How To Sing: Why voice training is crucial
“Your voice training should help you connect your voice through your entire range and to help you negotiate the passage areas. You must never forget why you practice: You do so to set up the correct balance between your exhaled air on your vocal cords, allowing you to sing efficiently, and to then train your muscular system to live with that balance. ”
– Seth Riggs
I suspect many beginning singers (and even some in the biz) secretly fantasize that voice training can’t REALLY make that much of a difference. 20 mins? Everyday? Ugh! Other singers don’t have to do that do they??? Can’t we cut some corners there???
It may look like some of your favorite singers you listen to do not practice, but that is an illusion: don’t delude yourself. You should know that all art forms, when done well, look natural, effortless, seemingly seamless. But that’s the point.
Let’s be honest… Even the most musically untrained ear can’t much enjoy an even slightly out-of-tune singer. It’s just audibly challenging. Worse, who wants to listen to a singer, for example, getting vocally tired onstage! The audience, whether at karaoke, or in concert, desperately need your voice to be tuned up (and stay that way), or they’ll lose interest.
Any singer who has at least some experience singing onstage, knows the hazards of getting in front of a mic with a voice that is not feeling right. We’ve all seen singers missing important notes from a lack of coordination. How embarrassing that can be. It just sounds “off”. If its not tuned up correctly, and you are not coordinated to get through your set, you can make a VERY big mess.
As a vocalist, then, it is crucial you build:
- the right coordination to GET TUNED UP, and
- the STAMINA to stay that way through your practicing and, most importantly, your gigs.
While there may be some allowances in different genres for how well the voice should work (indie and rock music are slightly more forgiving for instance), for the most part, it has to be done nearly perfectly. And only when you get that far in your abilities, will you have a chance at streaming your talent and remaining focused on expressing “yourself” in all the ways you want.
GETTING TUNED UP: Anyone with any experience trying to sing correctly on pitch consistently quickly learns that there are certain notes within their voice that seem easier and some that seem much harder to sing on pitch, never-mind sing the notes in they way they intended. Nearly every vocalist experiences these awkward notes in different places, but we all experience them in our own ways. And if you don’t find your way through those awkward notes, the wear and tear of your singing experience accumulates quickly and becomes extremely taxing on the muscles in your throat, and your vocal cords.
If you don’t know how to tune up those awkward areas, you leave yourself deadly vulnerable to either getting stuck below or above one of those areas and, thus, end up either singing flat, sharp, strain on important notes, miss certain notes entirely, or just plain sound bad. And nowadays, listening to singers who “sound off” is difficult for even the most open-minded listener.
STAMINA: Not only do you have to learn to tune up the WHOLE voice, but you have to learn how to keep it that way by building stamina. And with an instrument only a 1/2″ long or smaller, you can easily blow it out. Worse, you stand a good chance of permanently damaging your vocal cords.
Great singing, like any high performance sport, requires rigorous and efficient practice in order for the tiny vocal fold muscles to learn how to efficiently manage long periods of singing.
To accomplish both the right tune up for your voice, and develop vocal stamina, you need to be sure that the voice training method you choose is accurate in identifying and counter balancing your unique vocal issues: Imagery and “Placing the voice” do not create in the complex vocal system the fine balance that is required for the even more complex act of singing. The voice needs tools and a teacher that knows how to use them, that will create a condition of balance in your voice, rather than just talk about how that condition should feel. For this reason, I strongly suggest a Speech Level Singing Certified Instructor – instructors who are themselves rigorously trained in assessing and balancing the whole spectrum of voicetypes, extremely rare considering most teachers are only trained to sing – not teach.
If and when you do get highly skilled at tuning up your voice, you will be ready to let yourself fully shine when your turn in front of the spotlight arrives.