4 Dirty Little Secrets About Learning to Sing
If you’ve been trying to learn how to sing and either purchased a program or have been taking lessons for some time, you might wonder why your progress is slow and the voice you desire is always just out of reach while those YouTube vocal gurus make it looks so damn easy.
These 4 Dirty Little Secrets about Learning To Sing are going to blow your mind and open up your world to a whole new approach to singing – one without secrets, marketing terms, expensive courses and most of all with a practical and clear path to achieving the voice of your dreams.
#1 – Singing is easy
There, I said it. For many years I personally tried every trick under the sun to ‘make’ my voice behave the way I wanted it to and reach the heights of my favourite singers with very little success. Sure, the odd tip or trick helped a little, but I was always one step away from the note I wanted to hit and it all just seemed way too hard.
Here’s the catch, it seemed way too hard because that is what I was being told. The idea that there is a ‘secret’ or ‘missing key’ to your voice that you don’t already possess and you need to purchase from someone is one of the most damaging marketing approaches out there, a successful one for those selling expensive courses I’m sure, but damaging to the voices and dreams of those who really need coaching the most, those of us who aren’t naturally gifted singers.
Singing itself is a very easy process and is more a game of coordination and balance than it is of tricks, secrets or even muscular force. Keep that in mind the next time you see one of those YouTube gurus nailing a song in a recording studio, but looking like they’re popping a valve while doing so with a red face – singing should be easy, and if it’s not easy, you’re doing it wrong. The idea that singing is difficult, or that it’s a drawn out and muscular process is genius marketing, but it’s really very far from the truth. Start with your foundation, focus on connection between your registers first and then start to develop your articulation and stylistic delivery, it really is THAT simple.
#2 – There’s a sneaky reason vocal coaches don’t agree on terms and technique
It simply wouldn’t serve sales for everyone to agree that there was a simple and effective way to sing. Quite often vocal coaches approach a technique in a different way to another coach purely to set themselves apart with no regard to whether this approach or the use of a different term is helpful to their students or not. Second to that, singing is an individual experience – as an example, as a low baritone myself I don’t actually feel my “chest voice” in my “chest” so to speak like some other singers and coaches do. If a voice coach blindly told everyone to resonate in the chest to achieve chest voice, this would actually cause a placement issue in my voice personally and cause all manner of issues. Teachers often want to teach “what worked for them” rather than what may work for their students. I often provide four or five different ways to achieve the same result in singing even if they didn’t personally work for my voice, because I understand that no two voices are the same, no two sensations are the same and everyone needs a unique and tailored approach to singing designed for their specific voice.
#3 – Singing terms are figurative (and often unnecessary)
I had a funny experience relating to classical singing terms recently when I answered a simple question on Quora in a well-meaning and honest way from my perspective and experience as a singer and voice coach. A classical singer took unbelievable offence to my use of the term Appoggio in the response and replied with an A4 page manifest about how “a real vocal coach that is able to play the violin” was the only viable option to teach you how to sing (say what now?) and that my use of the term Appoggio, which simply means support in Italian was “doing a disservice to classical singing” – direct quote by the way.
The funny thing is, I was taught this term and the technique itself BY a classical teacher, found it to be useful in terms of describing one of the more intangible elements of singing, and hence occasionally use it to describe the act of breath support.
Some singers and vocal gurus are fiercley guarded about ‘the secrets’ of singing and the true meaning of terms like Appoggio and Open Throat – because, if everyone knew their true meaning, and they were explained in a simple and practical sense, they would be out of business. While I believe figurative terms like support, placement and open throat can be a great learning or teaching tool, you don’t actually NEED them to sing well, and there are other ways to approach the same technique instead of treating a term like Appoggio as some secret greeting that only classical singers know, understand and have the right to use.
Remember, classical singing terms are often coined as a figure of speech and were never intended as a literal instruction when you sing – keep that in mind the next time you hear a vocal coach tell you to physically “open your throat” when you sing, this is marketing 101 – creating a term or technique that everyone wants or feels they need, but doesn’t actually exist and can NEVER actually be achieved.
#4 – There’s a reason you rarely see a vocal coach singing along live with an acoustic guitar
And that’s because singing live is VERY different to singing in a $1k a day recording studio through a five thousand dollar microphone with editing, EQ and multiple takes – this latter sells courses and lessons, the former does not. This is because the reality of someone sitting down with a guitar, or just singing on their own puts the coach on the same level as those who are learning, where a recording studio setting through a professional camera is ALWAYS out of reach for someone who just sings in their spare time, and the “awe” effect this has on someone who is having issues with their voice often makes them pull the trigger on buying an expensive course because the vocal coach is 100% perfect (seemingly) and begins to appear like a sage figure or guru who has reached a level of vocal ascension that few mortals can achieve.
I assure you, you’d be a lot less impressed and wowed by the top YouTube singing channels if you sat in a room with the coach while they sang – but keeping themselves at arms length and in a position of power is the stuff of marketing genius.
Singing is easy, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If something is difficult when you sing, you’re either doing it wrong or you haven’t developed the right balance yet – you can’t buy the secret to singing, and no one out there other than yourself actually holds the key to improving your singing voice. Singing is a process of balance and coordination over time, you aren’t missing something and there is no special trick out there that is going to magically improve your voice. Set up your foundation first, develop connection and balance, and then work on articulation of your vowels and delivery.
A great place to start is the FREE short courses here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will take you through the process of building a strong foundation, and then when you’re ready to take it up a notch with professional voice training from a coach who understands that your voice is unique and that you need a tailored approach to singing you can book a Skype Session and we’ll start extending your range and improving your singing voice.
If you have any questions about learning how to sing, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!