Talking in the car, on the way to the University to teach I started trying to explain to my dearly beloved husband about using the voice. Poor fellow is trying to learn the tenor part of the Messiah choruses and his wife, who teaches everyone else to sing, is not being much help to him.
… So here are some of the ten tips she should offer:
- Try not to focus too much on what is happening in your throat. There are various teaching methods that will try to persuade you that you can really control the muscles and fine tune the vocal folds, but this is not my approach as I think you can end up with a tighter sound that is not truly free.
- Start by getting the breath free and the lower body loose.
- When you do scales start at the top and go down. If you are trying to get higher with a free sound, use the idea of a falling sigh.
- Shaping the vowel spaces at the back of the throat can change the colour of your sound so work on Italianate vowels over the passaggio areas. Feel the difference between OO and Ee and Aa with your tongue shape and soft palate. Do that on different areas of your range and observe and listen and feel.
- Use forward resonance to help focus the sound, hums and bright E’s can help. It can help to feel it as if it is a mask, although that is quite an old fashioned idea, it still has some merits.
- Practice the parts without words, if you feel tongue tightening or shoulders or jaw use a kissy OO shape. Yawn if the throat tightens.
- Always release breath and tension before you sing and let the whole body take over the singing.
- Keep eyes and ears pricked as if listening for something exciting to happen.
- When you have lots of Handelian runs, split them up into sections and sing them light with motorbike Rrrrrs or diddle-dums to keep the vocalising light and free and flexible.
- Work on the higher passages a little at a time and learn the notes an octave lower so that when you do sing them high you can focus on timbre rather than accuracy. Focus on one thing at a time!