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LEARN HOW TO SING

INTRODUCTION

Do you want to sing for personal pleasure? Do you want to sing in a band? Or sing in church? In a choir? Sing along with a musical instrument? Would you like to be sexier? Perhaps you want to be a star!"

You may not know this yet, but not knowing how to breathe properly when singing can actually be dangerous to your health!

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How Breathing The Wrong Way

Can Ruin Your Voice!

Everything about singing is based on breath. The absolute first thing that you need to understand about singing is that if you are not breathing

properly, you are not singing properly, and that can lead to some pretty serious problems. Serious enough that you could potentially ruin your singing voice permanently.

Correct breathing technique is a widely debated topic among music teachers everywhere. There are so many different techniques that people are taught, it's difficult to tell which ones are good for your voice, and which ones are harmful.

Here is how you can tell which techniques are good and which ones are bad; The bad breath control tips and techniques will make your throat hurt and feel tight while singing.

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If you are singing with incorrect breathing technique, you will feel a tensed up feeling in your throat. This means that you are putting un-necessary strain on your vocal cords.

Vocal tension, and forcing your voice is the single most harmful thing you can do for yourself. It causes tons of problems such as:

1. Scratchy breaks in your voice, 2. Inability to reach high notes,

3. A weak and powerless vocal sound,

4. Pitch problems, like going sharp and flat, 5. And shortness of breath while singing.

These problems are fairly minor, and can be corrected with learning the right breath control tips and techniques. Most vocal tension is caused because of a core problem of not taking a correct breath. Although many problems can be corrected with proper breathing, there is one major problem that can't. Vocal tension, and forcing the voice can eventually lead to vocal nodes forming inside your throat.

Basically, nodes are little callus like bumps that form on the vocal cords on the inside of the throat. They cause your voice to be raspy and toneless, and often the only cure is a combination of surgery and vocal therapy. The vocal therapy can involve being ordered not to speak or use your voice for an extended period of time, sometimes months.

If you are trying to be a singer of any sort, this is like a death sentence. Even after vocal therapy, many people can't ever sing to the level they once could... their ranges are dramatically shortened, their voices break and they have a constant raspy-ness that never goes away.

Here's the good news... vocal nodes can be prevented! All you have to do is take care of the beautiful voice you have by singing with proper technique, and that begins with learning the correct breath control tips and techniques. Let me explain to you how proper breathing actually works in

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It's important to understand what happens to your body when you take a breath, and being aware of the process is something that will help you to carry it out more effectively.

Breath starts when we begin to inhale. At the same time as we are inhaling, four other things are going on at exactly the same time.

1. Our diaphragms expand in the front, back and sides so our lungs can properly hold incoming air.

2. Our pelvic muscles naturally lift up to support the expanding diaphragm,

3. Our backs extend downwards,

4. And our hips gently roll forward and pull our gluteus (bum) muscles together.

All the while our lungs are filling with air.

According to certain methods of teaching proper breathing, being aware of this process is necessary, because it will help you to take what is called a "controlled" breath. Many teachers of this method would say that being able to take a controlled breath is the single most important ability a singer can have.

Vocal coaches everywhere will tell you that if a breath is controlled the singer will have the right basis to be able to:

Sing with razor sharp pitch,

Produce a powerful, room-filling sound,

And explode their vocal ranges to new heights and lows! But it's a little more complicated then just taking a controlled breath. There is a specific process to follow in order to take that breath the right way, and it takes a bit of practice.

The next part of breathing properly is learning to support your controlled breath. The two go hand in hand! To support your breath means hold your body firmly in the position it was in when you first took your controlled breath.

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To "give it more support" (a term widely used by singing teachers) means to tighten up that position, all the while keeping your throat relaxed.

If you're not careful, that in itself can cause tension in the throat, just by trying to do all of those things at once! You literally have to keep one part of your body strong and firmed up, while keeping the rest of it loose, relaxed and comfortable.

I have to mention here that one thing you want to make sure you don't do is take a high, chesty breath. You know when you hear a song on the radio, and you can hear the singer take a big, exaggerated breath?

You don't want to do that. Obviously your breathing is going to make some noise, but it shouldn't be very loud. And you want to make sure your

shoulders don't rise up and down. Your ribs should expand outward, but your shoulders should never go up and down.

Learning the correct breath control tips and techniques when singing is actually not difficult. You just have to learn the correct process. To summarize, here it is:

You have to be taught how to take a controlled breath, How to support that breath,

And how to keep your throat open and relaxed while doing it.

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Growing Your Vocal Range

You've probably heard lots of different opinions on expanding vocal range. Some say that it can't be done, that your range is what it is and you can't do much about it. Others say that you can improve it by drastic amounts in a short period of time, depending on what techniques you use.

First of all, everyone has a vocal classification. It refers to the type of voice you have. It's really important to understand what type of voice you have so you can determine what would be a realistic range for you to obtain.

For men in order from lowest to highest, you can be one of three main types.

1. Bass, 2. Baritone, 3. Or a tenor.

According to classical methods of teaching singing, most vocal ranges are about 2-3 octaves (8 total whole tones) in length. For women, there are also three.

1. Alto,

2. Mezzo soprano, 3. Or soprano.

These types of voices are called "vocal classifications." They basically stand for what range your voice sounds best in. For example, an alto female voice sounds best singing alto notes. It doesn't necessarily mean she can't sing soprano notes, just that she sounds best singing alto (lower) notes. Her voice may be more powerful and rich lower down in the scale.

The same would apply to a male tenor. His voice would sound best singing higher notes, and his low notes may be weak.

According to many classical vocal teachers, the voice is supposed to be made up of one continuous range... even and smooth from top to bottom.

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Other teacher will say that the voice can be divided up into three or more "vocal registers", being:

Chest voice,

Middle, or mixed voice, And head voice.

Chest voice is the lowest register, and it's the one that people would use to speak in. Head voice is what you would use to sing high notes, as high as you can before your voice starts to crack. (At that point, you would either quit or work to smooth your voice into the next register, which is whistle voice.)

People that adopt the use of vocal registers into their training improve their ranges by working to move between these registers smoothly, without breaking.

Breaking is when you are moving up or down in your range, and your voice gets to a point where it can't produce a higher (or lower) sound anymore using the same technique.

It has to switch suddenly to a different technique to allow for the higher (or lower) notes to be produced, and the result is a sharp, sudden change in your vocal cord coordination, causing a scratchy and terrible sounding break.

The idea is this: You are able to sing really high and low notes already. A large range isn't developed, but discovered. Have you ever been kidding around and imitated an opera singer singing a really high note? If you can do it kidding around, you can certainly sing it.

Basically if you can speak it, or even utter it, you can sing it.

The idea behind improving your range using this method of training is just to smooth out the breaks in your voice to get you from the bottom to the top in one even motion. This is done usually by practicing scales with some very different sounds.

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Scales are usually sung with different vowel and consonant combinations, like:

me me me me me, la la la la la,

nay nay nay nay nay, And no no no no no.

Using this method, you are taught to smooth our breaks in your voice by singing scales with lip rolls and tongue trills. That's basically it.

Other methods of vocal training would tell you different. Some teachers claim that dividing the voice into sections (registers) is psychologically damaging! They teach different ways to improve the vocal range, like:

Vowel bending, which is basically changing the formation of the mouth to sing higher notes,

Proper breath support while keeping an open throat, which is told to carry you right through to high notes,

And technique imitation. Basically you just teach your voice through practicing to sing higher notes, one at a time with the same technique you used to sing lower ones. (This can be a very slow process)

There are of course, many other tips and techniques that go along with these methods. Using them the wrong way can make them completely ineffective!

There is nothing worse then doing something over and over again and not getting the result you wanted because you were doing it the wrong way.

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Perfect Pitch

Most of the time when singers are thinking about pitch, they're thinking about how to improve it!

Going off pitch when singing is also called going "off key", and it means that you sing a slightly different note then you intended to. Usually, you end up hitting a note that's a little bit higher or lower then what you were aiming for.

This is called going sharp (a little to high) or flat, which is a little to low. Everyone goes off key sometimes, but some people have a hard time

controlling their pitch. Of course, you can learn lots of tips to singing in key. Let me explain how pitch works, and where it comes from.

Pitch begins with tone. Tone is the sound that results in air passing through vibrating vocal cords. Try this: Start reciting the alphabet, and place your fingers over the bumpy part in your throat. (Adam's apple)

Can you feel the little vibrations happening there? Now switch to a whisper... the vibrations are gone. Those vibrations in your throat are what makes tone come out!

It's the frequency of those vibrations that determine the pitch of the tone.

The higher up you go, the faster your cords vibrate. This can be much

harder to control then it sounds! There are two ways you can go off key: 1. You can go sharp, which means that you've hit a note slightly

above the one you were aiming for,

2. Or you can go flat, which is to go just below.

There are several reasons believed to be the cause of these problems.  Lack of breath support, according to the classical method, Lazy ears, or not listening to your pitches enough,

And unnecessary tension on the vocal cords. (straining to hit high notes)

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According to the classical method of vocal training, pitch problems are a direct result of taking a breath that is not controlled or supported properly. In order for you to be able to fix this problem, you must learn how to breath correctly and practice that skill constantly.

There is also the problem of having lazy ears. This is usually quite common in the beginning, when a singer is just starting out. It basically means that when you're singing, you aren't making an effort to really listen to the notes coming out.

The idea is behind this is that when you are really listening and paying attention to what notes you're singing you will become more aware of when you go off key slightly and be able to fix it.

It's called audiating. With this pitch-correcting technique, you have to try and 'hear' the notes you about to sing in your head an instant before you actually sing them. It helps to develop the relationship between hearing and singing. Anyone can do it, except for tone-deaf people.

(People who are tone-deaf can hear the sounds and pitches just fine, but they have an inability to hear and control what pitches are coming out of their mouth.)

Poor pitch is also caused by tension on your vocal cords when singing. This usually happens when you're trying to sing high note and you "pull" on your cords in an attempt to sing the note. The result more often then not is the note comes out sharp.

The cure for this problem is to learn to sing without vocal tension. There are scales and exercises you can practice to train your voice to stop singing with tension, but along with the scales you have to constantly make an effort to stop tensing your mouth and throat when you sing.

1. The sofeggi, which helps you to learn to associate sounds with words, so you can memorize them.

2. The tuner method, which uses a tuner to help you identify when you are off key,

3. And audiating, which was discussed earlier in this article.

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The Two Methods

These days, it seems everyone has their own way of teaching people how to sing. Everywhere you look there are different teachers telling you they've found the quickest way to add notes to your range, or give you perfect pitch, or hold the ultimate secret to "mixed" voice!

Well, let me tell you this. While there are tons of different techniques that you can learn for different areas of your voice, most of them can be grouped into two main methods of vocal instruction.

The first method is "classical", and is taught by classical vocal teachers, usually in the form of private lessons, or in established schools of music. There are many variations of this method, which basically use slightly different breathing techniques.

The technique is based on breath control and support. It's based on the fact that if you don't take a proper breath and support it properly, you'll

experience a whole herd of vocal problems like going off key, running out of breath, limiting your range, etc.

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Here is the basic process of the classical method, in a nutshell: 1. You would take a breath using a controlled stream of air, to create an even sound.

2. The breath then passes through your windpipe where the tone is created, and is sent into your resonating cavities located in your head and face. 3. The resonating cavities will then amplify the tone before sending it out of your mouth.

The classical method believes that if the breath is not taken and controlled properly with the diaphragm and surrounding muscles, the tone will come out poorly.

If you do take your breath properly along with proper support and tone

placement, you will have a beautiful and even sounding voice, with a smooth passage into the high notes. It also teaches the importance of keeping an open throat while singing.

An open throat means that your breath and tone can flow freely into your resonating chambers without interruption, making singing more comfortable. You can keep an open throat when singing by learning to lower your

larynx, or voice box, like you are about to yawn. You simply sing with a slight feeling of a yawn in the back of your throat.

Another important factor to think about when using this method is the

importance of developing a consistent technique. This is done by learning to control your body mechanism, and can only be achieved with practice. Once you find what works for you, you can carry it to different styles of music, and pretty much sing anything.

The second main method of vocal instruction to learn from is what some people call the "vocal register method".

This method is based upon the use of vocal registers. Vocal registers refer to the different co-ordinations your vocal cords take on when singing in

different groups of pitches. In other words, a vocal register is defined as a group of notes close together using the same vocal cord structure.

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Registers are divided by bridges, or in the words of the classical method, the passagio. Each bridge your voice goes through as you get higher up in your range has a different vocal cord structure.

It starts in the lowest register, where your vocal cords are touching about 1/3 of the way. The remaining length is free to vibrate. As you sing higher up into the next bridge, they come together another 3rd, and then another 3rd for the next register.

Many singers experience a "break" while moving through their bridges. Maybe you've experienced this yourself. This method teaches the student to smooth out the bridges, without that sudden break into the next “voice”, or register, and by doing this, you can develop a larger range, excellent pitch control and flexibility in your voice.

This is done by practicing very specific types of scales, using some very different sounds then traditional scales are sung with. People usually notice their voice beginning to improve after a few sessions, and can achieve very good results after a few weeks of regular practice.

One really important thing to remember when using using techniques from either method is to make sure you don't have any tension in your throat. Tension is the number one voice-killer according to both methods, and you won't get very far with either of them if you sing with a tightened throat.

Here is a run-down of the basic concepts of this method: 1. Learning about the vocal registers, and being aware of the different structures the vocal cords take while singing in them.

2. Learning how to smoothly bring the vocal cords together, to get to the next register without breaking.

3. Understand how the sound resonates in each register.

4. Maintaining your voice, by regularly practicing a "vocal workout" involving scales and exercises using very non-traditional sounds, designed especially to drop all tension, smooth out bridges and give you control over your voice.

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"How To Overcome Your Stage Fright"

-And Never Blow Another Performance Again!

Most performers have experienced stage fright at one time or another. Most of the time people can't help but be a little nervous, and that's fine! The trick is to control it.

Let me paint the picture: You're about to perform. Maybe your band is playing a gig, you're auditioning for a contest, you have a solo in your church choir today that you're not completely comfortable with. You get on stage to do your part, and your rapidly beating heart is making it difficult to breathe. That fact alone is making you MORE anxious, and rather then

concentrate on that high note you need to hit in two seconds you're trying to calm yourself down and slow your heartbeat to a normal level. Adrenalin rushes your body, and your voice cracks, or you 'sort of hit it', but flat, or sharp, because your throat was probably so tight that you over-shot it. Sound familiar?

Don't worry! There ARE things you can do to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Having too much stress before you go out on stage will compromise your performance. A little bit of nervous energy is good, and can fuel your performance but too much will hurt it. Not to mention damage your confidence for future performances.

A lesson on confidence

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Confidence is the answer to overcoming stage fright and having good stage presence. It's having confidence that will allow you the freedom to dance around and enjoy your experience on the stage, and because of that your stage presence will come out naturally!

Over-active nerves and the fear that your audience won’t like you causes stage fright. The fear that after you are done, no one will clap for you. That fear can be overwhelming it causes you to choke. Here are some basic concepts everyone needs to understand before going on stage:

1. You are your own worst critic. Read that again.

2. Any mistakes you make are amplified in your own ears, and sound worse to you then anyone else.

3. You can recover from any mistakes you make by simply moving on right away and not dwelling on them.

You just have to develop the ability to make yourself relax, and understand that it isn’t a big deal if even if you do have a less-then-perfect performance. Developing confidence on stage is also going to come from facing your fear and just doing it. Just getting up on stage and performing.

It'll be uncomfortable for you the first time, but after you do it a few times, you'll naturally become far more at ease with it. You will notice your heart rate won’t be as high before going onstage, and because of that you'll be able to breathe easier, and singing will be a thousand times easier.

It just takes practice and repetition.

Another thing that helps is if you're old enough, hit a karaoke lounge to get some practice. Even though it isn’t quite the same as singing with a band, you'll still get the feel for being on stage in front of an audience and the words will be displayed on the screen, so you won’t have the added pressure of trying to remember the verses.

This is also a good thing to do when practicing a song for the first time in front of an audience. As long as the karaoke provider has the song, you'll be able to practice it live.

If you aren’t already confident on stage, here are some tips to help get you there.

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I've made this mistake myself. I'm a karaoke host and at one of my shows, I started singing a song to open the night that I wasn’t too familiar with and hadn't practiced before, but thought I could pull it off anyway. OUCH! I was so wrong! I ended up stopping the song halfway through and apologizing. I then proceeded to sing a song I did know, and everything was fine after that. It was still pretty embarrassing

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Simple to prevent that, just make sure you know what you're singing!

Proper preparation is key for giving a good performance. If you know the song you're about to sing really well it's much easier. Here are some tips for preparing properly. Use them and you won't have anything to be nervous about!

• Make sure you warm up properly before you sing. Take a few minutes to do humming warm ups, and you'll have more confidence going onstage that you won’t crack or break because you warmed up properly.

• Take a minute to do some relaxation and breathing techniques like shoulder and head rolls. These help a huge amount in preparing you for a performance. Your voice is greatly affected by the amount of stress you bring to the stage, so the more relaxed you are, the better you will be. Here are a couple of them:

• One of my old teachers taught me this one: Sit down in a chair and put your back evenly and straight against it. Take a breath and as you do, pull your pelvis up and open your back so that is spreads against the back of the chair. At the same time, you should sink into the chair and squeeze the gluteal muscles together to support the diaphragm. Then, slowly blow air out of your lips like a quiet whistle, feeling your pelvis rise, back expand and glutes tighten. This is great for

developing breath control for beginners, and illustrates the term “sitting on your breath.”

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• Take a breath and hold it for a count of ten. Blow it out slowly, for a count of ten. This helps you control the amount of breath you let out over a specified amount of time.

• Don't drink alcohol in an attempt to relax yourself for your

performance. This does not help; it dehydrates you and makes you sluggish. I assure you that you will not be focused properly if you have had a few drinks before you sing. Sure you may feel more relaxed, but you will be sacrificing other important things that you need to focus on.

• This is to be done while onstage, if you can, try and start your night with a duet. Your ability to do this will depend on what type of

performance you are doing. If you are in a competition for example, this probably won't be an option. However, if it’s just a karaoke night or a band performance, you can probably begin this way. Having the added voice on stage with you will help to ease the nerves because you won’t be going at it alone, and not all of the audience attention will be on you.

• And one last thing to mention that's extremely important is to not take yourself too seriously. Do not be afraid to laugh at yourself if you screw up. It’s not the end of the world, and by having this ability to take it lightly; you'll be a better performer because of it. We all mess up onstage. We all go flat and sharp. We all forget the words. It’s not the end of the world, or your career as a singer. Lighten up!

Having good stage presence stems from being confident on stage. It starts with getting rid of your stage fright, and getting yourself comfortable to the point where you enjoy performing. After you've mastered that, you can move on to completing your performance by adding some stage presence. Having good stage presence means that a singer incorporates some form of movement coupled with singing that suits the song and is appropriate for the audience.

I was once on a panel of judges for a singing competition, and one of the things the performers were being judged on was their stage presence. Or lack there of. The people that scored the highest overall were the people that danced a little while they sang and made motions and gestures to go along with the lyrics they were singing, instead of standing still like a stick with a microphone.

For example, there was this one guy who was singing a phrase that included the words: “I would get down on my knees for you”, and while he sang that,

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he got down on his knees right in front of us, and placed his free hand over his chest while singing. It was great! He showed feeling and emotion in his singing through the use of body language.

That is an example of great stage presence. You don’t want to over do it by dancing around too much and compromising your voice, but you definitely want to do a little acting. The idea is to get your audience to feel what the song intends the audience to feel. You do this by getting the feeling of the music yourself, and portraying it with your own body language and voice to them.

For example, if you are singing a sad, sappy love song, you're probably not going to be jumping around and giving your best air-guitar performance. That, would be an example of bad stage presence.

Just keep in mind what the song is trying to make the listener feel, and act it out

Some tips?

• Practice some signature dance moves that you can easily do on stage. Nothing too crazy, again, you don't want to compromise your voice.

• Have fun when you're singing! The best people to watch are the ones that are noticeably having fun. (Even if they don't sound so great, they're still the best ones to watch!)

• Practice your songs before you sing them on stage, and look for places to add some physical personality to them!

Make sure that you're not inappropriate. If there are young children around for example, don’t sing something inappropriate that might bother them. Be considerate of the audience that you are performing for, and tailor your stage presence and overall performance to that.

Inappropriate stage presence can be offensive to audiences, and is

distracting from the vocal performance itself. It can leave people with a bad taste in their mouths over you.

Just to illustrate further, you wouldn’t perform a heavy metal song with a lot of head banging for a group of senior citizens, would you? And you wouldn’t

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perform a sad, depressing love song and act like you're heartbroken and lonely at a family wedding, would you?

I'm sure you get the point. Keep in mind exactly who it is that you're

performing for. Make sure you're well prepared, and by doing that you'll see that the confidence will be there, and you'll enjoy yourself as a result!

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“How To Sing Vibrato Like Susan

Boyle!”

By now everyone has heard of Susan Boyle! She’s the lady who went on Britan’s Got Talent and wowed Simon Cowell with her amazing performance of “I Dreamed a Dream”.

A lot of people have been asking lately how they can sing with vibrato like Susan Boyle… and let me tell you it’s actually really easy! Vibrato is simply bouncing your voice between two pitches. (Each bounce is called an

oscillation)

The easiest way to do it is to just imitate the sound of someone else singing vibrato. Take an opera singer, for example, or Susan Boyle! Imitate the sound of them using vibrato, bouncing their voices in between two pitches. A general guideline for vibrato is to bounce your voice between the two notes about five times per second. Sometimes it’s slower depending on the song, so use that only as a guideline.

If you find that you’re still having trouble with it, here’s an easy 5 step process to have you singing vibrato just like Susan Boyle in no time!

The technique is called the Police car example! You know the sound a police car siren makes? It makes a sound like “weeeooo weeeooo weeeooo” and it alternates between two pitches very quickly.

Here’s an example: (Don’t worry, the file is safe. I had to click the link too to make sure it was the right sound)

http://www.prankcallsunlimited.com/freesound2/siren08.wav

1) Now what you want to do with this, is imitate the sound of the siren as closely as you can. Pick any note you like and begin imitating the sound of the siren, singing the “weeooo weeooo weeooo” very quickly, alternating between two pitches.

2) Once you have that down and you’re singing it just like the siren, stop singing the “w” consonant, and just sing “eeeooo eeeooo eeeooo” in the exact same way; with the only difference being that now you’re singing it without the “w” consonant.

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3) Keep singing this for a short while to get used to it… maybe just a few minutes. Try stopping, and starting up again singing the “eeooo eeooo

eeooo” sound for a few minutes to make sure your voice can just jump right

in to that sound.

4) After you’re used to singing that “eeeooo eeeooo eeeooo” sound on it’s own without the “w” consonant, keep bouncing your voice between the twp pitches, and gradually start singing it so that you’re only singing one of the vowel sounds, not both. You want to make sure you’re still bouncing your voice between two pitches, but only using one vowel sound, either the “eee” or the “ooo”, but not both.

5) The last step is to simply speed it up! Now that you’ve learned to bounce your voice between two pitches while singing the same vowel sound, all you have to do is speed up the frequency of the bounces, so that you bounce (or oscillate) about five times per second. Just like before, practice stopping and starting right back into it, bouncing between two notes five times a second singing one vowel sound. And that’s vibrato!

If you’re still having trouble with it, go back to step one and keep trying. It may take a few sessions to really get the hang of it, but don’t give up! Vibrato is not a complicated thing that can’t be learned –it’s very easy and anyone can learn to do it- being able to stop and start it whenever they want, like flicking a light switch.

Good luck!

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