I believe singing is something we’re designed by God to do and enjoy, but it’s becoming a lost art for most people. It’s my belief that it is not black or white on whether you can or cannot ever sing. Like running or weightlifting, two other activities we’re designed to do, I believe that with training we can improve. No one is born an Olympic athlete, just like no one is born a pop star. I believe we all have the potential just waiting to be unlocked if we use the right keys.
Key 1: Breathing
Remember the bellows illustration from the previous post and imagine each breath filling those lungs as much as you can. We’re not just taking a “deep breath” like you do at the doctor’s: we’re expanding more than just the upper chest. You want to breathe in so deep your abdomen expands—your lungs have gotten so big they’re pushing your guts out the way! Then, on breathing out, we have to control how quickly or slowly we let that air out.
Key 2: Volume
With plenty of air in storage, we can have plenty of volume when we breathe out in a controlled manner. All that air will rush out of your bellows across the vocal folds. But don’t strain that throat or that neck: that won’t get the good, sustainable volume we want. Sure it’ll be loud for a bit, but you might hurt yourself. Instead picture in your mind your accessory muscles of exhalation, pushing out all the air from the bellows. Let the muscles do the hard work, not your poor throat. The throat is just the tube at the tip of those bellows where the air comes out: it’s just meant to stay open. And it’s easier to keep it open if you relax the throat rather than strain it. Straining actually causes the throat to tighten and close.
Key 3: Posture
Standing up straight makes a world of difference. By this I mean the natural S-curve of the spine is maintained, with your eyes looking forward, and your jaw opening down when you sing (as opposed to your head swinging back!). But it’s also important not to be stiff. Relax those shoulders, don’t strain that neck (or throat!), and let your arms be free to move in order to be expressive while you sing. Soon, the better you get at proper posture, you learn how to bend the rules to become freer in your movement, to the point you can even dance.
Key 4: Diction
Basically, good diction means our words are pronounced clearly. We want to be understood and not produce what are called mondegreens, or misheard lyrics. A quite famous mondegreen is “I am blue if I were green I would die” from the song I’m Blue by Eiffel 65. The lyric is actually “I am blue da ba dee da ba dai.”
Key 5: Practice
The only way to improve is with practice. This is how we learned to speak, how to walk, and how to drive. We might think we just aren’t born with the talent, but think about it: who was born with the talent to drive a several ton aluminum and steel vehicle? Yet most of us drive anyway.
Practice should also be guided. That is, we should have a purpose and train, rather than haphazardly do this and that. Even though progress can be made without structure (just look at toddlers learning to speak), specific, purposeful training makes progress consistent and faster. Train like you would your muscles: go with a program rather than just lift random dumbbells a few times and maybe then use the row machine for a few minutes. As for singing, training includes practicing things like scales and learning song lyrics by heart. We’ll talk more specifics in a later post.
Stay tuned for more on singing!