“Secret” is such an abused marketing term that I hesitate to even use it. But it’s accurate, because until you figure out how to use your voice easily and correctly, it may seem impossible to sing the way you want to sing. It’s like there’s an obstacle in front of you with no way past it. Then finally one day, you look back and you realize that you have scaled what seemed like an impossible wall. And, looking back, the wall was really not that big. You have figured out the “secret.”
Singing popular music is really just not that hard. Classical singing (opera specifically) is a whole different story. I don’t pretend to teach opera. But it’s not that hard to bridge your breaks, extend your range, and stop straining when you sing.
Let me tell you about my own singing journey. (I haven’t been a good singer for very long… just a handful of years.)
Like many people, I have sung my whole life: musical theater and choir in school, a cappella groups in college and after college, various bands. But until several years ago I was still painfully aware that I wasn’t a “professional” singer. I had so many vocal shortcomings. A break in my voice; straining for high notes, except for a “flip” into a weak head voice; not great tone; not very agile; sometimes off pitch.
I had taken voice lessons from a lot of different coaches, some for just a few lessons and others for almost two years. And though I saw some progress with some of them, it always felt like there was some “secret” out there that professional singers knew, that I just couldn’t get my hands on. In fact I even asked one of my coaches what the difference was between me and someone who sounded professional! She didn’t have an answer.
That was when I decided to start to teach voice. I couldn’t find a coach to teach me what I wanted to learn, so I decided I would dedicate my life to teaching myself, so that I could unlock this secret. It couldn’t be that hard!
I purchased and worked through many different self-study singing programs. I explored my voice on my own, experimenting and taking detailed notes. And I worked with Jesse Nemitz at the Brett Manning Studios. Combining all of this experience I finally can say that I am a “professional” singer, meaning that I have easy access to my entire range, an agile voice, good tone, and no more breaks in my voice.
And looking back, although it took a while to get here, IT DID NOT NEED TO TAKE SO LONG. And it certainly did not need to be so expensive.
Here are what I believe are the secrets to singing anything you want to sing. Come take a lesson if you want, to clarify these concepts. It’s one thing for me to list “the secrets,” and a whole different thing to experience them and understand what they feel and sound like.
1) Forward placement. Singing in the “mask.” Not swallowing your voice and making it “hooty.” This concept alone can take you right around your vocal breaks.
2) Round, vertical vowels. Giving your voice space in your throat and mouth. Not forcing your voice to come out through your nose. This concept alone can take someone without a break, but with bad tone and bad projection, to sounding great.
3) Vocal cord “edge connection.” Efficient use of the vocal cords. Not too much extra air mixed in with your vocalization. This is how you can learn to lean on those high notes, rather than have them blow apart into a weak falsetto.
4) Breath support. You need airflow to create sound. Many of us compress our air using muscles in the throat. That doesn’t help. You have to use your body.
Of course, yes, you do need to be on pitch. You do need to feel confident. You do need to practice. You do need to strengthen your cords. (And some teenage/early-twenties male singers have a lot more work to do in their midrange than anyone else, just because of the dramatic changes of puberty.) But the “secrets” above are the technical secrets that for some reason took years to find with other coaches, but once learned, enabled me within a matter of a few months to sing anything I want to sing.
So have hope. Get a good coach. You don’t have to take years and years of lessons.
(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn