You know those odd mouthing exercises you’ve seen people do in High School Musical and Pitch Perfect? Those have some truth to them. Singers and vocalists all around the world have been known to rigorously exercise their throat with our tips on the best vocal exercises for musicians.
They do this by improving their diet, doing daily exercises, and even focusing on vitamin intake. However, daily exercises do make a difference. Not only do they help improve vocal range, but they also help musicians achieve feats they never could before.
Sure, some musicians are just born with talent, but improving upon that talent helps people push their boundaries. It produces vocalists that memorize audiences and enchant even the most cynical of critics. Here are the 5 best vocal exercises for musicians.
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Sighing Through Your Range
We never know our limits until we try to exceed them. In singing, there is a very basic practice calling sighing through your range. In the east, it’s called “Riyaz.”
It’s about constantly increasing and decreasing the pitch of your voice to find out your limits. It’s about how high and low you can go without breaking.
This helps to exceed those limits by being more comfortable with raising or lowering your pitch. Like any muscle, the throat will become stronger if you practice.
To free up your voice, just breathe in slowly and then release your voice in a sigh. Keep sighing and raising your voice gradually. Make the sigh as vocalized as possible to test not just your pitch, but the longevity of the note.
When you change pitch in your voice, the vocal folds in your throat will change shape very subtly. The key is to get your voice used to these changes. That way when you attempt something truly difficult, it will seem much more natural, and not forced.
Do the same with lowering your pitch as well, this will help you experiment with low notes. Trust me when I say, they aren’t less taxing than the high notes, though everyone usually focuses on the latter.
You may have noticed that a lot of songs use scale changes from one stanza to another. This is a trick that established singers can do with ease. They’ve trained themselves to recognize pitch changes so that they can switch with minimal effort. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most singers can’t do this on command. They struggle with pitch changes during live performances and you can hear the cringe from the back row. Hence, Pitch Sweeps ranks as one of the best singing exercises for musicians.
You’ll need a piano for this one. Start by picking a specific note. Then hit the piano key on the correctly tuned note. Then slide up to the same note an octave higher. If this is too far for your range, you can choose a fifth lower instead.
Think of this as a more controlled form of the sighing exercise. Technically, this slide is called portamento. However, the portamento will be much slower. It won’t matter if you hum or sigh here; just make sure to get the note right. Also, remember to slide into the next octave rather than stop and then start. The trick is to transition as smoothly and as effortlessly as possible.
Singing Semitones and Tones
Singing semitones is much easier since you’ll be rising in very small amounts. Use a piano to help you here too. Singing tones is a lot harder since scales that only use tones are very rare in music. However, when a particularly difficult section comes along, you’ll need to be ready.
Switching from tones to semitones is much less straightforward than switching between scales and octaves. The reason is that the difference is quite subtle. It’s something that only comes through practice. Some people can’t even recognize the difference between a tone and semitone unless they’re played back to back.
Use a piano to go through an entire scale with semitones. Sing along and try to continuously switch between tones and semitones as you go along. If you falter in between, start again. If you’re faltering in one place more than the others, try to perfect the switch before moving on an octave higher.
Certain words are hard to enunciate one after another. That’s why you end up looking up lyrics online when your favorite artist drops a power ballad. It’s a common problem with today’s musicians. I’m not pointing fingers, but you know exactly what I mean.
That’s why you need to work on your diction so that your audience will at least understand what you’re saying. My favorite example of diction from a musical act is “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. Imagine if those great lyrics were sung by ‘mumblers’; what a travesty that would’ve been.
There’s no secret to this except enunciating words properly. Listen to your voice recordings over and over and find the words that are hard to understand. You can even use your own phone’s voice recorder for this. It’ll help to pinpoint the words that you’re eating while you sing.
Practice singing words with consonants. You don’t have to work them into your songs obviously, but you should sing them to enunciate them better. Choose words beginning with B, C, D, G, F, M, N, etc. Vowels are, by definition, easy to pronounce. However, the world ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ is not.
Allow your mouth to open wider and enunciate clearly. Sure, there may be songs that you need to lower your voice for, but nowhere should you eat words unintentionally.
Breath Control Exercise
Breath is the foundation of every sound you make. It’s not heard during your singing but is noticeable when you break. Every time your voice stops and you begin again, there’s a slight gulp of air that you have to take. Only the most accomplished singers can control their breath so that this doesn’t happen.
Controlled breathing will help you hold on to notes for a longer time and will help you resist breaking. This is one that should be categorized under daily vocal exercises for singers. You should do this whenever you get a little time to yourself.
Start by taking a large breath and letting go slowly. Observe if your shoulders are rising when you breathe. This indicates shallow breathing. It signifies that an initial blast of air will emerge from your lungs and then fade. What you should aim for is breathing from lower in your stomach. The diaphragm muscles should expand and your stomach should bulge out. If it squeezes in, you’re doing it wrong.
Try lying down and breathing as well. Notice how your rib cage and stomach rise when you breathe. Try to hold more and more breath in so that you can increase the time you can hold your breath.
All these exercises will allow you to hold notes for longer, and sing for longer without breaking.
Miscellaneous Exercises to Help Perfect Your Singing
The Lip Bubble
This will sound silly, but it helps. Try mimicking the sound of a car engine. Support your face around the jawline with your fingers and squish your lips together. Pucker your lips loosely and then blow out a ‘buh’ sound. When you feel your lips tingling, know that the exercise is working.
Listen to “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music. Sing through it starting from the middle C note. Take your time and listen to the pitch every time. If you can do this without a piano and land the notes, it’ll help improve your note recognition. It’ll also help you hit the right note in rehearsal and on stage.
This consists of imitating a fire engine. Go through different notes, and pitches while you do this. Start at the lowest note and keep raising your voice. If you can sing high and low notes with equal ease like a fire engine, you’re in good vocal shape.
All these vocal exercises are meant to train your throat to be more able and flexible. It will help you sing higher and lower notes than your current range and gain more control over your voice. All in all, these daily vocal exercises for singers will help even the most uninitiated improve their vocal range.
What Good Is Practicing If No One Listens?
You can practice all day and night but if no one is listening to your singing then it’s really just therapeutic.
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