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Effective Lead Vocals, Part 2
By Jeannie Deva - 01/24/2009 - 08:07 PM EST

Sink or Swim in the Mix

I'm sure many of you have experienced the frustration and strain of having to shout over the band. This of course makes not only your voice, but the entire band, sound bad. Since a good lead vocal can make or break a band, you should be given special attention in the set-up and mix. Make sure your band understands that the singer is the key focal point for the audience. They should support you when you're singing, and then shine during their solos.

In addition, always use monitors. They're essential feed-back to help produce accurate pitch and volume. Get a microphone appropriate for your voice and music, and your own monitor/mixer/effects equipment to give you better control over stage mix and volume. (Try TC-Helicon's "VoiceTone" pedal!)

Run a sound check before performing. Spend time checking your vocal mix alone and with the band. Treat your sound-person with respect. Talk with him or her beforehand. If there's no time for a sound check, supply a set-list with information on what's needed from the board for each tune. (If a tune requires echo, figure out delay time and feedback before the show.) Look for ways to be in control of your own destiny!

Mic Techniques

Many vocalists are in the habit of "eating" the microphone. The only problem is, as you sing louder, you run the risk of pre-amp distortion. The result will be a muddy unprofessional sound for you and the band. When you do your sound check, keep your mic at least two inches from your mouth. Once into your performance, you'll have some leeway. As you sing louder, back off the mic a bit. If you want to reduce your volume, you can bring the mic closer, and still be heard. Practice varying the distance of the mic at home or in your rehearsal space. It can take a while to get used to it, but it's worth the result.

More Vowel, Less Strain

A straining voice is physically uncomfortable and painful for the audience to hear. Your voice is the result of sung vowels. It's vital to work closely with these vowels. Stressing consonants closes your mouth and exhales the breath too quickly and forcibly. Vowels, on the other hand, require an open mouth and utilize your breath more efficiently.

Choose a song and sing it through. Notice any words that coincide with points of strain. Work those phrases over, while directing your attention to the vowels of these words. Try singing the melody with a naturally pronounced "Ah" vowel and then again with the lyrics. As you stop pushing on the consonants and focus on the vowel, you should find yourself gaining greater vocal comfort while improving sound quality. Continue working through the song in this manner.

Who's Listening

When you sing for others, it's important to keep your focus on the audience rather than on listening to yourself. Focusing your attention outward to your audience will give your whole performance greater direction and energy.

Amazing as it may seem, if previously tight, your throat will have an easier time relaxing, and you can find your sound becoming fuller. You can practice this focus as follows: Choose a song to work on. Select an object in your practice space. Stand a few feet away and talk the lyrics of the song to this object. You may feel self-conscious at first, but keep doing it until you feel comfortable and know that you're maintaining your attention (not just eyesight) on this object. Next, sing the song in the same manner. Now do this to your image in a mirror. Use your reflection as though you're singing directly to someone else.

"I am so grateful for Jeannie Deva's expertise, training and exercises which gave me my voice back. She taught me how to sing without hurting myself or losing the feeling in my singing." D.A.

© 2009 Jeannie Deva Enterprises, Inc.

Jeannie Deva is a prominent International vocal coach and recording session vocal coach.

Originator of The Deva Method®, A Non-Classical Approach for Singers™ and Founder of Jeannie Deva® Voice Studios, network she has been endorsed by engineers and producers of The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Bette Midler and many others. For more info on her method, services, popular home-study course, Vocal Warm-Up CD and full bio, please visit her website

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