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I receive a large volume of email from people all over the world, seeking answers to their questions about singing. I'm happy to help when I can, but please check out these often-asked questions before you email me. If you have a question specifically about the lessons I offer, please check out the FAQ page.
Please do not Instant Message or Messenger me; just jot down your question in an email and I will get to it as soon as I can.
Will you listen to this sound clip of me and tell me what you think? Because of the high volume of requests I get, I can no longer do this.
Where can I find a singing teacher in my own area? Check out
this page for tips on how to do so.
Do you know such-and-such a singing teacher? Can you recommend a teacher in my area? I'm sorry, I can't make personal recommendations outside my own area. Check out
this page for tips on finding a teacher in your area.
Can you tell me what voice type I am (soprano, alto, etc)? Judging a person's voice type is partially about range, and partially about vocal quality. In general, here are some guidelines. Please bear in mind that if you're in your early 20s or younger, your voice type may yet change.
Tenor. Timbre tends to be light and flexible. Vocal range: B an octave below middle C, and up to high C or D (or above).
Baritone. Timbre tends to be thick and creamy. Vocal range: G or F an octave below middle C, to F or G above middle C.
Bass. Timbre tends to be dark, heavy, and full. Vocal range: E (or lower) an octave below middle C, to E or F above middle C.
Soprano. Timbre tends to be light and bright, although there are also many full-voiced sopranos. Vocal Range: G, below middle C, to Anywhere Above high C.
Mezzo Soprano. Timbre tends to be rich and creamy. Vocal Range: E, below middle C, to at least high C.
Alto (or Contralto). Timbre tends to be heavy and full. Vocal Range: D, below middle C.
Within these classifications are other classifications. For example a Coloratura Soprano is the highest of the female singers, and has a very light, flexible voice. To make further classifications on your own voice, you should seek in-person advice from a good voice teacher.
How can I learn to sing with vibrato? If you try to "make" vibrato, it will end up being an ugly warble--if not right away, then eventually. Vibrato is the natural product of singing without undue tension. Every part of your body, including your throat, neck, jaw, forehead, and shoulders should feel tension-free when you sing. (The exception is your diaphragm and perhaps your behind muscles.) This will give you a long-lasting, and more beautiful, voice. When you achieve this, vibrato will come naturally. That said, you probably already sing with some vibrato. Very few people sing with a pure "straight" tone, unless they do so on purpose. You might tape yourself singing (a hand held cassette recorder works fine for this) and then listen back to the recording. You will almost certainly detect some vibrato, although it may be very gentle and unobtrusive.
How do I sing more loudly? Trying to "push" your voice to be loud is counter-productive. The best way to achieve more volume is to learn to sing with forward placement (sometimes called "the mask" or "masque"). A good singing teacher, who can work with you one and one, is the best way to learn proper placement; it won't happen overnight, so be patient. It usually takes months to truly master this part of technique. To find what forward placement is, hum until you feel your front teeth and/or lips vibrate. Once you have that buzz, take note of the sensations in your mouth. Then, go directly from humming to singing vowels: "Hmmmmmeeeee. Hmmmmmaaaay. Hmmmmmoooo." Etc. Again, take note of those sensations and try to duplicate them when you sing a song. Some people feel very subtle vibrations, while others feel the vibrations intensely. Your teacher can give you additional exercises, tailored to your personality and voice, to help you with placement. (Singing with forward placement should never sound nasally or thin.)
I don't think I sing with tension--but how can I know for sure? It's often difficult for singers to detect tension in themselves, especially at first. Some people walk around all day with tension, so it seems normal to them. If you can't get a teacher right away (who can look at you and spot tension), then try video taping yourself, or sing while looking in the mirror. Your neck and chin and jaw line should always rest in a relaxed, natural position (no jerky moves); there should be no tension in your face, neck, shoulders; your jaw should flop open freely, not be forced down or held too shut; etc. Another way to detect tension is to consider whether or not there's more tightness in your face and neck when you sing, compared to when you speak. Bear in mind, however, that it's not true that your body will be entirely tension-free; whenever muscles are in use, there is tension. However, you shouldn't notice any tension in your neck, throat, jaw, etc.
What does "support" mean and how can I do it? When someone says you're singing "with support," they mean you're using your diaphragm properly. Singing with support is the most natural thing in the world. Watch a newborn baby cry loudly; you'll see their diaphragm visibly move. Babies can cry loudly without hurting their voices because they do so without undue tension and with good support.
There's really no such thing as a "weak" diaphragm. If you weren't using your diaphragm, you'd be dead, because you wouldn't be breathing. However, sometimes singers have what I call a "lazy" diaphragm; that is, they tend to be lazy about their support. Your singing teacher can you give tips and exercises for a "lazy" diagraph, but here are a few to get you started.
Shout "Ha!" as if you had to be heard across a football field. You should feel your diaphragm move, and will probably be able to see if move, if you watch yourself in a mirror. Do staccato singing exercises, being sure that you're not singing with undue tension in your throat, but are truly using your diaphragm to create that short, staccato sound. Place a fist against your diaphragm and push in a little.
Lie down on your back and put a heavy object on your diaphragm. A large, fat dictionary works well, as does a small toddler. Sing this way, and you should notice your diaphragm moving.
Sing while lifting a fairly heavy object. A piano bench with music books in it works well.
Do not push your diaphragm in and out methodically; this will not create "support."
How should I warm up? Warm ups should be individualized. There is no such thing as a good standard warm up. That said, humming is an excellent warm up. You may also wish to do exercises or scales that target your "problem" areas; these will be exercises given to you by your teacher. I recommend ending your warm ups by running over a portion of a difficult song that you've mastered. Warm ups can also include things like stretching (to relieve tension and help wake the senses) or even jumping jacks (to get the blood flowing). Since most people tend to breathe quite shallow, several deep breaths can help you remember to breathe fully. You can also exercise you tongue and lips with tongue twisters.
I don't understand a word or term used on this site; would you explain it? First check out the
Singing Terms section of this website