Can You Really Learn To Sing On YouTube? [My 5+ Year Experience]
I Learned How To Sing the old way – you know, stuffy opera coach in a dingy teaching room, a tilted full length mirror pointing out any obvious flaws in my posture or funny movements of the mouth, a kid in the next room learning Joy To The World on the piano through the paper thin walls, my teacher baulking at the idea of singing like Chris Cornell or James Hetfield and scoffing that “that’s not singing” – not very Rock ‘n Roll, right? The truth is, this process of learning how to sing might be outdated, but it worked… well, eventually anyway.
After a number of years teaching in person at a local studio, I took my teaching studio live online in 2014 and quickly discovered many things that both made me a better coach myself, but also made me very wary of learning how to sing online, and also very careful about the way that I taught online too.
YouTube seems to be full of two or three types of people, no matter the niche or topic;
- Pedestals – These guys are at a seemingly extremely unreachable level of ability and success and really aren’t shy in demonstrating just how GREAT they are, but unfortunately, also so far removed from their own time as a beginner singer/guitarist/whatever to really be an effective coach for those looking to sing better online. These videos are often very intense, intimidating and even condescending at times “I’m the best” etc.
- Naturals – Natural singers/guitarists/whatever who know very little about the process of teaching others and helping them reach the same level that they naturally possessed. They sound excellent themselves, but let’s face it, learning to play basketball from someone that is 6″7 and had a perfect 3 pointer at age 9 isn’t going to be very helpful for someone who is 5″4, uncoordinated and wants to learn to play at age 40 (weird analogy I know, but I’m going to go with it).
- Amateurs – Total amateurs or YouTube personalities that do things like reaction videos or troll others for likes
Then, there are also combinations of all the above too; Amateurs that THINK they’re better than everyone, people who are actually very talented singers and coaches who get sucked into doing lame reaction videos, very good coaches who aren’t really the most spectacular singers out there and so many other variations.
When I first started taking my coaching online, I really wanted to avoid every single one of these YouTube types, and make a channel which was based purely on practical tips and information that really could be used to help anyone sing better – right then and right there. I didn’t have a course for sale, I wasn’t even offering Skype lessons at the time – I was still just teaching from my local studio, and putting what I had to offer out there out of total good will. My videos were recorded anywhere and at any time, on the couch, the car, on the way to work – you name it. Professional video quality wasn’t exactly my name, but people LOVED how they sang after they applied my concepts and approach.
Now here’s the problem – this also confused the absolute hell out of everyone. I was obviously an accomplished singer and voice coach, but I wasn’t putting myself up on an unreachable ledge or doing videos from a recording studio or anything like that, and I wasn’t selling anything – so what the hell was I doing on YouTube? This in turn split my audience in two, those that thought I was an amateur because I was doing videos on my phone, and those that thought I was just a natural singer and didn’t know what I was talking about – neither of which was true. At this point, I started doing videos that somewhat referenced other methods and coaches out there, and took the occasional veiled swipe at what I saw were the YouTube gurus that were ruining it for all of us serious and dedicated coaches out there that know for a fact that “Smiling Wide” is extremely poor technique, and worse, potentially damaging to vocal health. At this point, I actually became all three of the above types in some way or another;
- I started competing with the advanced material out there and more and more complicated and advanced level videos – losing many beginners and intermediate singers in the process
- Okay, so I was never a natural – but, I WAS a very experienced singer by this point, and was able to demonstrate things like compression and vowel modification with ease. “It’s easy, see?”
- I started worrying about how big my channel was, and getting bitter that I was the underdog who was truly HELPING people, and getting very little in return.
I then came to the conclusion that YouTube simple wasn’t the place to seriously learn how to sing, or do many other things for that matter. Sure, if I want to change a gasket on my rusty old Jeep, then sure – it’s a great place to see someone else make all the mistakes and cop a face full of oil by breaking a pipe first so I don’t have to make the same mistake. But, learning how to sing? Unfortunately, not really. After 5 years of fighting the good fight, I finally resigned myself to the realisation that many had asked me before “what the hell am I doing on YouTube?“.
After sitting down and pondering this question for some time, I decided to invest my time into my students, and into my singing studio instead of trying to compete with the Pedestals, Naturals and Amateurs on YouTube – and instead, make the professional singing resource here at BohemianVocalStudio.com that I had initially intended my YouTube channel to have been. I started coaching many of my international viewers personally through Skype, and I designed the Foundation 101 singing course to be the course that I wish that I had been given when I first started learning how to sing.
After my five year experiment on YouTube, I’ve realised that YouTube is entertaining, it’s a great way to learn how to repair the hem on your old Metallica shirt, it’s a great way to connect with others who might like the same stuff you do, and it’s been invaluable while restoring my old rust bucket car – but what it isn’t, is a professional teaching resource when it comes to singing. If you are serious about your voice, then you have to get serious about the process of learning how to sing – you don’t want to be an amateur do you? So don’t learn from one. You’re not practising singing in a $1k a day recording studio through a $20k desk and $9k microphone with an engineer editing your flubs, so get the stars out of your eyes and find someone that is a professional coach instead of a YouTube personality. And, like me, you’re probably not a natural singer, which is totally fine – but stop wasting your time with guys that say things like “you just sing like a dying cat” or “I could always sing a high C” – because you’ll be a figurative 5″4 basketballer learning from a giant who really knows very little about your plight.
At this point, I’ve decided to instead invest in my students, and invest in my studio full time instead of playing the YouTube game, and most likely losing in the process against reaction videos and alpha personalities – but if you want to learn how to sing, you’re obviously in the right place, and this is what I’m here to do. So, I encourage you to check out this exclusive Mixed Voice Singing lesson to see exactly what I’m all about, and learn about the Foundation First method to great singing that I’ve developed with 20 years singing experience and decade of voice coaching expertise to boot.
Can you learn to sing on YouTube? Honestly, I don’t think you’re going to hear the next Adele or Myles Kennedy or Aretha Franklin say “It all started when I saw this singing tutorial on YouTube…” any time soon. Want to sing better? Let’s get started by setting up your vocal foundation.
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.