Singer’s Self-Improvement Series: February 2019

Welcome Back & Happy February!

I hope wherever you are, you’re staying safe and warm!

Before I dive into February’s topics, let’s recap what we covered in January. Here’s what you accomplished thus far (if you’re just joining us: January Installment and January Supplemental Installment):

Palm Presses. Hopefully you’ve graduated to doing two sets of ten palm presses at each practice session.

Singing with open ribs. With your palm press progress (say that 3 times fast!), you should now be able to make use of strong ribs as you sing. Your ribs are what you now lean on for obtaining strength without strain and for holding long notes, among other things.

Improved diet. The primary goals of a singer’s diet is to reduce phlegm, increase energy, and keep your instrument healthy and strong. You should have implemented some sustainable changes to those ends. 

Built a practice routine. You should be practicing a minimum of 3 times per week. Your practice sessions should include palm presses, a vocal warm-up, vocal exercises, and song work.

Good work so far. Let’s keep going!

Feb. Lifestyle Goal: Core Strength & Stretching

Good singer’s nutrition will never stop being a priority. But this month, we’re going to add core strength and stretching to your routine. 

Why Core Strength?

All physical activities – from bending to pick something up to playing sports to singing – are supported and improved by having a strong core. When you sing with your ribs, you are also engaging your abs (but never pull your stomach in). Your core gives you singing strength, not to mention a healthier back, better posture, and improved balance. 

Why Stretching?

Stretching improves flexibility, and increased flexibility has severe benefits. The ones that help singers the most are improved range of motion, improved back health, improved posture, and improved circulation, which increases blood flow to your muscles. 

Both of these physical improvements will be fantastic for your overall health and mobility. And they’ll give you the strength and stamina to stand on stage for hours at a time – even in high heals, while grooving to the beat and adding some shaker action (or whatever) to the music. 

Remember, performing as a singer is a sport. The better shape you’re in, the better your show will be.

Lifestyle goal planning

This month, you’re going to tweak your singer’s nutrition some more. That could include adding a whole new change, as well as reaffirming one you made last month but didn’t stick to. 

To the right is the same planning tool you used to improve your nutritional balance last month. Now plan your changes for February.

You also have a new weekly planner. This one includes your core strength and stretching schedule.

Since I’m not a personal trainer or yoga instructor, and since I don’t know your personal needs or restrictions, you’re going to have to plan your core strength and stretch routine on your own.

Things like crunches, sit-ups, and planks make a good starting place. If you don’t know how to do these, or how to stretch properly, Google the info or look for YouTube videos (and/or consult your doctor). There are some great yoga routines out there that include both stretching and core strengthening.

You should schedule at least 3 days each week that you spend 20 to 45 minutes on your core and stretching (20 minutes is plenty if you don’t already do these kinds of things).

In summary, your Feb Weekly Planner should be used to schedule the following:

  • At least 3 different vocal practice sessions (see below)
  • At least 3 different core strength/stretch sessions. 
  • Any food prep or other meal planning to follow your nutrition goals.

Good luck!

February Singing Goal: Song Development

In the same way we’re adding core strength and stretching to your nutrition goals from last month, we’re also going to add song development skills to your rib expansion and vocal exercise goals from January. Singing skills are accumulative, after all.

Step one on the journey to great song delivery is singing with nice, open vowels. This is the skill we’ll tackle first.

1. To get started, I’m going to refer you to an old blog post of mine called Working with Words: Vowels

It’s super interesting and will show you what’s going on in your throat as you sing.

The post’s companion video is to the right.

2. This second video is an open-vowel warmup to get you started with the concept of keeping a “cavern” inside your mouth as you sing vowels.

Follow this up with the next video and then a good 20-30 minutes of song work.

3. Repeating this third video exercise will help you keep an open throat as you morph between vowels.

The flow of your sound and your ability to nail the pitches should improve a little each time.

(1) Palm presses, (2) video two, (3) video three, (4) and 20-30 minutes of song work is your new workout routine.

NOTE: If at any point your voice feels tired and strained, stop singing for at least 24hrs to let it recover. Do future practice sessions in front of a mirror to be sure you’re using expanded ribs, a still jaw, and relaxed shoulders. There should be no visible signs of strain on your face. 

Here is another old post you might find useful:

Why Does My Voice Crack?

Its purpose is to help you root out the various reasons you may be singing with too much tension.

And finally…

Here’s an older video chat (with creepy lighting!?) about how to practice songs effectively and efficiently.

In the mid-month supplemental post, I’ll have a tutorial with a specific tool for improving the delivery of whatever song you’re working on.

But first, you need to get comfortable with keeping an open, relaxed throat as you morph from vowel to vowel. So, that’s your mission for the next 14 days. 

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Enjoy your February routine. The mid-month supplemental post will have more tools to further your progress! 

Always remember why you started this series and keep at it. You can be the singer you want to be!