While much is made of breathing when learning to sing, it has been my experience that singers progress faster when the technique of "legato singing" is practiced first. It's important to remember that singing and speaking use the same muscles. The difference is that "speaking" involves short bursts of tone (and air!) while singing results from the tone being held longer for each note. In other words, the tone "keeps on going without a break" or you could say that the tone is "sustained". This is what we mean by legato singing. It's a method of study that has been practiced for hundreds of years. (If you are interested, it's called "bel canto")
As we begin, it's important to mention that each time you practice, it's a good idea to "warm-up" at the beginning of your singing session. Just as athletes need to warm up if they are going to use their bodies to their full potential, so singers must warm up in order to allow the vocal chords to function at their maximum level. The warm-ups given below can be used every time you practice singing.
By the way, I've just mentioned two important terms that we'll discuss rather soon: breathing and vocal chords. But for now, I want you to concentrate on a sustained tone.
Also, if you have access to a keyboard, your vocal progress will be much faster. By having a keyboard, you can give yourself a pitch (this will be important for today's lesson) on which to start your warm-ups. A very simple and inexpensive keyboard will work just fine.
Today, we begin by singing the vowel, "hee" (just like the word he or she) several times. Remember as you sing make sure that you practice doing the following:
Now here are the beginning warm-ups I'd like you to do as often as possible:
Next return to lesson #3 and repeat singing Holy, Holy, Holy as detailed for you. As I mentioned in lesson 3, try to sing all of the stanzas of this hymn in a very slow and sustained manner. Repeat the hymn many times, being "picky" about connecting the tone. Also feel free to try this on another hymn as well. A good hymn for this would be "Abide with Me". (Notice the diphthong on ‘abide’. Remember, you should sing: ah-baaaaheede weeeth meee, etc.
One final thought: try to sing the hymns at the pitch in which we sing them on our website. Both "Holy, Holy, Holy" and Abide with Me" don’t go very high which is good, especially at the beginning of the singing process. If the hymns seem too high, then, begin at a lower pitch. But, after you have sung for about 20 or 30 minutes, at least try the hymns at the pitch on the website. If it's too high, then try again the next time you practice!
The key to "learning to sing" is to stick with it—and don’t be afraid to ‘sound silly‘--that's why you need to practice alone. Keep the faith, sing strongly and you will get the hang of it. If you have a question, feel free to e-mail me at paul at songandhymns.org.