The Aussie Vocal Coach
Australia has a rich history of great singers, from Billy Thorpe through to John Farnham, Keith Urba, Daniel Johns and Chrissy Amphlett. When you look on YouTube or Google for online singing lessons or simple online singing tips, unfortunately not too many voice coaches out there understand the unique issues faced by Australian singers with our broad accent, straight-to-the-point attitude and unique sounding vowels – the same goes for those of European descent like Swedes and Polish singers, who out there understands our ‘weird’ voices and has developed an approach to singing that caters to all accents? Welcome to Bohemian Vocal Studio, one of the few worldwide singing studios that caters to all accents and voice types.
With my own thick Australian accent, I realised many years ago that a lot of the singing instructions out there really weren’t designed for my voice. With general instructions like “sing like you speak”, I started to wonder if there was something I was missing about the concept of vowels, consonants and increasing my range – until I realised this instruction was only intended for certain accents and certain singers, not “the rest of us” that weren’t naturally gifted with a good singing voice or an accent that naturally tends towards a musical sound. Understanding the difference between your singing voice and singing will absolutely change your life as a singer – I know it’s changed mine.
Vowels Ain’t Vowels
This is something that took me many years to grasp. The idea that ‘vowel’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘sound’. I know, I know – here in Australia our vowels sound a little like (insert my broad accent) AYE, EEY, EYE, OWE, YOU, so these are the vowels, right? No. In speech, we often articulate our sounds at the front of the face using the forward portion of our vocal mechanism, known as the articulators – including the teeth, tip of the tongue and lips. Now, in singing, you actually need to shape each vowel sound using the back of your tongue while allowing appropriate resonant space for each vowel while considering the register and range you are singing.
Instead of AYE, EEY, EYE, OWE, YOU like my speaking accent, the vowels I sing with are closer to AH, AA, OO, EE, AY, each with their own unique tongue shape and resonant space. A great way to illustrate this concept is for you to alternate between an EE and an AH sound – no doubt you’ll notice how the tongue rises at the back for the EE and lowers to a concave on the AH sound. This is the essence of vowel shaping in a nutshell – pretty different to an Aussie accent, right?
What about Speech Level Singing?
The idea that you speak like you sing isn’t invalid, it’s just not a “one size fits all” solution to singing like it says on the can. An example of this is the way an American would sing the word “Game”, almost with an EH sound as the central vowel sound, which occurs at the back of the vocal track up in the pharynx. Sure, the way this sound is created with a USA accent sets up the vocal tract perfectly for singing. However, with an Australian accent like mine, and like many other accents out there, the word ‘Game’ isn’t created in the same way. In my case, the word is created with a slightly ugly sounding AYE sound which occurs with airflow through the nose and a pronounced glottal attack on the G – absolutely NOT the right setup for a singing voice.
Singing and speech aren’t the same thing. Sure, certain accents out there DO have a musical and resonant quality that lends towards the idea that you can “sing like you speak”, but if you’re an Aussie like me, or you come from one of the many hundreds of other locals in the world that has a unique dialect and strong accent – you need to separate your singing voice and speaking voice.
How Do The Top Australian Singers Do It?
The best singers out there, including the top Australian singers like Jessica Mauboy, Jimmy Barnes and Bon Scott all understood one important thing about singing – singing is easy. That’s right, singing should be 100% easy and strain free. If something is difficult, you’re quite simply not doing it correctly. Many singing courses and vocal methods out there aren’t geared towards Aussie singers or those with varied accents like Indonesian, New Zealand, Canadian, German and many other unique dialects and accents – here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, Kegan has become known as The Aussie Vocal Coach, with a rich understanding of how the voice actually functions and a wealth of experience coaching singers of all types, backgrounds, accents, vocal ranges and in every singing style.
One of the best things about an Aussie Vocal Coach is the straight-down-the-line attitude we Aussie’s are well known for. If you have a question, I’ll answer it straight up. Here at BVS there’s no fluff, no marketing, no BS – just great voice coaching and great singing. If you’ve been looking for an alternative to the mainstream vocal methods out there that don’t cater to your unique accent and individual style, a great place to start is the free foundations course Foundations 101 available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a Rock Solid foundation for your voice that will serve as the bullet-proof foundation for your vocal range to be built upon. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching, you’re more than welcome to book a skype lesson with me and we’ll work towards extending your range and building balance and consistency in your voice every time you sing!
If you have any feedback or questions about learning how to sing, or my approach as an Aussie vocal coach, 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.