How many different versions are there of what we call singing technique?! Probably thousands. How are you supposed to know which singing technique is right for you? This post will give you a basic foundation for great singing technique, no matter what style of music you want to sing!
Saying NO to Prerecorded Singing Lessons:
You Deserve Better!
The plan was to begin this post with a nice discussion about how crucial vocal health is to your singing technique. –And that is the truth. But instead let’s start with one thing you absolutely should not do, if you care about singing your best.
It is one of those subjects I feel so passionately about. Don’t even get me started! But the bottom line is please do not use any type of prerecorded singing instruction, unless the instructor carefully listens to your voice, your singing, and pays attention to how you are responding to each recorded singing lesson. Anything short of this is nothing less than a fraud, plain and simple, in terms of any kind of real singing lesson.
But prerecorded singing lessons are not designed to care about your individual singing. How it works is you pay for the package or course of prerecorded singing “lessons” and then you are basically on your own to apply the instruction to the way you learn and to your own singing. This method is an accident waiting to happen.
Keep Your Money and Save Your Voice
If we start with the fact that your voice is as individual as your fingerprint, this alone tells us that when it comes to singing technique, there is no one size fits all. If someone prerecords a singing lesson, meant to apply to any singer, and then does not even stick around long enough to discover how you personally understand the lesson, let alone hear your individual voice actually responding to the instruction, you are being cheated. This is not a real singing lesson, and the percentage of singers who truly learn anything of value from these “lessons” is miniscule. By far singers who rely upon unmonitored prerecorded lessons are, at a minimum, wasting their time and money and, in the worst cases, acquiring damage to their vocal anatomy. Please just stay away from this inadequate method of teaching anyone to sing!
Any singer needs and deserves individual attention, carefully tailored to how he or she understands the instruction from the voice teacher. Still, there are some fundamentals you can learn right here and now, which will only help with your singing technique, and this goes for literally everyone who wants to sing!
Singing Technique and Vocal Health are Inextricably Bound
Each of the posts found here give detailed guidance in vocal health.
Often when a singer comes down with a bad cold and feels pressured tog keep singing through it, he or she develops new issues with singing technique. For example, I know a singer who felt she had to perform in holiday concerts, even though she was suffering from bronchitis and coughing badly. She got through the concerts okay, but immediately afterward began coughing worse, actually coughing all night, not able to sleep. After a delay in getting to her doctor, injury to her vocal folds was discovered.
As this singer recovered, she began to compensate by singing with a depressed larynx and a lot of muscular tension in the jaw and neck. She not only needed the care of her ENT doctor, but also she had to work with a voice teacher, specially trained in overcoming vocal damage. So lack of vocal health caused new troubles within her singing technique — a very common occurrence.
The Singer and the ENT
Although this article was written over 13 years ago, the advice here is timeless and simply invaluable for all singers!
Highly recommend that you give this one a careful read:
Dr. Joseph Sugerman, ENT specialist doctor, reminds us that as a singer, when you have a vocal problem, you are the person who knows it first. He emphasizes that you should not wait but go immediately to a good ENT specialist physician–preferably one with experience treating singers.
Dr. Sugerman also makes a strong point of saying that if a singer is having vocal problems, they will keep having them until they correct the underlying issue. This is nearly always a need for improved vocal technique.
When we say “vocal technique,” always the first and most crucial aspect is your vocal health. You just cannot begin to sing your best until your vocal anatomy is in a rested condition, basically free of excessive congestion (phlegm).
Having a surgical procedure on your irreplaceable vocal anatomy must be the choice of last resort. Dr. Sugerman is wise to instruct singers that until the singing technique is healthy and consistent, the same problems with singing will most likely recur. For example, a singer whose voice becomes hoarse from singing needs a quality singing teacher in addition to a respected ENT doctor.
When do you need your voice teacher, and when do you need your doctor?
When you sense that you have a physical issue, a recurring problem with your voice, your vocal cords, your breathing, your vocal anatomy in general, the first order of business is always your ENT doctor. You can find a good ENT, with a special interest in care of the professional voice, by asking singing colleagues and voice teachers for a referral.
Answering the question of when you need a doctor and when you need your voice teacher is not complicated. You need both! If you and your singing teacher suspect there is a physical issue for the ENT doctor to evaluate, then you are wise to visit your trusted ENT doctor. In many cases, the doctor will find that the vocal folds are swollen and fatigued and will also find there is actually no nodule or lesion, requiring surgery. For a singer, this is its own emergency situation for which the only effective treatment is to go on total vocal rest. Your ENT doctor will say how long you should strictly rest your voice.
How to Rest Your Voice
Exactly what does “total vocal rest” mean and how do you follow this advice? This simply means you should literally stop all singing, stop all speaking, stop all whispering, stop all yelling and screaming, and generally stop any sort of sound you make with your vocal cords. This includes whispering. Total vocal rest means stopping any and all types of sound(s) that can be made by the vocal cords. You should get more sleep and drink more water.
If the doctor orders medication, as long as the side effects are not causing more problems, you should follow the dosage instructions prescribed by your doctor and take the medication. Do contact the doctor about any side effects and report exactly what is happening. Medications can almost always be adjusted or the medication can be changed or discontinued. Do not hesitate to report uncomfortable side effects to your doctor, especially during a time when you are to be resting your voice. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with your being able to get the full benefit of the vocal rest you need, as instructed by your ENT doctor.
As long as your doctor approves, this period of vocal rest is a good time to be drinking Throat Coat Tea with slippery elm. A wonderful natural lubricant, very moisturizing for your vocal anatomy, slippery elm is soothing. Do check with your doctor, but you can consider taking a little aloe vera gel if you like. This remedy will help reduce inflammation and speed healing to the fatigued vocal folds. Most of all you need sleep and water!
Your Singing Dream Team
In short, your voice teacher is on call to monitor your singing progress and to give specific instructions for your vocal technique. And your ENT doctor is a vital part of your team, who you visit whenever you and your teacher believe there could be a physical issue for which you need to be evaluated. Treating physical abnormality is beyond the expertise of a voice teacher, unless that teacher is also an ENT doctor (something I’ve never heard of).
Clearly Dr. Sugarman genuinely cares about the vocal well-being of his patients. And he reminds us that smoking and singing are like oil and water: they simply will never mix!
In my previous article on acid reflux and the trouble it causes singing, I recommend some remedies and suggestions for treatment, including a visit to your primary care physician, ASAP. Dr. Sugarman, in the article linked above, wants us to understand the depth of the vocal problems that are caused by acid indigestion and reflux. And he has great recommendations on what you should do about reflux immediately. More solutions for harmful effects of reflux upon your voice are found here.
Good Vocal Health Remains Your Number One Goal
Whether you are a patient of a renowned singers’ ENT, such as Dr. Joe Sugarman, or whether you have a great ENT doctor in your local area, just know that literally any good ENT physician will tell you the same: your vocal anatomy is more delicate than you realize. Damage to the vocal anatomy is too often a permanent condition. Your singing instrument deserves special daily care from you. Then your visits to the ENT doctor will be greatly minimized.
Even if you are not receiving money as payment for your singing, you are right to think of your vocal anatomy as your stock in trade. Your throat, your vocal folds, your larynx must be in a healthy condition. The combination of poor vocal health and poor singing technique is an accident waiting to happen. In short, without your vocal health, you have nothing.
Adele and Vocal Surgery
Let’s talk for a moment about the pop singer Adele. She has been quite public about repeatedly needing surgery on her vocal anatomy. In Adele’s case, I cannot determine if her lack of vocal health caused poor singing technique, or whether her lack of singing technique caused her to abuse her voice, requiring surgery. So in Adele’s case, which came first — the chicken or the egg?! More on Adele’s singing troubles is found here.
Remember, I’m here to help. So, if you have a vocal problem that is bothering your singing, something you are not yet able to overcome, please do not hesitate to contact me (Gretchen@SingingAndYOU.com). I will do everything I possibly can to assist you. If you want to sing, I want to help!
Try This Now for Great Singing Technique!
With your vocal health working for you, it is time to learn this powerful exercise, in which you discover a universal foundation for building healthy, reliable singing technique. Let’s dig in!
Stand with your back against a wall, with your head and your heels (of your feet) touching the wall. Do not allow any other part of your body to touch the wall, except the back of your head and your heels. This straightens your spine and widens the diaphragm. You can instantly feel that the bottom of your rib cage begins to open.
In this same position, press the heels of your feet down, as if you would be digging them into the floor.
Notice in this position your head remains up and slightly back. And your spine is lengthened upward.
Every aspect of Singing Technique Made SO MUCH Easier!
This is an ideal body alignment for singing, because it encourages your throat to be properly open without straining. You will automatically and easily breathe air into your lungs, in the proper way for singing. Sing a little bit in this position, at the wall with only the back of your head and your heels touching the wall.
You begin to feel that the muscles used for giving power to singing are in the pelvic floor and surrounding areas, even down into your legs. And we quickly discover that vocal sound comes from resonance and not by pushing or forcing excess air pressure.
An Instant Boost for Your Singing Technique!
Vocalizing in this position will immediately feel so much easier and you can instantly give you much greater freedom in your entire approach to singing technique.
When you begin to apply this exercise to your singing, what you find is that it works beautifully, no matter what style of music you are singing! Please don’t miss out on the tremendous benefits this has to offer your singing and your entire idea about what singing technique actually is!
If Your Singing is Tied Up in Knots
There are thousands of singing teachers offering lessons. Too many of them have students whose singing is burdened by muscular tensions, interfering with the coordination necessary for health singing technique. Without an excellent voice teacher, this can happen to literally any singer.
Have you been given so many instructions for improving your singing technique that don’t know what end is up? Does your throat feel tense, with tight, sore muscles, after you have sung for only a short time? Are you frustrated by not being able to access your whole vocal range comfortably?
Challenges such as these are common and they are understandable. However, if you are not receiving the exact, specific guidance you need, tailored to your individual singing technique, you can be certain that issues of muscular tension in your singing will steadily worsen.
The Good News
There is no need whatsoever for you to be struggling, frustrated with your singing technique! You only need the right information, some knowledgeable oversight and guidance, and a plan for your practicing, and soon you will be singing better than ever!
If you feel that your singing is jammed up with a lot of extraneous tension, including your understandable anxiety over the problem, there is a solution, right here, right now.
A Real Solution for a Real Problem
Let’s first BREATHE and realize that the fact you want to sing better is already half the battle. You are a person of integrity, quality, and true grace, in that you recognize your singing ought to be a much better experience. And you are so right about this! Relax. Let’s wipe the slate clean and start with a crucial basic element of good singing technique that is often overlooked.
The Alexander Technique
You’ve heard of this? Once you get the hang of this and incorporate it into your way of singing, you won’t ever go back!
The way your body is aligned has a profound effect upon how your voice works, how it feels, and how it sounds. Don’t get me wrong. This is not about “maintaining good posture.” It is about easy, fluid movement, focused on the gentle upward motion of your spine.
When your spine is lengthening upward, your head will automatically float effortlessly on top of the spine, slightly up and back. It is the same excellent and supportive body alignment we get by using the above exercise of singing with the back to the wall.
The video directly below is a perfect introduction to Alexander Technique, which you can immediately begin to apply in your own body, in your own singing.
How would you feel if your singing technique could be made free and easy like never before? There is such a huge benefit here, this video is definitely worth a look!
EVERY Singer Wins!
We will have another post dedicated to Alexander Technique. For now, please know that the finest singers and actors in the world have studied Alexander Technique, and they have adopted it to become second nature in their lives. Please give this a try, no matter style of music you sing or want to sing. There is no question Alexander Technique applies to every genre of singing, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying it!
Don’t delay! Email me now for a free voice evaluation and to schedule your singing lessons online!
This post has provided a foundation, so you can begin to discover your greatest, healthiest singing technique, free of extraneous tensions and full of joyful MUSIC!