Singing. Part 4

The fourth, and possibly final part of articles with tips and tricks to help you sing.

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Welcome to part 4 of my singing tips and tricks articles. Part 1 can be found here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.

This article will cover vibrato, vocal warm-ups and other exercises, voice maintenance, and will touch on screaming. I will also list some examples of previous techniques which can be seen in singers.

Vibrato

Vibrato is a wonderful tool to use. You can hear vibrato anywhere from pop to rock, opera to jazz. Even instrumentalists use vibrato with their instruments.

The way vibrato works, vocally at least, is one of two ways. While the diaphragm is rising (pushing air out) is pulsates. This pulsation causes air to flow over the vocal cords in waves, causing a vibrato in volume and pitch. The second way it works is when air is passing through the vocal cords, they are tensing and relaxing, causing a vibrato in pitch. The biggest reason one would use vibrato is that it allows someone to stay in key more easily than holding a straight note. The slight fluctuation in pitch blends with instruments better than a pitch which holds no fluctuation.

The first vibrato can be heard well when Evanescence sings My Immortal. The second can be heard in most any rock or popular song.

How do you create vibrato? Well, reader, this is tricky to explain, but I will explain both.

For what I'll call diaphragmatic vibrato you're going to start by taking a breath in with your diaphragm. As you sustain a note, let your air out in waves, rather than just a single pressure. Open up my clip Diaphragmatic Vibrato to hear what this sounds like. This technique, when done properly, can extend the length you can hold notes, along with the benefit of being easier to sing in tune with the instruments.

For what I'll call cord vibrato you're going to sustain a note and make it raise and lower in pitch really fast. Open up my clip Cord Vibrato to hear what it sounds like. The advantage of this is that you can really do more things, tonally, than with diaphragmatic vibrato. The disadvantages are that you can easily go overboard and tense up your vocal muscles or go out of key more easily.

There are, of course, different vibrato styles one can use. You can start with a note, then slowly introduce vibrato (common in jazz), you can start with a small vibrato and widen it (common in jazz, opera, rock, pop), you can start with a wide vibrato and close it (jazz, opera), or stick with a single width of vibrato (anything). You can even play with any amount of vibrato you like! Japanese traditional music is known for a really wide vibrato, often three-quarters of an octave wide. It's easy to experiment with.

Screaming

I didn't want to touch on this subject because it's a dangerous thing to try. It's also really difficult to explain it. I would like to issue a disclaimer that I don't recommend using this technique for more than a few minutes at a time. I'd say more than 10 minutes per hour is excessive until you have mastered, mastered, mastered this technique.

The best way to scream is to create the distortion with moisture from the back of your throat. The sound will come from a strong, really strong diaphragmatic push (if you can't breathe from your diaphragm, or don't know what I'm talking about, refer to my first article here. This push will feel like when you pressurize your breath, but you won't be capping it off with the muscles of your throat. If you don't understand, just give it a try. Pressurize your breath, now scream with that pressure.

Of course, pushing from your diaphragm isn't the only way to scream. You can also push from your chest, which is what most amateurs do. This not only lasts shorter, but it also has a greater chance of straining your vocal cords. I highly recommend practicing screaming from your diaphragm.

To find that perfect spot of distortion, start by screaming at lower tones and finding your distortion at the low tones. Keep that distortion and raise up a few steps. Repeat. This will preserve your voice more than just diving in and hurting yourself will.

Vocal Exercises / Warm-Ups

Eddie, we already talk throughout the day. Why, in the billion brands of strings, should we warm up?

Well, patient reader, you use your hands for things all day, why would you warm up for guitar?

The vocal muscles used for talking are the exact same as for singing, they just move in different patterns and in greater (much greater) extremes for singing. Proper warm ups will prolong the use of your voice, not only in the present, but in the long term. In other words, if you warm up properly, not only can you sing all night, but you'll be able to sing all night for more years to come. A proper warm up will also make recovery faster if you happen to throw your voice out. A proper warm up will also increase how well you enunciate words.

Vocal exercises are good to use as warm ups, but are also good to increase your range. I know two exercises which I use to increase my range. I will explain these further on. Remember, most warm ups you hold the last note slightly.

Warm Up 1: This is a simple octave scale. The root note is one. The second note is two, third is three, etc. up until note 8. At the eighth note, you will start to descend. The way to sing this is 1 2, 1 3, 1 4, 1 5, 1 6, 1 7, 1 8, and then back down 8 7, 8 6, 8 5, 8 4, 8 3, 8 2, 8 1. This is a basic scale and very good to just see how your voice is doing today. Open up Warm Up 1 to hear it.

Warm Up 2: This is a slight twist on the octave scale. It's really good to do this a half or whole step higher than the first warm up. You will sing the number of the root note, then the next note, then the root note. Example 1 2 1, 1 3 1, 1 4 1, etc. up until the eighth. At the eighth, you will go down 8 7 8, 8 6 8, 8 5 8, all the way to 8 1 8. Open up Warm Up 2 to hear it.

Warm Up 3: This is a continuation on the octave scale. As you warm up and increase the complexity of the exercise, you should increase the pitch by a whole or half step. You will sing the root number, the next number, the root again, and then the next number. Example: 1 2 1 2, 1 3 1 3, 1 4 1 4 and descending 8 7 8 7, 8 6 8 6, 8 5 8 5. Open up Warm Up 3 to hear what it sounds like.

You can take any of these warm ups and play around with the numbers (i.e. 1 2 1 3, 1 3 1 7, 1 4 2 1). You can make them as fun or as boring as you'd like. It's just like any warm up on the fret board, only you're using your voice.

Warm ups for enunciation: I've always been a fan of an old choir warm up. The words are Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do. The pronunciation is Looooocy, you got some 'splainin' to do Open up Lucy! to hear how it sounds. You can sing this all the way up and all the way down your range.

I also use Big black bears eat big black bugs to warm up my mouth. Sing this slowly at first, then increase the pitch and the speed. It can get tricky!

Vocal Expansion Exercise 1: This will help increase your top pitch. It's also really easy to do, so easy that I won't load a sound clip. Warm up fully. Now take a scale as high as you can go and force yourself to not use falsetto when it becomes uncomfortable. Only go out of your comfort zone for 3 notes maximum. Try again. And again. And again.

Vocal Expansion Exercise 2: This is lovingly called frying bacon in some choirs. You know when you can make that low noise with your voice? Make it. Open up my clip Frying Bacon to hear it. This can dramatically lower your bottom note.

The best way to warm up is slowly. The best place to do it is in a warm, humid place. I warm up every day ('cause I sing a lot at random times) in the shower. This is ideal because of the humidity and the heat. Other good places are while you drive (alone) even though you may not have a reference of pitch, or anytime you have some time alone.

These exercises aren't the only ways to warm up, not by a long shot. You can sing songs to warm up, you can sing random notes to warm up, but you have to sing to warm up.

Vocal Maintenance

This is a very, very important part of these articles. It is also going to be quite small. I will give you a few tips on maintaining your voice and throat.

Get a humidifier. This will help your voice stay in shape and will also help your immune system stay functional.

Drink lots of water. This is great for you. The best water you can drink is filtered room temperature water. Ice water and hot water can affect your throat and take longer to absorb, but the important thing is to drink water. Again, drink water. One more time, say it with me: drink water.

Avoid diuretics. A diuretic is something that sucks water from your body. Some examples would be coffee, soda, tea, and alcohol. All of these affect your voice and how much water your body holds onto. If you drink enough water to counterbalance these (8 o. z. of water for every cup of coffee, etc.) then you shouldn't have a problem. Again, drink water.

Warm up your voice, even if it's for 30 seconds. Just get some range out on it. It will help you dramatically.

Some people have been asking me for examples of techniques in music. I will list a few here now.

  • For falsetto: Prince - Kiss, Tokens - The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Bee Gees - Stayin' Alive, Eagles - One Of These Nights (in the end of the chorus, when they sustain nights) and Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven (some parts of the chorus and outro).

  • For head voice: Led Zeppelin (most of their higher notes), Guns 'N' Roses (most of Axl Rose's higher stuff), Third Eye Blind - Semi Charmed Life (when they hold Goodbye), Maroon 5 - She Will be Loved, Journey - Don't Stop Believin'.

  • For low voices: Bloodhound Gang, George Thorogood, Perfect Circle, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (females with low voices).

    Credits

    I would like to thank everyone for reading these articles. I really appreciate the support. I would like to thank BMAN12688 for helping me out with the list of examples, all the moderators for keeping this website sane, and Zappp for creating this amazing site.

    As usual, if you have any comments or questions, you can e-mail me at thegr8singingblade@NOSPAMyahoo.com, AIM at AlmityEdo, Yahoo! at thegr8singingblade, and MSN at thegr8singingblade@NOSPAMhotmail.com. Thank you.

  • 65 comments sorted by best / new / date

      DownDark
      I was wondering if you could please make one more singing topic that explains singing in words that most people will understand. I don't know what a diaphragm is or how exactly to use my head voice or chest voice. Please help me and give me a link to a "vocal dictionary", if you will.
      guitaraddict
      Most songs are higher in pitch in the chorus then the verse cause they need more volume in the chorus. I've sung some songs in my band which are low in pitch during the chorus. But I can't put enough volume to reach my band members. We play (loud!) grunge music (maybe that's the reason?). Please help.
      BoBzombIE16
      hey! this didn't help much. i just joined a band and im one of the background singers. i need to add some flava' to the song we're trying to sing...
      Codonah
      I Love It Sabre. It's Great Advice. I Love How You Stress So Much About Drinking Enough Water. It Really Is Nesecary To Drink Water. 5 Stars
      SingingSabre
      These articles apply to all ranges of voices, not just tenor and soprano, Dan.
      societies_worm
      DUDE thanks a whole hell of alot man i rea through all your lessons and amazing man, i feeel way more confident about my singing, thanks alot man i and not only i but i know all of us appreaciate this. THANKS!!!!
      Bored_as_Hell
      wow, interesting. I'll try this stuff out. I'm a singing novice, with mediocre range and control, so this is mostly new to me. excellent examples in the links.
      jaymyvendetta
      Thankyou for these, just found them and i finally have some excercises to do to improve my voice, i'm sure they'll help no end!
      mic16k
      i actually read this one site that said diaphragmatic vibrato is not the way to do it... true?
      MorgothAkerfelt
      Hey, very good series of articles, but you left baritones completely out of the mix, and Ive been taught thats its not just the range that determines which voice type you lean towards but the tone aswell, for example I can sing some high stuff (hope leaves by Opeth for example) but I sound a hell of a lot better singing lower stuff (like nothing else matters) And On the screaming, a lot of people (myself included) scream on their falsetto, I used to use the moisture/pressure technique but It seems to be very quiet, hard to control and unreliable. The technique with your falsetto is to simply scream using it instead of your chest voice, it sounds terrible for about six months and then as you gain control you can lower the pitch of it drastically. This technique is very difficult but (i think) its th best way, I know that the chick from Arch-Enemy does this, and apparently so oes Mikael Akerfield (listen to Opeths early stuff and his scream is much higher, this technique causes your falsetto's lower range to increase)For me atleast I really enjoy doing death metal vocals like this, it (should always be) totally painfree, if it hurts, stop immediately. But I go to concerts and cheer like this because its much easier on my voice. Awesome article, I am going to use the warmups.
      toshiro umezewa
      none of the sound clips on his DM music acount work for me :/ they all have 0 length and says i cant download them
      snowboarder371
      very helpful article. =] one thing i was wanting to know though is how to train your ear for its not as tone deaf ? if u could tell me any advice that would be aprreciated thanks.
      SingingSabre
      Ramco: Some people consider their voice right before their passaggio to be their head voice, others consider it to be their middle voice. Also, some use "head voice" and "falsetto" interchangably -- some don't.
      klownthekiller
      i been trying to do the screaming but my troath goes dry sometimes its judt fine any tip on how i can improve that
      ITHIKA
      Entertainers Secret Throat Spray is the key to longivity in your voice. All the biggest acts in music use it. Check out there site and I highly recomend buying a couple bottles, you will hear and feel the difference instantly.. If you smoke give it up, You'll never have much of a range! Nick ITHIKA Vox www.ithikaband.com entertainers secret throat spray www. entertainers-secret.com
      Hpda5121
      well, if i could vote 6 stars i would, but unfortunately i cant.....sry
      Flowerpot
      Good article very informative, although I won't try the techniques, i'm not singer. Still, really great piece.
      Diceman42
      I'm not gonna bother posting a comment as this was another awesome article... oh wait. Well done.
      ad_lib_oz
      Ahem I always thought that falsetto and head voice were the same thing. In choir here we call our lower voice the chest voice. Meh!
      Ramco
      Ahem I always thought that falsetto and head voice were the same thing. In choir here we call our lower voice the chest voice. Meh!
      He totally screwed that one up. Falsetto and head voice are the same thing. Middle voice is what he's talking about when he says head voice, and chest voice is the lower range that most people use.