Find Your Voice Session Eight

So, you made through eight weeks of exercises, practice, showing up to sessions and you now know a whole lot more about how to use your voice than you used to. If you’re like most people, maybe sometimes you felt like you were having a breakthrough or at least seeing some improvement, and other times you felt frustrated and possibly confused. All of these things mean you’re invested in seeing development, and if you persist you will continue to improve. It’s a great achievement to have completed this extra study on top of the demands of your personal and professional life – congratulations!
The challenges we commonly face when developing a new skill or extending one you already possess fall into the category of knowledge and understanding, moving out of your comfort zone and being consistent enough to see results. If it was only information we needed to make positive changes, we would all eat perfectly, speak five languages and make totally rational choices all the time. But that’s not usually how it works. Most people struggle to be consistent with activities they undertake. If this doesn’t apply to you, then that’s fantastic and you just carry on doing what you’re doing! If you’re anything like most people, then perhaps you find it tough to be consistent about things at times. Your feelings about whether you’re enjoying doing the exercises can fluctuate. But if how you feel about something on a moment to moment basis is what decides whether you take action or not, at best progress is going to be slow – because sometimes you’ll feel into it and sometimes you won’t. It’s hard enough when you’re getting a session every week but even harder when there isn’t that prod. So – how are you going to build on your start and ensure that your short term changes in mood and motivation don’t sabotage your long term desire to develop your voice and your confidence and the music you can freely make?
The best thing to do is to set achievable goals and small steps. So – if you identified one aspect of your technique as the biggest obstacle, focus on that for another 3-4 weeks. If the technical stuff is coming on fine but you’re finding it hard to let go, try some of the improvisation material, and experiment with altering the melody of one of the songs you’ve looked at, and keep working regularly with slides in the warm up as they help you get used to releasing plenty of sound.
If you want to be able to do licks and runs, pick one or two and really work on them for a month. Then add another. The more you do, the more you’re able to do. The place where you put your attention and focus tends to be the area of your life where things blossom.
The material for this session is to do with more advanced strengthening and agility, and also vibrato. Vibrato is an oscillation between two pitches and you’ll have heard this singers use this many times before. It’s a major part of classical technique and you hear it in contemporary styles too, often at the end of a phrase. There’s no requirement to have vibrato in your voice in order to sound good or be a ‘good singer’, but it’s a common enough stylistic feature that it warrants examining in a foundational course. You may already have some vibrato in your voice naturally, but if you don’t and you want some, this is what you can do to develop it (having done your foundational warm ups first).
1. Lip roll pitch shift, like a motorbike starting.
2. Going from one pitch to a neighbouring pitch slowly and then going faster. (You don’t want to shake the larynx or the stomach to produce the oscillation in the pitch. ) And for strengthening and agility:
3. Me Ah on a 1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1 (vibrato may creep in at the end).
4. Ha hey – extending your range and breath and diaphragm support – cord coordination. Twice on each with the ‘hey’ legato the second time. 1 1 1 1 5 4 3 2 1
5. Er/Uh two octave scale – keep larynx low and tongue relaxed. E – B

Backing Tracks For Session Eight

As a general rule, only go as far as is comfortable. Every day will be different and sometimes you may have more flexibility. Over time as you develop you’ll be able to go further, and you’ll also be able to retain the awareness as you extend more to relax your face and jaw after each ‘effort’.

NG Slide

Lip roll slide

Aaah oooh aaah slide

Slide backing only for any exercise (including chin hold)

Nay Nay Nay

Staccato Ti Ti Ti

Ong siren

Liprolls on a long scale

Descending Ahs

‘AH’ ascending in patterns

Eee -81 83 85 8

‘O’ sound 1 3 5 6

OO – ah

Ee ee hey hey hey agility

Liproll ‘engine’ sound for vibrato

Semitone pitch shift for vibrato

Me Ah

Ha Hey


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.