What YouTube Vocal Coaches Don’t Want You to Know!
There’s a number of impressive vocal coaches on YouTube, with flashy videos in an expensive recording studio that appear to display extremely difficult singing performed in a flippantly strain-free way. Usually, these videos are followed with “Buy my course to learn how!” or “Noone else knows the secret to great singing!” or even that their course will make you “Sing better than anyone else!“, I’m sure you catch my drift.
Singing is a simple act of coordination and balance between the various aspects of your vocal mechanism, from your vocal registers to your onsets and vocal chords, breathing and resonance, and really should be an easy, strain-free and joyous pursuit. Singing itself is actually a super simple and easy process, but why do we often find is so damn hard to learn HOW to sing the right way? Here are 5 things that those multi-millionaire Singing Gurus don’t want you to know:
#1 – They don’t WANT you to sing better
Have you ever asked yourself whether you actually LEARNED anything from these fancy YouTube singing videos that are filmed under professional lighting in recording studios us mere mortals could likely never afford? I’m going to venture that the answer to this question isn’t going to make you happy, and you likely hear the figurative sound of glass shattering somewhere in your mind. Just because someone is a great singer, or has an impressive video, or has an impressive production team, or SAYS that they’re not straining even though you can see it in their face – doesn’t make them a good singing coach. These videos aren’t designed to teach you how to sing better, they’re designed to sell you an expensive course, or expensive voice coaching sessions that no doubt be punctuated with “all the answers are in my course!”
A great singing tutorial isn’t about walking away wanting to know more, it’s about the knowledge you walk away with that you didn’t possess when you first clicked “play”. A great vocal coach will have nothing to hide and will SHOW you the right way to sing right off the bat without trying to withhold the secret to singing.
#2 – There is no secret to great singing
Anyone can learn how to sing, and sing well. That being said, some people possess a natural aptitude towards the coordination required for singing and will experience a much less steep learning curve than someone of average ability or somewhat lacking coordination. At the end of the day, your skill at singing comes from your ability to coordinate and balance rather than any preordained “gift” or the fact they have discovered a “secret” that you’re not aware of. I’ll be honest with you, there IS no secret to great singing other than consistent practice, perseverance and of course the right information put to you in a way that you understand and is practical for your abilities.
The idea that there is a “secret” to singing is preposterous and is another form of marketing designed to sell you a product rather than help you sing. Have you watched interviews with your favorite singers, or great singers like Aretha Franklin, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley or Paul Rodgers? The humble nature in which they describe their ability to sing, and the process that it took to build their voices is eye-opening – they don’t claim to possess a secret, so why would a vocal coach hold a secret that some of the greatest singers of all time didn’t need to discover? That’s right, there IS no secret to great singing other than hard work, practice and fantastic vocal coordination.
#3 – Vocal Coaches ALSO have bad days (Nobody is perfect)
From the carefully curated videos shown on their YouTube channels, it might appear that these singing gurus sing perfectly EVERY time they sing, and their vocal abilities are super-human. Even after some 15 years singing at various levels and with classical training – my voice still has the occasional bad day, I still suffer from the occasional cold that robs me of my voice, and I even occasionally hit the wrong pitch. The idea that these YouTube coaches are absolutely perfect and flawless in their singing is preposterous. This creates a discrepancy between how the coach “always” sounds, and how their students sound when they practice – it gives the false illusion that even if you become a fantastic singer yourself, these YouTube gurus are ALWAYS better than you, and possess a level of ability that is simply out of reach for any human.
Don’t buy into the hype, even voice coaches have the occasional bad day and miss the occasional note.
#4 – Their singing has been professionally edited and their videos are often edited and mimed too
As I just pointed out, no singer is absolutely 100% perfect 100% of the time – a great singer’s ability to constantly adjust their vocal technique to their surrounds and as their voice changes with time is the mark of a truly spectacular singer. I’ve seen videos where even great singers like Whitney Houston and Gregg Allman forget the occasional word or miss a pitch – so how are these vocal gurus able to sing SO perfectly without one iota of human error, or the occasional pop and click in the recordings? That’s right – they don’t. There’s a reason these videos are performed in recording studios and not simply performed with an acoustic guitar in hand to a live microphone: they’re highly edited with compression, reverb, EQing and performed over multiple takes that are then compiled together under the guise of perfect singing every time. I bet if you saw these same gurus singing the same songs from their perfectly recorded videos with only an acoustic guitar or piano and their live voice, you would see much more of a connection between how your voice sounds in a room to how their voice would sound in the same room.
#5 – A “one size fits all” course doesn’t actually fit everyone
While I offer free foundations short courses here at Bohemian Vocal Studio that are a great companion to lessons for my students and a great introduction to new singers who aren’t yet ready to bite the bullet on professional lessons, I’m really not a huge fan of self-service singing courses, and here’s why: every single voice is different, and so should your approach be. No two singers sing in exactly the same manner or perceive the same techniques in exactly the same way. This is the nature of singing, it is such a unique and subjective art and topic that two singers with exactly the same voice type, accent and build may require two completely different approaches to singing to become great singers.
The idea that a singing course (even a super expensive one) could ever replace personal coaching and the value that actual feedback and guidance from a voice coach provides is laughable. A video recording doesn’t hear whether you are singing in the right manner and can’t make suggestions or adjustments to your technique, so you might actually be singing completely wrong without realising, and there’s noone there to tell you how or why. Worst of all, these singing gurus are often uncontactable for even the simplest of questions – if you can’t ask your voice coach a question, how can they effectively coach you how to sing better? Exactly, they can’t. A voice coach should be available to their students, and while I don’t think that voice coaching or ongoing support should necessarily be free, it’s the responsibility of a good voice coach to make sure their students are getting the best out of their voices and aren’t putting their vocal health at risk. Are you able to ask these YouTube singing gurus a question about singing, and receive an honest, practical and helpful answer – or are you met with “buy my course” or even an automated admin response directing you to sign up to their premium forum for answers to questions that really should have been answered in the course you paid top dollar for?
Singing is a very easy and simple process, but unfortunately, the many different opinions, approaches and marketing schemes out there often make the process of LEARNING how to sing more difficult than it should be. Make sure you’re learning from a voice coach who actually shows you how to sing rather than impresses you with a flashy video of how they can sing.
How to REALLY learn how to sing
As we’ve discussed, learning how to sing is simply a process of coordination and is more an act of balance than a feat of muscular force. A great voice coach will show you how to set up a strong foundation, extend your range and improve your tongue while also showing you how to put this into practice with actual songs – after all, what good is singing if you can’t sing actual songs? The first thing you need to do is set up your foundation – any self-respecting vocal coach will tell you that your singing voice is only as strong as the base you build it on. The first step in your foundation is your posture: Head up, shoulders back, chin parallel with the floor and then widen your ribs. This last step of widening your ribs is actually the essence of Appoggio singing technique, in effect allowing you to control your breathing solely through the extension of the diaphragm rather than contraction of your ribs like we often employ in speech. The best way to expand your ribs is actually to raise your sternum without breathing in, you’ll likely find that this widens your ribs and contracts your stomach – you can now breathe using the diaphragm and will notice that your shoulders and chest no longer move when you breathe.
With this powerful foundation in place, you can now develop your middle voice (aka Mix), proper vowel production and a balanced approach to your onsets,
What is Middle Voice?
Middle voice is one of those confusing singing terms that is often hijacked by singing gurus looking to sell courses but DOES actually have a practical application once you understand how the voice really functions. Middle voice is an ever-changing coordination between the muscles responsible for vocal fold weight (The TA muscles – thyroarytenoid) and those that create vocal fold tension/stretch (The CT muscles – cricothyroid) – in essence allowing a resonant tone that retains the depth of your chest voice while accessing the extensive range afforded by your head register.
As a low baritone myself, learning to control this balance was an absolute revelation in my singing and truly allowed me to find my real voice. Some higher voice types and most females possess some level of this coordination in a natural manner, but a baritone voice often lacks coordination in any facet and will require extensive training to access their middle voice.
By setting up a powerful foundation and developing your middle coordination, you will set the stage for a powerful and healthy singing voice that will be as consistent and controlled as it is dynamic and extensive. Along with a strong foundation and middle coordination, you will also need to develop control over:
- Vowel shapes
- Vocal tract width (ie: resonance tuning)
- Vocal placement
- Register release
- Support (Appoggio)
- Consonant grouping
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Diction and delivery
- Resonance and frequency control
- The Soft Palate
- The root of your tongue
- Pitch and key
Remember, singing should be easy, simple and fun – if you’re fighting against your voice and trying to contort your natural resonance, or you’re looking to find the “secret” to great singing, then you’re drinking from the wrong fountain. If it doesn’t feel right, you’re not doing it in the right manner.
A great place to start with your foundation is with the FREE foundations short courses here at Bohemian Vocal Studio. 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 get started today!
If you have any questions about learning how to sing, please 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.