Can Anyone Learn To Sing Well? [The Facts]
Once upon a time I asked myself this very same question, and the answer really wasn’t what I was hoping to hear – let me elaborate. Learning how to sing was a difficult task for me personally, with my low baritone voice, Australian accent and lack of local singing teachers, the odds really were stacked against me ever becoming a singer, or the voice coach I have become over the past 15 years. The answer I was looking for was that singers are born, and the reason I had had so much trouble learning to sing, and so many issues with my voice – is that I simply wasn’t blessed with a good singing voice, right? The truth was far from that, in fact, looking back no I can see where I went so wrong.
While the truth is that absolutely ANYONE can learn to sing well, not everyone who tries to learn singing will succeed, and there’s an important reason behind this conclusion: Not every voice is created equal, and no two singers will see the same results from the same exercises or same approach. Think about it, if you took five separate people who had never sung before and told them to sing the word “Game” exactly the same way that they speak, you’d get five VERY different results. Now, if you took these same five singers and explained to each singer how to manage their accent, voice type and idiosyncracies of the vocal mechanism and their resonators – you would actually get the same results from each singer using a different instruction. Catch my drift? The idea that there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach to singing that will work for everyone is a very damaging concept to the voices and confidence of many singers who don’t tick the boxes of a “natural” talent for singing with a magical understanding for the more complicated aspects of singing that really do need a unique instruction to match each unique voice.
So, if the question you’ve been asking is really “Will I ever become a good singer?”, then in fact the answer really depends on the approach you’re using and how well the vocal method you are using is tailored to the more unique aspects of your voice such as voice type, natural range, accent and ability to understand the concepts being put forward. I know I personally struggled with many of the more abstract concepts in singing like “Inhale the voice” and “Support” and “Vowel Modification”, not because my voice wasn’t designed to become the smooth vocal machine it has become over the years with extensive training and practice, but quite simply because noone ever bothered to explain these concepts and techniques to me in a way that was practical and applicable to MY voice.
The Truth About Learning How To Sing
The truth is, singing is actually a VERY easy and simple process. It’s learning HOW to do it that is actually the difficult part, in no small part due to all the conflicting information and difference of opinions and egos out there where vocal methods and voice coaches are concerned. If I told you right now that the humble lip trill is the number one most powerful and versatile exercise that you can develop your voice with (absolutely true by the way!) and that you should practice them every sing day, would you magically become a fantastic singer? Perhaps, but instead if explained the manner with which a lip trill is designed to help your voice and there is actually TWO sounds that occur when you practice a lip trill, one resonant and one articulated by the lips, and that the resonance needed to be directed into the pharynx without allowing airflow through the nose, then you would have all the information and start to understand the purpose of the exercise, and make a connection to how the exercise itself is intended to help your voice instead of just ‘doing it’ and hoping for the best. The singer who understands the concept and has the right intention behind each exercise will see results beyond the wildest dreams of another singer who just practices scales for hours on end hoping for the best, on not realising the important aspects of the voice to focus on with each exercise.
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My friend and voice student Elisha laying down some MJ with her band @doubleshotacousticduo – such a gifted and great voice that so much dedication and practice has gone into, plus on bass is Maurice, another BVS student with a natural baritone like me (hope you guys hear his amazing voice soon) 💜🎶💯🌞👍 I'm personally inspired every day by people who follow their heart and dreams. What inspires you guys to wake up and kick ass every morning? #mj #michaeljackson #vocalcover #weddingsinger #weddingband #singing #talent #voicecoach #vocalcoach, #singingteacher #blameitontheboogie
Where do you start?
Foundation is the first step to building a powerful and versatile singing voice. Foundation in a singing voice is just like the foundation of a house being built, things like placement, resonance, vowels, breathing, posture all make up the concrete base and rock solid slab for your range and tone to be built upon as you progress as a singer. Breathing is obviously the best place to start, but the way you form your vowels is just as important to the tone and quality of your voice as it is to extending your range and allowing you to hit high notes without straining.
In speech, we often use the front portion of our faces to form our sounds, using the teeth, tip of the tongue and lips. Now, in singing, each vowel sound needs to resonate in the pharynx at the back of your head along with your other resonators throughout your range, so, a bright vocal tone actually occurs in tandem with a natural and strain free open resonance at the back of your head in the vocal tract like a classical singer, but placement allows you to achieve the same powerful and intense sound that you likely associate with pop and rock singers. Foundation really does make the difference between a powerful and consistent singing voice.
A great place to start building your foundation is the free short course available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will set you up with THE strongest foundation and rock solid base for your vocal technique, range and tone to be built upon as you progress as a singer.
Balance is key
Something I really wish I had understood early on in my journey as a singer is that a great singing voice isn’t a “strong” voice, it’s actually a “balanced” voice. Singing itself is largely a process of balance and coordination rather than a muscular feat of strength like many beginner singers inadvertently believe: “If I could JUST hit that next note” or “If I could JUST support a little more”, when in fact it’s a lack of balance in various parts of the vocal mechanism that makes them unable to hit that next note or sustain their resonance as they hold a phrase. Balance can be traced back to absolutely every element of your voice, from balancing your onsets, blending your resonance and maintaining a balance between pressure and airflow (aka Support) – and every issue you experience along the way as a singer can be traced back to a lack of balance, be it an aspirated onset, lack of balance in the middle register or any other form of skewed balance that manifests in an inconsistent and strained voice.
Developing balance is actually very easy to do, but very hard to achieve if you’ve already built a few bad habits and imbalances into your voice through pushing or straining over a period of time. Ask yourself the following questions to learn whether you are singing with balance:
- Are you balancing your onset? (Coordinating airflow and vocal fold closure for instant resonance)
- Are you blending your registers? (Signing in the mix register and connecting chest and head voice)
- Are you shaping your vowels? (Each vowel sound involves a specific tongue shape)
- Are you allowing resonant space as you ascend? (The soft palate needs to ‘raise’ as you sing higher to allow resonant space)
- Are you grouping your consonants? (Each consonant group will need it’s own unique approach in your voice)
- Are you supporting your voice? (Balancing airflow and air pressure through diaphragmatic engagement)
- Are you pushing, straining, yelling, or singing breathy? (Your tone should be released and powerfully resonant without force)
If you answered No to any of the first six points, or answered Yes to the last point, then it’s likely you are experiencing a lack of balance in your voice and your singing could use some work. Foundations 101 is a great place to start if you want to set up a stronger foundation for your voice, and when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching, you’re welcome to book a Skype Lesson and we’ll start working towards extending your range and developing balance, control and consistency into your voice every time you sing!
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.