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Todays artist was April Blue, who got in touch with us recently after we called out for more music on our podcast. The song is called Energy.
In to the questions!
Question 1 from Nick: “I’m an adult singing student and had lessons about 4 years ago. I had sang before then, but ever since I can remember I have had trouble with intonation. I often find myself scooping up or down to a note usually by a half or quarter step. When singing a cappella I also find myself stabbing in the dark for notes without having a sense of accuracy for what is coming next. If I don’t know a melody really well I will go fairly out of key too, which is particularly frustrating when I’m trying to write a melody. How do you approach pitch and melody? What would you do for a clean attack to a note, but also moving cleanly between intervals?”
It sounds partly like a short coming of musical experience, which would be consistent with the fact that Nick is an adult singer. We’re assuming then that Nick didn’t develop his musical ear through childhood, which is where a lot of singers pick up their core skills. It takes many hours of listening to music and being a little bit obsessive about your favourite stuff. This all turns into musical experience, style and influence after a time. Just this process of being a music nut is enough for many to subliminally develop their general musicality.
There’s also the balance of technique, which can affect pitching directly. Female singers with a lack of chest voice can commonly end up routinely sharp, where men and deeper females can be dragged flat by a heavy chest voice, or lack of head voice.
Exercises for pitching can include:
- Being able to sing a major scales, minor scales, or even pentatonic, from bottom to top. Singing these scales over standard key backing tracks will help you to improve your sense of keys and intervals.
- Interval training on the VocalizeU App – this training helps you to identify intervals by their sound, and then repeat them back to reinforce it, for example, a major 3rd. These intervals will inevitably be in all melody and harmony, so the skills developed from this will directly affect your pitching.
- Harmony singing – this further develops your interval knowledge and musicality. Try a choir to begin with, and the work towards smaller group harmony singing.
- Conception/pre-phonatory tuning – in short, this is a process in the brain where you conceive the note before you sing it. You hear it in your minds ear before you then spew it out. This improves pitching no end, but takes a little time to develop if you haven’t got it already. To do this, you have to pause and hear the notes clearly or phrase in your mind, and then sing it. If you’re having trouble with pitching, and you also can’t imagine the correct sequence of notes, then your conception of the line is out. Essentially, you don’t know it well enough to reproduce it. This process in an experienced singers is super-fast. This also applies to good riffing, improvising, harmonising and technique.
Question 2 from Jake: “Hello from Canada! I’m an amateur male singer. At least for myself, I like to practice the songs from my favourite artists, who are mainly female. My voice is quite a low voice however, so this makes it hard. Any tips or ideas on how I can sing these songs without having to transpose them?”
The question is, do you like to sing songs or do you want to sound like certain singers? Because Steve may wish to sound like Whitney Houston, but that is highly unlikely. Firstly because he’s not a girl. If you want to change your voice that much, it would take some extremely wild training to get even close to making a sound like Whitney. We are better off discovering our own way of singing and embracing it. It’s healthier, and much more achievable.
If you were able to get the range and flexibility needed to sing female songs, would it sound in a way that the public would like to hear it? That’s another question.
If you weren’t too bothered about how it sounded, but rather just wanted to reach the pitches, then the development of head voice should be high on the list of voice training needs. Vowels like OO, EE help you to ease your way into your upper voice quicker and easier.
There’s still the option of getting backing tracks in different keys, or playing an instrument, to give you the opportunity to sing your favourite songs without killing your voice.
Either way, if you enjoy the act of singing itself then it doesn’t matter if you change the key or whether it sounds like the original singer.
That’s it for today people! We did have another question about nerves and confidence from Kara Harrington but we’re not going to answer it. Not because we’re lazy, but we actually have an incredible guest on next week called Mike Cunningham. He’s a peak performance coach and helps many performers control their fears, get in flow, and deal with nerves. Tune in if that’s your thing
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