Determining Your Singing Level - dummies

By Pamelia S. Phillips

When determining your singing level, you must consider several factors. These issues include how to battle fatigure, song speed, working effectively with your accompianist, story-telling, and working effectively with rhythm.

Battling fatigue

What causes you to get tired as you’re practicing? Many singers tire when they sing a song in which most notes stay at the top of their range. Even if the song doesn’t have many repetitions of your highest note, if the majority of the notes sit near that top note, you may get tired.

Think of singing as similar to lifting weights. You can lift a weight several times, but how long can you hold it up? When you’re staying near the top part of your range, you’re holding up the weight — in other words, you’re using quite a bit of body energy to maintain that physical exertion.

If the high notes come at rapid-fire pace, that may be just the thing to get you singing the notes without worrying about it, but it can also be quite a challenge.

The more you practice and get to know your singing voice, the better you can answer this question.

Speeding along

What is the song’s speed? A song’s speed may cause you to spit out words at the speed of lightening. If you’ve been working on articulation, you can spit out those words easily without getting tense from the constant movement of your articulators (tongue and lips).

  • Beginner songs are often slower, so you can articulate and really notice the movement of your lips and tongue.

  • Intermediate songs may move at a faster pace and have tougher combinations of sounds.

  • Advanced songs may be quite fast and require you to make your words understood as your melody bounces along the page.

Following your accompaniment

How confident are you singing with a piano or other musical accompaniment?

  • A beginner song usually has the melody line played by the piano and in an obvious way.

  • An intermediate song may have the melody line in the piano part, but the chords may be thicker and your melody may be harder to pick out.

  • An advanced song may have an accompaniment that is totally different from the melody written for the singer.

Paying attention to detail

How comfortable are you at combining multiple details when singing a song? When you look at a song or hear it for the first time, you probably need to hear it a few times to get a feel for it.

If you have to listen for a few weeks to get the notes right, the song is too hard for you right now.

By breaking down the details when you figure out a song, you’re more likely to get all the pieces of the song working faster. If your ear picks up a tune pretty fast, you may assume that you can take on harder songs. Give yourself some time to work on songs and master a variety of technical details, such as breathing, articulation, and storytelling, before you jump to more advanced songs.

Telling a story

How familiar are you with acting and singing at the same time? Actors on television or stage make it look so easy, but acting and singing at the same time is a skill to make the song sound good and look good at the same time.

  • Beginner songs often work for either gender and have easier stories to tell.

  • Intermediate songs often contain more detailed lyrics.

  • Advanced songs often are written for a specific gender, with a throughline in the story.

Picking up the rhythm

How comfortable are you with rhythms? Some singers can pick up rhythms quickly, whereas others struggle to hear the difference between sounds.

  • Beginner songs often have simple rhythms to allow the singer to focus on one or two types of rhythms.

  • Intermediate songs have a wider variety of rhythmic combinations.

  • Advanced songs may have complex rhythms.

For more help with rhythms, check out Guitar For Dummies, by Mark Phillips and Jon Chappell, or Piano For Dummies, by Blake Neely (both published by Wiley). If you know a bit about rhythms, you can look at the song and determine whether the piece is complicated musically.