Find Your Voice Session Five – Tone and Resonance part 2

You’re over half way through the course and you’re learning material that will stand you in good stead to develop your voice well into the future. If you’ve succeeded in having some consistency with your vocal exercises you will now have better condition overall in your voice, you’ll be more accustomed to how things feel when they’re moving freely as opposed to how they feel when you’re not quite in the right gear for what you want to sing. You’ll have more of an idea where your sticking points are and how to work with them. 
This week we’re continuing to explore resonance, but from the point of view of removing obstacles to resonance. The tongue is sometimes called the enemy of the singer because it can really block all the resonance from the throat and larynx. Do the tongue flaps after NGs and lip trills, blow the rasperries, think about relaxing your tongue behind your lower teeth. We’ve already done some work on the onset of the sound with Hmm Haa Aaah in previous weeks and now we’re moving on to ga ga ga over an octave to help those cords stay connected. At this stage, it’s important to work in detail rather than in breadth. Aim to learn how to solve one problem with your material rather than to sing many things, as learning how to solve problems is going to be more useful to you in the long term.
Generally speaking, a song will have one or two parts that present more challenges – typically they may be higher in pitch – so focus on the activity that is going to progress those parts, or on getting as close to those parts as you can while maintaining the right vibration and coordination. Throwing the kitchen sink at the note and hitting the pitch but with terrible technique doesn’t help you get more consistent over time. Something else that will enhance your understanding of the resonance sessions is to look up your favourite vocalists and see how many different types of tone or delivery you can hear in a performance you enjoy. You will probably find that when you’re listening out for it, your ability to identify different resonances is sharper than it was before.
This week’s material also has bigger interval jumps. It’s generally harder to be accurate over great distances without specific practice (also, these are further away from the pitch ranges we move through in speech) and you’ll see your ease with bigger melodic intervals increase if you incorporate these. 

How to work on a song

This is a method for approaching songs you’d love to sing and actually get them to a point where you know them inside out, have put your own spin on them and can confidently sing them.

  1. Ordinary listening – listen through and get an overview of the song.
  2. Detailed listening to get the structure of the song. Count your way through it to identify when the vocals come in for the first section, whether there are gaps, how long the gaps last, when the other sections of the songs come in and out. Get really confident on this and on the lyrics.
  3. Detailed listening – listen through to see if you can notice some key features. You may need to listen several times to see if and when:m-the singer changes register-the singer varies the intensity or goes louder or softer-the singer changes the quality of their tone from connected to breathy or vice versa-the singer uses ornaments.
  4. Work out if there are any challenges. Does the song have a big leap between notes or go high or low? Sometimes it’s necessary to change the key of a song, but often we can overcome these challenges by working out how best to practice a small section of a song. If necessary, ask for support or get a second opinion on how to approach these challenges, although as time goes on you’ll get better at working out how to do this yourself.
  5. Work on these more challenging sections individually during your practice time. After a few days, ask yourself if they are becoming easier.
  6. Go through the lyrics and decide where you want to increase the intensity of your performance. Try each line out in a few different styles, using a looping software, so you craft each part of your performance.

What NOT to do:

  • Beware of straining during your practice. If something is causing you to strain, pause, and work out why that is and decide how to reduce the strain. Maybe you’re straining from a chest voice coordination when you need to transition to head voice. Maybe you’re backing off a note each time you sing it because you’re not quite certain what the note is.
  • Don’t just sing the song from beginning to end along to the original track, or don’t JUST/ONLY sing it this way. What happens when you do this is that you simply rehearse any mistakes or areas of weakness without ever fixing them., and you can do this fifty times over and still find once you remove the original singer you’re not entirely sure where to come in and what the structure of the song is. It’s not the best way to improve. It’s not that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself singing along to your favourite repertoire, it’s that you shouldn’t only (or mainly) do this.