I Wasn’t Always a Great Singer (Here’s how I found my voice!)
I wasn’t always a great singer. When I first started singing, I didn’t have any vocal training and didn’t know how actually to approach my voice. So, as any beginner, I tried to imitate my favorite singers such as James Hetfield from Metallica or Chris Cornell from Soundgarden. At that time, I didn’t care much about my vocal health and didn’t try to find my real singing voice. I was just happy that I could sometimes yell in key and that was it. Over time, my ability to mimic my favorite singers declined, and I really started struggling to sing at all. I even gave up singing and considered a different path in life – that is, until I found my real voice.
Once I found my true voice, I have developed my own way to sing and coach. Over time, my approach has helped students around the world to troubleshoot their vocal issues, improve their singing voices and reach their singing goals. Here is how I found my true voice. By using this approach, you can also identify your own true voice. Rock Singing Lessons with Bohemian Vocal Studio will help you reach your singing dreams sooner and with more ease than any other approach.
Let Go of Your Old Voice
Before finding my true voice, I had to let go of my old voice. My old voice wasn’t good. It was strained, roaring and came with uncomfortable belting. It wasn’t natural, and it was very bad for my vocal health. If I have continued to sing in the same manner, I probably wouldn’t be able to sing at all today. Around ten years ago, I had one of my first voice coaches, and I also tried out some online singing courses that were available at the time. At that time, the advice I received was either to stop singing rock entirely or go only for low baritone and bass songs like ones from Johnny Cash. This was devastating news for me because I love rock music, and all I wanted at the time was to be able to have a powerful voice with soaring and a seemingly endless range like Chris Cornell and Layne Staley. Advice on working on my low range wasn’t a bad one, because I really needed to focus more on that. At that time, I realised I have a gift to sing very low with a rich and powerful tone. However, even I was happy to have that ability; I couldn’t stop wondering why I couldn’t sing high like many other baritone singers could? Chris Cornell and Eric Burdon were baritone singers, and they could sing high so amazingly, so why couldn’t I? The problem wasn’t in my inability to sing high notes, but in my coaches who were unable to teach me how to sing them effectively. Everyone can learn to sing and sound beautiful when they have proper vocal training and know how to approach their voice.
My first classical coach was an amazing singer and really worked hard with me to develop vocal placement. However, nothing we tried worked with my low voice type, and over time we both got tired of my frustrating voice and simply gave up. I spent months figuring out what ‘placement’ was all about, and why I have been told by so many coaches and singers that I have to sing ‘with placement’. No one told me what placement is and how it helps my voice. By learning how the vocal mechanism works in a physical sense, I eventually realized what placement is. It is not possible to move or place your voice in a physical way, but singing with placement actually means encouraging a specific band of frequencies to resonate in a specific area of your vocal tract. Once you have managed to do that, you have achieved placement.
Realizing how to sing with placement drastically changed my approach to singing and opened up for me many doors in my singing that were previously closed. This was the first step in developing my approach and that I use today to teach students all around the world to sing correctly and how to sing with their natural voice. The first step of a successful practice is to really understand what are you practicing and why, rather than just doing it.
Change Your Perception
By changing my singing approach, I also changed my perception of singers like Chris Cornell and Aretha Franklin. Aretha always seemed out of reach for my baritone voice, and Chris Cornell always sounded to me as he was pushing and belting while singing. By approaching singing and my voice differently, I was finally able to hear the true voice of these singers. The big sound Chris Cornell was singing with, I originally tried to imitate by widening and opening my vocal tract in a very haphazard way. But Chris Cornel actually achieved his big sound by singing with a considerably narrowed vowel, and closure of the soft palate and vocal chords. He actually sang with a technique called the open throat. In order to sing with Open Throat, you need closure. By significantly narrowing your vocal tract, closing your soft palate, vocal folds, and sometimes, closing of the tongue, you can create very narrow vowel sounds. By singing with a disproportionate width, you will never be able to do that. Once I have mastered the singing with open throat, I was able to sing like Chris Cornell with ease.
With my newfound knowledge, I realized that singing terms and instructions are often misinterpreted and figurative in their means. For example, open throat is just a figure of speech, but many beginner singers including myself) take it literally. Singing with open throat actually means singing without your throat or no throat technique, meaning your throat should be free of strain and open to a change in coordination.
Realizing that singing terms shouldn’t be taken literally and that they are often figurative in speech, helped me implement new techniques to my singing like Appoggio, Vibrato or Inhalare La Voce the right way rather than the way they were first shown to me. This helped me to create a resonant and free sound I had never experienced before. I have finally found my natural and true voice.
How to Find Your True Voice
Beginner singers often focus on imitating their favorite singers and copying their inflection and style. However, this approach to singing is wrong. Are your favorite singers trying to sound like someone? Would they be so great and successful if they spent their entire careers sounding like someone else? Of course not. These singers are so amazing because they sing with their natural voices, and use their resonators to the best of their ability. Whenever you are trying to sound like someone else, you are singing in a completely opposite way of your favorite artists. The best way to reach the same level of vocal power of your favorite singers is not to sound like them, but to sing like them instead. Singing like someone doesn’t involve copying one’s voice. It consists in breaking down their voice to the elements of their technique, and implementing these techniques into your own voice, without mimicking their tone or style.
Reaching your true voice requires implementing resonance in the most efficient way for your vocal mechanism. Every voice is unique and resonates differently, so mimicking a singer’s resonance is definitely not a good idea. If your favorite singer has a sharp and piercing twang like Chris Cornell, then you should focus on developing twang in your voice by narrowing the epiglottis. If your favorite singer makes specific vowel choices, you should also develop a specific approach to vowels and learn how to make proper vowel choices. The right way to sing like your favorite singers is to develop the same elements that make their voices so great and use them in your own vocal approach. Your favorite singers should, above all, inspire you.
Stop trying so hard
My influences, stylistic interpretation of my favorite singers, new perception of singing and the balance of natural resonance have all played a part in identifying and discovering my unique and true voice. Today, I can sing like Chris Cornell with ease, but I often don’t. Instead, I sing with my own approach and natural inflection. Chris Cornell, or Aretha Franklin, or Freddie Mercury were such great singers because they all had unique voices and a unique approach to create their own true voice. So, if you want to become a great singer like them, you should develop your voice properly. Start by implementing healthy vocal techniques into your singing, and work hard until you identify how to approach your voice. This is the only way to discover your true singing voice!
A great place to start is with the free foundations courses here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, and then when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level you can book a Skype Session and we’ll discover your real voice!
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.