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Tools for Singers

Practice Tips (from Singing for Dummies)

Practicing Your Singing Correctly

By Pamelia S. Philips

Correct singing practice means that you’re making consistent improvement. Your vocal cords don’t have pain receptors, so you can’t assume that you’ll feel pain if you do something wrong. If you do feel pain, you may be squeezing too hard and constricting the muscles surrounding your vocal cords. Feeling tired after practicing is normal.

You may have friends who can sing for hours without feeling tired, but they may have spent many years singing to build up their endurance. If your voice gets tired after a reasonable amount of time singing, don’t worry about it. After a month, however, if your voice still gets tired quickly, then you’re not doing something right.

Recording yourself

Record your practice session each day to monitor improvement. The first time you listen to a recording of yourself, you may not like it. That’s a perfectly normal reaction. Performing artists spend big bucks in the recording studio, but they may not sound so perfect at home. The third time you hear yourself on a recording, you’ll be used to the sound.

Listen for the details, such as the precision of the vowel. Does it sound like an ah or uh? The two vowels are similar, but you need to be able to distinguish them in the exercise and in the text of the song. Record yourself saying ah and uh so that you learn to feel and hear the difference. Then go back and listen to the recording.

You can also listen for silent inhalation (no gasping for air), smooth transitions between registers, varied sounds that you choose to create a vocal journey in your song, or dynamic variations.

If you have a video camera handy, videotape yourself regularly to check out your body language. Watch the video three times in a row, to get used to your sound on video. You can even watch the video without sound to really focus on your body movement. Video cameras usually have better recording quality than a cellphone, but a phone will work if that’s what you have available.

Applying information and exercises

Most of the time, you can’t see the benefit of a singing exercise until you’ve tried it a few times. You won’t know what you’re capable of until you move out of your comfort zone. Mastering some of the exercises takes some time, whereas other exercises take only a few days to master.

The first time you try an exercise, you may be tempted to just skim through the explanation, because you want to test it out. Make sure that you go back later and read the entire explanation and work through each step. The step you skip may be the most important one of the exercise.

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Warm-Up Stretches (from Singing for Dummies)

Singing Warm Ups: Stretching the Body

By Pamelia S. Phillips

No matter how easy the day is, start your singing practice session warm ups by stretching out. You want to get your entire body ready to sing, not just your singing muscles. For the breath to really move in your body, you need to be connected to your lower body.

Try the following stretching routine, which begins with your head and moves to your toes. For each segment, remember to continue breathing as you move.

  1. Shake out any tension in your entire body.

    Wiggle around until you feel the stiffness in your joints melting away. Focus on posture and releasing tension.

  2. Release your head forward.

    Gently drop your head toward your chest at a slow pace and inhale. As you exhale, allow your head to drop a little farther. Repeat this several times, allowing the head to drop farther each time to stretch the neck muscles. Inhale and lift your head back to its balanced position.

  3. Move your head.

    Turn your head to the left and to the right. Roll your head around, starting from the left side and rolling your chin near your chest to the right side. Don’t roll your head back unless you’ve worked with this kind of movement before. The vertebrae in your neck may not respond well to pressure from your head rolling backward.

  4. Gently stretch your neck.

    Gently drop your left ear toward your left shoulder and pause. Inhale and, as you exhale, drop your head a little farther toward your shoulder. Repeat several times, and then repeat the sequence over your right shoulder.

  5. Move all the muscles in your face.

    Tighten them and then release, to feel the flow of energy in your face.

  6. Move your tongue in and out.

    Stick it out as far as possible and then move it back in. You can also lick your lips — move your tongue in a circle around the outside of your mouth to stretch the muscles in your tongue.

  7. Work your shoulders.

    Lift your shoulders and then push them down. Move your shoulders forward and then back. Make circles with shoulders in one direction, and then reverse. Keep your chest steady and open.

  8. Swing one arm (and then the other) in circles.

    As you swing, wiggle your fingers and wrist to get the blood flowing all the way down your arm. Be careful; watch out for furniture. Repeat with the other arm.

  9. Stretch your side.

    Lift your left arm over your head and lean to the right. As you lean, feel the muscles between your ribs opening on your left side. Reverse: Lift your right arm and stretch your other side.

  10. Swing those hips around to loosen that tension.

    Many women hold tension in their hips. You don’t have to be tough now. Let ’em loose. Let the hips rock back to front, as well as around in circles.

  11. Warm up your legs.

    Stand on your toes and then lower your feet back to the floor. Stand on one leg and shake out the other. Reverse to get the other leg in motion. Move up on your tiptoes, and then drop back to the floor and bend your knees.

  12. Finally, take a nice deep breath and feel the energy flowing in your body.

Getting your blood pumping while warming up helps you focus on your task at hand. If you’re having trouble connecting your breath to your song, try being more physical in your warm-up or practice session.

One way to connect your body is to shoot basketball granny shots. Bend your knees, drop your arms between your legs, and throw the invisible ball up with two hands. This motion gets you connected to your lower body and really helps you connect energy to sing higher notes. If you shoot a regular free throw, you lift your body up to sing the note.

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Answers to Your Singing Practice Questions (from Singing for Dummies)

Answers to Your Singing Practice Questions

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what to do when you practice. Students frequently ask questions about practicing, so here are some answers before you start practicing. Knowing where to practice, when to practice, and what to use when you practice puts you on the right track for technique work.

Where should I practice?

The number-one question concerns location. Your practice space can be anywhere you can be alone and can concentrate. You simply need space to move around comfortably during the warm-up and when you set the scene for your song. Regardless of wherever else you do your practicing, devote some of your time to standing up and practicing several times a week.

What’s the best time to practice?

Anytime that works for you is best. Schedule a specific time and duration for practicing each day. If you allot time on your calendar to practice, you’re more likely to practice. Many singers practice more efficiently at night because of their body clocks.

You can also practice on your lunch hour or right before or after work. To maximize your concentration, turn off the TV, cellphone, and computer during your daily practice time.

Have your practice space set and ready each day. If you have to search the entire place to find all your practice tools, you’re wasting valuable singing time. Stay organized so you can enjoy your time being creative!

How long should I practice?

The length of the practice session depends on your level of expertise. Someone who is new to singing can benefit from practicing 15 to 20 minutes a day. Gradually increase your practice time to 30 to 60 minutes per day.

Your voice is like any other muscle group in your body: It becomes fatigued and needs rest. As long as your voice is back to normal after a few hours of rest, your practicing is on the right track. Improvement happens with frequent practice.

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