VOCALIZE: Before singing a song, give yourself a vocal workout. Get the blood flowing to the vocal cords by ‘warming up’. Using different tools or vocal exercises, vocalizing is a healthy way of preparing your vocal cords to sing a song. Spend at least 10-15 minutes doing continuous scales with different vowel consonant combinations. Start off with a lip trill exercises or “bubble”. Then move towards a “mum” or hooty “gee”. Refer back to your last recorded voice lesson for vocalizing ideas and try to sing along with the recording. Or download a trustworthy vocal app such as Voice Tutor. If you can get into a routine of vocalizing before a song, you will notice your voice will be much more prepared for those difficult notes located usually in the chorus of a song.
VOLUME: Volume in singing is the amount of air you decide to push through your windpipe or trachea to create sound. It’s always important to “check-in” with your volume and ask yourself “how loud am I singing?” Building awareness of how much volume you need to get the right vocal balance is key. Keep in mind if you are singing pop music, you will be using a microphone at times. So, if you’re singing too loudly and it’s amplified on a mic, you may get a few audience members covering their ears. At the same time, it’s important to have some intensity of air coming through in order to create sound.
VOWEL: Struggling on a particular phrase of a song? “It’s just this one part, I can’t seem to get”. I hear this quite frequently from singers. The solution might be to take note of the vowels in the phrase. Ask yourself “what vowel am I trying to sing”? “Am I pronouncing the vowel correctly?” “Am I widening the vowel or singing it in more of a ‘bratty’ smiling way”. If that’s the case, try doing the opposite. For example if you are trying to sing the word “love” and saying “LAAV” instead, chances are you are hiking up your larynx (the muscles surrounding the vocal cords) because you are widening the vowel unnecessarily. This can lead to vocal strain. Try pronouncing the vowel more like it’s written. “Luv” More often than not, if you’re pronouncing the vowel a little less wide, you will notice that you’ll not only get better tone, you’ll avoid straining.
VIBRATO: Vibrato is a tremolo or pitch oscillation sound effect that instruments can produce. In singing, it’s sort of that shaky sound a singer makes at the end of a phrase. In classical or opera repertoire, vibrato is used frequently. In contemporary music, vibrato is generally used at the end of a phrase here and there throughout the song. Vibrato is not just a styling effect, it also helps you to sing with more vocal balance of air and muscle. So it’s really good to make a habit of practicing it. How do you activate your vibrato? One way is to try gently pushing on your tummy when you sustain a note. Work with a vocal coach that can offer you some solutions to get a more even and consistent vibrato. You don’t have to saturate your songs with vibrato (that is, if you aren’t singing opera). But here and there, and especially when rehearsing a difficult high note. Try sustaining that particular note with vibrato. You may find it’s easier to dwell on that note a bit longer with the right muscle/air balance using vibrato.
Remember singing should be effortless, but you need healthy muscle memory to do that. Working with a voice teacher on a regular basis, combined with daily practice, will help you develop your voice healthily. Find a voice teacher that can help you access those areas of your voice that are the most challenging and that guides you to make the above ‘V words’ a priority.
Alida is a singer/songwriter/pianist and actor from Vancouver, BC Canada. She is also a certified Speech Level Singing teacher. Her vocal studio website is: www.singinglessonsinvancouver.com