Singing: Expectations vs. Reality
Singing is a tricky game sometimes, and of course we all face a different learning curve when it comes to learning how to sing. These humerous singing expectations vs. singing reality will surely resonate with those of you who have taken singing lessons or bought a vocal course before, and hopefully inspire those of you who haven’t to give it a serious go. After all, singing itself is a very simple process – it’s learning HOW to sing that is the difficult part.
Expectaction: Buy a vocal course, sing like [insert favourite singer]
You’ve been stalking one of those YouTube singing gurus with the impressive “how to sing like” videos for months and finally pulled the trigger on buying an expensive vocal course. You expect great (and fast) progress and to be able to sing like [insert favourite singer] after watching the five short videos or DVD that you payed a surprisingly large sum for.
Reality: “Please purchase level two for the answers!”
Expensive vocal courses often hinge on a ‘secret’ that will be revealed when you purchase the course. This is often drip-fed over a number of courses that you need to subsequently buy – you’ve already invested “x” amount on the first stage, you might as well grab the next stage, right?
I’ll tell you an age old secret about singing: There is NO secret to singing. Singing is a simple process of coordination and balance between many elements of your vocal mechanism, from registers, to vocal fold weight, to breathing and air pressure, to vowels and articulation. If someone is promising to reveal the ‘secret’ to singing, no doubt you’ve just been scammed.
Expectation: Practising sirens = Singing well
You’ve been practising scales for months and worked up to being able to perform a very impressive siren from your lowest note to your highest note. This makes you a total pro, right?
Reality: “Oh oh, I can’t sing actual songs!”
To really learn how to sing well, you must practice songs and troubleshoot your voice with actual real and practical singing. A siren might be great for connecting your registers or building your range, but what songs do you know of that feature only sirens from low to high, or vice versa? Unless you’re into Power Metal, I doubt you can name any. Singing well requires control over so many other aspects of your voice than sheer notes, scales or sirens – from consonants, to onsets, to intervals, pitch, tonality, register release, placement and so much more. If you don’t practice actual songs, now is the time to start!
Expectation: I’ll get some good feedback on YouTube!
You’ve worked for months on a cover of your favourite song and tried really hard to get it right. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty amazing considering where you started from – everyone on YouTube will be super supportive!
Reality: “You Suck”
I’ve even experienced this phenomenon with singing tutorials that featured exercises and examples. Some people just “don’t get it” and expect someone singing in their loungeroom to sound like a Madonna recording. Perhaps getting some feedback from friends and family first, or even uploading a few clips to Instagram first might be the right choice if you’re just starting out or you’re looking for constructive criticism.
Expectation: If I could JUST get that little bit more compression…
If you could JUST get that little bit more compression you’ll hit those high notes easier, or if you can JUST work out how to achieve Appoggio it will all come together like magic, right?
Reality: “Huh, that didn’t help at all…”
I hear this all the time, as though there is something a singer is ‘missing’ before they’ll be able to achieve their goals as a singer, like some special technique (*cough* Appoggio *cough*) or trick that is going to get them to the next level. If your high range is missing, then you’ve got a bigger issue at hand than your ability to compress your air. Again, there’s no secret to singing other than learning to balance and coordinate the various elements of your voice. If something it’s working, you’re singing without balance.
Expectation: Advice from a great singer will TOTALLY help me
If you bail up your favourite singer or local singing wiz after a show and ask for some tips, they’re going to unleash a world of knowledge and wisdom upon you, leading you to develop a better singing voice.
Reality: They don’t know what they’re doing/they have no advice
I’ve experienced this one first hand too, lusting after the golden voice of a local singer, and then finding out they know basically nothing about singing! There’s an old saying that often rings true, and it’s that a great singer doesn’t always make a great vocal coach, and there’s a good reason for this. Someone who has a natural aptitude for singing and didn’t necessarily need to take lessons to sound ‘okay’ won’t make a good vocal coach because they didn’t personally find singing difficult, and likely take for granted a number of aspects about singing that come naturally to them. You should also be very wary of ‘natural’ singers who are untrained and the advice they might espouse – how many times have you heard of a naturally gifted singer like Jon Bon Jovi or Adele damaging their voice, or cancelling tours due to vocal strain? A great singer doesn’t necessarily make a great voice coach, but a great voice coach SHOULD be a great singer.
Expectation: Singing is just loud speaking, right?
You’ve got a nice speaking voice, so all you need to do is work out how to speak at pitch. Plus, it’s a well known fact that many famous singers use speech level singing and sing using their speech voice, right?
Reality: Singing and Speaking are actually separate actions
I’ve been over this a number of times before, and the reality is that singing and speaking are ultimately two unrelated, while intrinsically linked functions of the same mechanism. Do you breathe using the diaphragm when you speak? No. Do you shape your vowels when you speak? No. Do you place your frequencies when you talk? No. Do you create pressure and resistance when you speak? No. Do you alter your resonant space when you speak? No. Singing and speaking are NOT the same – just think about all the different accents out there in the world, how can speech possibly be the same as singing? They are not the same thing, despite all the clever marketing out there using terms like speech singing.
If you want to shorten the learning curve when it comes to singing, a great place to start is the free foundations short courses available 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 get started unlocking your high range!
Have you experienced any of these expectations vs. realities yourself? Let me know in the comments below if you have any of your own experiences you’d like to share!