5 Goals Every Serious Singer Needs To Work Towards
When I first started learning how to sing, I often found myself wondering: "what exactly is the POINT of doing these exercises?"
Because after all, singing isn't really like going to the gym where;
Lifting weights = Big muscles
Learning how to sing goes more along the lines of:
Practice exercise = Learn the point of the exercise = Apply the concept in your actual singing = Become a better singer
Ergo, practicing singing with a specific set of goals in mind is the best way to hasten your progress, strengthen your voice and ultimately become a better singer. But what goals should we focus on? Taking chest voice higher? Sounding better? Singing longer?
Here's the 5 vocal goals that I personally started with, and the same ones that I give to my own vocal students who are now well on their way to becoming better singers.
Goal #1 - Connect chest and head voice
This seemingly simple goal seems to elude many singers and lead to most of the frustration I see out there concerning singers of all kinds, but especially male rock singers. Connecting chest and head voice is actually very easy to do, but it depends on the approach you use and the attitude you hold towards your registers.
Chest and head voice are actually pretty inaccurate terms for your registers - but like many vocal colloquialisms, we're unfortunately stuck with them because that's just what the majority of people call them.
Chest voice really refers to the tonal centre created in your lower range when the TA muscle is at it's most contracted state. Basically, the sound resonates lower and deeper than your higher range, and is often associated with your speaking voice.
Head voice refers to the tonal centre created in your higher range when the CT muscle stretches the folds longer and the TA muscle lessens, or completely releases it's contraction of the folds. Head voice is partially a result of physical balance in the folds, the way you sing your vowel and ultimately the formant/overtone that occurs when your raise the soft palate to facilitate your higher range.
It's important to differentiate head voice from falsetto, the latter of which really refers to a 'false' closure of the vocal folds which creates a vocal harmonic, akin to holding your fingers above the 12th fret of a guitar.
Now, the key to connecting chest and head voice is learning to create a balance between the TA and CT muscles, in essence creating a sliding scale of weight to tension in your folds, which blends each of your register/vowel overtones as you ascend in range. You can try it yourself right now by practicing light (but bright and resonant!) semi-occluded sounds like lip trills, hoots and hums. If you back off the volume in the middle of your range, you'll notice that with a bit of practice you CAN actually connect chest and head voice, and with time, even strengthen this central connection to create mix voice - sometimes referred to as the mixed register.
Connecting chest and head voice is your absolute #1 priority as a singer.
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Goal #2 - Consistency in your resonance
Now that you've connected your registers (or at least, you're working towards connection!), your second goal should be to smooth out this transition and develop consistency between your registers and through the middle voice with the express intention of singing actual vowel sounds with full connection between chest and head voice instead of just the small sounds like lip trills.
You can achieve this by moderating your airflow and air pressure properly and ultimately tuning your resonance to each vowel and register overtone by altering the size and shape of the vocal tract by raising the soft palate - often known as vowel modification.
I often see inconsistency in the resonance of singers who insist on practicing sirens relentlessly with little attention payed to smaller intervals throughout the voice or special attention focused on the middle register instead of just the extremes and sheer thrill of hitting the highest note possible... regardless of how well you hit it.
Building your voice isn't a sprint, it's a marathon, and a marathon runner really needs to fine tune their warmup, have solid technique and work towards efficiency and stamina/sustainability rather than just powering out of the gate for the first 5 minutes.
Take time to build consistency and care through each of your registers and vowel changes.
Goal #3 - Sing actual songs
This seems obvious, right? If I had a dollar for every time a student has said they're "just working on sirens or scales" instead of singing songs, I probably wouldn't be writing this tutorial. Singing songs is the end game of those scales and sirens after all, so why would you avoid your ultimate goal? That's like a marathon runner who never hits the track (not sure why it's all sport analogies today, I'm not even a sport guy!) and then wonders why it all goes wrong the one time they do head out for a run.
Singing songs is paramount to fine tuning the various issues and difficult passages of the voice, not to mention developing control over your onsets, consonants and developing better pitch and articulation.
Sing a song. Sing five songs. Sing twenty songs. Each time you work through a specific issue in a new song, you're fine tuning your vocal technique as a whole - and that next batch of songs is going to get easier and easier to the point that singing is no sweat!
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Goal #4 - Sing in front of someone
If you've been hiding your voice away waiting for it to be 'perfect' before you show anyone how hard you've been working, you'll put undue pressure on yourself and people will start to expect you to came out singing like Beyonce or Stevie Wonder, when you're really only ready to sing Mary Had A Little Lamb. Sing as often as you can and for as many people as you can, not only will it build a thick skin, you'll probably get some good feedback along the way and no doubt kill any nerves that might build up over years of practicing without any actual performing.
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Goal #5 - Crescendo <
I see many singers who are able to sing in a powerful and impressive way, but are ultimately unable to dial down their sound to anything other than a belt. This lack of control between support, register release and vocal chord closure means that they only have "one" gear to sing in, and it's a high one. You should aim to be able to sing a crescendo from silent through to fully resonant on any note throughout your full vocal range, this one is a BIG test of your vocal control, but it's a voice-changing experience to be able to sing a resonant crescendo from any note in any register of your voice. This one seems to be a favourite of classical singers, but it's also one that I use personally as a "rock" guy and can't tell you the amount of hours, days, months and probably years I've spent perfecting a resonant crescendo through the middle of my range to develop my mix voice.
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