Vocal Technique: Boring Exercises That Will Make You a Better Singer

By  | August 3, 2011 | 8 Comments | Filed under: Features, Vocal Technique

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Ian Howell is a countertenor based in Boston, Massachusetts. He regularly performs as a concert and operatic soloist all across North America and writes from time to time. He was educated at Yale and Capital Universities, sang with Chanticleer from 2000-04, and is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts student at the New England Conservatory of Music. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


  • Eva Monzze-soprano

    do you know where can i buy the library from the teacher Stemple?

    • Anonymous

      You can look at google scholar to see his publication history. The items I list in the bibliography would be a good start.

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  • Schoeman Smit

    Hi I have been working with these exercises for a week now and they are fantastic ! Thank you so much . Do you have advice on a healthier way to sing embellishments this where much of my tension lies

    • http://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com Ian Howell

      This is an interesting question, and hard to answer in the abstract. :-) . I would suggest that you ask whether you are using two different techniques to sing legato lines vs embellishments? If you are introducing additional tension, or changing the way you breathe, I would start there.

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  • http://www.EdwinVega.com Edwin

    Hi Ian. Just read an article you wrote about warm ups.

    What do you mean when you say frequency range. Is that normal singing range?

    So as a tenor does that NOT include my falsetto? I can sing a high C in full voice….is that included in the frequency range?


    • http://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com Ian Howell

      Dear Edwin,
      Thank you for reading my article. This is a great question!

      I personally don’t use the word falsetto (read my article on countertenor technique for some insight into that choice http://blog.counterpointspublishing.com/2011/04/countertenor-technique-an-introduction-to-concepts/).

      Think of these exercises as having little to do with “singing” as you understand it. You would likely have to use quite a good deal of energy to sing a C5 in your full voice, but your voice would only respond in that way if you were commanding it to SING!; these exercises are about making a very basic, quiet sound, with a continual cricothyroid engagement.

      You will phonate at a very soft dynamic, without increasing the intensity of tone as you increase the frequency (pitch). Your voice will ‘flip’ over to a head voice (falsetto, partial-fold, etc…), at some point, and that is fine. You should stop before you compromise the approach in service of trying to sing a higher frequency pitch. I.e. limit the frequency range of the swoop to the pitches that you can sing quietly, without introducing excess tension.

      I hope this helps :-)