It’s Complicated

Did you ever stop to think how complicated singing is? Is it any wonder that it takes so long to do it and do it well?

Here is a partial list of what one has to know in order to be a singer of the highest calibre:

How to sing on pitch.
How to shape a good vowel on a wide range of pitches.
How to shape a good vowel in a wide range of volumes (intensities, decibel levels)
How to shape a good vowel on a wide range of pitches at various volumes at the same time
How to shape various vowels and put consonants before and after them without interrupting them
How to keep consonants clear, crisp and quick
How to move the jaw and lips very deliberately while sustaining sounds on a specific pitch or several pitches
without interfering with the vowel or volume
How to keep moving the above parts simultaneously without having them collide
How to take deep breaths easily and repetitively
How to manage the exhalation while making sound
How to extend the length of the exhalation without losing volume, even though the air pressure level in the lungs goes down as you use air
How to change pitches fluidly or abruptly
How to change pitches by gliding
How to sing a run of pitches accurately and smoothly but with separation enough to hear them as individual notes
How to sustain a high note comfortably
How to sustain a high note comfortably at a soft volume
How to crescendo a high note from a soft volume without distortion of any kind
How to keep the sound steady
How to use the ribs during inhalation
How to use the abdominal muscles during exhalation
How to coordinate the ribs and the abs while singing
How to push or contract the abdominal muscles while not tensing anything else
How to keep the ribs expanded and lifted at all times
How to increase range both higher and lower
How to increase dynamic changes, both louder and softer
How to sing different kinds of vowels in different places of range than that used in speech
How to change or modify a vowel for the sake of tonal beauty or functional freedom
How to read music accurately or learn it accurately by ear
When reading music, understand keys, time signatures, chords, pitches, intervals, rhythms, and tempi as well as Italian terms for music and metronome markings
How to remember a piece of music, both as words and as melody
How to clearly communicate a particular message in the song
How to phrase in a way that is both uniquely personal and universally understandable
How to use pitches, vowels and consonants as expressive tools, bending them to your will as necessary
How to adapt vocal production as a whole to the needs of various styles and periods of music
How to determine if the key of the song and its range are suitable for your voice
How to relate to vibrato (leave it alone, use it deliberately, get rid of it)
How to do all of the above freely, beautifully and with absolute command

In CCM styles
How to use a microphone, a monitor, and a sound person
How to use breathiness, vibrato, straight tone, vowel distortion and other gestures as needed
How to move while singing

In other styles
Understand what the parameters of each style are in terms of traditional expectations and how to go outside those expectations successfully, such as —

In health
What does a vocal problem sound like
What produces a vocal problem
What should you do to stay vocally healthy
What should you do to keep your voice in top shape
What should you do when you have to sing and your voice isn’t great
What should you do when you are physically tired and you have to sing
What should you do when you have to sing music that isn’t right for your voice
What should you do when you have broken, lousy or inappropriate equipment
When should you visit a throat specialist

I’m sure there are more things, but these are what I came up within about 15 minutes. If you would like to add to the list, just send me a comment with your suggestions.

It takes about 10 years to be a master singer. Ten years of study, investigation, involvement, experience, experiment, exploration, and development, and in some way, that’s when you start really being an artist.

It’s amazing, isn’t it, that anyone gets there at all. And yet, many do. Are you one?

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