Singing is a vulnerable act, it requires us to open our emotions and test our physical limits. How much more so when it comes to practicing! It is very common for people at the beginning of their vocal training journey to not want to be heard by others until the song they are working on is 100% ready. We tend to want to display the final form rather than the work in progress to the ears of others.
While this is a completely understandable wish it tends to be difficult in reality, especially living in a city. Many people who call a metropolis home reside in condos, apartments, with roommates or with family members. This can make practicing vocal technique at home a daunting task.
Singing in class is always fun and safe at our schools! While at home it may not be possible to achieve a totally private practice space, there are things that can be done to minimize being heard by the outside world. In this article we will explore techniques to do so.
Important note: All techniques will work best if the singing space can be set up closest to an exterior wall. Though dampening can efficiently tame high frequencies low ones can pass through walls, especially in older houses or buildings.
Weather Stripping and Door Sweeps
Sound travels in a similar way to gas. If there is even a slight gap, such as the space underneath a door the sound will squeeze on through. One simple and cheap way to greatly reduce the sound that escapes a room is to add weather stripping and a door sweep to the entrance. This method shrinks the spaces where the sound escapes, cutting down the volume of singing to the rest of the home significantly!
To take this one step further, a heavy material such as a duvet or moving blanket can be hung from the inside of the room in front of the door. There are even companies that make these specifically for sound purposes with a beautiful aesthetic appearance!
For even greater isolation, and for those with large walk-ins or no fear of small spaces, a closet can be used in a similar way.
High and mid frequencies which make up the sonic character human voices can effectively be dampened by things such as clothes, pillows and blankets. Try it for yourself; sing a phrase in the room you are in right now, then grab a pillow and simply place it a few inches away from your face; hear the difference?
Thanks to this little trick, closets can be lined with some spare bedding and a few heavy jackets to make for a much quieter vocal experience.
Shower and Car Singing
Don’t discount the value of practicing in the shower or car! The lead singer of the band FUN Nate Ruess famously learned how to sing by driving out to empty parking lots so he could comfortably practice Queen songs, and it worked fantastically for him!
Working in a completely different fashion from the other techniques, there is a device called a Beltbox that works to reduce the singers volume at the source, their mouth!
The Beltbox is either held up or strapped to the singers face, covering their mouth and nose. The device itself is made of high density sound absorbing material which reduces the singers volume by 30 d.b (for the non-techies, that is a massive difference!).
Check out this video to see how it works!
Microphones and Headphones
Another method, which may seem simplistic at first, is by far the easiest way to reduce volume; sing quieter!
For most genres of music, singers use a microphone. Due to the way microphones work vocalists will actually sound better if they perform at a lower volume! (The exceptions to this rule being classical, musical theatre and gospel; genres which traditionally do not use electric amplification.)
A fantastic way to practice is by using a microphone and headphones via a karaoke machine or computer. This allows the singer to hear themselves very clearly without feeling the need to belt it out at top volume, the same way in-ear monitors help the live shows of the pop stars we all love.
Professional Vocal Booths
For those who wish to step into the realm of professional isolation, and have the space and budget, vocal booths are a fantastic option.
Vocal booths are small, isolated rooms, between 4 x 4 and 10 x 10. They are made of solid materials and high quality sound absorbers, rendering whoever is in the booth completely silent to the outside world. These booths have been a godsend to recording studios in busy places for a long time!
Fear of Embarrassment
With all of this being said, it is quite often a case of insecurity rather than volume that inhibits singers from practicing at home. Unlike guitars or pianos, singers are their instrument and are extremely connected to how they sound. Though there is no easy fix for this, try to remember that no one is listening as closely as you are! We have to risk sounding bad in order to learn how to sound beautiful and healthy; try and allow yourself to take that leap of faith!
Also, if you happen to be a student at Singer’s Edge you are eligible to attend our free weekly classes that explore methods for building vocal confidence and getting comfortable showcasing your skills in front of others!
Take care, and happy singing!