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6 tips to help you sing with soul – Vocal workshop with DeAndre Brackensick

There are voices that sing …and then…. there are souls who sing.

DeAndre Brackensick is one of those souls.

His voice is heaven sent, God given.

We were lucky enough to have DeAndre conduct a vocal workshop for us.

I came across an amazing Youtube video featuring DeAndre and incredible singers and musicians Unaware/Pretty Wings • Allen Stone/Maxwell | #LOOPSLIVE

I was so excited to share this clip with my students.  We studied his technique, vocal licks, to the way he shaped his mouth when singing the high notes and basically I just wanted them to see what it’s like to sing with soul and feeling.

You can imagine my excitement when I found out that he would be in Sydney for the Gospel Jam organised by Pastor David Eco of Living Bread Ministries.  Our very own One Voice Alumni Clarissa Mei is part of the Gospel Jam Choir.

That same day I reached out to him and asked if he could conduct a vocal workshop for my students and anyone who wanted to learn how to sing with more soul, passion and learn how to sing vocal licks with ease.

6 tips to help you sing with soul inspired by DeAndre Brackensick

Here are a few things we learnt from DeAndre.  I’m going to tie in a few of my singing tips too.

1.Open your mouth

Sounds obvious!

When we feel nervous often the first thing we do is fall into the habit of tensing our bodies.  You may feel it in your shoulders, neck, tongue and jaw. 

As singers who are just beginning, it’s quiet natural to forget how to relax and open the mouth.

For some singers who are in the vicinity of DeAndre and hearing him sing, you may automatically feel intimidated and not good enough.

Here are some ways to overcome that self doubt.  

1. Be aware that your body may be tense. 

  • Where do you feel your tension?
  • How are you holding your body? 
  • Is it closed?  Are your arms folded in front of you?
  • Are your feet together and knees locked?

Now change your physiology.

  • Stand tall
  • Have your feet grounded, feel yourself rooted to the ground yet free enough to move to the the music.
  • Arms at your side
  • Neck is long, head held high
  • Shoulders down and relaxed

How do you feel?  Balanced? Confident? Free?

Compare this stance to your tense body posture. 

Changing your physiology and the way you are standing will help you have a more confident mindset. You will be ready to confidently sing.

2. Change the negative language in your head with positive language.

Do something for me now. Write down the chatter in your head when when you feel nervous:

e.g – I can’t do this, my voice sounds bad, what will people think of me.

Replace the negative chatter in your mind with talk that may be more useful.

Write them down .e.g. I can do this! Yes, I get to do this! I am confident.

List positive practical things you can say to yourself.

3. Now implement these to the act of singing or to your goal.

Your goal may be to open your mouth when singing higher notes.

  • Are you in the correct singing posture? Are you watching yourself in the mirror?
  • Are you using better language? e.g. Relax and drop the jaw, open the mouth 2 finger spaces wide
  • Now sing with your goal in mind
  • You may have to do it a multiple times until you get it right, until it feels natural or consult a Vocal coach to see if you are heading in the right direction.


4. Celebrate

Often we don’t celebrate enough when we have the slightest improvement.  By celebrating with a pat on the back you reward yourself for good behaviour.  The more you repeat this process the more likely you will gravitate to this good behaviour and stick to it.

Break out of the negative pattern and replace it with positive ones.

When you apply this often enough, you change your negative pattern and replace it with new positive patterns, you will form a new habit that feels natural.

2. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake

DeAndre made the top 24 in season 10 of American idol.  He came back the following year and made it to the top 8.  That says something. 

He learnt from his mistakes in Season 10 and came back better and stronger in Season 11.  By making mistakes or so called “failing” you will find yourself “failing forward” if you let it.

Which means you learn to do better next time, that’s the beauty of failing.  You can use it to your advantage, you work towards your goal until you reach it or surpass it. 

Look where DeAnrde’s experience lead him …. more opportunities like being a support act for Boys to Men and John Legend.  Imagine if he didn’t try again.

Quitting = Failing 

Keep your vision alive!

3. Practice Ad-libs

One of the highlights of the vocal workshop was the ad-libing activity where he would play on his guitar and sing a conversation with each person at the workshop.

Some found it easy, some found it a challenge.

I bet that if we were to do that again, each participant would do better…why?

Because they know what to expect…the negative chatter in their head would be replaced with positive chatter.

Don’t beat yourself up! 

If you see a baby trying to walk and falling down you wouldn’t say anything bad to the baby, you find yourself encouraging them. Saying get up…you can do it…and with those few steps you would find yourself clapping and cheering them on. 

That’s what you need to do with your steps towards learning to sing.  Do the work though!

4. Listen to other singers and artists other than what’s on the radio or on the current charts

Before the workshop ended each person was given an artist to listen to and study.

By listening to singers that are not so popular and not on todays’ Top 40 charts, it broadens your way of thinking and being creative.

Listen to different genres that you wouldn’t normally listen to – Country, Jazz, Indie, Rock, Latin.

The idea is to find sounds, rhythms, tones and textures and vocally play with with those sounds, texture, tones and rhythms. 

Perhaps you like the vocal lick of a particular singer – study the lick. 

  • Count the amount to notes there are. 
  • Study the movement of the melody.
  • Use a piano or guitar to isolate the melody. Slow it down.
  • Sing the melody to numbers or one syllable (Ah)
  • Repeat the process until you get the melody and rhythm right
  • Now study the tone (deep, chesty, whisper) and texture (Gritty, soft, light)
  • You may have to repeat this hundreds of times just to feel like it’s natural.

5. Believe in yourself

We sometime forget to acknowledge how far we have come.  Take time to look back on your achievements – big or small.

Write down all the achievements you have created for yourself within in the past year, within the past 5 years and then 10 years.

Look at your accomplishments, bring yourself back to that time, smile and feel grateful.

Now that you have those moments inside your heart go ahead and think about 3 things you would like to accomplish in the near future.

Write them down, imagine your goals happening…. How do you feel?


6. Be open to learning and raise your standards

Surround yourself with people who lift you up. 

I can teach ad-libs but it doesn’t come to me as naturally as DeAndre.  This is the reason why I reached out to him. 

I believe in learning from people who are better than you.  Why? Because it pushes you to be not just good but outstanding. 

Singing with someone better than you can help you grow as artist.  You can watch them intently- watch what they do with their mouth, how they form their words, how they use their body when singing high notes and low notes, how they move to the music to get themselves in the zone of singing.

It’s inspiring and the more you surround yourself with that inspiration the more you will innately gravitate to singing the way that you wish to. 

Ofcourse, it won’t come easily.  You need to work, sing and make mistakes along the way so you can figure out how to do it better.

DeAndre sparked my inspiration to not only be a better singer but also to be a better teacher.  To challenge my students to have a higher standard and keep working hard towards their goal until they get it or surpass it. I’m so grateful to him.  A wonderful young role model and so very humble. Be on the look out for DeAndre’s album in the near future, next month he will be backing vocalist to Guy Sebastian.  You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook

Thank you to all who attended, big shout out to Ronell who travelled two hours from the coast just to attend.  It was wonderful to learn from each and every one of you. Very proud of the One Voice kids who attended- giving up their Sunday to improve on their craft.

Huge thank you our generous Sponsors – The Diaz Foundation and The Five Vocal tea.

Musically yours!

Tina xx

P.S We are now taking enrolments for term 4!  I not only teach children but I also have room for adult students.

P.S.S  I have 10 Spots for a free 30min Vocal Consultation for new students.  Bookings essential!  Please email at tina [at] tinabangel [dot] com to claim you spot now.  Offer ends 15th of October 2017. Lessons can be via Skype or one on one.

You may also like my other blog posts:

What New York taught me about myself, my business and personal relationships

How I personally got to thank and meet Oprah

The art of celebrating your wins – Inspired by Lea Salonga

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