Vocal Assessment: How to Evaluate and Improve Your Singing Voice
Our voice is unique and personal and can convey a myriad of emotions. However, like any other instrument, it requires frequent tuning, ongoing practice, and understanding how to use it in different situations. This is where a true vocal assessment comes in. Vocal assessments can help you to understand your voice much better, as well as recognise its strengths and weaknesses and how to refine or adapt your singing ability based on your ultimate goals. This article will guide you through the process of evaluating and improving your singing voice.
Understanding Your Voice: The First Step in Vocal Assessment
I. Familiarise Yourself with Your Voice
The journey to understanding and improving your voice starts by knowing your voice. Spend time each day singing, paying attention to the nuances of your voice. Start with songs you know well and are comfortable with, allowing you to focus on the sound and quality of your voice rather than lyrics or melody.
Recording yourself singing can offer new insights. While it might initially feel uncomfortable, listening to these recordings can provide an objective perspective of your voice that you may otherwise miss. It lets you pick up on subtleties, such as pitch accuracy, tone quality, and articulation. It will also help you appreciate aspects of your tone you did not know existed.
A perfect example in my life illustrates this point. I recently conducted my routine six-month vocal check-up, as it had been a while since I utilised a specific area of my voice. Well, I found that the higher register of my voice was taking longer to achieve a natural flow, especially for notes that are widely spaced. This revelation led me to the conclusion that I need to dedicate a considerable amount of time to extended warm-up exercises in the higher range for two weeks. Additionally, it’s become apparent that I should reduce my intake of cheese and certain other foods for a period.
II. Understand the Different Registers
The human voice operates within different registers, including chest and head voices. Recognising these different vocal ranges can help you understand your voice better and use it more effectively.
Chest voice refers to the lower range of your voice, where the resonance is felt in your chest. Head voice, on the other hand, refers to the higher range, where the resonance is felt predominantly in your head. Falsetto is an even higher register, often used for hitting extremely high notes.
As I mentioned earlier, a regular vocal assessment should be something that we do. It is essential to understand and work on your vocal registers and their transitions. This will allow you to have a more versatile voice, capable of singing different genres and styles comfortably.
Furthermore, understanding your registers can also help you identify any areas of weakness or tension in your voice. By focusing on specific exercises and techniques targeted towards those areas, you can improve the overall quality and flexibility of your voice.
III. Understand the Different Registers
Your vocal range is defined by the span of notes you can sing comfortably and clearly, from the lowest to the highest. Identifying your range can help you select songs that suit your voice and avoid straining or damaging your vocal cords. It’s important to note that while range might be an interesting aspect of your voice, it does not determine your singing ability. What matters more is how well you can control and use your existing range.
You can start by singing a scale from the lowest note you can comfortably hit to the highest to identify your vocal range. Take note of when you feel any strain or difficulty producing clear and strong notes. This is typically where your vocal range ends. Remember not to push yourself beyond this point to avoid damaging your voice.
Once you have identified your range, it’s important to work on expanding it gradually through vocal exercises and techniques. This not only allows you to have a wider range of singing but also improves your overall vocal control and technique.
Improving Your Singing Voice: Building on Your Foundation
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with your voice and identified your range and registers, you can focus on improvement. Here are some practical tips to help you enhance your singing voice:
I. Warm Up Your Voice
Just as athletes warm up their muscles before a game, singers should warm up their vocal cords before a performance. Vocal warmups increase blood flow to your vocal cords, making them more flexible and reducing the risk of injury. They also help to prepare you for singing and improve your control over your voice.
II. Maintain a Good Posture
Proper posture plays a significant role in your vocal performance. Standing straight allows your diaphragm to fully expand, enabling you to take deeper breaths and produce a fuller, richer sound. It also helps to open your throat, creating better resonance.
In saying this, standing still for a performance is not always possible for an artist. Sometimes, a singer may need to sit and maintain visual contact with the camera, which can temporarily result in poor posture. Similarly, executing a tightly choreographed routine might also lead to suboptimal posture. These are practical and relevant scenarios I often refer to in my work with artists.
The crucial aspect to bear in mind is the importance of regularly returning to a relaxed and proper posture whenever possible. This practice not only aids in releasing tension from the body but also enhances vocal quality. Focusing on maintaining good posture may initially feel uncomfortable, but it’s a vital step that significantly benefits your vocal performance in the long run.
III. Practice Breathing Exercises
Good breath control is key to sustaining notes and maintaining a steady pitch. Practice breathing exercises regularly to strengthen your diaphragm and improve your breath control. Techniques like belly breathing and breath support exercises can significantly enhance your singing ability.
IV. Regular Practice
Improvement comes with consistent practice. Set aside dedicated time each day to sing, focusing on different aspects of your voice and technique. This could include working on your range, practising transitions between registers, or improving pitch accuracy.
V. Take Care of Your Voice
Your voice is a delicate instrument that needs to be taken care of. Avoid habits that can damage your vocal cords, like smoking, shouting, or excessive alcohol consumption. Stay hydrated, eat a healthy diet, and get enough rest to keep your voice in top condition.
VI. Work with a Vocal Coach
Finally, consider working with a vocal coach for personalised guidance. A qualified coach can provide constructive feedback, help you set realistic goals, and offer techniques to overcome specific challenges. Even experienced singers can benefit from professional coaching to refine their skills and reach their full potential.
Vocal assessment is not a one-time event but a continuous journey of self-discovery and improvement. It requires patience, dedication, and a love for singing. By understanding your voice better and working on improving it, you can unlock new levels of vocal performance and express yourself more fully through the beautiful art of singing. Whether you’re a seasoned performer or a beginner just starting out, remember that every voice is unique and has its own story to tell. So embrace your voice, nurture it, and let it sing.