Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 11: Compliment

Day 11: Compliment

I have never really thought about what people compliment me the most on. Really... I have no idea. I do a few things well, and regularly receive compliments for each of those things. Hm... singing? Well, the thing I think about this is... that just about anyone can sing. It's not hard. In fact, as Daria mentioned on the radio the other night, true tone-deafness is extremely rare. You need to have some sense of tone in order to speak, so... really, that's not where people actually miss.

This is a skill that needs to be crafted like anything else. There is such a thing as raw talent, and that's great. But really, what I think actually comes into play here is that people learn to speak, sing, and breathe by example. If a person is shown good examples very early, it's something that will come naturally to him or her. Bad habits, unfortunately, get passed on, because humans are natural mimics, and if their parents don't use their diaphragms when they speak or sing, their children probably won't either.

This, of course, does not mean that a person who has used these bad habits all their lives can't learn to sing. It just means they need to spend a little more time learning what to do, and what not to do.

Posture is very important. If you slouch, your airflow will be slightly compromised, and you will have trouble hitting higher notes, because your body isn't in a natural place to support them. You need a lot of air for that, and this is why voices will sometimes crack.

Use of your diaphragm is also mighty important. Your lungs are there to help you breathe at rest. Your diaphragm is there to help push the air our in such a way that will support good tone. If you are watching a competent singer, you are watching someone who never raises his or her shoulders to take a breath. One of the exercises that really helps with this is to do an Arpeggio while moving your breaths through closed lips. Your lips should flap, making a buzzing sound. That is how you know you are using enough air to support good tone. Go as high as you can, and you'll be able to gauge where you actually are in the scheme of Soprano, Mezzo, Alto, Contralto, Tenor, Baritone, or Bass.

Tone intonation is another place to really work on things. Practice singing vowel sounds with your mouth in different shapes. Practice moving your tongue down and really opening up the soft palette. The more practice you have with this, the more interesting your sound will become, and the more adept you will be at mimicking other performers. This is sometimes helpful if you want to adopt a certain style of singing. It's also pretty entertaining once you have mastered it.

Also, your diction is important, especially if you are singing in a foreign language. Study what you need to, well. I love the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" as much as the next guy, but damn. David Byrne really murders the French language in that song, and so does Peter Gabriel in "Games Without Frontiers". So yeah... this is important. You want to be believable, and not sound like you learned a few lines of a foreign language... lines that you probably don't even understand, just to have them in a song, right?

Vibrato is OK. You want to be able to hear some of this. When your voice really opens up and takes off correctly, this is the earmark. Singing in a smooth tone is also fine as long as you don't over-sing. But damn. I can spot false vibrato a mile away. It's not a pleasant thing to listen to, so please take the time to learn to do this correctly for this reason, as well as for the protection of your voice.

Singing is not difficult, or impossible. I really do believe it's something anyone can do if they take the time to learn to do it well.


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