Simon says… you’ve got to know how to sing! That is, if you dream of being the next American Idol or YouTube sensation!
We’ll take you inside a private voice lesson at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music — owned by non-other than Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea — that’ll have you ready for auditions, your YouTube channel, or the stage!
Do you know the answer?
Stand up straight like Julia, and you'll have more room for air. Voice starts with breathing, not the throat. "You start your sound down here," says S.J., a professional instructor at the conservatory, pointing at her student Julia's diaphragm. "That's how you get a fuller sound. The chords are just the middle guys." Sing from your throat and you'll end up losing your voice! Your mouth and head are just where sound resonates.
Don't suck it in! "Not only are you not using your lungs' full capacity -- all the air you have in there -- you're squishing them so they don't have the strength that they normally do," says SJ. Focus on expanding your ribs so that there's more room for air.
"In singing, you want to learn how to breathe correctly-- with your shoulders down." This is so your lungs can act like a bellows. They go out, and there's more room for air in you. More air a bigger, richer sound.
You can be a better singer in two minutes a day-- if you use them to do breathing exercises. Here's one exercise S.J. gives her students: Put your hand on your diaphragm. In your head, count 1-2-3-4 as you slowly take a breath. Feel your middle (and ribs!) expand. Then count 1-2-3-4 in your head as you smoothly exhale. Repeat in and out for two minutes a day.
New singers have a tendency to "reach for notes"-- literally, explains SJ. If you find your chin way up or way down, especially with notes that are a little higher or lower than you feel comfortable singing, know that it's natural, but it won't help. What's up there? "You get your notes and your power from here-- your diaphragm."
If you want to really get better, consider a private instructor, but do it at the right time. SJ recommends against learning vocal technique (the fine-tuned mechanics of singing) while your voice is still changing because you could hurt yourself and you'll just have to relearn it later anyway. Instead, look for an instructor who focuses more on artistic things like tune, pitch and how to tell a story through song.
You want somebody who knows what they're doing, of course, but all the education in the world won't mean a thing if you're not comfortable with the person. "Singing is like being naked," explains SJ. "If you don't feel comfortable with your teacher, you won't be able to let it out." Ask for an introductory lesson to see if you click with the instructor. If you don't, it's not a sin to look for somebody new.