The BEST advice for people who can’t sing
Learning how to sing can be frustrating and confusing – with all the conficting information out there and singing gurus who are simply shilling expensive courses, it can be hard to know where to start for people who can’t sing. With extensive experience coaching touring professionals and beginners alike, and having coached my students to appear on talent shows such as The Voice along with starring in music theatre productions of Rock of Ages, Shrek, Fiddler on the roof and The Producers – I’m here to tell you that absolutely, everone can learn to sing well!
With these simple steps, everyone can sing well and improve their voices. Learning to sing well and become a great singer takes time and coordination, along with the proper guidance and coaching along the way. Here’s the advice that I wish I was given when I first started singing.
#1 – The MIX register will change your voice
One of the misconceptions I had about singing when I was a beginner was that there are only two vocal registers, the chest voice (low register) and head voice (the high register), and I somehow needed to connect them, or was stuck flipping between them. What I really wish that I had been taught in lesson one so many years ago, was how to access my MIX, or MIDDLE register. Sure, chest voice and head voice are our two main registers – but did you know you can coordinate the musculature responsible for each of these registers and balance in a THIRD register that sits in the centre, known as mix? Learning how to sing in the middle register has changed my life, and has been a driving factor towards becoming a voice coach myself. Once I learned how to access my mix, my range extended beyond believe and I was finally able to connect chest voice and head voice in one easy sweep. Here’s a practical tutorial I’ve put together to show you my favourite ways of releasing the middle register:
#2 – Start with a clean slate
That’s right, when you start learning how to sing properly, it’s important that you’re not trying to speak five languages at the same time. I was guilty of this when I first started singing, and really felt like i KNEW how to sing, but wasn’t physically able – over time, I realised that I had some conflicting views and contradictory elements to my (lack of) singing technique that I needed to strip down and rebuild. Not only do I suggest you start with a clean slate as a singer, but start with a clean slate absolutely every single time that you sing – when you first warm up in the morning, treat your voice with kid gloves as though you have NEVER sung before, and you’ll actually find that you can warm up quicker and more efficiently without any misconceptions or achievements from your previous days taking you down the wrong path.
#3 – Your speaking voice and singing voice are unrelated
Wow, it feels so fantastic to say that like I really mean it so many years after I started learning how to sing. You’ll find that there are certain vocal approaches out there that encourage a connection between out speech voice, and our singing voices – but when you start to understand the mechanism behind your singing voice, and how your vowels are formed and tuned, you’ll realise soon enough that this is simply not a fact. Your speaking voice and your singing voice are simply different applications for the same mechanism. It’s like running and jumping, they’re technically the same mechanism – but two unrelated applications that require different control and strength in different musculature, singing and speaking are the same.
When we speak, we often pronounce our vowels using our articulators to ‘push’ the sound out, to push the word out – obviously this differs for each accent and dialect, but as a general, most speaking accents require pronunciation of the vowel. Now, in singing, you actually SHAPE your vowel sound using your tongue, and by altering the width of your vocal tract – in essence, using the same mechanism as speech, but in a completely different way.
This is never more evident than in my singing tutorial videos, my relatively low speaking voice and thick Australian accent simply don’t factor into my singing voice because I’m using my voice differently for either application. Here’s a great tutorial I’ve put together to show you how to shape those vowels the right way, and do away with your singing accent once and for all.
#4 – Stop trying to sing higher in chest voice
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had a new student say they’re trying to ‘stretch’ their chest voice higher, while wondering why it simply doesn’t work, and they’re straining, and they’re going hoarse – the problem lies in the question itself. To sing higher chest voice notes, you actually need to develop your MIX register, as we discussed earlier. If you’re trying to pull up your chest voice, and you think you can simply put off this transition until later in your range without developing your middle register first, then it’s likely you simply don’t understand the mechanics of your voice properly, and it’s time for some professional voice coaching. Just because it sounds like someone is singing really high in their chest voice, doesn’t mean that they are physically singing in the chest coordination.
I like to think of ‘chest voice’ as full length vocal chords and head voice as fully shortened vocal chords – so when you coordinate your vocal chords between either of these spectrums, you get the CHARACTER of chest, with the EASE of head – in essence, ‘mixing’ your registers.
#5 – Don’t believe everything you hear
Oh boy – now we’ve gotten controversial! I find that most teachers want to teach what worked for them rather than what may work for their students. This is why I like to have quite a number of different approaches and tools to help my students develop more advanced concepts like middle voice, register release and vowel tuning, rather than forcing them to approach it in the same way that may have worked for me when I first started learning. Every voice is different, and everyone needs an individually tailored approach to singing – there is no single approach to singing which is going to work for absolutely everyone. I find this especially true with self-service singing courses, which are basically a story of one person’s personal experience of learning how to sing, packaged as lessons. To learn how to sing better, you need personalised feedback from a professional voice coach, and you need a tailored approach to singing which considers your voice type, your unique physiology and musculature, and also your background and experience as a singer.
When you hear someone say “This is the ONLY way to sing” – you should run in the opposite direction, because running away is probably doing more for your voice than the misguided idea that any one singing approach is ‘fact’. Take everything with a grain of salt, and try to get to the essence of what someone is trying to teach you rather than how they are teaching it.
I’m not here to tell you about this approach, or discuss that approach – I’ve developed my own personal approach to singing, and I help my students do the same thing, build a custom approach to singing which is designed for THEIR unique voices. Basically, if you like how someone sings, and you gel with the way that they coach and explain complicated concepts, then by all means – follow their approach and book a lesson with them.
Can everyone sing well?
If you’re wondering can anyone sing well, then the answer is YES, with a tailored approach to singing. When I first started learning how to sing, many moons ago, there really wasn’t that many resources online for learning how to sing, so I had to meet with as MANY vocal coaches as I possibly could to discern what my voice really needed, and where my technique was lacking. Where one coach said apples, another said oranges – and I ended up more confused, and out of pocket, than when I had started. Now, if only ONE of these coaches had actually listened to my voice, explained the simple mechanics of the voice and then helped me develop each aspect of the voice, from vocal registers through to vowels through to resonance, then this could have been a much more streamlined endeavour. This is why I became a vocal coach – to help you understand and build your voice like you never could have imagined.
Since launching in 2010, Bohemian Vocal Studio has steadily grown into the premier voice studio for rock singing lessons online, along with becoming synonymous with POWERFUL singing and a practical approach to vocal technique.
I love your practical approach! (Ivan – Russia)
The best advice for people who can’t sing
If you’re someone who thinks that you’re just one of those people who can’t sing, then you need to change the way you think. It’s not that you can’t sing, you simply don’t know how…. yet!
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Bohemian Vocal Studio is the top vocal studio for online Rock Singing Lessons and reaches singing students all throughout the world through Skype singing lessons each week. Well versed in every singing style, and with extensive experience coaching even the most difficult voice types and accents, Kegan has coached touring professionals and beginners alike. If you’re ready to take your singing voice to the next level and build a POWERFUL range while learning to sing higher than ever before, you can book a Skype session today to get started!
Please leave any questions or feedback 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.