Monday, December 12, 2011

Using your nasal cavity in singing

nasal cavity
The proper use of our nasal cavity when we sing can greatly affect the sound of our voice. Most of us sing through our noses which we can easily tell when we have a bad cold and we try to sing. Our voice does sound different as it has this distinct muffled sound ("ngongo" in Tagalog).

The following video will explain how we can use and train ourselves to make use of the nasal cavity when we sing. Though this videos primarily targets female singers, the lesson however will benefit the male singers as well.

My chorus has greatly improved their way of singing and even has produced a louder and fuller sound using the nasal cavity. It has diminished the strain off their vocal chords, enhanced their breathing pattern, and produced a sweeter and melodious sound fit for a choral group.

One way to force our selves to make us of the nasal cavity is by holding our noses. When we do this, it forces our mouth to open wider for air to pass through and in turn make use of this air to support the production of sound in the process.

Our mouth, the palates, tongue and our nasal cavity will then perform their function in supporting your voice in producing the sound.

Most of the time the vowel sounds, particularly the "ah" (A), will be more round and full when we make us of this technique.

After several rehearsals using this technique, your body will be accustomed to the way you sing and will no longer require yourself to cover your noses just to make use of your nasal cavity.

Again, practice makes it permanent.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Warm-ups for proper breathing while you sing

I made a standard breathing routine for my choral group to work on. In this article, I will share what I have taught my chorus in order for them to be accustomed to diaphragmatic breathing and in the end make them make use of it subconsciously while they sing.

As I have mentioned on my previous article "breathing the key to proper singing", we cannot fully rely on our voices to create the sound for it requires our body and enough air to control the flow of sound that comes out from within us.

These exercises were adopted from a collection of various breathing routines that I have read on other sites and watched from streamed online videos that focuses on diverse methods and techniques on proper singing. I just picked up the effective ones for I have tried some myself.

It is important that when we do these exercises we have to observe proper posture. Keeping your hands to your sides, standing straight and your chin up is a good way to start. Definitely, slouching is a big no-no when doing breathing exercises.

Also, before you begin trying these drills, you might as well refer to this previous article that I wrote. 
  1. Feel the air.  A slow approach to the routine. This is done by breathing air in slowly till it fills your lungs and expands you diaphragm (which you can rightly feel if your tummy inflates while you do this) and then releasing the same amount in the same leisurely pace till you feel all the air come out. Do this in counts of four (4) for each inhale-exhale routine. That is inhale (4 counts) then exhale (4 counts).
  2. Hold it up. Doing the same routine from number 1, we will be holding air in the middle after the inhale part. So that would be inhale > hold > and release (exhale). Again, do this in counts of four (4) for each phase.
  3. Hiss is what it is. This time instead of normally exhaling in a normal fashion, we will be doing a hissing sound when we let air out. So, it would be inhale > hold > hiss. Similarly, in four (4) counts for each phase.
  4. Make it sound. The last routine would be making a sound when you exhale. We chose a comfortable note for this one so everyone can make it through the work out - G (sol) on first octave (that is the first G after the middle C on your  piano). That would be inhale (4) -> hold (4) ->  voice out (4).
  • make deep and slow breathing patterns.
  • start with a four count repetition for each routine.
  • for added weight, increase your reps in increments of four - 4, 8, 12, 16, 20
  • why 4? Because a standard measure in music is done in 4 beats for every measure.
  • make sure that participants are in good health condition before engaging them in these exercises. For safety reasons, start with the first routine and give enough time before moving on the rest of the list.

Related readings:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Harmonizing with Different Voices

singing choir

Never have I thought that my small community choir could soon take advantage of utilizing the vocal ranges. Singing in a four-part voice is something that I think was impossible for a small group like us could ever consider.

For several years, we went on serving church "masses" and singing for choir services in two-part voices or frequently in unison. It was so difficult for everybody to reach the notes that are not really meant for some of us to sing. Untrained about the vocal range, we try to sing beyond what our voices can never really perceive. Guys sing farther and higher through their deep warm tones. The ladies try to pitch themselves down to achieve the low notes despite their high and angelic voices. A terrible mismatch as you can see!

Curious on the trouble we are facing, I started looking for answers. May be, there is someway to straighten out the situation.

So I looked into several books and surfed to various websites for the answer. Only then I realized the bottom line of our problem. We do not make use of what is written in the song books that we use. That is, taking into account the voices as written by the composers - SATB! Vocal range as they call it.

So then, why didn't we thought about that in the first place?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Avoiding crammed rehearsals

One thing that me and my choir didn't realize before that we are always in a rush when we practice our repertoire. As if we were crammed to finish all the songs that will make up our list for the coming Sunday mass. In the end, we fail to deliver the songs as they were supposed to be performed and a disapproving congregation will soon reach our ears.

So, I asked myself, "What am I missing?.... Is it my choir not able to absorb the things that I taught them? Or am I too lax in the way I handle them?"

I decided to put an end to it and started analyzing weighing on things that might alleviate the problem.

One solution that I found was to map out our year round activity since the Catholic "Masses" are celebrated based on a theme and follows a certain season.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Be sharp and on the dot!

It has been two (2) years since we started following a standard protocol in time, we have minimized the chances of tardiness in our ministerial services and rehearsals. Tardiness is a common scene for some groups.

Overtime, we have witnessed the group’s tendency to follow what we call “Filipino time”. If you know how DST (day light saving time) works, this one goes the opposite way. Coming a few minutes to an hour late was so termed and a shameful word to have been implied by us ‘Pinoys.’

Being on time or at least a few minutes early before the agreed schedule has so many perks. It assures your attendance to a specific event. It imbibes a character of being punctual and true to your word. Moreover, it seals a continuous flow in a day’s work away from further delays. Less tasks for the following days.

My choir has followed this standard procedure when we have scheduled performances and services to the church (Catholic). An hour before our schedule is our optimum time to have departed from our meet-up location. We give (at least) a 15-minute grace period for everyone to get to our meeting place. Most of the time, we travel in groups when we attend to our services and we do enjoy most of it.