5 Real-Life Lessons About Singing
Breathe from the diaphragm, sing with forward placement, don’t push when you sing high notes – I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. But what about real-life lessons about singing that come from someone who sings professionally that will actually help you in a practical manner to use your voice more efficiently and achieve the singing voice of your dreams? Surely the world’s greatest singers didn’t just breathe from the diaphragm and magically achieved their dreams of becoming a great singer, right? Here are 5 actual real-life lessons about singing that come from 15 years of experience and a lifetime of education and dedication to building a great singing voice.
#1 – You don’t need singing terms and techniques
No, really, you don’t. A fancy term like Appoggio is just an Italian word for support and can be explained in a much more practical and less ‘mystical’ manner. You don’t need middle voice, edge, twang, appoggio, vibrato, vowel modification or resonance blending – these are just terms used to describe the often indescribable or intangible elements of singing. They may work for you, but you don’t NEED them – you already have the voice of your dreams, you just don’t know how to use it yet.
As an example, the idea of Open Throat Singing is a broad concept which covers many facets of your singing voice, but can also be easily explained and demonstrated in a practical sense and broken down by simply showing a student how to control the soft palate properly, forming your vowels with your tongue and singing with resonance rather than airflow – it really is THAT easy. Sure, you can bring all those elements of your voice together and call it Open Throat Technique, but these elements of the voice have existed naturally for thousands of years – only now do we classify it with an abstract term that may or may not help you sing, but one that definitely causes confusion in any singer who is just learning the ropes.
The same goes for Appoggio, which in English literally means ‘support’. To support your voice, you simply need to balance your air flow and airpressure through consistent diaphragmatic engagement – a rather basic aspect of learning how to sing, but one that is made more confusing and mystical by the use of terms in another language, and by how fiercely guarded the classical realm is of these terms. Appoggio isn’t a ‘secret’ or ‘magic’ technique, it’s a simply a term that has grown into a myth because it is in another language, and because it’s figurative, not literal.
A spectacular singer like Paul Rodgers never took singing lessons, and likely couldn’t tell you the process of diaphragmatic breathing, and a natural singer like Aretha Franklin has likely never used the term Appoggio – but these are two of the GREATEST singers of all time. Do you want to sing like them, or do you want to be able to explain why their voices are great with technical terms but are unable to do it yourself?
You don’t need all these crazy singing terms and techniques, you just need to find balance and discover your own true voice.
#2 – Balance is more important than strength
When it comes down to it, singing is a simple process of balance, not one of brute strength or force. Learning to sing with care, intention and finesse will take you MUCH further and get you MUCH closer to your goals than trying to pull chest voice as high as possible in a muscular fashion – there’s a reason this is difficult, and that’s because it’s an imbalance. Developing balance and consistency takes time and perseverance, but ultimately has very little to do with physical strength or force – if you’re singing like a bodybuilding lifts weights, you’re headed down a dangerous road my friend, one of imbalance and vocal strain.
#3 – There is more than one way to sing
I know, this goes against the grain with all the strong opinions out there about which method is ‘right’ and which method is ‘wrong’ – but really, there is more than one way to sing, and two singers may end up with the SAME results from two totally different methods. Remember, a singing method is simply one man’s approach, not a scientific fact – one singer may benefit from modifying their vowels, while another may not fully grasp the concept and instead get the same result simply through focussing on efficient resonance. If someone says they hold “the secret” to singing, or that their way is “the best” – they’re likely a great singer, an even better internet marketer, and most likely a lousy vocal coach. Every voice is unique, and every singer has a unique instrument that needs to be developed for its strength and supported for its weaknesses – there is no magic bullet for singing, just like there is no single way to sing that is ‘right” for every singer.
#4 – There’s a lot of BS out there
Seriously, there is A LOT of crap out there that has more to do with marketing and business than it really does with helping people sing. If something seems abstract and unrelated to singing in a practical sense, it probably is abstract and unrelated to singing.
#5 – A great singer isn’t necessarily a great voice coach
Being a great singer doesn’t immediately give you the patience and skills to coach another, so while a great voice coach SHOULD be a great singer themselves, not all singers are born with a knack for problem-solving or the ability to teach. There is a scientific basis for this fact, and it’s because a naturally great singer who was born with an aptitude for the coordination required in singing didn’t necessarily find any part of the process difficult themselves, and will likely overlook key elements of the learning curve because they themselves breezed through it with ease. As an example, singing and speech are ultimately two separate processes of the same mechanism, and really require two separate sets of rules and instructions – however, there are some ‘easy’ accents that naturally convert from speech to singing, and ‘difficult’ accents that wreak havoc on the singing voice if the right approach isn’t employed and developed – this is why some vocal gurus completely overlook the process of singing consonant sounds, because they do it naturally, while another singer with a difficult accent may struggle to sing consonant sounds on every single word. Another example is a singer who naturally forms their vowels correctly, and the fact they would likely overlook this as an important aspect of learning how to sing – they just did it naturally, so everyone else does as well, right? Not so much. A great voice coach is one who has gone from the unfortunate position of not naturally having a great, gifted singing voice themselves, to building a formidable and impressive singing voice and teaching approach themselves due to the fact they truly understand the depth and finesse required to be a great singer, not just because they do it naturally.
These 5 real-life singing lessons have been invaluable to me as a voice coach, and have been discovered in my own journey and learning curve as a singer and finally a teacher. Every singer has a unique instrument, so it’s important you find a voice coach who understands your unique issues and can help you form your own approach to singing rather than just rehashing what worked for them. The best place to start is the free foundations short courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will give you a head start on building a powerful and consistent foundation for your voice to sit upon – then when you’re ready to take it up another notch with professional voice coaching from a coach who truly understands the unique issues we all face as singers with our unique instruments, you can book a Skype Session and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building consistency and balance in your voice every time you sing!
If you have any questions about learning how to sing, 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.