Posts Tagged :

singing

How to Be a Great Singer Using Musical Phrasing

In today's video we'll explore the question:

What separates a good singer from a GREAT singer?

The answer, in my opinion, is musical phrasing. 

Good singers get the job done and not much more. They think about individual notes and whether or not they can hit them right, and then stop there.

Great singers think about how those notes relate to each other and how they can sculpt them into something memorable and moving.

This is musical phrasing. And it's tons of fun.

Phrasing can be altered by adjusting the following 4 components:
1. Dynamics (how loud or soft you get)
2. Rhythm (how fast or slow you sing the notes)
3. Onset (how you start the line)
4. Cut off (how you end the line)
(Admittedly, there are some more factors, but those are the broadest and most apparent.)

The easiest component for a singer to adjust and make their singing instantly better is the first one -- dynamics, or singing volume.

Watch in the video below as I explain how vocal dynamics have a huge effect on phrasing.


After that I'll demo a "good" version of "The Star Spangled Banner," followed by a "great" -- or at least better 🙂 -- version that has noticeable dynamic variation.

 

In this video I'll also teach you a simple vocal warmup that will help you rehearse dynamic range and learn to control your volume as you sing.

Please enjoy, and let me know your thoughts on phrasing in the comments below!

(And remember to share this with any singers you know hoping to take their voice to the next level!)

xo Fel

How to Hold a Difficult Emotion While Singing

If you've ever written to me and said:

Fel, when I sing a song I become very overcome with feeling and want to cry, and then I lose my technique.

or,

Fel, how do I show real emotion when I sing?

-- then the following process will serve you incredibly well.

But first, a quick story . . .



This past Friday I attended a business conference, and in one of our small group exercises, I started crying.

Yup.

My attempt at a "business suit"

If that sounds weird, it's because it kind of is. But this was no ordinary business conference. The goal of our group exercise was to relive a past memory and to hold the feeling of that memory in our bodies.

(Among other things, one greater goal of the conference was to expand our consciousness, to learn to hold feelings, and to use these skills in the service of creating heart-centered businesses.)

What does it mean to "hold a feeling?"

To me it means: not buckling under its weight, or letting your mind reactively race in anxious thoughts. Instead, you learn to embody the feeling, hold it in your heart, head, stomach, whatever, without getting freaked.

In turn, the feeling (1) doesn't flee from you, (2) doesn't overwhelm you, (3) becomes a welcomed part of who you are.

As I did this exercise, I realized the process was almost exactly aligned with the dramatic process of getting into character onstage, whether for a play or for a song performance.

Getting into character basically means: are you able to hold the character's emotion -- without fleeing or worrying that "this is too much"?

That's what today's post is about!

So let me ask you: what makes a good song performance?

We're all familiar with the answer: good pitch, pleasant sounding tone, and consistent technique.

Now let me ask you: what makes a great song performance?

A great performance conveys real emotion, vulnerability, and connection. In short, the singer touches the audience in a memorable, true, and vital way.

The first (good performance) is simple. Practice your technique, my dudes, and you'll get there (I'm here to help with that if you need daily guidance).

The second (great performance) requires some special sauce. This sauce is made with the ingredients of empathy, self-awareness, and a performer's ability to hold a feeling without running from it. (Yay Italian cooking metaphors!)

This process of holding a feeling will serve you tremendously not just in life, but in your song performance.

HOW TO HOLD A DIFFICULT EMOTION WHILE SINGING

Step 1: During your song preparation, determine the feeling behind the song (e.g. hope, joy, jealousy, despair, etc.). (These don't have to be "bad" feelings per se, because even joy can feel overwhelming sometimes.)

Step 2: Get centered in your breath. Visualize a connection from your feet to your butt, to your belly, to your heart, to your head, and then back again. At this moment, you are grounding yourself and connecting with your body.

Step 3: Recall a time from your own life when you felt the feeling from Step 1. Close your eyes and step forward. Allow the feeling to overtake you. Feel it in your body. Notice where it lives. Does it have a color? A shape? A direction? Let it come to your body for a few moments.

Step 4. This is the really cool part! Physically take a step back, outside of the emotion. Literally step back, "out of the feeling." In doing so, you return to your grounded state of Step 2. This is called "Second Position."

High-quality graphic by Felicia Ricci

While in "Second Position" consider the feeling. Where did you feel it? What is the positive intention behind the feeling? How might it be trying to help you? (E.g. Is the jealousy trying to keep you safe? Is the joy trying to lead you to fulfillment?)

Take some time to observe and understand the feeling. Is it necessarily "bad?" Or is it just....a feeling?

Step 5. When you're ready, physically return to the original feeling, stepping forward, but keeping your expanded Second Position consciousness or mindset. This means you literally take a physical step back into the original position but you try to retain that feeling of groundedness and expansion.

At this point, it's sort of like you blend the two states. You're able to both understand and "hold" the difficult feeling, simultaneously. As you return to your feeling state, recall the feeling of being grounded in Second Position, even as the feeling comes.

Recall the wisdom you had of accepting the feeling for what it was. You knew that even fear, even jealousy, even _______ (fill in the blank) is an important part of who you are and can exist in you without hurting you.

Step 6. Repeat this exercise as many times as necessary until you and the difficult or overwhelming feeling are best buds! Remember, you can always step out of the feeling to Second Position if it gets to be too much.

This ability to not only feel but to self-regulate and hold feeling in a grounded (and non-reactive) way is one of the greatest performance skills I know!

And while I certainly have good and bad days in achieving this, I'm committed to practicing the process, to serve both my life and my performances onstage.

What about you? Will you use this technique to hold complex, difficult, or overwhelming feelings -- and to ultimately understand and integrate them into your performances (and life)?

Please leave me a comment!

xo Fel

P.S. If you're digging the idea of holding deep emotion onstage, but still want to develop consistent vocal technique to support that goal, I'd love for you to check out my Lazy Singer's Warmups.

These vocal warmups are fun, quick, and effective at growing your voice in just 10 - 33 minutes per day. No complex thinking required. Just a little bit of commitment each day.

Check out my favorite vocals warmups here!

 

 

Why You Need A "Singer Survival Technique"

“We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”  --Archilochos

Last month I began performing onstage with my musical improv group Thank You, Places: An Improvised Musical at the Philly Improv Theater. Every other Friday we make up a one-hour musical, on the spot!

If you're thinking: That sounds hard, Fel is so BRAVE! -- well, I have news for you:

It freaking ter-ri-fies me.

Seriously. I think I was more nervous on February 17, 2017, our opening night, than I was when I first went on for Elphaba in Wicked (and that's not a joke).

The face of a woman doing everything she can not to freak out

Why was performing made-up songs so psychologically stressful for me? You already know the answer, I'm sure:

No preparation means you have nothing to hold onto, no rules to follow, and no way to anticipate the challenging parts of a song. 

In contrast, if you want me to do "regular" musical stuff, I will jump at the chance. Give me a score or a script to study, and I'm golden. I can rehearse and plan, I can get the feelings of the songs in my body, mind, and voice. I can deliver what I've practiced with consistency. This is my bread and butter.

But making up lines and songs on the spot -- all while maintaining good breath support, vocal control, solid singing technique -- this was another challenge ENTIRELY.

But, as the cliché goes: the Show Must Go On. So here's what I did.

I developed a "Singer Survival Technique."

Before I explain what this is, I want to point out that even if you're not performing in an improvised musical troupe like me, having a Singer Survival Technique is crucial.

As a singer, you're not always going to be able to rehearse everything. Being able to be spontaneous while singing, deal with the unknown, and find your way back after an unexpected mistake or change in a song is an essential skill.

(Examples: You're asked to throw together a quick act when an unexpected opportunity comes up. Or you decide to make up a riff or alternate melody, mid-performance. Or you're invited onstage without notice. Or you and your band change something about a song a couple minutes before you perform it. These things happen all the time.)

So it's time to arm yourself with something that will help you, no matter what.

Here it is:

THE SINGER SURVIVAL TECHNIQUE

Pick one, almighty, broad-strokes cue. Then, while performing, do that cue.

The end.

Now. This technique may sound overly simple and, of course, there's more to it. Namely, it only works in the clutch after lots of thought and preparation.

So what are the steps to prepare? To explain, I'm going to tell you:

(1) What exactly a broad-strokes cue is,

(2) How to pick this almighty cue,

(3) What you need to do *everyday* to ensure this Singer Survival Technique works when you need it most,

(4) What you need to do *right before a performance* to ensure this Singer Survival Technique works.

1. What is a "broad-strokes cue"?

A broad-strokes cue is basically a big, general movement that involves a big, general image. In times of stress, humans lose fine motor skills (tiny movements) but we retain broad/gross motor patterns (big movements).

In the army, soldiers are taught to rack the slides of their pistols with a broad movement of their palm, rather than with individual fingertips. Likewise, martial arts like Krav Maga reject overly detailed movements in favor of simple strikes that are easy to execute.

Relying on broad movements increases the likelihood of a successful performance in moments of confusion, chaos, danger, and stress.

Singing is the same, especially improvised singing. With no rehearsal, or even any preconceived idea of where the song is going, all you have to rely on is your skill in the big stuff -- the basics. For most singers, this is breath support, alignment, and relaxation.

If you make those things as automatic as possible, or use a broad-strokes cue to help you remember, you can use the rest of your brain to think about the other, less broad stuff (face shape, vowel modification, interpretation).

2. How do I pick this cue?

This is where your singing Practice Log becomes crucial.

I encourage all singers always to track their singing practice and determine which singing cues work best for them. (You can download my free Practice Log here.)

As you practice, keep track of the cues that are most effective for YOU.

Which images or prompts are the most "magical" for achieving a desired result? If you practice regularly, you will become quite familiar with these.

To develop your own personalized Singer Survival Technique, take your favorite cue or set of cues and combine them into one almighty broad-strokes cue.

Here's my own, personal example:

When I sing, I am absolutely lost if I am not 1) breathing from my diaphragm/lower body, (2) fully aligned without a "chicken neck."

So what is my Singer Survival Technique?

"Butt clench with arrow down."

That's it.

For me, it works. (Without getting too much into the nitty gritty, the butt clench helps me to activate my breath, reduce tension in my neck and face, and stay vertically aligned, while the down arrow keep my energy grounded and my larynx relaxed.)

While I was performing onstage with Thank You, Places, I was thinking about lyrics, melody, character -- all that juicy stuff -- but always, ALWAYS, in the back of my mind -- and sometimes quite actively -- I thought:

"Butt clench with arrow down."

And whattaya know? My voice didn't bail on me. It was there. And I was able to sing freely with good supported technique, even when I didn't know what the heck was going to happen.

3. What do I need to do *before a performance* to ensure my Singer Survival Technique works?

In order for your Singer Survival Technique to work, you have to get the juices flowing before your performance with a basic warmup set.

Take particular care to stretch, breathe, and relax your ribcage, back, face, jaw, and tongue. Busting tension is one of the most crucial parts of maintaining good technique. This is a whole other topic in and of itself, but just know that a warmup is essential.

Equally essential: as you warmup, visually reinforce your Broad Strokes Cue, picturing the image or thought as you work through your warmup set.

4. What do I need to do *everyday* to ensure my Singer Survival Technique works?

The answer is simple and un-sexy: practice, practice practice.

Practice your skills daily, with extra emphasis on the basics, and log your findings in your Practice Log. Your basics are the meat and potatoes of your singing technique. They will ultimately compromise your Broad Strokes Cue.

In the words of Bruce Lee: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Breath. Relaxation. Busting tension. These are the essentials, and more important that any "fine motor adjustment" could ever be.

Brick by brick, you are laying a solid singing foundation for yourself.

(If you're confused about what to practice, and you want a quick 'n' dirty solution that will help you bust tension, open up your voice, and build solid technique without wasting time, you might want to check out my Lazy Singer's Warmups. These will help with both numbers 3 and 4 -- warming up before a performance, and warming up daily.)

(If you want a more in-depth, holistic look at singing technique and building a solid foundation from the ground up, check out my comprehensive course Singing Transformation: 360 Degrees of Vocal Training.)

***

Whoa, that was a long post! But I wanted to share this because it has been illuminating to find myself totally terrified and in a new singing situation. It really puts things in perspective -- and hopefully lets you see that even people who have been singing for 25+ years (like me) need to take proactive steps to maintain good technique.

What do you think? Are you excited to develop a Singing Survival Technique? What are some ideas for your Broad Strokes Cue? Share below in the comments! I'll be sure to check them all out.

xo Fel

Are you frustrated with your voice? Read this.

You know what bugs me most? When singers don't realize their full potential -- not because they're incapable, but because they don't have the right tools.

In our online singing community there are over 90,000 singers who tweet me, email me, leave awesome comments -- you name it! And I can sense the love-hate relationships they have with their voices.

They have spent years (decades, even!) spinning their wheels and not making lasting progress.

Maybe you can relate. You're a singer with boatloads of potential, trying to piece together the "clues" of how singing should feel. But you feel way more frustrated than triumphant.

You see progress, then setbacks. You learn tips and tricks (possibly from me, on YouTube 🙂 ), but nothing truly STICKS.

You don't know how to put it together in the right order.

Your voice comes and goes, never seeming predictable.

You start to worry: "Am I just not cut out for this?"

"Do I have to be blessed with that elusive 'it' factor that makes singing easy and effortless?"

The confusion ends now.

You CAN absolutely sing, consistently and well. There is a voice waiting to be unlocked. If you haven't yet, you haven't been given the right tools.

Singing ISN'T pure natural ability. Singing CAN be developed, and built, in the same way you can build up your muscles in order to lift heavy objects.

Singing is a PROCESS.

A slow burn.

Singing is 50-year marriage, not a weekend love affair.

Singing is about your MIND, BODY, and EMOTIONS, not just physical mechanics.

If you're reading this email, we've already met somewhere on the internet (hi!). You've hopefully enjoyed my singing tips videos, where I give you short bite-sized bits of information. Or maybe you've enrolled in a few of my specialized singing courses, on belting or warming up.

But I want to go deeper with you.

I want to pull everything together in a manner that makes sense.

I want to show you how my "singing tips" are the tip of the iceberg. 🙂

I want to show you how learning singing fundamentals, empowering yourself to know your instrument, and linking your mind, body, and emotions will make your voice soar.

My mission is to help you build a lifelong singer strategy that puts you in the driver's seat, and lets you get to know your voice better than anybody else.

If you can relate to any of this, you are my favorite kind of singer!

You are driven, you are committed, and you are not letting setbacks throw you off course.

Let me help you keep going –

I'd like to extend to you an exclusive invitation to my free singing webinar.

Next Sunday, January 15 @ 3PM EST I'm releasing Part 1 of my epic training series, called:

UNLOCK YOUR TRUE SINGER POTENTIAL: Yes, My Dude, You Can Become a Good Singer

**As the video plays, I'll be there live chatting with you in the comments section of the webinar!**

Be sure to RSVP for the webinar, as space is limited >

This is a 3-part video series that totals over 90 minutes of free singing training! Part 1 comes next Sunday, then parts 2 and 3 throughout the week. 

It's unlike anything you've seen from me before (or probably elsewhere), as we will be learning and singing along together, using powerful visual cueing and creativity to access your body and voice. We will get into the nitty gritty of how to build a lifelong singer strategy that WORKS. And I will show you how to build CONFIDENCE & CONSISTENCY every time you go to sing or perform. 

RSVP for my epic singing webinar, where you can live chat with me! >

This webinar is a free introduction to my elite training course Singing Transformation: 360 Degrees of Vocal Training, which re-opens for enrollment at the end of this month (after 8 months of being closed, eek!). The entire experience -- from webinar to registration -- is heart-poundingly exciting for me because SO many singers get SUCH incredible results.

I hope to see you there and hope you'll chat with me!

Lots of love,

Fel

P.S. I want to thank all of you who participated in my singer survey and Skype lottery! Update- I'm still going through all 2,359 response (lol) but will announce the Skype winners ASAP!

In the meantime, be sure to RSVP to the webinar so you can secure a spot -- there's tons of interest this year and I like to cap attendance so that I'm not overwhelmed with the live chatting. 🙂

In my webinar, I will teach you:

  • Why it's fruitless to worry about your "maximum potential" - and why you (and you alone) determine your own vocal potential
  • Why practicing on your own doesn't need to be a marathon (and is actually really simple)
  • The REAL reason voice lessons and teachers haven't worked for you in the past
  • The magical power of visual cueing and linking your mind, body, and emotions
  • Why the best singers are their own voice teachers -- and their own cheerleaders
  • How to feel free in performance while still maintaining great technique
  • How to set mental, emotional, and physical conditions so your voice doesn’t “come and go”

Claim your spot at my free webinar >

Let's do this! xo

My Skype Lottery is Back!

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Nope, I don't mean the holidays....

I mean: it's time for my Singing Survey and Skype Lottery! Woooooo!

Can you lend 3 minutes to answer my quick survey?

Every year I revise my elite 8-week training program Singing Transformation directly from your singer feedback. Singing Transformation is my "teaching opus" -- my mondo fun and cool singing course designed to teach CONFIDENCE and CONSISTENCY in a truly epic and comprehensive way.

The best part: I add to it every year, and use your comments to help shape (1) the way I teach, (2) what I teach. Plus, I'll use your feedback for all of my future courses / videos / teaching topics.

The more I can get to know you, the better I'll be able to help you. 🙂

Extra cool part? If you complete the survey you'll be in the running to get a free Skype session / convo with me -- I'll be picking 3 singers to chat with from all those who enter.*

Fill Out the Singer Survey and Enter My Skype Lottery >

*You can also complete the survey & simply opt-out of the Skype lottery, either way is cool 🙂

Thank you SO MUCH for being such an awesome, helpful, valuable member of my online community. Without you none of this would be possible!

Love and surveys,

Fel

P.S. Even (especially!) if you're already enrolled in Singing Transformation, I'd love to hear your feedback. The survey takes about 3 minutes and asks you about your top singing questions, as well as the kinds of topics you're interested in.

Take the survey and help a Fel out >

Your answers will help me make Singing Transformation even better this year -- and hopefully we'll get a chance to Skype chat (fingers crossed).

xo

How to Sing Any Song with Modified Lyrics

This video is about my favorite singing "hack" - modified lyrics! This easy singing tip will give you the most bang for your buck, even (especially) if you're a beginner.

If you've watched my "How to Sing Chandelier by Sia" video, or any others in my pop song series, you know that I like to take regular English words and translate lyrics into singer-friendly vowels. Why? It can do WONDERS for your singing.

When you rewrite singing lyrics with more "open" vowels, which are easier and more resonant to sing, they become a million times easier for singers to tackle.

What's more, it makes your singing tone less closed or pinched, and more open, rich, and resonant.

I get tons of requests to translate specific songs, which I will keep doing in future, but I also wanted to give you my guidelines so that you can do it for any song that you like to sing!

Be sure to download my .PDF summary so you can check out the best singer vowel translations and start singing in with a more open, resonant, and beautiful tone.

Please leave me a comment to let me know if this video helped you translate and sing your favorite songs!

xo Fel

 

Sing Without Tension - 3 Easy Warmups

Vocal tension is the #1 culprit of strained singing, vocal fatigue, burnout, and vocal problems! These 3 warmups will help prime you for relaxed, open, free singing.

Remember: if you're someone who experience lots bodily tension (like yours truly!), singing without tension is possible -- you just have to incorporate relaxation techniques into your vocal routine.

The 3 vocal warmups in the video below are:

(1) The Teapot Hiss - eliminates lower body, ribcage, and lower back tension that can creep "up the chain" and affect your voice.

(2) The Scary Lion's Yawn - busts jaw, tongue, neck, and throat tension, all in one!

(3) "Oh, Wow!" - a simple warmup to reinforce a relaxed jaw and open throat.

Try these simple vocal warmups and let me know if they help you relax and free up your voice! I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.

Also -- stay tuned for my vocal warmup series called "The Lazy Singer's Warmups," coming soon! Sign up for email updates to the right and you'll be the first to hear about them, along with fun bonus goodies, once they're released.

 

 

 

Singing Into a Microphone - How to Record Vocals for Best Results

Here's a lil video all about microphone singing! My best 6 tips for knowing how to record vocals for optimal results.

My tips include....

1) Set levels so they're not too high; otherwise you'll max out and distort your vocal recording -- and, worse, try to hold back or sing tentatively to accommodate this too-high setting. Instead, aim for a lower microphone level. You can always boost it later.

2) Get your live monitor/headphone levels right! Singing with headphones always presents its own set of challenges, so I almost always leave one ear outside of the headphones as I'm singing to get some live feedback.

3) Don't forget your breathing DOWN BELOW! The microphone picks up what you're creating up top, however, the work and effort happens via the rest of your body. Don't forget your technique or become a "neck-up" singer in the studio.

4) Be mindful of how distance to the microphone affects the nuance, intimacy and volume of what you're singing. Closer = more intimate. Further away = taller, more echo-y, for louder moments.

5) Learn how to breathe without harsh, noticeable gasps (super distracting -- and in the video I give you a quick tutorial on how to do this).

6) Finally, experiment! Microphones are incredible tools, so don't be intimidated! Just practice and see what sounds good, then trust your instincts. 🙂

In the video I also mentioned that I was using an Audio-Technica AT4040 condenser microphone for $299 - http://amzn.to/29hKetW

Ooh! Even better -- AT4040 plus pop-filter and XLR cable, for $299: http://amzn.to/29gKJVd

Other good condenser microphones....

AT2020 microphone is $99 - http://amzn.to/29lNwh2

AT2020 microphone with USB hookup is $149 - http://amzn.to/29gLqOE

MXL 770 for $75 - http://amzn.to/29fUlDm

My headphones are also Audio-Technica (see a trend here?) and you can find them here: http://amzn.to/29fUiaP

*Please note, these are Amazon affiliate links.

Hope this video and these resources are helpful! Please leave me a comment to let me know whether you've been recording some vocal projects, and whether you'd like more videos like this!
xo Fel

 

Take my survey & enter to win a critique and/or phone chat!

Here is my face, smiling at you, like, "Please take my survey lol!"


*Note: As of Friday, April 25, 2014, submission has been closed. Thank you to all who participated! The winner will be announced later today.*


Are you a singer? An aspiring singer? Do you belt it out in the shower?

If so, I'd love for you to help me out by taking a quick survey.

Is there a prize involved? Heck yes! One survey-taker will be randomly selected to receive a free online video critique from me! (What's a video critique? Learn more here >)

So what's the survey about?

In an ongoing effort to bring more beautiful, free, effortless, joy-filled singing into the world, I'm searching for ways to better serve my private and online voice students.

Lately, I've been very interested the concept of fear and what holds us back when we perform. 

Would you mind lending a few moments to offer your opinions?

You can remain 100% anonymous.

Cool bonus: I'm also looking to phone interview some of you for further research.

If you're interested in potentially having a little one-on-one chat with yours truly, simply fill out the survey as truthfully as possible, leave your email at the bottom, and be sure to check "yes" when I ask you if you're open to speaking over the phone.

If I feel you're a good candidate for an interview, I'll email you and we can schedule a time to speak.

Thank you, friends! I can't thank you enough for participating!

Love, Felicia