I was watching on YouTube last night and saw this man inside his own home singing about hope amidst what is going on in the world right now with the Coronavirus all around us. And then there’s a whole street in Italy singing joyfully despite being hit hard by the pandemic. I said to myself, what an opportunity for anyone to be able to put a message across for the world to see and hear. In this article, I’d like to chat about some of you might be asking, the topic of how to sing like a professional. What does this have to do with the individual I’ve mentioned here?
First off, this artist has been in the industry for a very long time and garnered millions of followers offline and online. I know he had his own share of ups and downs in his career because I’ve followed him myself. Being in the limelight, he’s reaping the benefits of being looked up to by being an influence on those who support and applauded him.
To ultimately be in that status, there are some requirements involved. You need a lot of time, patience, and discipline to get good at what you do with the expectation to get a break later. It takes weeks, months, and years depending on your skill and experience. There’s no better time than now to learn how to sing like a professional because of the availability of technology like YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Facebook, and on and on.
Today, we are going to start with the foundational knowledge to put in your “toolbox” and perform to the best of your abilities, which can even rival stars. Believe me, these are critical, and they will manifest themselves when you actually need them for rescue.
On Basics of Posture
When I was starting out, I didn’t pay much attention to posture having to do with producing vocal sound. When you’re doing a lot of performing, which I have, you’d soon realize that this thing is vital in supporting your tone.
Every misaligned body part can impact a person’s voice and range. Every movement can add difficulty to an artist’s performance. For now, stay still and commit this recommended posture to memory. Most of this recommendation came from the late William Vennard, an American singer who spent most of his time studying voice production and instruction.
If you haven’t sung enough, you might feel and think this doesn’t mean anything to you but follow along. Are you with me? Let’s go.
Let’s start with the neck straight and relaxed, like having a book on top of your head keeping it from falling down while looking straight to the horizon. Your chin should run parallel to the ground, and a bit tucked in. How’s that feel?
The next step is to have a straight back. Don’t even think about slouching when performing, will you? Keep those shoulders square to your body. That alone shows me you own the stage. Well, that would be later, but let’s keep going.
Think about it, isn’t that pretty basic? Ok now, I’d like you to maintain a feeling of relaxation in your entire body while you’re doing all this positioning. Your airways and diaphragm will also follow through and not constricted.
A constricted diaphragm equates to lagged inhalation/exhalation, smaller capacity, and stressful breathing. That’s the primary muscle for breathing right there, folks. An obstructed respiratory tract leads to those predicaments, too.
Next, your chest should have a bit of lift, and your shoulders laid back to the sides. If done correctly, your belly shouldn’t feel any tightening in the tummy area. And just to get it out there, you might feel a bit awkward and become overly conscious when in this posture. If you do, lock yourself in a room and do it in front of the mirror.
I know it’s quite unnatural in the beginning but get used to seeing yourself this way. This will lock in permanently in performance when you do it long enough and many times over. It will also foster in improving your confidence, health, and even lung capacity.
Going back on topic, position those hands on your sides, but they should have some distance loosely away from you. Your dominant foot should at least be slightly forward. The left and right foot should be shoulder length apart. Then, shift your weight forward or towards the dominant foot.
Failing to maintain correct posture will prevent you from having access to your full range, and your breathing techniques will be consequently affected, for sure.
You’ll never have to do this while performing but I’d like you to try some vocalization exercises, like the one below, while your back is flat against the floor or wall. You’ll find out soon how loose and free you are in these positions. You can then implement the same consciousness while standing back up.
Lastly, this seldom happens but if you feel any sensation of joint locking, try dynamic stretching like jogging in place. It will release the tension built up in your body and comfortably prepares in transitioning to the image of this posture you have in mind.
On Breathing Technique
This is already trite, but you must sing from the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the core component of a person’s singing mechanism. It’s the group of muscles, situated around the belly area, that helps the lungs take in and push out your breath. The challenge of this topic is that we can’t see and touch it. Have you tried to explain something you haven’t touched and seen before? You know what I’m talking about.
We’ll try our best to explain by the see feel. If you want more technical information on how these works, you can check out publications of Johan Sundberg, PhD. An alternative is to check my article focusing on this topic about how to sing from your diaphragm.
Here, try to expand and deflate your belly by inhaling and exhaling air. Even if you’re not thinking about capturing some air, your lungs will suck some in whenever you expand the diaphragm, here’s that word again. You won’t even be able to tell that the diaphragm muscles brought the air in to keep you alive, well, breathing. At the start, consciously controlling to manage your breath is just part of getting acquainted with your that thingy.
When sustaining your vocals while singing, that thingy sucks air into and out of your lungs, controlled. It’s the opposite of ‘breathing’ naturally through the nose, but both processes use the diaphragm to take air in and out. The differences are the intent, capacity, pathway, and inhalation/exhalation rate.
Unlike conscious diaphragm inhalation and exhalation, regular breathing only works to inhale the right amount of air a person’s body needs. Unfortunately, singing requires tons, which also includes the amount you need to prevent you from turning blue.
Aside from capacity, the diaphragm is responsible for allowing you to take in breath instantly. Exhale all you have in now, then forcefully push your belly out to take it back in again. You’d quickly notice your lungs filled up with air abruptly. This method doesn’t feel pleasant at first, but you’ll get used to it.
On Warming Up
As Robert Lunte always points out, becoming a singer worth his salt should train like an athlete, warm-up before performing on stage. Warming up allows you to be at your peak and optimal condition. An athlete will know and feel when he’s ready or not, and so is a singer.
The best performers out there, whether an athlete or a singer give themselves ample time to be at the venue before a performance, giving them enough time for warm-ups. You wouldn’t want to be on stage and then just croak, would you?
One typical warm-up exercise pros do is to traverse the major and minor scales. You know, the classic do-re-mi. You can also do lip rolls, which is to blow air through the lips. Again, going through the scales and combinations of them. It will loosen up the throat, lips, and tongue.
Here are some exercises to try:
These techniques barely scratch the surface of becoming a professional performer. However, these are foundational in building a solid start going towards the next stage. They also seem simple, but you need a lot of patience and discipline to integrate the proper posture and breathing techniques into your routine.
I have other simple lessons you can follow on this site. I write them in chunks to prevent getting overwhelmed and avoid doing so many things at once. Remember, learning how to sing and becoming a pro is a process, and having the character, attitude, and mindset will keep you battle obstacles in a progressively positive way.
It’s safe to say that people have it more conveniently in this era when it comes to singing with resources come mostly free and readily available. You have to apply what you’ve learned with the utmost diligence, believing you can be what you wanna be.
Becoming a pro doesn’t come overnight, and doesn’t take just an article like this. However, these pages contain the foundational truths that are critical for success. I decided to chop this topic down into multiple parts.
Today, we talked about posture and breathing. Next time (or now if it’s already posted), we’ll talk about skill development, practice, vocalization, warming up, and health. I’ll expound more about the diaphragm on a separate article. Watch out for it!