Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Plan for Learning to Sing With the Band

Being a good musician isn't enough if you want to have a steady source of gigs.  You have to sing.  You don't have to be the lead singer, but you must contribute vocally.  That raises considerably your value as a band member.

Here are some ways to go about it.

1.  Buy a book about singing and learn what it is all about:  the different kinds of voices, the myths and the facts about singing, common problems and solutions, posture, breathing and vocal exercises.  Any good book on singing will come with a CD of vocal exercises.  You can't learn to sing by reading about it, but reading about it will help you form an effective practice plan.  I recommend Singing For Dummies by Pamelia Phillips and Set Your Voice Free by Roger Love.

2.  Avail yourself of free online resources, like eHow's series on singing, to learn about singing.  Watch this while waiting for your books to arrive from Amazon.  (The series instructor has some great tips on things to do and to look out for.)

3. Choose the vocal exercises from the CD's that you want to practice on a daily basis.  I used iTunes to store copies of all of the exercises, then segregated out those that I intend to practice daily.  I made a CD of just these exercises for practicing while driving.  When not driving, I just play the iTunes playlist from my laptop and sing along with them at home.

4.  Keep a practice log, to keep track of what you have done and to plan for what you want to do.  I just use Word in my computer to do this.  Writing down accomplishments and goals keeps them in your subconscious which targets those goals like a heat-seeking missile.

5.  Practice singing to karaoke recordings.  To do this, you need karaoke files, and you can buy them from many different sites on the net (see sidebar for some links).  These files are usually mp3 or mp4 files, and readily play in Windows.  The best karaoke files are those that scroll the lyrics while the music plays, highlighting the lyrics to sing at any given moment (these are mp4 files).  Other karaoke files (mp3 files) merely provide the backing instrumentals and backing vocals, and the lyrics are all up to you.

You can get a lot of free karaoke files off of YouTube.  Search for "karaoke" and a lot of them will queue up. You can download these as MP4 files using keepvid.com.  (Copy and paste the YouTube URL into keepvid and it will download the videos onto your own computer.)

6.  Record yourself singing along to the karoake files, for playback and analysis.  While singing along to the karaoke files, you can simultaneously record your voice using free recording software from the net.  The best of these is probably Audacity.  Once you've recorded your singing with Audacity, you can export it to an mp3 file.  An mp3 file (if you don't know) is a music file that plays once you click on it.  You can save it to disk or even email it to other band members for comments, criticism and suggestions.

You can even embed mp3 files into a website, as I have done previously in this blog, using a third party website that hosts these files.

Although it is shocking the first time you hear yourself singing, don't be discouraged.  Everyone feels that way.  They hear their own voice and say "Ugh!"  However, keep at it and the recordings will improve over time.  These recordings help you to know when you're ready to sing before an audience.

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