Confused by varying vocal techniques? - 10 tips to evaluating which vocal technique is right for you.
As a voice teacher for over seventeen years, I’ve had a lot of singers confide in me about their confusion on vocal technique. How are they supposed to know as novices of the voice what singing technique and voice teacher to study with?
I may be a bit of an odd bird in the vocal teaching profession with my views on this subject, because I often find that I like many different types of singing, styles, genres, even techniques. I may be solid on my own teaching ways but I appreciate that every voice and singer is different, and different techniques and variations there upon work for different people.
All I care about it that the final outcome is healthy singing- the variations in which to get there are all interesting to me as well as inspirational. There are many teachers that are extreme about their opinion on their own technique being the only option period, which can be a tough bit of brain washing on the novice singer who may not be getting the results they want from their training, but yet are afraid to try anything else that their current teachers may have told them is awful.
Vocal technique is the way in which you produce your sound. There are different schools of thoughts and teachings on the “ultimate technique”. Some push out the diaphragm and lock, others try and hold the larynx down, some want you to sing through a ‘honk’ ( a nasal resonator), others build off of a belt or head voice, some teachers tell you to do sit ups to strengthen your support, while others think sit ups will lock in your muscles and hold in your sound, some people like a dark sound, or a warm sound, others only want to hear a bright voice that pokes out at you like a pin, sometimes people use covered vowels to attain vocal beauty throwing away diction for the sake of sound while others do the opposite for the sake of diction.
It is all very overwhelming, and no matter what you choose to do, there will probably always be someone out there judging your technique and thinking you could be singing better if you studied with them or their teacher. It is actually a real bummer that singers are put through all this pressure to make the correct decisions for their technique and teacher, it really can effect their own future in singing. If you are studying voice in a college and you do not get put with “the right vocal teacher”, you can often times miss out opportunities ( I’ve seen it happen). ”Well, how do I handle this and what choices do I make?”, you may be asking.
Rather then look at all these techniques as black and white, think of them in shades of gray. What works great for one voice and one body may not be good for you or vice-versa. You also may need to pull a few concepts from different sources to blend the perfect “technique cocktail” for your voice.
Someone with a natural forward placement in sound may do much better with a certain teacher then a warm toned voiced person. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! You will never please everyone. The sooner you as a singer stand up for your voice and figure out what You Need for it, the less of a student and more of a professional you will become.
Here are 10 tips for evaluating your Vocal Technique:
1. If it hurts- its bad. (period) There is no “sing through the pain to get a result” in singing. If you are hurting your voice, you are putting undue pressure on muscles, which could be putting pressure on your vocal chords. This would not work for any athlete on any muscle. (There is a difference between pain and a challange, I am speaking of pain or strain- don’t do it).
2. Does it feel natural to you?- Beautiful singing should not be produced out of trickery. You have the voice, someone just may need to guide you on how to get it out beautifully and easily. Your singing voice should come out like a natural extension of your speaking voice, not strangely affected.
3. Does you technique make sense to your brain? – Many teachers and techniques are explained differently; some teachers are perceptual- ”imagine your voice is free like leaves in the wind”, others have a number system- ”I need you to turn on 4, and 7 hold back 3 (referring to different areas of resonating”, others clinical- refering to specific muscles by name in the body, while others teach by vocal example. They can all great for certain people. Make sure which ever technique you are in speaks and rings true to your brain.
4. Is your stamina improving?- Can you sing a bit more everyday, challenging (not straining or hurting yourself) further with positive results? Are your correct muscles strengthening to support your larynx which should feel free as it releases sound? Are you tired by the end of a song, a few songs, or the end of a performance? Do you find that you are ready to sing the next day or do you need a day of vocal rest in between? As the student of singing you need to learn how to monitor your own progress or regress.
5. Is your range extending? – The stronger and freer you become in singing, meaning that you are using the correct support system physically through muscles in your body to protect your larynx from any vocal strain, the easier the next quality note down or up should become. You will never be able to sing the whole keyboard but a good 1 1/2 ultimately to 2 octaves would be fabulous.
6. Are you getting good feedback?- Do people like what they hear? Are you being complimented in your vocal improvement or singing beauty by others? Are you being asked to sing more often? Getting more roles, gigs? (Step outside your parents and teacher for an accurate call on this one).
7. Do you like what you hear? – Are you playing back recordings of yourself and liking your sound? Are you surprising yourself by new things that you can sing, or lines that you can add beauty to?
8. Are you better than when you started?-Did this technique, teacher do anything for you? Has the money and time been well spent? Do you feel on your way to your goal?
9. Do you feel more confident?- Are you finding that you are volunteering to be heard more often or are you still hiding that voice out?
10. Do you feel in control of your voice?- This is your voice. Not your teacher or techniques voice. You would not have it without your own vocal chords in there and remember that. Your technique should only help you to be in charge of your own sound. Your technique should give you the tools to control what comes out when you go to sing. If it is still unpredictable, your technique is not working for you.
Sing well people!!
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written by Ariella Vaccarino creator of Voice Lessons To Go(singing lessons on CD) and author of Vocalize!
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