How to Sing (Without Really Trying)

by emcue about a year ago in how to

5 Quick Tips From a Classical Musician

How to Sing (Without Really Trying)

If you're a long time fan of Broadway, you're likely ecstatic about the buzz surrounding the revival of The Phantom of the Opera. Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Love Never Dies" reconnects audiences with the Phantom's everlasting passion for Christine as he lures her to Coney Island to perform for him ten years following the setting of the original movie. With her husband and young son Gustave at her side, she ventures to face what we recognize to be the demons (or demon) from the couple's past.

Anyone who has seen "The Phantom of the Opera" can attest to its riveting and glorious score. Most Broadway buffs pride themselves on their memorization of the choreography for "Masquerade"; the blocking for "The Point of No Return"; and, naturally, their enthusiastic renditions of "The Phantom of the Opera."

As someone who used to perform in vocal showcases frequently, I often experienced painful episodes of vocal tension after failing to utilize proper vocal techniques for prolonged periods of time. My throat burned, my jaw felt tight, and I soon discovered I didn't even sound as professional as I could! If you want to sing quite anything as effortlessly (and beautifully) as you can without putting any strain on your voice, I implore you to consider the following advice.


1. Ignore your jaw.

When singing, your jaw is the a passenger without any money on your road trip. Your jaw is the waitstaff that stands awkwardly close to your table as you dine out. Your jaw is that kid from high school you see at the grocery store. Your jaw should not be a factor in your singing and would ideally be ignored altogether.

If you sing on an "ah" vowel, you should be able to wiggle your jaw without altering the vowel. Your tongue and larynx do all of the work and your jaw only makes things uncomfortable for everyone. Granted, you need your jaw to open your mouth. We understand. We only ask that you not tense up your jaw as you reach the top of your range. Remember that the jaw moves as a door hinge, not blinds. When you open your mouth to sing, your jaw should not move forward to sing as if your chin was being dropped with blinds but rather swing back towards your throat.

2. Think about your tongue.

One thing elementary voice instructors never fail to do is encourage their students to open their mouth "wide enough so that an egg can sit comfortably." Alternately, some may suggest that students "imagine a soda can in the back of [their] throats" or something equally as abstract. What these suggestions fail to do is allow students to access the throat space required to project the healthy, resonant sound they'd otherwise accomplish if they considered their oral anatomy.

By depressing or allowing the tongue to sit as far back in the mouth as it does naturally, you are allowing your sound to be covered and therefore producing a sound with poor tone quality and less volume. Instead, arch your tongue (in the position it naturally assumes when one says "ping") and keep it in this position as you sing. You will then have more throat space and less tension stemming from the root of your tongue, also allowing you to increase your range.

3. Practice good posture.

Not only is this a mark of professionalism, but it'll save you from back and neck problems in the future.

Trust me.

4. Enunciate and be articulate.

This depends on the style of music you plan on performing. If Pop and Country music are your cup of tea, perhaps enunciation isn't at the forefront of your list of concerns. However, if you enjoy classical pieces or musical theatre, it may be in your best interest to pay close attention to how much you enunciate your consonants. Be aware of hard consonants such as "t", "d", and "b"; especially those at the ends of words and phrases. Your beginning and ending consonants are crucial, as failure to communicate these crucial words may lead to rifts in the plot or development of a piece. A character's proclamation of

"He is not dead! He is alive!"

...without proper enunciation may translate to the audience as:

"He (has?) nodded! He is a lie!"

...which, of course, could lead to a considerable amount of confusion.

5. Give people something worth listening to.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of a singer's performance is their conveyance of the ideas inscribed into their music. A performer is obliged to abide by the wishes and parameters set forth by the composer whose works they are performing. They are responsible for bringing the music to life; they connect the minds and souls of the composer and their audience. Don't sing to get it right, sing to make people feel something. Sing to communicate, to put something into the world that did not previously exist. Be a part of something magnificent, even if you don't think you're that great at it.

It's a beautiful thing.

“Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart..”

—Pablo Casals


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