Category Archives: Vocal exercises

how to practice on your own – beginner training

When taking your first steps in the world of singing, questions often come up related to your singing practice at home.

You may feel that one lesson per week is not enough. Well, let me just say that this is both true and untrue at the same time. If you are fully present and committed one lesson per week will make a big difference. But of course, you can help the process with your work at home and sometimes it is crucial that you do this. For instance, when you are learning a new song, there are many things that you need to do on your own (otherwise a lot of valuable lesson time would be lost), such as learning the lyrics (and sadly I must say that many students skip this very important part), the melody, the structure and many more things.

Here is the thing. In the study of the voice as a musical instrument, it is very important to develop proprioception by observing the sensations inside you when you are singing. By doing this, you will be able to really “see” your instrument and play it in a safe way. But when we start the training, we still don’t have enough experience of feeling our voice from the inside, or enough technique, and therefore it is better if you practice your exercises with an experienced teacher who can guide and correct you. Otherwise, you could develop some bad habits that will be very damaging for your voice and much harder to correct later. So, in this case, yes, one lesson per week is enough. When you are more experienced you will be able to do more and more exercises on your own.

So, what can you practice at home then? There are lots of things you can do to prepare your instrument and make it ready to make the most of the lesson.

  • Start observing your posture and find the perfect posture for you. Play around with this, and see how the voice changes when you change the position of your body.
  • Practice your breathing for singing, make sure that you are activating the lower part of the lungs for this
  • Study deeply the songs that are indicated for your lesson
  • Write down all your doubts for the next lesson
  • Practice body stretches
  • Practice facial massages to relax the muscles that play a role in your singing.
  • Observe, observe, observe!!

Let’s get started!

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A fun way to practice your breathing

As you know, breathing is an important part of a singer’s training–we train to expand our lung capacity and to support the air.

  So today I want to give you a tip to train another part of your breathing. As well as expanding our air capacity, we need to train how to dosify it properly. Sometimes you can find in songs that you don’t have a lot of places where you can breathe, because of long phrases or very quick ones.

  One thing I do to resolve this, is to grab the lyrics of the song printed on paper, and then consciously find all the places where I do a long breath, and just write a dot in that place. I do the same with all the places where I can find a gap to do a short breath (through the mouth) and I write a comma in all of those places (in short breaths make sure that the inhale is not loud or high in the lungs). Then I practice the song breathing in all the places marked, and this way the body learns exactly where to breathe to always have a good amount of air, enough for all the sound we need to produce (and enough to be of a good quality).

Another thing I have found very useful when practicing this is to sing rap songs. Rappers are really good at optimizing the air, as they have to pronounce lots of words quickly with a very good and even quality of sound. I encourage you to practice rap songs as well, as I have found that with time this training makes the body used to really take advantage of every gap and breathe there. Then it becomes a natural skill!

  Porta is a Spanish rapper that I particularly like a lot. He has a particularity in his way of breathing, and it that he does it quite loud and short. If you watch this video you can listen to it very clear. That makes it easy for us to observe when and how he breaths.

 

Give it a go!

Image by Antonio Rull

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How to reach high notes – Part II

How to reach high notes –part II

Let’s see some exercises that will help you  to extend your upper register.

  • Breathing properly

This is something you really need to take into consideration when trying to reach high notes. Ideally your breathing should be relaxed and directed to the lower part of your lungs, not the upper part as this can cause tension to your neck and shoulders which makes it more difficult to reach those high notes you want.

  • Posture

Check that your posture is correct!

  • Relax your face

Pay attention to your facial muscles. It is much easier to reach high notes when your jaw is not tensely shut.  You can help this process by massaging the muscles that are across the jawline. Also, gently massage the facial muscles in your forehead, cheeks, chin and around your lips.

  • Siren sound

Imitate the sound of the police siren. That’s a good way to imagine the glissandos, very powerful exercises for your voice that really work all the body parts involved on your vocal flexibility! Use “uuuu” for this exercise, and try to go as high as you can and come back (just as sirens do)and as you do that, check that your mouth is really open, your tongue is touching your low teeth and your neck and shoulders are relaxed.

I recommend doing this exercise along with some body movements such as stretching your arms up (as if you were climbing) or simply bending your knees as you go high. Listen to what your body needs!

  • Humming exercise

This exercise will train the flexibility of your voice in a softer way so you won’t damage it while practicing it. Use a hummm sound for this exercise, with your lips gently together but not pressing and checking that your teeth are separated. Start with a pitch comfortable for you and then start going higher, checking that your upper back keeps being relaxed.

I hope these exercises are helpful for you! Practice practice practice, practice makes you perfect 😉

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How to reach high notes – Part I

This is probably the most common issue I see in beginner or even experienced singers. When I’m teaching a lesson and practicing scales with my students, I can see how they start becoming anxious and stare at the notes that I play on my keyboard.

Well, that’s actually the first problem! You are probably used to the expression “It’s all in your mind”, and in this case it also applies. When you believe that the notes are too high for you, that’s what your mind is telling you. And guess what, your mind is what controls all of your movements and therefore it controls how your voice works as well. So if that’s what you are telling your mind, that’s what your mind is going to tell your body to do. It tells it “Hey stop, you can’t reach that note”. And then the body reacts to that and you can notice how your throat closes.

So that’s the first thing, when you are practicing your scales or when you are practicing your song, sing each note as it goes. Don’t spend the whole time thinking about the difficult notes, be present in each sound. That’s how you will enjoy your singing, otherwise it would feel more like torture!

Another thing that I have noticed in many of my students is that they start to lift the upper body when they start singing higher notes. That is first of all…useless. Not only doesn’t it help you reach the notes you want, it actually does the opposite and affects your whole singing. This is because once you imagine your high notes are actually “high”you start tensing your upper body. As a result of this, your shoulders and neck are tensed and guess what, there is where your primary voice sound is produced. It also prevents you from having a relaxed and deep breath. So, we don’t want this to happen!

Those are the main two problems which prevent you from singing your high notes freely. Then of course, you still have to train your upper register properly. But really, the first step is to allow the body to be aware of that. In the next post I will give you exercises to start training your upper register and expand your range.

Image by Kathleen Tyler Conklin

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