Christina Aguilera's MasterClass - Vocal Advice from a Pro
Updated: Mar 9, 2020
I'd like to start off by saying having this kind of access to any professional artist is in my opinion, priceless. Are there areas I had hoped this class would go into greater detail, yes. BUT at the end of the day, I feel for the cost, this was worth it. As an artist, I spend the bulk of my time secluded in my living room writing lyrics, humming melodies & practicing keyboard, guitar & vocals -- it was nice to be a part of a community taking the course with me!
Christina walks through products to help support a healthy throat: Throat Coat tea (I've linked the one I found on Amazon, but Whole Foods & other grocery stores have this) & a throat spray. I haven't purchased one yet, so I don't have one to recommend. Before & during performances, she always has room temperature water, honey & throat lozenges handy. Afterwards, she drinks cold water. She recommends multiple times throughout this course that preparation is EVERYTHING.
Christina's tips for practicing & building your vocal range:
Know how to conserve your energy & breath! Don't go all out during a practice session!
Get a pitch pipe!
Build your vocal range by practicing & building slowly. Dig from your core to reach high notes.
Technique is 1/4 of it! Passion is the rest -- it all stems from passion!
Diction: Giving off energy doesn't have to be so technically correct; choose your points of punctuation. You've got to walk a fine line between having the right attitude & making sure your audience can understand what you're talking about. Additionally, think about what kind of artist you want to be.
Slides: The easy way to think about a slide is that it's a gliding sustained note. Pro Tip: Decide before you ramp up how much breath you want to take in. The idea is to figure out your takeoff approach.
Ad Libs: If you're going to do it, do it right! Accuracy is extremely important! Christina will label each note in an ad lib from 1 as the first note to the last, which helps during studio sessions in working w/her producer or studio engineer, so she's able to start exactly where she needs to rehearse.
Harmony: How do you find the right notes for a harmony? Ultimately, you're looking for either 1/3 or 1/5 above or below the highest or lowest note. Pro Tip: Christina figured out how to find harmonies by listening to records & learning how vocalists stack vocals.
Tone: Every artist has a unique tone; just be aware when you might sound nasally. If that's what you're going for, for a particular song, great. If not, practice your vowels!
Growling: Growling is a form of expression; throaty texture that gives your vocals a bit more color. Christina gave her song, "Fighter" as an example. This is also about learning where your voice breaks & allowing those breaks purposely during a song. An artist example she gave: Alanis Morissette.
Duets: Referencing: "Say Something" w/Colin Smith Make eye contact throughout, but especially during points in the song where timing needs to be extra sharp. The relationship with the person you're duetting with should feel like a lovely energy, not an ego/competitive thing.
Always make sure your mic volume levels are correct. Fine-tuning pitch, timing on playback & hearing what either of you like or would need to fix is important.
Use your inner metronome
If you make a mistake, the show must go on! You've got to know how to recover; don't get too hung up on the moment.
It's important to get the rhythm process right in the studio before performing live!
Live Microphones: You have to control your louds & softs by working with your sound engineer, but also pulling away & close in relation to your mouth. Sometimes the sound in house or coming through your monitors isn't good, so you might either have to make sure you're close on the mic to come through louder or pull back. You've got to gauge the moment. Your relationship with your mic is really important! Sound is everything! Again, your sound engineer is your best friend! Pro Tip: Know which mics you prefer for live performance. Christina prefers her reverb & volume pushed for live performance.
Studio Mics: In the studio, Christina is barefoot when she sings; always make sure your mic is lined up to your mouth properly. Christina is petite like me, so I felt I could relate to having someone adjust my mic :)
How to Soundcheck: Christina prefers to speak her "eeh's & uhhh's" rather than doing a traditional 1,2,3 test -- keep in mind that as a vocalist, you should use this opportunity to check reverb & make sure that deep rich tone is coming through. Are the drums too loud, but are they loud enough that you can feel the rhythm? Again, use footwork to pull back from the mic where needed to avoid distortion. Pro Tip: Whispers can add texture; allowing yourself to linger can be impactful.
Performance Anxiety: Before you go on stage, be quiet and centered and try to calm yourself. No shame in having reminders. Christina will make use of cue cards or a teleprompter with lyrics or her set list. Additionally, she does spiritual yoga & makes sure to have positive people in her life.
Singing Live: Being in the studio, you have to choose which moments to be impactful throughout a song. Throw ideas out there & see what sticks. The size of the audience, environment, body language & overall energy sets the tone. Introduce the song & make sure you adapt the performance for live vs. studio. Overall, you win some, you lose some. Prepare for the worst! It's all in your attitude & how you pick yourself up. You can't take yourself or criticism seriously. As long as you speak your truth, that's all that matters.
Closing Words of Encouragement: Be a student, be a sponge! Keep writing to yourself. Everybody's going to have an opinion; keep in touch with your gut & how you like to sing. Everybody has a hate club. Never let yourself feel objectified. Find inspiration through hardships; share what you love to do & inspire others to do the same. Center yourself & be your own navigation. Focus on the here and now. Always have passion and drive inside you! Push through! Don't let anyone discourage you!
Christina's artist inspirations: Nina Simone, Etta James, Eartha Kitt (amongst others)
Favorite producer: Linda Perry "Beautiful"