Recently I’ve been taking a few singing lessons from a local music school. I actually moved to singing lessons when the advanced guitar work I wanted to do with a teacher there failed to give me any results. So I decided to use the remaining lessons I had booked to try to improve my very basic singing skills. I’ve only had three lessons so far but already I’ve found that I’m learning loads of useful skills that can apply to all areas of my musical work.
My first lesson started with my teacher helping me to find what exactly my range is. That is the notes that I can sing from the lowest to highest. We found that I have a range of just over 2 octaves from E3 to F#5. This would put me in the Tenor range but the useable notes in my range are towards the middle and higher areas of this. From here we are able to focus in on the most useful keys that I will be able to sing in.
My main aim in taking the lessons will be for me to know more accurately if I should transpose songs I am doing covers of to a more suitable key for my voice so this was really useful information.
Posture and Exercises
When I am teaching my own guitar students I explain in their first few lessons that playing an instrument relies on repitition of techniques to develop ‘Muscle Memory’. I’ve now found that the same is true for vocal techniques.
My teacher has been showing me techniques to practice in my posture and breathing. In doing this I’ll be developing the muscle memory across my back, chest and diaphragm so that correct technique becomes my natural way of doing things. This will help me to develop a stronger singing voice and the notes at the higher and lower end of my range will become more usable over time.
One of the most useful things my teacher has asked my to do is to sing a song A Capella, that is, without any piano or guitar to support the singing. Sometimes I have a problem where I don’t concentrate on singing the melody and instead sing notes in harmony with the chords that the instrument is playing. This can sound fine but the chords and melody lack separation then. Singing A capella helps to separate the two parts in my head and then sounds alot better when I put them back together.
Any of my students will have heard me talk about how important it is to be able to transfer skills from one area of your musical studies to another. Like a piano student who wants to learn to play guitar often tell me their knowlege of chords will quickly increase over their first few lessons because in the lower grades of piano playing sometimes chordal playing is not so prevalent.
As I said earlier one of the main aims in taking these singing lessons was to be able to know what are the most suitable keys for my voice. The process used to move music from one key to another is called ‘Transposition’.
I’ve now found this to be a most useful way to practice lots of skills that I had learned over years of studying music but never really used in a practical way. It helps you to quickly recall notes and chords that can be used in both of the keys you are working in.
Now I can also use this when I’m writing music and songs. I can know what key to start a song in so that my singing voice will suit it. If I then want to add other instruments like violins or cellos I already know what are the most suitable notes to use.
Hopefully any music students or teachers reading this might find some ideas in common with what I’ve talked about. If you have please do comment, I’d love to hear your ideas.