The Power of Chanting

If you are learning a song and find that you are having trouble with legato (long fluid) singing, then chanting could be just the thing that helps you find the flow in your voice.

Here is a great step-wise warm-up progression that you can do!

1) Start by speaking the song that you are learning out loud. While you do this, draw every word together in a sentence into one giant word. Imagine they are like pearls on a silver string. Say the entire sentence or phrase with one long stretched out breath. You can even play around with the intensity of the chant based on how low or high the notes are on any particular word or syllable. You may even find yourself doing this subconsciously anyways!

2) Pick a single note that is low in your range and just sing that one note as long as you can in one breath. Find a reverberant room like the shower or maybe a hallway, if you want. Also, keep in mind that it is best to find a quiet place where you are alone and not going to bother somebody or be interrupted too much for all of this.

3) Start to play around with the vowel shapes on the same note. I start this by going back and forth between ee (as in see) and oo (as in doodle). Then I open up the sound with an e (maple) to an oh (flow). There are more vowels including ih (kit) to uh (duh) and a (saw) or ah(cat). Here you have a chance to play around with switching as slowly as possible from one vowel to the next, leaving no gap in between them. You can also practice moving quickly through the vowels as well. I find it is best to not get stuck in any one pattern of motion, so keep making variations.

4) Now that you have warmed up the vowels start to improvise by moving to notes around the note you have been chanting and simply go where the voice feels good. Experiment with both changing vowels and notes. In this way, you are warming up and making music at the same time. Chanting is a great way to break the habit of the tedious warm up scales that everybody hides away to do. Plus, you may even find that you are secretly a composer, learning from your own body about natural phrasing and enchanting melodies that are custom tailored to you.

5) This is sort of like Gregorian Chanting and I highly recommend moving around that one note chant with slowly more and more notes. Play around with singing in major, minor, and everything in-between. Don’t track yourself on the piano, but rather let it wander and see where you end up. Stop when you reach a limit and start over, or maybe change it up to something new. Do this until you are warmed up and down your entire vocal range!

6) Now go back to the song you are working on and with a little singing try to connect the vowels and consonants that are in the song together on a single note. Perhaps the root or 5th of the song is a great place to start. One breath per phrase. You can even do this as the way that you memorize your words at the same time!

7) Now it is time to try singing the actual song! Use the feeling of chanting to guide you through the actual melody written in the music.

8) Optional. From time to time try steps 3-5 with a willing friend, if you can, and experiment with making organic harmonies. This is a great way to come up with new song ideas and learn to improvise by listening and responding to somebody else.

Follow all these steps and you can explore your voice every day while avoiding any mental barriers about what your range is and what you can and can’t do!

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