Know Your Voice
The Voice is our first instrument. A good singing teacher or voice coach will help you to appreciate and understand how ‘your’ voice works. No two vocalists are the same. Our physiology and temperament play a huge part in how we use and express ourselves when we sing. Singing, I believe, is the most personal instrument to master as we are expressing sounds so uniquely individual. For this reason, as teachers and students we must be even more respectful when approaching how and what we do in the learning process.
Once you have found the teacher that is the right fit for you, the next steps to take are:
- 1. Being Open – because everyone is different we need to be able to step outside ourselves a little to get the most from singing classes. It can be intimidating getting to know a new teacher so allow yourself time and try to be open to a new way of seeing and hearing yourself as a singer.
- 2. Let Go of the ‘Self Critic’ – I cannot tell you how many times vocalists have come to me for lessons believing they are just ‘no good’ at singing – your voice is ‘yours’ – so be thankful if it sounds different to anyone else. The differences in tone an expression that you have mean you have greater cut through as an artist.
- 3. Setting your own goals – know what you want before you begin and allow your teacher to understand what that means for you so they can help you get there. If you tell your teacher you just want to ‘sing in the shower’ but secretly want to be the next big thing online then don’t be surprised if all you do is sing in your bedroom and not grow as an artist.
- 4. Record yourself often – listen to yourself. To begin with this is probably one of the most daunting things for a vocalist. We all hate the sound of our voice when we hear it recorded, so allow yourself to be ‘de-sensitized’ so you can really hear the tools you are using as you sing and can then choose how you use them.
- 5. Practice Often – This sounds obvious, but so many of my students regularly tell me they sing ‘all the time’ but only practice once or twice a week. If your progress is slow then take some time to understand what ‘practicing’ as opposed to singing really means.
- 6. Remember to breathe – Yeah you’re probably thinking this sounds mad, but since breathing is essential in singing a greater amount of attention needs to be given to it. Breathing helps us to relax into using our voice. Relaxing into using our voice can be one of the hardest things to master so give it time to develop. Practice your breathing so it becomes a habit.
- 7. Do your vowel shaping exercises – A good amount of my time is spent helping students to have clarity and great pitch, without efficient vowel mastery this can be difficult, so practice your me, ma, meh, mo, moos … and enjoy the art of silly sounds.
- 8. Hum often & Practice Your scales.
- 9. Always warm up – find what suits you, Singing and voice coaches offer many ways to warm to get you going, you may not enjoy the formality of that – so if that feels ‘clunky’ choose a favourite song or songs to get you going. No more than 2 or 3 short songs or you may get lost in the singing and not actually practice.
- 10. Be gentle on yourself – turn off the self-critic – Singing takes courage, so be brave and let yourself be you as you sing.
- 11. Create a private space where you feel comfortable and go with the process.
- 12. Set aside time each day to something with your voice – sing in the shower but try to do more than that, maybe while you are driving listen back to a copy of your lesson on Mp3 and practice your scales.
- 13. Listen to as many different singers from different genres – especially ones outside your personal taste: Adele,Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Ed Sheeran, Amy Winehouse, Shawn Mendes Gabrielle Aplin, Regina Spektor, John Frusciante, Lorde, Johnny Cash, Bette Midler, Sam Smith, Karen Carpenter, Freddy Mercury, Florence & the Machine, John Legend, Shania Twain, George Ezra, Vince Gill, Joni Mitchell to name a few if you are stuck for ideas…