Calling all singers, technique advice needed

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by JES, Jul 29, 2021 at 10:46 AM.

  1. JES

    JES Supporting Member

    Singers: do you find you have to do things differently to sing in tune when you're singing quietly vs when you're singing loudly? If so, can you explain what you do? Stance? Breathing rhythms and depth? Something else?

    Are there good rock and roll or crooning singing lessons on YouTube you'd recommend?

    Background: During Covid, my wife and I have formed a duo. I play touch guitar (which is tuned to cover both bass and guitar range) and she plays drums and sings. The music is some kind of loud rock, but we do the loud/quiet thing a lot. She is not an experienced singer but has an interesting voice and is a good musician otherwise (I know, I'm lucky!).

    We are now in the vocal overdubs phase recording, and have discovered something interesting: she is more in tune when singing loudly than singing quietly.

    I've recorded lots of singers so I can coach her on mic technique, but less on singing technique. Any advice would be appreciated. She's using the same in-ear monitors she uses in practice, so she doesn't have to get used to anything new. And it's just us at home, so I wouldn't say she is nervous.

    She's not super keen on vocal lessons right now (mostly a time thing), which is the extremely obvious answer.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021 at 10:53 AM
  2. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    If your ear is solid and you are hearing yourself well, hitting pitch properly is almost always a matter of mechanics involving your breathing, your abdominal musculature and your throat muscles.

    Think of this as a bit of a sports car or the training needed to be a dancer or a gymnast. You're working multiple muscle groups in order to support small changes in the length of your vocal cords to produce pitch. If these muscles are not in top shape, you're going to aim and miss.

    There will be differences in things like breathing and such when you're supporting close-mic techniques as opposed to belting things out. But the supporting structures are the same, and if they are not well tuned you're not going to be able to hit things as you want. There's no substitute for keeping these structures in top shape.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021 at 10:55 AM
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  3. JES

    JES Supporting Member

    Thanks. to learn how to tune them better?
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I think each person's voice works differently. I do have a hard time holding pitch singing really softly though.
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  5. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Do abdominal exercises, do breathing exercises; there are three sets of exercises that I do to support my singer's core and it's bad when I slack on those.

    Often just getting the muscles into good shape will fine tune things enough that a singer with a good ear can hit pitches more easily. Then it's just a matter of singing a lot to make sure you have muscle memory for pitch and not letting those muscles get out of shape again. Practice for a few minutes each day to make sure you're not losing anything.

    Singing lessons would help but those will help with other things too, not just finding and hitting pitch.
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  6. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    It is well-known that singing in pitch is easier when singing louder. Warm-ups are just as important for singing as they are for playing any instrument. Others have made very good suggestions. Practice!
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  7. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    Assuming there are no issues with hearing the right tones, breath control is the single most important aspect of singing. I don't think it's unusual for amateur/hobbyist vocalists to struggle with this kind of thing.

    One simple thing that comes to mind is altering distance to the mic to control volume.

    I'm no vocal coach or expert, and have a "passable" voice at best. I find that I will struggle with pitch a little when I don't have the lyrics down all the way. If I'm reading them or trying to remember them, my pitch suffers. (Especially when playing/singing.) Don't know if this applies to your case.

    It seems to me that practicing singing softly while really focusing on pitch is the key here - not really any different than how we might coach someone learning to play fretless. Do a lot of simple exercises at slow speeds - start with whole note scales, then do some triads, octaves etc. Practice against very quiet backing pitches so she has to sing softly to be able to hear the right tone to match. DO this for her full range - I find that I have more issues in certain ranges vs others, so the effort needs to cover her spectrum.

    I really think that she would benefit from a couple of lessons from a pro. I know, not the answer you want. May not need extended weekly/monthly visits though. Perhaps just one or two so she can get some ideas on what to work on.

    Unfortunately, as with any technical issue, there are no shortcuts - just need to put the work in. So not spending a couple sessions with a pro teacher, may actually be detrimental to resolving the problem as quickly as possible.
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  8. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    A common problem is that singers often do not realize that they need to practice. Instrumentalists are encouraged to put in a certain amount of time on their instruments, but singers often aren't or, even worse, are discouraged from doing so. My husband used to mock me when I would do vocal exercises. I pointed out that I never mock him for playing his drums.

    People can be really stupid that way and it keeps singers from working at full volume on things they need to do to develop good control. Too many singers think they should be able to just open their mouths and do it well without putting in any work.
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  9. JES

    JES Supporting Member

    I'd say she's fine with practicing but doesn't know what/how to practice. When I practice I don't just "play" I use a metronome, work on technique, etc. It does sound like lessons are the best answer. But if people have other tips, good YouTube video references on singing technique, etc., that would be much appreciated.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021 at 11:57 AM
  10. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014

    Freya's pretty cool :)
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  11. Jazzkuma

    Jazzkuma Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2008
    Im no singer but I worked as an accompanist for several singers and always listened in on what their teachers had to say. What I got from it is that just like any instrument, its just practice. On bass we also have to practice how to play the same phrases in different dynamics without it affecting things like tempo, intonation, tone...etc.

    So, whatever you are going to be singing or practicing, practice it in different tempos and dynamics. In my opinion singing is no different than other instruments as far as how you develop them, its all about shedding.

    I would also recommend to record yourself while singing. Sometimes we dont realize what we need to work on until we hear ourselves without playing. And its hard to solve a problem if we cant pinpoint where exactly that problem is.
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  12. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    This is exactly what lessons will show her. Even it it's just a short course of three to five lessons to
    - identify problem areas
    - learn breathing and musculature exercises
    - learn how to incorporate the singer's core muscles into the full range of singing techniques
    - address other problem areas she may not know she has.

    Someone above said it's pretty well known that it's harder to accurately intonate while singing softly. IMO that's probably because we are less inclined to naturally and fully engage our abdominal muscles when we're pushing out less air. Things like this have to be thought about and trained - we're not normally engaging very much of our core when we whisper, but we should when we sing, even if we're singing quietly.

    A good teacher will be able to give her all sorts of pointers and exercises - physical exercises and voice exercises, that will help her develop.
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  13. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    I got this thing where I feel like I have a radically different range when singing loudly. When I briefly did vocal lessons, I was told that the loud range is my real range, and I should avoid singing/practising/composing in the lower false crooning range in order to develop my actual voice and range. Of course, I didn't do what I was told, so I still struggle with knowing where to sing things, and I still default to a false low croon without having ever developed my proper singing voice.
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  14. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    A lot of teachers only want you to sing in an operatic style. They won't give you advice about anything but that, so you have to be wary. Many singers, especially nowadays, prefer close mic'd techniques but it is trickier finding a good teacher that is willing to help with that kind of singing. Much of what any teacher will show you is applicable, though.
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  15. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Breath control #1. If you're fortunate enough to have felt yourself practicing good breath control, then you have to remember how it felt, and do it again and again. A teacher can help you get there, for sure.

    You might want to think of your lungs as a balloon, your diaphragm muscles as the means to inflate and deflate the balloon, and the rest of your vocal apparatus as the "reed" that vibrates to produce sound. You always need the air pressure to make the sound, but you have to learn to control the diaphragm and the reed to get the desired effect.
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  16. Rip Van Dan

    Rip Van Dan DNA Endorsing Artist Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Duvall, WA
    Being in tune when singing softly is an acquired skill that has to be worked on. The biggest thing is to listen to how you sound when singing it. It is easier to sing in tune when singing more loudly because you have more air flow and, at higher volume, it's easier to hear what you are singing.

    If you want to learn how to sing easily and freely, then I'd recommend Per Bristow's "Sing with Freedom" course. It's not cheap but it's not outrageous either. I am a classically trained vocalist (voice major in college) and when I started gigging regularly again in 2006, my upper register was nowhere to be found. I have great breath control and can absolutely saturate my lungs with air, so I just tried pushing the air a little harder. And of course, I blew out my voice quickly and it would typically take 3-days to come back to normal.

    So I finally ordered his material and ended up continuing on for an entire year on a monthly basis. Not only got my upper register back but can sing much higher than I ever could, all without straining (that's what his "Sing with Freedom" phrase is all about). I'd recommend you go to his web site and request his free introductory video to see what it's about. He uses much different techniques than are used in classic vocal training. They are surprisingly effective. Made a big difference for me.

    Here's his Web Site: Per Bristow - The Singing Zone
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  17. andrus108


    Mar 11, 2018

    I've been learning to sing past 2 years, and while lessons of course take care of actual technique, I go to this guy when I want to try weird things, and I found this particular clip interesting for my quiet parts. I find his videos really informative on how I can incorporate stuff other singers do into my voice.
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  18. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    This is really good. People talk a lot about the diaphragm in singing, and it's critically important. There are three muscle groups in the abdomen that support the diaphragm, so working with all of that is hugely important, IMO, in order to get "from the diaphragm" singing right. Your singing pressure is always going to be upward from the diaphragm and in order to do that well your whole core in that area needs to be tightened up. It's not as easy as it seems.
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  19. juggahnaught


    Feb 11, 2018
    Seattle, WA
    Practice. I used to sing in a lot of choirs when I was young - in church and in school, from elementary school to high school.

    There are a few exercises that we almost always did:
    • Inhale for 4 beats - exhale for 8 beats. Inhale for 4 beats - exhale for 12 beats. And so on, and so forth. Breath control.
    • Scalar exercises - from the 1 to the 5 and back down, then you move up chromatically. We used to do "see-eee-eee-eee-ahh-ahh-ahh-ahh-eee", legato.
    • The "I can sing this low" scalar exercise, moving down chromatically. Start on the five, end on the one.
    • Arpeggio exercises, same "see-eee-eee-ahh" syllables. Just the triad and the octave, and back down. Move up chromatically.
    • Vowel exercises. We would do "ahh-ehh-eee-ooo-uuu" (A, E, I, O, U) on one note and go up chromatically, it'd be an 8-count phrase with the "uuu" on the one of the second 4 count, moving up chromatically on the 3. (Hope that made sense.) Also good for holding notes.
    • Legato and staccato exercises. (Don't remember them, though.) Wait! Yes, I do! We used to do the "bumblebee" exercise, essentially a diatonic ascending scalar exercise in thirds. In the key of C major, it'd be - all eighth notes - C, E, D, F, E, G, F, A, G, B, A, C, B, D, C. Then we'd go back down, starting from the high E to go back down the octave back to C. Then we'd move that chromatically. The bumblebee exercise is staccato, so the syllables have to be as defined as possible and as staccato as possible.
    • Dynamics exercises. (We'd do this with the bumblebee exercise a lot.) Sing an exercise forte (loud), then sing it piano (soft) - but keep the same intensity.
    There are a lot more of these, and basically, you can kind of make your own up to a certain extent based on the things you need to work on. For example, you could work on singing diminished arpeggios or half-diminished arpeggios, you could do interval training, etc.

    I need to start doing these again myself (it's been like, two decades) since I'm gonna be singing more backup vocals. I'd need a place to do this that isn't my apartment, as I don't want to disturb my downstairs neighbors. But yeah, stuff like this will naturally help strengthen and control the voice, especially if done with something that can provide reference pitches, like a piano.
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  20. logdrum

    logdrum A person! Supporting Member

    Open the mouth wide even on soft passages. That's the trick to be in tune when singing softly. Breath support should be there for all volumes.

    I can sing not the greatest and trained only as a boy and teen at school but I play the horn as well and happen to be able to do circular breathing. Speaking of range, check out the guy Marcelito Pomoy and there's the other guy from Korea as well. Baritone to Soprano and effortless. Not trained

    Last edited: Jul 29, 2021 at 5:39 PM
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