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Healthy habits for your voice

Warm-up, train your voice and apply the acquired tools to song practice! Don’t forget to stay well hydrated and healthy, your body is your instrument, so treasure it!

  • Semi-occluded vocal tract exercices

Semi-occluded vocal tract exercises are extremely efficient in keeping your voice in shape, for vocal training,  and for voice rehabilitation. Phonating through a straw, lip or tongue trills, bilabial fricatives etc. reinforce the sensation of vibration in the front of the face for resonant voice production.

  • Sirening and humming exercices

Humming and sirening represent another way of training your voice and improve its flexibility; they can be excellent vocal warm-ups. Again, they promote a healthy vocal placement (forward) and improve your overall vocal quality if done correctly.

  • Supported vocal sound

Supporting your sound  (controlling the way you use your air for a specific vocal task) is crucial. When this doesn’t happen properly, your body will go into a “compensate for what goes wrong” mode that will make things worse and lead to strain.

  • Optimal vocal hygiene

Stay hydrated, try following a healthy lifestyle and don’t clear your throat or yell too often. Don’t overuse or push your voice and give it time to heal, especially when in sickness. Also, stay positive. Power and healing come from both the mind and the body.

Why is vocal technique important?

Vocal health | Sustainability

The reasons behind the assumption that vocal health is essential for your career is undeniable. You can’t expect to grow and train your instrument if it has fundamental faults. 

Yes, there are a lot of examples out there of incredible singers that don’t need to bother about vocal technique and maintaining their voices healthy.  In these fortunate cases, mother nature was very generous. Their instincts, the way they produce and support their sound without even warming up their instrument are simply on the right spot. Since it doesn’t strain or hurt their voice, they phonate and sing in a balanced and healthy way without the constant need to interfere with what comes naturally to them. This struggle is the case for the rest of us because magic doesn’t happen automatically when we open our mouths as well. We need time to get to know the healthy sensations, the optimal sound of our voice and above all, we need time to practice making this new mode of singing the default one. 

With perseverance and lots of practice sessions, everyone should be able to shape new habits for singing: healthier and more efficient ones. When this happens, your voice will have no other way to go further, but to a road of growth and improvement. Without having a fear of losing your voice or damaging its potential, the future is brighter and sustainable.

Vocal stamina | Consistency

We all have our bad days, and that is true for singing as well. The human body gets influenced by tons of factors that affect our mood, health, energy level, patience, you name it. With this in mind, it is our job to work in diminishing the frequency of those bad singing days. Apart from a few uncontrollable factors (like a health issue), our lifestyle, habits and practice agenda have a lot to say about our overall voice state. 

If your voice is healthy, then mastering your technique will guide it to the wanted path. With every singing practice and song rehearsal, you build up muscle memory, and you improve your coordination and body-mind-voice balance. In time, your voice will get stronger and more comfortable even when performing high-intensity vocal tasks. 

With constant training, your body and voice will improve stamina, and you’ll have to sweat less for the same output. It is imperative to strive for obtaining vocal consistency if you want to handle well seven concerts a week, tours, TV shows, and so on.

Vocal flexibility | Style diversity

The fun part of vocal technique is yet to come. After you have learned the fundamental techniques, and your voice is responding well to your vocal tasks, you can explore other genres. 

Think of a genre as being similar to a cooking recipe. You need certain ingredients and quantities for obtaining a specific vocal sound. You can mix a certain vocal quality or vocal mode (smooth, twangy, classical), with some vocal effects (like vibrato, breathiness, riffs and runs, distortions) and sound colour (lighter or darker sounds). This way, you can sing many songs from different styles or come up with different approaches to singing the same tunes. 

Vocal technique gives you reliable tools to play with your voice and makes room for the artist within to come up with ideas of using them. This will come in handy for young singers who participate at popular TV shows like The Voice or X factor and are required to sing so many styles. Maintaining your authenticity while singing a particular style is not that easy to accomplish.  So, be yourself, work on your technique and continue exploring your voice and its potential.

Confidence| Joy | Comfort

For a singer, confidence plays a vital part in shaping the stage character and establishing a connection with the audience. It plays a key role in credibility and the ability to amplify the desired artistic expression.

Improving your vocal technique may boost your confidence. With every successful and consistent vocal delivery, you will get the validation you so much need for improving your self-confidence. Experiencing this over and over again, you will have no choice but to start believing. Also, if your technique is well grounded, you will be prepared and know what to do for overcoming unexpected vocal dilemmas and stage fright. 

Your voice will be tension free and capable of sustaining your vocal needs, leaving you with nothing but comfort, joy and liberty to perform. We all enjoy listening to excellent singers that manage to manifest spontaneously and seem to have so much fun while doing it. 

So, practice daily, don’t let frustration stick with you and have faith and patience. Don’t forget to enjoy your singing journey while doing all the above!

Singing mistakes checklist

If you want to have a high-level performance there’s a lot to think about. Here you have some important aspects to consider.

I. Technical errors

Poor posture | Body posture | Neck posture

Make sure you’re not too tense or too weak when standing up. Look out for “text neck” caused by staring down at your phone or looking down at your computer. Try a few stretches and relax your way into a better body alignment. You should feel more energised and better prepared for your future vocal tasks.

Poor breathing| Poor breath management

We use the same breathing mechanism for speech as for singing, but “everyday breathing” is too shallow for healthy singing. During singing, our body needs to regulate the airflow in a slightly different way because we have longer phrases to sustain and different volume levels to obtain. I suggest spending some time practicing  appropriate breath management techniques and exercises to support your sound sustainably (like appoggio, ‘inhalare la voce’ or CVT support).

Vocal production problems

IIssues like resonance problems, vocal placement, jaw or tongue tension, lack of necessary twang (and the list goes on) can cause strain and make your wanted sound intangible. Remember that a correct technique shouldn’t cause pain, not even when practising extreme vocal tasks. Isolate your problems and work with skill-building exercises meant to resolve them. Don’t push your voice because you may cause vocal damage.


II. Musical errors

Singing out of tune | Pitch problems

There are a lot of mistakes that a singer can make, but being pitchy most of the time is something people can’t overlook. So, record your singing practice and play your voice back to look out for flat or sharp notes to correct. You can practice them with a piano, guitar or even with a piano app, by matching the note you play with the note you sing. You will be surprised to find out that your perception of the melody can be slightly wrong. It never hurts to practice your song note-by-note just to make sure you memorize it correctly before making it your own.

Singing without a sense of rhythm

Singing out of sync with the tempo of a song is not a pleasant experience for neither the singer nor the audience. You can start ‘feeling’ the beat by listening to your song whilst clapping or tapping with each count. Afterwards you can practice singing with a metronome app, varying the tempo and trying to keep up. Record yourself if you are not sure if you’re doing in right.

Singing wrong notes

Improvising and rephrasing are cool performance techniques, but always keep in mind the original melody or theme of the song should you have to follow the sheet thoroughly. If you are not sure your’re singing the actual notes of the melody, try singing it really slowly, paying attention to each note and interval. This will come in handy for riffing, where you need vocal agility and precision at the same time. Practice different scales or riffing patterns from slow to fast and your voice will gain agility points in no time.


III. Song interpretation mistakes

Lack of vocal dynamics

You can think of your song as being a story you are telling. It begins by setting the context (or the mood), and then it develops, reaching peeks of high interest and excitement (like the choruses) and even the unexpected (like a song bridge, instrumental solo… you name it). Vocal dynamics is the quality of singing from soft to loud and vice-versa with smoothness and control. It gives ebb and flow to your song, creating a more dramatic feeling for your listeners. It is a skill not that hard to master; an exercise to learn or improve this craft is ‘mesa di voce’.

No use of vocal effects

Don’t be shy in taking your performance to a high level by adding vocal effects like vibrato, riffs and runs, intentional vocal breaks, or noise effects like distortion, grunt, growl, rattle etc. Choose them wisely, matching your song genre and instrumental sound and it will give your performance authenticity and emotion.

Phrasing it wrong

When adding melodic or rhythmic ornaments to a sequence of a song, a phrase or a word, make sure they go well with the harmony and rhythmic signature of the song. If phrasing on the spot sounds frightening, you can rehearse beforehand different options you may have. Decide what fits best and stick with that in your live performance, you’ll be more confident this way.


IV. Emotional errors

Lack of credibility

If you want your expression to be believable, you have to portray a precise story and character of the song. Try to relate to your lyrics and melody and trust your taste, feelings and judgement. Your job is to create a certain mood for your audience and to provide them with an artistic experience. So, know the story of your song, create a solid character and visualise its journey through each phrase you sing. Trust yourself; your confidence will help project your version of the story/song credibly.

Inability to connect with your audience

If you prepared your story and character, the next step is to ‘sell’ your performance. Make eye contact with your audience; let them know you believe what you say (sing), and the audience will most likely respond positively. Don’t be too rigid or too sloppy, body language is important and can be quite expressive; allow your body to move naturally, guided by the melody or mood of the song. Interact with your band members to reinforce the feeling of the song together; it is nice to see passionate artists on stage doing what they love. Motivate yourself to keep your energy up, even if everything doesn’t go as you planned. It will be easier to overcome certain situations and maybe you’ll also enjoy a little bit of spontaneity.

Unable to sing with the expression you want

I think this happens when you don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable and commit to what you are saying (singing). Maybe you don’t fully trust the chosen expression, or perhaps you don’t understand it completely. Analyse the story and find your truth in it. Try experimenting with different vocal modes and sound colours, especially for the parts you feel disconnected from your artistic message.


V. Textual faults


Make sure you can pronounce all the words from your song correctly, so your audience can understand you. Pay special attention if you sing in a foreign language and spend time getting the right vowel shapes, especially if they are not in your native language’s alphabet. Study speaking them slowly at first while also listening and repeating those words pronounced by a native speaker.

Accents and dialects

You can now choose the style of enunciation or the dialect that will best suit your song choice and character. One can’t usually tell the particular accent of a singer because there are a few distorted things from speech to singing like vowel length and prosody. On the other hand, there are quite a few contemporary artists that like using different accents or even garbled pronunciation on purpose when singing because it gives them a modern flavour. So, keep in mind, this choice is yours, and after all, when it comes to singing it is a matter of personal taste. You don’t have to and can’t expect to please everyone, so enjoy your singing and don’t be afraid to express in your unique way.


What to expect from a singing lesson?

What do you expect from a singing lesson? Here is a plan that I like to follow when working with someone one-on-one. Interested? Schedule a lesson and let’s meet!

What to expect from a singing lesson with Delia Ivan vocal coach

Are you interested in vocal technique? I recommend visiting the Complete Vocal Technique’s website to find out more about the human voice and the proper ways of using it right in every possible way!


June 2024

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