Tag Archives: learning to sing

How Do You “Learn” Improvisational Singing?

Learning anything improvisational is almost a contradiction in terms, isn’t it?  If the singing isn’t planned, and there is no road map, then how do you practice improvisational singing?

There are a number of ways, and we’ll address a few options here, and more ways later.

You might begin by exploring your voice so that you get to know it — can you say you really know your voice?  I’ve been singing for years, and I’m still getting to know my voice.

Pretend you and your voice really don’t know each other.  Schedule a date to meet and greet. Ask questions, explore, and find out what you can about this “new” friend of yours.

Maybe, just for starters, ask yourself these questions and write out the answers.

  1. What my voice can do?  Include ideas about vocal range, strength or lack thereof that you feel or experience when you sing, clarity of your voice, vocal stamina, etc.  Write down what’s true right now about your voice.  Just ramble about it a bit.  What’s in your awareness about your voice?  Don’t bother editing.  It’s helpful to see where your attention goes when you think about your voice, ’cause you can tell what’s on the “top of the stack.”
  2. How comfortable am I with singing? Can I and/or do I sing just for myself or do I sing for others?
  3. How do I sound?  Describe it factually (without opinion or judgment).  Example:  I think of my voice as soft.  I don’t know how high or low I can sing.  My voice sounds breathy to me, like it has a lot of air in the sound.  It’s not clear like a bell, it’s more like the sound of a soft breeze.  OR — I have one of those boisterous voices.  Loud, kind of brash and bold and out there.  Not quiet or apologetic, really the opposite of that.  I have a confident voice. When I sing, it just sounds loud to me.  I don’t really know if I sing in tune.  I just sing when I sing, without thinking much about how it sounds.
  4. Do I enjoy singing?  Under what circumstances?
  5. What would I like my voice to do that I don’t think it can do at this moment in time?

During your day, when you get up from your desk, put your child down for a blessed nap, walk outside or down the hall for a lunch break or errand, try making a little sound.  I don’t mean a squeak or a tiny sound, I mean sing a little bit.  Hum a little. Sing a song out loud that you’ve been singing in your head.  Make up a song.   Make a wavy sound with your voice.  Sing tra-la-la a couple of different ways.  Sing a sentence instead of speaking it.

Pry open the “exploring your voice”  treasure box by being vocal in a new way — not speaking — but singing.  Widen your speaking range and turn it into a song-sound.

Yes!  Sing a little…

If you can find a place to sing and experiment that’s private, great.  If not, walking along a busy street or going to a park, or sitting in your car for a few minutes can work, too.

Start small and work from there.  Start with humming three notes, heck — one note.  This gets your brain, body, and your being acclimated to a wider range of sound expression.

Later, if you are so inclined, you can develop your voice, so it can do what you want it to do.  Your voice becomes your full partner, a well-prepared tool.  It becomes the paint brush that can splash any color right where you want it.  If you want to sing a low note, or a high note, and you can.  If you need to hold a note forever, or practically forever, you can.  Otherwise, it’s like being a painter with an incomplete palette  — you’re missing some important colors, or the paintbrush itself.

But for now, sing people!  Sing anything. Sing here.  Sing there. Get to know your sound, your vibration, your up notes and your down notes.

It’s where to start.

Oh, and have fun….

Alone in the Rain with No Transportation

This is actually a favorite kind of day for me….

… And NO, I’m not stranded outdoors with a broken down car.

I’m home alone, no meals to fix, and nobody to tend to except already contented animals. Nothing I’m up to requires a car and I’m all cozy and warm, slippers on, with plenty of time to write, create and brainstorm. The golden beeswax candles are lit right next to me, soft lights brighten up the cloudy day and surround-sound music bathes me in my favorite rainy day albums.beeswaxcandles

The longer I’m here on this beautiful earth, the more I appreciate this kind of time. Being busy is highly over-rated. Being home writing, with a hot cup of French Roast and great music on the Bose Music System to keep me company is, well, pretty much my idea of heaven.

Sure, there is a rather hefty stack of paper staring at me that needs sorting and filing. But am I doing that?

Nope.

Today is for me and my whims. When I am alone, my creative muses talk to me the most about music and making joyful sounds.

Want to know what they said today?

One of the best ways to get started with improvisational singing is to “practice it” when no one is around. You can experiment in ANY way. Go ahead. Have a wild and woolly practice session.

And here’s the thing. It doesn’t mean you necessarily practice improvisational singing. Case in point — today I chose an Opera piece that is (let’s be honest) a musical train wreck for me.
OperaCartoon
Il mio bel foco (My Joyful Ardor) by Benedetto Marcello.

It’s not an easy piece and on top of that the version of the accompaniment that came with my music book moves like lightning. Nobody who sings it well has this speed-demon accompaniment. Oh, and for strike three, it’s in Italian of course.

To listen to it, go to Youtube. Here’s a link. Spare yourself and don’t listen to the folks who sing it in their garage or for their recital. Trust me, it’s not that helpful. Listen to a singer who can actually give it a go.

If you want to get better at improvisational singing, practice something difficult for you — anything. I chose Opera today, but you could opt for a mountain bike, a skateboard, roller blades or a trampoline!! Pad yourself properly and then play like a kid. You could go play basketball, play catch with your grand daughter or find a game of beach volleyball. Why not have a dance lesson, or get up the courage to build a do-it-yourself website (argh), or make soup broth from scratch. Get in the car and drive somewhere without planning where you’re going.

Do something you’ve never done before or something that is predictably difficult for you — AND, this is important — you actually have an attraction to doing it. You want to do it.

If you practice something you’re not adept at doing, and go at it with a big dose of joy and reckless abandon, you learn about who you are — very important in improvisational singing!

You need to know YOU if you’re going to sing without a map. (More on that in a future post.)

During this “reckless abandon” project, pay attention to improvements only. Forget the “mistakes.” They mean nothing. Look for what you’re doing well and concentrate on that. Notice everything you do well and let yourself smile about it.

This is fabulous training for improvisational singing. And for life, too, for that matter.

To do anything well, it helps to be comfortable with everything about it, including mistakes and screw-ups. Make mistakes. Relax about them. Welcome them with open arms.

Long ago, I knew a Utah ski instructor who taught beginners. We’re talking newbies who somehow got railroaded into that ski vacation with friends or family. And here they were with their skis and poles and their brand new ski outfit all dressed up and scared to death.

And do you know what he taught them first and foremost on that bunny slope where we all begin?

He taught them how to fall.

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

After the falling lesson, where everybody ended up covered with snow and laughing, his students had great fun learning to ski because the worst part — the part that everyone was trying NOT to do — was over! Now they could get on with the standing up part of skiing.

Simple, yet brilliant.

This is what we’re talking about: Doing something “really wrong” or sloppily and getting it over with is liberating.

So strap on your whatevers and go attempt something ridiculously new and a tiny bit dangerous for you — and then write me and tell me all about it. I’ll be waiting with great anticipation for your report.