• Developing Good Pitch

    Everyone has good pitch. Everyone’s brain and ear is capable of hearing and matching pitches.  So if this is the case why do we sing out of tune at times or a lot of the time? There are a few reasons why this occurs and being able to sing on pitch is not elusive to you as so many people think. The term Tone Deaf is thrown about very casually, but it is actually pretty rare for someone to actually be diagnosed with Amusia the medical term for tone deafness. In the majority of cases, singing “off pitch” at times is merely from a lack of vocal coordination.

    Let’s define what one might describe as “good” pitch?  First, your ear and brain interpret a pitch that is being played by a musical instrument then the vocal cords match the pitch. In order to sing a note on pitch the vocal cords simply need to maintain their connection on the note that is being asked for. Your vocal cords are two folds of mucous tissue that extend horizontally across the larynx. When you are silent, the vocal cords rest in an open position. When you begin to speak or sing they come together or connect and begin to vibrate. The main reason for pitching problems is lack of vocal flexibility. Two factors that greatly affect vocal flexibility are air pressure and muscle tension.

     

    Air Pressure

    We sing or speak on our exhalation. Sound is created when air passes through your vibrating vocal cords. Different vowels cause the body to exhale different amounts of air. A narrower vowel such as “e” or “oo” creates less air pressure. A broader vowel such as “uh” or “aw” creates greater air-pressure. Likewise, if you sing loudly you increase the air-pressure and if you sing softly you decrease the air-pressure. The more air-pressure the vocal cords have to handle, the more challenging it can be for them to maintain their connection on a given pitch. When there is more air-pressure than the cords can handle they either separate completely, that would be the dreaded “crack” in the voice, or the cords start to peel open or adjust backwards. This results in a slightly under-pitched sound. Likewise, the cords can adjust to far forward thus creating a slightly sharp sound. To help manage your air flow practice singing your songs on one word such as “koo” or humming it on “m”. We sing on our breath so the smoother the inhalation and exhalation the smoother your singing will be. Also, practice singing your songs at the volume you would speak at, supported but not pushed or breathy. Once you build consistent muscle memory you can begin to increase the air pressure to add more dynamics to your voice.

     

    Muscle Tension

    Muscle tension is a big culprit of pitching difficulties. Muscle tension occurs when the neck, tongue, and jaw muscles start to squeeze the larynx as a singer ascends in pitch and begins to “reach” for notes. Once these larger muscles engage they begin to pull the larynx up making it very difficult for proper vocal cord connection. In order for the vocal cords to adjust easily to pitches these larger muscles should remain relaxed allowing the larynx to remain in the same easy position it sits in when you are speaking. Remember the key to staying on pitch is maintaining the right vocal cord connection. Be sure your neck, tongue, and jaw muscles are relaxed as you sing through your songs. I suggest watching yourself in the mirror, this way you can see what kind of tension you may be exerting. Also, practice speaking the lyrics of your song. Then try singing your songs as easily as you speak them. Minimizing muscle tension will allow the vocal cords to easily connect on each pitch.

    Your ability to sing with “good” pitch has to do with how you are affecting your vocal instrument. If you can, seek out professional training and start training your voice. Also, you can begin to apply the tips provided above. Believe it or not, we were all born awesome singers. It will just take some time, practice and patience, but success is inevitable. Focus on your vocal development and you will make all the right moves. Vocal flexibility is our goal, go slow, practice properly and build your skills gradually. And most of all have fun exploring your instrument!

    Author: Tammy Frederick


  • Breathing for Singing Made Simple

    There seems to be a lot of confusion about breathing when it comes to singing. Really all we are looking for is that the breath is allowed to fill into the lungs and exhale in a steady manner. It is actually detrimental to take in too much air before you sing a phrase in a song. If you ever have it that the voice sounds shaky especially as you descend in pitch, it is very often because you simply have taken in too much air that now has to find release.

    Try taking in a normal amount of air as if you were in a conversation. No doubt some phrases in a song or a phrase that includes a long sustained note will require more air intake, but the majority of your phrasing will be quite normal. 

    The key in singing is to focus on the exhale, not so much on the inhalation. Your body will breathe in automatically and so focus on breathing out as you sing, easily releasing your air in a steady stream.

    The best best best tool for this is to sing with Liprolls (motor boat sound with your lips) or Tongue Trills (rolling the front of your tongue). Sing all your favourite songs with a liproll or tongue trill and you will guarantee that you are singing with a consistent steady stream of air. In order for the lips or tongue to keep moving, you must be exhaling a steady stream of air which will quickly develop this muscle memory in your songs. It will also serve to keep the facial and throat muscles relaxed, which is ideal for singing.

    Basic Breathing:
    Place one hand on your belly, just above your belly button. When you breathe in allow your belly to move FORWARD. As you exhale the belly will fall back. This is the action of your diaphragm contracting downward as you breathe in moving your organs slightly forward and as you exhale the diaphragm relaxes. The action downward allows your lungs to fully expand. Try to keep inhalations relaxed and full with tongue relaxed. If you are struggling with this watch someone breathe as they sleep, their belly will rise and fall with each breath. Or lay on the floor with your feet up on a chair, relax, and watch your belly rise and fall. Try to continue this easy breathing as you sing and speak.

     Author: Tammy Frederick


  • Vocal Tip - Breath Marks!

    The key to vocal endurance and easy release of the voice is to plan out where you are going to breathe in your song BEFORE you sing the song!

    Take a moment to print off a lyric sheet or the sheet music and mark with a check mark with a pencil where you are going to breathe in your song.

    Try to look at phrasing of your story - how you would speak the sentence.

    Try to sing longer phrases, ie. two sentences together, rather than shorter; doing so will increase your breath capacity for those long notes at the end of the song.

    Try to sing with those same breath marks every time you sing the song to build your muscle memory.

    Note: Just because there is a rest, doesn't mean you should take a breath in. Sing through rests by simply exhaling rather than inhaling through them. If its hard at first, sing the last note before the rest longer to cover the rest until your body gets used to breathing out through the phrase, then go back to observing the rest with simply exhaling through it.

    Try it and see the difference in your breath capacity!

     

    "I can't explain it, but I'll find a song that can"

     

    Author: Tammy Frederick 


  • Connecting Yourself to the Story

    On some level, you can relate to the essence of any song. Understanding what your song is about is the first step to being able to express it; however, relating it to personal experience assists you in connecting to it and expressing it in an authentic way. By doing this you begin to breathe life, confidence, and emotion into the song. Start by thinking about the basic essence of your song as explored in the last blog post called Your Song's Story. Your song may be about love, hardship, loss, achievement, or desire. Now, think about a personal experience in your own life where you experienced a similar situation or emotion. Any personal experience, no matter how small, can offer you the feeling you want to duplicate. As you sing your song, imagine you are singing about your own experience. Use the lyrics of the song to pour your own story out into the world. This is an exercise to help you access deeper levels of expression with your song. The more connected you are to the story the more meaningfully you will be able to express it vocally and thus connect with your audience.

    self-ex·pres·sion

    noun

    the expression of one's feelings, thoughts, or ideas, especially in writing, art, music, or dance.

    Oxford Dictionary

     

    Author: Tammy Frederick

     



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