Pahchisme Plaid

How do performers sing for so long?

20 posts in this topic

I've got lots to learn.  I am not a performer, but I do sing in a worship team at my church and record my songs into a recorder.  I used to belong to a a small church of older folks and led familiar hymns, often a capella because the pianist passed away and the organist had some major health issues.

 

Last fall, my life got crazy and I had to make some changes in my life.  One of them was moving to a church closer to home.  At this church, I joined the worship team--much more fun than singing alone and lots of musicians/vocalists.  I'm not the leader (which I like) and I'm not singing EVERY Sunday,  I like singing with others because its fun, I like the harmonizing and I get a little bit of a vocal break when singing with others and its just much easier than singing (leading) alone every weekend.  

 

Anyway, prior to the service, we practice once through as a team.  What I noticed after practicing is that partway through the service, my throat starts to get dry and feels a little raw.  It doesn't happen all the time, but seems to happen a lot more lately (also in my mid 40s if that affects things).  That made me wonder, How do performers sing night after night for hours sometimes? Perhaps I'm not singing right.  I've never had the cha-ching $$$ to take any lessons (remember, I'm a writer who sings, not a performer), so seeing someone sing for hours blows me away at how its possible.

 

The other thing....Did anyone see the Macy Day parade where Taylor Swift sang live?  How did she not kill her vocals doing that?  It was freezing cold!  How can you "warm" vocals under those circumstances?  I've also noticed everything flows better in warm weather or after having a warm drink, but everything constricts in the cold!  At least for me!

 

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A few tips:

 

Use warm up and cool down exercises

Learn some basic voice production technique (head voice, chest voice and importantly, mixed voice

Hydration is your friend. Take a bottle of water with you.

 

Like any set of muscles exercising help, specifically the right exercises. The ability to sing longer relies upon not using bad technique, staying hydrated, strengthening your vocal muscles, and not singing until you have warmed up.

 

I would also avoid excessive talking if you suffer from a tired voice or vocal strain, shouting and drinking alcohol if you are singing... including communion wine! Alcohol dries your vocal chords.

 

Far from comprehensive but it will get you started. I will dig out some YouTube urls to good vocal teachers with a lot of vocal tips andpost back as soon as possible

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i've sung at the top of my lungs for hours at a time... and nothing has ever felt forced/soar.. maybe just a matter of practice.. maybe just anatomical 

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both of these guys have a load of excellent lessons, including a range of vocal warm ups

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11 hours ago, john said:

A few tips:

 

Use warm up and cool down exercises

Learn some basic voice production technique (head voice, chest voice and importantly, mixed voice

Hydration is your friend. Take a bottle of water with you.

 

Like any set of muscles exercising help, specifically the right exercises. The ability to sing longer relies upon not using bad technique, staying hydrated, strengthening your vocal muscles, and not singing until you have warmed up.

 

I would also avoid excessive talking if you suffer from a tired voice or vocal strain, shouting and drinking alcohol if you are singing... including communion wine! Alcohol dries your vocal chords.

 

Far from comprehensive but it will get you started. I will dig out some YouTube urls to good vocal teachers with a lot of vocal tips andpost back as soon as possible

Thank you for this, John! I haven't yet checked out the above videos, but I'm looking forward to what I find in them. Very helpful, indeed!  

I'm not much of a talker, except for read-aloud to my son, so got that mostly covered.   I  have to raise my voice sometimes, (not really yelling though) cause my daughter isn't able to hear me when I use my normal voice (argh!), and I'm not a wine drinker (pee-u, that stuff stinks!), and maybe have a drink 2-3 x/ year MAYBE, so that's covered too!  I could do better hydrating--Always.  I'll be checking out those videos for sure!

 

 

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11 hours ago, Jenn said:

i've sung at the top of my lungs for hours at a time... and nothing has ever felt forced/soar.. maybe just a matter of practice.. maybe just anatomical 

I wonder if my age has anything to do with it.  When I was in my 20's and 30's  I sang all the time, in the car, while doing housework, while gardening, etc and had not issues with endurance or dryness in my throat or hoarseness or rawness.  Also, it just occurred to me that I started a new medication about a month or so ago.  I suppose that might be a contributor?  I had way more energy then, too, so "felt" like singing constantly.

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Oh.. this topic is so close to home for me :)

 

I hadn't properly sung in years, so whenever I would try to do so in recent times, I would feel the strain/tiredness coming in pretty early. So I finally decided to do something about it - which was to go the tried and tested way of taking voice lessons :D.  It sounds boring and tedious, yes, but it's worth it if we consciously use them to monitor our own progress. I started practising a few weeks ago and have already noticed subtle changes in voice texture and strength, as well as a slightly better ability to produce/switch sounds from/between the gut, chest and head. How much one wants to pursue these lessons depends upon one's own personal motivation. But it does help preserving the voice in the long run. That, along with the hydration technique :)

 

Age may be a factor but not a primary one, not just yet... it's about keeping the machine well-maintained... my thoughts... 

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4 hours ago, Pahchisme Plaid said:

 

I'm not much of a talker, except for read-aloud to my son, so got that mostly covered.   I  have to raise my voice sometimes, (not really yelling though) cause my daughter isn't able to hear me when I use my normal voice (argh!),

 

Me neither. I'm quietly spoken and have often wondered if that is why I lose my voice after singing. I only do BG vocals, yet sometimes I cannot complete the 2nd set due to this. The singist talks loud. Perhaps more crucially, he uses his natural chest resonance in his normal voice. I can do that but who can remember to do that all day?

 

I wonder if natural singers are normally louder and constant talkers.

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3 hours ago, Rudi said:

 

Me neither. I'm quietly spoken and have often wondered if that is why I lose my voice after singing. I only do BG vocals, yet sometimes I cannot complete the 2nd set due to this. The singist talks loud. Perhaps more crucially, he uses his natural chest resonance in his normal voice. I can do that but who can remember to do that all day?

 

I wonder if natural singers are normally louder and constant talkers.

i wouldn't call myself a natural singer.. but since i've started singing, my progression has come naturally.. then again, I have been a brass player for 10 years. but most times people can't hear me when i talk, and dont talk much.. but i do have a loud laugh 

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11 hours ago, Jenn said:

i wouldn't call myself a natural singer.. but since i've started singing, my progression has come naturally.. then again, I have been a brass player for 10 years. but most times people can't hear me when i talk, and dont talk much.. but i do have a loud laugh 

 

Playing brass might be helpful for singing. You are using your lungs & diaphragm properly. My doctor told me "you are not using your lungs properly" which means that I dont breath deeply enough. 

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Hi Pahchisme,

 

I think you'll get better with time. 

On 5/2/2017 at 7:05 AM, Pahchisme Plaid said:

I wonder if my age has anything to do with it.  When I was in my 20's and 30's  I sang all the time, in the car, while doing housework, while gardening, etc and had not issues with endurance or dryness in my throat or hoarseness or rawness.  Also, it just occurred to me that I started a new medication about a month or so ago.  I suppose that might be a contributor?  I had way more energy then, too, so "felt" like singing constantly.

 

I'm wondering if pushing too hard might be causing issues. I know if I push too hard I get the same effects. I've since learned my limits and I "throttle" it back some.I really don't think age is a factor here. I'm probably older than you and I don't feel this is a limitation. To say that there never will be a limitation is probably misguided. I'm sure at some point age will affect singing to some extent. Still this doesn't need to be the end of the road.

 

Jenn- Playing brass should really help. I played brass too. I think it helped. 

 

A lot of what we see others do looks easier than it really is. When I'm done singing, it zaps my energy for awhile afterwards. My intonation tends to be the first thing to go. I usually don't need to push things to the limit.

 

Don't give up!!! You'll only get better with practice. Unless you feel you have a deeper health issue that could be hindered, I wouldn't quit if I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

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It's been found in many scientific studies that most of us do not use our lungs to its fullest capacity. If we did, we would have better health and better efficiency in all our activities, singing included. It helps if we're relaxed and not worked up about performing because it automatically changes the way we breathe. Even during the various breathing exercises (excellent way to increase lung capacity utilization), we are always advised to relax. Jenn would be having a head start with her brass-playing experience :). I think it also helps if the vocal chords are relaxed, so talking less should not be considered disadvantageous. There probably isn't a connection between being a natural singer and being loud & talkative.  

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On 5/3/2017 at 3:17 AM, Rudi said:

Playing brass might be helpful for singing. You are using your lungs & diaphragm properly. My doctor told me "you are not using your lungs properly" which means that I dont breath deeply enough.

 

11 hours ago, Sreyashi Mukherjee said:

It's been found in many scientific studies that most of us do not use our lungs to its fullest capacity. If we did, we would have better health and better efficiency in all our activities, singing included. It helps if we're relaxed and not worked up about performing because it automatically changes the way we breathe. Even during the various breathing exercises (excellent way to increase lung capacity utilization), we are always advised to relax. Jenn would be having a head start with her brass-playing experience :). I think it also helps if the vocal chords are relaxed, so talking less should not be considered disadvantageous. There probably isn't a connection between being a natural singer and being loud & talkative.  

I'm almost positive I don't breathe properly, especially under stress and possibly lousy lung capacity.  I'm not one to be able to hold a note for too long and I probably would benefit from some jogging or something of that sort to help that lung capacity.   I thought it was recommended to breathe so your tummy would rise and fall and not necessarily through the chest cavity?

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On 5/3/2017 at 0:01 PM, starise said:

Don't give up!!! You'll only get better with practice. Unless you feel you have a deeper health issue that could be hindered, I wouldn't quit if I enjoyed it.

I won't give it up, Tim.  I enjoy it too much.  However, I also can feel exhausted at times from singing, depending on various factors.  I'm on the ups now, so hopefully not so much an issue as a bit back.  Energy is a factor in that.

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Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, Pahchisme Plaid said:

 

I thought it was recommended to breathe so your tummy would rise and fall and not necessarily through the chest cavity?

Yes, you are correct. When we are filling our tummy with air, we are automatically using our lungs better. But most of the time, we take shallow breaths. Try a small exercise as an example : Close your eyes, picture yourself in a situation when you feel extremely peaceful and contended, then let out a long satisfied sigh. Notice that breath you took before sighing and observe how different it is from the way you normally breathe. The greater the difference, more the work to be done to improve breathing style :)    

 

I'm expected to start another set of voice lessons in the coming week (if I like my new teacher :P) and if I come across some good breathing exercises, I will share them here.

Edited by Sreyashi Mukherjee
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2 hours ago, Sreyashi Mukherjee said:

I'm expected to start another set of voice lessons in the coming week (if I like my new teacher :P) and if I come across some good breathing exercises, I will share them here.

 

That would be good. I'll keep an eye on this. Thanks Sreyashi

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As a singer, I wanted to include my thoughts. Others have alluded to what I am about to say... I just want to try and say it in a way that sinks directly into your awareness and makes immediate sense.

 

I hope.

 

In basic form, what others here have tried to get you to understand is the difference between singing with YOUR THROAT, and singing with YOUR GUT, OR FROM YOUR GUT, whichever you prefer. What you need to learn is that singing with YOUR THROAT is, almost certainly what is causing you to get sore, and lose access to your highs, as the evening progresses. What allows a professional singer to sing all night is knowing when to sing through the throat or from the gut. To learn to control these two types of singing, a singer has to learn to BREATHE.

 

To start off, sing as you normally would, then take your hands. ball one into a fist, and then grab it firmly with the other. Place your balled hands against your abdomen and push firmly as you sing. if you allow the process to happen as it should,m and don't fight it, your singing will get LOUDER AND STRONGER. Singing louder and stronger, and HIGHER, will become easier the more you practice. Singing from your abdomen drives a lot more air through your vocal cords. This allows them to shape as they must for you to sing much easier than if you don't provide the extra air.

 

To comfortably sing from the gut requires more air to sustain, so you will need to learn to control your breathing. You will have to "map out" when and where to breath as you sing a song. This map will stay the same, unless you or your band changes the arrangement of a given song. Each song you learn or create will require it's own unique map of when and where to breathe. When you sing the song in practice, you will need to practice breathing according to your map. This will support you in the song. The more rehearsed, or practiced this combination of learning to sing the song and learning to breath so that you provide your voice with the air it needs to sing properly, the better and EASIER your performance will become.

 

Here is a short article on this subject. You can read it here, if you like:

 

http://www.songstuff.com/vocals/article/breathing_exercises/

 

Break a leg.

 

 

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17 hours ago, Rob Ash said:

 

 

As a singer, I wanted to include my thoughts. Others have alluded to what I am about to say... I just want to try and say it in a way that sinks directly into your awareness and makes immediate sense.

 

I hope.

 

In basic form, what others here have tried to get you to understand is the difference between singing with YOUR THROAT, and singing with YOUR GUT, OR FROM YOUR GUT, whichever you prefer. What you need to learn is that singing with YOUR THROAT is, almost certainly what is causing you to get sore, and lose access to your highs, as the evening progresses. What allows a professional singer to sing all night is knowing when to sing through the throat or from the gut. To learn to control these two types of singing, a singer has to learn to BREATHE.

 

To start off, sing as you normally would, then take your hands. ball one into a fist, and then grab it firmly with the other. Place your balled hands against your abdomen and push firmly as you sing. if you allow the process to happen as it should,m and don't fight it, your singing will get LOUDER AND STRONGER. Singing louder and stronger, and HIGHER, will become easier the more you practice. Singing from your abdomen drives a lot more air through your vocal cords. This allows them to shape as they must for you to sing much easier than if you don't provide the extra air.

 

To comfortably sing from the gut requires more air to sustain, so you will need to learn to control your breathing. You will have to "map out" when and where to breath as you sing a song. This map will stay the same, unless you or your band changes the arrangement of a given song. Each song you learn or create will require it's own unique map of when and where to breathe. When you sing the song in practice, you will need to practice breathing according to your map. This will support you in the song. The more rehearsed, or practiced this combination of learning to sing the song and learning to breath so that you provide your voice with the air it needs to sing properly, the better and EASIER your performance will become.

 

Here is a short article on this subject. You can read it here, if you like:

 

http://www.songstuff.com/vocals/article/breathing_exercises/

 

Break a leg.

 

 

Thank you for this insight and for the article, Rob Ash.  I'm thinking that the few weeks that seemed to be of particular struggle, there were a number of songs I was learning for the first time.  Perhaps my "map" wasn't shaped yet, and I DID notice, it was difficult to know when would be best to take a breath because I was not yet familiar with how the song went.  I can often anticipate the direction of songs either by watching the other singers or from the accompanying music or just because it makes sense, even when I haven't heard or sung them before.  Occasionally, however, there will be a song that doesn't make that kind of sense to me in the direction it takes--those ones are the ones I struggle with in knowing where I should be taking breaths.  This information is helpful.  I know that I often sing from the gut, but probably not all the time.  I definitely need the breathing information--even for when I'm not singing.  Thanks!

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Proper breathing techniques and breathing application really is pretty much the corner stone when it comes to good singing. You can have the best "vocal" technique (as in the way you use your vocal cords) but that'll never come close to how much better it'll be with proper breathing. Some call it diaphragmatic breathing, singing from your stomach or gut - they mean the same thing. 

 

When you breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and "pushes itself down" so as to create more cavity/space in your lungs for that healthy dosage of air to fill in so that you can use it well in your singing. In short,  when you breathe in, your tummy bulges itself out. 

 

When you breathe out, the diaphragm expands and helps in pushing the air out of your lungs. So while exhaling, your tummy goes back in.  Now if your breathing exercises and practice sessions have been on the right path, you can actually build control over this mechanism to smartly utilize the air while singing and thus helping in consistency. This is so paramount when you have to sing for long periods of time. 

 

Of course it's not all breathing. Paired with good breathing technique, if your vocal technique is good in terms of how well you use your chest, mixed and head voice and how you control your tone, your singing is just going to be a much more enjoyable experience. 

 

John and I have been discussing over a fresh new batch of video content for our community to use and benefit. I'll be sure to look into getting some breathing exercises and more vocal related videos into it. 

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9 hours ago, Mahesh said:

Proper breathing techniques and breathing application really is pretty much the corner stone when it comes to good singing. You can have the best "vocal" technique (as in the way you use your vocal cords) but that'll never come close to how much better it'll be with proper breathing. Some call it diaphragmatic breathing, singing from your stomach or gut - they mean the same thing. 

 

When you breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and "pushes itself down" so as to create more cavity/space in your lungs for that healthy dosage of air to fill in so that you can use it well in your singing. In short,  when you breathe in, your tummy bulges itself out. 

 

When you breathe out, the diaphragm expands and helps in pushing the air out of your lungs. So while exhaling, your tummy goes back in.  Now if your breathing exercises and practice sessions have been on the right path, you can actually build control over this mechanism to smartly utilize the air while singing and thus helping in consistency. This is so paramount when you have to sing for long periods of time. 

 

Of course it's not all breathing. Paired with good breathing technique, if your vocal technique is good in terms of how well you use your chest, mixed and head voice and how you control your tone, your singing is just going to be a much more enjoyable experience. 

 

John and I have been discussing over a fresh new batch of video content for our community to use and benefit. I'll be sure to look into getting some breathing exercises and more vocal related videos into it. 

This is all great information, Mahesh!  Thank you for the extra insight of what goes on inside the body when singing from the diaphragm--getting that mental picture helps! I look forward to whatever video you find to share.  What amount of daily time does it take to properly get your vocals conditioned over time? (whatever it is vocalists do to prepare to sing and/or strengthen what they have.)  Is this conditioning something you can multi-task with or does it need to be special time set aside for it? I'm talking after watching the videos and learning the techniques.  Personally, I would have to start from square 1 (using the videos as one would an exercise video until learning the form and routine), as I've not had the instruction aside from this here and a few tips on the fly from others who sing.   

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