If You Want to Sing…
You Have to Sing Everyday.
Whether a VO professional or a dedicated student, it’s happened to most of us. We hear ourselves singing a part in our heads (or in the shower) and we sound amazing! The tone, the phrasing, the delivery: it’s all happening.
We go into the session and the first take is a bit rough… still warming up.
The second take is a bit better in terms of the tone and delivery, but there’s all these notes that are just a little bit out of tune. It’s not like that one high note at the end that you can’t quite reach. It is a lot of little intonation problems through out the performance making the whole thing feel off or not quite right.
Then there’s the third take, technically it’s about the same as take two but now as you start to get nervous, your tone chokes up too.
By this time your dreading take four.
Imagine waking up from a coma…
You’re not going to go out and start running laps around the hospital. You will have to do a lot of physical therapy to re-train and rebuild all of those leg muscles.
Imagine learning to pitch a baseball right across the plate…
You can see yourself doing it, but when you first try it, it’s tough to even get in the strike zone much less right across the plate.
The difference with both of these situations is that you expect to have to practice to improve.
Singing is like talking, it is an internal process requiring no tool knowledge. The baseball is an external tool (to your body). With something that is external like a baseball, we expect to have to work to improve. With something as intrinsic as singing, we have a built in expectation that it should be as easy as speaking (a skill we develop in early childhood).
So the first thing we have to do is remove the frustration that comes from those false expectations and understand that improving your singing voice mostly requires a daily focused effort over an extended period of time.
A good singer makes the vocal feel as easy and natural as speech. In order to do that they have to sing everyday.
Look at it this way, when was the last time you went through an entire day without “practicing” your speaking? You don’t. Virtually every human on the face of the planet that is not “a mute” speaks everyday. That is why it’s so easy for all of us to speak and is also why we come to singing with false and frustrating expectations.
For the last few years I have been using a method book written by my friend and colleague Roger Love (RogerLove.com). While Roger has a number of publications (which I encourage you to check out as well), “Set Your Voice Free” is my favorite. I came to this book with a fair amount of experience singing in choirs as well as a BA in Music. Working with this book not only helped to really stabilize my pitch, but it has been really transformational for me to go from being “just a choir boy” to being able to cut lead vocals.
One of the first things I do when I start a musical artist in my development program is to make sure that they buy the book, read it cover to cover and work with the included practice CD every single day.
So just like my artists, I want you to “get your love on” everyday…
Do this and you will truly learn to love to sing!
It can help to develop a real world perspective on just what “being in tune” means. You can gain this perspective by listening to music that has not been tuned in post production.
A couple of examples of un-touched, organic intonation would be:
String quartet recordings. These are almost never manipulated in post production. The intonation is exactly as it was recorded in the studio. And, since it’s just a quartet, each player’s intonation is really exposed.
Frank Sinatra and other top drawer singers from an era when things were cut live in the studio because there were no multi-tracks, Autotune or anything else like that. With Frank, really try to hear how the master himself gets into the pitch of a given note, especially the first note of a phrase. You might be surprised.
In my own experience, how a singer gets in to and out of a pitch really defines not only their own personality but the culture that they inhabit as well.
Learn to love your voice just the way it comes out of your mouth. You’re the only one who can really sound like you.
The best singers I’ve worked with all tend use a little trick when they’re struggling with a part. They’ll go somewhere quite, just by themselves, and sing the part very slowly, just the phrase that’s giving them problems, just a syllable or two at time. While they might pull a single pitch off of an instrument, they’re still singing the part a cappella.
Here’s the thing, while many of us tend to think that it’s harder to sing a cappella, what it does do is allow you to really focus on what your doing without the distraction of singing to a track (or anything else).
Singing a cappella might seem counter intuitive if your already struggling with a part. Do not be surprised if your first attempts are a little bit rough. But, if you stick with developing this technique on a daily basis, within just a few weeks you should find it much easier.
Once your comfortable with the technique of singing very slowly a cappella, you should find that this approach really helps to dial in both the tone and the pitch.
To learn more about Gordon, check out his bio here
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