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5 Questions for Vocalists

Off stage habits can help you prevail at that important gig –says Rachel Lebon

The mechanism that you use to communicate throughout the day is the same mechanism that you use to communicate on stage or in the studio.

So says my colleague, Speech Pathologist Vivian Topp-Klein of the Professional Voice Institute.

Trumpet players don’t have to toot their horns all day long in conversation, but singers use their instrument throughout the day to communicate.

Whether crying out, commanding, cajoling, criticizing or cussing, singers can exhaust their voices before uttering a single word in song.

Being vocally compromised through fatigue, misuse or abuse is the last thing you need when you feel a cold coming on – during a hectic singing schedule and with that big audition opportunity coming up.

That’s why I want to ask you 5 questions.

The Questions…

Run through this list to check if you are creating optimal conditions for your vocal mechanism:

1. Is your first utterance of the day yelling out to a friend across a crowded room, or do you ease into your first vocalizations, such as humming, lip trills and yawn-sighs?

2. Is your habitual pitch level too high or too low for your vocal mechanism, resulting in fatigue and difficulty in projecting?

3. Do you avoid noisy environments (parties, sporting events) that encourage straining, making adjustments if you find yourself in noisy settings?

4. Do you monitor your posture and habitual tension areas (neck, jaw, teeth clenching, chin jutting out) when you are on the phone and perform relaxation exercises when you’re stressed?

5. Does your speech pattern exhibit negative characteristics that tend to transfer to singing such as:
• Speaking too long on one breath until your voice dissolves into rasp?
• Speak on residual air due to inadequate inhalation or shallow breath?
• Drop support and pitch at the ends of phrases so that words and physical energy are lost?

Being aware of the way you use your instrument throughout the day helps it remain an expressive and reliable instrument for singing that important gig at night.

-Rachel Lebon

My Reactions to this Week’s Peer Review Vids

Alex Davies – “Can’t Fool Everybody” (Original)

Alex, I was engaged: a fine amalgamation of vocals, accompaniment and story telling, which is crucial to success in communicating a song in this style. Although, I did hear phrase as “Messing with the wrong jive” though the video subtitled it as “guy, ” which is an interesting discrepancy. You managed to communicate the lyrics clearly and distinctly while sounding conversational and setting an attitude and scenario, which is not as easy an accomplishment as it sounds. Good Job!

Daniel de Bourg – Beyonce Cover

Daniel – You are effectively expressive, with a good instrument that records well. Start a bit lighter, particularly on each verse – you would then get a nice build into the chorus, and the final chorus will become really climactic. I noticed that your breath was somewhat shallow with some neck tension and muscle manipulation. While you might get away with this in the studio, I’m wondering if your voice would be able to sustain the rigors of live performance on tour. Hold your ending! If you’re substituting for a fade, sustain an important word and decrescendo gradually into a gentle release.

-Rachel L. Lebon, Phd

Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D. has been a professional vocalist and studio singer in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Nashville and Miami. She was on the faculty at Belmont College and is currently at the University of Miami, has toured toured world-wide with “Tops in Blue” and on a State Department tour of the Soviet Union and Portugal. Rachel is the author of two published books and conducts lectures, symposia and adjudication worldwide on vocal pedagogy and voice disorders.

  • chasGuest

    just a simple question can i control the individual volume for the lead voice and the harmonies  using headphones the harmony is too low cmpared to the lead singer voice

  • Indie Rock Inc

    Great article! We reposted this article on our Facebook page! We have an article on preparing for a recording session that might be pertinent to vocalist as well! Check it out on our blog: https://www.indierockinc.com/blog/