Lips & Singing in Key
In our previous lesson, we talked a lot about how the tongue plays a major part in not only the pronunciation of the letters we make, but how its proper placement will help us to open up our mouth cavity to the fullest, thereby allowing the larynx to fully expand. Hopefully, you have been able to practice this in front of a mirror and been able to start 'feeling' how to form the different shapes that are required in order that certain tonal ranges can be reached. This all works hand-in-hand with the control of breath and accessing the different, higher ranges, that can be reached with the use of the resonating head voice.
In this lesson, we are first going to discuss the placement of the lips when singing different tones and pitches. It is obvious, but the lips are the final exit point for any words, letters, or sounds that you want to produce. The proper placement of the lips and their proper form is essential to producing a final, pure and fluid sound. Controlling the lips may seem like an easy task because we do it all the time. But, when it comes to singing, the lips have to be managed much more carefully and pronounced in their form with each and every syllable. Controlling the lips is one of the final 'parts' of the singing parts of your body that you have to learn how to control before moving on to more advanced topics, which we will hit in this lesson. But, be patient!
So, the same control that we give the breath, tongue, and throat must be applied to the lips - that's clear. Just as you have to be able to 'feel' the movement and position of the tongue, you must be able to control the position of the lips. This will result in the ability to control your lips without having to look at them. However, now that you are just starting to learn, it is best that you practice in front of a well-lit mirror, just as you do when you are practicing the placement of your tongue.
Since the lips are the final phase before sound is emitted from your singing cavity, it is important that they be well trained. While this sounds a little strange, it is something that should be taken seriously because not having proper control over the lips can actually hold back the best sounds you can make. One of the main reasons we have just now focused on the movement and control of the tongue and lips is that these skills should not be developed until the previous breathing, larynx, vocal chord, and palate skills are properly developed.
Using Your Skills to Sing in Key:
If you have ever been asked to sing before, whether with a group or by yourself, you may have been reluctant. You might have even used the old adage: "I'm tone deaf" or "Sorry, I cannot sing in key." Well, this is no longer a valid excuse! You are ready to move ahead and now, with the skills you've gained, are ready to begin tuning your ear to the sounds all around you. No longer can you say, "I'm just too tone-deaf."
These above excuses are used because you might feel that you cannot sing, that you were born without certain ability. In a western society and culture, singing isn't as commonplace as it might be in other parts of the world. Other cultures sing as they work and as they go about their daily lives as if it were a natural part of the flow of things. And, it is. It's a shame to think that singing is anything but natural. We'll talk more about confidence and singing later, but for now, it's important for you to know that you have to try different activities and practice the skills you want to attain on a regular basis. They won't come overnight, but with constant repetition.
Learning to sing in key is the next step on the stairway of not only learning about singing, or learning about how to sing, but also improving your voice and all that it can do. Learning to sing in key does not mean that you'll be famous, or that you'll even consider yourself an artist, but it is one of the most important principles that you will have to learn in order to sing well.
The first thing you need to do when learning to sing in key is to learn how to listen to your own voice. Recording your voice is one way to do this. However, without quality recording equipment, you may not be able to actually discern what your voice is doing or how you are doing it at any given time. Another useful way is to record yourself on video. You can also do this in the mirror to watch for proper breathing and placement of your tongue and lips. While this might seem extreme, why not try it? As an example, athletes record themselves all the time. Baseball pitchers record their throws, basketball players their shots, and golfers record their swing. So, why not, as someone who wants to learn more about the 'sport' of singing don't you record yourself?
However, you begin recording or listening to your own voice is fine. The next step you might want to take is to play some music that you like. Choose a song that seems to fall within your vocal range for now. Now, as you play the song, try to listen, at first, to the music. Can you seek out the different parts of the song? What instruments can you hear? What singing voices can you hear? Is there only one voice singing?
As you listen to the song, try to listen to the singer and how their tonal range varies. If you feel your voice can handle the song (or something that falls within your speaking range and not too high or too low), then you can continue. If you can use a song, played in acoustic, then you might have an easier time at first at discerning the singer's voice and instrument.
Following, try to record yourself singing along. Try not to have the music so loud that you cannot hear your own voice. If needed, start with the first thirty-seconds of the song and do it repeatedly. Match the singer's key with different notes, concentrating at first on the range. As you progress, be sure to monitor your breathing. Remain relaxed and breathe in using your diaphragm to its fullest potential. Remember that the song you choose shouldn't change drastically from one key to the next, but should be slow and rhythmic. The keys should not vary more than eight notes in either direction. Not only will all of this help you to stay in key, it will help you apply what you have already been practicing as you learn to greater control your singing muscles.
In the next lesson we will begin talking about vocal range, something a lot of people would like to master. They want fluid control over their voices, keys they can maintain, and notes they can hold. Keep practicing what we've been talking about and your singing will assuredly improve!