If you don’t have the time or money to have regular singing lessons, where do you start in structuring your vocal regime? – says Jenn Clempner.
With an array of vocal exercises available to develop your vocal ability it can be difficult to know which ones are right for you.
Here are 7 simple and effective steps, applicable to all levels, to help develop your singing voice without the presence of a vocal coach.
Spend 2 – 3 minutes breathing deeply and slowly through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth. Pierce your lips together to control the length of your exhale, like holding the end of a balloon. This will help develop a discipline of breath control and also expand your lung capacity.
Place one hand on your upper chest, breath in then hold a low pitched hum for as long as you can. You should feel a gentle vibration on your chest. Resonance refers to the specific quality of a sound; deep, full, and reverberating. It also means ‘synchronous vibration’. Low pitched hums vibrate within the chest cavities and high hums vibrate in the nasal cavities. They are good practise for pitching, breath and vocal control.
Release notes on vowel sounds such as “Ah”, “Eeh”, “Oh”. Keep your mouth as open as possible without overextending your jaw. Slow scales on these vowels work well for this. ‘Release’ refers to the release of your jaw as the mouth opens and the release of sound that has been contained within the body. These exercises will challenge the use of your breath to sustain sound and control your voice.
Try panting on a “ha” sound, softly at first, then faster and more accented. Try singing “ha’s” on half scales. You should feel like you’ve been doing sit ups afterwards! You may have heard some people say “use your diaphragm”; this isn’t very accurate. We don’t control our diaphragm, it simply does what it needs to when we breathe. What we can do is engage our intercostal muscles to help engage the diaphragm and provide support to our vocal instrument.
Sing a note that is comfortable for you on a vowel, then connect it to an interval of a third above it. Work your way down in steps. Connect the notes but don’t slide. Then start again moving up a tone, then again and again. Be sure to stop if your voice feels tight and thin. This will gently stretch your vocal range and develop timbre in your higher pitches.
Map out a major arpeggio with your voice, again using a vowel sound. Keep the notes smooth and connected. Be mindful of pitch and listen to whether the notes are placed exactly where they should be. Make this more challenging by singing a minor arpeggio or a diminished 7th. Move up in tones and repeat to improve vocal flexibility.
Try creating your own melody for an articulation exercise. For example, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” Start slowly, get faster and don’t give up when it gets difficult. Your full set of articulators are the lips, teeth, tongue, jaw and cheeks. You should therefore work out every one of them until they feel alert and tingly. Good diction is as important for singers as tone, pitch and quality.
Apply all of the above with a short song. Assess your breathing, vocal release, abdominal support, range accessibility and vocal clarity. If you don’t feel free to sing, go back and start again.
Jenn Clempner is a Singer, Pianist, Music Director and Vocal Tutor. Her first professional work as a Musician came in 2007 when she toured throughout the UK and Europe with indie-pop outfit The Hoosiers (Sony BMG) as a Session Musician (backing vocals, keyboards and percussion). Jenn was awarded a platinum album for the sale of 300,000 copies of ‘The Trick To Life’ and her work with The Hoosiers. Jenn is a Vocal Tutor and Lecturer at the Royal Northern College of Music on the Popular Music degree programme, but also consults as a music professional and continues to sing and play within the live music arena. Find out more at: jennclempner.com