When I was 15, I took singing from the nuns at "The Pines". These ladies were well respected for the results they achieved in musical training. Our performance group of 8, all dressed in blue taffeta gowns were in the small room once a nun's cell now a teaching room with a piano, we 8 teenage girls and 2 nuns. Keep that picture firmly in your mind.
Mother Gabriel was the senior person for singing and she most unfortunately had a large proboscis. With nothing but her face showing in her habit, that generous facial feature became very prominent especially to 8 young ladies crammed into a small space. But when Mother Gabriel told us to hold our noses and sing the sound "ow" down the scale well, we absolutely couldn't look at each other. We sang like howling dogs down the scale with Mother Gabriel leading the way. That picture brings a broad grin every time I remember it. Actually, I remember it often because as it turns out, Mother Gabriel was onto something - who knew. That is a marvellous exercise to relax the voice as well as warm up before singing.
1. Do the "Mother Gabriel" - Now you really want to sound clear and not nasal. If you get that nasal sound, your voice placement needs work. Not such a great sound when it comes through the nose.
2. Drop the Jaw - Open your mouth and sing "ah" or "oo". Now, stand feet apart slightly, shoulders relaxed, drop your chin slightly and sing again. Your sound should be much freer. If not, place your hands on each cheek (the face ones) and pull down slightly while singing. See, doesn't that feel better?
3. Brrrr - Like it's cold - Yes I know we just started getting warmer weather here so talking about the cold is not happy making. However, again sing "oo" or "ah". Now, sing the same notes with the lip trill (brrr) and then sing again. This brings your sound forward and takes it out of the back of your throat.
4. Thumb Under Chin Trick - Singing as before place your thumb on the softer, fleshy part just past the bone under the chin. If it feels hard when you sing, you are tensing your tongue and making your voice work much harder than it should. Keep singing dropping your chin and checking that the space under your chin remains soft and supple. Much better.
5. Straw Singing - Get some straws next time you go to the fast food outlet. Put a straw in your mouth and sing into it. No air should be coming through your nose. This helps you to focus your sound and control your breath. Recording this would be of great help.
In 5 easy steps you can move your tone forward, keep the tongue relaxed and focus the air flow to control your sounds. Ready, Set, SING!!