Opera may look and sound like an easy thing to become good at, but it actually takes a good amount of effort and dedication. I grew up learning how to sing opera through private voice lessons throughout high school and college.
Learning the fundamentals of opera and classical singing can be taught within a few years or less, but becoming great at it takes several years of practice and performing in different styles and settings.
If you're interested in learning opera singing as a beginner, take some of the tips and methods that I'll list below under consideration. No matter what approaches and techniques you choose to try, I encourage you to put a lot of time and consistent effort into it!
A good place to start with learning opera is to study some of the greats in the history of classical music singing. A site like Youtube can show you some of the bests to ever do it, including Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, and Renee Flemming.
Don't just stick to the music and the sound of it all when you study. Pay attention to how they look when they are performing on stage. Look into their posture, their mouth placement, and their energy.
After you've done some studying, it's time to take a stab at singing some opera yourself. I know it sounds dramatic, but you could really be damaging your vocal instrument if you decide to sing opera without first starting off with some vocal warm-up exercises.
This is especially true since you will be taking a stab at a style of singing that you probably haven't tried singing seriously before, so it will be hard work on your vocal cords and larynx. Why not warm up before you get into it all?
When you took the time to study some of the best opera singers of all time, you probably noticed that they don't sound at all like the types of singers you hear in more popular genres like dance, R&B, and country music.
One huge mistake that beginners make is trying to stick to their pop voice when attempting operatic and classical songs. This won't sound terrible, but it will sound like you're not sure of what you're doing, and it won't fit well with the style of music.
If you're attempting to sing songs with proper vocal technique, a simple thing to remember is to go for long vowels and a dropped jaw when it comes to your mouth placement. Operatic voices have a resonance that is thanks to the vowel placements that singers learn to master over time.
To try to start this type of placement as a beginner, simply mimic the feeling the back of your throat has when you yawn. You can also drop your jaw and place your fingers right in front of your ear, and you should be able to feel your jaw separating from it fully.
Vibrato is the natural wobble in your voice that takes place when you hold a long or semi-long note. It's a variation between two pitches that often happens very fast and can help bring richness to your singing tone.
I learned classical and operatic singing throughout high school and college, so vibrato obviously had a huge part in my singing style. In the classical world, your operatic voice ideally comes through with a good amount of rich vibrato.
The human voice is capable of going lower than any note on the piano and higher than any human can actually perceive. In operatic music settings, the breakdown generally involves six different voice types. This includes Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Contralto Tenor, Baritone, and Bass.
Once you figure out what voice range you fall in, you will want to practice with the different vocal registers in your voice. These include chest voice, head voice, and mixed voice singing, which can all be found in classical music singing.
Being able to hit many notes accurately in a short amount of time involves good breath support. This rings especially true for classical music singers that are trying to perform long melisma phrases.
Without a good handle on optimal breath support as well as good singing posture, you will not be able to make it through your melismas, riffs, and long phrases that are often found in opera songs. This can take some time to get better at, so don't feel bad if you are slow to learn.
The more you focus on the lyrics and the tone of your song, the better your emotional output can be. Lyrics are a critical part of what makes music hit our souls and our hearts. Even with the most basic backing music, powerful words in a song can help a singer perform it with intense emotion and connect with the audience.
On the other hand, you're singing a song that you understand, but you really don't relate to. If you'd consider yourself a good actor, all you really need to do is tap into that acting skill and create a scenario in your heart where the song really speaks to you.
As an aspiring opera singer, it's a good idea to begin your sight-reading journey if you have not learned how to read music yet. If you know the basics but aren't confident, consider practicing with a tool like MusicTheory.net on a consistent schedule to strengthen your sight-reading skills.
Similar to sight-reading, you will need to have a great musical ear as an opera singer. Learning quickly and accurately in the classical music world usually shows that you have had a lot of experience in music theory and can land more paid singing opportunities.
For ear training exercises, MusicTheory.net also offers many free resources to work on this particular skill if need be. The better in tune your ear is with the technicalities of music, the more talented you are as a professional opera singer.
Italian operas are often the most popular when looking back through music history, but operatic performances are definitely not limited to the Italian language. Many popular opera pieces that you can learn to sing are in languages that include German, Russian, French, Czech, and English.
You don't want to butcher the lyrics when you're performing opera songs. The more you can effectively pronounce words in the language you're singing in, the more authentic your performance will feel and sound.
To get a mix of all the tips I've mentioned above, a great method for you to consider is to get a private voice lesson teacher to teach you how to sing opera over consistent lessons.
Voice teachers can help you with every skill needed, including stage presence, pronunciation, ear training, sight-reading, breath support, vibrato control, and so much more. It's so much more effective when you study with a professional instead of going through the process alone.
Finding a virtual voice teacher or course to provide you with a prerecorded training program is a solid choice for those who are also learning to sing. It's a great choice if you find yourself unable to afford a private voice teacher.
A prerecorded virtual voice program can not get to know you personally and work with your individual needs as a private voice teacher can, but it's still a solid choice for beginners looking to explore the world of opera singing and retain some of the basics.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, features, nursery rhymes, and DJ drops, she currently spends her time engulfed in creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her most recent creative collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
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