Private Singing Lessons [Rock And Pop]
So you want to learn how to sing, huh? Well, I’m here to lay down the cold hard truth to you – singing is EASY. Say what now? That’s right, singing is actually a very easy task, but learning HOW to do it is often the tricky part. With so many conflicting views on topics like middle voice, head and chest voice, Baritones, Tenors, classical technique, contemporary technique, weird old terms like Appoggio and so many more frustrating aspects of singing, it’s no wonder that so many of us struggle to learn how to sing easily. The truth is, your learning curve is really tied to the voice coach that you pick and the method that they use to coach your voice – there really is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ solution to any particular vocal issue, so finding the right voice coach to provide you with private singing lessons is really the key to developing a great singing voice.
What makes Rock and Pop different from Classical singing?
Honestly, very little – except maybe the terminology and the tonality. A classical singer lives and breathes for resonance and the open tone at the expense of the words, while a rock and pop singer lives for the story, the word and the vocal tone itself. The process of learning how to sing is actually very similar for both singers, but with a few key differences surrounding the approach and delivery of the voice once it has developed properly.
A rock or pop singer will likely sing a lot ‘brighter’ than the darker, rounded tone which is synonymous with classical singing – meaning that a pop song will have much more presence and intensity, where a classical singer might fill a room full of sound more efficiently – it’s really down to what you want out of your voice, and how you want to sound.
Which singing method is best?
From speech level singing, to various vocal acadamy courses through to your local voice coach – which singing method is the best? Truthfully, there is no ‘best’ vocal method, only a vocal method that is right for YOUR voice and the needs of YOUR singing. However, it IS important that the approach to singing you are following teaches you these important elements;
- Foundation (posture, placement and breathing)
- Vowel shaping
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Middle voice and Mix
- How to connect chest and head voice
- Resonant space
- Consonant grouping
- Proper support
- Strain release
- Onsets and vocal fold adduction
At a bare minimum, the above aspects of any great voice should be taught in the beginning stages of any serious vocal method. Without these steps, your voice simply isn’t going to function in the manner it was designed to work – without strain.
I personally prefer working with singers directly and have a number of students of various levels from complete beginner through to touring professionals all around the globe who I work with on a weekly manner to develop their approach to singing and make any adjustements to their technique as needed. Working with a voice coach in private singing lessons is really the only true way to get your voice working in peak form while avoiding any bad habits of vocal strain.
How to sing higher
The holy grail of singing technique for many singers is learning how to sing higher without voice strain. The simple fact is, out voices are designed to function at a much higher frequency than most people would expecy, and high notes are a natural part of any vocal range, even a low baritone Male voice like mine. Learning how to sing high notes does take time, training and dedication, but any voice type and any singer can learn to sing high notes effortlessly with a steps based approach.
One of the key elements of singing higher notes is your vowels and the manner in which they are formed. Vowel shaping is an intrinsic part of any good approach to singing, and is a feature in the way I teach my own singing students. When we speak, we often use the front part of our faces and what is known as the ‘articulators’ to create our words and vowels – this includes the tip of the tongue, teeth, lips and face itself. Now, in singing, you actually shape each of your vowel sounds using the back of your tongue and the vocal tract itself, all while avoiding any airflow through the nose on any vowel sound via proper use of the soft palate.
To sing higher notes, you need to allow for greater resonant space by elongating the vocal tract when you sing your vowels. This is actually very easy to do and can be taught very easily by a serious voice coach. A great way to show you how to do is to have you sing an OO vowel, which occurs when you move the bulk of your tongue backwards in your mouth and elongate your lips forward, resulting in a natural and resonant OO sound. Now, as you ascend up an Octave from this comfortable low note, open your jaw downwards without opening your mouth wide at the sides – you should feel as though your vowel starts to travel backwards into the area where the soft palate usually sits, known as the pharynx. This raised soft palate setup and oval aperture is one of the first steps to learning how to alter your resonant space and finally hit high notes without strain. You can try this with each of your vowel sounds, and just like OO became AH when you opened your mouth, EE will become AY and AH will become OH.
Now, this is super cool and impressive, but does it work in actual songs? Nope – but here’s the secret:
How to sing any song
Each song has it’s own unique set of vowel shapes and matching resonant space. While you may feel the need to ‘pronounce’ your words like you do when you speak, singing doesn’t require pronunciation of any sounds except for consonants (we’ll get to that soon) – instead, you should shape your vowel sounds using the back of the tongue like I’ve just shown you, while allowing appropriate resonant space for each vowel sounds while ALSO retaining the pure character of your vowel sound as you ascend. This is the true key to learning how to sing any song, and sing like any singer.
Each singer has their own unique vocal tract, resonators and resonant space, so it’s important that you don’t “copy” any other singer’s sound and tone, or even the character of their vowel sounds as you sing their songs. Remember, a low voice is very different to a high voice, and an untrained voice is very different to a mature voice that has been singing for many years. It’s important that you learn to sing with your own natural voice and learn how to create efficient resonance and allow your own vowel character to shine through and let your resonance ‘ping’ when you sing, rather than trying to contort your tone or words into the way your favourite singer is singing. Remember, a singer like Aretha Franklin didn’t try to “sing like Aretha Franklin”, she simply sang with her own incredible and natural resonance. If you try to copy her voice, you’re actually singing in a completely different manner to the one in which she sang – naturally.
Consonants are key
Consonants are often overlooked, even in some of the most popular singing methods and courses out there, but they play a key role in how you sound as a singer and how well you can actually sing. I personally like to group each of the consonant sounds into similar types, and then form an approach to each type with my student depending on their voice type, natural range and their accent. This means that as their voice progresses and they get more confident as a singer, they have an approach to absolutely EVERYTHING they could possible throw at their voice, and they never leave anything to chance when they sing.
A great example of a consonant group is Closed Resonants, which include sounds like Y, W, R and L. I call these consonants “closed” resonants because the soft palate is closed so that there is no airflow through the nose. A really brilliant hack for singing these tricky sounds is to replace them with a vowel sound. You can try it yourself with a “W” word like “WELL”. No doubt you find both the “W” and the “L” difficult in this word when you sing. Now, let’s try it again and replace the “W” with an “OO”, like “OO-ELL”. That’s a million times easier, right? That’s because you just formed a resonant consonant instead of a glottal consonant or misplaced consonant like we sometimes use in speech without realising. Now, those tricky LL sounds – you can actually do the same thing. A “L” sound occurs when you place the tip of your tongue just behind your top teeth. Now, as you sing this sound, focus on the sound of an “OO” vowel instead of the actual “L” sound of the word – again, this is a million times easier because you have just sung your L consonant with resonance and without and vocal strain or glottal throatiness.
How to sing better
Learning how to sing better takes time, practice and perseverance, but the points I’ve mentioned above will make you sing better INSTANTLY. The more you develop your foundation and approach to vowels and consonants, the better your voice will become. Another very important aspect of your singing voice is the ONSET, which is litrally the onset of your resonance. Every time you start singing, it’s important that you are in control of the manner in which your voice starts to resonate. If you sing with aspirated air before your resonance, this is known as a breathy onset which can be very damaging to the voice in the long term. Now, if you achieve vocal fold closure before you start your sound, this is actually known as a glottal onset and is on the flip-side just as damaging, if not more-so to the voice. So how can you sing better without using air or closure? It’s simple, you need to coordinate your airflow and your vocal fold closure to the very same moment. This healthy onset is known as a balanced onset and occurs when you centrally balance release of air pressure with vocal chord closure, resulting in “instant” resonance and no other sound before or after your onset – this often helps singers who are either flat or sharp due to improper onsets.
Onsets are one of the most important secrets to a great singing voice – make sure your voice coach can show you how to effectively sing with a balanced onset so you’re not putting your vocal health, or the vocal tone at risk.
A great place to start is the free foundations short courses I’ve set up for you here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up the strongest and most efficient base for your vocal range to be built upon – everything from posture to breathing, to onsets and placement. Now, when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with private singing lessons and professional voice coaching, you can book a private Skype Lesson with me in the BVS booking calendar and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building control and consistency into your voice EVERY time you sing.
If you have any questions about learning how to sing or private singing lessons, 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.