Molly Lindman Molly L.
Posted April 19th
Whether you’re new to singing or have been singing for many years, you’ve likely encountered vocal challenges that needed to be addressed and corrected. It’s all part of what makes singing both interesting and fun! Here are some common mistakes all singers make and how to fix them.
1. Not Knowing Your Vocal Range
All singers need to know what their lowest singable note is as well as their highest singable note. The span between the two makes up your vocal range. I am not referring to what notes you can squeak out. You actually need to be able to sing the note clearly. Knowing your vocal range is important because it helps you know where to begin and end your vocal exercises and how to select appropriate songs for your voice.
If you are unsure what your vocal range is, simply sit in front of a piano and place your finger on middle C (C4.) With good posture and support, sing each vowel (EE, EH, AH, OH, OO) for 2-3 seconds each on the same note.
Try placing an “H” before each vowel to help you execute each note with ease. Lastly, take a small breath between each note. This helps ensure you are supporting yourself properly while doing the exercise. It should look something like this:
HEE (breath) HEH (breath) HAH (breath) HOH (breath) HOO
Once you’ve sang all five vowels on C4, go down a half step to B3 and repeat the exercise. Continue to work down the keyboard until you’ve reach your lowest singable note. You may notice that the lower you go, certain vowels become easier to sing than others. That’s completely normal, and we call those our “easy vowels.” Write down those vowels for when you are vocalizing and working on expanding your range. Once you have identified your lowest singable note, return to middle C (C4) and repeat the exercise, except this time you will be moving up the scale until you’ve reached your highest singable note.
2. Choosing the Wrong Key
Choosing the proper key for songs is very important. The key selection process can often involve practicing the song several times in various keys to determine which one sounds and makes you feel the best. Here are some things to consider when selecting the proper key:
- Are you able to sing the lowest and highest notes in the song without straining and with ease?
- Are you able to hit the “money” notes in the desired register?
- What key does your voice “pop” in? Often simply lowering or raising the key by a step or two can make all the difference.
Beware of changing the key too much. For example, if you are transposing a “female” song into a “male” key, make sure the new key doesn’t compromise the song or musicianship too much. Changing the key too much on certain songs can change the whole dynamic and feel.
3. Avoiding Warm Ups
Imagine that you are about to run a marathon. You wouldn’t just show up on the day of the race without having set aside time for conditioning your muscles and preparing your body for the 26.2-mile run, right? Singing is the same way. Warming up on a regular basis gets the blood flowing, prevents injury and leads to desired results.
Not Maximizing the Mixed Voice
The mixed voice is the middle register placed between the chest and head voice. It often serves as the bridge or “passageway” between the two registers. Learning to use your mixed voice effectively has several benefits, including helping smooth the transition between registers and helping to save your voice from early fatigue.
In order to utilize your mixed voice properly, you first will need to identify where your vocal break is. The vocal break is the point where your voice shifts from one support system to the next. Some describe it as the transition point where you can no longer sing in full chest and have to shift into a lighter head voice. In order to determine where your approximate vocal break is, begin singing a basic five-note ascending and descending scale in your chest voice on an open vowel (EH, AH or OH).
Continue the exercise by moving up the piano a half step at a time, repeating the exercise until you begin to feel the shift from chest into head. Once you’ve identified where you shift from chest into head, you now know where your break is.
Once you’ve identified your vocal break, you can now begin working on developing and strengthening the notes surrounding the vocal break, hence maximizing your mixed voice. The more you work this area, the stronger your mixed voice will become.
5. Using Too Much Vibrato
Vibrato is the fluctuation between two pitches. Everyone has varying degrees of natural vibrato, so depending on what style of music you sing, the amount of vibrato you use will vary. For example, classical music traditionally uses more vibrato than today’s Top 40 music. There’s an art to using vibrato, and using too much or too little can make a difference. Your goal is to utilize it just enough to enhance the performance, not take away from it.
6. Lack of Preparedness
When a singer is nervous leading up to an audition, rehearsal or performance, it often stems from a lack of preparedness. Being unprepared never feels good and it can leave us feeling defeated and disappointed. It can also lead to lost opportunities because we simply didn’t take the time to prepare. So, spend more time working out the details. Your biggest defense is always preparedness.
7. Overlooking the Little Things
It’s often the little things that make or break a performance. Things like:
- Cutting off the ends of phrases/words too early in order to jump ahead to the next word. This happens frequently in the pre-chorus leading into the chorus.
- Singing the same dynamic for the entire song. Instead, try incorporating varied dynamics throughout your entire performance, which will add depth and character.
- Overlooking the importance of melismas. If you are going to use them, make sure you do them with 100% accuracy. No one wants to hear sloppy runs.
- Using the wrong vocal inflections. Pay attention to the type of song you are singing. Listen to the instrumentation. Try and match your vocal inflections to the song.
- Running out of breath too early. Make sure you are properly supporting yourself at all times. When learning a new song, note your breath marks on your lyric sheet until they become second nature.
8. Expecting Immediate Results
We live in a culture where everything is at the tip of our fingers. Anything we need is immediately available at any given moment. Because of this, we have very little patience for things that take time. We expect immediate results. Unfortunately, as with many things, one cannot always expect immediate results when learning vocal technique and vocal performance skills.
In fact, time to hone your craft is exactly what you need. Whether it’s ear training, sight singing, learning melismas, or how to move on stage, allow yourself the time to work out the kinks, try out new ideas without the added pressure of expecting immediate results. If you are diligent with practicing and keeping your eye on the ball, the results will come. Anything worthwhile takes time.