Category: Tone

Vocal Coach Mark David Williams

Singing Blue Notes

What style do you typically sing? Do you like to be precise when interpreting written music? Do you feel the need to put your own vocal signature on a song? This week, I discuss the inclusion of “blue notes” in certain styles of music.

Question

Hi! Gospel and blues is famous for blue notes and people singing notes which are between the piano keys. I understand that classical singing mostly sing the 12 notes of the octave but that blues and gospel singers have to learn blue notes as well. What can you say about this?

Answer

Thank you for your question! I appreciate this questions as I was trained in many styles as a Commercial Music Major at Belmont University. The first two years are foundationally classical and include a variety of languages and Art Songs. I loved it!

And then the final two years were studying and singing all different styles. My voice teacher was a Jazz singer rooted in Classical music. That being said, I was learning a lot about Jazz my final two years of school. I loved that too!

So to answer your question really makes me draw upon personal experience and you could possibly get a different answer from another coach or professional. Classical music really is about staying on the notes. They are written with purpose and intention and often are accompanied by a full orchestra. There is a precision needed in the pitch and execution of rhythm and basically what is written on the page.

A singer can learn a lot by trying out different musical styles

Jazz, gospel and blues leave much more room for interpretation of the notes and rhythms and for adding in ‘blue’ notes. There is freedom to scoop, to change a line rhythmically, to sing a different note and to just ‘feel’ the song with the band. In other words, blues and gospel singers will naturally learn blue notes as well, because it’s just a natural part of the style—and the more you sing within the style the more naturally the ear and voice will include some blue notes.

Perhaps a better way to look at it is not so much a ‘have to,’ but more of a ‘freedom to do so’. It can be very liberating for someone who has only ever sung what is written to sing what is ‘unwritten’. Being able to sing what’s written and what’s not is a really great vocal ‘tool’ to have. I hope this helps give some insight. I appreciate and respect all styles and I feel that a singer can learn a lot by trying different styles of music.

Vocal Coach's Pick: Essentials Set

Coach's Pick: Vocal Coach Essentials Set

Need to kickstart your vocal training? The Vocal Coach Essentials Package is just for you.

Ever wonder how to actually get started with your vocal training, or in some cases re-start it? The reason for the question is all the singers I hear from who passionately want to sing but can’t quite put their fingers on the first step. To make that easier we’ve put together the Vocal Coach Essentials. I chose 4 training CD’s from our collection that I feel will best get you on the road to better voice control. We also threw in a bonus workout CD called Vocal Coach Styles which takes a well-know song and lets you experiment with it in 8 different musical styles. It’s extremely fun and may open some new options in your singing.

What Elements Of Singing Need To Be There Every Time?

That’s the question I tried to answer with Essentials Set. Here is what you will learn:

  1. Breath control is where it starts. If there’s no breath there’s no sound. And if there’s too much breath it can strain and wear out the voice not to mention make you run out of breath early.
  2. Tone is the sound of your voice, and no matter what your style there are right (efficient) and wrong (inefficient) ways to get that sound. You will learn how to get more sound with less work.
  3. If you’re the only one who knows what your song is about because of lazy diction you’re not going to get the message across. Our Complete Diction CD is famous for it’s thorough and practical approach. Just as with breathing, with diction you don’t want too much, or too little, and finding “just right” is easy once you know what to look for, and actually easier on your voice.
  4. Having great breathing, tone and diction is good, but if you look bored or scared or are not fully engaged with your audience you’re missing it. The steps to owning and expressing a song are clearly laid out in the Complete Performance CD. It’s the icing on the cake.

In addition to the above you’ll learn other critical skills like how to have a successful sound check, smart microphone technique, how to choose songs that work for you and much, much more. All things that every singer needs to know.

How To Best Use Vocal Coach Essentials

Because the sound of the voice is based on mechanics and acoustics it’s best to start with Complete Breathing. And, don’t be in a rush to blast through it. Listen to the training sections until you understand the principles, then do the fun, and often funny exercises anytime you can. In the car, taking a walk… any time you can. The more focused time you spend with these exercises the faster it becomes part of who you are. You will want to come back to this CD and will use the exercises for years to come.

Once the breathing is becoming more natural spend some time with the Complete Tone CD. Here, just as with the breathing, take time to live with a little and let the exercises help you discover your best and freest sound. It’s exciting, and will impact your speaking as well as singing.

I’m Here to Help

If you have any questions along the way, visit my Blog where you can browse various vocal topics that I’ve addressed, and if you don’t find the answer to your question, just type it into the form in the sidebar. I love to hear from all my students and will gladly help you along your way.

Learn More about Vocal Coach Essentials

Lift hands for better posture

Lift Your Hands

Nick discovered that his voice tone improves when he lifts his hands above his head. Why is that? Well, read on and I’ll tell you.

Your Question

I have a question regarding the resonance of the voice. When I am raising my arms above my head (e.g. like when I prepare to dive in a swimming pool) my voice becomes very clear with a full resonant sound with easy high notes. When I bring my hands back to normal my voice is not so clear and I push for high notes. What is happening when I raised my arms? How can I achieve the same vocal result with arms in normal position?

My Answer

What a great question, Nick. Without seeing/hearing a video of what you describe I will take a stab at what I think is happening. Basically, lifting the arms all but guarantees efficient posture and breathing, which in turn set the stage for good tone and easy access to the upper register.

I use this position with students regularly to help them build muscle memory. The other concept I use is to find a tray or similar prop. Then, imagine you are serving a very formal meal and holding a tray of very high end food. You should have almost the same posture as with lifted arms. Elbows will be out to the sides and the thoracic cavity (chest/ribs) will be still and wonderfully expanded.

I have one student who is a competitive table tennis player. I have him squat as if about to receive a serve. Again, he is in an athletic, alert balanced position even though bent from the waist.

Hope this gives you some ideas. Let me know if this helps. I’m curious. And if you’d like to confirm my suspicion, a quick Vocal Coach Voice Assessment would let me see you and, well, assess the situation.

Anyone else have any tricks to force your body into proper posture? Let me know in the comments.

Question about Controlling Vibrato

Tracy recently asked me about controlling vibrato via my Ask the Vocal Coach form. It’s a great question, and many of you have asked this question over the years. Vibrato is natural, but it stumps many of us. Read on to learn more.

Your Question

I’ve always been a choral/background singer type. Recently I’ve been working to be able to lead more songs in my worship team. While doing this, I’ve noticed (it’s been pointed out) I have a vibrato. Sometimes it’s pretty, but I have trouble controlling it to use as an accent instead of it taking over a song. How would you suggest I train myself to control it?

My Answer

First, the good news: Vibrato is natural in the voice. Now, the bad news: Many singers don’t know how to allow a gentle vibrato that easily blends. Instead, the vibrato gets too wide or too fast, conflicting with other voices.

Start by getting your larynx, ear and brain working together as you sing a single note with NO vibrato. Absolute straight tone. Then, and this is a mental effort, allow just a bit of vibrato to enter. Then back to straight, vibrato, straight, vibrato etc. The goal is to let the vocal mechanism know there are options and that you want “it” to give you what you want.

The next step is really listening to those you are singing with. What we do with groups is get them to stand in a circle so all can see each other. Then, while looking at each other, hum a note until it sounds like one voice. Then open to an AH vowel. Then move on to simple 5-tone scales on easy vowels really listening so that noticeable vibrato is brought under control (straighter).

We have some really good tools to help with all of this. The following CD’s/downloads would be of great help:

Vibrato can be a powerful tool of expression for a singer, but can also ruin expression and derail a group. You need to master vibrato before it master you!

Vocal Coach's Pick: Essentials Set

Coach's Pick: Vocal Coach Essentials Set

Vocal Coach's Pick: Essentials Set

Need to kickstart your vocal training? The Vocal Coach Essentials Package is just for you.

Ever wonder how to actually get started with your vocal training, or in some cases re-start it? The reason for the question is all the singers I hear from who passionately want to sing but can’t quite put their fingers on the first step. To make that easier we’ve put together the Vocal Coach Essentials. I chose 4 training CD’s from our collection that I feel will best get you on the road to better voice control. We also threw in a bonus workout CD called Vocal Coach Styles which takes a well-know song and lets you experiment with it in 8 different musical styles. It’s extremely fun and may open some new options in your singing.

What Elements Of Singing Need To Be There Every Time?

That’s the question I tried to answer with Essentials Set. Here is what you will learn:

  1. Breath control is where it starts. If there’s no breath there’s no sound. And if there’s too much breath it can strain and wear out the voice not to mention make you run out of breath early.
  2. Tone is the sound of your voice, and no matter what your style there are right (efficient) and wrong (inefficient) ways to get that sound. You will learn how to get more sound with less work.
  3. If you’re the only one who knows what your song is about because of lazy diction you’re not going to get the message across. Our Complete Diction CD is famous for it’s thorough and practical approach. Just as with breathing, with diction you don’t want too much, or too little, and finding “just right” is easy once you know what to look for, and actually easier on your voice.
  4. Having great breathing, tone and diction is good, but if you look bored or scared or are not fully engaged with your audience you’re missing it. The steps to owning and expressing a song are clearly laid out in the Complete Performance CD. It’s the icing on the cake.

In addition to the above you’ll learn other critical skills like how to have a successful sound check, smart microphone technique, how to choose songs that work for you and much, much more. All things that every singer needs to know.

How To Best Use Vocal Coach Essentials

Because the sound of the voice is based on mechanics and acoustics it’s best to start with Complete Breathing. And, don’t be in a rush to blast through it. Listen to the training sections until you understand the principles, then do the fun, and often funny exercises anytime you can. In the car, taking a walk… any time you can. The more focused time you spend with these exercises the faster it becomes part of who you are. You will want to come back to this CD and will use the exercises for years to come.

Once the breathing is becoming more natural spend some time with the Complete Tone CD. Here, just as with the breathing, take time to live with a little and let the exercises help you discover your best and freest sound. It’s exciting, and will impact your speaking as well as singing.

I’m Here to Help

If you have any questions along the way, visit my Blog where you can browse various vocal topics that I’ve addressed, and if you don’t find the answer to your question, just type it into the form in the sidebar. I love to hear from all my students and will gladly help you along your way.

Learn More about Vocal Coach Essentials