Hello everyone. Singers often roll there eyes at me when i give them scale exercises to sing for home work. In fact most singers regardless of whether they are a beginner or advanced or anywhere in between seem to have an aversion to spending their practise time singing scales, usually they prefer to sing songs by there favourite artists or there own original material.
Singing scales is boring they say or its just not very sexy! Without exception when i explain to my students the mutiple benefits they gain vocally from singing their scales, suddenly scales become a staple part of their vocal practise routine.
Let me explain singing is a highly muscular activity it requires a great deal of physical coordination, and strength, and vocal flexability to be able to sing higher or lower than your comfortable speaking voice.
Regualry Vocalising scale exercises, is the equivilant of taking your vocal chords and the micro muscle groups that are really responsible, for creating your, pitch and volume, and tone to the gym, and giving them a well balanced workout (hence forth we will refer to these types of vocal exercises as your Vocal Gym).
Scales are a great way to work the full length of the vocal chord, gradually increasing the chords flexability to safely stretch and conditioning the chord to hold higher amounts of exertion ( desired tension) on the vocal chord to sing higher notes. Most singers start vocal training to learn how to extend their range to sing higher. The higher you sing the stronger your low notes need to be to anchor your voice. Its important to build equal strength in your lower register to provide the voice with the strength and support it needs to thin down at the chords and reach your high notes.
Scales should allways start on a pitch that is closest to your comfortable speaking voice, and gradually raise (ascend) the scale each note will be higher than the last. Advanced scales can cover anywhere from 1 to 3 octaves per pattern. Typically I introduce my singers to a graduated programme where they might start on a five note scale ascending and descending exercise and as their voice develops the scales become more challenging and include multiple registers within the voice.
As you sing higher in effect you are increasing the resistance on the vocal chords (Very much like adding more weight to the bar on the bench press) Hence our Vocal Gym analogy!
Just like you do in any other form of resistance training as you get stronger you add more weight to create more resistance against the muscle to encourage it to grow stronger. Put simply the voice is a muscle (actually made up of smaller micro muscle groups, including vocal cords, tendons, legaments and cartlidges) that are responsible for creating, pitch, volume, tone etc. These micro muscle groups are tricky to work out vocalising on scales helps us to cover every note within our range and provides us with an ability to target challenge areas ie breaks or cracks in the voice, or helps you to strengthen up the bridges in our voice ( the areas where our voice transitions in tone and moves between chest voice into head voice and in higher registers into mixed voice or reinforced fallsetto for screaming. Scales are the most effective way to strengthen the inbetween notes (the bridge areas and rapidly improve your vocal strength and range overall).
Summarised heres the list of benefits you get from regualry vocalising over scales. let me know if ive missed anything?
1. Ear training
2. Strengthening and resistance training for the vocal chords
3. Increased Flexability for vocal chords
4. Strengthening diaphragmatic muscles for correct breathing support
5. Vocal muscle growth -through gradually increasing the resistance applied to our vocal chords and micro muscles the chords will grow bigger and be able to handle increased volumes of vibration and higher pitches.
6. Improves our ability as singers to create and improvise vocal runs etc.
7.Improves our rythym and our ability to take quick breaths in between tricky vocal lines.
I could go on but i think youve got the idea.... so how do you feel about including scales as part of your vocal routine now?
In a future blog, we will spend time talking about how to create a balanced vocal exercise routine... but for now a good rule of thumb is to warm up and spend half your session vocalising on scales and spend the other half of the session singing along to backing tracks or to the radio etc. Always remember not to sing higher than you can safely and comfortably. If you feel pain or discomfort in the throat often a tickle in the throat stop and lower your pitch and your volume.