When I speak of classical singing lessons, I am not talking about contemporary popular music. For me, classical singing is the “bel canto” singing which encompasses a great range of expression.
What do classical singing lessons emphasize? To the classical singer, singing is an art, not an entertainment. Entertainment is sort of a quick “fix” in a fast-paced world. True art is something that is not just for the moment but for all time.
So many teachers of singing are promoters of techniques that give quick results but long term problems. True teachers of singing will seek to impress upon their students the qualities of patience and persistence. Without these attributes, there can be no real development of a voice that will last a lifetime.
The best singing techniques always begin by laying a good foundation. To lay a good foundation one must begin with posture. Unfortunately, modern pop singers have terrible posture. Much of this is due to the reliance on electronic amplification in their singing.
The very position of holding a microphone, or leaning into a microphone has warped the posture from the beginning. There are also other weaknesses that are allowed to persist in such an environment. We shall address those in another blog.
Correct posture has been described in many ways.
Any of these will present a good example of the correct posture for singing. Though you may not maintain that posture continually, it is a good beginning point.
Breath control is something that must continually be addressed. It is not something that you learn in an exercise and then put it on automatic pilot.
Quite often the diaphragm is emphasized. It is an important element in good breath control. But many “popular” teachers of singing teach that it is the support for the breath control mechanism. It is part of the mechanism, but not the only or the main part.
When we speak of breath control we are usually addressing the flow of air passing through the vocal mechanism. The two main areas of control are pressure and flow regulation. Pressure determines the volume of the tone. Flow is related to the length of the singing phrase that can be sustained. The amount of pressure is controlled by the intercostal muscles and the abdominal muscles. These muscles provide the pressure while the diaphragm provides regulation.
The diaphragm’s initial work is related to inhalation. It then assumes the role of a regulator by adjusting how much air is expelled from the lungs. The diaphragm then works as an antagonist to the intercostal and abdominal muscles to do this. It takes years of practice to develop the coordination of these muscles to produce a quality singer.
Breath control is also important in becoming an expressive singer. Without good breath control, the voice becomes somewhat monochromatic. If you wish to be an artistic singer, be ready to be patient and persistent. It will take years instead of months to make breath control a natural operation for a singer of quality.
Practicing what you learn should become second nature. Whether you have a presentation coming up or not, you should practice daily and consistently. I am of the Biblical persuasion that you should rest at least one day in seven. Your practice may not be as vigorous each day but it should be structured and consistent.
The only way that you will be able to build such a regimen is to love your singing. If you ever get into the rut of it being a job, you will begin to stop practicing as you should. Sing because you love it, not because you have to.
The ideal way to practice your vocalese and your songs is to have your own accompanist. However, most students can not afford that luxury. The next best thing is to have a recording of the accompaniment of your vocalese and your songs. It is hard to accompany yourself and sing your vocalese. Still harder, to accompany yourself while practicing and learning a song.
Try to find a service that can record or provide an MP3 of your vocalese and accompaniments. At tomharveybaritone.com we can help you, if you need. We can provide MP3 recordings which you can download from our site. Just let us know the particular composition. If we do not have a particular work, you can provide us a copy of the manuscript and we can make the MP3. (The cost will be minimal and you will have the accompaniment for your practice.)
You will be surprised at how fast you will progress having your own accompaniments. It cuts your warmup time by half. Learning to perform a song is accomplished 3 or 4 times faster with accompaniment. Plus, getting ready for a performance makes warming up more convenient with a recorded warm-up accompaniment.
Accompaniment MP3s for songs will be with a standard interpretation. When you perform, you and your accompanist can work out your best interpretation.
You should not be taken in by “Quick fix” singing teachers. There is no profession known to man that can be learned “quick”. Would you go to a doctor who took a six-week course in anatomy and then opened his practice? So in singing, you should learn the best singing techniques, even though it takes a little longer.
Classical singing lessons are never “quick fixes”. If you want to enjoy your singing for a lifetime, you should lay a solid foundation. The ideal way would be to study with a private voice teacher. If you do not know of a good teacher of classical singing there is an organization you can check with. That is the National Association of Teachers of Singing. They can connect you with teachers in most metropolitan areas.
If you cannot find a reputable teacher, you can learn from sites like ours and others. Make sure they are not “Quick Fix Singing Sites”. You will find many vocalese and exercises on our site that will help you get started. We even provide accompaniments for most. Our library is growing every day. All exercise MP3s on our site are free to use.
If you need help, please leave a comment in the comment box.