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[Singing] Vocal Exercises

category: Music | course: Singing | difficulty:

This topic's importance cannot be overestimated. If you’re experiencing any kind of vocal problems, I’d go as far as to say this is the most important part. Vocal exercises are basically activities you can do that engage your vocal chords and everything else just as usually would happen, but do so in a way that doesn’t hurt you. They can only be done (properly) if your technique is perfect and everything is in their optimal position. This might seem very hard, but these exercises were designed to make it easy for you to do exactly that.

Repeating them every day, for at least 15 minutes, not only improves your technique, but also strengthens your voice and makes sure it is not damaged (much).

Vocal Damage

When I talk about damage, I mean anything that is not normal or healthy for your vocal chords. They are muscles, and their boundaries should be respected. They are very small and flexible, yet used all day every day. Therefore, if you damage them in any way, you really need to take a rest to let it heal or it will become permanent. This sounds like an easy thing to do, but it isn’t. You should really tell yourself to stop and take a break whenever you’re forcing too much or feeling something happening in your throat.

The bad news is though, that damage can also be done by things other than bad vocal technique or too much pressure. Some types of foods (such as dairy products) create mucus, which hinders your vocal tone. When you wake up, your voice/mouth has usually done some resting and growing and has thrown out any waste from that process. Both of these contribute to a rasp or uncontrollable vocal chords, due to the fact there’s actual stuff in your throat obstructing the air flow

The good news is that this can be solved if you’re careful. Any extra stuff you get from eating can be resolved by drinking water and swallowing. When you wake up, you should always do vocal exercises to remove anything that could damage your voice.

Of course, there are factors outside of these two that play a huge role, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, vocal abuse by coughing and screaming all the time. If you want a good singing voice, abandon all of these, please. A rough voice may sound sexy, but only for the 5 or 10 years that it may last.

The Lip-Roll

This is perhaps the most famous and most effective of vocal exercises. I therefore recommend to always start with this one, and perfect the technique on this one before moving on to anything else. The idea is that singing the way I’ll describe makes it much easier to shift between pitches and to sing over any difficult notes. Therefore, using this technique you can sing notes you can’t normally (so you can strengthen them without forcing it), and it relaxes the face.

  • Keep your mouth closed (don’t force it, just your normal mouth shut).
  • Create a ‘brrrrr’ sound with your lips.
  • While doing that, sing any note.
  • You shouldn’t feel any tension in your mouth, and you shouldn’t push too much air to make your lips roll. Instead, you should have a light feeling above those brr-ing lips, around the nose and eyes.
  • Once you’re comfortable with a few notes in your midrange, you can try going up and down, and even moving into falsetto and back should be easy with a bit of practice.

 

Humming

Some people can naturally hum very well, some people have lots of trouble with it. The thing is, humming is another way of creating sounds without opening your mouth, but it is more natural and normal than the lip-roll. It is therefore a bit harder to do, but you need perfect vocal technique to hum all notes of your range, so this is by far the best way to get there. It removes most tongue and all jaw movement (because you’re not singing different vowels/consonants), so you can really focus on the rest.

  • Keep your mouth closed, tongue down.
  • Create a simple ‘hmm’ or ‘mmm’ sound. Like when you want to say yes or indeed, but your mouth is full because you’re eating, and say ‘mm-mm’ instead.
  • You should again feel the sound resonate around the area of your eyes. If you feel it resonate in your mouth/too low, you’re not humming correctly and doing the exercise that way will not bring you any good.
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