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Singing: First Steps

by | Nov 12, 2020 | Anatomy, Exercises, Practicing, Technique, Voice

Becoming a singer can feel like a big goal. And, it is! But like any challenge, breaking it down into smaller steps will help you along your way. Follow this roadmap to make your action plan for success:

1. Create your vision of your Goal: Who? What? How?
Visualize the singer you want to be, in as much detail as you can imagine. What style of music will you perform? What types of performances will you give? Do you want to be a coffeehouse singer-songwriter? A church musician? A mega diva superstar? These types of questions will help you create your professional persona and start selecting the ideal songs for your future auditions, recordings, or performance set lists. Don’t make goals for your voice in this phase, just your persona and performance goals. These items will help you- or your teacher!- define the steps you need to take to reach these goals. Remember, each style of singing has a different set of vocal parameters, just as each style will have a distinct career track. Setting your vision early on will help you follow the right path to get there.

2. Connect with your Body / Breath
The study of singing is uniquely personal and intimate. Your voice is directly connected to your body and your sense of self. So, it’s of crucial importance that your physical and mental health is well cared for. Remember, to seriously pursue your vocal goals, you’re going to need to face physical challenges which require good health (both vocal health and overall), and likely some criticism and rejection along the way as well. Take the time to care for yourself! Stay hydrated, get enough sleep, eat healthfully, and practice loving self-care.

3. Start by Stretching / Scales
Before you dive into singing full songs, get acquainted with your voice, and indeed, your instrument as a whole! Remember, as a singer, you will sing with your whole body (for optimal health and the best vocal results overall). Your voice is largely a function of your respiratory system; get to know how your breathing works, what it feels like when you’re relaxed. Start slowly by experimenting with unsung vocal sounds— create sloppy siren wails from the top of your voice to the bottom, from the bottom to top and back. Pay attention to an even smear of breath throughout your range, watch out for habits that may emerge which disrupt your airflow or allow tension to creep into your body. Staying present in your body and singing from a place of relaxation is key to your continued growth and success. Create a practice routine that includes singing a variety of scales throughout your full vocal range (as high and as low as you can comfortably sing– watch out for register changes– never force!– or get in touch with a teacher to help you work through basic terms like “chest voice”, “head voice” and “mixed voice”).

4. Pick a Starter Song – Pick a REACH Song
Once you’ve established basic familiarity with your breathing and you’ve stretched out your voice throughout your range, you’re ready to start singing songs. Keep it simple out of the gate– pick something you love, but which isn’t “hard”. There will still be small hiccups in “easy” songs for you to smooth out if you’re paying close attention. Solving these tiny challenges will help illuminate how to solve bigger challenges later on. It’s a good idea to work on one “easy” song and one “hard” song at a time. Spend a couple of weeks focusing just on these two songs and see what you can discover on your own! If your “hard” song doesn’t start to become more comfortable with consistent attention to staying relaxed and keeping your breathing connected, it might be time to call in some professional help from a qualified singing teacher.

5. Listen and Learn / Build Vocab / Find a Teacher
Listening to others is a wonderful tool to garner inspiration, artistry, musical sensibility, and even some vocal know-how if you know what to listen for. Try to label the vocal effects you hear, and watch videos when possible to look out for how a singer breathes (but don’t be taken in by the things they’re doing with their mouth— some of that will be personal because we’re all shaped differently!). Self-study in singing can be a wonderful thing, but it does also have it’s own limitations. First of all, if you’ve ever heard your voice in a home video or a voicemail recording, you’ve probably had the experience of surprise that it doesn’t sound “like you”! Remember that singing well requires understanding acoustic manipulations— simply put, the spaces in your head don’t reverberate sounds the same way that the spaces you’re singing out into do. In other words, your listeners– outside of you– won’t hear things the way you do from the inside. Recording yourself singing can be a wonderful self-study tool, but it can still be hard to make adjustments “in the moment” without outside guidance. Consider finding a trusted ally in a qualified singing teacher. Look for someone supportive and compassionate, but who is going to be more than just a cheerleader! Find a teacher whose students perform well (more important than finding a teacher who performs well themself– who perhaps lacks the skills to convey their knowledge to others!) and who has an up-to-date understanding of modern voice science to help you make sense of what is actually happening inside your voice.

Wherever you are on your vocal journey, Cardon Voice is designed to meet you there. Kate and her team of teachers love connecting with students and providing support and guidance to help you reach your goals, whatever they may be. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions if we can help you along your way! Learn more about membership here.

Questions? Get in touch!