The story

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The Story:

Most lyrics have a narrative. Some are obscurely hidden in poetry and others tell it simply. When I was receiving vocal lessons in Melbourne as a teenager I was often told to tell a story when singing. This idea took a long time to sink in but the more I performed the more I noticed that the songs that evoked strong feelings in me made me sing them better. One such song is “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. It is a sad tale of family woes and dreams of a better life. When performing this I really try and evoke the story with all its sadness and despair. I find that my voice accentuates tones in words that deliver a stronger performance. In a way I’m lying through my teeth- I’ve never needed a fast car to fly away but humans are empathetic and by thinking about the storyline I can evoke the emotions. In your singing lessons try reading through the lyrics first, visualize the story and tell it as if it was your own. Get in touch with us at Music in Mind to start your first Melbourne singing lesson.

vocal warm up tips

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Hi singers, this week we approach a crucial topic- warm ups. There are literally thousands of articles and blogs on this topic and many singing teachers in Melbourne have different approaches. Here are a few of my tips for our aspiring singers at Music in Mind. Firstly, lets think about the voice as exactly what it is- a muscle. The vocal folds, lips and tongue are all muscles that need blood and flexibility to work at their optimal. When I was travelling the world as a musician on Cruiseships the singers onboard would routinely spend at least 30mins in the steam room/sauna to moisten and loosen the vocal chords and phlegm before a performance. Of course not many of us have saunas at home so instead try using your shower. Close the doors and get that hot water flowing which of course will steam up the bathroom. Lip trills are a popular exercise that we use just to loosen up the lips and cheeks, see this video to see it in practice- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVCHI3TwXBk

Lastly for vocal warm ups I recommend singing students sing long notes. These are notes sung without wavering for an entire breath. Start low in your register and slowly work up to your upper register. You may feel phlegm or some scratchy parts in your voice. Don’t push too hard through this as you may strain the vocal chords. Just allow the vocal folds to loosen gently and you will find your voice will feel strong and consistent.

Visualisation

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Visualisation has become a buzz word amongst musicians and gurus alike. I have recently been working with a singing student in Melbourne about the importance of trying to visualise the shape of the melody she is trying to sing. She is a mature age student with little to no music theory background so we worked on writing out a short melody lines on extra large notation so her eye could watch the melody. Sometimes the melody would ascend or descend in a step, other times it would be a leap. This was a great break through for this singing student as her relationship to melody was now more understood and ingrained. By the end of our singing lesson in Melbourne she could write out a melody idea on the grand stave and hum along. When something wasn’t to her liking she would rewrite the melody until it fit her musical framework she had in her mind. I implore all singing students out there to give this a go- with the correct singing teacher you will find out this music theory thing isn’t that hard and in fact will make you a much better singer who can pitch correctly and cleanly!

Foods to avoid for singers

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One of the most frequent questions I am asked by singing students is “what foods should I avoid when singing?” This is a great question as we find that the vocal tract is vulnerable to certain foods and drinks. Firstly the big one- Dairy! Dairy coats the vocal folds with phlegm and gives it a clogged, sticky feeling. It is similar to a car trying to get traction in snowy conditions. The phlegm buildup means you need to generate more air pressure to get the vocal chords vibrating. Hence, more effort for less reward. The second culprit worth a mention is acidic foods and drinks. These may include fruit juices such as Grapefruit, orange and lemon. Many students come to their singing lesson with a bottle of orange juice or fruit drink. Unfortunately the chances of acid reflux increase with these drinks and it is one of the most damaging things to your precious vocal cords. Lastly, there is alcohol. Yes I know I’m going to be the party pooper here and suggest that alcohol isn’t going to help your vocal performance. From a physiological stand point it is going to dry out your vocal chords and allow less range and clarity to your tone. I know countless musicians who like to have a drink on stage when performing – whiskey seems a popular choice! The deficit of this drying out might be offset by the relaxation and confidence the alcohol brings so just know that to get the very best out of your voice in your Melbourne vocal lessons and in vocal performance it is best avoided.