of a stage production, often involving dancing and speaking parts. Think of opera as a musical with classical singing instead of Broadway-style singing.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Opera Singers

  • Don’t try to sound like how you think an opera singer sounds. Sing with an open and free voice.
  • Vibrato sometimes develops over time as we let go of more and more tension. Don’t force it or try to create it.
  • Get a voice teacher. Soon. Opera singing can seldom be taught without a good teacher. 

Famous Opera and Classical Singers

  • Bryn Terfel

In this incredibly dramatic scene from Mozart’s interpretation of the Don Juan story, Bryn Terfel is the actor in the reddish-brown cloak. Watch how intense and exaggerated his facial expressions are throughout the scene.

  • Kiri Te Kanawa

Singing one of the best-loved arias ever written is one of the best-loved sopranos to have ever lived. Amazingly, this performance was given when Dame Te Kanawa was 69 years old. She is an incredible example of how you can sing beautifully through your entire life if you take good care of your voice.

  • Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson’s distinguished career is marked not only by fantastic singing, but also by courageous defiance in the face of racism. After being rejected by the Daughters of the American Revolution for being a black performer, she sang instead for a larger group of supporters, facing the very building that she was banned from. Her voice is flawless, in spite of the shortcomings of the old recordings, but more importantly, her heart can be heard in everything she sings.

In the video above, she sang for a beautiful Christmas program. Notice her alignment. It remains consistent throughout the changes in the song.

 

Country

An overly simple way to think of the country genre is fancy folk (read: glossy folk pop). But it’s had quite a history through the years, having evolved from Appalachian mountain music, southern blues, country-western and what’s called “honky-tonk.”

I recommending listening to many different country voices so that you don’t get into the trap of imitating only the big voices. Think about how different Carrie Underwood’s voice is from Miranda Lambert’s. Check out the differences between Hank Williams, Jr. and Luke Bryan. And listen to classic singers like Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Country Singers

  • Don’t force a “country” accent. If you listen to a lot of country music, then over time, a natural twang will come when you sing.
  • Become familiar with great storytelling; that’s where country comes from! Listen to professional storytellers on YouTube.
  • Be willing to wear your heart on your sleeve. Audiences love when country singers share their feelings, and your credibility is based on your ability to be genuine.

Famous Country Singers

  • George Jones

In one of the most famous country songs of all time, the irreplaceable George Jones exemplifies the all-important skills of storytelling and a down-to-earth singing style. Notice that there isn’t a lot of vibrato here; it’s almost as if Jones is too busy telling a story to hold out a note and show off!

  • Carrie Underwood

Both this song and this video are great examples of country – images and talk of American home-grown families and open hearts. Carrie, season 4 winner of American Idol, knows just how to use her voice to a song’s advantage. She floats a note (sings it lightly) when it’s a tender moment and then sings with a heavier tone when it’s a heavier moment.

  • Loretta Lynn

The ultimate story song, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” was Loretta Lynn’s biggest hit. Is it the personable nature of the lyrics? Maybe. Take note of how similar her speaking voice (at the beginning of the video) is to her singing voice. This can be achieved through the study of something called “speech level singing.”

 

Blues/Jazz

The blues were born in the American south from the spirituals of slaves and the call-and-response music of the Southern church. Think of jazz as its slightly more sophisticated child who never forgot its roots. Jazz singing is characterized by clear, “speech level” singing and distinct consonants, while blues singing has a rough or rootsy edge to it, sometimes with a natural Southern accent.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Blues and Jazz Singers

  • You can’t sing the blues and jazz right without knowing its history, in your mind and in your heart. Watch Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary and the Thelonius Monk documentary, “Straight, No Chaser.”
  • Experiment with different vocal sounds, like pitch slides and scatting.
  • Study up on your music theory, especially your chromatic scales.

Famous Blues and Jazz Singers

  • Cassandra Wilson

Though she may not be the best-selling jazz artist, Cassandra Wilson is considered by many to be the best living jazz singer. Her voice is perfect for it — rich, thoughtful, and focused. Notice at around 3:05, she begins to use pitch slides, perhaps to accentuate a
rather creepy part of a powerful jazz classic.

  • Sarah Vaughan

Once described as having “one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century,”
Grammy award-winning Sarah Vaughan was known for a sensitive but easy tone. Notice how almost nonchalant she is throughout “Someone to Watch Over Me.” At 2:15, Vaughan effortlessly shows off an impressive vocal range and some great improvisation skills, simply by jumping up to a random note while remaining in the song’s key.

  • Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong is so important to jazz music that most experts agree that it wouldn’t have been developed, or even survived, without his contributions. Now some voice scientists and physicians might point to a few voice pathologies in Louis: that unusually rough voice. But here we have a great example of a singer who loved what he did and knew how to make people feel happy and entertained.

 

Hip Hop

Hip hop, the heavily rhythmic and rhyming singing that often accompanies rapping and beatboxing, emerged in the 1970s, and has grown steadily in popularity since then. In fact, that popularity has turned into tremendous influence on other singing genres, including pop and country. Its origins are many, but the most apparent are funk, disco, reggae, and the blues. Singers of hip hop are diverse, but the singing generally takes on an edgy, sometimes nasal qualities.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Hip Hop Singers

  • Know hip hop’s musical ancestry. Listen to a lot of funk, disco, reggae, soul, gospel, blues, and old-school hip hop.
  • You don’t have to become a rapper, but get comfortable switching between singing and speaking lyrics to help your versatility.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with different vocal sounds, like nasality and wordplay, to create your own signature style.

Famous Hip Hop Singers

  • Lauryn Hill

See if you can hear the song’s Spanish and gospel influences. Despite these varied sounds, Lauryn stays true to her own voice, which is stunningly consistent in tone and texture. It’s important to listen to influences with respect, without allowing it to pressure you to imitate anyone.

  • Beyonce

In this heart-stopping acoustic performance of her hit “Halo,” Beyonce has full command of her voice. It’s as if her voice is an arrow, she aims at the bull’s eye, and hits it every time. In other words, her pitch is always right and her transition between the lower register in the verses and the upper register in the chorus is seamless.

  • Cee Lo Green

Originally, the hit “Crazy” was created and released by Gnarls Barkley, a musical duo consisting of rapper and hip hop singer Cee Lo Green and producer Danger Mouse. In this video, Cee Lo sings the song at a much slower tempo than the original, allowing for a lot of time for both the performer and the listener to really think about the meaningful lyrics. Green is a fabulous singer, and here is an excellent example of the courage to reinvent a song, even your very own!

Adult Contemporary

Adult contemporary is such a unique genre, because singers from relatively different genres often get put into this camp as well, or end up here at the height of their career. It’s essentially pop singing, but the lyrics are decidedly grown-up, or “adult.” Think of it as the Mom and Dad of teenage bubblegum pop. You’re not singing, for example, about that “party in the U.S.A.” You’re singing about life’s experiences gone by in the U.S.A., what you’ve learned, and the plans for your future.

Adult contemporary has been called “vanilla,” bland and boring, but often, the most magnificent songs ever are forever embedded in its charts. This means singing at your best.

Tips & Vocal Exercises for Adult Contemporary Singers

  • Learn how to sing consistently with a well-supported sound and power will come naturally.
  • Get into the habit of speaking the lyrics of the song out loud before singing them.
  • Don’t add too many effects to your voice; singing with whatever you have, in its truest form, is adult contemporary.

Famous Adult Contemporary Singers

  • Bruce Hornsby

This is a classic example of an adult contemporary theme – the songwriters here are reflecting on their own lives and on life in general. Bruce Hornsby’s easy, almost-nonchalant style comes across as utterly conversational, perfect for singing about down-to-earth themes.

  • Amy Grant

Amy Grant successfully crossed over from contemporary Christian music (which she practically created herself) to pop and adult contemporary. All the while, she never really changed her vocal sound. Throughout this video, she uses dynamics to her advantage to highlight certain words in the lyrics, like at the very end, when she gets tenderly quiet at the last “I will remember you.”

 

The Ultimate Guide to Singing Styles and Genres

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Lists of Musical Genres

Of course, that’s not all! There are so many different styles of music to discover, as well as sub-genres within each category. For a comprehensive list of musical genres, AllMusic is a great resource. We also love this interactive genre map from Every Noise at Once.

Bonus: Take our quiz, What Genre Are You Destined to Sing? (and let us know your results in the comments!) 

Final Words…

Despite all of the ways that genres of music are different, one thing connects them all. All singing, at its very base, is simply sustained speech. And while practice are utterly essential to learning the different styles, just as important is listening to plenty of music, both in that style and in others. And when you listen, remember to keep not only your ears open, but also your heart. That’s what makes us artists.

So there you have it, the ultimate guide to singing styles! There are a lot of styles and genres that I haven’t covered in this guide, which means you can still find the perfect fit for you. If you have additional questions, check in with your singing teacher for help with finding your unique voice. Happy singing!

Readers, what are your favorite genres to sing? Let us know in the comments!

HeatherLPost Author: Heather L.
Heather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL. She is a graduate of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

Photo by *Shantel*

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