13 Singing Myths You MUST Stop Believing
As an experienced vocal coach, I can honestly say I’ve seen it all. From singers who physically ‘lean’ one way or another to achieve Appoggio (which means ‘lean’ or ‘support’ in Italian) and others who physically try to make sound from their gut to sing from the diaphragm. These 13 Singing Myths are surprisingly common, are you letting them affect your singing voice?
#1 – Sing with Your Diaphragm
It is not actually possible to sing with your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle located at the base of your lung cavity, and it separates the chest from the abdomen. When you sing, you can’t sing with your diaphragm from your diaphragm. You can only breathe by using the diaphragm. In order to sing properly, you have to breathe via your diaphragm. By engaging it flat towards the abdomen, you will only create a negative space that will be filling up with pressurised air, causing your vocal chords to vibrate in your larynx. Singing from your belly or your diaphragm is impossible, so simply don’t say it. Instead, if you want to learn how to sing, you should also learn how our vocal mechanism actually functions.
#2 – Lower Your Larynx
Sure, you know that it’s not a good idea to sing with a raised larynx like Kermit the frog. However, that also doesn’t mean you should lower it. Your larynx actually doesn’t need to be ‘positioned’ when you sing. To sing properly, and ensure it remains neutral, your larynx should be free to move on its own. Only an opera singer that sings vowels without articulation of words might actually benefit from deliberately lowering their larynx. However, if you artificially jam your larynx down and try to sing a Chris Cornell song, it will not only sound very bad, but it will also hurt like hell. Even classical singers allow their larynx to rise as they ascend through the final passage. Forcibly lowering, jamming up or depressing your larynx won’t help you sing better. On the contrary, you will sound bad, and at the same time, risk injury to your delicate vocal mechanism.
#3 – There Is a Middle Register
Middle voice exists, and every good singer should be able to reach it. However, it a physical sense, there is no such thing as a middle register. When you have developed your voice to a certain point, your registers are not separated. The separation or brakes you may feel while ascending in your voice indicate that your voice isn’t fully developed yet. Your main register, chest and head voice are all created with varying levels of engagement of the TA and CT muscles. TA muscles are vital for vocal fold weight while the CT muscles are essential for proper vocal fold tension. Any good vocal coach should be able to show you how to achieve a balance between the two main registers and reach a mix, or middle coordination, also known as your middle voice.
#4 – There ISN’T a Middle Register
Okay, so I just said that the middle register doesn’t exist in a physical sense. However, as I also, said, middle or mix voice exists, and every good singer should be able to reach it. What’s worse than claiming there is a physical middle ‘register’ that you need to discover is that you ONLY have chest and head voice. Unfortunately, there are many singing gurus out there who there isn’t a middle register. A simple lip trill actually shows that connection between your chest and head register exists. It wouldn’t be possible to do a lip trill if your chest and head register cannot connect and create a middle register. The truth is that singing is a gradient between the black and white extremes of each end of your voice.
#5 – Chest Voice Resonates “In Your Chest”, Head Voice Resonates “In Your Head” and Middle Voice Resonates “In Your Mouth/Nose”
I once heard a vocal coach describing their low register as ‘resonating in the chest’ and their high register as ‘resonating in the head’, and that’s how chest voice and head voice are formed. However, that person obviously didn’t know that we don’t all sense our voices in the same manner. For example, even though I am a low baritone singer, I don’t feel my low register in my chest. When I sing with proper placement, my voice mainly resonates within the vocal tract, and I also feel it in the resonators of the face and nasal cavity. The worst thing you can do to a student who is trying to develop his middle register is to tell him that middle voice ‘resonates in the mouth’. This is physically impossible and trying to make your mouth or tongue to vibrate to use it as your main resonator, will only cause a vocal strain. The main resonators of the voice do not occur in the mouth, but in your head, face and nasal cavity. Your mouth, teeth, tongue, and lips are the articulators that help you to shape your resonance and airflow into the sounds we know as consonants, as well as some vowel sounds. The articulators have nothing to do with reaching a middle voice.
#6 – There is Only One Way to Sing
There are a lot of different vocal programs out there, and in order to sing with your natural voice, you need to find the approach that works best for you. There isn’t such a thing such as ‘one size fits all’ solution or only one magical singing technique that is ‘the secret’ of great singing. Don’t know where to start? Simply choose a vocal program. Every vocal program is good in its own way. If you progress, stick to it, if you don’t look for another one. Arrogant claims that one person holds “the secret” to great singing, or that their course will make you “sing better than anyone else” are just marketing tricks used to push you into buying their expensive courses.
A good vocal coach will share his knowledge and experience, and simply put it all out there for everyone to see. A voice coach who is confident in their approach and cares about singing as well as the ones they teach won’t hide anything from his students or claim he holds the secret of great singing. For free and practical information without a catch, you can check my YouTube channel.
#7 – Singing Is the Same as Speaking; You Just Have to Be REALLY Good at It
Speech and singing, although they use the same mechanisms, are completely unrelated in their application and process. When you speak, you don’t use your diaphragm, and you don’t shape your vowels with your tongue and vocal tract. In speech, you won’t blend your registers, sustain your resonance, and much more. Singing and speaking are entirely different, and you shouldn’t trust YouTube singing gurus or vocal coaches who claim otherwise.
#8 – You Can ‘Grow’ Your Voice or ‘Stretch’ Your Range
Vocal training will help you find your true voice and access the natural range that you were anatomically gifted with. However, that doesn’t mean you can stretch your muscles longer or grow longer vocal folds to gain further range. Everyone has the ability to sing with a good three or four octaves but the problem is that they don’t know how and that their muscles aren’t yet conditioned to do so. Stretching your voice to sing better would be as much as runners somehow stretching their legs to run faster.
#9 – A Baritone CAN Learn to Sing a High C in Chest Voice
Some vocal gurus are able to get away with this one due to the way they classify the registers. For example, if they don’t consider a ‘middle voice’ connection between head voice or chest voice, or they refer to it as “chest voice”, then perhaps you could say they are right. However, their proof isn’t in singing, but in their aggressive advertising. As a low baritone singer, my pure chest voice achieved via full vocal fold weight and full engagement of the TA muscles goes from a C2 to around D3. After this, a blend of vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension occurs naturally. In order to be able to sing naturally a high C with full vocal fold weight, I think my larynx would jump out of my throat due to the amount of strain and pressure required to vibrate my vocal chords that fast.
#10 – You Should Drink a Lot of Water on Stage
If you need to drink a lot of water when singing, you either have a very poor vocal technique or you simply didn’t drink enough fluid that day. When you don’t drink enough water during the day you will experience the effects of dehydration on your voice. Drinking water on stage will do nothing for your voice. However, drinking enough water during the day is vital for your vocal (and overall) health.
#11 – Rock Singers Damage Their Voices More Than Opera Singers
Many opera and classical singers have lost their voice due to different reasons, such as overuse or vocal strain. Even classical singers can have poor vocal technique or simply a bad night. This myth comes from the fact that you can generally get away with singing rock without being a fully trained singer. However, when you compare rock singers to (who don’t necessarily have to be vocally trained) well-trained classical singers, you will see that both equally damage their voice. Classical singers actually damage their voice a bit more due to the length of time they use their voice.
#12 – Belting Harms Your Voice
I’m personally not a fan of belting, and I prefer a more balanced coordination through my full range. However, belting is very easy and won’t damage your voice. When done properly, it poses no more risk to your vocal health than singing consonants or just singing in general.
#13 – You Have To Be a Good Singer to Sing with Grit
To be honest, I was able to sing with grit before I was able to sing really good. The ability to sing with grit was further developed as I developed my singing technique over the last 20 years, but it was present from day one. I can name at least 10 to 15 singers with terrible vocal technique who can sing with grit rather well – meaning distortion has no relation to great singing. Singing with grit is easily done, it’s not risky for your voice, and it’s not some kind of an “advanced” singing technique only great singers can achieve. I have come across many singing courses and vocal academies that were advertised around the coach’s ability to sing with grit. However, you should know that singing with grit has little to do with their ability to actually sing.
Have you been letting these myths affect your singing voice? A great place to start is the free foundations courses available here at BVS which will show you how to set up an effective base of posture, placement and breathing so you can then start extending your range and taking your voice to the next level with professional coaching here at Bohemian Vocal Studio.
If you have any questions about vocal myths, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.