The Insider’s Guide To Singing
Have you ever wondered what the ‘secret’ to singing is, what those YouTube voice coaches package up in those expensive courses and what exactly your favourite singers know that you don’t know? The truth is, there IS no secret to great singing, it’s all down to hard work, consistent practice and one important word that those YouTube gurus don’t want to know – BALANCE. Learning to sing with balance is the true key to singing, along with the other important tips you’ll find in this Insider’s Guide To Singing, the most important singing guide you’ve never heard of.
Balance is the key
Singing is not a muscular feat of strength, your favorite singers aren’t “strong”, no, they are balanced. Every aspect of singing and every issue you experience in your voice comes down to balance or lack of balance. Balance between airflow and air pressure (support), balance between air and vocal fold closure (onsets), balance between frequencies (registers), balance in your posture (foundation) and every other aspect of your voice – singing in a muscular manner is creating an imbalance in your voice in some way or another which is affecting how well you sing.
Balance is the magical key that these expensive courses espouse as the ‘secret’ to singing, and it’s often shared in abstract ways to keep you in a state of confusion and always one step behind the curve. Develop balance in each aspect of your voice and you will cut your learning curve in half overnight.
Singing Terms are BS
No, really. Much mystery has been forced on the world of singing by the fact that many singing terms out there are referred to in Italian. I don’t personally speak Italian, so the sheer fact that I was taught the concept of “Appoggio” to master my breathing always put the ability to do so efficiently out of my reach. Keep in mind, the voice is a natural function of your body, and existed thousands of years ago just like it does today. These classical terms are relatively new in the timeline of the earth, so putting immense value on these confusing terms “because they’ve been here so long” is a moot point that really doesn’t serve your voice. You don’t need Appoggio – you need to learn how to breathe. You don’t need Vibrato – you need to release tension. You don’t need Open Throat (La Gola Aperta) – you need to form your vowels properly while allowing appropriate resonance space. Each classical term and technique out there is simply an attempt to classify and label that which can’t be labeled and classified in a tangible way. Once you release your registers, breathe properly and form your vowels the right way – yes, it feels like you ‘have an open throat’, but attempting to sing ‘with an open throat’ doesn’t serve your voice in any manner, this is actually the result of healthy technique, and the term Open Throat is simply an attempt to classify and label the result of healthy singing.
We have to let go of these definitions and realise that WE own our voices, and WE alone hold the keys to our voices, not those who guard classical terms like Appoggio and Open Throat like cult members. Remember, the voice existed for thousands of years before these terms were coined to ‘label’ the process of singing without strain.
Trusting yourself is key to great singing, and there is actually a scientific basis for this. Two-thirds of the main musculature used in the process of singing is actually involuntary, the vocal folds and diaphragm aren’t controlled directly through physical means and actually require a specific psychological process and use of adjoining musculature that is trained and developed over time. If you don’t trust the process and ultimately trust yourself, you will never achieve the singing voice of your dreams – your thought process truly does affect the way you sing, because a large part of the vocal mechanism is involuntary and psychological. Remember, great singing is a result of balance, not brute force or muscular strength.
Trusting yourself is also a balance, a balance between physical ability and the psychological process. Without trust, you are singing without balance, and no doubt experience a plethora of issues with your voice.
Let it happen
This one goes hand in hand with trust. If your voice wants to flip or release at a certain point in your range, it is happening for a reason and you need to allow it to happen to attain proper balance. Ironically, a strong chest voice actually comes from strength in the head voice mechanism, because your vocal range is a direct balance between vocal fold weight (chest voice) and vocal fold tension (head voice) – if you are singing with full vocal fold weight past the point where your vocal folds are physically able to resonate at the speed required for the pitch you are aiming for, you are singing with an imbalance.
These beacons from our voices, like a flip, or a vocal break, are actually a sign from our voices that ‘something’ needs to happen, that ‘balance’ isn’t occuring at this point. Rather than avoiding this break, this flip, you need to identify the source of the imbalance, form an approach to create balance, and then simply let it happen, you don’t have to fight it.
Your voice is a natural part of your anatomy, so use it naturally instead of trying to contort and constrict that which happens naturally. Don’t go with the flow, BE the flow.
Voice Coaches Have to Warm Up Too
You might not see it in YouTube videos, but voice coaches have to warm up too, they also have the odd off-day and experience the odd flub as well. Remember, the voice is a natural part of your body and is a fluid process of balance – no one is infallible or perfect, so don’t get so down on yourself when you miss a note, or you’re not at the finish line of your vocal dreams yet. When you see a ‘perfect’ singer with ‘perfect’ YouTube videos, you need to understand that there has been an extensive warmup before the point they’re singing in front of you, there has likely been years and years of work and struggles to get them to the point they are now – whether they are honest with you about this or not.
A great singer isn’t necessarily a good voice coach
This one took me a very long time to understand personally, but no has so much clarity it is life changing. Sure, there are those frustrating people out there who possess an aptitude for the coordination required to be a good singer, and your learning curve may very well be longer, but the process is actually the same, and the result will actually be the same. This is why a ‘naturally good’ or ‘gifted’ singer is often not great at coaching or helping others to sing better, because they never struggled with the process of learning how to sing, and often take for granted that others may struggle with the simple act of balance that occurs in a balanced onset, register release, proper vowel production and many other aspects of singing. A great voice coach is someone who wasn’t necessarily a gifted singer from birth, but someone who has formed an approach to take their voice from the handicap of being ‘average’ to understanding what it takes to truly be a voice coach and help others achieve the voices of their dreams.
Often, teachers simply want to teach what worked for them rather than what their student may need. A great teacher on the other hand will identify the unique issues and individual needs that come with your unique instrument, and knows how to help you achieve the voice of YOUR dreams, not just how they found the voice of theirs.
Are you singing with balance, or are you man-handling your voice? A great place to start is the complimentary foundation courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, which will show you how to build a strong foundation to develop your voice upon. Then when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching you can book a Skype Session and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building 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!