Category: Uncategorized

Vocal Practice for Female Range

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This week is the first video in my “practice with me” series. Playlist this one and use it as your next warm-up! I defy any singer to not feel warmed up after this one!

 

How to Improve Tone in the Lower Range

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Have you ever found that you lose your tone quality and control at the very bottom of your range? Instead of depth and clarity, you’re left with a woofy maybe swallowed sounding voice?

If that sounds like you then I’ve got a 3 pronged approach to tackle maintaining your vocal tone in your lower range in my latest Youtube video below.

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How To Sing Like Yebba

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Hey guys!

 

Here are some of my suggestions on why I think Yebba’s vocals are so good! I think modelling on a great voice like Yebba’s is fun, interesting and is a nice break from just running scales and tuning vowels.

The purpose of modelling on a great voice is NOT to sound like them but just to learn from their musicality and resonance strategies. You could even go as far as trying to perfect your best Yebba impression, this is great for increasing flexibility in your instrument but you should always let things settle back to a more natural way of singing for you!

As always, be aware of what feels and sounds good to you and have fun with your singing practice. And please love your own sound, as Oscar Wilde said – “everybody else’s sound is taken” … direct quote.

 

 

 

Vocal Defaults: What Makes You Sound Like You?

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The Singers You Listen To

Whether you’re aware of it or not, the singers you aspire to and have listened to a lot in the past or currently become part of how you sound. In the same way that we develop a local accent, you also mirror the signature attributes of your vocal idols, for better or for worse.

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How to Prepare for Your Singing Lesson

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So it’s that time of the week again for your singing lesson, or maybe it’s your first lesson?

Time spent in your singing lesson can fly by or maybe it drags on? This could be because you haven’t found the right teacher for you or else maybe there’s a way you can prepare to ensure it’s a fun a productive lesson.

Here are my 3 tips on how to prepare for your singing lesson!

 

  • Meditate

Bringing yourself into a more calm, present and focused state is ideal for learning and creating. I recommend anything from 1 minute of slow breathing to using a 10-minute guided meditation on apps such as Calm, Headspace or Waking Up. Preparing to be more mindful during your lesson will help silence your critical voice (“you can’t sing that high note”, “you’re not good enough”), calm any nerves, make you more aware of your body and voice during technique work and encourage you to be more creative helping you to enter more of a flow state. Fab!

Meditation Apps: Waking-Up: https://wakingup.com/

Headspace: https://www.headspace.com/

Calm: https://www.calm.com/

 

  • Warm-Up

I know, duh. But you would be amazed by how many singers do not arrive warm to lessons. As a teacher, I want to get straight to the good bit so be sure to give your voice a gentle stretch before the lesson and get the blood flowing to the vocal folds so you’re ready to rock n’ roll. I do not recommend that you tire your voice out by drilling scales. A warm-up should last about 5-10minutes, should include at least 1 semi-occluded vocal tract exercise (check out the Singing Straw), some glides/slides throughout the range and some partial vowel sounds; for example nee-yeah for pop/rock lessons.

 

  • Communicate Your Plan

Yes, you can take the wheel at your singing lesson by proposing a plan, in-fact, I strongly recommend that you do. You are the client and I want you to have the session you’ve been looking forward to all week. That’s why I enquire via email before our lesson what exactly you’d like to focus on and what has been going well and not so well in practice and I will ask again at the start of our session. The more both you and your teacher communicate and are in agreement on how the session should go the more epic and productive it will be!

 

 

 

 

 

Vocal Coaching – Talking ‘Bout an Evolution

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At a certain point in my vocal coaching career I started getting some answers. I wasn’t shooting in the dark anymore with analogies, metaphors and demos “sing like this please..”. These seemed to get results but the problem was I wasn’t quite sure why. I knew I had a good ear and I could spot when a singer was being more effortful than necessary but ask me to explain concisely why – I couldn’t.

So I started doing some poking around online. At the time, around 2012, YouTube seemed to only offer some good and bad surface-level information for singers (things are different now) but I couldn’t find what I was looking for as a coach. It wasn’t until I started working with people such as Kim Chandler, until I found The Naked Vocalist podcast, until we had the lovely Ian Davidson over to teach Line Hilton’s Be A Singing Teacher course at my school Voiceworks Studio every June, until I joined Vocology in Practice and travelled to San Francisco to attend my first voice conference that I realised there were answers and they could be found in the voice science and research community. I started to understand there was sooo much for me to understand.

Over the past 8 years (oh my god where did the years go?!) I’ve been trying to get my head around acoustic science, physiology, the pros and cons of the different teaching models, the psychology of learning and coaching… I could go on, but I’m noticing as I grow in confidence with my knowledge and ability to help a student I can say things in fewer words and words with fewer syllables too! I can resist saying the names of muscles and mentioning acoustic phenomenons and actually come right back to terms people are comfortable with like head voice or even avoid terms altogether.

And I’m right back to the metaphors and analogies again but this time they’re mine, they’re rooted in legitimate knowledge on how the voice works and are in response to how I think the student learns best.

Times are different now. There was no such thing as a contemporary music degree in my day, there weren’t high-quality coaches on YouTube to learn from like John Henny or Facebook groups where all the heavy hitters in the voice science community interact like Voice Geeks, or there were no FREE amazing articles and videos on websites such as www.voicescienceworks.org. Not to mention all the online and in-person training courses offered by Debbie Winters or Chris Johnson. Ye’r all spoilt!

For aspiring coaches my advice is, soak it all up, have fun learning, stay curious and humble and know there’s always so much more to know but jump in, start helping beginners and let the knowledge filter into your emerging style of teaching. Please be discerning! One person or one methodology does not have all the answers you need and be willing to change your standpoint when you learn something new that replaces a previously held belief. Don’t you know we’re talking ’bout an evolution!

Why You Should Work on Your Head Voice

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Are you someone who has decided that their head voice doesn’t exist and because of this you’re going to stick to singing songs that keep you in chest voice only and if you HAVE to sing something that does require of you to use your head voice well you’re just going to move the key down a few steps, sorted…?

What if I told you that strengthening your head voice isn’t a redundant pursuit, even for the “breathiest” of head voices? What if I told you that strengthening your head voice will improve the quality of your voice throughout your range?

The muscle that’s job it is to stretch the vocal folds, the cricothyroid, needs to be very active when we sing in our upper register, especially in head voice/mode 2/falsetto, i.e in the register/voice that feels less “connected”. Developing the neural activation and strength of this muscle will have major benefits to our overall vocal ability and vocal health.
In this video I’ve got some sounds and a warm-up exercise I encourage you to do for 5 minutes daily and I recommend you track your progress with a voice recorder on your phone. It’s very likely that you will notice results in a short period of time if you do these exercises with a keen awareness (listen to your body) and ofcourse, consistency of practice. Good luck!

Online lesson enquiries: gemma@gemmasugrue.com

 

Phrasing for Pop Singers

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I think besides having a great song and being able to deliver emotionally in performance it’s actually phrasing that distinguishes a great from a good singer. No not high notes or fast riffs, save them for your favourite T.V singing competitions.

A singer’s choices when phrasing, whether conscious or unconscious are what keep us listening. The singer may often anticipate the beat which might give the listener a sense of urgency or stay behind the beat implying a confident, nonchalance or maybe they teeter from ahead to behind to on the beat giving a conversational, fluidity to their vocal line.

Playing with accenting the rhythms and poly-rhythms in a song with the vocal line is another great way to engage with phrasing. Where you choose to be smooth and where and on what part you choose to be percussive give your vocal line musical dimension.

Explore and improve your phrasing today and check out my 4 parameters; ahead, behind, percussive and smooth.

The Stage is a Great Teacher

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Have you ever played a gig to an audience who don’t seem to be listening? The on stage sound isn’t great? You suspect that your accompanist didn’t read your email properly with the set list and they are busking beside you? Or, the set you picked doesn’t suit the occasion?

Firstly, it’s rare to get the conditions of a gig just right (unless you have Beyoncé level of control over the event), so you’ll need to work on how you react to the variables. Never wish the gig to be over, instead make it in to a learning experience.

1) Practice different approaches to getting that audience on side, look, if you don’t think they’re listening in the first place then you’ve nothing to lose.

2) When the on stage sound is poor, see if you can start training yourself to have a better sensory awareness of your voice rather than relying solely on aural perception.

3) You think your accompanist is busking and didn’t learn the set.. then really listen to him or her, if they’re under pressure don’t give them filthies , instead encourage them to rise to the occasion and you should respond musically to what they’re playing.

4) If the set is not working don’t daydream during the instrumentals (you should be listening to your accompanist’s solo anyway but I bet you singers are thinking about some fab high note coming up), instead think fast on how you could change the set up.

5) Don’t ever think the gig isn’t worth all that effort, it always is and you’re turning unfavourable circumstances into an opportunity to develop and evolve as a performer.

Lastly, always see it as a great privilege to be on stage, making music and having your voice heard. Focusing on gratitude in the moment is a great way to ward off any on stage nerves or anxiety.