Voice Beginner

Voice Beginner: Week 1

Hello Students!  

It was so great to meet you all yesterday - I had such a good time, I’m looking forward to singing lots of fun material with you this session!  We got to know each other a little bit, did some vocal warm-ups, practiced hearing, feeling, and finding pitches, learned about Solfege and sang a C major scale. We then learned, by ear, If The Sea Was Whiskey.

Listening This Week: 

In Bulgaria, there is a long history of stunning polyphonic singing.  Most of the traditional repertoire is ceremonial and field songs sung while working in the fields.  For music meant to be in ceremonial dances, like many other vocal traditions, the rhythms and accents of the music and the dances are intertwined.  Bulgarian folk music is known for its asymmetrical rhythms where meter is not split in even beats, but in combinations of short (2 metric units) and long (3 metric units) beats, corresponding to the dancers' short and long steps. 

Sardinian Cantu a tenore singing has a similar affectation of the voice and polyphonic (many voiced) melody, and includes a technique commonly referred to as throat singing.  The solo singer sings a poetic text, which can be epic, historic, satirical, amorous or even protest. The chorus (the 3 other singers) response to the soloist consists often of nonsense syllables.  According to popular tradition, the soloist imitates the sound of wind, while the contra imitates a sheep bleating and the lowest singer a cow lowing.


Assignment for Next Week

Sing through the first 5 Solfege syllables (Do Re Mi Fa Sol), which are the notes: C, D, E, F, G.  You can reference this recording of a C-major scale on the piano to help practice finding the pitches. Start by matching the pitches as best you can (even if it’s just one of them, practice hearing the scale, then trying to recreate it in your voice.)

Please listen to this lovely song a few times (we’ll be singing it a bit next class):


How to Practice at Home: 

Please take a few minutes every day to warm up in whatever way you’re most comfortable with, keeping in mind that we want to loosen up those singing muscles!   Stand upright, let your shoulders fall back, relax.  Do the best Try to sing from the chest and, in the words of Cat Stevens, “if you want to sing out, sing out!”. But don’t strain!

Breathing Exercise #1: In order to develop good singing, it’s imperative that we improve the control of our breath. In this exercise, empty all the air out of your lungs and hold for 5 seconds. Then, open your mouth and allow oxygen to “drop” into your lungs by letting your diaphragm do what it naturally wants to. This is the way we should be breathing before singing a phrase. Rather than using a gasp, we want the air to naturally fall into our lungs.

Breathing Exercise #2: Breathe in, not to FULL capacity, but just till our lungs are naturally full. Relax your throat, making sure you’re not holding any tension there. Open your mouth to make a very light, controlled hissing sounds, and let the air out slowly and steadily. Repeat this exercise 5 times. At first, the breath will be shaky, but it will get better! Over the course of the next few weeks, you will discover that the amount of time you can slowly hiss air out will increase.


See you all next week! 

Dylan McKinstryComment