Singing is a musical hobby that can have an incredible impact on your mental and physical health. Vocalists often benefit from advantages like an improved immune system, better posture, sounder sleep, lower stress levels, and increased mental acuity. Singing can be especially beneficial for those who choose to sing as a member of a group. Joining a choir can be an excellent option if you want to improve your vocal abilities in a social atmosphere.
If you’re thinking about joining a choir for the first time, here are six things you’ll need to do in order to prepare for a successful audition that earns you membership into your ideal choral group.
1. Before you begin:
Make sure you’re taking care of your voice.
Voice care needs to be a priority for all committed singers, so if you’re thinking about joining a choir, you should start by taking simple steps to maintain your vocal health. Small actions that have a big impact on the health of your voice include drinking plenty of water, limiting the amount of alcohol and caffeine that you consume, avoiding cigarettes and spicy foods, and setting up a humidifier in your home. Additionally, make sure to always perform warm up exercises before you start singing in order to stretch out your vocal cords and the muscles surrounding the larynx. Doing so is a key part of protecting your voice from injury.
Find a group that suits you.
All choirs are different, so make sure that you research and explore the opportunities available in your area before choosing a group to join. There are choirs open to members based on age, as well as groups open to singers based on gender, while others are co-ed and/or all ages.
If you have an idea of what kind of music you would like to sing, make that the primary focus of your search. If you’re interested in timeless classical music, consider a choral society or symphony chorus. Singers who are drawn to show tunes and pop-influenced numbers may be well-suited to a show choir. For those who seek a more improvisational, energetic experience, a gospel choir may be the best fit. If you’re unsure of what kind of music you’re most interested in singing, consider attending a range of local choir performances to help you decide.
2. Prior to the audition:
Select the right song to perform.
If you choose to join any chorus other than a community choir, you will likely need to audition for a spot in the group. For your audition, you’ll want to prepare a song that highlights the strongest aspects of your voice. For example, if you’re most comfortable using your middle voice as opposed to your chest or head voice, look for songs that allow you to predominantly rely on that aspect of your vocals during the performance.
In addition, make sure that your arrangement isn’t too long. It’s better to demonstrate your abilities powerfully and succinctly than to sing too long and risk an audition host asking you to end your performance. Whichever song you choose to sing, make sure you devote plenty of time to practice so you feel well-prepared on the day of your audition.
Familiarize yourself with sight reading.
Though select choirs still teach songs by rote, many more require members to have a basic ability to read sheet music. In some cases, sight reading will be a required part of the audition process, so make sure you know whether or not it will be expected of you ahead of time. There are many books, websites, and online courses that can help you learn how to sight read. Two resources online are www.sightreadingfactory.com and www.thepracticeroom.net.
3. The day of the audition:
Dress correctly for the occasion.
Once you’ve secured an audition with your chosen choir, make sure that you show up on time and in clothing that demonstrates your professionalism. First impressions are important, and showing up in a professional outfit will help put the focus on your singing rather than on your wardrobe. A good rule of thumb is to show up to an audition dressed as you would for a job interview.
Don’t let a mistake stop you.
During an audition, there are two things that you shouldn’t do. The first thing you need to avoid is apologizing for your performance. Do not enter the audition room with excuses, and don’t verbalize your own critiques of your performance afterward. Telling an audition host that you didn’t give your best performance due to poor warm-up habits or a cold will not bolster his or her opinion of your audition, nor does it project confidence.
The second thing you want to avoid is stopping mid-song if you make a mistake. Mistakes are common during auditions because singers are often nervous, no matter how many times they’ve practiced. If you hit a wrong note or forget the words to the song you’re performing, focus on moving forward and recover confidently to show your ability to bounce back from an error.
Being a professional vocalist is the dream of many amateur musicians around the world. While many people who are interested in this pursuit have a natural talent for singing, it takes more than a lovely voice to turn this dream into a reality. Listed below are 10 qualities and characteristics that every aspiring vocalist should have to reach the professional level.
Enthusiasm for learning
Aspiring vocalists who aren’t willing to learn and develop their singing abilities are unlikely to find success in the music industry. While a singer may get lucky and earn a job by relying on his or her natural talents, vocalists tend to benefit more from an education in proper vocal technique and music theory. It’s recommended that people who are committed to forging a career as a professional singer take lessons from a vocal coach or study music at an institution of higher education.
A great ear for pitch
You can’t be a great singer if you lack the ability to sing in tune. Accomplished vocalists have an excellent ear for pitch, meaning that they can perfectly match the pitch of a tone that they hear—singing a note that is neither flat nor sharp. Though some singers are naturally gifted with an ear for music, others who wish to be professional vocalists can enlist the help of voice teachers to develop the ability to consistently sing notes in the correct pitch.
Excellent breath control
Singing well requires more than the ability to sing in the right pitch. A professional vocalist must also work to develop excellent breath support to sustain strong, clear notes without faltering. Breath control can be developed when a vocalist trains in breathing techniques and correct singing posture, as well as through extensive practice.
An ambitious attitude
Professional singing is not for those who are afraid to take risks or ask for what they want. Vocalists who find success tend to be “go-getter” types who seek out opportunities to perform, rather than waiting around for gig offers to find them. Most singers will not find success without an ambitious attitude and the courage to ask for chances to sing.
Receptive to new ideas
Even when aspiring vocalists train extensively in their craft, it’s still important that they stay open to learning new things and entertaining new ideas while working in the industry. When performing, singers need to work with other musicians, and having a narrow-minded view of the genres and styles that you will perform can severely limit professional opportunities. Vocalists at the professional level should experiment with different styles of music to be more versatile and have the capacity to work with musicians from all areas of the industry. This will increase their chances of finding success.
Open to criticism
No matter how much natural talent you have, you should always remain open to feedback. The opinions of professionals and other well-intentioned people who take the time to listen to your demos can help you gain new insights on the strengths and weaknesses in your performance. Though not all criticism is warranted or worth paying attention to, professional vocalists must learn to recognize constructive criticism and apply it in order to make themselves even better performers than before.
While the ability to take constructive criticism as a vocalist is important, so too is an innate self-assurance and belief in your singing abilities. Confidence about your talents will not only help you more readily accept criticism, but will also reduce pre-show anxiety and help you project self-assuredness during performances, leading to better reception from audiences. Overall, professional vocalists must learn to love their own voice through self-acceptance and extensive singing practice.
People who become professional singers have self-discipline. A vocalist must be strongly committed to regular practice and maintain a strict voice care regimen to ensure that they keep their vocal cords in good condition. A standard voice care regimen should include warm-ups before every singing practice and performance, keeping the vocal cords hydrated, getting enough sleep, and avoiding harmful substances that irritate the throat tissue, like cigarettes.
The ability to work in a team
Vocalists do not work alone. Being a singer requires collaboration with a wide range of music industry professionals, including instrumentalists, songwriters, technicians, and producers. To function effectively in their role, vocalists must value teamwork and be respectful to the people who help them give great performances.
No matter how much talent vocalists have, they should not expect to find success without hard work and time. Patience is a necessity for anyone who wants to sing professionally, as progress often goes slowly. The important things for all aspiring singers to remember are to keep the vocal cords healthy, continually look for ways to improve, and to enjoy themselves along the path to success.
While many people take up an instrument and learn how to play it purely for their own enjoyment, some choose to take their love of music to the next level by performing for others. However, being a great performer requires a level of confidence that playing as a personal hobby does not. If you wish to feel and appear more self-assured when you play for others, these are the best tips for developing greater confidence as a performing musician.
Recognize that confidence is made, not born.
The first step to building confidence as a performer is to make sure that you’re not framing the idea of confidence in your mind as something that you either “have” or “don’t have.” Confidence as a musician is actually something you either choose to create for yourself, or you don’t. Confidence is not an inherent trait that some musicians are blessed with and others are not. Anybody can build more confidence in themselves as a performer if they are committed and put in the necessary work.
Identify your strong points and areas that need improvement.
To build confidence in your performance abilities, you first need to recognize your strengths. What aspects of your abilities as a musician do you already feel good about? Maybe you have a talent for being expressive when you play, or you’re gifted at sight reading. Perhaps you’ve mastered a very difficult strumming or bowing technique on your instrument. Acknowledge that there are some aspects of your performance to be proud of before turning your attention to the areas that need improvement. When evaluating which aspects of your performance could use some work, try not to think of them as flaws, but instead consider them as opportunities for growth. Practice positive self-talk when working on these aspects, avoiding unsupportive thoughts that are critical and self-defeating.
Over-prepare for your gigs.
There’s one element of developing your confidence as a performer that should go without saying: you need to play at public shows. Playing for family and friends is a great start for musicians who are just getting into the practice, but eventually you will need to play a gig in front of strangers. In these instances, if you want to project confidence, it’s important to be more prepared than you think you should be. Practice often and practice effectively. Don’t run mindlessly through entire songs, but rather take your time, going over the more difficult parts of a song repeatedly until you can play every part of the piece seamlessly. Consider splitting your practice time into multiple, smaller blocks of time in order to keep your focus sharp and your interest alive. Confidence as a performer partially comes from knowing that you practiced enough and have the ability to play a song perfectly from beginning to end.
Be aware of your physical appearance.
Apart from being very familiar with the music that you’re playing, another way to be confident as a performing musician is to make sure that you physically appear self-assured. This means dressing for the part and maintaining the right posture. On the day of a performance, make sure you wear clothes that reflect your commitment to your music. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wear something expensive or formal, but remember to dress well, in clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Additionally, make sure that your posture on stage is straight and powerful. Not only will having great posture show the audience that you believe in your own abilities, but it also can have a positive effect on the way you feel mentally.
Spend time around people with similar skill levels.
Many professionals suggest that aspiring performers spend as much time as possible around musicians who are more experienced than themselves. While this is good advice for the purpose of improving your technical skills on an instrument, it can take a toll on your confidence if you constantly find yourself surrounded by people more advanced than you are. Balance time spent with more accomplished musicians by dedicating some of your time to people with abilities similar to your own. Jamming with musicians at a comparable level of accomplishment is not only fun, but it can also take the focus off technical skill-building and help you feel more self-assured when playing with other musicians.
Mentor someone who is just starting out.
Just as there will always be musicians who have more experience than you, there will also always be less experienced people who can benefit from your advice. Acting as a mentor to a budding musician will give you the opportunity to do something positive for another person while also receiving a confidence boost. By helping another person develop his or her talent, you can reflect on the knowledge you have accumulated and reinforce fundamental concepts in your own mind, which may give you more faith in your own abilities.
Keep thorough track of your progress.
If you’re aware of how far you’ve come from the point where you started, you’re more likely to appreciate your current abilities. Keep your practice sheets and make recordings of yourself as you continue to develop your skills as a musician. As time passes, you’ll be able to return to this evidence and use it as a reference to comprehend the extent of your accomplishments. Appreciating your growth as a musician will help you gain confidence and inspire continued progress.
Science has shown us that music has many positive effects on people from a mental, social, and even physical standpoint. To enjoy the benefits that making music has to offer, many people consider taking lessons on popular instruments such as the guitar, violin, or piano. However, they often forget that one of the most incredible instruments available to them is, quite literally, right under their nose. Singing provides many surprising benefits, including the seven listed here.
1. Singing lowers stress levels
It is commonly known that playing or actively listening to music can promote a general sense of well-being. However, those who sing gain the added benefit of releasing muscle tension. Singers who learn correct vocal techniques learn how to control and relax different muscles during their performance, which provides them with the ability to release muscle tension. This can lead to deeper physical relaxation in the body overall and diminish feelings of stress. Research also indicates that the act of singing reduces the level of cortisol in the body—a hormone directly correlated to elevated stress levels.
2. Singing can create stronger social bonds
Besides putting vocalists in a more relaxed state, singing with others can activate areas within the brain linked to empathy and help people become more in tune with the thoughts and feelings of others. When singers perform with other people, they tend to experience positive feelings toward those in the group, especially when the music requires the performers to synchronize. Interacting vocally with others can create more powerful social bonds and establish greater intimacy between individuals, leading to stronger friendships and reducing feelings of loneliness.
3. Singing is good exercise for your lungs
Some people may be surprised to learn that singing can actually be a form of exercise. When employing proper technique, singers engage their core, using the abdominal, intercostal, and back muscles to push air out and upward from the diaphragm. Singing is also excellent exercise for the lungs, and it may help to alleviate medical conditions related to the respiratory system. When using proper technique, the diaphragm is activated, and performers are able to breathe more deeply than they would even when intentionally taking deep breaths. The byproduct is an increase in airflow to the lungs, which makes the organs healthier and may help combat the effects of illnesses such as asthma or bronchitis. As an added benefit, singing exercises the facial muscles, which can provide the face with a more toned appearance.
4. Singing can fight depression
While the act of singing is not considered to be a stand-alone treatment for depression, researchers believe that it can have a positive impact on the mood of people who live with this draining mental condition. Singing releases oxytocin into the bloodstream, a hormone that reduces anxiety and promotes feelings of trust. It also increases the amount of serotonin and endorphins in the body, both of which contribute to an elevated mood and feelings of happiness. Singing may also help people with depression to feel less isolated and encourage a more positive mental state when undertaken in a group with other vocalists.
5. Singing strengthens your immune system
As previously mentioned, research has shown that singing can lead to reduced levels of cortisol, which translates to a lower degree of stress. Less stress in the body can also mean lower blood pressure, less tissue inflammation, and higher oxygenation of the blood. In addition, some studies suggest that singing may raise levels of cytokines in the blood, which play a direct role in the ability of the immune system to fight off illnesses. All of these factors together contribute to the belief that singing may help keep vocalists healthy.
6. Singing can lead to better sleep
Scientists say that singers who regularly perform a specific set of vocal exercises can tone the muscles of the throat and palate, which may lead to reduced incidences of snoring and sleep apnea. Disorders such as sleep apnea have the potential to not only contribute to the development of diabetes, obesity, and heart problems, but also interrupt individuals’ sleep cycle, preventing them from sleeping fitfully. According to some researchers, singers who spend only 20 minutes per day engaging in a series of specialized vocalizations can significantly reduce the occurrence of snoring in less than a month, leading to better rest and overall health.
7. Singing improves cognition for those with certain ailments
Some studies suggest that singing may contribute to improved cognition and higher levels of happiness in people with dementia. While none of the study results indicate that singing can prevent the disease altogether, there is research to suggest that it may slow the advancement of cognitive problems related to old age. Among the other cognitive benefits of singing is its potential to help patients who have experienced a stroke to learn how to regain the ability to speak. Many people who have had a stroke cannot speak in sentences, but retain the ability to sing words. The medical community is using this discovery to develop new therapies to help people who have had a stroke learn to talk again.
Apart from listening to an album, one of the most enjoyable ways to appreciate music is to learn about it through inspiring documentaries. In the last two decades, the film industry has produced a collection of unforgettable documentaries centered on musical evolution and individual musicians alike. Try watching any of the eight works listed below.
1. 20 Feet from Stardom
This Academy Award-winning film, directed by music documentarian Morgan Neville, focuses on the careers of the backup singers who loaned their voices to some of the most beloved songs of the 20th century. Featuring interviews with stars like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, and Sting, 20 Feet from Stardom explores the professional triumphs and disappointments of the many backup singers who helped shape the sound of American pop music. From successful stars like Darlene Love, to lesser-known artists like Lisa Fisher and Merry Clayton, music fans of all generations will appreciate the power behind these women’s stories.
2. Searching for Sugar Man
Another Oscar winner, Searching for Sugar Man tells the tale of singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez. The film details his brief professional ties to a Motown record label in the 1960s before he gave up his music career in the subsequent decade to perform manual labor and provide for his family.
What makes this story worthy of a documentary is the surprising revelation that Rodriguez’s music rose to iconic status a world away in the country of South Africa, unbeknownst to him, more than four decades later. Directed by Malik Bendjelloul, Searching for Sugar Man is an incredible true story that incorporates elements of music, dreams, and mystery, all wrapped up with a modern-day fairytale ending.
3. Sound City
Sound City was directed by Foo Fighters front man and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. The title of the documentary pays homage to the name of a now-shuttered recording studio in Los Angeles, California, where some of the most iconic albums of the last 50 years were recorded.
Broken down into what can loosely be described as three acts, the film tells the soulful story of Sound City’s rise and fall, supplemented with stories and interviews from many of the classic artists who recorded there. Musicians who make an appearance in Sound City include Stevie Knicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and Mick Fleetwood of the band Fleetwood Mac as well as Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Neil Young, and Paul McCartney.
4. Muscle Shoals
Muscle Shoals is a film about the way that a distinct style of 1960s and 70s music evolved in a small town in the Deep South. Over the course of an hour and 51 minutes, first-time director Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier gives viewers an insight into the creative atmosphere of Muscle Shoals, Alabama that inspired the creation of such classic hits as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Freebird,” and “Mustang Sally.” The story is supported by interviews from music legends like Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Percy Sledge, and Bono.
5. What Happened, Miss Simone?
Released in 2015, What Happened, Miss Simone? details the life and musical career of jazz, blues, and soul musician Nina Simone, whose talent and passion for music was rivaled in scope only by her commitment to the Civil Rights Movement. Director Liz Garbus takes the audience from Simone’s earliest years as a classically trained pianist through her eventual voluntary retirement from the entertainment industry. Throughout the film, friends and family of the “high priestess of soul” give interviews to help viewers understand Simone as both an artist and an activist.
Yet another music documentary that earned an Academy Award, Amy is a film directed by Asif Kapadia. It follows the musical growth of renowned singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 27. Through interviews with friends and home video footage of the artist herself, Amy focuses on the story of a musician with larger-than-life talent who struggled under the pressures of worldwide fame.
7. Runnin’ Down a Dream
Since he first formed the band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the mid-1970s, Tom Petty has consistently written and performed music that continues to inspire new generations. Runnin’ Down a Dream paints a picture of the successes, troubles, and times of one of America’s great classic rock and roll bands.
The film, directed by Peter Bogandovich, premiered during the closing weekend of the New York Film Festival in 2007. It received high reviews across the board from major sources such as the New York Times, Rotten Tomatoes, and Variety Magazine.
8. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, directed by visionary filmmaker Ron Howard, focuses on the story of one of the most influential rock and roll bands of all time. Instead of building a story solely on the major events that occurred during the Beatles’ unprecedented rise to stardom, Howard chooses to fill the documentary with the more nuanced details of the band’s touring life between 1962 and 1966.
The film’s narrative is buoyed by footage and archival interviews with the members of the band. Additionally, it never loses sight of the joy that all four musicians found in making music amid the cultural frenzy that took them farther than any band had gone before.
Opera is a rare form of performance that brings elements of music, drama, and visual art together to create one incredible experience for its audience members. First developed more than four centuries ago, opera today is written and performed in many languages in countries around the world. To better understand and appreciate the art form, one must be familiar with the unique set of opera voice types among men and women, as listed here.
Female voice types
There are typically seven different types of voices among opera singers: three standard female voices and four standard male voices. An opera singer’s voice often influences which role he or she plays in the libretto, or the story, of the opera. For female opera singers, the highest voice is the soprano. Sopranos sing at a range from around middle C to about the C two octaves above, C6. Because of their sweet, high voices, sopranos often play the love interest or heroine of the story. They may also play characters notable for their youth and purity. Famous soprano opera roles include Cio-Cio-San from Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, and Violetta from La Triviata by Giuseppe Verdi.
Mezzo-soprano singers, sometimes referred to as simply “mezzos,” follow the sopranos as the next-highest voice, with a range beginning at A3 below middle C, and extending two octaves above, ending around A5. In some cases, a mezzo-soprano will be asked to portray young men or young boy characters, but when she doesn’t, she is most often the one to play a motherly type, a seductress, or the villain of the story. The most famous lead mezzo roles in the opera include Carmen from the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet, and Rosina from The Barber of Seville by Carlo Rossini, though the latter role can also be sung by a soprano.
The lowest and rarest of all female voice types is the contralto, known more commonly as the alto. Alto singers have a voice range that extends from the F3 below middle C up to F5. Alto voices are rich and have a much darker timbre than the other two types of female opera vocalists, and often play specialty roles such as goddesses or divine characters. Early on in opera’s history, however, altos were relegated to roles portraying grandmothers, older women, and witches. Women in the opera with true contralto voices are difficult to come by, and many times the alto parts are sung by mezzo-sopranos. Some of the better-known contralto parts in famous operas include Hippolyta in Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Giunone in George Frideric Handel’s Agrippina.
Male voice types
The highest of the male opera voices, the countertenor, is capable of reaching octaves in the range of female voices, generally singing notes similar to that of the mezzo-soprano, from between G3 and C4 up to either C6 or F6. These voices are the rarest of all singing voices, and for the most part waned in popularity from the 17th century until the singing style saw a renaissance in the mid-1900s. Famous roles for countertenors include the eponymous character in Handel’s Giulio Cesare as well as the role of Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The most common of the high male voices is the tenor, and singers who reach these octaves, between C3 and C5, most often play young men, the love interest, or the hero within an opera. The most popular operatic roles for tenors include Radamés in Aida by Verdi and Rodolfo in La Boheme by Puccini. Tenors sing one step higher than the most common type of male operatic voice, the baritone. Baritone singers have a range of between A2 and A4. Depending on the style of the voice, a baritone may play the hero, the comedic relief, or the villain in an opera. Papageno in The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Count di Luna in Verdi’s Il Trovatore are both traditionally played by baritone singers.
Lastly, the lowest of all standard operatic voices is the bass, which extends from E2 to E4. Some bass singers have voices that reach notes even lower than E2, though operas are seldom written with notes at such a low register. Characters written for bass singers are often characterized as wise and noble, but on occasion may play humorous roles as well. Good examples of this include Sarastro in The Magic Flute and Dr. Bartolo in The Barber of Seville.
Irrespective of vocal range, all opera vocalists engage in certain behaviors to preserve their ability to sing. To begin, no opera singer ever practices or performs without first participating in a rigorous warm-up ritual to prepare the vocal cords for high-intensity use. Vocal warm ups for an opera singer are comparable to stretching for an athlete. Without warm ups, an opera singer risks doing significant damage to his or her voice. Vocal warm ups frequently involve practices such as singing scales, humming, and deep breathing to prepare the muscles for vocal work.
Another way that opera singers practice good voice care is actively avoiding situations in which they will need to raise their voices above speaking level to make themselves heard. Yelling can do significant damage to vocal cords over time, and prevents a singer from performing to his or her best ability. This requires opera singers to avoid places like sports games, loud restaurants, or parties where they cannot easily communicate at an average speaking level.
Lastly, opera singers of all voice types makes sure that they stay hydrated at all times. Well-hydrated vocal chords help singers maintain healthy mucosal membranes, which gives them greater flexibility while singing and prevents the damage that can occur through friction between swollen vocal folds.
As the most personal of all instruments, the voice can be a powerful tool for creating music that inspires others. Talented singers have the ability to motivate listeners to push through a difficult time, entertain and delight audiences, or even bring people to tears with their voices. To become a great singer with this level of ability, many vocalists do the following eight things.
1. They use effective warm-ups.
Just as a professional athlete does not participate in a sport without stretching his or her muscles beforehand, a professional singer does not begin to sing without first performing vocal warmups. Warmups make it easier for the singer to hit the higher and lower notes in his or her range, prevent damage to the voice, and strengthen the muscles around the singer’s vocal folds, leading to more control over the sound they produce.
2. They follow a healthy diet.
What a vocalist eats and drinks can have a significant impact on the sound quality of his or her voice. Great singers make a point of drinking a large amount of water, which helps keep the vocal cords hydrated. They also avoid excessive alcohol consumption and limit the amount of caffeine that they drink, as both substances dry out the body and constrict the blood vessels within the throat.
In addition to avoiding certain beverages, serious vocalists may refrain from consuming dairy products before a performance, as these foods can cause excess mucus to build up in the throat. In general, master vocalists attempt to eat a healthy diet that is low in sodium and rich in vitamins A, C, and E—all of which contribute to the maintenance of healthy mucus membranes.
3. They have good speaking habits.
Professional singers have to think about vocal cord care any time they are using their voice—not just when they’re performing. Master vocalists know that certain speech habits should be avoided when possible, including heavy coughing, long bouts of shouting or talking at an elevated volume, and speaking in a very low tone.
Great vocalists also avoid singing when they are sick. During an illness, a singer’s voice is already unlikely to reach peak performance, since the vocal cords are inflamed and irritated. Choosing to sing when the throat is already raw will not only diminish the quality of sound, but can also cause additional damage, prolonging the healing process unnecessarily.
4. They get plenty of sleep.
The vocal cords need rest like any other part of the body, and the best singers make an effort to stick to a healthy sleep schedule. Getting an average of eight hours of sleep per night helps singers fight off vocal fatigue and allows them to consistently perform at a high level, even when their schedules require them to perform on a daily basis. Those who wish to give their vocal cords enough rest should try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night in order to wake up fresh and ready to warm up the next day.
5. They don’t skip practice.
No vocalist can have a well-developed talent for singing if he or she avoids practicing. Though some people are born with a natural aptitude for singing, recent studies show that practice can have a greater impact on a person’s performance quality than raw ability alone. In addition to regular practice, great singers also spend their practice time efficiently, choosing to focus on additional areas outside the development of a repertoire. They dedicate time to mastering specific vocal techniques that challenge them and put their abilities to the test. Great singers avoid exclusively using their practice sessions to run through the same songs every time.
6. They display the correct breathing techniques and posture.
Accomplished singers have mastered the ability to manipulate their breath to create power and control their voices when performing. To support the breath, singers must also know how to assume the correct physical posture during a song in order to create a clear pathway between the diaphragm and the vocal cords. Straight posture that elongates the spine prevents the diaphragm from locking and allows the stomach to expand further, bringing more oxygen into the lungs.
7. They use their ears.
Becoming an adept singer means more than just knowing how to manipulate one’s vocal cords for optimal sound. Talented singers also know how to use critical listening skills to gauge their sound both while they’re singing and while listening to their recorded performances. Active listening allows singers to hear and adjust vocal elements in the moment, including pitch, tone, and volume, to better suit the accompanying music. The ability to accurately hear and adjust one’s own singing can be honed through ear training.
8. They stay confident.
When it comes to great vocal performances, confidence is crucial. Without confidence, singers have a tendency to be demonstrably affected by nervousness, which can manifest in a shaky voice that may fail to reach the quality that a singer is typically capable of producing. Great vocalists recognize that the practice they have put into their craft and the unique beauty of their own sound are worth sharing with people. They work toward confidently delivering strong performances while enjoying themselves in the process.
The human voice is designed much like any handheld instrument that relies on the power of the lungs to produce sound. The larynx acts in a similar fashion to the reed of a clarinet or saxophone, while the cavities of the head and chest work together to amplify the sounds produced by the vocal cords. This makes the voice a powerful and highly personal instrument, capable of producing some of the most emotive sounds in music. Read on to learn all about the use and care of the singing voice.
1. Is a good singing voice a natural talent or a developed ability?
Professionals suggest that with enough time, dedication, and practice, almost anyone can develop the ability to sing decently well. At the same time, some people are born with physical characteristics that make them better equipped to sing, such as an ideally shaped and sized set of vocal cords and larynx. The size of the person’s head also matters. Other factors that may influence a person’s ability to sing well include the age at and frequency with which he or she was exposed to music as a child. Still, most of those with relatively little exposure to music in early life and limited natural talent for singing may employ the help of a vocal teacher to learn techniques that can dramatically improve the quality of their singing voice.
2. What are the different voice types for men and women?
From a functional standpoint, male and female voices are not dramatically different. The tone of a person’s voice is shaped by the length of the vocal cords and the size of the larynx, both of which are influenced by the levels of testosterone in a person’s body. To distinguish between the vocal ranges of women and men, professionals use two sets of terms to describe male and female voices, depending on variables such as range, tessitura (that part of the range at which the singer is most comfortable singing), and vocal register (a term that describes the way a singer physically produces sound).
Among women, the singers capable of reaching the highest notes are sopranos, who have the ability to sing notes between B3 and C6, though certain subgroups within the soprano range can sing even higher. Next, with a range between G3 and A5, are the mezzo-soprano singers, followed by the contraltos. Known more commonly as “altos,” contraltos sing in the E3 to F5 range and are the rarest of the female voice types.
For men, there are four different vocal classifications, with the highest voice being the countertenor at a range of G3 to C6. Countertenors are the rarest voice type among both men and women. The second-highest range, from C3 to B4, is sung by the tenor, followed by the baritone at G2 to G4. The lowest of all voices is the bass. Men with bass voices can sing as high as E4 and as low as D2, rivaling the tone of the notes played on a cello.
3. What is a vocal register?
A vocal register refers to the different ways that sounds are physically produced in the body when a person is singing. Research performed by professionals within the fields of speech pathology and vocal training suggest that there are three basic vocal registers—the head, middle, and chest. Singers with exceptionally high voices may find that they are capable of reaching an additional level called the whistle register, while singers with low voices may also produce sounds that reach a register known as vocal fry.
Among the three basic vocal registers, the voice sounds its deepest, lowest, and most powerful when produced in the chest register. These notes are felt primarily in the chest cavity, and the vocal cords will feel thicker than they do at the middle register. Within the middle register, singers often feel the most vibration within the area of the upper neck and lower face. In the head register, the singing voice resonates primarily within the sinuses, creating a higher sound that can be felt predominantly in the upper half of the face.
4. Why is it important to care for the voice?
Whether a person considers singing to be a hobby or a professional pursuit, he or she must take certain steps to prevent damage to the vocal cords. Becoming a good vocalist is a long process, and those who ignore simple voice care face the possibility of ruining their hard work through neglect and bad habits. Actions that can cause immediate short-term damage to singers’ voices include excessive shouting, throat-clearing, or untreated acid reflux.
Over the long term, lasting damage can be caused by failing to warm up before a practice or performance, frequent dehydration, alcohol or tobacco use, or pushing the voice to reach high registers at loud volumes through unhealthy means. Those who fail to take care of their voices run the risk of developing nodules, polyps, or hemorrhages in their vocal folds, which can completely ruin an individual’s ability to sing at his or her personal best.
Though science has yet to determine music’s evolutionary purpose, its significance to humankind today is undisputed. Research even shows that a small portion of the human brain is specifically designated to process music. While it may have served a different purpose in prehistoric days, today we use music in many complex ways—even when we don’t think we’re “using” music so much as simply listening and enjoying it. For example, music can be a tool for coping and healing during difficult times. Listed below are four ways that music can make hard times more bearable.
Music helps us make a connection with others.
When you’re experiencing a difficult time in life, you may spend more time alone, pulling away from bonds that you share with friends and family. This kind of isolation can often make you feel socially disconnected at a time when you most need the support of a community.
In these instances, music may provide a simple and effective way to reestablish connections with other people, as studies show that listening to or performing music is an excellent way to form social bonds. It is a nearly universal interest for people from entirely different backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles. Because nearly everyone enjoys music in some form, it is also an incredible unifier, giving strangers something in common from the moment they meet.
When we listen to music with other people, science suggests that the brain releases neuro-chemicals that help facilitate feelings of intimacy and connection. The effects of music on human connection may be even stronger when people make music together, by playing instruments or singing. At times when people feel alone during difficult periods, music may provide a way for them to reconnect and find the social support needed to overcome challenges.
Music allows us to evaluate difficult emotions.
In the same way that difficult times of life often leave people feeling socially isolated, they can also cause people to shut down emotionally, unable to express or understand the negative feelings that they are experiencing. However, expressing emotions is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health during a challenging time, as it allows you to sort through your feelings, gain perspective, and let go of stress and tension.
When you don’t have someone that you feel comfortable talking to, music can provide a healthy outlet for emotional expression. Listening to music that resonates with a particular emotion can be a subtle yet effective way to explore complicated inner thoughts, and may allow you to gain a better understanding of your own feelings. Lyrics and melodies written by musicians may convey complexities that you can’t put into words yourself, but which perfectly capture your underlying emotions.
Music promotes relaxation and stress reduction.
Along with prompting sadness, discouragement, or anger, life’s challenges cause an enormous amount of stress. While a small amount of everyday stress can have a positive influence on human behavior, intense stress can lead to mental and physical health problems, including depression, inability to focus, fatigue, headaches, and trouble falling asleep.
Studies in recent years have revealed that people who are dealing with significant stress can turn to music as a method of stress reduction. In one instance, researchers found that music with a tempo of about 60 beats per minute encouraged the brain to synchronize with the song’s rhythm, generating alpha brainwaves in the process. This helps reduce stress because alpha brainwaves are present in the brain when a person is feeling awake and relaxed. In another study, research showed that hospital patients who needed surgery experienced a lower degree of stress if they listened to music before and after their operation.
During stressful times, setting aside time to listen to soothing music may be an excellent decision. Though it might seem like dedicating time out of a busy day to sit and listen to music is frivolous, the small time investment may lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a greater ability to deal with challenging situations.
Music helps you get more sleep.
Sleep problems arise during life’s more difficult periods, brought on by the stress of having to deal with something that stretches your coping abilities. If you’ve ever had difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, you know all too well that sleep problems can wreak havoc with your mood, energy level, ability to focus, and work performance. Over time, sleep deprivation can lead to more serious mental health conditions, such as depression—an illness that can make it even more difficult for people to overcome any problems that they are facing.
To combat the negative effects of sleep deprivation, research has shown that music has the potential to increase both the quantity and quality of sleep. In one study, people who listened to 45 minutes of music while lying down to sleep every night for three weeks had feelings of more restful sleep, fell asleep faster after lying down, and slept for longer periods of time.
During difficult times, being well rested is a crucial part of being equipped to handle challenges, but it’s often an elusive state to attain. Soothing, enjoyable music is a natural antidote to the restlessness and exhaustion that accompany frustrating circumstances.
The United States is one of the world’s most prolific producers of popular art. The rich cultures and unique backgrounds of all Americans make the country an ideal place for art to flourish, and this diversity has had an obvious influence on music. People in the United States collectively appreciate a huge range of musical styles, but the most popular genres among Americans are the following four.
Rock and roll, or simply “rock,” originated in America in the 1950s, but quickly spread to England afterward. Each of these two countries played an important role in the development of the genre, but both have their own definition of what rock music is. From a general perspective, rock may be best defined as music with a strong beat that uses electric, amplified instruments to play fast-paced songs, though ballads in rock music are also commonplace.
Rock music would not have found the widespread success that it did without the guitar amplifier, then a new invention, as the amplifiers allowed musicians to play their music louder and to larger audiences than ever before. The intense energy and sense of belonging that young rock bands created for the youth of the mid-20th century carried the genre forward through the decades and allowed it to evolve, rather than die out. Some of the most important early musicians to influence the development of rock include Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix, who each contributed to the sound and lyrical content of the genre.
R&B, which stands for “rhythm and blues,” and hip-hop music are two styles that were grouped together in the late 20th century to represent one larger genre. R&B was the first of the two to enter the American music scene, and the term was used to describe a complex, melodic sound that appeared in the 1930s in African American communities. Inspired by jazz and gospel, the genre also incorporated elements of blues music, but relied on upbeat tempos and witty lyrics rather than the emotional, call-and-response style singing of the blues masters. Eventually, thanks to performers like Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Sam Cooke, this genre spawned what is now known as soul.
R&B continued to evolve, inspiring different styles within the genre, and eventually became one of many influences in the creation of hip-hop in the 1970s and 80s. Born in African American communities in the Bronx, New York, hip-hop is known for the incorporation of turntables, rapping, break dancing, and spoken rhyme into its songs. Pioneering artists in the genre include DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, the Cold Crush Brothers, and Kurtis Blow.
Unlike the rest of the genres included on this list, pop (short for “popular”) music is not easily defined by its characteristics, because they continually evolve and change with the times. Pop music is a name for a form of music that is purposely commercial, designed specifically to appeal to a mass audience. It is written by professionals who attach their names to the music, and thus stands in stark comparison to folk music, which was traditionally written by unknown musicians and achieved mass popularity in America through widespread performance and word-of-mouth in the early 20th century.
In the late 1800s in America, popular music was the kind of songs found in vaudeville or music halls. Later, rock and soul music would dominate the pop charts, an occurrence which continues to influence the pop music of today. No matter which genre of music has the greatest influence on pop at any given moment, most pop songs have a memorable melody, catchy lyrics, and a chorus that repeats several times. The subject matter of pop songs often focuses on the highs and lows of romantic relationships. Modern examples of pop music include songs from artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Adele, and Lady Gaga.
The country genre has a long, rural past—one rooted in the folk traditions of the American South, especially of the Appalachian Mountains. In general, country music encompasses songs made from a simple chord progression and simple, memorable lyrics that tend to follow a storyline. Country music incorporates the sounds of traditional instruments, many of which are stringed, including the banjo, the fiddle, the mandolin, and many different variations of acoustic or steel guitars. Vocalists in this genre also often sing in accented American English, with a “twang” to the voice.
Country music evolved in the homes and gatherings of people from mountain towns long before it was brought to the attention of the public. The first country songs were recorded for larger circulation in the 1920s. Once country hit the radio through broadcasts from programs like the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, the genre inspired a generation of performers. Some of the earliest and most influential names in country music include the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Merle Haggard. Though modern iterations of this style have evolved to incorporate more elements of pop, many artists continue to retain core facets of country music in the lyrical content and vocal style of their songs.