Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Improving Your Band's Vocals

What can you do to make your band’s vocals better? Short of having a better voice or more talent, there are a number of things you can do to improve them. Although this entry isn’t intended to go into detail, it should give you some very general ideas for improving your vocals. Hopefully, a few of these tips will be just what you need to start making your band’s vocals better!

ONE PERSON PER PART – When singing harmony, only one person should sing each part. That means one person each sings lead, tenor, baritone, and/or bass at the same time. If you have several people sharing the same part, you will sound more like a choir than you will a band. Sharing parts also makes it difficult to get a good blend.

ONE PERSON PER NOTE – Not only should parts not be shared, but individual notes should not be shared. Good harmony never shares notes unless it is the bass part in four-part harmony (which would be singing shared notes in a lower octave). For instance, if you are singing the lead, the tenor and baritone part should not sing the same note you are singing in the same place at the same time in the song. If two people are singing the same note at the same time, then you must determine who is singing the incorrect note and then find the correct note.

PRONOUNCE YOUR WORDS CLEARLY – You must be more exact with your pronunciation when you are singing than you are when you are talking. This is called “diction.” If your diction is not good, then people will not be able to understand what you are singing.

In addition to having good diction, everyone that sings together must pronounce all words the same way and at exactly the same time. When I am working with groups that are having trouble with this, I have them say the words of the song rhythmically. It’s basically rapping the song. When the group can speak the words rhythmically and exactly together, then I have them go back to trying to sing the words with the same accuracy. This usually works very well!

Another thing that helps people sing the words together is to have everyone watch the mouth of the lead singer. Basically, everyone is reading the lips of the lead singer. The more obvious the lead singer can make the words, cutoffs and phrases, the better everyone else will be at matching these things. After groups have been together for a while, this becomes less necessary, as everyone will get a feel for how the lead singer pronounces words and phrases.

HOLD OUT THE NOTES AT THE ENDS OF PHRASES – When you get to the end of a phrase, make sure you hold out the note. Don’t cut the notes off too short unless the song is supposed to be sung that way.

BLEND – Matching tone quality is very important. This is something that families tend to do quite well because of the genetic advantage. Even if your band isn’t composed of family members, there are things you can do to help blend better.

If your voice is too harsh, try expelling more air as you sing. (Think sexy.) This will soften your voice and make it sound more pleasant.

If your voice is too airy, then use more support from your diaphragm. (See next tip.)

Included with blending is making sure each part is the correct volume level. The lead part always needs to be the loudest part, or at least AS LOUD AS the other parts. If you have a softer voice, then you will need to work the microphone closer so that your part can be heard easily. Likewise, if you have a very loud voice or if you are very loud on certain parts of a vocal, then you need to make sure you are not too close to the microphone. If you work a single mic, then this will be even more important.

USE YOUR DIAPHRAGM – Your diaphragm is a big muscle that sits below your lungs. It directly affects your tone quality and your ability to hold pitch and length of notes. To see if you are using your diaphragm when you are singing, just try this simple test. Take your hand or several fingers and put them on your stomach with your stomach relaxed. Press with your hand to feel what your stomach feels like when relaxed. Now tighten your stomach and feel what it feels like. Now sing several phrases of a song and use your hand to determine if your diaphragm is tight or relaxed. If your diaphragm is relaxed when you are singing, then you need to start working on tightening it when you sing.

OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND MOVE YOUR LIPS – This goes along with good diction and pronouncing your words clearly. When you open your mouth, it makes your voice sound more open. Moving your mouth and lips will also make your words easier to understand. I tell my students to pretend that the audience is deaf and can only read lips. I also tell my students watch themselves sing in a mirror to see if they are actually opening their mouths and moving their lips. Many times students think they are doing this when they aren’t. Watching yourself in a mirror will show you whether or not you are doing this as much as you think you are.

HOLD OUT VOWEL SOUNDS – When holding out a note, be sure to hold out the vowel sound of the word. For instance, if you are singing the word “star,” hold out the “ah” part of the word and not the “ar” part.

Stay tuned for more helpful blog entries! Is there something you want help with? Let me know!

1 comment:

BethanyB said...

This is an awesome post, Chris - thank you!