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Free information guides, resources and articles about singing and performing

About Performing

About Performing

See our guides about singing and performing.  With helpful tips and great advice

Audition Advice Whether you wish to be the next superstar, or just want a place in a band, choir or musical production, having a successful singing audition will help you achieve your dream.

Using Backing Tracks Backing tracks are audio recordings or computer generated music files that bands/singers play/sing along to.  They may also be known as playbacks, jam tracks, instrumental practice or rehearsal tracks.

Charisma – That Elusive X-Factor  The dictionary describes Charisma as: ‘A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm’. ‘Personal magnetism or charm’. ‘A personal attractiveness that enables you to influence others’.

Worry About Forgetting Your Lyrics We’ve all forgotten our lyrics at some point or another.  You’re mind’s gone blank.  A cold sweat is quickly breaking out on your back, Your audience is looking up at you. What do you do now? Have a back up plan:

Mic Technique  This is just a basic guide into microphones.  Know how to hold a microphone. Learn some mic technique for vocals and how to get the best from your microphone.

Performance Blues What happens if you don’t you love to sing anymore?  Here’s some ideas to help you overcome it:

How To Be More Confident  Feel too nervous to get up and have a go? – You are not alone. Many professional singers suffer with nerves before they sing live!   To sing with confidence? Try the following tips…

Singing With Emotion When you need to work on emotive singing, try our free vocal exercise to to help you discover singing with different emotions.

Stage Fright You hear yourself being introduced.  Your mouth runs dry.  Your heart is pounding in your chest.  There are butterflies in your stomach and you’re ready to flee…

Glossary Of Singing Terms

glossaryofsingingterms

Successful Singing’s Glossary Of Singing Terms:

A Cappella: Singing without any form of instrumental accompaniment.

Accompaniment: The instrumentation that plays beneath the singing.

Accompanist:  A pianist who plays music beneath the singing.

Adducted: The term for vocal cords getting pulled together when you sing high up in your vocal range.

Alto:  Low Female Voice

Aria: In opera, a song, especially a solo.

Arpeggio:  A staggered scale going up and down in small intervals, most commonly on the 1st,3rd, 5th and 8th notes of an octave.

Baritone: Male voice located between bass and tenor in range and tone quality.

Ballad:  A slow tempo, sentimental or romantic song.

Bel Canto: (Beautiful Singing) Singing that focuses on beautiful sound, not on acting or emotion. It’s characterized by ornate vocal style.

Belting: Using excessive air flow and vocal cord tension in an attempt to sing louder

Adam’s Apple: Common term used to describe the part of the larynx (voice box) which protrudes from the front of the neck. More noticeable in men than women.

Blend: In solo singing, the smooth transition between the head and chest voice. Or, when more than one individual is singing, the sound combination between singers, which preferably makes it difficult to pick out one singer’s voice amid the group.

Break: The sudden change in tone between the head and chest voice, caused by vocal tension. When a singer hits his or her break, there may be a sound that is jarring and ugly. This can be avoided with good vocal technique.

Breath Support: Efficient use of the singer’s stream of breath, controlled primarily by the diaphragm.

Catch Breath: A quick, short, unobtrusive breath.

Cave: The round shape at the back of the mouth.

Centred: Everything balanced, working as one.  Getting the greatest amount of power from your voice, using the least amount of effort.

Chest Resonance: The resonance sounds it comes from the chest area.

Chest Voice: Also known as “chest register.” The lower notes of a singer’s range; in the same general range as the speaking voice. When singing in the chest voice, the vocal cords become naturally thick, and the resulting sound is generally associated with deep, warm tones.  Achieved by using resonance and voice placement.

Consonant: A speech sound produced as the result of a temporary partial or complete constriction of airflow (b d f g l etc)

Diaphragm:  The dome shaped muscle attached to the bottom of the lungs that separates your chest and stomach cavities. Its main function is to initiate inhalation.

Diction: The clear pronunciation of words. This requires attention to both consonants and vowels. Different types of music may require more or less diction; for example, in musical theatre, it’s essential that the audience understand the lyrics, but in jazz or blues, the singer may occasionally slur words on purpose in order to achieve a desired sound. Good diction helps produce good sound, however, so all singers should pay attention to it.

Dynamics: The variations of soft and loud singing in a given song.

Epiglottis:  The leaf-like cartilage that separates the functioning of your oesophagus (channel to stomach) from the functioning of your trachea (channel to the lungs).

Exercise: In singing, a device (a note or sequence of notes sung in a certain manner) used to condition and/or strengthen your vocal muscles to work with the proper airflow.

Falsetto: (False Singing)In male singers, a high register (actually, sung in the female range) similar to the head voice. However, unlike the head voice, falsetto cannot blend with the chest voice.  Female’s can also sing in a falsetto range.  It has a Minnie Mouse Sound about it

Flat:  To be under the correct pitch, not quite in tune.

Forced:  Singing that is forced may sound strained, and is accompanied by unnecessary tension in the throat.

Full Voice:  As loud as a person can sing without creating imbalance between airflow and vocal cord tension. Also refers to a tone that has a balanced resonance quality.

Hard Palate: The hard area of the roof of your mouth, just behind your teeth.

Head Resonance: The Resonance is created within the head cavity. Chest Resonance is created within the chest cavity.

Head Voice: Also known as “head register.” Singing in the higher part of the range. While singing in the head voice, the vocal folds are thin; the head voice is usually associated with light, bright sounds.  Falsetto is resonated in a head voice.

Imagery: The situations, people, or emotions a singer pictures in his or her head while they sing, in order to achieve emotion and a good level of acting in their songs. Imagery may also be used to help a singer achieve better vocal technique.

Intonation: The relation of one note to another, and the relative pitching of each note. Could mean singing in tune or not.

Karaoke:  A music entertainment where the singer sings along to a pre-recorded track and follows the lyrics on a video screen.

Larynx:  The organ at the top of your trachea (windpipe) made up of cartilages, ligaments and muscles. Inside, attached from front to back are your vocal cords. Certain muscles of your larynx affect the tension of your vocal cords as they work with air from your lungs in producing vocal sound.

Legato: Singing as though all the notes were tied together; the notes flow together smoothly.

Major Scale: A diatonic scale with notes separated by whole tones except for the 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th.

Mask: The area around and including the eyes which is often used to create head resonance.

Metronome:  A mechanical or electrical instrument that makes repeated clicking sound at an adjustable pace.  Used fo marking rhythm in practicing music.

Middle Voice: The middle range or register of the voice when singing or speaking.  Achieved by resonance and voice placement.

Minor Scale: A diatonic scale with notes separated by whole tones except for the 2nd, 3rd, 5th & 6th.

Nasal: When the voice is focused purely around the nose and nasal area.

Nodes:  A type of polyp on the vocal cords that prohibits good singing. When vocal cords get irritated (from fatigue, poor technique, an infection, etc.), they swell. Singing repeatedly with swollen vocal cords causes nodes. The only way to know if you have or are developing nodes is to go to a throat specialist (ENT). If you have frequent hoarseness or a constant sore throat, see one immediately. Treatment is usually rest, although surgery may be required in severe cases.

Over breathing: Taking a huge breath in and then constricting the lungs, making it difficult to sustain a note.

Phrasing:  Refers to the breaths or “stops” in-between notes. Natural phrasing will include “stops” after all periods, commas, semicolons, or colons. Additional phrasing may be necessary for the singer to take catch breaths                                    or to achieve a certain style. It’s an excellent idea for singers to sit down with sheet music in hand and                                                 mark their phrasing before they begin to sing. This helps prevent unexpected losses of breath and                                                       awkward phrasing that draws attention to itself.

Pitch:  The sound of a particular note. When pitch is referred to, it’s usually in reference to being “on” or “off” pitch. “On pitch” means the singer is singing in tune. “Off pitch” means the singer is either flat or sharp.

Placement: A singing technique that uses the sensation of vibrations in the head to achieve healthy sound that resonates and carries well. Most healthy singing is done in what is often referred to as “forward placement” (or “the mask”), with vibrations behind the teeth/lips, on the cheekbones, and sometimes the forehead and/or nose. The resulting sound is full, not nasally or thin.

Projection:  Generally, the ability to be heard by the audience. Sometimes also refers to the ability to communicate emotion to the audience, as in “she projects great sadness.”

Pure Note: A clear, sustained note with a controlled breath and without vibrato.  To create a true pure note, everything needs to be in balance.  Placement of the note and vowel, diaphragmatic control and vocal cords energized yet relaxed.

Range:  Refers to the notes that a given performer can sing comfortably.

Repertoire: The songs a singer knows and can perform well.

Resonance:  Occurs naturally when the voice is free to travel through the cavities above your vocal cords, where it is modified and amplified before leaving your mouth. It determines the final quality of your tone and makes your voice sound different from anyone else’s.

Reverb:  A termed used by musicians, and sound engineers for reverberation.  Usually created by a machine, or mixing desk, it gives the voice more colour, tone and presence. Usually used in studio’s and live performances.

Scale:  A series of notes differing in pitch according to a specific scheme (usually within an octave)

Sharp: To be above the note (often the result of oversinging) when you can’t hear yourself properly, so you are not in tune.

Sight Singing: The ability to look at sheet music and read sing it with near-perfection. Most professional singers can read music and sight read with at least some accuracy.

Siren Sound: Making a sound like an old-fashioned war siren.

Soft Palate: The fleshy part at the back of the mouth.

Solar Plexus: Located at the centre and base of the ribs, the soft part just above the stomach. The centre of diaphragmatic power.

Soprano:  High Female Voice

Staccato: The opposite of Legato. Each note is separate from the one before and after it.

Swallowing the Note: Pushing down too far on the larynx, strangling the vocal cords.

Tenor: Highest male voice

Tone: The quality of your voice that results from the resonance reinforcement of the tone initially produced in your larynx.

Transpose: To change the key of a song; to lower or raise the notes of a song or a portion of a song.

Vibrato:  A slight, but regular fluctuation in your tone. Caused by the normal relaxation and contraction of the vocal muscles as they are activated by alternating nerve impulses. Gives and “energy” to the tone during the vibration process.

Vocal Cords: Two muscular folds that connect from the inside front to the inside back of your larynx. Their change in thickness and vibrating length, due to adjustment in tension, affects the pitch and intensity of your tone.  Also called “Vocal Folds.”

Vowel:  A specific resonance structure through which a tone is sustained. Produced primarily by altering the size and shape of the mouth cavity and changing the position of the tongue, which determines how the resonance cavities will reinforce certain frequencies of the initial cord tone. The result of each alteration is a recognizable sound – Ah Oh Eh Ee Oo.

Warm-up:  Anything that helps the singer prepare for a rehearsal or performance. Typically, a warm up consists of vocal exercises, such as running scales.

 

clarity trio summer

Love Your Voice

LOVE YOUR VOICELove Your Voice

 

As a singer, you will only have the one instrument to work with.  It cannot be repaired, replaced or upgraded.  You will need to look after your voice and give it the love and attention it needs to stay in shape.

We have all know that awful feeling when we have a gig/audition/rehearsal/recording session and have woken up with a croaky/hoarse/sore throat.  You’ve lost the top end of your range, have found some amazing strange sounds at the bottom, and the notes in the middle sound nothing like what they usually sound like.

These problems can occur for a number of reasons, but they usually boil down to a few predicable factors:  You’ve got a cold, had a few too many the night before, too much shouting, you’re stressed… the list goes on.

Whether it’s down to a cold or lifestyle, there’s lots that we can do to help ourselves look after our voice.

Drink plenty of water.  If drinking milk makes  you produced more mucous, avoid it on days that you sing.  Caffeinated drinks can be diuretic, minimize the amount you drink. Herbal tea or Honey and Lemon with hot water is a soothing drink.

Stretching

We all know that we are supposed to warm-up our voice before we start to sing.  Use your favourite vocal exercises, or ask a vocal coach if you are not sure.   But stretch your body too. Look at your posture.  Go through a basic stretch routine which allows you to stretch your whole body – arms, legs, torso, head and neck.  You will feel better for it.

Don’t forget to cool-down after singing too.  A few gentle exercises to help the muscles of your larynx to relax

Technique

Learn different techniques that will help you exercise your voice, work on its agility, but also work on developing your tone and resonance.

Diet

Look after yourself and eat healthy.  Minimize the amount of processed food you eat a week, and replace it with home-cooked meals with lots of fruit and veg.  Drink less alcohol and give up smoking.

Certain foods may increase reflux or mucous production around your throat.  Once you have discovered what these are, then avoid eating them on the days that you sing.

Its worth investing in a vocal spray for the days when your voice is uncooperative. Opt for a glycerine base rather than an alcohol base spray

Rest

Get plenty of rest, relaxation and sleep.  If your body is tired or stressed, then your voice is going to be tired or stressed.  A singer who is tired is almost always going to be pushing for tone and power in their voice.  Eventually this will set them up for voice problem or even damage.  Don’t forget to give your voice a regular day off too.  Singing or talking day after day without a rest is going to cause voice problems.

Steam

Get into the habit of steaming your voice.  It’s simple to do.  Simply pour some hot water into a bowl.  Place a towel over your head (and bowl) and inhale through both your nose and mouth for about 10 minutes.  You can also add a drop of your favourite essential oil to the water if you prefer.

Don’t Strain

Can you use a microphone to take some of the strain off your voice.  Don’t try singing over bandmates, turn your mic up instead (or turn their mics/instruments down). Learn some mic technique to help amplify your voice where you need it.

In an ideal world, singers would never have to sing when their voice is suffering from a cold, hoarse, tired or sore throat, but sometimes we have to perform when our voice is not at its best.  The main point here is to be aware of why you have a voice problem in the first place.  Is it because of a hard-to-avoid infection or is your voice problem down to poor technique.  If it is the later, then you really need to look at getting some voice coaching to address the problem.

 

Love your Voice

About Your Voice

About Your Voice

larynx

Voice” is the sound made by vibration of the vocal cords caused by air passing out through the larynx bringing the cords closer together.

Your vocal cord (also known as vocal folds) are two, white mucosal membranes situated inside your larynx (Adam’s Apple).  These membranes are fixed at one end, giving them a V-shape and open and close to allow for breathing and sound production.

Vocal Cord

Your larynx sits on top of your trachea (windpipe) and as air passes through with each breath you take, your vocal cords vibrate creating a sound.  The frequency that your vocal cords vibrate will determine the pitch of your sound.

Male vocal cords tend to be longer and thicker, giving the male voice a deeper, lower sound, whereas female vocal cords tend to be shorter and thinner giving the female voice a higher and lighter sound.

The physical action of singing or speaking is the same for everyone.  The reason we all sound different to each other is down to our physical attributes. The shape of our head, our bone structure, the position of our teeth, our nasal cavity, our sinuses.  This is also know as our facial mask. Once that sound is produced by our vocal cords, it travels up towards our mouth and nose, where we shape and polish that sound around our facial mask before we exhale our own unique sound.

You can feel your larynx if you gently press the front of your throat and then swallow.  You will feel it moving up and then back down to its original position.  The action you feel here is your larynx lifting and your vocal cords closing to prevent food and drink from entering your windpipe as you swallow.

Your vocal cords are delicate structures.  They appear white as there is little blood supply to them.  They are also covered in mucous to prevent them drying out.  The process of breathing, talking and singing or coughing can easily dry them out. This in turn leads to your vocal cords not being able to open and close easily, leading to friction or a hoarse voice.  There’s more about vocal health here.

As a singer, learning how to control your breath and using vocal exercises to help you strengthen and develop flexibility in your voice is invaluable.

 

Breathing

Successful Singing DiaphragmLearn To Sing – Breathing

Breathing

One of the cornerstones of learning to sing is knowing how to breathe correctly and learn to control your breathing , so that it is used to optimum effect when you sing.

When we are born, our breathing is naturally correct: babies can breathe, yell and scream with optimum effect because they use their lungs without conscious thought. As we grow older, we tend to get lazy and only use the upper part of our lungs, taking shallow breaths as required, rather than a deeper, more natural breath.

To understand how correct breathing and breath control works, first you need to understand the process that breathing involves:

Inspiration (breathing in)

At the bottom of your lungs there is a large (upside down bowl shaped) circular ring of muscle called the diaphragm.It attaches itself to the lower rib cage and spine.During inhalation the tendon at the bottom of this muscle contracts and the diaphragm is pulled downwards, gently displacing the stomach and intestines.. Air is drawn into the lungs via the nose and mouth.Inside the lungs, a gaseous exchange takes place where waste carbon dioxide from the body is exchanged for a fresh supply of oxygen by the blood travelling across the very thin membranes of the lungs.

Exhalation (breathing out)

After a few seconds, the diaphragm tendon relaxes and the diaphragm slowly moves back to its original position, pushing the (waste) air out of your lungs.

Breathing is essentially an autonomic reflex, in that your body does it without you having to think about it. How fast you breathe depends on your oxygen requirements. However, you do have control over your breathing, enabling you to hold your breath, speak a sentence, or sing a song. This ultimately is learning how to control your diaphragm.

Find your Diaphragm

Gently place your hand on tummy, just under your rib cage. Now pant like a dog a few times. You should feel your hand gently being pushed as you pant.

If you hold your hand to your mouth and breathe out slowly, the breath should be warm and moist. You should also feel the action of the diaphragm as you exhale. This is the correct amount of breath used when singing normally.

A singer does not need to ‘force’ or‘push’ air through the vocal cords to produce a good strong sound – doing so only creates too much pressure against the cords, which in turn, prevents them from operating correctly, which can lead to damage to the voice.

Try our Breathing Exercises

Chorister Guide to Keeping Conductors In Line

Chorister Guide To Keeping Conductors In Line

The conductor stars in every concert and takes the credit for all your hard work. The basic training of every choral singer should also include the art of one-upmanship to let the conductor know who really is the backbone behind the choir.   The following guide is a fun take on developing the unique relationship between singer and conductor.  The only chorister guide providing a tongue-in-cheek look at keeping your choir leader, musical director or conductor in line.

A choristers guide to keeping conductors in line

A choristers guide to keeping conductors in line

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait until late into the rehearsal  before letting the conductor know that you don’t have the music.

Tell the conductor that you can’t find the beat.  Conductors are rather sensitive about their stick technique, so challenge it frequently.

Complain about the temperature of the rehearsal room, the lighting, crowded space and of course a draft.  It’s better to be doing this when the conductor is feeling pressured.

Ask for a re-audition or seat change.  Ask often.  Give the conductor the impression that you are about to quit.  Let the conductor know you’re there as a personal favour.

Bury your head in the music just before they cue.

Loudly clear your throat during pauses (tenors are trained to do this from birth). Quiet instrumental interludes are perfect opportunities for you to blow your nose.

After you’ve gone over a rather long piece, ask the conductor if your C# was in tune.  This is more effective when there were no C# in the piece you were practicing.

At dramatic moments in the music, especially if the conductor is emoting, be busy marking your music so that the climaxes will sound empty and disappointing.

Where possible, sing your part either an octave above or below what is written.  This is excellent ear-training for the conductor.  If he hears the pitch, deny it hehemently and claim that it must have been the combination tone.

If you are singing in a language which the conductor is the least bit unfamiliar, ask them as many questions as possible about the meaning of individual words.  If this fails, ask them about the pronunciation of the most difficult words.  Occasionally, say the word twice (in exactly the same way) and ask their preference. If they remark that they sound similar, give them a look of utter disdain and mumble under your breath about the ‘subtleties of inflection’.

Ask the conductor if they have listened to the von Karajan recording of the piece.  Imply that they could learn a thing or two from is.  It’s also good to ask, ‘is this the first time you’ve conducted this piece?’

If your articulation differs from that of others singing the same phrase, stick to your guns.  Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage just before the concert.

Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early so that others become restless and start to figet.  It’s also good to look at your watch frequently and shake it in disbelief occasionally.

Make every effort to take the attention away from the podium and put it on you, where it belongs!

 

I take no credit as being the author of the above, I am merely passing the guide on to those who may find it useful or humorous.  As far as I am aware, this article appeared in the Summer 1990 newsletter of the British Columbia Chorus Federation. Since then it has appeared in several British musical society magazines. Helen