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Shoulder rolls, stretches, yawns, massages and all things physical"Though it may seem that you've joined a keep fit class at times I'm afraid you can't escape a little light exersise and you'll voice will thank you for it. Whilst you might think singing only comes from your 'vocal chords' or 'diaphragm' It is important to remember that your body is your instrument. Tension in your muscles especially around the shoulders and neck can have a real negative effect on both the effort it takes to sing as well the sound you produce. Alleviating tension in the neck. shoulders, jaw hands arms etc etc will make a noticable difference to your voice. When you're in an uncomfortable/stressfull enviroment ie performing or even coming to your first fun chorus session it's natural for the nerves to kick in and tension to start reeking havoc on your body, equally a hard day at the office, can leave your body and mind feeling stressed and tense. So whether it's yawning or jumping around, the exercises we perform send a clear signal to your brain that it's time to relax and de-stress, focus have fun and enjoy! Whilst they maybe out of your comfort zone sometimes, they are an important part of our warm up routine. That being said, It is up to you how much you do, you know your body best. Remember the point of doing them... to relax! Working on an old injury for example, or anything that feels painful is counter productive - So if anytime you feel it is too much, slow down, take a breath and join back in when you feel able.
Breathing exercises - Angry sss's, long sss's, shock breaths and laughing"Ahhh Breathing exercises... I know you take this one seriously, after all, everyone knows you need to 'breathe properly' to be able to sing right? But what good is doing long sss's and how is that supposed to help me use my diaphragm?? So much emphasis is put on learning to breathe correctly, supporting the breath, singing from your diaphragm that it's easy to get a bit lost and think this is some impossible task that only experienced singers know how to do. Well here's the deal – you're already using your diaphragm, it is just your breathing muscle. The trick really is learning what it is, where it is and how to control it. . There are several natural, primal reflexes that kick it into action, in most cases where your body requires oxygen fast. A gentle cough reveals it's location, (below the lungs and just above the stomach) try it and you should feel a muscle contraction. Just been for a long run....feeling out of breath? Gasping for air? Hello Diaphragm! Just trapped your finger in the car door? Heard some exciting news? Any time you feel shock, and take a short deep breath in – Hello Diaphragm! Yawning? Hello Diaphragm! You feel an ache in your stomach when you laugh extremely hard due to the rapid exercising of the... you've guessed it.... diaphragm! Laughing in particular is a great way to get that muscle going, it's fun, infectious, it makes you feel good and it's one of the most natural things to do. Add in a few vowels 'Ha' 'He' 'Ho' 'Haw' 'Hoo' and hey presto! What an easy vocal warm up! The great thing about these exercises is that you don't even think they have anything to do with singing! Which of course makes them psychologically easier to do, especially if you walk in with the mind set that you can't sing! Three Angry sss's? Well, hopefully the above has given you the gist of what these are about, again we're getting that diaphragm going.. but this time, we're adding in the element of a start/stop (which we might loose when we start rolling around laughing ) – in other words we're beginning to learn control and it feels more like a proper breathing exercise right? Without getting too over complicated, the 'Sss' sound is perfect for releasing just the right amount of air to create enough tension in the diaphragm and abdominal area to teach the muscles proper breath control. The long sss's? More control, longer control – difficulty level increases... You get the idea?
Big Wheee's Whaaa's and Whooo's (and the little ones)For the purpose of explanation, let's say we have two different types of voice, There's our normal speaking every day voice, this is referred to as the 'Chest Voice' and then there's this other higher, breathier kind of voice, imagine Mini mouse, or Hyacinth Bucket (Bouquet if you're old enough) that we refer to as 'Head voice' These types of voices are known as 'vocal registers' and these two get their names from where the sound vibrates or resonates. Resonates in the chest = Chest Voice Resonates in the head = Head voice. Your vocal chords need to stretch out for higher notes and contract to produce the lower ones. In between these two registers it gets a bit tricky In singing we call this area between the two different vocal chord co-ordinations a bridge, break or a passaggio. Got that bit? So when we do a 'Siren' sound (that's a big whee to you and me) we start to bridge the gap between the two registers, we always start at the top and bring the sound down to avoid tension in the larynx on the way up (we address that later more safely with the trills). So when you hear me say 'all the way dooown' it's to encourage you not to stop at the bottom of your head voice but to change gear and transition into the chest voice....which sounds alot more complicated than it should! To clarify - you have only one voice, but you need different chord co-ordinations to make different sounds and access the different vocal registers. We're just scratching the surface here as there are other vocal registers you may have heard of like Falsetto, Mix, Whistle, Vocal Fry, which all use different chord co-ordinations. This is why we have brackets and hinges, singing too high in your chest voice will feel uncomfortable, singing too low in your head voice will feel uncomfortable, this is simply because you naturally lean towards singing in the head or the chest - This doesn't automaticly make you a 'soprano' or a 'bass'.... the note on which your voice flips from chest to head also differs slightly from person to person, and exactly where that note is (along with tonal quality and the actual size and structure of your larynx amongst other things) is a major part of traditional vocal clasification for opera and classical choral singing, and generally is not used for pop music. The W in the whee sound relaxes both the lips and the tongue, particularly the back, which has to move the most to get from 'w' to 'ee'. It can also help to relax and lower the jaw, and can influence the soft palate as well... Then we do the the other vowels, doing it quicker (little Whee's) builds flexibility in that co-ordination. So thats it (in brief) You'd never have guessed that all these big 'Whee's' were so complex would you?
HummingWhen you hum, you'll start to feel the sensation of buzzing, or vibrating in the front of your face, the lips, the nasal cavities the teeth, this is what is more commonly referred to as resonance, and in singing we call this area of buzzing 'The Facial Mask' as the sensation feels as though it's right at the front of the face. The vibration starts in the vocal chords and then has to go somewhere to resonate (remember the whee's in chest and head voice?) think about an acoustic guitar for a second, you pluck the strings....they vibrate, but the sound resonates inside the wooden hollow. Whilst your vocal chords are not strings, it's a similar principle. Resonance is your own personal vocal amplifier and equaliser, and along with the correct breathing can give you vocal power and freedom, humming across the room can just give you a little insight into that sensation whilst awakening your resonating cavities and getting ready to sing. Besides all that, Humming is easy and familiar, which is why it's a great way to gently warm up the voice.
Lips Trills, Toungue trills, raspberry's and vvvv's..."Lip trills or lip bubbles (or tongue trills) are one of the best exercises for pro's and beginners, they are used universally because the benifits far outweigh the sillyness :D. They are from a group of exercises known as Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract Exercises. The reasons behind why they are so popular is quite difficult to explain without you first understanding a little bit how the voice works. Turn your attention to the diagram at top of the page – Breathing, Relaxation, Resonance and Larynx control. These four factors to me are the basic building blocks of vocalising. Almost every vocal exercise there is focuses on one of these four things, or multiples of them. One on one singing lessons are about getting these four aspects to work in harmony together, and then building upon them. The difference with the lip/tongue trills as opposed to the other exercises we do is that they tick a lot of boxes. Firstly, Psychologically – you're not singing, you're making crazy faces and feeling like it's all a bit silly.. Great! As mentioned before – this is a great little trick to stop you from thinking about 'singing' as something you can't do, there are lots of vocal exercises that try and trick your mind, to stop you from getting tense or worrying about hitting the right notes. Secondly – Air flow, to produce that consistent brrr or drrr sound you need just the right amount of air pressure.... and as we discussed in the 'breathing' part – that's pretty important. Thirdly – Relaxation, in particular this part involves the larynx, that's where your vocal chords are kept, near by are some pesky muscles that we don't need for singing – like the swallowing muscles, that get in the way when we try to sing higher or transition between vocal registers. The dumb sounding noise behind the brrrr or drrrr is a 'low larynx sound' that counter acts the natural reflex to strain. Thus allowing your voice to learn the right chord co-ordination required to transition between head and chest voice without flipping or breaking in-between. Fourthly – resonance, Whilst this isn't a real resonance exercise, it does set you up and get everything in order making resonance easier to achieve, tension in the throat and the muscles can interefere with your natural resonance, giving your voice a weak or muffled sound, so if we can get rid of that extra stuff it's all paving the way towards freer easier singing. Fifthly: Chord Massage – the way the air is produced makes a back pressure of air head back down towards the vocal chords, giving them a lovely massage, which gets the blood flowing to the area, which is great way to gently wake up your chords and prepare you for singing. Sixthly: It's safe and benificial for everyone, of any ability, because of all the reasons above this exercise is the best and easiest way to get your singin on the right track. You can do it at your own pace as a siren on a scale, in your own comfortable way – and finally unlike a lot of more traditional exercises, they are difficult to get wrong! Scales do have their place and are very important to vocal improvement - more on that later... If you struggle with the lip trill, you can substitute it with a tongue trill, or a raspberry or a 'vvvv' sound - they're not completely the same but they come from the same family of exercises and are all safe to do! Check out this guy, a great step by step approach to try :)
Do I have to learn the words?No, by the time we get around to performing, the majority of members find they know most of the words without having had to try! It's always nice to have a song book for security, and that's something we would never take away!
We are an adult only well-being choir.
Our aim is to
build confidence, provide opportunities to make friendships and reap the proven mental and physical rewards that singing together provides.
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