How To Sing Better For Guys
I still remember the moment one of my old voice teachers told me "You should only ever sing Johnny Cash songs, your voice is low like his" - and as much as I love Cash, I have to admit I was absolutely shattered that my dreams of singing high, powerful hard rock vocals like my favourite singers Chris Cornell, Paul Rodgers and Layne Staley were over before they had really begun.
While she was a truly magic singer herself, and arguably a pretty good teacher - she was dead wrong about the potential my voice held for growth and improvement. In fact, she was altogether wrong about the range I would most enjoy and excel at singing in as my voice developed and grew over the subsequent years that I moved on from her traditional and limited approach to voice coaching - and while I still love to pick up the acoustic guitar and sing in my natural baritone range too, the sky really has become the limit for the range, power and freedom I now enjoy in my voice due to one simple fact;
The Four Vocal Fundamentals.
That's right, I'm not "the best", I'm not "better than everyone" and I'm certainly not God's gift to singing or voice coaching in general as some others love claiming - but, with dedication, hard work, perseverance and of course practice practice practice, songs by Bon Jovi, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden - you name it, are now an absolute cinch for me due to the overwhelming strength of my foundation - but instead of just telling you how great it is to enjoy such effortless freedom in my voice compared to the gravelly low grumble I used to struggle with, let me show you - here's just a few quick examples of the range, power and freedom I now enjoy in my singing voice; just imagine the amazing range, power and freedom you're going to enjoy when you too master The Four Vocal Fundamentals!
You might be wondering exactly HOW I've done this - taken my naturally low baritone voice and built a similar range to someone like Chris Cornell (I don't claim to sound like Chris - but the range and power is definitely there) or Layne (again, I still sound "like me") that requires the bare minimum of effort and comes with endless power and range in every sense; and you're also probably wondering what exactly ARE The Four Fundamentals that have played such an important role in my development as a singer? I'm sure happy to share them with you;
- Height In The Vocal Tract
- Forward Placement
- "All In One Flow"
- Mixed Tonality
You're probably now also wondering - what about Glottal Compression? Vowel Modification? Cry? Edge? Twang? Laryngeal Tilt? Support?
The truth is, every single other technique and singing term out there relates directly to one of these four simple Vocal Fundamentals. A great example that should make it clearer for you is Vowel Modification - which in essence is really changing the size/shape of the vocal tract by raising/spreading/narrowing the soft palate to match each register overtone that occurs in your middle to higher range; you guessed it, raising the soft palate in this way to modify your vowels is simply an extension of singing with Height In The Vocal Tract. And what about Edge, Twang and Brightness? These are simply ways to/aspects of singing with a forward placement - in fact, Twang is sometimes called "Necessary Twang" because you need a touch of twang to create Forward Placement in your resonance. And what about Glottal Compression, Medial Compression and Cry Mode? Well, these are simply changes to the balance of airflow and air pressure in your voice that allow you to sing "All In One Flow" without interruption to your resonance.
As you can see - all those crazy vocal techniques and marketing terms you've heard on YouTube are really just extensions (and a mass overcomplication) of The Four Vocal Fundamentals; the mastering of which is the goal of ANY great singer, especially you guys out there like me that want to build a killer range!
How To Actually Sing Better
The first thing you need to do if you want to learn how to sing better is to develop each of The Four Vocal Fundamentals in your voice, so let me show you exactly how to achieve each one.
Forward Placement - Forward placement occurs when you resonate within/around the bones of the face (sometimes called "The Masque") to brighten your vocal tone and lift your voice out of the throat. Simple exercises like NG, N, Nay, Nyah and generally singing with a brightly buzzing but gentle vocal tone to begin with are the true key to developing Forward Placement; here's a simple practical tutorial I've designed to help you develop Forward Placement in your singing;
You'll probably even start to notice this same bright, powerful but pleasant vocal tone in your favourite singers - it's actually the key to developing that signature Layne Staley or Chris Cornell vocal tone with a touch of Zip and Buzz to the sound of the voice.
Height In The Vocal Tract
This one is easy - if you've ever had a singing teacher/YouTube guru telling you to "yawn when you sing!"; no doubt causing you to strain, become tense and generally making your vocal tone dopey, dull and boring; they were actually trying to get you to raise the soft palate.
You might be one of the lucky few that this blanket instruction actually helps when it comes to raising the soft palate, but even then you're probably not going to realise or learn WHY this helps you sing better (if it does at all). So, instead we're going to develop "The Internal Smile" - now, you've probably seen those YouTube videos where coaches say things like "Smile wide!" or "Smile into the sound!" and proceed to grin like the Joker in an insane asylum; ultimately spreading the soft palate and your vowel wide rather than helping you to actual raise your soft palate.
It's called "The Internal" smile for a reason - it isn't displayed on the face. Imagine making eye contact with someone across a bar, or even the very beginning of a laugh or yawn; the cheeks are slightly raised, the sides of the mouth are lowered/sunken and most importantly - the soft palate begins to raise in the back of the mouth. You can even take this motion a step further by inhaling from the tongue position of a "K" consonant; don't actually voice the "K", just touch the middle of your tongue to the roof of your mouth, create a little inwards pressure on the tongue then lower your tongue to allow the air to rush in from your mouth - you'll discover a "cold spot" at the back/top of your mouth where the soft palate has raised in a way you weren't previously aware of - congratulations, you just created Height In The Vocal Tract and you're ready to start training your vowel sounds correctly!
Raising your soft palate in this way to set up the vocal tract is actually the true essence of "Open Throat Singing Technique" - and you'll notice that it's not really an "Open" feeling like there's a tennis ball in the back of your mouth, but instead the feeling of HEIGHT that opens up in the back of the head into the pharynx as you start to form a Pharyngeal Vowel instead of a mouth vowel like you do in your speaking voice/accent. Here's another tutorial to help you develop an Open Throat when you sing by creating height in the vocal tract;
Aren't you excited by just how SIMPLE all of this stuff is when someone actually explains it to you in a practical, useful and simple way? This was how I felt too, and it just gets better and better as your voice truly starts to open up and you realise there is WAY more range available to you than you ever thought, and your dreams of becoming a powerhouse singer finally start to become a reality - so what's the next step?
What's The Next Step?
For me, the #1 thing my voice was lacking even after trying almost every single singing course out there and meeting with as many Voice Coaches as I could find (and more importantly - afford) was a rock solid Vocal Foundation.
That's right, it wasn't compression, or cry, or edge or even Open Throat technique - it was developing a rock solid foundation for my voice, made up of these four simple Vocal Fundamentals;
- Height In The Vocal Tract
- Forward Placement
- "All In One Flow"
- Mixed Tonality
We've already been through the first two, so let me show you how to take your vocal foundation to the next level with this exclusive Mixed Voice Singing Lesson in which I'll show you the exact process I use to help my own students find their Mixed Voice by blending chest and head voice together to create one long and connected vocal range - allowing them to retain the rich depth of their chest voice while enjoying the extensive range afforded by their head register.