Chanting and Speaking to Improve Your Singing - dummies

Chanting and Speaking to Improve Your Singing

By Pamelia S. Phillips

Exploring chanting helps you understand the close relationship between a resonant tone for speaking and a resonant tone for singing. To explore chanting, you sing some pitches, chant the same pitches, and then speak the same pitches.

This exercise uses the opening three notes to “Three Blind Mice.” You may want to sing a bit of the song just to refresh your memory before following these steps:

  1. Sing the first three notes of “Three Blind Mice” and notice the feeling in your throat.

    Make sure that your version of the song isn’t really low in your chest voice. Your optimum pitch isn’t the lowest note you can sing or speak. It needs to be higher to find the most ring and resonance.

  2. Speak the opening words “Three Blind Mice.”

    Aim for a pitch that’s in the vicinity of Middle C or a little higher for women and around an octave below Middle C and higher for men. You can explore higher pitches if you think that you’re speaking too low.

  3. Sing the first three notes of “Three Blind Mice” again.

  4. Chant the first three notes of the song on one note.

    Chanting means to speak-sing the pitches, as you hear monks doing in monasteries. To speak-sing the pitches, you hold out vowels when you speak, similar to what you do when you sing. Chanting may feel silly because either it seems like you’re working to get someone who’s hard of hearing to understand you or it feels like singsong.

  5. Speak the first three words of the song again (speaking naturally this time) and see what pitches come out.

    Keep the sensations of resonance similar in your singing, chanting, and speaking all on the same pitches. Remember to connect your breath to the speaking voice just as you do for singing.

You can also choose to sing “Three Blind Mice” on higher pitches, and then chant and speak into those pitches.

You may feel strain or pressure when doing this exercise. If so, follow these instructions:

  • Women: If you feel strain, you’re probably using your full chest voice to create the tone. Try speaking again, but use a tone more similar to your middle voice (a balance of muscle groups that create head voice and chest voice working together instead of just chest voice), or find a pitch that’s a little higher and doesn’t use as much chest voice.

  • Men: If you feel pressure when you’re speaking, it may be because you’re not maintaining a consistent airflow as you’re speaking. The feeling of pulling up weight from the bottom means you’re actively engaging your chest voice. If the tone is too wispy and light, you’re not connecting your body to the higher pitch.

    Your whole body should be ready to help you make the sound. You can pretend that you’re about to leap up and dance like Billy Elliott or Mikhail Baryshnikov, to help you feel the commitment from your body.