The Real Reason All Gospel Singers Should Take Vocal Lessons (It’s Not What You Think)

By far the biggest challenge I face daily in this ministry is convincing naturally gifted singers that they too need to invest in vocal lessons.

But that’s because so many people think vocal lessons are about teaching you how to sing. Well if I already know how to sing, and I was born into a family of singers, why would I need lessons, right?

But let me ask you for a moment to think about the last time you sang. Probably last Sunday. Whether you sang lead or background doesn’t matter. What matters is how you felt. Think back. Was there ever a time your attention shifted from the message you were singing about to the task of singing itself?

Think back. Did you at any time start to feel discomfort? Did you find yourself at any point just kinda wanting the song to be over?  If you did, you must understand that in moments like those your mind, heart and spirit are no longer available to God.

Physical and mental limitations become a hindrance to your ministry when they take your focus away from the message. You really can’t be a proper conduit for the Holy Spirit to flow through if the connection is broken.

That is the real reason all singers who proclaim the Gospel through music should invest in vocal training. It’s not so you can hold a note until the audience starts clapping in celebration of how long you’re holding the note. That’s about YOU. It’s not about being able to sing notes so high that they become almost irritating to the listener. That is also about you.

The real reason it’s important for Christian/Gospel singers should take lessons is to remove any physical limitations that distract you from the message. Physical limitations lead to mental distractions. Now your mind is somewhere other than focused on what you’re singing about.

Training your instrument simply makes you a better instrument for for God. It frees you from things that distract you. Things that keep you from being able to go when doors open. Makes you unable to focus your heart and mind on what you’re singing about. So when you take lessons you are taking steps to eliminate those things so that you can be more effective when you minister in song. Not by holding notes longer or singing notes higher, but by eliminating anything that breaks that spiritual connection to the message that you need to really move from performing to ministering. And that’s about God, not about you.

Listen, I can definitely understand the hesitation many people have to spending the money to take vocal lessons when they aren’t really sure they’ll benefit at all from them. You may have even been told as much by someone who took lessons. But you really can’t rely completely on someone elses’ opinion on things like this. There are too many variables.

Many people sign up but they quit after one lesson. Some continue to take lessons but they don’t practice at home so they don’t see results. So only you can decide if they’ll really improve your ministry, and you can only decide that by trying them.

I know that’s a scary thought for many people though. So I wanted every singer to have an opportunity to try vocal training for themselves without fear or reservation. To do that I created a free 5 day vocal training course. You can get this course by simply signing up for my mailing list. You won’t need a credit card, you will never be charged. It’s simply an opportunity for you to see for yourself what some training can do for your ministry.

You’ll be introduced to some simple, basic vocal lessons and concepts. If you take them seriously and actually do them, in a few days you’ll notice changes. At the end I’ll give you an opportunity to continue your training at a deeply discounted rate. Completely optional, of course. Some people go on to up-grade to the full home study course, but many more simply enjoy the free lessons and go their own way, more educated. Whether they upgraded or not though, thousands of people all over the world have taken this course and raved about it. You’ll see hundreds of testimonials below the video lessons when you join.

So take the the step right now by filling out the simple form below. If you do the exercises I’m going to show you in this course you will fill different by the very next time you sing. The next step will be up to you.

How doing regular cardio makes you a better singer

A Brand New DayIf you’ve been a regular reader of this blog for any length of time you’ve no doubt seen me harping many times on the importance of improving your breathing technique for better singing. In fact Shena did a 3 part blog series dedicated to The fine art of proper breathing, which ended with a blog including 4 powerful exercises for great breath control. There’s no question then, that breathing exercises are an important tool for singers to add to your daily vocal workouts.

However there are a few other exercises that are equally as important and very effective for improving the singer’s over-all lung capacity and breathing. Adding them to your routine will not only make you a more powerful singer but a healthier person. I’m speaking about cardio exercises. Cardio exercises are not vocal exercises but physical exercise like the kind you get from walking, jogging or running, aerobic exercise, skating, cycling, skiing, dancing, swimming, rowing, tennis, basketball; you get the idea.

Cardio is short for Cardiovascular. These are exercises that raise the heart rate and keep it elevated for an extended period of time. Doing cardio regularly improves your breathing because it increases your lung capacity. Now, in my own research I saw a lot of people mentioning “lung capacity  as the main benefit of doing cardio for singers, but hardly anyone went on to explain what that is, exactly.

At first mention you might think that means that you’ll somehow increase the size of your lungs. That’s not really true. As far as I know there are no exercises you can do to actually increase how big your lungs are. So when we talk about lung capacity we’re talking about how much air you actually take into your lungs. Many of us don’t take in nearly as much air as we could or even should, simply because of shallow breathing. And honesly a lot of that comes from simply being out of shape. Regular cardio workouts dramatically improve your breathing by improving your lung capacity. Meaning you actually breathe deeper and fill your lungs with more air naturally.

We already know the endless list of benefits to your heart and overall stamina and energy that cardio workouts cause. But think about the effect having a surplus of energy and stamina can have on your singing. Remember singing is very much a physical thing that can be compared to any athletic event. So a stronger, healthier cardiovascular system has some very powerful benefits for the singer in regards to both performance and breathing.

However it’s important to also point out that for the purpose of improving your breathing for singing, cardio must be added and used along with breathing exercises. And all of it must be used in conjunction with actually practicing singing with better breath control; actual singing, not just holding notes longer, or singing scales. You may, for example, get to a point where you can hold one note for a very long time. But singing an actual phrase has many different vowels as well as fluctuations in pitch and volume. All of these have a very different effect on how much air you need to say, finish a long phrase vs. just holding one note. Even holding one note gets more difficult the higher the note is, because it requires a different amount of support. So in addition to cardio and a regimin of regular breathing exercise, you need to actually practice singing longer phrases. Not taking breaths as often. Things like that.

So don’t misunderstand me here. You should definitely start doing some cardio at least 3 times a week, and it will definitely yield some very noticeable benefits to your breathing. It will give you more stamina and make you a more powerful singer. But the maximum benefits come only if combined with regular singing-specific breathing exercises and actual practice singing longer notes and phrases.

Now go for a walk!

Need help with with your breathing? Running out of air? Screaming for high notes? Most breathing issues are the result of bad technique. Taking vocal lessons dramatically improves your vocal technique, so your breathing improves also!  If you’ve looked before and found lesson to be too expensive for you, take a look at my new home study vocal training course. Vocal Ministry Breakthrough.  .

How to sing loud without yelling

The ultimate calling card of the Gospel music genre is powerful singing, isn’t it? That’s not only what most singers want, but it’s become what most listeners expect from Gospel singers. But there is a fine line between singing with a nice, full, powerful voice and just out and out screaming on pitch. Now, if you happen to be one of those singers with a big, powerful, loud singing voice you might not see anything wrong with that. After all, it’s Gospel singing! It’s you that they depend on the carry that section in the choir stand when the numbers are thin, right? And even when they aren’t thin, it’s your loud, powerful voice that really makes the section nice and strong…right? Well, yes and no.

You see, having a powerful, loud voice can be more of a curse than a blessing if you have no control over it. If you find that the only way you can achieve any note above your most comfortable one is to simply get louder and louder until you’re doing something a  lot closer to yelling than singing, then that’s not a good thing. Singers who have really big, loud voices often become more of a problem than an asset in group situations. That’s because in groups, choirs and praise teams it’s very important that the voices blend well vocally.  You want a nice, full, warm sound where nobody’s voice is standing out or overbearing. So if you’re consistently much louder than everyone else in your section, you’re standing out like a sore thumb.

The key to getting a nice full, powerful sound without screaming-even in the upper notes of your range- is breath control. What causes us to yell notes is the tendency we have to push with everything we have in order to reach them. When a singer does this, he is basically using all of the air he has at once. This causes notes to be harsh and “loud”. But not loud in a good way.

Taking a sudden gasp of air and then pushing it out as fast as possible is what we do when we scream. It’s what I did the other day when I was in someone’s back yard and two large dogs bolted out of a doggie door straight for me, lol! I wasn’t singing at the time, but the experience isn’t much different than the way most of us approach singing. The way to gain control of this “loudness” without losing your vocal power, is to learn how to control your breathing.

Not only is it important to learn how to release air in a more controlled way, it’s also very important to learn to control the position of your mouth. What happens when we scream? We make our mouths as wide as possible to accommodate all of the extra air velocity we’re pushing. But when you learn to use less air and sing with a more narrow position, the result is more volume with much less effort. But the sound you’ll produce when you sing this way is much warmer, even and controlled. This is the kind of volume that is strong and full, yet it’s not overbearing or unable to blend with other voices in the group.

It’s an overwhelming concept on paper, but it’s actually not hard to understand at all when you see it demonstrated. I teach that and many much more in my home study course Vocal Ministry Breakthrough. Read more about the course and see clips here.

 

Using good Diction, part 2: Diphthongs

MicIn my last blog on diction I discussed the three rules for omitting r when singing. If you have been implementing the rules in your singing then you should notice a change in your sound and how clear your words are. In this blog I want to focus on diphthongs. This word is derived from the Greek di – twice and phthongs- sound. A diphthong is a word consisting of two consecutive vowels in the same syllable. An example of a diphthong is the word fight. You have the first vowel sound ah and then I as in it at the end. So the first vowel sound is sustained the second one follows at the end. In reading this keep in mind that we are talking about being understood clearly when you sing. As a singer it is your job to tell a story through your voice. In order for the story to be conveyed is has to be understood.
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How simply using good diction can make singing easier

Hello Mic...Many singers do not really understand diction and the affect it has on their singing. Have you ever heard someone sing and you question in your mind “ what did they say”? Or even “ why do they sound flat or sharp”? Well guess what? Diction plays apart in all of that. If you are a singer you have to put focus on the way you are saying your words. Diction is vitally important in large group settings such as choirs and praise teams. When you have several people singing the same words at the same time, everyone needs to be saying the words the same way.

Let us pause for a second and give a definition to the word “diction”. The meaning of diction is a saying, expression or word. It is the art of speaking clearly so that every word is plainly understood. This word is often used in conjunction with enunciation or its synonym articulation. When it comes to English diction there are a plethora of rules that might surprise you when it comes to everyday singing.

Many English words include letters that are spelled but not sounded. We also have words with consonants that are sounded but not spelled. We know about silent letters, but what about those consonants that are sounded but we do not see them? Take the word “one” for example. It’s spelled with an “O”, but It’s pronounced, “won”. The w is not there but we say it.

Think back to my previous blogs where I talked about having an open throat. When it comes to diction clear singing equals easy singing. As a singer once you adjust the way you sing words singing will be a breeze and tone production will be improved.
I want to start this series off by talking about the rules for omitting the letter R in English diction when it comes to singing. There are three basic rules for omitting and sounding the letter R. I like these three simple rules because it helps singers control their sound.

  1. Never sing the letter R before a consonant:

I want you to say the word charm in two ways- first the way you normally say it, then with no r (chahm). Now if you sing the word without the r with an open throat, it comes out easier.

  1. Do not sing the letter R before a pause:

A pause would be considered as a spot that you would breathe or come to a stop. Omitting the r before a pause results in good tone and naturalness. Try saying the phrase “ when life is over,” with and without the r (ovah). Try singing the phrase, does it feel different at all? There is one exception to this rule and that is when a diphthong or triphthong is followed by a pause. An example of a diphthong is “dear” and of triphthong is “fire”. Oh, by the way I will discuss those two words in a future blog.

  1. Always sing the letter R before a Vowel

This rule is pretty much self-explanatory. Some examples are “spirit” and “for us”, if these words were said or sung without the r they would not be understood. Without the r these words would be totally different: “spit” and “fo us”, now you see why this rule speaks for itself.

Start implementing these rules in your singing while also applying everything I discussed in previous blogs. You will feel and hear your singing change.. Remember to always keep your throat open, larynx low and support every note as if it were your only one.

Shena

 

Shena Crane is a Classically trained professional vocal coach. She graduated from University Of Texas At Arlington. Shena holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education as well as an Associates Degree in Music/Performance. Book Shena for private vocal training through The Music Ministry Coach.com

 

Why should a naturally gifted singer take vocal lessons?

question markI know from experience that people who are naturally gifted singers are often some of the most complacent people of all when it comes to fully understanding how precious that gift is. And to what lengths people all over the world are going to in order to learn how to do what you take for granted, simply because you woke up one day knowing how. I don’t say that to be mean though. It’s just natural to find it hard to really appreciate something that you’ve had all your life. So it stands to reason that often people born with a natural ability to sing will have a really hard time seeing the need for them to take vocal lessons. After all, vocal coaches teach people how to sing right? Often you hear things like “Well God blessed me with that naturally. I come from a long line of anointed singers so I just have it in my blood”.

I suggested to a friend of mine a few years ago that he take vocal lessons, and he took it as an insult. Mind you, I love this person’s voice! But I knew he struggled with certain notes that we find ourselves singing a lot in Gospel songs . And I knew that taking vocal lessons would make those notes much easier for him.

Although there are some people who can actually learn to sing by taking lessons, I believe some of the most dramatic improvements come to people who already have the gift of singing. But gifted singers still have a tough time wrapping their head around actually going somewhere and spending money to , in their opinion, learn how to do something they already know how to do. In another blog I explained in detail what I believe are 5 Tell-tale signs you need vocal lessons. But I want to give a couple of simple examples here, of things you may not be aware of. These are little things about the way even naturally gifted singers approach singing, that can cause strain and wear on your voice that will build up over time until your singing voice actually starts to deteriorate even sooner than it would over the natural course of time.

One thing that almost all of us do without being aware we’re doing it, is use muscles in our singing that aren’t designed or intended to use for singing. We engage these muscles sometimes even when we’re not singing in a way that feels particularly high or uncomfortable. Let’s feel one of those right now.

Put your thumb, face up, underneath your chin. Rest it gently against that soft fleshy area under there. Now, just sing a little. Sing something simple. You don’t even need words. Try singing “MM-MMM-MMMM-MMM-MMM” on a simple scale. Can you feel that area under your chin pressing against your thumb? Now sing notes a little higher. You’ll see that the higher you go the harder those muscles push against your thumb. This is a muscle used primarily when we swallow. Go ahead and swallow with your thumb right there and you’ll feel the same muscle.

This muscle is NOT needed at all for singing! It is what we call an “outer-larynx” muscle. In other words, it one of many muscles located outside of the larynx that have nothing to do with singing. These muscles add strain to the singing process.

Here’s another example of something very common many singers do that causes tension to build up. I heard one vocal coach on American Idol call it “Gospel Jaw”; that thing you see some singers doing where they move their jaw up and down in cadence with their vibrato? Completely un-necessary to produce vibrato and adds nothing at all to the singing process but tension.

Of course we’ve talked at length in several other blogs about all of the ways improper breathing affects your vocal cords in a very bad way. This topic is broad and includes everything from tightening your stomach when going for high notes to how you hold your mouth for certain vowels. Not to mention the actual process of breathing in and out, which believe it or not, most of us do incorrectly just walking around in every day life, let alone singing.

These and many, many other issues are things you learn how to overcome and correct when you take vocal lessons. When you do, some pretty amazing changes start to take place in your singing. Not only does your overall tonal quality and warmth improve, but your entire ministry becomes more effective, more powerful and more anointed. Taking vocal lessons eliminates all physical and mental distractions every singer feels at some point when they’re up before God’s people. Imagine that for a moment. How would that kind of complete and total freedom change your ministry?

So if you’ve thought about taking lessons before but just didn’t feel like you would benefit that much from them, I urge you to take my free 5 day video vocal training course. It’s an easy, risk-free to really see for once and for all if you can really benefit from vocal training. Hundreds of Gospel singers all over the world have already done just that, and as simple as this little mini-course is, many of them have reported some pretty amazing changes.

Have you ever taken voice lessons? Please share your experience by commenting about it below.

If you haven’t, why not schedule a session today! You can Book Shena or Book Ron at the top of the page by clicking on the Book Private Sessions page.