Tools for Singers

Take it Higher (from Singing for Dummies)

Taking Your Singing Range Higher

By Pamelia S. Philips

A great way to increase your singing range upward is by singing staccato, which means “short and detached.” Singing shorter, lighter notes helps you in singing higher notes, because you’re not using as much heavy weight. To sing staccato, keep your larynx steady and keep the muscles in your neck still.

If they flex or tighten, sing the staccato notes lighter, with less weight or pressure; that technique helps you figure out how to work the muscles inside your neck in your larynx. Make the notes light and short, and keep them connected to your breath. If the sound is airy, too much air is escaping.

Find a clear sound on a longer note and then gradually sing notes that get shorter to maintain that clarity.

The below pattern gives you the opportunity to explore staccato sounds as you skip notes along the scale. As you ascend in pitch, allow your back space to open. You have to open this space fast because you’re moving quickly in the pattern, so think ahead as you’re singing.

When singing staccato you may feel your abs move as you start each note. That’s normal: You want your breath to connect to each note. Blowing too much air makes it harder to sing lightly. On the other hand, if you connect just the right amount of air, the notes bounce along the scale. Use the ee vowel at first to keep the sound light and dominated by head voice.

As your staccato gets easier, you can explore other vowels.


Break this exercise into steps: Open the space, send the breath, and then make the sound. Hopefully, it all happens at the same time, but concentrate on the individual steps if you’re having trouble getting it all coordinated.

Leave a comment »

Tackling Register Changes (from Singing for Dummies)

Tackling Singing Register Transitions

By Pamelia S. Philips

Knowing where to make singing transitions makes it easier to figure out how to successfully sing a song. When you know the transition points, you can choose tactics, such as the following, to help you sing through the transitions when you practice:

  • Choose friendly vowels to sing. Closed vowels, such as in the words me, may, and to, are often easier to sing than open vowels such as ah.
  • Imitate a siren to feel the change in the vibrations as you go higher in pitch. That same sensation of the vibrations rising higher in your head applies to your singing. Head voice requires a higher resonance, so the resonance or vibrations should move higher into your head as you go up the scale.
  • As you descend the scale, allow the resonance or vibrations to drop. It may feel like the vibrations are going down a ladder on your face, gradually stepping down each rung as you go down the scale. The resonance should move lower as you descend in pitch. Middle voice requires a lower resonance or vibration than head voice. Chest voice uses even lower vibrations or resonance than head voice.
  • Go gently into chest voice. When you descend into chest voice, you want to drop smoothly into it instead of falling down into it. You can experiment by singing a higher note and sliding down in pitch. Try this slide twice. As you slide down the first time, allow the sound or sensations of the vibrations to just fall.This creates a big clunk into chest voice. Then try the same slide again, but think of opening the throat and body as you gradually descend. You’ll make a much smoother transition into chest voice.
  • Open the back space as you ascend. As you ascend, you want the space in the back of the mouth and the throat to open to give those high notes plenty of room to sing. You also get better results by dropping your jaw, not just dropping your chin.
  • Keep your breath steady. In general, you want to keep the movement of breath steady and flowing as you sing. If you’re ascending in pitch, your breath has to move faster. You don’t have to blow more air, but the speed of the airflow must increase..
  • Keep energy flowing in your body. Singing requires a lot of effort, and you want energy to be flowing in your body. Move around as you sing to feel that your entire body is involved in making the sound, especially on the higher notes.
Leave a comment »

Exploring the Front Vowels (from Singing for Dummies)

Exploring the Front Vowels in Singing

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Your tongue arches in the front of your mouth to sing front vowels. Your tongue does most of the work shaping front vowel sounds, but make sure that both your lips and tongue are released and free of tension. The front vowels don’t require as much lip action as the back vowels.

The front vowels are much less open than the back vowels. These vowels aren’t as wide open as the back vowels. It may sound odd, but it’s true.

The vowels in the table below are called front vowels because the tongue arches in the front of the mouth to make these sounds. Keeping the tip of your tongue touching your bottom front teeth, say the vowel ee. Notice how your tongue arches in the front of your mouth when you make the sound. You also feel the sides of your tongue go up.

Another difference between back and front vowels is that, when the tongue arches in the front, the sides of the tongue also raise and touch the upper teeth. As you speak through the vowels, you feel your

  • Jaw drop slightly for the ee vowel and gradually move down more as you move from ee toward a.
  • Lips slightly open for the ee vowel, and open more as your jaw drops when you move to the most open vowel, a.
  • Tongue arching in the front, the highest on the ee vowel and the lowest on the a vowel, and the tip of the tongue resting against your bottom front teeth.

The following illustration shows the arch of the tongue for front vowels.


Exploring Front Vowels
ee ih ay eh a
me kiss ate bed asked
eagle myth gain head passed
flee wig day heaven master
ski busy they guess danced

Some words in the table have two vowels, but only consider the vowel sound in the first syllable.

Speaking the front vowels

Now it’s time for you to put all the front vowels in sentences to practice speaking. Using these vowels gives you an opportunity to return to the correct arched position of your tongue after moving through the consonants.

  • ee
    • We meet lean, mean fiends.
    • He greased Phoebe’s knees.
    • Greedy eels eat cream.
    • Leave me peas teased, Eve.
  • ih
    • Hip chicks knit big mitts.
    • Cliff fixed its clipped wick.
    • Tim’s busy with his chips.
    • Dig Phillip’s little sister Lilly.
  • ay
    • Great Dane saves whale.
    • They say Abe gained weight.
    • Kate saves pale ale.
    • James blames Dave’s fame.
  • eh
    • Deb’s pet pecked every peg.
    • Ed shed wet red.
    • Edge any hedge, says Ned.
    • Kelly’s mellow fellow fell dead.
  • a
    • Lance can’t glance last.
    • Ask half after Fran.
    • Vast masks pass fast.
    • Prance aghast past grassy path.

Singing the front vowels

You want to make precise vowel sounds as you sing. Singing a song requires you to move quickly from one vowel sound to the other; you must quickly change the arch of your tongue to accommodate the different vowel sounds.

You have to make the shape happen at the speed of the music. If you practice singing the vowels alone, you give yourself the chance to really get them solid before you add consonants in words.

You may not be able to tell the difference between each vowel sound as you’re singing the pattern in the illustration below. So record yourself singing and then listen to the recording. Pretend that you’ve never seen the pattern and try to distinguish which vowel you’re singing.

Notice which vowels aren’t as precise as others, and you can make those a priority in your next practice session. If they aren’t clear, go back and practice making the shape, saying the words with the vowels, and then singing again.

Work the vowel sequence in the following illustration to get that tongue arched quickly to get the right vowel sound. If your tongue doesn’t move fast enough, you may sing a different vowel. No problem — just keep trying. When you’re able to clearly distinguish each vowel sound, insert some words into the pattern for variety and spice in your practice routine.

Leave a comment »

Imitating Vibrato Singing (from Singing for Dummies)

Imitating Vibrato Singing

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Singers who have good coordination of breath and open space usually have vibrato which you can imitate. Think of a singer (probably someone you’ve heard singing opera or classical music) who makes a huge sound when singing. Now imitate that singer.

Find a quiet place where you can make plenty of sound. Hear the singer’s voice in your mind and then imitate that singer. If it helps, open your arms wide, hold a towel, or stand on a chair, so you feel enormous. Imitating someone with good technique doesn’t hurt your voice. You may discover that you can make some pretty big sounds yourself.

If you imitate a singer with vibrato, you can probably figure out how to imitate that vibrato, too. When you do, continue to explore that sound and notice what your voice sounds like. You can even record yourself, just to prove that you made that much glorious sound.

If you didn’t find a different sound, imitate a different singer. This time choose a larger-than-life opera singer. Be flamboyant and pretend that you’ve been called in to sing because the star is ill. Fake it and sing some of this singer’s songs — even make up the words.

The key to singing with vibrato is to make the sound happen naturally — don’t force it. Explore different kinds of sounds, and work with space and breath to find vibrato.

You may be tempted to create vibrato by bouncing your abdomen or your larynx — but don’t. Bouncing your abs or larynx doesn’t consistently produce vibrato; instead of forcing it, let the vibrato happen because you keep air consistently flowing. Ham it up and enjoy vibrato!

Leave a comment »

Tipping for R (from Singing for Dummies)

Singing Consonants: Tipping for R

By Pamelia S. Phillips

The sound for the consonant R is the hardest to shape in speaking and singing. An R can be confusing because it sometimes stands alone as an individual sound and sometimes is closely linked with a vowel. It is a voiced consonant. When you sing words that contain a consonant R, you may notice that your

  • Tongue’s tip rises toward the roof of your mouth behind the alveolar ridge for this consonant.
  • Lips shape for the vowel sound that follows the R.

In other languages, R is rolled or flipped. Flipping an R means saying the R like a D, and rolling an Rmeans touching the tip of your tongue on your alveolar ridge as you would with a D, and then blowing air over it to make your tongue vibrate like in a tongue trill. Flipped or rolled Rs aren’t appropriate for American English. Try the following sentences to practice R:

  • Row, row, row the boat.
  • Right the wrong.
  • Race red rover.
  • Run, rabbit, run.
Leave a comment »

Female Wicked High Notes (from Singing for Dummies)

Female Wicked High Note Singing

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Have you ever heard a woman sing notes that sounded higher than any note on the piano? Those wicked high notes that females sing have several different names: flute register, bell register, flageolet, and whistle register. The term whistle is useful because in the beginning, you feel that the sounds are squealing out of your body like a whistling teakettle.

If you’re a really low female voice, your voice may not be able to make these sounds — the notes above High C may be just too high for you right now. That’s okay, because you have plenty of notes below High C to play with.

Singing in whistle feels as if the notes are turning over into a different register at the very top of head voice range — it feels out of control, really high and small, and you may feel the sensations on the top of your head. These notes may not feel big and strong, like chest voice or even middle voice.

It’s similar to what Mariah Carey did in her first few recordings. Not everyone can make those funky high sounds, but you can try if you want.

Leave a comment »

Factors that Affect Tone in Singing (from Singing for Dummies)

Factors that Affect Tone in Singing

By Pamelia S. Phillips

The shape and size of your body and your body coordination partly determine your tone. In addition, your tone changes with your moods or emotions. Check out the following list for factors that affect tone:

  • Body coordination: Coordinating the muscles in the body is important for creating lovely tone for singing. That coordination includes breath coordination, alignment, and articulation.
  • Emotions: Your emotions directly affect the tone of voice. You know when someone is happy or sad by the tone of voice. When you’re acting, you want to tap into your emotions so that the tone of your voice reflects the story you’re telling. Of course, it’s also possible to go overboard and let the emotions overtake you.If you go too far emotionally, you end up crying and won’t be able to sing your song. Or maybe you’ll be so angry that you tense up and can’t sing well. Using your emotions is good, but allowing emotions to overtake you isn’t good.

    Work on singing exercises to develop your technique. When your technical skill is solid, you’ll be able to maintain your technique even during the more emotional sections of your song.

  • Shape and size of your head and throat: If your mouth and throat are small, you have smaller vocal cords and probably a higher voice type. Singers with large mouths and heads tend to have bigger voices and can make bigger sounds.
  • Size of your body: Singers with a big, round chest tend to have a large lung capacity for nailing those high notes. You don’t need to have a big body to sing well, though — good singers come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Space: The amount of space you open for tone to resonate is a key element in the tone of your voice. If the space is tight, the tone is tight. If the space is open, the tone has room to resonate.
  • Tension: Even body parts far from your singing voice need to be free of tension to keep the tone of the voice free.
Leave a comment »

Breath Control in Singing (from Singing for Dummies)

Breath Control in Singing

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Gaining coordination of the muscles that control breathing takes time and consistent practice, but is essential to improving your singing. Athletes know that they have to train consistently to teach the muscles in their body to respond exactly the way they want, singers are no different.

Over time, the muscles remember how to move and you don’t have to think about it. You want this to happen for breathing and singing: You want to practice the breathing exercises enough that you can rely on them to work efficiently so you can focus on the story you’re telling.

Athletes also know that working out and doing physical conditioning is crucial to develop the ability to transport oxygen quickly throughout the body. When you’re singing, you’re moving a lot of air and your body needs to be in good shape so you can handle the endurance required to sing for an entire performance.

You don’t have to be thin, but you have to be in good shape. Your workout at the gym also helps your breathing for singing.

Pushing yourself just a little beyond your comfort zone helps you develop stamina and endurance. Your muscles may feel warm or tired after you work on the breathing exercises, which is perfectly normal. Extreme fatigue is a sign that something isn’t right in your practice session, but it’s normal to feel tired and need to rest for a time before you can practice more.

To give yourself an opportunity to work on more advanced breathing exercises, keep reading and working through the exercises. They aren’t too advanced for you, especially if you’ve been exploring other exercises and are comfortable with what moves as you breathe.

If you’re new to singing, moving too quickly to the advanced exercises without practicing the basics doesn’t give you an opportunity to make the movement a habit. It takes some time to make correct breathing a habit, but once done, you won’t have to worry about changing gears when it’s time to sing.

Leave a comment »

Dropping Your Larynx (quoted from Singing for Dummies)

Dropping Your Larynx for A Full, Open Singing Voice

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Most of your neck muscles are designed to keep the larynx high — which prevents singers from making a full, open sound. You have to figure out how to keep the larynx in a lower or more neutral position in your throat for singing.

To drop your larynx, you can use the beginning of the yawn. Avoid intentionally pushing down the back of your tongue, as most people do when first trying to drop the larynx: If you push your tongue down, you also feel the larynx push down and you feel a tightening of the muscles under your chin. This tight sensation isn’t what you want for singing.

It may take you a while to feel the difference between pushing down and dropping. The correct sensation is to feel your tongue moving forward and stretching the space between the parts of the larynx so that the bottom part of the larynx drops. You can also try the following suggestions to drop the larynx without pushing the tongue:

  • Smell something yummy. Inhale slowly as you smell something positively wonderful. When you smell something yummy — or even pretend to — your throat opens and your larynx drops. Try smelling something yummy a few times and just notice what you feel. After a few tries, smell something yummy again and put your hand on your throat to notice whether your larynx dropped.
  • Open the space behind your tongue. If you release your tongue forward, inhale, and pretend that the space behind the tongue opens — or the space between your tongue and the back wall of your throat — you may feel your larynx drop. Releasing or opening the back wall of the throat while releasing the tongue forward helps you drop your larynx.

Now, how do you keep the larynx dropped when you make sound? Good question — and it takes some practice for you to maintain the lower position of your larynx.

Remember, the larynx is designed to ride high in your throat, but you want it to lower for singing classical music or at least stay in a neutral position for singing more contemporary music. Try the following suggestions to drop your larynx and leave it there while you make sound:

  • Drop and breathe. When you feel the dropping sensation of the larynx, just breathe in and out (inhale and exhale) and leave the larynx in the low position. It may take a few days of experimenting before you can keep it steady while you breathe. When you can keep it steady while breathing, try the next suggestion.
  • Drop and make sound. Say “ah” on a low note. Notice whether the larynx stays in the same place when you say “ah.” Make the same sound several more times so you can really feel what’s happening. If the larynx bounced up when you said “ah,” try again.

    Release the larynx down and say the “ah” again. It seems simple, but it may take a couple of days of experimenting before you can make sound without the larynx jumping up.

  • Drop and slide around on pitch. Drop the larynx, say “ah,” and slide around a little bit in pitch, almost like you’re saying “ah-hah.” This sound is the one you make when you finally understand what someone told you. Keep exploring the “ah-hah” or sliding around on pitch before moving on to the next suggestion.
  • Drop and sing. When you can keep the larynx steady while breathing or making simple sounds, try singing. Sing a simple two-note pattern or three-note pattern. Use this pattern, but sing it low in your range. When you’re confident that the larynx stays steady, you can gradually sing higher.
Leave a comment »