The seven habits of advanced and exceptional singers
No exceptional singer muddled through. (Their muddling through is at such a high standard, we tend to call it improvisation!) They know how to improvise in the moment because they practise, they understand theory, they understand harmony. They can move, flex them and feel their voices.
If you know the habits of highly successful singers, and you start to do some of those habits, you will also be able to pull yourself forward.
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Or alternatively, here’s the scannable version:
1. They’re consistent
They do it consistently. They do it daily. They set up a practise space that feels great, and where they feel at home.
They can shut the world out and enter into the world of music in a way that they couldn’t if they were just trying to practise in the car.
To become an advanced or exceptional singer you have to learn to be in a room, on your own and work with your sound and with yourself. You need to enable yourself to learn the oral skills, the training, and the coordination to be able to handle this thing that you are wanting to do.
2. They train with a teacher
They find the right type of teacher for them – someone that understands what they need in that moment. I went to different teachers when I was at different stages of my development. When I wanted to develop a certain level of contemporary singing, I went in that direction. When I wanted to advance my classical training, I went in that direction.
You have to find the teacher that is right for your stage of development. It’s no good you going to a really advanced teacher when you are right at the beginning. You’ll find yourself struggling to pay huge fees for advanced knowledge that you’re unable to actually put into practise. You’ll become frustrated because you feel that you’re paying a lot of money and you’re not getting the best out you.
If you’re nearer the start of the journey, find a newer teacher, or somebody that comes recommended. Then, as you move through your skills, and need a different teacher to move you on, make the move. There are good teachers out there for every single level of student and that’s what you have to look for.
3. They know which area of their voice to work on
And they have the right exercises for the job. They will have picked this knowledge up from working with a mentor or a teacher, and they have also learned to hear when their voice is off. They will know which exercises to pick in order to move their voice into contemporary sound or into classical. They know when they’re a little bit bottom heavy or where they’re a little bit tight at the top. They understand their voice – and you can too.
It’ll take a while and there will be moments of confusion, but that’s the point when you should ask questions. Because the only way that you are going to become an advanced or an exceptional singer is by understanding your voice. You need to be able to choose the right areas to develop and identify the right exercises to get you there.
4. They don’t get caught up in negative drama
They just want to be the best they can be.
Have you ever heard the saying ‘you don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great’? It might be corny, but it’s true. What it’s really talking about is the commitment to not get into our past conditioning: thinking that you’re not very good, and letting yourself get completely caught up in the drama of it.
I remember a time when, if I sang well, I would feel great about myself, but if I didn’t sing well, I would suddenly feel in the depths of despair. When I felt bad about myself I didn’t want to sing, so I wouldn’t practise, and when I felt good about myself I wanted to sing all day, risking damage to my voice.
Being on an emotional roller coaster won’t get you very far. Instead, you need to get on with it, regardless! Do the exercises. Ask yourself: What am I noticing? What am I feeling? Tell yourself: Okay, I can feel it a little bit better than I did yesterday. Great, lovely, job done.
You have to show up in order to be your best self.
If you’re going to be exceptional, you need to take the things that are causing you the most drama, and get them to a point where you take that emotional fire out of them. When you make your practise matter-of-fact rather than emotional, and you strive for your personal best, you will get there .
5. They know that tone is key
They work on their posture, the flexibility of their notes, and their range across the board. When they’re warming up they’re looking at their posture. They’re looking at their positioning. They’re looking at where the tension is. They know that they’ve got to get things flexible and moveable. They’re listening and feeling for when the tone becomes sweet, and it becomes round, and it becomes scented and whole.
Average singers pay no attention to tone. They think that they have to push hard, reach high, and stress themselves out to nail that note.
Exceptional singers know that is not how the anatomy or the notes work. They are starting to understand that tension kills tone. And that tone is always the things that people are buying into when they say they love your voice.
6. They use various approaches – and pay attention
They use mirror work. They slow things down. They speed things up. They reposition things, repeat things, make changes.
In other words, they’re not just going through the motions of doing the same thing day after day, and they’re not allowing themselves to be distracted by their thoughts. They’re present, and they’re paying attention.
They know that when they’re doing those exercises, if something isn’t working, they might need to change the speed. They’ll repeat things differently every single time. They’re always reacting in the moment and responding to what their voice are body are doing.
An exceptional singer is present in their practise, because they know that each performance hinges on them being able to pay attention to their voice, so that they can be present with their audience.
7. They break it down
They work on the songs in the same way that they work on an exercise, with mini challenges and goals. They look at certain phrases and sections.
They don’t simply put on YouTube and sing along with the artist.
They work on bits of the song. They work with a pianist, they work with live musicians. If they’re working with backing tracks, they listen to the backing track, they don’t just use it as an extension to try and follow them. They are thinking about the music, the phrasing, the story, the words. They are breaking that tone down in order to tell those stories.
It takes time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to practise for hours on end, at least at the beginning. It’s the quality of the time that you’re doing that makes the difference, not the quantity. Compare an hour of you singing through YouTube, paying no real attention, and 20 minutes of you really slowing things down, listening, feeling, tweaking, going through exercises, taking small sections of songs. Singing in the mirror, recording yourself, listening back, getting feedback.
When you do this type of quality practise, you will start to see very quickly that
- Your voice starts to increase, along with your love for the process
- Your singing habits start to improve
- You start to move through to exceptional and advanced
Take some of the ideas from here and have a go at changing some of your singing habits this week. Pop over to my Facebook group and let me know how it goes!