On the Indian version of a popular worldwide singing contest, one of the judges repeatedly told the eliminated contestants that they just couldn’t sing so they should forget about it forever and go home. His professional opinion may be accurate, but we say no one should be deprived of the chance to sing their hearts out. To make sure you do this in tune, we’ve got a starter’s kit to making the most of the voice you have.
So what if you’re never going to set a stage on fire in front of a crowd of millions? Maybe you’re destined for karaoke greatness! Either way it’s a thrill you shouldn’t miss out on. Here are our guidelines to help you get started.
WHAT LEARNING HOW TO SING INVOLVES
It is advisable to get a teacher if you want to improve your singing. What will you be taught?
Here’s a brief listing:
- breathing exercises
- ear training
- voice modulation
- how to practice
- how vocal damage can be prevented
- singing for different styles and genres
START YOUR LESSONS
It might take a while for you to find the right teacher in your area. However, if you’re already excited about learning, you can start off right away by exploring some lessons online. Here are two great resources that offer free instruction in the various aspects of singing.
An excellent resource from the prestigious Berklee School Of Music. Practical lessons are accompanied by video and audio files to illustrate the instructions.
Singing is too broad a topic to be covered in a page or two. To make the best of the limited space we have, we asked three diverse singers to share their experiences and advice.
This Allahabad-born singer trained under stalwarts such as Ram Ashreya Jha, Vinay Chandra Maudgalya, Vasant Thakar, Jitendra Abhisheki, Kumar Gandharva, and Naina Devi and has emerged as one of the most versatile Indian singers of today.
TR: What advice do you have for aspiring singers?
[Smiles] I can only share my experiences. I’m not from a family of musicians. With training in classical music you need a lot of patience. There is this tradition of not asking questions, of accepting whatever your guru teaches. I think it is difficult for someone who doesn’t come from that tradition to just go back every day and learn. You might think ‘I’ve spent one-and-a-half years doing the same thing, when is something going to happen?’ But at the same time, it is a grounding that you are given and it would be wise not to doubt it. Although I can quite understand the impatience because I went through it myself. But it’s like giving you the alphabet, the vocabulary and grammar of that form. Even if you are not asking yourself and getting a direct reply from them I think what they are trying to point out is that it is important to have your basics correct.
Also, it is possible today for a student of music to get access to a lot of information that twenty years ago was not possible. I would advise everyone who wants to study to also spend time…often a performer who will study will say, ‘I sing for ten hours a day but I am not going anywhere’. But what is your understanding of music? It is not just about mechanical repetition of a particular thing. It is also a question of trying to articulate your own ideas. All of this requires time and practice. Listen to other people, find out about other people, how to care for your instruments. I think it is necessary to have a complete education in music and the subject itself offers enough scope for that.
This New York-based singer/percussionist/poet was raised in a jazz household, being the daughter of June Evinger, a former big band singer with the Emerson Gill Orchestra. She honed her musical skills further with mentor Bill Gidney, who had been the regional pianist for Billie Holiday. She has a strong musical connection with India, having studied music in the country and having worked with south Indian percussionist Vidwan Shri T.S. Nandakumar and Mumbai-based jazz musician Joe Alvares. Listen to her South Asian influences in a new style of music (termed American Ghazal) at www.paulajeanine.com
TR: Could you share with us an anecdote from your early days of vocal training.
I studied light western classical voice (such as Schubert lieder) in my early training. As I was striving to perfect my intonation, my teacher told me to visualize notches on a tree trunk as pitches in a scale ~ and then fix my gaze and aim at them vocally. Sometimes I would use my finger to point the way!
TR: How do you recommend a student chooses a style of singing to begin studying?
Be honest about what suits your voice but don't forget to dream of what can be.
TR: What is the biggest misconception that students have about learning how to sing?
In the west, the biggest misconception has become that louder is better.
TR: Could you share two important vocal technique tips with us.
1. First thing in the day I sing the lowest note in my register for ten or fifteen minutes, longer if I have a morning at home. That opens up the rest of the range, and helps me focus on my breath. I usually sing with an electric tamboura box. It has an amazing effect on the resonance of your voice throughout the day!
Mumbai-based professional Indian classical singer and vocal teacher who has been studying voice for over seventeen years under renowned classical musician Tulika Ghosh.
What mistakes do beginners tend to keep making?
I don’t think it is the beginners who repeat mistakes. I feel it is the teachers that make mistakes in not teaching correctly. Students have to learn and understand how the musical side of their brain works. A singer can go from ordinary to good and maybe even great with dedication. I remember when I started learning, for some time I just couldn’t get how to hit the right notes. Then as I started practicing I began understanding how to practice better and then I got it. Only by learning can you get better. So they have to remember that they are not born with all the skills. Learning is of the utmost importance.
You can read the rest of our special feature Getting Started in the July 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.
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