Our daily life is full of sounds. We hear music almost everywhere we go, we gain information by listening, and we produce sounds using our vocal cords in order to talk to people. When we’re not talking to people, we’re listening to other people talk. While the spoken language is at the heart of human communication, it’s also a way to express emotion through poetry, theatre, and song.
A music school might help you when it comes to learning to sing? (Source: Thibault Trillet)
The latter is without a doubt been part of humanity since the beginning of our history and accompanies us on both our saddest and happiest days. Singing is universal, every time period, civilisation, gender, and race, has had their own type of singing and making music.
Let’s have a look at all the different ways you can sing, from the lowest vocal ranges to the highest as well as the most important vocal techniques you should be learning how to do.
Nowadays, when we think of opera singers, there are a few words that often spring up in every conversation. Among these words, we could mention things like vocalising, vocal ranges, and vibrato.
Vibrato is an essential part of being an opera singer and can add depth and a pleasing quality to anyone’s voice. In fact, vibrato is an essential part of any voice’s timbre.
Generally, to make this concept a little easier to understand for novices, we can compare vibrato to a trill on a piano (or any other instrument capable of it) where there’s a quick alteration between a semitone or full note.
However, vibrato differs from a trill in a few ways. Firstly, the alteration in pitch of vibrato is less than a semitone. Secondly, vibrato occurs at a rate much quicker than most musicians would be able to replicate on any given instrument.
Of course, singers can do a trill but this occurs at a far more conscious level than vibrato does since it is alternating rapidly between notes rather than around a single note.
Birds are very famous for their singing. Yet they never attend a single class. (Source: pixabay.com)
You could say that a person’s vibrato is innate. If they’re young and on top of their game, their vibrato could come to them naturally without any need for taking tutorials (if they’re incredibly lucky, too!).
On the other hand, the vocal cords tend to tighten over time which cannot be stopped by vocal training (though it can be slowed). The older you are, the harder it will be to find your vibrato or emulate it with age. This is why opera singers, much like professional athletes, have short careers since their bodies are constantly working against them.
When it comes to singing, vibrato requires that you relax and carry out thousands upon thousands of breathing exercises. If you want to master vibrato, you have to be able to do it without forcing it and tiring yourself out. You have to avoid going hoarse!
Vibrato is being able to place your voice well without perfectly placing your voice and singing perfectly in key. This technique can help you avoid trying to replicate a pure and hard recto tono which sounds even worse if you’re off.
Every singer will have a moment where this modulation is over the top and seems exaggerated like the stereotypical opera singer in popular media. However, every singer goes through this so you needn’t be embarrassed about it. Even famous singers start by singing in the shower and then they end up singing in a recording studio.
In the West, singing with a head voice or a falsetto is one of the oldest singing techniques around. No matter what music school you attend or which music teacher teaches you, they’ll be familiar with the idea.
These are the sounds, without screaming, that are emitted by the head or mouth on its own, unlike the chest voice which requires the participation of diaphragmatic breathing to be achieved. For a better colortura, valour, and volume, there’s nothing better than the chest voice, of course.
This is where the operatic revolution of the 19th century took place with the appearance of the tenor. Thanks largely to Rossini, the operatic high C began to be more commonly sung in a chest voice, a fact that Verdi continued to exploit. However, this is for a very particular tessitura and for a very particular type of singer and range. A chest voice is very common amongst baritones and basses.
Modern musicians are expected to have stage presence when they perform. (Source: Josh Sorenson)
On the other hand, when it comes to the higher ranges, in order to have the agility for a beautiful voice and healthy intonation, you’ll probably have to stay in your head voice. The nasal cavities, which are used as resonators, are fully exploited alongside the larynx, glottis, and pharynx.
It’s important to therefore take care of them by drinking a lot of water and avoiding products that could harm them (like dairy products, wine, and tobacco). This is the kind of range that countertenors are expected to reach.
The baroque style, which includes composers such as Handel, often used this type of vocal range. Resorting to a speech language pathologist or a phoniatrician alongside your vocal coaching can often come with a lot of benefits for post-pubescent singers wanting to join the exclusive club of 21st-century countertenors.
While changing your voice isn’t an easy thing to do, high notes can be sung by most singers without having to resort to surgery. Every singer will eventually end up attempting to hit higher and higher notes with the help of their vocal coach (once they’ve mastered the lower notes, of course).
These usually come as part of your head voice although they can later on become part of your chest voice with a bit of work. The greatest singers can have a very broad tessitura, like Luciano Pavarotti, who was largely self-taught.
Our tutors could help you get to the bottom of the mixed voice, a third voice which rests at the junction between the head voice and the chest voice but is actually considered a juvenile technique in some circles.
If you’re not a fan of the high notes and the head voice, here’s where you can find the low powerful notes. Finding your voice amongst the low notes means that you’re able to interpret a large number of different songs.
For female singers, the contraltos are those who sing with the lowest voices. For male singers, it’s the basses who sing in the lowest ranges. Their vocal colour is often referred to as “heroic” and is essential in romantic music and even more so when performing a number of Wagner’s works.
The organs around the thorax resonate with incredible force. It goes without saying that if you want to sing in these vocal ranges, you should definitely do some warm up exercises beforehand. The lower vocal ranges tend to work almost exclusively with the chest voice.
Diaphragmatic breathing is more essential than ever meaning that you’ll probably need to enlist the help of a vocal coach or singing teacher. Additionally, you’ll need to work on taking care of your throat and all the accompanying organs involved.
Nowadays, you can get vocal coaching almost anywhere and learn the necessary skills in private tutorials or group classes. The first thing you’ll need to do is learn how to sing in tune. It’s pretty pointless trying to expand your range or alter your tessitura if you’re yet to have mastered the notes within your range. Above all, don’t force it and never lower your head when you try to sing the lower notes.
Don’t confuse singing with shouting, either. You should try to make your voice carry farther rather than yelling. Imagine you’re making your voice heard to someone far away rather than simply increasing the volume.
With all this in mind, we recommend that you find an educator who can help you learn to sing, improve your lower range while ensuring you don’t pick up any bad habits.
Vocal technique tutorials can help you to expand your vocal range. (Source: gratisography.com)
Your voice is an instrument, after all, and you need to take care of it and work on it by singing in a group or performing, for example.
Vocal warm ups and working on your elocution are great ways for singers to avoid losing their voice and make good progress. Don’t forget to also rest your voice regularly and remember that music theory tutorials are always useful for both singers and those wanting to learn to play an instrument be it saxophone, acoustic guitar, piano, etc.
You just have to make sure you keep up with your exercises after your singing lessons and, most importantly of all, have fun!