If you would like to try getting better at singing in the privacy of your own home, here are a few tips to get you started.
Singing involves using a wider range and a more intense vibration than talking, so it is always a good idea to warm up your vocal cords before singing. This doesn’t need to take long. Literally 30 seconds of stretching and a minute of vocal noises will make a big difference. Stretch your neck, shoulders, ribcage, and face. Start to hum low down in your voice and slide upwards. Do a lip-trill – this is a highly effective warming-up device. This is the motorcycle/ outboard motor/ tired horse sound, which makes you increase your airflow and loosen your lips. These exercises protect your vocal folds (vocal cords) because you have your mouth shut.
Pitch, in its musical sense, means which notes we sing, the shape of the melody.
You could imagine pitch as a pitched roof – a continuous slope going up or down / \. This is like the slidey noises we practise in our warmups. When we move on to singing melodies, we choose specific steps on the slope, which are the doh-re-mi or numbers 1-8 in the scales we sing. We can label them with letter-names, too – C, D, E flat and so forth.
When you sing exactly what I sing, you are in tune. You need to be able to hear the note and reproduce it with your own voice, and this takes time and practice. The two essential elements are listening and singing – one without the other won’t do. If you just listen and don’t open your mouth, you won’t learn how your voice feels singing different notes. If you sing without listening, your confidence may grow but you won’t know if you are matching what you hear.
Sometimes you can be in tune with yourself but not with the other people in the room, because you have just started on a different note. This is the most frequent performing disaster we have in choir! Sometimes people can’t hear the starting notes correctly because it’s noisy, or they are nervous and not concentrating.
One of the most helpful things you can do is listen to your own voice without wincing. Listen to the first line of a song on a recording. Then sing along with it. Switch off the recording and sing it on your own. Rather than dramatically saying, “Oh I’m terrible!” try to detach the emotion and say specifically what you would like to change. Is it wobbly? Try pushing more air through. You might need to take an extra breath but do you like the sound better? Can you hear that your notes are not the same as what you are hearing? Go back to the first note. Listen. Sing. Go lower or higher until you feel you are matching it.
(Sometimes it’s just too high or low for your voice and you should try a different song.)
Without feedback, it’s hard to know if you are getting it right or not, and I really feel for you here. It is difficult for me not being able to hear you and know how you are getting on. Please be honest in online rehearsals if you haven’t got it and want to do a section again. If we were singing in real life we would go over it until I felt it was really secure.