5 Myths About Singing You Probably Still Believe (and shouldn’t!)
If you have a love for singing, then no doubt you’ve done some research online on how to sing like your favourite singer, or how to utilise a particular vocal technique. The funny thing about the internet is that everything you read is true, right? Of course not. Even when it comes from seemingly reputable sources like Wikipedia or a YouTube voice guru, any advice you read online should be taken with a grain of salt, because after all, a lot of what is written or said online is simply an opinion, or a marketing approach designed to sell expensive products. In particular, I often hear the following myths, marketing terms and total lies almost daily in my work as a vocal coach from well-meaning students who have taken advice online or watched an impressive marketing campaign for an expensive singing course – here’s 5 Myths About Singing You Probably Still Believe (and shouldn’t!)
#1 – Open Throat requires you to open your throat
The term Open Throat is an especially prickly one for me, as it actually has its root in proper classical vocal technique, but has been hijacked as a marketing term to sell some of the most popular (and expensive) singing courses available online. Inexperienced singers often interpret instructions like Open Throat Singing in a literal sense and constantly experience struggles with their voices as a result. The term Open Throat is a direct translation of the classical singing term La Gola Aperta, which yes, literally means The Open Throat – but is actually intended as a figure of speech to encourage you to sing without strain in your throat.
Open Throat is one of the biggest myths out there in the world of singing technique and vocal courses. It’s important to understand that great singing, and the true meaning of Open Throat Technique is to sing with proper closure. You read that right, to sing with an open throat you must achieve closure.
- Open Throat Singing requires you to CLOSE the soft palate
- Open Throat Singing requires CLOSURE of your vocal chords
- Open Throat Singing often requires narrowing of your vowels towards CLOSURE
As you can see, there are very few elements of great singing or Open Throat Technique that are physically OPEN in any manner. Classical singing terms were originally intended as a way to explain the more intangible elements of singing and encompass broader concepts with one umbrella – Open Throat Singing requires you to support your voice properly, shape your vowels with the tongue and corresponding vocal tract width, release your registers, sing with coordination and balance (often known as Middle Voice or Mix) and learn the art of releasing strain before it occurs.
Stop believing the hype that surrounds classical terms like Open Throat and find a voice coach who can explain them to you in a practical, truthful and useful way.
#2 – Singing requires muscular force
Pavarotti wasn’t a fit guy but was one of the greatest singers of our time. The same goes for rock singers like Layne Staley, Steven Tyler and Stevie Nicks – these guys weren’t exactly running laps each morning and following an exercise regime to stay ‘fit’ for singing so that they could sing in a muscular manner, they in fact made rather unhealthy life and vocal choices all throughout their singing careers and are still known as some of the greatest singers of all time. Singing is actually a balancing act of coordination rather than a feat of muscular strength. This myth has been exacerbated and accepted in the mainstream due to YouTube gurus who strain when they sing, with veins popping out of their neck and an increasingly tomato red face – and then follow up their singing with absolute lies like “I’m not straining!” so that you are tricked into believing that extreme singing and distorted, pushed singing can be done without strain, and you buy their expensive course.
Singing should be a strain free, easy and joyous pursuit. Inexperienced singers often fight their natural voice and try to contort and twist their voices into how they perceive a singing voice should sound, or feel, often in part due to YouTube gurus who are untruthful about how physically hard they are pushing and straining. This myth is another prickly one for me as a professional voice coach – if it doesn’t feel right, you’re not doing it right. Stop trying to fight your voice and stop treating your voice as a boxing ring or sports field. Great singing requires balance, coordination and finesse.
#3 – There’s only one way to sing or there’s a “Secret” to great singing
You were probably already a little cotton on to this one. The same YouTube gurus who sell expensive courses often punctuate their videos and articles with statements like “My singing course is the ONLY one that works” or “I hold the SECRET to singing” or “Sing better than anyone else”. There IS no secret to singing, and there are actually plenty of different ways to learn how to sing and many different approaches that may work for different students. I can think of at least 5 different resources online that provide fantastic and truthful information about singing for FREE without deceptive marketing designed to drum up sales. The only secret that you need to know about singing is that there is no magic pill and no mysterious secret you’re not currently aware of that is going to make you sing better, instead you simple need to learn how to coordinate the following:
- Support (Appoggio)
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Mix Voice or Middle Coordination
- Vowel Shaping
- Frequency Placement
- Vocal chord closure (Adduction)
- Resonance tuning (Vowel Modification)
- Consonant Grouping
- Release and Vibrato
There IS no secret to singing, so stop letting people tell you that there is and that they’re the only one who can show it to you – statements like this are a sleight of hand and complete mistruth.
#4 – Appoggio is a mystery and cannot be conveyed in words
Appoggio is actually one of the easiest aspects of singing and really starts with your foundation. A good vocal coach will often point out that your singing voice will only ever be as strong as your foundation. Appoggio literally translates to “Lean” or “Support”, but as we learned earlier about Open Throat, classical singing terms are often a figure of speech rather than a literal instruction. To sing with Appoggio, often simply called support, you first must set up your posture appropriately:
- Head up
- Shoulders Back
- Chin Parralel with the floor
- Ribs Wide
This last point, a widened rib position, is the true key to singing with Appoggio. A great way to achieve a widened rib stance is to raise your sternum without breathing in – if you learn how to do this effectively, you will feel your lower ribs widen and your stomach contract. If you then breathe while retaining this widened rib posture, you’ll notice that your shoulders and chest don’t move, and your breathing occurs solely from the diaphragm. Congratulations, you just achieved Appoggio.
Now, the true key to singing with Appoggio is retaining this widened rib position as you release your air so that your breathing is controlled solely by the air pressure created by your extended diaphragm, rather than contraction of your ribs like you might expect in speech or shallow breathing.
Appoggio isn’t a secret, or a mystery – although it’s often made out to be an intangible ‘secret’ only held by classical singers and those in the know. Set up your posture, breathe effectively and manage your airflow correctly and Appoggio singing technique will become second nature.
#5 – Singing is difficult
Learning how to sing is often difficult, but singing itself is not difficult (think about that for a moment!). This is why your favourite singers appear to soar into their high range and sing with the most intense and powerful sound with seemingly little effort. Singing isn’t a difficult act and is a natural function of your vocal mechanism, so it’s important that you approach it in this manner without the incorrect assumption that singing should be difficult.
Singing has a very steep and often very long learning curve, and your voice will evolve over time while requiring constant practice, training and tweaking of your vocal technique. While singing may take quite a bit of mental work and psychological coordination, singing should never be difficult in a physical way, and really doesn’t HAVE to be that difficult to learn.
If you feel you have an untapped talent for singing, I, of course, suggest seeing a singing coach or your local voice teacher to get your foundation in order and set up your voice for the most efficient and smoothest learning curve. My free foundations short courses will actually get you started on a healthy foundation and techniques like placement and Appoggio, and when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started building a POWERFUL singing voice without any confusing marketing terms and with a proper and practical approach to singing that avoids these five myths in place of real singing technique.
If you have any questions about vocal myths or confusing singing terms, 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.