Singer's Handbook Studio of Dr. Kyle Ferri .Singer's Handbook Studio of Dr. Kyle Ferrill University

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  • Singer's Handbook

    Studio of Dr. Kyle Ferrill University of Idaho Voice Department


    Vocalise Sheet

    Words for Vocalizing

    Technique Overview

    IPA chart

    Solfege exercises

    Circle of Fifths for scale-singing

    How to practice

    How to learn a song

    How to count-sing

    Listening lists

    12 Questions: How do I become a better singer?

    Recommended reading

  • Vocalise Sheet Start every warm-up with 1. stretch 2. hiss 3. sigh 4. buzz 5. hum













    (Updated 7/30/11)

  • Words for Vocalizing

    closed e [e] open a [a] closed o [o]

    wave save late aim

    maze main flame mate

    sigh might

    fly mob

    so go


    moan those throw

    closed u [u] [I] [ae] suit

    through soon blue

    muse rude

    moon du (Germ.)

    wish bliss

    myth witch

    task cat vast

    match man


    closed e [i] open u [] dark a [] seen three trees


    free these weave


    put shook

    look push

    far dark

    sharp fond

    open o [] open e [] R-colored vowel []

    bought moth

    song shawl

    shed less them

    fresh test west

    world third

    earth mirth

    stressed schwa [] [y] open e nasal

    humble sunk frh pure (Fr.) sein grain (Fr.)

    o-nasal [] o-e nasal a-nasal []

    songe plomb chacun d'un sang chant

    o-slash [] o-e []

    dieu schn fleur coeur

    (Updated 7/30/11)

  • Technique Overview

    Big ideas --Keep it simple, keep it natural. Great singing is uncluttered. It is very simplenot easy, but simple. --The main problem most singers have is a lack of energy. This leads to tension as they try to compensate for lack of energy. Nip the problem in the bud by providing plenty of mental and physical energy for singing. --Always be musical. Every phrase, and particularly every sustained note, must either get louder, softer, or both. No flat lines.

    Posture --Posture is essential to good singing. Find a tall posture with the chest expanded. Imagine you're being suspended from the ceiling, your head is weightless, and there's no tension anywhere. While practicing, identify where you hold your tension, and shake it out while singing. With good singing posture, we should be physically energized and ready, like a tennis player waiting to return a serve. Use your bodyit's your instrument.

    Breathing --Breath is the fuel of our instrument, and is crucial. Good breathing for singing is different than breathing for talking. On the inhale, we expand the ribcage. On the exhale, while singing, we maintain the expansion of the ribcage. This is different than speech. The rib muscles, which maintain this expansion, are the primary muscles of support. There should be no feeling of squeezing the air out. We are instead gradually letting the air out in an efficient and controlled manner. Practice this by using the hiss to gain control over your air. Also practice speaking your text in a continuous manner (speak-singing). This will show you the difference between regular speech and the sustained act of singing.

    Phonation --Phonation is the term for making a vocal sound. The vocal folds come together (adduct) and vibrate in a very complex pattern to produce sound. If there is too much pressure, the sound will be strained. If there's not enough energy, the folds will not come together completely, and the sound will be breathy due to excess air leaking out. We need to find the happy mediuma balanced tone that is not too strained, but not too weak.

    Resonation --Resonance is often referred to as ring in the voice. It is the quality that makes our sound pleasing and robust. It is also the factor that makes our sound carry over an orchestra. Resonance is more important than volume. Exercises to develop resonance include humming, singing words starting with nasal consonants [m], [n], and [], and buzzing the lips (lip trills). We must have space in the back of the mouth to round out the sound, but we must balance this space in the back with focus in the front of the mouth. Imagine that when you sing, you are singing down into a funnelspace in the back, focused ringing vowel that you feel in the front of your mouth.

    Registration --Different areas of the voice feel different, and this is because different muscle groups within the larynx are predominating. Large intervals require adjustmentif we make no adjustment, it will sound bad and possibly even cause strain and harm. Think ahead and prepare the space and energy for the phrase at hand. Sounds simple, but it takes lots of practice! Generally, high/ascending phrases take more airspeed than low/descending phrases. Set yourself up for success with high notes by crescendoing the few notes before the high note. The great paradox of singing is that in order for our voices to sound even throughout the range, we must constantly be adjusting the mix of head and chest voice (or light and heavy mechanism, if you prefer that terminology).

  • Articulation --Articulation is the formation of your vowels and consonants. --Vowels should always be clear, pure, and forward. Since the vowel is when we hear your sound, it is crucial that your vowels be pure and beautiful. Perfect your vowels in the practice room, particularly the less common mixed vowels found in German and French. --Consonants help your audience understand what you're singing. Properly-sung consonants will have more energy than spoken consonants. Perfect the energy and vibrancy of your consonants in the practice room. Sing words rather than individual vowels when you do vocalises. You will feel like you're exaggerating the consonants when you're doing them right. Your consonants should aid the projection of your vowels: they should propel your phrase forward, not hold it back. ==========================================================================================

    Technique Tidbits -- perfecting the fundamentals Work on these daily: DIVIDE AND CONQUER the elements of vocal technique! Simplify and sing through a vocalise or a section of a song, focusing on one item at a time:

    Posture/alignment Open throat on inhale AND exhale Energetic, rhythmic breath Expansion of the ribcage -- keep expansion as long as comfortable Balanced onset Line/direction/finish every phrase Freedom of jaw Freedom of neck Freedom of shoulders Freedom of arms/hands Relaxed tongue/tip of tongue on teeth Pure vowels Crisp consonants Lifted, active face muscles Dome in mouth/lifted soft palate/spread sinuses (INNER SMILE) Focused, ringing tone/stem of pear Top-down/sigh approach to high notes Think ahead/prepare for difficult passages

    (Updated 7/30/11)

  • Solfege Exercises To help you become fluent in the language of music





    (Updated 6/30/11)

  • Scale-singing --To improve your musicianship, practice singing your scales and arpeggios. Start with majors, then advance to all forms of minor. After you're comfortable, work for speed. Always remember to sing as well as you can:

    build good habits all the time.

  • How to practice --Practicing is an essential part of developing any skill. Best to make it efficient, practical, and fun! --Some guidelines:

    Know yourself: do you do better practicing in one big chunk, or in a few shorter sessions? Focus: devote your practice time solely to your solo repertoire. Turn off your phone, and immerse

    yourself. We can learn a lot about discipline and focus from our singing practice. Spend a good amount of your time on vocalises, using the vocalise sheet. If you were an athlete,

    vocalises would be the gym and your songs would be actually playing the game. Rotate through your repertoire: be sure to get to multiple songs every day, so that nothing grows stale. Once you've really learned a song, it's fine to sing along with a recording in the right key. This allows

    you to get used to the piano part, and keeps practicing interested. However, never learn a song by rote from the recording. There could be mistakes, plus it robs you of a chance to grow your musicianship.

    Keep track of your practice, using the practice log. Don't guess how much you've practiced; know how much you've practiced.

    Find a balance between working on the following things in your practice time: 1. Vocal exercise

    Use Vocalise Sheet.

    Vary the words/vowels/syllables you use to strengthen the quality and purity of all vowels.

    Work on your weaknesses.

    Always build good habits. 2. Learning a piece (see below, How to learn a song.) 3. Score preparation

    For songs in English, look up words you don't know.

    For foreign language songs, write in the translation.

    Prepare an IPA transcription.

    Write the IPA transcription into your score.

    Look up and write in definitions of musical terms you don't know. 3. Perfecting a piece

    Once you have prepared your score and learned the piece, it is now time to perfect it. Work slowly and methodically to be sure you've learned all notes, rhythms, and words correctly. You're building muscle memorymake sure everything's right.

    Repetition is crucial. Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can't get it wrong.

    Record yourself and listen back for mistakes. 4. Memorization

    Again, repetition is crucial. Decide to do the following things 3 times in a row:

    Sing through an entire page/section of a song.

    Write out the lyrics and