13 BS Facts About Singing Everyone Thinks Are True
As a professional vocal coach, I’ve seen it all – singers who actually lean forward in an effort to achieve Appoggio (aka “lean”) and others who try to make sound in their bellies to sing from the diaphragm, not to mention all those guys who say that Middle Voice is BS and then wonder why they can’t sing high chest voice notes. In an act of solidarity with all of you who have been given terrible advice from a self-appointed voice coach or vocal academy guru in the past, here are my 14 favorite (least favorite?) BS facts about singing that everyone thinks are true.
#1 – Sing with your diaphragm
If I had a dime for every time I heard this one. Your diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle that is located at the base of your lung cavity, separating your chest from your abdomen. When you sing, you don’t actually sing with your diaphragm or sing from your diaphragm, you actually breathe USING the diaphragm. That’s right, by engaging the diaphragm flat towards the abdomen, you create a negative space that ‘fills’ with pressurised air, which in turn allows your vocal chords to vibrate in your larynx. Please don’t say “sing from your belly” or “sing from your diaphragm” anymore, it just upsets guys like me who actually know how the voice functions.
#2 – Lower your larynx
I tried this one for years and years before realising it was a load of hocus pocus. Sure, don’t raise your larynx like Kermit the frog when you sing, but your larynx doesn’t need to be ‘positioned’ when you sing, it needs to remain natural and free to move of its own accord. An Opera singer singing vowels without actual articulation of words might benefit from an artificially lowered larynx, but if you jam your larynx down and try to sing a Chris Cornell song, you’re probably going to cry at how bad it sounds and how bad it hurts. Even classically trained Opera singers allow their larynx to raise and tilt a touch as they ascend through the final Passaggio, so forcibly depressing your larynx is a load of bollocks and should be left in the 14th century where it belongs
#3 – There is a middle register
In a physical sense, no, there is not. In fact, there is no separation between your registers, at least, when you’ve developed your voice to a certain point. Your main register, chest voice and head voice, are created with varying levels of engagement of the TA muscles (vocal fold weight) and the CT muscles (vocal fold tension), and any good voice coach will show you how to ‘balance’ between these two extreme coordinations in what some call a mix or middle coordination – but in a physical sense, there is no actual register there, and in fact, chest voice and head voice don’t exist either if you want to get technical.
#4 – There ISN’T a middle register
But you just said… Even worse than those voice gurus who swear that there is a physical middle ‘register’ that you need to discover, is those that say there ISN’T a middle register and you only have chest and head voice. The connection between your chest and head register is proven with a simple lip trill, so how do these geniuses think that their disconnected chest and head register connect on a lip trill where there is no middle ground between these two main registers? The reality is that singing is a ‘gradient’ between the black and white extremes of either end of your voice.
#5 – Chest voice resonates “in your chest” while head voice resonates “in your head” while middle voice resonates “in your mouth/nose”
Many years ago, some genius described their low register as ‘resonating in the chest’ and their high register as ‘resonating in the head’ – hence how chest voice and head voice were born. Here’s the thing, we don’t all sense our voices in the same manner, and as an example, even as a LOW baritone myself – I don’t actually feel my low register in my chest in any way. With proper placement, I feel my full singing range of some 4 octaves as mainly resonating within the vocal tract and in the resonators of the face and nasal cavity. The worst part of this is telling students to ‘resonate in the mouth’ for middle voice which is physically impossible and will cause vocal strain if you are trying to make your tongue or mouth vibrate as your main resonator. The main resonators of the voice occur in the head, face and nasal cavity – not your mouth. Your mouth, teeth, tongue and lips are actually called the articulators and allow you to shape your resonance and airflow into the sounds we know as consonants and some vowel sounds – they have nothing to do with the balance of vocal fold weight and fold tension referred to as middle voice.
#6 – There is only one way to sing
Honestly, there are a TON of different vocal programs and approaches out there and you know what? They’re all good. Try them out, if you progress, awesome, if you don’t, then move on to the next one. Arrogant claims that one person holds “the secret” to great singing or their course will make you “sing better than anyone else” are absolute bunk and simple used to market and push you into buying their expensive courses, and no doubt the expensive second and third levels. I personally believe in altruism as a voice coach and basically ‘put it all out there’ for everyone to see. A vocal coach who is confident in their approach and truly cares about great singing and cares about those they teach will have nothing to hide and won’t rely on dodgy claims of “the secret” or aggressive marketing that puts down others in the same field. Check out my YouTube channel for a ton of free and practical information without a catch and no expensive courses in sight:
#7 – Singing is the same as speaking, you just have to get REALLY good at it
Ugh. Speech and singing are completely unrelated in their application, and while they might use the same mechanism, are ultimately separate in their process too. Do you breathe using the diaphragm when you speak? No. Do you shape your vowels with your tongue and vocal tract when you speak? No. Do you blend your registers when you speak? No. Do you sustain resonance when you speak? No.
Case in point – singing and speaking are entirely different, don’t let some doofus on YouTube tell you otherwise.
#8 – You can ‘grow’ your voice or ‘stretch’ your range
Phht. Total BS. Sure, vocal training will help you access the natural range that you were physically and anatomically gifted with, but you can’t stretch your muscles longer or grow an extra long set of vocal folds to gain further range. You already have the ability to sing with a good 3 or 4 octaves, you simply don’t know how and your muscles aren’t yet conditioned to do so. Singers stretch their voices longer about as much as runners stretch their legs longer to run faster…
#9 – A baritone CAN learn to sing a high C in chest voice
Vocal gurus kindof get away with this one by the tricky way that they classify the registers. If they’re a voice coach that doesn’t consider a ‘middle voice’ connection between head voice or chest voice, and they consider the natural gradient between vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension that occurs when you ascend in range as “chest voice”, then perhaps you could say this one is true. The proof isn’t in the singing, the proof is in their aggressive marketing. If you think about this for a moment, as a low baritone myself, my pure chest voice (ie: full vocal fold weight via full engagement of the TA muscles) runs from around a C2 up to about D3 or so until a blend of weight and tension naturally occurs – to sing a high C with full vocal fold weight with my natural voice, my larynx would likely jump out of my throat with the sheer amount of strain and pressure required to vibrate my thick vocal chords that fast. Absolutely and irrefutably BS.
#10 – You should drink a lot of water on stage
If you’re desperate for water when you’re singing, either you have super poor vocal technique, or perhaps you didn’t drink enough water through the day and now you’re experiencing the effects of dehydration on your vocal folds. Drinking water while you sing does nothing for your voice, but not drinking enough water throughout the day can have a drastic impact on your vocal (and overall) health.
#11 – Rock singers damage their voices more than classical singers
Actually, quite a number of well respected Opera and classical singers have lost their voices or now suffer from vocal damage for all manner of reasons, from strain, overuse and yes, even classical singers can have poor vocal technique or a bad night too. This myth comes from the fact that you can generally get away with singing rock without being a fully trained singer (or even trained at all), so putting 100 rock singers, only 5 of which have ever taken vocal lessons, against 100 well trained classical singers and seeing which group had a higher percentage of vocal damage or issues, you’d find the amount was arguably the same, leaning somewhat more towards the classical side due to the sheer length of time that some classical singers use their voices for.
#12 – Belting harms your voice
I’m personally not a big fan of belting anymore and prefer a more balanced coordination through my full range, and like to encourage the same in my students – but belting is super easy and if done properly really poses no more risk to your voice than singing in head voice, or singing consonants, or singing in general.
#13 – You have to be a good singer to sing with grit
Being totally honest with you, I could actually sing with grit before I could really “sing”. This ability has, of course, carried forward as I’ve developed my actual singing technique over the last 20 years, but it was one I already had from day one. I can name at least 10 to 15 singers with rather poor vocal technique who can sing with grit rather well – distortion has no relation to great singing, and while it can be done with ease and without much risk to the voice, isn’t an “advanced” singing technique that you will magically discover when you’ve learned to sing well. Many an expensive singing course has been marketed and sold around the guru’s ability to sing with grit, which has little to do with their ability as a singer and even less to do with their ability as a vocal coach.
Don’t be a jerk that spreads myths and lies about singing, be a singer who shares the truth and helps others realise their true potential as singers with actual vocal techniques, not marketing terms.
A great place to start with real vocal technique is the free foundations short courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, and then when you’re ready to take it all to the next level with professional voice coaching you can book a Skype Session and we’ll work on getting your middle voice to resonate in your mouth, lowering your larynx and making you a good singer so you can sing with grit (I’m joking, I’m joking!). Seriously, if you want to learn how to sing without hearing any stupid marketing terms or being told to buy my expensive course, get in touch.
If you have any questions about learning to sing, or you’d like to share your own vocal myth – feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!