If you were to quickly fly through a sampling of your favorite singers you would notice how each voice has specific colors that distinguishes it.
Even if each of your favorite singers were to sing the exact same song, no two songs would sound the same because
each singer brings a different timbre and tone and pitch to the piece. Each singer will put their own interpretive spin on a song, emphasizing different parts of the story, giving a unique feel, and even evoking a broad spectrum of differing emotions.
Articulation is a challenge faced by many singers that can ultimately become a defining strength or vital part of their signature sound.
BMA vocal coach and lead singer of Sixpence None the Richer, Leigh Nash, known for her clear, breathy almost innocent articulated vocals, understands the powerful part that articulation plays in effectively delivering the story, message, and feel of a song. And, she has some sound advice for addressing issues with articulation to ensure a song’s successful delivery.
“Singers get used to the way they sing,” Leigh said. “Hearing themselves sound a certain way, with no one else listening, leaves little room for self correction. This is particularly true with articulation. My advice to someone would be to try and record yourself; and then, listen back as critically as you can, but not too critically. You want to see if you can clearly understand the words you’re singing.”
Some singers can get caught up in emotions and then slur or jumble the words, burying them beneath angst and tears and belts that distort and distract.
Italy’s BMA vocal coach Giuseppe Lopizzo sees articulation when singing as being the same issue that creates miscommunication due to not articulating properly when carrying on a simple conversation.
“The main problem about articulation in singing is that the student tries to do something different when he or she sings from when they talk,” he said. “For example they start doing strange things like big movements with their mouths, thinking this can help them articulate and sing. They try to push out or punch the words. But, if they stop to understand that they can articulate freely when they sing just like when they talk like in everyday speaking, all those problems disappear.”
Don’t Over-think It
Leigh agrees with Giuseppe’s observation, noting that singers sometimes over think how they need to sound rather than trusting their natural instincts that come from a desire to simply communicate.
“I also find myself telling students to sing the words just as they would speak them,” she said. “I think it connects to the listener much better if they are hearing words that come from your heart versus too much thinking or any affectations.”
Open After Closed Vowels
Giuseppe has noted some issues that may come up even when a student is engaged in singing like speaking, especially for people they may tend to be more naturally animated.
“Big movements and wide openings of the mouth can cause problems,” he said. “Often singers open their mouth a lot for vowels like A, creating tensions and pushing the chest voice higher and higher. I have an answer to this problem. So, a little tip that can work would be to try to position open vowels after closed vowels. For instance, just before the vowel A, say OO.”
Tone It To Own It
Issues with tone can also be challenging and can even be problematic for some singers, singer-songwriters, singing musicians, and performers.
Nasality can be a big issue for some. But, don’t panic, Leigh has some suggestions for addressing this challenge.
“When a singer is having trouble with tone – in particular, a nasal tone, it’s vital to give them a visual of what’s happening when they are singing,” she said. “So when there is too much nasality, the tongue is being pushed back against the soft pallet, and there is a lot of tension in the throat. When you think about it and can visualize it, the realization comes. You think, of course it sounds nasal! I’m not allowing enough resonance to produce a pure, solid tone. It takes getting used to, but visualizing what’s happening in the throat and nasal passages is half the battle.”
Don’t Hold Your Breath
Giuseppe often finds students that have issues with breathiness in the tone. But he has suggestions to help with working through that issue.
“I often meet students that think they can help their singing voice by modifying their tone,” he said. “For instance, they think they can help going very high or very low by adding breathiness to their tone. But, in fact; this has the opposite effect, and makes it more and more difficult. But a quick tip to use in avoiding breathiness is to do exercises by putting a the consonant G sound just before the vowel, like G-OO for instance. The G sound makes your cords come together. So, when the vocal cords come together, it fights breathiness. Now, to avoid excessive nasality, you can do low larynx exercises, like lip rolls, or by singing, mum-mum-mum-mum. You can exaggerate the low larynx tone, if you have excessive nasality, so that in the end you can find the right balance between the two.”
Clips For Tips
There are a number of video clips at SingingSuccess.tv that can be used to help with articulation and tonality.
Two recent clips featuring Shelby Rollins on “What’s Really Going On With Your Voice” and “Pharyngeal Nay Exercise” are very helpful.
Jesse Nemitz offers a clip called “Get Out Of Your Own Way” that’s especially beneficial in helping you approach your training in the most productive manner, so that exercises and training are followed properly from the very beginning.
Share Your Cares
Share your challenges with articulation and tonality via the forums at SingingSuccess.tv and compare results generated through tips in the video clips and practices engaged through the Mastering Mix and Singing Success programs.
Remember that practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice and commitment are keys to perfection. The stronger your commitment to perfect practice, the greater your potential for achieving true singing success!
Grammy-nominated vocalist for Sixpence None the Richer, Leigh Nash helps singers develop their own unique voices as the newest member of the elite team of instructors at Nashville’s Brett Manning Studios. To book a session with Leigh, call (615) 866-1099, or send an email to:
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.BrettManningStudios.com.
Giuseppe Lopizzo is the only Italian vocal coach certified by Brett Manning. To book a session with Giuseppe, or for further information, please contact him at email@example.com. You can also visit him on Facebook as Brett Manning vocal method Italia.