Monday, August 3, 2009

Free Singing Tips - Learning New Songs in 6 Simple Steps

Why is it that some students can easily learn numerous songs in a short amount of time, but others struggle to make improvement on a small number of tunes after many tiring practice sessions? When students seem to be on the slow side of this process we always revisit how they are spending their practice time.

Keep in mind that while it would be great if singing students sang their assignments every day, the real world says that more practice time gets accomplished in the car when singing to the radio and simply singing the songs they love. Let's face it, when you love a song and you listen to music regularly, you listen to that song over and over again. So we place a lot of concentration on how to apply good singing skills to ANY song they want to sing.

Learning a Song in 6 Easy Steps

1. Listen to the song without making a sound. If you can anticipate what is coming next (including lyrics) then you are ready to move on to the next step.

This is probably the hardest step for most singers. If a song moves you, you want to wail it not LISTEN to it, right? If you are one of those singers that just has to go for it, be smart about it. Follow good boundaries and recognize those sections that don't come easily to you. Remember, muscles have memories. If you consistently sing a song with poor vocal skills, the memory of the involved muscles will include those poor skills. Breaking a bad habit in singing is much more difficult than creating a good habit from the get go.

2. Hum the song. Make sure that you feel the buzzing sensation in the front of your face; moving up and down your face as your pitch changes. Your goal is to make that buzzing very specific with each note -- just as if you were playing specific notes on a piano.
(If you need more information on Tone Placement, see Singing is Easy, Lesson #6).

If you are new to this process, you may need to repeat this step many times. Be sure to monitor your airflow. TIP: Your notes need to be connected on an airflow river, not resembling someone standing on the shore skipping stones.

When you can hum the song completely with ease, connecting the notes on your airflow and feeling very specific about the buzzing sensations on your face, you are ready to move to the next step.

3. Sing the song with the lyrics at a very natural volume, don't push and don't hold back...find the balance. Your goal is to place the words in exactly the same place that you felt the buzzing sensation when you were humming. Sometimes creating words makes us move the articulation arbitrarily around our mouth and makes singing much harder than it needs to be. Keep the words focused where you felt the buzzing and you will have more success. When you can sing the song easily at a comfortable natural volume with good vocal tone, you are ready to move to the next step.

4. Review the lyrics for performance purposes. With each stanza assign a one word adjective that best describes how you want the audience to feel during your song delivery. This adjective is the emotion you put on your face, in your vocal tone and in your body language during your performance of that song portion. So if you believe the main adjective for a stanza is "hopeful", it is much easier to perform hopeful than all the many words included in the lyrics. Try it, it really works. For those students that have never had acting training and feel a bit self conscious, this usually does this trick and helps them perform very moving performances...very quickly.

The only rule is you cannot use the same adjective twice. Remember, how do you want your audience to feel? Perception is everything.

5. Now you are ready to perform your song at a comfortable natural volume using everything you have practiced so far: good tone placement, good airflow, etc., AND add the emotional performance to the mix. I usually recommend sitting down for this step. In fact, to make the most progress I recommend that part of the performance practice be confined to the face. If you can move your audience with just your voice and your facial expressions, that's an accomplishment. Use your body and movement as an embellishment, not something that your performance relies on for success.

The comfortable, natural volume is very important. If you are using poor vocal mechanics you will be unable to create some notes without "belting them" and that needs to be addressed. Keep in mind that although it is a natural comfortable volume, you should not sacrifice your vocal tone. Think of it like when you turn the radio down. You still hear the peaks and valleys of the song, still crystal clear, just at a lower volume. This is your goal as you perform this step.

6. Perform with full movement and voice, adding stylistic nuances where appropriate. Be sure to use a mirror to help you make good choices. If you have followed the other steps correctly, by this step you will naturally begin to sing with more power as you become more comfortable with the song, the power properly reflecting the emotional peaks and valleys.

Again, if you are new to this process you might have to repeat each step several times. Singers that use this technique regularly will find that it gets easier and easier, and that songs are learned more completely with great speed.
"I encourage each and every one of you to share yourself through sincere song performance. Don't settle for just good singing, strive to be a true musician that breathes life into every tone."

(© Yvonne DeBandi)

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1 comment:

  1. great tips! thank you so much, singing really is a journey. so much to be learnt. my biggest tip would be never to give up, if frustration gets the best of you maybe practice with just humming or something but never give up. peace