It’s time that we apply solid athletic knowledge to our singing work – says Kim Chandler.
I’d like to start this residency with a topic that’s dear to my heart as an industry vocal coach who routinely coaches vocal ‘athletes’ – how to establish a vocal cross-training program.
The benefits of cross training the body are well established in gyms across the world, but not everybody thinks of applying similar principles to their singing training.
Given the fact that singing training contains an element of muscular efficiency and conditioning, it goes without saying that vocal cross training is also beneficial.
So, what could a vocal cross training session look like? Here is a sample outline…
- 1. Warm ups: Like any workout program, it’s good to start with a short warm up – the vocal equivalent of pre-workout stretch in the gym. ‘Sirens’ are suitable for this purpose, just for a few minutes.
- 2. Breathing & support: e.g. long notes, staccato exercises.
- 3. Resonance building: e.g. vowel exercises, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘ng’ exercises.
- 4. Pitch accuracy: or as I call it “target practice”, hitting notes perfectly in tune. Difficult scales, modes and arpeggios.
- 5. Register exercises: making sure you have control over the smoothness of your vocal ‘gears’.
- 6. Range exercises: stretching out your range in both directions
- 7. Agility exercises: e.g. speed exercises, interval jumps, licks.
- 8. Articulation exercises: e.g. tongue twisters, beat-boxing.
- 9. Power: or as I call it vocal “weight-lifting”, e.g. belting exercises. This is only necessary if the style of music you sing requires it.
- 10. Cool downs: again, like any gym workout, it’s advisable to do a short cool down at the end; something vocally soothing, calming such as gentle, descending sirens.
Like any exercise program, how you do each exercise, i.e. the ‘form’, is paramount to how effective it is.
Exercises are not magic formulas that work regardless of how they are done.
Therefore, I strongly suggest that singers work with in conjunction with a reputable vocal coach to make sure that the ‘form’ for each exercise is understood and maintained.
As for the frequency, around 3-5 times a week is recommended, incrementally increasing the length & difficulty as stamina increases.
There are many different vocal exercises that can be used in each category and many products on the market to give you resources.
One exercise per area per practice session is fine, but what is important for productivity is to keep it interesting, varied and challenging.
My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids
Jeff Szolis – “Sunday Morning” (Cover)
It was a brave decision to do this a cappella, but since you took down the key down a whole 5th from the original, I guess it was going to be difficult to find a backing track. You kept your key centre very well and you have a strong sense of internal groove. You have a nice style and I like the warmth in your tone in this lower key than the original. But on a technical note, just watch the nasalising of some of your last notes in the phrase and the jutting of your chin forward & left.
Manolo Caballero – “Luna” (Cover)
You have a strong, impressive classical crossover voice, but unfortunately the poor sound quality of the video made it difficult to listen to. Nevertheless, this song showcases your voice very well and I like your hand gestures. However, you have a tendency to bow your head at times, so I would advise you to adopt the habit of the ‘noble posture’ head position that classical teachers love so much. This will not only look better but will also help your vocal efficiency.
Dave Martin – “Luna” (“Madness”)
This song translates surprisingly well to an acoustic version. You have a lovely, bright tone & vibrato. There was subtle use of harmonising technology that you could’ve capitalised on even more. You pretty much nailed that ‘money note’ but it could’ve benefitted from a little more ‘weight’. My main criticism is that there wasn’t much visual performance (it seemed more like a rehearsal) and there were pitchy moments in the live lead vocal and some actual incorrect note choices in the added harmonies.
Kim Chandler is one of the UK’s top contemporary vocal coaches and session singers. She runs a busy private teaching studio and recording studio in London and is a Principal Lecturer at Leeds College of Music. Kim is the immediate past President of the British Voice Association, choir director for Abbey Road Studio’s corporate recording sessions and creator of the popular “Funky ‘n Fun” vocal training series.