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Basics of singing

Advice - by Brett Manning - on the basics and professional aspects of singing

THE TROUBLE WITH SINGING

Throughout the last decade and a half, I have found a new hobby. This hobby has nearly driven me mad at times. It is not golf, fly fishing or songwriting. I've done a little of all three and found that they are difficult, but not impossible. But singing has got to be one of the biggest mysteries known to mankind! Please allow me to defend my position. Music is about the one thing besides food, clothing and shelter that we can't as a society, live without. Music is everywhere and inescapable. So what happens when you get a hold of the only musical instrument that is clothed in flesh, has a nervous system and is a direct reflection of the soul of it's owner? What happens when you get a hold of the least visible, least predictable, most flexible, most stubborn, yet the most distinct and unique of all musical instruments.

The trouble with singing is that there are 6 billion opinions on the approach to singing and few are taking into account that each voice is distinctive, though the mechanism is basically the same for all voices. Taken into account that we've only been looking at the cords for the last hundred years, (most of this time through a dental mirror placed at the back of the throat) we've only just begun to understand how the voice works. But observing how Tiger woods swings the golf club and understanding how to teach his golf swing are two totally different things. In my pursuit of vocal excellence, I have to acknowledge that God has given me the gift to simply see what is going on inside the throat and then prescribe the exercise to accomplish the desired vocal coordinations. This method has increased my range from 2 octaves to 5 octaves of vocal range. I now sing up into Mariah Carey notes and down into the low bass range. I never dreamed this would ever be possible. Now I know that sounds a little too incredible, but even more incredible is to be teaching people over the phone in my Nashville studio to students from one city of the U.S. to the other, students throughout Canada, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Puerto Rico and a bunch of other countries I can hardly keep up with. To be working by phone and getting many of these people to add a full octave to their vocal range in such a short time, is the most incredible experience for me. The one thing they all had in common was misconceptions that singing is rocket science.

Many singers think that it takes 4 years of college to extend the range just a few notes. The key is not in the force, but in the finding of the flow. It's mind over muscle. It's a decreasing of vibrating vocal cord (mass) until the vocal cords eventually begin to dampen (zip up), decreasing the vibrating (surface) of the cords. This is the simple secret to singing higher, easier, longer and with a tone quality that melts in your mouth and not it not in your throat. The key is in training the musculature to obey the artistic desires of the mind. Doing this, without the assistance of a qualified and gifted instructor is "the trouble with singing

Aren't voice lessons like pulling teeth? Every lesson I've had was a miserable experience where I was criticized for every little "wrong" thing I did.

You are so right. Unfortunately, most voice teachers are still training their students to look and sound like classical singers, using techniques that have nothing to do with developing a contemporary sound. That's why students who don't enjoy older styles of music often find voice lessons frustrating and fruitless. Brett Manning will never stifle your unique sound and style. In fact, the Singing Success Program provides tools and techniques that will allow you to sing with more style. Besides, who wants to listen to someone who sounds like every other "proper" singer?

Can I improve my tone quality?

Tone quality improves when the correct musculature is engaged in the singing process. Feel underneath your chin with your forefinger and slide it inwards to the point where your neck meets the muscles under your chin. Now swallow. Notice how your larynx (Adam's apple) raises up and the muscles under your chin tighten up as you swallow? These muscles that are engaged in the swallowing process are opposed to those engaged in the singing process. The use of these muscles while singing creates a myriad of problems that can take years to correct if left unchecked. For good tone quality, you must learn to sing without the outer muscles of the larynx. Doing so will set free your natural voice, drastically improving tone quality and ease of use. Naturally, the Singing Success Program contains techniques that will help you do this.

Is it really possible to teach style?

Until now, there really has not been a comprehensive system of teaching vocal style. There have been scales played to reflect certain genres, such as the Blues Scale, but that's really not enough. Brett Manning worked with hundreds of brilliant vocal stylists to co-develop training techniques based on their various skills. Using these techniques you can develop style skills so prolific that you'll be able to reinterpret any song you wish into a unique masterpiece. Think of it this way: As a singer, you are the artist and the final "painting" is up to you. Brett Manning's style training just gives you more colors to work with.

Building a Successful Sound

Three years ago, I signed a distribution deal with Media Products in Barcelona, Spain, for the translating and marketing of the Singing Success Program, thanks to a man named Paul Zamek. Paul is responsible for the overseas licensing of many major American recording artists. (His largest client, Kenny Rogers, has sold over 100 million albums worldwide!) I met Paul on a flight to Club Med, and he became intrigued with my approach to teaching the human voice. He wanted to know how I'd advise an amateur singer looking to become a commercial success.

First, train the voice as you would train your body. Understand that you have muscles that can be developed in the same way athletes train their muscles. Singing is fairly easy, with tiny muscles involved in coordinating the voice and subtle exercises required to develop their coordination. I have taught thousands of girls to sing as high as Mariah Carey and have safely developed a convincing commercial sound with even the most rigidly trained classical singers. Just remember that correct technique is necessary before moving toward a record deal, because you will need consistency and longevity if you really want to make it.

Second, develop your "style ear" and your vocal coordinations to sing the rapid licks, trills, and runs consistent with today's pop-singing styles. You must also develop your unique version of a commercial sound. A straight purist voice (one dominated by a heady/classical sound) has little chance of competing with Jewel, Christina, Mariah, or Celine.

Third, do your own thing after you've learned everyone else's tricks. You have to get as close as possible to your natural talking voice and make your singing more like speech on pitch. If you change your tone quality so that you are talking in one voice and singing in another, you've lost the very qualities that make your voice distinctive. You'll also have a harder time sustaining your vocal health.

When I first explained this ideology to Paul, he freaked out, then drew a big smiley face on a yellow legal pad and said, "Your voice is as distinctive as your face." How many times do you answer the phone and hear, "Hey girl," and know exactly who it is without hearing another word? We are sometimes still amazed at this, because most of us don't have voices as recognizable as Fran Drescher (The Nanny), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jennifer Tilly, James Earl Jones, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or the late sports announcer Howard Cosell. You don't need a "character" voice like these people to be distinctive; God already took care of that when he created the equivalent to a thumbprint in your voice. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars to develop technology that can recognize a particular voice. The multiple frequencies produced by your unique voice are your ticket into the recording industry, and making the most of them is what I've spent the last 15 years of my life teaching people to do.

People e-mail me with career questions from all over the world, and many of them ask the same thing: What do I have to do to get a record deal? Here's the answer you usually hear: "Headshot, bio, and demo." And yes, those items certainly have helped many people get started in the recording industry. Some have even added a video or showcase to the requirement, because singers also have to be performers. But other than preparing all of these self-promotions and throwing yourself into the brutally competitive music industry, what else can you do to increase your likelihood of landing that record deal you've dreamed about since you were barely old enough to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star?" Here are three other important goals to reach for:

First, increase your vocal range. The greater your range, the more exciting and confident your singing will be. Find a coach who can teach you how to mix your chest voice (speaking voice) with your head voice (your softer, lighter, classical-sounding voice). This "mixed voice" is much thicker than pure head voice, but has more frequencies than a belted chest voice (which is also the leading cause of vocal nodules). The "mixed voice" has the best of both worlds, which is why so many top Grammy winners sing in this vocal register. You must learn the "mix" if you want a commercial sound, effortless vocalizing, and a healthy voice. (The Singing Success Program can help you with this.)

Second, find as many influences as possible. Influences are inescapable. The real question is, do you have enough of them to keep you from sounding exactly like your favorite artist? We don't need another Celine Dion. I have coached dozens of young women who can now sing almost exactly like Celine; but who wants a counterfeit when the real thing is already available? If you have enough diverse vocal influences, you will find a little piece of yourself in each one of them.

Third, make a decision to find your unique voice and spend the rest of your life devoted to developing it. Don't quit your day job until your career takes off, and your office gig can be replaced with a Broadway contract or record deal. But give every extra buck, hour, and emotion to this endeavor. You don't want to look back and say, "If only." You are unique and you have dreams. Dreams are visions wearing work clothes. The world advances, not through those who give up on their visions, but through those who stand until their labor and talent takes form.

So how about you?...

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