Cheat Sheet

Singing For Dummies

From Singing For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Pamelia S. Phillips

Singing is an art and a craft that becomes more of an art as you pay more attention to the craft. The craft of singing includes breathing and standing properly. Adding a new song to your repertoire is a matter of breaking the song into steps. Whether you're preparing for an audition or a performance, the successful presentation of any song includes conveying the story behind the song, as well as the musical notes.

Posture Checklist for Better Singing

The next time you watch a professional singer, observe the posture. Posture plays a large part in how well you sing. If you hunch over, your lungs can't inflate fully; and if you fidget, you distract your audience — and yourself. Use the following list to correctly position yourself for singing:

  • Feet are hip-width apart with feet parallel.

  • Knees are unlocked with the weight evenly distributed on the three points of the feet — the tripod.

  • Spine is long and straight, from bottom to top.

  • Head is centered over shoulders; chin is parallel with the ground.

  • Shoulders are back but down and released.

  • Arms are hanging at your side.

Breathing Checklist to Improve Singing

Breathing is breathing, right? Not so with singing. For singers, good breath control and strong lungs contribute to powerful performances. It all begins with knowing how to breathe from deep within your body — from your diaphragm, actually, which is a membrane of muscle and tendons located between your lungs and abdomen. Follow this checklist to ensure that your breathing helps make your singing better:

  • Each breath drops low in the body.

  • Open your throat to prevent gasping.

  • Chest stays steady as you inhale.

  • Body movement consists of the lower abdominal area and the ribs expanding upon inhalation.

  • With exhalation, the abdominal area moves in as the air is slowly released.

Steps for Singing a New Song

Learning a new song to sing can be intimidating, but by using the following steps, you can integrate a new song into your repertoire without much difficulty. As with any new skill, learning a new song is a process, made easier if you break it into manageable steps:

  1. Memorize the words as a story — write out the text as sentences with punctuation.

  2. Tap out the rhythm.

  3. Sing through the melody — without words — using a single vowel such as ah or oh.

  4. Sing through the melody with the piano accompaniment without words.

  5. Put it all together: words, rhythm, melody, and acting.

Tips for Dealing with Stage Fright When Singing

Deciding what you're afraid of is the first big step in conquering stage fright, or performance anxiety. Some common fears include cracking your voice, looking stupid, or being afraid of audience rejection. Make a plan to eliminate the fear by following these tips:

  • Make a practice checklist to make sure you're technically prepared for your performance. Work on your technique so you know you can depend on your voice under pressure.

  • Expect to be nervous and feel adrenaline before a performance.

  • Think positive thoughts.

  • Sing for friends before the big performance to work out the anxiety.

Audition Tips for Singers

The big tip to use on singing auditions is to know the typical behavior for your style of music. Pop-rock auditions are more laid-back than opera auditions. The way you dress for the opera audition is very different from how you dress at the pop-rock audition. Knowing these specifics increases your chances of getting the gig. This list highlights some tips to help you at auditions:

  • Choose songs that highlight your vocal strengths.

  • Pick stories you want to tell.

  • Prepare your music in a notebook so your songs are easy to locate. Or bring your recording to sing along with.

  • Polish your resume and print out your headshot to take to the audition.

  • Ask an accompanist to read through your song before your audition.

  • Choose your outfit wisely based on expectations for your type of audition.

  • Polish your acting skills.

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