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Singing For Dummies

Singing For Dummies

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by Pamelia S. Phillips

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Ah, there’s just nothing better than singing in the shower. The acoustics are perfect and you don’t sound half bad, if you do say so yourself. In fact, with a little practice you could be the next “American Idol” platinum-selling recording artist, or stage sensation. It’s time for Pavarotti to step down and for you to step up as


Ah, there’s just nothing better than singing in the shower. The acoustics are perfect and you don’t sound half bad, if you do say so yourself. In fact, with a little practice you could be the next “American Idol” platinum-selling recording artist, or stage sensation. It’s time for Pavarotti to step down and for you to step up as monarch of songdom.

Whether you’re a beginning vocalist or a seasoned songster, Singing for Dummies makes it easy for you to achieve your songbird dreams. Singing for Dummies gives you step-by-step instructions and lots of helpful tips, hints, vocal exercises, reminders, and warnings for both men and women, including advice on:

  • The mechanics of singing
  • Discovering your singing voice
  • Developing technique
  • Singing in performance
  • Maintaining vocal health
  • Performing like a pro

Singing for Dummies is written by Dr. Pamelia Phillips, Chair of Voice and Music at New York University’s Undergraduate Drama Department. Dr. Phillips shares all of her professional expertise to help you sing your way to the top. She gives you all the information you need to know about:

  • Proper posture and breathing
  • Perfecting your articulation
  • Finding the right voice teacher for you
  • How to train for singing
  • Selecting your music materials
  • Acting the song
  • Overcoming stage fright
  • Auditioning for musical theater

In addition to Dr. Phillips’ wisdom, Singing for Dummies comes with a CD packed full of useful instruction and songs, including:

  • Demonstrations of proper technique
  • Exercises to develop technique and strength
  • Scales and pitch drills
  • Practice songs for beginning, intermediate, and advanced singers

Singing for Dummies contains all the information, practices, techniques, and expert advice you need to hone your vocal skills with ease.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…makes it all easy-to-follow as usual…covers everything…” (Black Beat, July 2004)

"...if you are more talented then me visit www.wileyeurope.com..." (Ipswich Evening Star, 20 August 2003)

Product Details

Publication date:
For Dummies Series
Edition description:
Enclosed with Audio CD
Product dimensions:
9.18(w) x 7.44(h) x 0.78(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Singing For Dummies

By Pamelia S. Phillips

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003

Pamelia S. Phillips
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7645-2475-5

Chapter One

So You Want To Sing ...

In This Chapter

* Examining the contents of this book

* Exploring what you need to know and when

* Finding out how to use the materials in the chapters

So you're curious about singing. Congratulations on being brave enough
to pick up this book and improve your singing skills. Whatever musical
background and experience you have or don't have, this book has something
to offer you. The book contains great exercises and even a CD that allows you
to hear the exercise and sing along. If you're a beginner, welcome aboard. You
can find out all kinds of cool info about singing in this book. This chapter provides
an overview of all the great stuff that you can encounter in the book.

I Love to Sing! What Singing
Is Really All About

Singing is one of the coolest means of expression out there. If you stop and
think about it too long, singing may not make much sense, but it really feels
good. Singing well is about knowing how to work the parts that create the
sound for singing. The chapters that you encounter in the book outline what
you need to know in just the right sequence. You don't have to read themin
the order written to get what you need. Some of the later chapters may be a
little difficult if you don't have any singing experience. The only way to know
is to jump right in and start reading on whatever topic interests you.

What You Want to Know Right
from the Beginning

Before you choose the date for your first big concert or recital, you want
to find out about singing before you step out onto the stage. The first part
of this book provides you with the big picture. First, you want to get yourself
aligned - that is, line up all your body parts to get ready to sing and then
explore your breathing. Breathing while singing isn't that much different from
how you breathe normally, but you have to take in more air and use more air.
When you get the air flowing, you can explore the tone of your voice.

Correcting posture for a better sound

Posture is important to sing well. If all the parts for singing are lined up correctly,
you stand a really good chance of getting wonderful sounds to come
flying out of your body. Knowing how to stand isn't rocket science, but it may
take a little adjustment on your part. If you aren't used to standing tall all the
time, you may feel a bit awkward at first. Chapter 2 explores posture for

Knowing the keys to proper breathing

The big key to great singing is knowing how to use your breath to make the
sounds. You may not know how to get much breath in your body and then
make it last throughout a long phrase. If you check out Chapter 3, you can
find all kinds of exercises and explanations of how to work on your breath,
so you can sing those long phrases in your favorite song.

Locating the notes on the staff

Voice types are probably easier to figure out if you know where to find the
notes on a musical staff. (See Figure 1-1 in this chapter.) The treble clef spaces
correspond with the notes F, A, C, and E. Beginning on the bottom of the staff
and going up, it spells face. You can use sentences to remember the other
notes. Again, starting on the bottom line and moving up, the notes on the lines
of the staff are E, G, B, D, and F, letters that begin the words of the sentence,
Every good boy does fine. For the bass clef, the spaces are A, C, E, and G, the
letters that begin the words All cows eat grass or All cars eat gas. The lines in
the bass clef are G, B, D, F, and A, which correspond with Good boys do fine
. If you prefer animals, then use Great big dogs fight animals.

If I say that a singer's range is Middle C to high C, I have to use ledger
lines to notate those two notes, because they're not within the five-line staff.
Ledger lines are extra lines added above or below the staff for those notes
that are higher or lower than the notes on the staff. When you find Middle C
in Figure 1-1, you can see the extra line added below the staff. The easiest
way to find Middle C on the piano is to look at the brand name printed on the
lid covering the keys. If you find that brand name, the C right in the middle of
that name or just to the left, is usually Middle C.

Middle C is called Middle C, because it's in the middle of the keyboard that contains
88 keys. Middle C is also called C4, because it's the fourth C on the keyboard.
The names of the notes are A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Those notes repeat
over and over on the piano. If Middle C is C4, then the next C above is C5 and
so on. C is the note just to the left of the pair of black keys. The distance
between the two Cs is called an octave. If you start counting at the first ITLITL and
count eight white notes up, you find another C. That means the E just above
Middle C (C4) is E4. Easy enough but not every person you encounter knows
this system, so I stick to what works: Middle C.

You also encounter the words flat and sharp in this book. Flats lower a pitch
one-half step and a sharp raises the pitch one-half step. F-sharp is the black
key on the piano between F and G. The same black key between F and G can
be called G-flat.

Finding your tone and resonance

Vocal tone is important, because you want the best sounds to come out of your
mouth. By exploring exercises on tone, you can make changes to your sound.
People often tell me that they want to change the way that they sound. To
change your sound, you need to know how you create sound. The two chapters
on tone, Chapters 4 and 6, give you quite a bit of information about how to
start a note and then what to do to make the note sound a specific way.

Developing Your Singing Voice

After you have the basic information swimming around in your head, you can
start to work on your singing voice. Chapters 5 through 9 offer you more specific
information about how to create a sound that's unique to you.
Sometimes, singers try to imitate their favorite famous singer. What you want
to do is sound like yourself. Your voice can be just as fabulous as that famous
singer. You just have to practice to develop it.

Determining your voice type

Most singers want a category to belong to. You may have heard of the categories
of singers - soprano, mezzo, tenor, and bass. If you aren't sure which
one applies to your voice, explore Chapter 5. You can find explanations of
what makes a soprano different than a mezzo or a tenor and a bass. You don't
have to figure out your voice type today, but you can explore the chapter so
you know what to listen for as you sing.

Fine-tuning vowels and consonants

A long time ago in grade school, you had to work with vowels and consonants.
Well, you can refresh yourself in Chapters 8 and 9! By making your
vowels and consonants specific, you can make yourself easily understood
when you're singing. You've probably heard someone sing but couldn't
understand a word they said. It's even worse when the song is in English or a
language that you speak. By knowing how to articulate vowels and consonants,
you can create specific sounds that your audience can follow.

Warming up your voice - practice
makes perfect

After you discover all this great information about singing, you need to make
a plan of practicing it on a regular basis. If practicing seems like a foreign concept
to you, check out Chapter 10. The whole chapter is devoted to helping
you figure out what to do when you warm up and how to apply the exercises
that you read about in the book to your daily practice routine. Because you
can explore so much, make a list of what you want to accomplish today and
then add more to that list each time that you practice.

Working the Different
Parts of Your Voice

Your goal is to make your singing voice sound like one smooth line from top to
bottom. Your voice may have a few bumps and wiggles as you work your way
up and down. That's perfectly normal, but help is right at hand. Chapters 11
through 13 work with specific areas of the voice called registers - chest voice,
head voice, middle voice, and falsetto. In these chapters, you can discover
what each part of the voice feels like and what to do with it.

Strengthening your middle, chest,
and head voice - a complete
vocal workout

The first step in the workout for the voice is to find the different registers of
the voice and then notice what each feels like. After you find them, you want
to try and smooth out the transition between the registers. You may find that
your chest voice and head voice feel miles apart. The exercises in Chapters 11
and 12 are designed to help you smooth out the bumps. You may not think the
exercises are easy in the beginning, which is good. I don't want you to be
bored. Even if you've never explored any vocal sounds, you can figure out
these exercises and get your voice in good working order, which just takes
some time and patience.

Working as guys and gals

The exercises in this book are for both male and female voices. In Chapter 13,
you can find some exercises that help either gender and that are unique about
your voice. Guys have a register called falsetto but the girls don't. Don't feel
bad ladies, you can still sing along with the exercises that are for the male
voice. I give you plenty of ideas for working the exercises.

Applying Your Technique

After you explore your technique through the exercises that I provide, you
need to take the next step. Chapters 15 through 19 are about applying your
technique. At some point, you want to apply that healthy technique to songs.
You also want to maintain your healthy technique and a healthy voice at all

What to look for in a voice teacher

Finding a voice teacher can be tricky. After you find the teacher, the experience
can be rewarding. If you aren't sure how to go about finding a teacher,
explore the tips and suggestions in Chapter 15. Finding the teacher may be
the most difficult part. After you answer the questions in Chapter 15, you
have a better idea of what you want from voice lessons.

Choosing appropriate singing material

Finding new songs to sing can be overwhelming. You have so many choices,
but how do you know what works for you? The clues are in Chapter 17. The
lists there offer you suggestions of what to look for and what to avoid when
choosing songs. Whether you want a song to sing for your own pleasure or a
song for a specific function, you want a song that accentuates your strengths.
After exploring the technique chapters earlier in the book, make a list of what
your voice does well. For more suggestions of songs, you can explore
Appendix A for a list of suggested songs for enhancing your singing technique.
The songs cover different styles of music from classical to country.

Feeling comfortable with
the music and text

After you choose the song, you need to know how to decipher and digest
what you see on the page. Listening to a recording can be deceiving, because
the artist may not be singing what's on the page. Look at the page and feel
confident that you can conquer the melody, rhythm, and the text. Don't
worry if you can't read music. You don't have to. You can explore the steps in
Chapter 18 to get you singing the song in a shorter amount of time. You can
take this skill a step further in Chapter 19 and explore acting to combine with
your singing. Sounding good when you sing is great, but you want to sound
good and understand the story behind the music. You don't have to know
anything about acting to explore this chapter. It's all right there for you.

Applying Technique to Performance

After your technique is really cooking, you can explore Chapters 20 and 21
about taking your technique into a performance situation. Performances can
be big or small. Whatever the size of the audience, you want to look like a pro
and feel good about what you're doing onstage.

Overcoming performance anxiety

If your daydreams of singing are clouded with anxiety about singing in front
of an audience, Chapter 20 is just for you. By confronting your fear and taking
charge, you can make progress and let go of the anxiety. You only add pressure
to your performance if you assume that you're supposed to be totally
calm. Many famous performers get nervous before a performance. After
exploring Chapter 20, you know that it's fine to be nervous, but you can still
sing while nervous.

Auditioning for a singing role

So many singers dream of auditioning for a Broadway show that I wrote a
whole chapter about it. Chapter 21 has information for you about what to
expect at the audition, who may be there, what you may have to sing or do,
and how to prepare for the audition. Because an audition for a musical is different
than an audition for an opera, you want to know what's kosher and
what's not.


Excerpted from Singing For Dummies
by Pamelia S. Phillips
Copyright © 2003 by Pamelia S. Phillips.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Pamelia S. Phillips, DMA, is a seasoned performer whose appearances range from contemporary American Opera premieres to guest performances with major symphonies.

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Singing For Dummies 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It did a great job teaching you different exersizes, to help your voice become better! In the first lesson, I saw a small difference, and I use it everyday, and it has cheanged my tone, and I sound great!
Chrissy_K More than 1 year ago
Having been a student of music for 7 years now, I have to say, I'm impressed. This book was accurate with information I already knew and provided me with a much more detailed explanation and training technique than many of the singing instructors I've had. On the other hand, the suggested music that they give you in the back of the book is somewhat hard to find, so....my only advice is to find your own songs to practice with.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book does a great job at clarifying the music terms but it does a poor job at teaching you to sing which is suppose to be the main purpose of the book. At times, I found it complicated understanding the book. If you are a developing singer, I recommend 'Singing For The Stars' and use this book as a secondary to use as reference for music terms or such.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago