When you hear me say “sing slow” it might sound weird. You could think that I’m asking you to sing a slow song. But I’m not. What I mean by “sing slow”, is to take your weak spots from a song, and sing those parts slowly enough, I like to use the one second rule, (which is one second per note), to make sure that you actually know every note that is happening in that part of the song.
The reason singers sound like beginners or intermediates, instead of sounding advanced, is highly due to a lack of pitch accuracy. What does pitch accuracy mean? It means every note has to be highly accurate, or it will sound average or of low ability. The way to make sure your pitch is accurate is to – you guessed it – slow down.
How do you know when to slow down?
This is a great question. You only have to slow down when you are making a mistake, and it needs correcting. A mistake is where the pitch is not accurate. If the pitch is not accurate it will sound less musical and more talk-like, or if you are singing accurately on pitch but you are singing the wrong pitch, it will sound off-key. If you can’t tell when you are off pitch or off key, you need a mentor who can. Only someone who has a better ear than you, or is a better singer than you will be able to tell you for sure where you are making mistakes. This is why it is important to get someone who is able to tell you your mistakes, so they can give you the right feedback, so you know what you have to work on.
Once you know what you have to work on, this is whether slow down method comes in. Slowing down means being able to sing every note within a weak spot, or phrase for approximately half a second or one second (what I call the one second rule) per note. If you can’t sing each notes in a phrase for a second per note, it means you aren’t sure what the notes are, which proves that you are unlikely to hit the notes accurately while singing at normal speeds. It’s kind of like being able to spell a word. Let’s say a word is a phrase in a song, and the letters that make up that word are the notes that happen in a phrase. Just to be clear, when I say word, I’m not talking about the lyrics of a song. If you know how to spell a word in your head, you can easily spell it out loud. Same thing for a musical phrase. If you know what the notes are, you will be able to sing them one at a time for one second each comfortably.
How do you learn to sing slow?
You have to mix two methods. The first method is by getting feedback from someone who can tell you where you make mistakes i.e. where you are off pitch or off key, and the second method is by slowing music down using a app or software. With the first method, someone sings the notes that you are singing incorrectly for you, slowly, i.e. half a second or one second per note. You then attempt to sing it back, and go back-and-forth with the mentor repeating this process until every note which you are singing wrong becomes right. Doing this for thousands of repetitions over dozens of lessons will gradually get you to the point where you can recognise a mistake in yourself, without needing the mentor. The second method is what you use in between lessons, as this method cannot give you any feedback. This is where you practice using an app such as Amazing Slow Downer, or Transpose Extension for Chrome, and slow the parts where you think you might be making mistakes or where your mentor has told you you are making mistakes, anywhere between 25 and 100% speed, an attempt to listen to, sing along with, and then sing alone, the part of the song for dozens to hundreds of reps and see if you can notice notes which you are not noticing previously.
Some analogies to understand why singing slow works
Let’s say you wanted to learn the guitar, piano or any other instrument. You would need to learn one note at a time. You can’t magically jump ahead. The problem with singing though, is that because everyone already has learnt how to read and knows language, they assume that they know the notes of a song as well. The mistake here is that every note of a song has to be a particular pitch, and if it isn’t it sounds wrong (this goes back to pitch accuracy). On a piano there are no lyrics, so the entire focus is learning one over time and then combining those notes to create a song. When it comes to singing, singers learn the lyrics and the rhythm of a song, but don’t realise that every single syllable has a pitch which it is being sung on, and it has to be highly accurate to sound advanced. The only way to learn every note in a song on a piano, is to slow right down, and go one note at a time. Doing the same thing with your vocals will guarantee that they sound as perfect and pitch accurate as the original singer who you are trying to copy. Same goes for learning to drive a car, learning to write, learning to read, learning to spell, learning a language et cetera et cetera. Every skill requires slow movements first, before they can become fast, or they will never reach a high level of proficiency.
How often should you practice slow?
Every time you are learning something new, challenge yourself to sing each note in that phrase for one second per note. If you can’t, that you means you need to do slow practice, with an app and guided with a mentor to ensure you are practicing correctly. I personally do slow practice every single practice session (which is every day). Slow practice also works as a fantastic ear and vocal warm up, getting you ready for the full speed vocals. I guarantee that slow practice is the most important factor and biggest game changer when it comes to a creating a fantastic voice. Good luck 🙂 Check out the apps I use on my appspage.