This article will focus on projection, phrasing, dynamics, and some falsetto.
One of the hardest things to do with singing is to sing at an audible level while being in control of your tone, pitch, phrasing, and technique. If you over-sing, not only will your throat hurt, but the muscles surrounding it will get sore, your mouth will get sore and tense, even your tongue and facial muscles can get sore. The trick is to sing, as the clich goes, from the diaphragm. Remember breathing correctly from the first article? That is the first step in projection.
The main technique to learn for projection is to relax in your throat while increasing your volume. Some ways of doing this is to clench up a foot instead of your throat, deeply bend your knees and then stand up again while getting tense, and open your embouchure more than you usually would. Acoustic singing in small environments shouldn't be too much of a problem, though. Visualize projecting your voice so the person in the back row can hear you loud and clear, even if you're singing a soft section of the music.
Projection with a microphone is a little different than an auditorium, as you can well imagine. There are the issues of feedback, volume control, balance, and anything that comes with electronics. The biggest issue with a microphone is distance. The farther you are from the microphone, the more sensitive it will have to be to pick up your voice. This means the microphone may have to be turned up so much it will pick up background noise or even the speakers, which will result in feedback. The simple solution is to modify the distance between you and the microphone. This is also the best solution for pickup and feedback problems.
When singing into a microphone, you don't want to eat it. That is when you hold it so close it's almost in your mouth. When you start off quietly and close, you don't want to suddenly go extremely loud without moving it away. This can be shocking to the audience, cause speaker problems, mixer problems, and annoy the sound engineer. Increasing the distance slightly as you rise in volume will ease the volume in while still creating a wonderful increase in sound. I cannot give any mathematical equations for how far to move per decibel, so it's a good idea to rehearse in a garage and/or at karaoke, or any place with an ample system.
Remember to sing to the back of the microphone, rather than just the head of it.
Phrasing And Dynamics
So now you can be heard, but do you actually have something that is a single sentence? Phrasing is the art or technique of bringing a sentence into music. Inserting breaths is the same as inserting a / in poetry for a new line. Barenaked Ladies, Sting, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and even Blink 182 use breathing and phrasing to enunciate different things in their music.
Showing the breathing pattern in the lines of the Beatles song She Loves You will show how breathing can accentuate lines and ideas. I'll show the breaths with asterisks (*) which are normally notated in written music as apostrophes ('). She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah * / She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah * / She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah * You think you've lost your love, * / When I saw her yesterday. */ It's you she's thinking of * / And she told me what to say. / She says she loves you * / And you know that can't be bad. * / Yes, she loves you * / And you know you should be glad. * Ooh! *
Notice how in the line And she told me what to say / She says she loves you they don't take a breath between thoughts. This strings it as a single idea, bringing it out and giving it emphasis outside of the line-breath-line pattern.
The easiest way to think of breathing and music is to think of it as a sentence. Would you say I like cheese or would you say I like. Cheese.? Breathing often acts as a period in your musical lines.
Even the Sex Pistols knew the concept of this. In Anarchy in the UK they sang I am an anti-Christ */ I am an anarchist */ don't know what I want / but I know how to get it */ I wanna destroy * passerby / 'cos I wanna be * anarchy. Notice their breathing pattern to accentuate their main point.
Dynamics are an integral part to phrasing. Dynamics are the part of going from soft to loud, loud to soft, loud to louder, soft to softer, etc. They are used in many ways to accentuate and build songs. Whether singing loud, louder, soft, or barely audible, you want to support your voice as best you can with proper breathing. In fact, if you pressurize your breath properly, you can sing loud and soft phrases even longer than if you don't pressurize at all.
Dynamics can really make a song sparkle and build. Notice how Blink 182, Sum 41, and Britney Spears all have just two or three dynamic levels which they switch between from verse to chorus and then verse. KoRn, Frank Sinatra, Matchbox 20, Jack Johnson, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, and System Of A Down all use dynamics which build up the song just until it's ready to start ending. They also use dynamics to shape single lines. Think of the line from System Of A Down's song Aerials: And we are the ones that want to choose / Always want to play / But you never want to lose. Remember how the singer drops his voice to a quieter tone when he says lose? That is a perfect example of using dynamics to shape a single line. You can also see the opposite effect when he sings We drink from the river / Then we turn around and put up our walls and sings louder with walls. He's simply accentuating the focus of the line.
I decided to touch on falsetto a bit on this article because there have been a lot of questions about it.
Falsetto is basically the technique you use when you sing higher than your normal voice. This can be heard with the BeeGees, The Four Seasons, and The Tokens (remember The Lion Sleeps Tonight?). This is also known as your head voice. Open up my clip Falsetto and you'll be able to know exactly what to do. The clip goes from a higher singing range into a falsetto range in an off-key scale. I'm sure everyone, at one point or another, has sung in their falsetto.
To project with your falsetto, you must take extra care to not tense up your throat. This is the hardest thing to do because more tension is required on your vocal cords to produce the higher tone. That tension comes from the muscles which act on your vocal cords. It's really quite easy to tense up your throat, so as you go higher remember to bend your knees or clench your feet (or whatever you do) to release that tension.
There is an area between your normal (chest) voice and your falsetto. This is called the passaggio, which is Italian for passage. Slowly warming up and singing scales up to and into your passaggio will decrease the range of it. A lot of passaggio follies can be exercised by singing louder or more forcefully until you can get the notes well enough to back off and sing more quietly into the problem areas.
That concludes this article of singing! The next one will cover exercises, voice maintenance, and whatever else I feel it needs or people request.