I had THE best time teaching this spring at the Folk Project Summer Getaway weekend. One of the classes I taught was vocal techniques and tips. I thought I'd post my notes here in case any of you singers out there could use what I've learned over the years! And if you're interested in private lessons, let's talk!
Vocal Techniques and Tips
By Louise Mosrie
- Authenticity – literally the #1 thing to be concerned with while singing. Sing with your natural voice…meaning don’t imitate other singers’ styles. There’s lots to learn from other great singers – like Billie Holiday or Frank Sinatra – phrasing, enunciation and tone – but don’t “try” to sing like them unless you’re doing Karaoke.
- Warm Up – Gentle, gentle, gentle. Start with humming scales then sing the scales (Do Re Mi…) up and down without pushing. Find a song with some range that you can sing without pushing hard (Amazing Grace). Stretch your face, jaw and neck.
- Breathe – Breathe from your belly – filling up with air from the abdomen upwards. Get into your body and out of your head. Put your hand below your navel and sing from there. Try to inhale through your nose in between phrases. Tension is usually the culprit in all singing issues.
- Posture – Stand up whenever possible while singing. If not, sit on the edge of the chair or stool and straighten up. Give your lungs room. Chin down. Relax the shoulders.
- Placement – Sing into your “mask”. Imagine an oxygen mask over your nose and mouth. Aim the vibrations into that space as much as possible – not singing from your throat or the back of your mouth. Pursing your lips while you sing helps this. Watch Gwen Stefani sing – chin down, lips pursed.
- Pitch – Correct “mask” placement will help with correcting pitch. Also, if you tend to sing flat – raise your eyebrows (but not too much!) – it naturally lifts your soft palate and helps bring the note up. Tension causes most pitch problems. Open your mouth wider when you sing and keep your tongue down. No one cares what you look like when you’re singing – just that you sound amazing.
- Hydrate - Drink water and then more water. Get fully hydrated before performing. Start in the morning. Don’t just guzzle a ton of water before you hit the stage (you’ll be sorry!).
- Stage fright – we all get it at all levels. You are there to communicate – so focus on that and not what the audience is thinking of you. Communicate with your audience as if you were just having a casual conversation. What are you trying to tell them? Just tell your story. They are rooting for you. Stop thinking about technique at this point and just sing. Behavioral psychology – before performing, clench your fists and talk to your body and mind with a mantra that you connect with. Mine is: “I am solid. I am strong. I got this. “
- Find a vocal coach – Celine Dion has a vocal coach and so should we all. Try learning songs NOT in the genre you usually perform. Learning Italian arias, Blues or Jazz standards will help your singing technique immensely.
10. Be Present – seriously. Get out of your head. Rehearse like crazy. Practice good technique. Take lessons. But when you get in front of an audience to perform, be there. Stop thinking. Just sing and enjoy it. You’ll be great.