So You’ve Bought A Singing Course – Now What?
There is a literal bucket-load of different vocal programs and singing courses out there, many claiming to hold ‘the secret’ to great singing, or to be THE method used by a particular famous singer. A short while after biting the bullet on this singing course, no doubt you’ve been through the videos, had a quick look at the scales and exercises on the bonus DVD, you’ve chain watched the marketing videos on YouTube a hundred times, but you’re just not sure where to start, and you’re not exactly sure what you’ve just spent all of your hard earned money on.
We all learn in different ways and like to consume and employ information in our own unique fashion. Comprehensive singing courses often don’t take this into account and show you tips, tricks and exercises from the perspective and opinion of the teacher and what worked for them rather than what you need – but all is not lost, here’s how to make the best out of a singing course or vocal program. Welcome to So You’ve Bought A Singing Course – Now What? the comprehensive guide to making the most out of any vocal program or singing course you have purchased.
Ascertain the angle
There are many different ways to sing, and there are many different styles and tones that you can achieve in singing if you allow yourself to use your voice in a natural way and develop diction, delivery and tonal skills. Now, take a look at the course you have purchased (or you’re about to buy!) and pay heed to HOW this voice coach sings. Are they a “rock” guy? Are they “shouty”? Are they breathy? If you are an aspiring RnB singer, or blues singer, or pop singer – perhaps becoming a shouty rock singer ISN’T what you want to be – so take care with the instructions you are given in this course, because they will likely result in the same voice as the coach who is teaching you, rather than the voice you aspire to.
Remember, the world of singing is often an opinionated one. When you are trying to implement a piece of advice such as “Sing as high as you can in chest voice!”, it’s important that you understand why you are being told to do so, and what this will achieve when you succeed.
Try to ascertain the angle that the course/coach you are learning from is looking at singing from. If you’re struggling to develop a connection between chest and head voice, or you can’t stop pushing as you ascend through the middle of your range – then a course or coach that is vehemently against the concept of middle voice isn’t going to help you. On the flipside, if you want to sing with a shouty push, then perhaps a relaxed and natural singer isn’t the right choice for you, so you need to take the instructions you are given with a grain of salt.
Remember, the only person who holds the key to your voice is YOU. Advice from a voice coach is simply advice, it’s not always fact, and it’s not always designed for your unique voice or unique issue. This is where most vocal programs have a shortfall, they can’t hear you making mistakes, and they often don’t care.
There is no secret to singing
Sure, there are numerous techniques and approaches that will help you sing better, but there is no ‘secret’ to singing that someone can tell you or show you that will magically ‘fix’ your voice. Learning how to sing is a process of building balance, which takes time, patience and perseverance. If the course you have purchased is promising you ‘the secret’ or claims to be ‘better’ than another, or ‘the best’ – the only place for this course is the trash, because you’ve just been duped. Great singers like Aretha Franklin and Chris Cornell didn’t learn to sing by taking a vocal program or buying a vocal course, so a singing course is really on one very small way to learn how to sing out of MANY, many different ways.
Part of learning how to sing is feedback and guidance. It’s important that you receive regular feedback or help with your voice, even if the course you have purchased claims to be comprehensive and a totally self-service method. There is only so much you can achieve on your own, and together, we always achieve more and progress sooner with our dreams and goals. The first question you need to ask if you’ve purchased a course, or you’re about to purchase a course, is whether the coach is available to you to answer questions and help you with any issues you might come across along the way – a vocal course is basically self-training and self-learning, which doesn’t suit absolutely everyone who wants to learn how to sing. I recall buying a vocal course in the 90’s myself, and aside from a few days of going through the book and cassette, I eventually packed it away and gave up because I lacked direction, guidance and was unable to ask questions about how to even get started. If you can’t ask your coach a question directly, you are going to struggle and you won’t get the most out of the course you have purchased.
Find a voice coach who CAN help and IS available
I often coach students who have purchased vocal programs and singing courses, and there is a general thread I see in most of these singers – they can ‘do’ a lot, but they often ‘understand’ very little. This means that as their voice changes over time or they are confronted with different environments, or they sing a different style – their vocal technique will collapse because they really don’t know what they are doing, even if their voice is impressive in scales and exercises.
Learning to sing is more than just building range and learning to sing vowels, the actual practical application of these techniques and the range you have built from these vocal courses takes time and guidance. There is more to singing than the tips and tricks that help you sing scales and sirens.
Intent is more important than exercises
I often remind my own singing students that an exercise is only as useful as the intent you hold behind the exercise. You can practice scales all day and warm up for a full hour each time you sing, but if the intent isn’t right, and you don’t understand how/why these exercises and drills help your voice, or are intended to help your voice, you will be perpetually inconsistent and you will become one of these unfortunate singers that can sing a three octave siren with ease, but can’t sing any songs.
If you’ve just purchased a vocal course or program and you’re really not sure where to get started, the best thing to do is ask questions. The sign of a good voice coach is someone who is available to their students and cares about their voices and progress, not just about sales and marketing. Ask questions WHY you are being given certain pieces of advice that you may not understand, ASK for clarification on your registers, on terms, on techniques, on opinions, ASK for feedback and guidance and send through the occasional clip to your coach for ongoing feedback – if they’re not available to answer your questions, you will lack the understanding and intent required to truly get the most out of the course you have purchased.
If you’ve purchased a vocal course and you are feeling stuck, a great place to start is the free foundations courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will clear up any confusion you have about the base on which your voice should be built upon. Then as you progress and you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with feedback and guidance from a coach who understands that your voice is unique and that there really is no such thing as a comprehensive course or a one-size-fits-all manner to truly sing well, you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started extending your range, improving your balance and adjusting your intent and understanding about how YOUR voice really works.
If you have any questions about a vocal program or vocal course you have purchased and you’re feeling a little lost, 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.