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Training Requirements for Singing Country Music

Country music has the good ol’ boy songs about whiskey and women, as well as heartfelt ballads about lost love. The artists put on quite a show at their performances and use a variety of sounds when they sing. The biggest common denominator in country music is the story being told. It describes how the singer feels, in a sound that’s similar to a speaking voice.

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  • Sound: Country music is slowly and surely becoming more similar to pop music. For now, you can assume that country music focuses on sounding like a real person and telling a story with simplicity in the voice. Generally, country singers use a microphone, so they don’t need to carry the hall like classical singers. Country music also has more twang than you hear in the opera house.

    Singers create the song from their speaking voice — they think of singing as an extension of speaking. For this reason, they don’t need wide, open spaces (in their mouth and throat) and round, rich tones like classical singers. You may have this ability, but you probably won’t use it when you sing country.

  • Healthy technique: You don’t want to sound cultured when singing vowels in country songs. You want to be specific with your articulation so that your audience can understand you, but you don’t want to sound like you’re in class with Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady.

    Figuring out how to create healthy belt is also a good idea, because many singers use a beltlike quality when singing their songs. Knowing the difference between a belt and chest voice helps you keep your voice in balance.

  • Naming names: Clint Black (twang and cry of country), Johnny Cash (great storytelling, similar speaking and singing techniques), Reba McEntire (easy belting, good storytelling, some twang), Trisha Yearwood (strong legit sound and belt, good storytelling ability, combination of emotions and voice to create interesting sounds).
 

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Performing Like a Singing Pro: Rehearsing

Even if you’re a seasoned singing pro and you’ve been practicing on your own for years, you should have at least one dress rehearsal and several more practice rehearsals before a performance. At the first couple of rehearsals, you can sing while reading from the music. For the last rehearsal and the dress rehearsal, sing the music from memory.

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Under pressure, it’s shocking how quickly the words leave your short-term memory. By rehearsing the song from memory, you get even more opportunities to test your wonderful technique while using your acting skills. At the dress rehearsal, you also want to practice walking onstage before your song so you know how winded you are after climbing up the stairs for your entrance, walking around the stage, or down a long hallway.

You can rehearse alone or with an accompanist, coach, or voice teacher. At your rehearsal, record yourself. Listen to the recording a couple of times to get used to the sound of your voice in the different hall. If you put your recorder in the audience while you sing on the stage, your recording will sound farther away — that’s the sound your audience will hear.

You can also use your video recorder. If you decide to videotape the rehearsal, you need to view the tape several times to get used to watching yourself. You may want to experiment with this at home instead of trying it for the first time at the dress rehearsal.

The night before is too late to change much. Record yourself earlier in the process so you can make adjustments. When you watch the video, check your alignment, gestures, and your entrance.

 

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Steps for Singing a New Song

Learning a new song to sing can be intimidating, but by using the following steps, you can integrate a new song into your repertoire without much difficulty. As with any new skill, learning a new song is a process, made easier if you break it into manageable steps:

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  1. Memorize the words as a story — write out the text as sentences with punctuation.
  2. Tap out the rhythm.
  3. Sing through the melody — without words — using a single vowel such as ah or oh.
  4. Sing through the melody with the piano accompaniment without words.
  5. Put it all together: words, rhythm, melody, and acting.

Singing Voiced and Unvoiced Consonants

Students often ask about the correct pronunciation of words for singing and speaking. Knowing the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants can help you figure it out.

  • Voiced consonant sounds are produced by adding vocal sound. An example is the letter M. If you say the word make, you have to add sound to the letter M before you even get the vowel. (Other voiced consonants include B, D, G, J, L, N, NG, V, W, Z, and ZH.)
  • Unvoiced consonants are produced by momentarily stopping the flow of air and making no voice sound. The unvoiced consonant has sound, but the sound comes from the flow of air. The consonant T is an example. If you say the word to, you don’t make any sound with your voice until you get to the vowel. (Other unvoiced consonants include CH, F, K, P, S, SH, and WH.)

When you’re sounding out the ends of words, follow these general rules. The ed at the end of a word is pronounced with a D sound if the ed is preceded by a voiced sound (vowel or consonant), as in the words headed, lingered, and roamed. However, if the ed is preceded by an unvoiced consonant, it sounds like a T, as in such words as picked, yanked, joked, and wrapped.

You may also notice that some consonants can be either voiced or unvoiced based on what follows them. For example the th in bath is unvoiced, but the th in bathe is voiced. Sh in the word shoe is unvoiced, and zh in the word visual is voiced. J in the word jump is voiced, but ch in the word champ is unvoiced.

Because most printed dictionaries don’t include a guide on which consonants are voiced and unvoiced, you can search for pronunciation websites to hear a particular word pronounced for you.

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