It takes years to cultivate your singing voice and there are very few “quick fixes.” Your voice will solidify over time with diligent practice every day to work in a healthy technique as a habit.
However, I’ve got a few tricks in the bag that can help you start thinking of your sound in a new way and challenge your everyday vocal approach.
These tricks also tend to be what I use with singers the most, because in many cases, people don’t think to do them. I learned them myself as a singer, and they’ve helped me tremendously, so now I’m imparting this wisdom upon all of you!
1. Start with Lip Trills
To me, lip trills are the most important exercise of any day. I start every singing day of my life with at least two good rounds of lip trills. They kick-start your vocal engine: your breath. And it’s true that you can’t do a proper lip trill without a proper amount of support. As soon as the lip trill goes away, it means that your support is inconsistent.
I like to say, “lip trills are life” (said with your best RuPaul voice!) because it connects you with the breath of life.
Play around with where you place the sound of your lip trill. Move it around your three resonators: your mouth, pharynx, and nasal passage. Place them in these different areas and hopefully, you will find a healthy balance between the three while placing it mostly forward. To do this, I think of the vowel [i] or [I] as I do a lip trill. It gets my voice right into place.
With regards to your support during a lip trill, don’t push. It’s a buoyant support that’s not overly supported but neither under. Find that Goldilocks zone. Remember, we’re not singing yet, we’re just warming up our engines. It’s the perfect beginning to any singing day.
For more on lip trills, check out my complete warm-up routine:
2. Sing to Your Finger
Literally, stick your finger out at arm’s length and sing to it.
This adds a visual concept to your singing. As singers, we tend to listen to our sound. The problem with this is that we never hear our true sound. We hear the sound we make that buzzes around a room and comes back to our ears.
The sound we hear is not the sound we make. So as we start to sing and listen to ourselves, we sing from our lips backward rather than from our lips forwards—which is where the sound needs to go.
Think of this exercise like a bullseye with a dart and your voice is the dart. Lots of people use a laser beam analogy, too. Shoot for the center by aiming forward.
You can also use an exit sign at the end of the hall, the top of an audience members head, or any distant point, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your finger. The point is to shoot straight and send the sound out.
I practice with this in mind so as to stop listening to myself and put my sound out into a space that will eventually carry over an orchestra and into a 2,000-seat theatre. This also helps with support.
Speaking of big rooms, this concept works best in large spaces because the sound comes back to you in a different way than in a small, practice room. So, practice this one in a larger space.
3. Vowel – Breathe It in and Repeat It
For any phrase that you sing that has a sustained first note, literally breathe in the shape of the vowel you are about to sing. This helps with your onset, initial sound, passaggio singing, etc.
With that vowel that you’re sustaining think about repeating the vowel over and over again. This works especially well when singing high notes. This is a way to trick yourself into fully and consistently supporting your sound.
Sometimes I think to myself “add vibrato,” which tells me the same thing: more support and more breath control, which is the core of your sound. Again, feeding gas to the engine which is your voice.
If you’re having trouble with sustaining high notes, definitely try this and let me know how it goes.
You Are What You Do Every Day
At first, these concepts may feel like you’re multi-tasking to the extreme: like you’re walking a tight-rope while juggling.
However, like any new concept, if you keep practicing these things on the daily, it will become second-nature. You eventually won’t need to think as much about them, which is important for developing a solid technique.
So, no matter what new technical stage you may be hitting next, keep at it for a few months until you start to see and feel improvement. The payoff is worth it. Any discouragement along the way is normal, and we all have bad days. But don’t give up!
What do you think? Did you find this article interesting, entertaining, or helpful? Feel free to chime in with a comment below.