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1. Warm Up Your Voice
Warming up your voice is something everyone has to do to protect their voice. If you sometimes roll your eyes at the tedious nature of these exercises and just want to get to the good part—the song you’ve been working on—just remember that even Christina Aguilera warms up every time she sings.
Make sure you don’t over-do it. If you feel any stress or strain in your throat, stop your warmup. Drink some room temperature water and start again from the bottom of the scale or stop for the day. Don’t worry too much about hitting the notes perfectly. Just focus on stretching and literally warming up your vocal cords. That being said, make sure you’re still in control of your tone and pitch.
Moving your body and doing breathing exercises is another great way to warm up your voice. Yoga has helped Christina with breath control, posture, anxiety management and stress reduction. See if you can implement a short yoga practice before your next rehearsal. During your warmup, take breaks between scales to stretch your body. Fold forward and try to touch your toes. Stretch your arms up over your head, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy yourself
It’s best to practice your warm-ups for shorter periods of time, more often (ie. 15-20 minutes, three to ve times per week) vs. one hour, once every 10 days. This will help you to stay focused to articulate the sounds and shapes correctly as well as help eliminate vocal fatigue from exercising too vigorously. Remember that singers are athletes! It’s helpful to be well-rested and hydrated. If possible, practice your warm-ups after you’ve been awake for a few hours, so that you’re not always singing on “morning voice”. Be sure to listen to your body. Should you experience any sharp pain or hoarseness from practicing these exercises, stop and consult a professional (medical ENT and/or vocal coach) to get back on the right track.
2. Protect Your Instrument
As a singer, you should protect and take care of your voice as you would any important and vital instrument. You need to mitigate the environmental stresses on your voice. The top three things Christina avoids to protect her voice are smoky, loud, and stressful environments. Christina has a few go-to items that not only help relieve vocal stress, but also combat physical and emotional stress, both of which can negatively affect a vocalist. These include hot tea, room temperature water, honey, or ricola throat drops before a show, and cold water after the show.
3. Expand Your Range
Most untrained people have a range of about one-and-a-half to two octaves, while a professional singer like Christina might have a range of four octaves. It is possible to expand your range with a lot of time, practice, and patience. A great way to start developing your range is to sing along with the best singers in the world. Why not start with Christina? Here are a few songs to start with. They will probably push you to reach higher and lower notes than you’re used to, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. “You Lost Me” “Beautiful” “Fighter”
In musical performance, diction is the way you pronounce lyrics and sing sounds. If the audience cannot understand what you are saying, the power and meaning of the song will be lost on them. Improving your diction can provide clarity and brightness to the words you sing.
There are many ways to approach diction as a vocalist. Just the way you say a word or lyric can completely change the meaning and feeling of what you’re singing. When you’re using repetition and run-on words, it’s crucial that you choose your points of punctuation. You want to have the right attitude while still letting audience understand the words you’re singing. But be careful, you’ll lose the power you’re aiming for by making the words flowy, one-dimensional and flat.
Not only can pronunciation and style be great tools for a vocalist, but they come in handy when you’re performing in a play or musical. This kind of diction can be used to set the tone for a song and to transport your listener to an atmospheric place. In these scenarios, the way you pronounce your words means as much as what you’re singing about.
Sometimes you can get so focused on all of the other aspects of the song (hitting high notes or even just remembering the words), that it’s hard for you to reflect and critique your own diction. If this happens, try recording yourself singing and then listen to yourself. What do (or don’t) you hear?
5. Practice to Prevent Anxiety
Performance anxiety, which is the fear that comes over you before going (or even while) on stage, is something that affects even some of the most famous singers in the world. For example, Barbra Streisand’s performance anxiety got so bad that she stopped doing any concerts or public performances for 27 years, right at the height of her career. Christina Aguilera has found her own methods to calm her nerves and stay centered before performing, like doing yoga before shows. Christina suggests surrounding yourself with people who make you feel comfortable, or to write in a journal before going on stage. Remember: if you’ve cultivated a dedicated practice, have worked on expanding your vocal range, and worked on your diction, you have all the tools in you for a stellar performance.