There is no magic formula to singing. Professional singers must learn a good technique so that they can survive long periods of singing without tiring or damaging their voices. However most amateur singers don't have singing lessons and have only a vague idea of how the singing voice should be produced. They frequently develop problems: they tire easily, they get hoarse or the throat aches and the singing begins to suffer. These problems affect not only the individual but also the whole choir.
Singing lessons take time and money, and many amateur singers are wary of them as they don't believe they are good enough to benefit from them, or don't need them because they don't aspire to be soloists.
My experience is that most people can learn a lot about the basics of singing in a group session such as I give in the first 30 minutes of my ChoralClinic session.
Three principles are vital to good choral singing and safe use of the singing voice:
- Jaw and tongue position
- Vowel sounds
Breathing is the most natural thing we do, but to sing correctly we need to unlearn some habits. I use a series of carefully graded exercises to help the singers to use the breath as support and not to lock it and become tense.
The jaw and the tongue need to be relaxed to achieve a resonant sound. I use simple scales and easy exercises to move the voice up and down so that the singers can feel the different sensations and resonances.
Vowel sounds are very important for a good quality of sound. I spend time with the choir helping the singers to understand how to approach the different vowel sounds, and then combine this work with exercises focusing sounds using the breath with a relaxed jaw.
This preliminary work provides a sound foundation for the rest of the ChoralClinic session, and ensures that the whole choir understands the principles that we then put into practice when we move on to the music to be studied.