Vocal exercises and how to use them
This post would be about vocal exercises and how you should go about using them. First of all let’s define the subject matter. What are vocal exercises? What does it constitute?
Is it all those trills, scales, and other drills that we do every single day (hopefully) to improve our voices? Well, that’s partly true, but it’s not the whole story.
In general, a vocal exercise is something you do with your voice that moulds it and shapes it so that it’s strong and flexible enough to do what we want it to do.
In our case as singers, we want the voice to be strong and agile enough to sing. For other professionals, maybe strength and agility are not what they’re after.
For example, a lawyer may not want to focus too much on strength of his voice, because he doesn’t really need to mix in a lot of tones in his work. The same goes for agility.
But he may want to have endurance. A court session is a gruelling affair that may last for hours, and the lawyer has to use his voice to talk for long periods of time. A lawyer in this case would love to train his voice to handle long hours of usage without cracking up and drying out.
After all, if he shows up to work everyday and spends 6-8 hours talking non-stop, that takes a toll after a while.
The same goes for a politician who needs to give long speeches to address the public. These speeches sometimes take up to 3-4 hours and the speaker rarely takes any breaks in between. This is very taxing to the voice, of course, and the unprepared speaker pays for it by nursing a very hoarse-sounding voice for a few weeks.
What about us singers? What do we look for when we do vocal exercises? Well, for one thing, we want to have strength in our vocal chords. Most of the best tones in our voice reside in the chest voice. So we want to have vocal chords that are strong enough to carry as much of that tone into our head voice as possible, without injuring ourselves.
Agility is important too. We want our voice to be able to adapt to the ever changing notes in the song’s melody as accurately as possible. A voice that’s not agile enough, combined with very poor hearing skills, results in singing that’s “pitchy” – as the American Idol judges love to say.
Especially for musical styles like classical music and jazz, where the notes include accidentals which are more subtle and very hard to pinpoint and sing.
Is endurance not important for singers then? It’s actually VERY important. I still remember a concert by one of my favourite bands, Muse. The singer – Matthew Bellamy – sang live non-stop for 3 hours straight.
You’ll also see guys like Stevie Wonder pull off the same feat. I watched Celine Dion in concert once too. Amazing. Just simply amazing.
Endurance is what allows these singers to sing non-stop for the whole 3-hour concert without lip-syncing.
But for the beginning singer, it’s best to focus on strength and agility first. Once you get that down, you can then begin to focus on building endurance. The important thing is to have a definite plan and stick to it and work on it.
Read my follow up post on this topic here.