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Old 09-26-2019, 02:11 AM
PookahMacPhellimey is offline
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How can I improve my singing?


I'm a decent musician (celtic harp) who recently has started to sing, too. I've been taking lessons for two years now, but to be honest, I find them very hard to get on with. It feels like I'm having to do random things with random feedback. Especially the latter I find really frustrating. I feel I'm patient and understand the need to practice, but the teacher will tell me I'm doing it right or wrong without me really feeling or understanding why, so it seems I'm just stabbing in the dark. I'd even blame the teacher, but I tried two different ones (plus one or two substitutes) and I keep having the same issue, so I think it's me who fundamentally doesn't get what it's about and so I'm taking a break now, but it's a pity as I really would like to sing well.

Any suggestions? Yet another teacher? Are there any books or videos out there which are good? Or should I just try on my own, record myself and try to improve that way?

I'm not really looking for a polished pop or classical voice sound, as I'm mainly a folk musician, but would like to have more control in the more difficult songs and be more steady with intonation.
  #2  
Old 09-26-2019, 11:10 PM
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Hmm. I was kind of blessed with a voice that others like (even though, I hate the sound of my recorded voice like everyone else does). I can apparently sing, but I've had no real formal training. So, my experience might not be useful, but we'll see.

Just sing a lot. Sing every song you can think of, even if you can't really sing it. You sound great in the shower? Practice in there, and any time you can without bothering others. Listen while you're doing it, and if you have the money for a handheld recorder, get one and record yourself. If not, if you have a smartphone, record it on there. Listen to your recordings, and you'll probably be able to hear where you're doing it "right" and "wrong". While you're doing it, you might figure out what your voice sounds like and what your range is, and go from there.

Yeah, it's terrible advice, but it somehow worked for me.
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Old 09-27-2019, 06:36 AM
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There's several YouTube channels that I like.

Dr Dan
Freya Casey
Vocal Splendor
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Old 09-27-2019, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by scabpicker View Post

Yeah, it's terrible advice, but it somehow worked for me.
No, actually, this is more or less what I was thinking of doing. Glad to hear it worked for you.

I think listening back to yourself is a great way to improve any musical skill, even though it's quite tough at least for me.
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Old 09-27-2019, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by PookahMacPhellimey View Post
the teacher will tell me I'm doing it right or wrong without me really feeling or understanding why, so it seems I'm just stabbing in the dark. I'd even blame the teacher, but I tried two different ones (plus one or two substitutes) and I keep having the same issue
Did you give this feedback to either teacher? If so, how did they respond? How long did you stick with each of them?

Regardless of your answers to the above, finding the "right" voice teacher can take some time and trial-and-error: someone who is able to explain things in a way that makes sense to you, who you feel understands your goals, etc. Please don't give up on using a future teacher/coach just because of those experiences.
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Old 09-29-2019, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
There's several YouTube channels that I like.

Dr Dan
Freya Casey
Vocal Splendor
Thanks! I'll have a look.
  #7  
Old 09-29-2019, 07:45 AM
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Did you give this feedback to either teacher? If so, how did they respond? How long did you stick with each of them?

Regardless of your answers to the above, finding the "right" voice teacher can take some time and trial-and-error: someone who is able to explain things in a way that makes sense to you, who you feel understands your goals, etc. Please don't give up on using a future teacher/coach just because of those experiences.
I stuck with each about a year. Should probably have been a bit more assertive about my problems, though I did tell them when I didn't understand.

I might try someone else in the future. I do notice the difference when people have worked on their voices, so obviously something is working for someone!
  #8  
Old 09-29-2019, 03:21 PM
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Drink. A lot.

I sing like Chris Cornell when I'm drunk.
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Old 09-29-2019, 04:21 PM
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Drink. A lot.

I sing like Chris Cornell when I'm drunk.
I sing a lot of Irish music, so that should work.
  #10  
Old 09-29-2019, 07:18 PM
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It helps if the teacher can mimic what you are doing wrong and then do it right so you can tell the difference. Also the teacher should be able to talk to you about shape of mouth and placement of lips and teeth and tongue to get the proper sound for each vowel, and placement of the voice, and so on. Then they should be able to say something like "It sounds like your tongue is too far forward, try it further back" or something. If neither of your teachers could or would do that, it may actually be on them more than on you. Trying to teach (or learn) without effective feedback seems like it would be very frustrating. Have these teachers been freelance or connected to some kind of school?

It's been a long time (30+ years) since I took voice lessons, but there are the helpful things that I remember. It helped that I had a pretty good ear for imitation of sounds.
  #11  
Old 09-29-2019, 07:20 PM
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Sing every day.

Your ear will gradually become more and more accurate at determining what's 'in tune' and what isn't.
  #12  
Old 09-29-2019, 07:32 PM
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Vocal Exercises will help if you commit to doing them daily. I do several from Dr Dans course on YouTube. Exercises focus on tongue placement and correct vowels.

Practice singing a song you're learning every day. Focus on learning the melody.

Last edited by aceplace57; 09-29-2019 at 07:36 PM.
  #13  
Old 09-29-2019, 07:59 PM
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Find someone who's a pretty good singer and a real good sport who's willing to sing duets with you, or sing while you accompany them. Getting instant feedback from someone who's singing what you're singing rather than just trying to nail down what you're doing wrong is probably going to get you better feedback. Also, trying to sing they way they are singing right now rather than trying to match a recording you just listened to might make it easier for you to pick up.
  #14  
Old 09-29-2019, 08:33 PM
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My singing is better received when I'm locked in a distant closet. And that's the best location for a new instrument's first few years. Otherwise it's practice, practice, practice, as usual. I dread hearing recordings of myself - that's not me! Not unless I cup hands behind ears.

An idea: If you despair of finding singing coaches, try a community choir.
  #15  
Old 09-30-2019, 03:38 AM
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My singing is better received when I'm locked in a distant closet. And that's the best location for a new instrument's first few years.
Too late, singing a few songs in of people tomorrow. 😮
I'm not *that* bad, though, and it's a matinee for a social club for elderly people who, I figured, will like a few Irish song thrown in even if I'm not perfect, just to liven things up a bit.

And I do believe sometimes you have to go for it and learn as go. It depends on the occasion, though, and yes, practice is good.
  #16  
Old 09-30-2019, 12:50 PM
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As a chorister I can only say: learn how to BREATHE properly!
  #17  
Old 09-30-2019, 02:49 PM
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As a chorister I can only say: learn how to BREATHE properly!
This is my input as well. Good breathing technique (and capacity) remedies all sorts of singing problems. Fortunately, the practice, practice, practice that people are recommending will help with this.
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Old 09-30-2019, 05:29 PM
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Good breathing technique (and capacity) remedies all sorts of singing problems. Fortunately, the practice, practice, practice that people are recommending will help with this.
My high school choral instructor told me I didn't breathe right - too shallow. 50+ years later my physical therapist says I don't exhale right. Inhaling deeply isn't enough. Exhale firmly, squeezing my lungs dry. Whoosh! Whoosh! Oops, more exercises to do today. I've been slacking.

Also long ago, I briefly trained on clarinet and gained a bit of diaphragm control. I should revisit that.

Side note: Some anti-slick singers (folkies, punks, etc) resist vocal training because they don't want to sound opera-ish. But no - training is the result, not the cause, of a strong voice. Leading singers haven't such voices because they trained; they train because they have such voices to maintain. But you already knew this.
  #19  
Old 10-01-2019, 02:06 AM
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Originally Posted by RioRico View Post

Side note: Some anti-slick singers (folkies, punks, etc) resist vocal training because they don't want to sound opera-ish. But no - training is the result, not the cause, of a strong voice. Leading singers haven't such voices because they trained; they train because they have such voices to maintain. But you already knew this.
While I completely agree that training won't make you sound "slick" automatically, a big part if the reason I fired my first teacher is that I felt she was pushing me towards this The Voice/Talent Show/RnB style aesthetic which is so not what I want. Many schools here do that, as it what most people want nowadays.
  #20  
Old 10-01-2019, 12:58 PM
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Good luck today, Pookah. Let us know how it goes.
  #21  
Old 10-02-2019, 02:25 AM
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Good luck today, Pookah. Let us know how it goes.
Oh thanks so much!

It went okay. Acoustics were terrible, so voice sounded rather thin and forced, but the audience loved it! It was kind like performing for your grandparents, except there were like 50 of them. �� I think most cheery efforts by (relatively) young people would have gone over well, but it was still encouraging.

Edit: And we got to taste the entries for the cake baking competition. ��

Last edited by PookahMacPhellimey; 10-02-2019 at 02:26 AM.
  #22  
Old 10-02-2019, 04:44 AM
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Try putting an earplug in one ear when you practice. It helps you hear your own voice over the sound of the instrument/band/other singers. I find it much better than even using a personal stage monitor (plus I can stick the plug in the drum-facing ear when with the worship band).

I wish I had discovered that trick when I was in a choir - I won't practice without a plug in, now.
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Old 10-02-2019, 07:12 AM
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Yeah - breath support is my biggest issue. Also, try to emphasize the vowels, rather than the consonants. But I'm a pretty lousy singer who has never had a lesson.
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Old 10-02-2019, 07:58 AM
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My biggest problem is memorizing the melody. I spend a lot of time at the piano playing the melody and using La to sing it. It's often frustrating.

It does help looking at the sheet music while I sing. My next note goes up a third. Then it goes down by a 1st. etc. The cues from the music do help me remember what I tried memorizing.

Most music goes up and down by small intervals, 1st,2nd,3rd, or 4th. The big jumps like a 5th,6th,7th or octave are my guideposts. The big jumps are the first thing to memorize

Last edited by aceplace57; 10-02-2019 at 08:01 AM.
  #25  
Old 10-02-2019, 08:17 AM
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It was kind like performing for your grandparents, except there were like 50 of them.
Oh nice. My grandma thinks I'm a star!
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Old 10-02-2019, 10:58 AM
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Look into Estill voice training. It focuses on the anatomy of the singer, identifying the muscles you can control, and how manipulating these muscles can give you control over the sounds you make. So much of vocal instruction is metaphorical and/or physically impossible (e.g., "aim your voice to your philtrum! Lift your palate!) that for me it was such a relief to come across teachers and resources based on fact and evidence. Jo Estill was a speech pathologist as well as a singer, and used laryngoscopy to really see what was going on, then developed "figures" (like skating) to help singers isolate and train the muscles to achieve their aims.
https://www.estillvoice.com/
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Old 10-02-2019, 12:01 PM
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Look into Estill voice training. It focuses on the anatomy of the singer, identifying the muscles you can control, and how manipulating these muscles can give you control over the sounds you make. So much of vocal instruction is metaphorical and/or physically impossible (e.g., "aim your voice to your philtrum! [/url]
That's interesting, as this metaphorical thing is exactly what I get so frustrated with. Like, they keep telling me to "project my voice in front of me". And I really do believe this is a great thing for me to be doing, but, concretely, I don't get *how* I'm to go about this. And it's just one example. I'm used to teaching/being thought an instrument where you can show what shape the hands are supposed to be making, which obviously people can't do with larynxes and the like.
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Old 10-02-2019, 12:03 PM
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Oh nice. My grandma thinks I'm a star!
Exactly. They were all just lovely. And I don't have any living grandparents, so I lapped it up.
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Old 10-02-2019, 12:22 PM
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That's interesting, as this metaphorical thing is exactly what I get so frustrated with. Like, they keep telling me to "project my voice in front of me". And I really do believe this is a great thing for me to be doing, but, concretely, I don't get *how* I'm to go about this. And it's just one example. I'm used to teaching/being thought an instrument where you can show what shape the hands are supposed to be making, which obviously people can't do with larynxes and the like.
Yes, same. My choir director is a wonderful conductor but as soon as he tries to give ANY instruction on how he wants us to shape our voices, I switch off.

You said you felt your voice was "thin and forced"? Maybe as a result of your nervousness?

Lessons with an Estill-qualified teacher gave me a great deal of confidence that I could make my voice do what I wanted. And so often, lack of confidence has a huge effect on vocal performance.
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Old 10-03-2019, 02:30 AM
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You said you felt your voice was "thin and forced"? Maybe as a result of your nervousness?
That was definitely a factor and I did settle into it after while. But also that the acoustics were nasty, the room big and I didn't have a mike - something I wouldn't allow to happen for something less informal - so I kind of had to force volume which made some of the more delicate stuff harder.

Anyway, through the website I saw that I have some Estill instructors in my region, so I will look into that.
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Old 10-04-2019, 11:03 PM
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An idea: If you despair of finding singing coaches, try a community choir.
This. A good choir director really taught me a lot about my voice and gave me confidence.

And yes, elderly people make such an appreciative audience. I remember when our choir performed in a nursing home and an old lady grabbed me by the arm and hugged me.
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