The Best Kept Secrets About Singing
Singing itself is a very easy task, but the process of learning HOW to do it is often confusing and frustrating, in part due to the lack of honest facts and resources out there designed to help those of us who don’t necessarily want to be classical Opera singers, and those of us that don’t necessarily want to break the bank with those expensive singing courses everyone keeps raving about. These are the best-kept secrets about singing – have you been going about vocal training the wrong way all along? Let’s find out.
#1 – Singing is easy
What? I know, you’ve tried to sing, and it wasn’t easy – this can’t be right, can it? Singing itself IS very easy to do, you’re just going about it the wrong way and using muscular force instead of balance. It’s likely that years of listening to your favorite singers and even well-meaning advice from your local singing teacher have colored your perspective about certain aspects of the voice and turned a very simple act into a muddle jumble of complicated terms and unreachable goals. I suggest starting with this checklist to see where you’re at with your vocal technique and so you can set better goals in the short term that are guaranteed to help you sing better. Ask yourself these questions before resigning yourself to the belief that singing is hard:
- Can you connect your registers?
- Can you shape your vowels?
- Are you singing with balance?
- Are your grouping your consonants?
- Are you singing with middle voice?
If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, then the real answer is you’ve got some work to do.
#2 – Singing isn’t a muscular pursuit
Have you been man-handling your voice with force like a strongman instead of traversing the balance like a tight-rope walker? Singing isn’t a muscular sport, even if your favourite singers look like they’re putting a lot of effort into the way they’re singing – it’s either a super cool act, or they’ve got poor vocal technique that is causing vocal strain. Singing doesn’t require muscular force or brute strength, it requires finesse, planning, practice, perseverance and most of all, balance and coordination. Stop treating your voice like a set of weights and work on your balance instead.
#3 – There are many different ways to sing
There are tons of vocal programs out there, and you know what – they’re all good! That’s right, if you spend any amount of time working on your voice, no matter the program, you will see results of one kind or another. There are those that say they hold ‘the secret’ or ‘the key’ to singing and that they’re ‘better’ than everyone else – but this is all marketing mumbo jumbo and likely an indication of their poor teaching skills rather than any special secret or approach. A good voice coach will be open, altlruistic and willing to help you and listen to your questions – not just shove an expensive course and generic answer in your face. A real voice coach cares about your voice as much as you do, and really wants to help you reach and achieve your goals and dreams – there are MANY different approaches and methods to singing, and many different answers to the same questions. The only person who holds the keys to your voice is YOU, so make sure you’re not handing over the keys to your voice to someone who is just going to make you pay to have it handed back to you.
#4 – You don’t need vocal technique
What! That’s right, techniques like Appoggio, Open Throat, Middle Voice – these are all labels for a natural process that occurs when you sing, they aren’t the answer you’ve been looking for. Sure, developing support and forming your vowels properly will help you sing better and build a better voice in the long run, but there is no mystical secret to an Italian term like Appoggio – it simply means ‘support’ in English and refers to a balance between airflow and air pressure, nothing more. If you’re putting excess important on classical terms and techniques, no doubt you’re experiencing a few key issues with your voice – put them out of your mind for a while and simply try to sing, no doubt you’ll achieve support much sooner with the right process than if you’re agonising over the mystical meaning of an Italian term from 200 years ago. Appoggio, Support, Lean, Prop, Diaphragmatic Breathing, Hold, Balance – these all potentially mean the SAME thing depending on how you apply them and who is teaching you. There is no ‘secret’ technique that you need to discover to sing well, you already have the voice of your dreams, you just need to learn how to sing with balance so that it functions efficiently and consistently.
#5 – Naturally great singers don’t make good voice coaches
Again, what? There’s actually a scientific reason for this one. If a singer has a natural balance and talent for the coordination required in singing, it’s likely they will overlook key elements in another singer’s development and make generalised statements because singing was so ‘easy’ for them. Voice coaches often want to teach what worked for them, not necessarily what will work for you – and remember, there are MANY different ways to sing.
#6 – Your voice changes with time
That’s right, along with the normal changes to your body over time, your voice also changes along with the balance and cooridnation your develop from regular practice. This is why even some of the greatest singers in the world eventually experience vocal issues, simply because their voice has changed, yet they’re still trying to control their voice the way it worked yesterday, or the way it worked 20 years ago – even though their voice has now changed. This doesn’t mean that you can’t sing the songs or notes you used to sing with ease, it simply means you need to form a new balance and learn to sing with the instrument you have today.
It’s overkill, I know, but I actually treat my voice like a new instrument every single day. This means that I address any issues or changes in balance as they occur, and means that I sing accordingly to the voice I have this particular day – if I blindly sang the same way I sang when I was 20 years old, no doubt I would experience many issues from the changes that have occured in my voice, and the changes that have occured in the many elements of balance required for singing. If you constantly trouble-shoot your voice and make any small adjustments that may be needed over time, your voice will stay strong, expansive and powerful, even as your voice and body changes with time.
The secret is, there IS no secret to singing, and this is a fact. All the complicated terms and techniques in the world aren’t goig to help you sing better if you lack a strong foundation or you lack balance in the vocal mechanism. Remember, singing is an act of coordination, not one of muscular force or mystical skills – are you manhandling your voice, or are you singing with balance?
A great place to start is the free foundations short coursesavailable here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to build a strong base for your vocal technique to be form upon. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional coaching you can then book a Skype Session and we’ll start working towards extending your range and developing balance and consistency in your voice EVERY time you sing.
If you have any questions about learning how to sing, 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.