Can You Learn to Sing Without Vocal Lessons?
Anyone Can Learn to Sing
Singing is not a privilege given to a select few. Anyone that can speak can sing because singing is sustained speech, supported by air.
This article will provide the necessary elements for you to learn to sing without spending a fortune for lessons. A qualified singing instructor is still the best way to go because good teachers have been trained to hear exactly what is needed to correct a persons singing. The student can't really hear their true vocal sound so they need expert feedback from a good vocal instructor. Therefore, they are at a disadvantage when trying to teach themselves.
But for those who cannot afford to study with a private teacher and are not able to sign up for a singing class at school, I'm providing some of the necessary steps needed to learn to sing. Follow these steps carefully and practice daily to correct present vocal weaknesses and take your voice to the next level.
How Singing is Produced
Your entire body is your vocal instrument, therefore, understanding how your vocal sound works will help you to sing better.
The following briefly explains how sound is produced:
- A breath is taken by inhaling air as the diaphragmatic muscle inflates.
- The sound is initiated in the larynx. (The voice box.)
- The vocal resonators receive the sound and influence it. ( The chest, mouth, head.)
- The vocal chords vibrate as they meet. (Air sets them into motion which produces sound.) This is why breathing correctly is crucial.
- 4. The articulators shape the sound into recognizable units - (The tongue, jaw, teeth, palate, and lips are the articulators.)
As you practice the vocal techniques outlined, concentrate and really focus on how the sound "feels." This will be a more accurate barometer of how well you are learning to sing than to listen for the right sound. You cannot hear your true sound so you must learn to "feel" with your body what correct singing is.
This means you must acquire the habit of feeling for vibrations in the resonating system (chest, mouth, mask, head.) Also, you must feel for the expansion around the waistline as you manipulate the diaphragmatic muscle and ribcage during inhalation. So you see, learning to sing is about learning to feel and connect with your body.
Once you learn each of the described vocal techniques outlined in this article you will be ready to apply these new techniques to your favorite song.
Avoid Forcing Your Singing Voice
Singing in Tune (On Key)
Not everyone has perfect pitch. Even if you are unable to sing-on-key or carry a tune it doesn't mean you can't sing. You can learn how to sing with excellent pitch. In fact, most musicians practice some form of ear-training on a daily basis.
If you have a keyboard or know someone that does, the following exercise can work miracles for anyone wanting to improve the art of singing on key:
- Begin by playing middle C on the piano (or a low C if it's more comfortable) and match the note with your voice. Sing any vowel such as Ah or Ee and record your sound. Do this 3 or 4 times.
- To determine if you're singing in tune, your voice will blend in with the piano. Otherwise, you will hear a difference in pitch. If you are singing too high or too low, adjust the pitch until you have a direct match.
- Experiment with different piano keys, matching each sound. When the pitch is too high, sing one octave lower. When the pitch is too low, sing one octave higher. Never strain your voice.
- Play and sing 5 notes going up and coming down beginning on C or G. Be sure to adjust your voice to eliminate straining.
If you do well with this exercise you probably have a pretty good "ear." If not, continue to practice daily until you develop the proper pitch. Singing along with recordings that are in your range (see definition below) will help to develop your ear training skills. Be sure to record your singing to tell if you are singing in tune.
Tip: Concentration is critical as you practice matching a pitch. Listen! Really focus on the sound of your voice. A common reason for failure to sing on key is simply a lack of concentration.
Do not expect immediate results. Avoid high expectations and any self-criticism or judgment. This will only deter your progress.
Remember to use proper breath support. One cause of singing a note or phrase 'flat' is lack of energy which comes from insufficient air upon inhalation. So before you sing that first note be sure to 'tank up" with plenty of air executed from the diaphragm. (Belly Breathing.)
And now you are ready to learn the secret to good singing.
Correct Diaphragmatic Breathing Is The Foundation For Good Singing
Three Important Tips to Save Your Voice
As you study the techniques of singing, allow your own unique style to emerge. It's the very technique you're learning here that will set your voice free. Every Singer has their own unique style, sound, and tone which is worth studying. As you observe and listen to the way a professional singer performs, you will learn to sing too, as this will provide an insight into the techniques you will use.
Remember these three important rules as you go to work on your singing voice:
- Always hydrate your throat with plenty of room temperature water while singing.
- Never sing higher or lower than is easy and comfortable.
- If your throat hurts, or you get a gripping feeling during or after singing, you are singing wrong. Hoarseness can also be contributed to incorrect singing.
Singing must always be easy and free.
Breath Control ~ The Key to Good Singing
A house must be built on a solid and strong foundation to keep it from washing away or collapsing. The same is true with your singing voice. Breath Control is the foundation on which your voice is built.
Air acts as a cushion for the singing tone to ride on. It is the energy and life force of the voice. How you manage your breath when you sing can drastically change the sound of your singing voice.
Singing requires a different set of rules than for speaking. So if you try to sing by breathing the way you do when you speak, well, it just won't work. When you sing, you not only need to inhale quickly and exhale slowly as you sing, you also must have good posture.
Also, when we sing, unlike speaking, we need to learn how to control the breath as we sing. Here's an exercise to help you learn how to take a quick breath of air:
1. Take a minute and observe how a dog breathes. That's right - a dog. (A baby also breathes the same way.) You will not see any movement in the neck, shoulders or chest region. But you will see movement in the stomach area as the dog or baby breathes in and out.
2. Next, you will pant like a dog. Don't laugh - this really works. Actually pretend that you're a dog on a hot summer's day and pant, noticing where the movement is taking place in your abdomen.
3. During inhalation, the abdominal muscles move down and out. Now continue panting and slow down the rate of your inhalation.
4. As you're slowing down feel the steady movement of your body. Notice that as you breathe in the air your belly expands outward. As you exhale your belly returns to its natural position.
5. Notice that during the exhalation, your abdominal muscles move out, not in. This is the natural way to breathe and your body does this form of breathing as you sleep.
6. Practice doing this entire exercise repeatedly to aid in teaching your body how to inhale and exhale. Be sure to have a drink of room temperature water during and after this exercise.
For a complete lesson on how to breathe for singing click here. You will learn in an easy and efficient manner exactly how to use the diaphragmatic muscle, which is your singing muscle.
Now that you have learned how to sing on key and support your voice by breathing correctly - let's sing.
Belly Breathing for Better Singing and to Relieve Stress
How to Sing "Happy Birthday to You"
This is our practice song for which we will now apply what you have learned so far. If you have studied breath control it should be pretty easy for you to test your ability to inhale correctly.
- Find your correct pitch first. It may take a few tries before you get it right. Avoid starting too high at first.
- Sing through the entire song once and be sure to use good diction.
- Now, take a deep breath by expanding around the waistline (diaphragm) and sing just one phrase.
- Pause for a second.
- Sing the second phrase and try to remember to use what you've just learned about inhalation. Take plenty of time, there's no need to hurry through this exercise.
- With the next phrase, before you sing be sure to inhale and try to control the air as you sing, letting out a little at a time until you complete the phrase.
- Continue these steps throughout the entire song. Your breathing and pitch are what you are aiming for.
As you practice this exercise, again and again, it will become easier. One day, it will all be automatic. You will be able to easily coordinate your air with your tone.
You may graduate to other simple songs such as folk songs, continuing to use your new way of breathing. Always have a goal in mind when you sing and record your voice as you practice different singing techniques.
List of Singing Terms and What They Mean
There are many singing terms used by teachers and vocalists. This list will focus on those most used:
- Vocal Cords: Also known as vocal folds are composed of mucous membrane that stretches horizontally across the larynx (or voice box). The vibration of the two vocal cords, caused by expelling air from the lungs, produces vocal tones or singing.
- Tone: The quality of sound of a note.
- Legato - To sing smoothly and connect each note.
- Vibrato: The steady pulsation of the voice that is heard during a sustained tone. The pulsation is caused by a slight fluctuation in pitch above and below the tonal center of the note. Singers who have full control over their vibrato use it to accent certain words or phrases for dramatic or emotional effect. Vibrato should not be confused with a warble, which is a large fluctuation in pitch, usually the result of bad singing technique.
Resonance: Occurs naturally when the voice is free to travel through the spaces above your vocal cords (your resonators) where it is modified and amplified before leaving the mouth.
- Range: Refers to the notes that a given performer can sing comfortably.
- Projection: Generally, the ability to be heard by the audience. Sometimes also refers to the ability to communicate emotion to the audience, as in "she projects great sadness."
Placement: A singing technique that uses the sensation of vibrations in the head to achieve healthy sound that resonates and carries well. Most healthy singing is done in what is often referred to as "forward placement" (or "the mask"), with vibrations behind the teeth/lips, on the cheekbones, and sometimes the forehead and/or nose. The resulting sound is full, not nasal or thin.
- Pitch: The highness or lowness of a tone. The sound of a particular note. When pitch is referred to, it's usually in reference to being "on" or "off" pitch. "On pitch" means the singer is singing in tune. "Off pitch" means the singer is either flat or sharp
- Phrasing: Refers to the breaths or "stops" in-between notes. Natural phrasing will include "stops" after all periods, commas, semicolons, or colons. Additional phrasing may be necessary for the singer to take catch breaths or to achieve a certain style. It's an excellent idea for singers to sit down with sheet music in hand and mark their phrasing before they begin to sing. This helps prevent unexpected losses of breath and awkward phrasing that draws attention to itself.
- Legato: Singing smoothly and connecting one not to the other.
- Head Voice: Or "head register." Singing in the higher part of the range. While singing in the head voice, the vocal folds are thin; the head voice is usually associated with light, bright sounds.
- Falsetto: In male singers, a high register (actually, sung in the female range) similar to the head voice. However, unlike the head voice, falsetto cannot blend with the chest voice. This type of singing characterizes the stereotypical "Irish tenor" or countertenor sound, with light, often breathy notes.
Diction: The clear pronunciation of words. This requires attention to both consonants and vowels. Different types of music may require more or less diction; for example, in musical theatre, it's essential that the audience understand the lyrics, but in jazz or blues, the singer may occasionally slur words on purpose in order to achieve a desired sound. Good diction helps produce good sound, however, so all singers should pay attention to it.
- Diaphragm: "The dome shaped muscle attached to the bottom of the lungs that separates your chest and stomach cavities. Its main function is to initiate inhalation.
- Chest Voice: Or "chest register." The lower notes of a singer's range; in the same general range as the speaking voice. When singing in the chest voice, the vocal cords become naturally thick, and the resulting sound is generally associated with deep, warm tones.
- Break: The sudden change in tone between the head and chest voice, caused by vocal tension. When a singer hits his or her break, there may be a yodeling type of sound. This can be avoided with good vocal technique.
- Breath Support: Efficient use of the singer's stream of breath, controlled primarily by the diaphragm.
- Attack: Describes the process of a singer first hitting a note, as in "his attack on that high C was too harsh," or "her attack at the beginning of the song was very gentle."
- A Cappella: Singing without any form of instrumental accompaniment.
Drink Room Temperature Water Only
Questions and Answers for the Singing Voice
I run out of air when I sing
Measure each phrase of music to assure you take in enough air
My throat hurts when I'm through singing
You are placing too much strain on your vocal folds. Support the tone with more air.
People can't understand my lyrics
Use more mouth opening and be deliberate with the consonants.
I want to learn how to use vibrato
Vibrato is a natural result of correct singing. Work on vocal technique including breathing.
How long should I warm up my voice?
At least 15-20 minutes before singing..
How do I overcome fear of singing?
Study vocal techniques with a qulaified teacher. Sing through your fear by trying karaoke or other public performing.
I hate the sound of my voice.
You are not alone. Most of us do. Keep recording and listening. You have to get used to your true sound and change what you don't like.
How long does it take to be a good singer?
The voice can be altered immediately with proper instruction and application.
Sing With Courage and Conviction
Singing is a wonderful vehicle for self-expression. No one can argue with a message expressed through a song. Sing about your heartache. Sing about your joy and beliefs. Tell the world that God exists. Be yourself without fear or concern. Tell your story.
The beauty of every voice lies in its uniqueness. Embrace your sound and seek help from a qualified instructor if you aren't happy with what you hear. Astounding changes can be made with good vocal technique.
This is the time to set your emotions free. Don't worry that you're not good enough when you sing. It's your voice and it's not supposed to sound like anyone else. Bask in it. Free it. Feel it. And most of all own it.
Learning to sing without lessons means that improvement is somewhat slower than if we study with a qualified teacher. We have no one to report to each week and no feedback, so we tend to be lax about practicing. It is only by repetition that we make progress. But take care that you are practicing correctly to avoid ingraining bad habits.
Without a teacher to give us regular feedback we practice our own mistakes further ingraining bad singing. Most of us aren't self-motivated enough to work daily on our voices and yet that is exactly what it takes to get better.
We all display different weaknesses and strengths as we sing. Bad habits must be corrected as new techniques are introduced. Many factors enter in to "the art and science of singing." Some are physical and some are psychological.
I wish you success as you begin your journey through the path of singing. Sing with all of your heart and soul. Feel your own emotions and bring them to the surface of your song. Enjoy singing as it is a gift from you to yourself.
I don't know many singers who actually do like the
sound of their own voice.
- Roger Daltrey
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© 2012 Audrey Hunt