A few months back I pounded aimlessly on my keyboard about how to sing the intervals between notes to assist in sight reading: and prior to that a piece about a song that was really helpful in understanding those intervals. I assume that you’ve read and memorized them and gotten a tattoo of the really good parts. Good on ya’.
This week I wanted to take that a little further and talk about how to apply that stuff to becoming a better singer. Regardless of how old you are or how long you’ve been singing there’s always room to improve and hey…if singing is fun, singing better is…well…funner. So what’s a good way to move up the skills ladder? Getting your intervals solid (I mean SOLID) has the potential to not only generate a major leap in the quality of your singing, the better you get at it the more confident you become and the more likely you are to increase your contribution to the quality of the choir.
These are good things…so how to proceed? It’s not actually that complicated, really. Like so many other things, it’s a matter of knuckling down and working at it. I don’t know about you but if I don’t make a point of adding personal rehearsal time to my calendar it always seems to slide into the “I’ll get to that tomorrow” category and doesn’t happen as regularly as it should. Put the time on your calendar and stick to it. Everyone is different but a few minutes each day will work wonders. If your commute is anything like mine and you use the drive for these exercises you’ll be Pavarotti before you know it.
I see this as two parallel quests (those of you out there who teach this stuff, feel free to jump in; I’m an amateur hack and I know it, this is just what works for me) and one leads to the other. First, the repertoire. You’ll need a list of songs that are very familiar to you that you can sing from memory (knowing the words is secondary to knowing the tune). Second, a set of exercises to get the mechanics of it all working the way it should that you can do to get to that better/funner place. First, let’s talk about tunes. We’ve already discussed a couple in earlier posts but there are many more. Bear in mind that working these exercises on ANY tune will be good for you but it’s the tough ones that will do the most good (and be the most likely to drive you nuts). A good list to start with:
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” (be especially aware of the lemon drops bit)
“If I Only Had a Brain” from the same, including the instrumental doo-doot-do-doodley-do that happens after the first line of every verse.
“Carolina in My Mind” and “Something In the Way She Moves” by James Taylor (most anything by JT is great for either intervals or scales)
“I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar” (like JT above, anything from that show makes a good exercise)
“Happy Birthday” (now in the public domain, yay us)
“The Theme From Love Story (Where Do I Begin)” by Andy Williams (thumbs up: a hockey movie, thumbs down: all the sobbing in the theater)
“Fly Me to the Moon” by Bart Howard
Pick some of your faves and look for those leaps between notes, there’s no such thing as a “bad” one.
So what to do? Thou shalt ALWAYS warm up for a few minutes. No need to be on injured reserve before the practice even starts, eh?
Try this with your tune…slowly at first and then gradually faster until 1) you get to the speed of the song or 2) there’s a train wreck and you have to start over.
- Easy kine – on “doo”, the slightest of pauses is okay but pretend you’re really singing.
- On “too” but still legato.
- On “ta” AND staccato. Like I said, start slow ‘cause this is hard and support the staccato from the diaphragm. Try to nail each note without having to adjust.
- Now for the big, scary thing…do it on “Ahhhhh” completely legato but NO SLIDING BETWEEN NOTES. Warning: it’s gonna suck at first. Have patience, laugh at yourself and keep at it. You WILL get better at it and you’ll have an increased level of confidence when it comes to the real deal as Christmas music starts to flow.
And then, as if by magic, you’ll be able to do this (Okay, the whole “impossible” thing in the name is a bit of a stretch but…wow. The last 90 seconds with the back-beat is the closest thing to vocal gymnastics I think I’ve ever heard. Perfect 10, nailed the landing. I also like that she didn’t just stand there belting out the song but engaged the audience and even had a funny little moment with the conductor. And who needs the silly earpiece anyway? Amazing stuff):
One final unrelated note; now that we’re just a few weeks from the new season, it’s time to start exercising that voice. Gently at first and then with increasing gusto. You’ve read it before in this here blog but it bears repeating, you need to get your voice in shape.
I was reminded of this over he weekend as I sang a solo in front of a room full of humans for the first time in several months. It went fine, especially the first verse (before my voice started to tire a little) but the whole thing was a bit, for lack of a better word, unstable. It wasn’t all that bad but I knew that it could’ve been seriously worse, a multi-car pileup in traffic sorta worse! Back to practicing I go, September is right around the corner!