“Singers sing!” It’s been my mantra for as long as I can remember. And I have to admit to having been confused by singers I’ve met in the past who aren’t, well, singing. “Isn’t that what singers do?” I thought.
Maybe I get it now. After just recently getting back on my feet after a year long medical recovery, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the day I would get back out there and start singing again. But it’s different this time. I’m pretty sure it’s directly related to one of the very few things I remember from my science class; a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body NOT in motion tends to think of excuses to stop them from ever getting started. Ok, I don’t remember it EXACTLY, but the premise is the same!
It IS harder to get out there and get singing if you’re not doing anything. It’s especially challenging if you have moved to a new place or don’t know anyone involved in the local music scene.
But here’s the BEST news: once you get started, you’ll find more opportunities to sing and the momentum will start to carry itself; as long as you don’t STOP!
I am now the proud owner of more new audio equipment than I need to get out there and start singing again. I’ve bought resources and done research on my next project, but I’ve found it’s way harder this time to just kick my own butt out the door and start SINGING again. So if you’re stuck, I so empathize!
Do you sing? Do you miss it? Then there are no more excuses!
Here are some ideas to get your ball rolling again:
Not ready to solo yet?
- Join an ensemble, team or choir at your church
- Join a community choir or musical theater group
- Check your local chamber of commerce and parks and rec department for group singing opportunities that are open to the public
Confident in your ability but not sure where to start?
- Check craigslist for bands in your area looking for singers
- Get some karaoke tracks, a mic and a small powered speaker and volunteer to sing community centers, malls, community celebrations, fairs and festivals (just call to see who to talk to and record yourself singing a couple songs at home so you can prove you can sing)
- Record yourself singing the Star Spangled banner and submit the audio to your local sports teams. Even major league baseball team require little more to consider you for the slot. And you get in to the game free!
- Audition for musical theater in the biggest city nearby every opportunity you get. Even if you don’t get the part, the experience of preparing and auditioning will sharpen your skills
- Offer to sing solos at your church
- Put together a business card to sing at wedding and renewal ceremonies (with either karaoke tracks or an accompanist)
Know some other musicians?
- Do a web search and see what restaurants/venues in your area hire bands that do the kind of music you like. You only need a small acoustic group to get booked. Put a set together, practice, record a couple of songs at home and start looking for bookings. If you’re new, you probably won’t get paid, but the experience and the exposure just may get you future paid gigs.
- Contact state fairs and community festivals. Almost all have smaller side stages they try to fill with a variety of music (not usually paid, but great experience and exposure).
- Make sure your musician friends know you’re looking for singing opportunities. They will tell the other musicians they know and you might just be singing backup with one band one weekend and lead with another the next. Remember, the lead singer is bound to go on vacation or get sick eventually, so scope out your favorite groups and learn the music so you’re ready when the opportunity arises.
So why aren’t you singing? It’s time to get back in the game.
As for me, I’m off to sing some love songs at a local restaurant; me and my sexy, sexy mic that, no honey, I didn’t really need but makes me want to sing even more.
One gig leads to another. And that’s how singers sing!
Share where you’ve been singing or make your pledge to get going right now in the comments section below!
I could be the world’s stupidest musician. Heck, my very own childhood piano teacher would regularly slap my hands with a ruler and finally dropped me as a student because I had a tendency to change the arrangement as I went along, which she said made me an incompetent student. And honestly, it didn’t get much better when I started to go through a lineup of voice teachers. I always felt like an idiot. They regularly seemed disappointed that I wasn’t producing the results they were asking me for. Most of the time I didn’t go back. Sometimes I stuck it out until my ego could take no more.
My mom was a classical voice instructor and I eventually begin teaching a variation of that method too. But when I found myself doing the exact same thing to my students that had been done to me I decided maybe I was just as bad as a teacher as I had been as a student. So I quit.
But then something amazing happened. After years of seeking answers to some of my nagging vocal problems I started finding answers that really worked. The results were amazing and made such a huge difference in my voice that people kept asking me to teach them, and before I knew it, I was a teacher again. But this time with one major change: I now knew why I had felt stupid all along.
Now I’m not the brightest bulb but even so, I realized that it was all my teachers’ fault. Not because they were uninformed or nasty people, but because they simply were frustrated by not having the answers for me. I was always a front row, middle seat, hand always up kind of girl. But the reality was that when what they had either been taught or personally experienced to be true did not produce the right results in me, well, it made them frustrated. And since it worked for them, the obvious choice was to blame me.
YOUR TEACHERS REAL JOB
The first part of your teacher’s job is to understand a method that has a proven track record. A lot of teachers know a little about a lot. I used to be one of them. Others know a lot about methods that are really more smoke and mirrors than proven science. Sometimes they’re trying to teach you to hit a bullseye by turning around three times, flipping a lucky coin and throwing six darts in six seconds. Might work. But if it doesn’t, prepare for the disapproving glare. Teaching that way does work for some people some of the time (ah, the golden ones whom favor has rested upon), but understanding how speed, force and angle play into it would be effective for all people all of the time; making your teacher feel brilliant and, by extension, making you feel like the brightest student EVER!
The second and most overlooked part of your teacher’s job is to find a way to deliver the information they know in a way that you can relate to it and be benefited by it. No matter how much a teacher knows or even how good they are at doing what they’re asking you to do, if they can’t help you do it too it’s not a good situation…for either of you.
Yes, your job is to show up, bright-eyed and ready to soak in your teacher’s world of knowledge. But an even bigger part of YOUR job is to ask questions. Will it make you look stupid? Well, think of it this way: if you knew the answers to the questions that pop into your head about the topic your taking lessons on….would you even NEED lessons? OK. So let’s assume you’re there because you don’t know, so asking might just help!
The more questions you ask, the more great ideas you give your teachers on how to deliver the information they have in a way you can best absorb it. Which is…their job. If you have a teacher who frowns upon your questions you either have a teacher who doesn’t know the answers and/or one who doesn’t want to take the time to find a way to get the information to you in a way you can best access it. Either way, that means you’re with the wrong teacher.
BUT I LIKE MY TEACHER
So what do you do if you have a teacher you like but after reading this you’re wondering if they’ve got what you need? You find out for sure. Start asking questions during your lessons. A good teacher will not make you feel stupid or like you’re bothering them for asking questions. Work with your instructor to get a realistic timeline of when you should start seeing results. With the technique we teach, we try to get students hearing and feeling something different in the first lesson. Big breakthroughs come at their own pace, but results are what you’re there for.
While you’re in that introspective mood, ask yourself if you understand more than you did before you started your lessons; not if you’ve been given new information, but if you really understand anything new in a way that you can use it and will make a valuable difference for you. Sometimes it does take a bit of time for new concepts to sink in and you won’t fully grasp everything your teacher gives you, usually because it takes time both for them to learn how you learn and for your brain to change old patterns of thinking. But if you don’t feel wiser now than when you started, that’s a red flag.
IF YOU DON’T GET IT, IT’S THEIR FAULT
As a teacher I can tell you that being able to help someone else discover something wonderful that you’ve learned is an incredible experience. It’s WAY better than just trying to get through a lesson hoping what you tell them will work and never really knowing for sure. I’ve been both places and if I had to stay in the latter, well, you wouldn’t be reading anything on this blog right now.
If you feel stupid when you finish a lesson or afraid to ask a question, it’s not your fault; it’s your teacher’s. And it’s time to do something about it. If you’re looking for a solid teacher check out our online lessons.
We just happen to think that both the student and teacher are best served when they know they’re a good fit. And we think you deserve to know that up front. For the rest of you: you are your best advocate. Asking, asking, asking + good teaching = great learning!
It’s crazy to me to look back on all the ways I used to try to reach hard-to-get-at notes all those years before I knew better. Even when I was gigging and people would remark how amazing my power notes were, I was thinking “oh yeah? THAT was a crap shoot! You and I are both just lucky they came out that way!”
The brain has an amazing way of trying anything to help you avoid embarrassment. And when it comes to singing difficult notes (that would be the ones you are not ‘mixing’ or vocally balancing on) your brain will pull out all the stops.
The Yank and Pull
Sometimes our brain will convince us that if we just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and take a good running start we’ll eventually hit that note. And it works sometimes. but it also engages muscles that aren’t meant for singing that can cause anywhere from vocal strain to outright vocal damage requiring surgery if you do this over time. That’s no good.
Similar to the ‘running start’ train of thought, sometimes your brain will tell you to slide up to the note. This is actually a smarter move (thanks, brain!) but depending on how your voice is balancing on the notes in the slide, it can be unreliable at best; sometimes resulting in a flat top note or a sharp one. Close, but no cigar.
The Air Blast
God bless our brains. They mean well. Sometimes they want so desperately for us to hit that hard note that they’ll just ask us to airlift ourselves right on top of it. You’ll know if you’re doing this is every hard word/note has a little…or big ‘H’ at the front of it and/or it feels a bit gutless.
Can this get you there? Again, sometimes it can. But the problem is that without a balanced mixed voice
- you won’t be able to go anywhere with that note dynamically
- it will be incredibly hard to hold out for any impact and,
- sandblasting your tiny vocal folds (cords – same thing) has actually proven medically to be more damaging to your voice that screaming like a rocker.
So…..back to square one.
So how DO we get to the hard-to-sing notes without killing ourselves or our voices? The answer is with a balanced, mixed voice.
A healthy balanced voice that mixes proportions of both chest voice and head voice allows you to easily navigate through the vocal bridges (‘passagios’ for my jargon happy friends).
That means that you’ll sail by those notes that felt high or impossible as easy as a sailboat with a good breeze.
It really can happen – in ANY voice! Does it take time? Yes. How much? As much time as it takes you to learn anything; time to untrain the things you’ve believed that don’t work, time to build the muscle coordination to balance the voice and time to test drive it until it feels like your new normal. And that all just depends on two things, 1) good instruction, and 2) you!
If you’re ready to make the hard notes easy, click here.
Already working on it? In the next post, I’m going to give you some great tips on some very practical things you can do to make those hard notes easier as you’re developing your mix voice.
Let’s face it, anyone can sing. Granted some are better than others and some are a little worse than they give themselves credit for but science backs up the fact that 98% of us can sing at some level and have the ability to learn the muscle coordination to sing well.
So what makes you any different from any other singer? What leaves some singers with the same five fans forever and a feeling like they’re always at the bottom of the singer pool when others become fast fan favorites and contest winners?
1) Focus Only on the Notes
Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but the actual singing has less to do with being a successful performer that you’d think.
Most singers spend most of their attention focused on reaching the right notes at the right time. Granted, notes are important, but if you stop at notes, tempo and pitch you’ve barely scratched the surface of a song.
If you were to take two equally good singers there is one thing that would set them apart: how well they communicate when they sing. Because it’s not the notes that sell a song, it’s the story.
Are you a good story teller? Do you make people feel what you feel in a song? Back it up even more: do you feel the message of song yourself? If you’ve said no to one or more of these questions it’s time to rethink how you view singing.
2) Get Lost in Your Own Little World
The surest way to let people know they’re not invited to be your fan or get into your music is to always be singing to yourself.
You’ve seen them; singers with their eyes closed for a whole song or looking anywhere but at the audience. They’re so captivated with their own performance that the audience gets the message to not disturb them.
If you want to sing for your own enjoyment, do it when you’re alone. Everyone who loves to sing probably already does. But when you’re singing for people, look at them, invite them to participate and let them know it’s for them.
3) Don’t Listen to What Others Think of Your Singing
No, you can’t please everyone, but if the only opinion of your singing you’re open to is your own you’re missing important information that will boost you from ‘just another singer’ to a singer people can’t wait to hear from.
Keep a running tally of the kinds of comments you hear most. What are people noticing first about your singing? Is it how energetic you are? Do they feel a connection with they way you sing ballads? Do they feel like you’re singing just to them? These are great indicators that you’re connecting to your audience in a way that will result in product and ticket sales and a fast growing fan base.
If the bulk of your comments are all along the line of ‘you have a nice voice’ or ‘I liked that song’ you know that while you may be entertaining or impressing people, you’re not necessarily making fans that will buy your music and attend your shows over any other singer.
Make this the year that you take a serious look at how you can jump out of the pool full of singers and make your music something greater than ever.
You can trill with the best of them. You can flip into that light airy pop sound without even thinking about it. And your gritting rock tone could rival the roar of a wild animal. You have arrived, right? Not so fast, my singing ninja friend.
Wanna know if you’re really a good singer? Wanna know if your voice itself (the technique that makes all of your styling work) is really strong? Are you willing to look under the hood and see if all your bells and whistles are hiding gaps and weakness that are putting your voice at risk for vocal damage?
Well, then. Read on.
What is Vocal Styling?
Styling is anything we use to dress up a song; slides, dynamics, laying back or pushing a note, trills, etc. Think of styling as a huge palate made for dozens of colors we use to paint a picture with our voice.
Styling should be a conscious decision, not an accidental habit. You wouldn’t paint a landscape with only two colors and make all the shapes the same size. You’d think about what colors are appropriate for different parts and you’d be careful not to paint over important details. That’s the way to approach vocal styling.
One of the biggest downfalls found in styling come when we learn by copying what we hear other singers do. We think that if we can copy what they do we will be good singers just like them. But what they do, where and how they do it in a song, may cause problems when you try it on.
Some Styling is Hiding a Weak Voice
Copying another singer’s styling would work perfectly if we all had exactly the same type of voice, the same range and the same vocal tendencies. But….we don’t.
Our voices are as different as snowflakes. So when we copy what another singer does we could be, and most often are, shoving a square peg in a round hole.
That means we’re asking our voice to naturally do what it just can’t naturally do. End result: vocal strain, weakness in parts of your range, a limited range, damage….the list goes on and on.
Some Styling is Sticking You in a Vocal Rut
Some of your styling may not be causing any vocal problems but instead may be such a habit that your voice literally can’t style a song any other way. That means you’re painting the exact same picture with every song and that gets old to listen to.
To develop as an artist you need to know where those ruts are so that every song doesn’t sound exactly the same.
Some Styling is Over Done
Bling is a good thing. But just like jewelry on a little black dress, restraint draws attention to you, not your bling. That’s what we want as artists.
Why is over styling a bad thing? Because styling, just like color, can be used by anyone. People won’t keep coming back to listen to you because you can do a mad trill. They will come back because you let them connect with who you are, your songs and give them an experience they can’t get from every other singer that can do a mad trill.
Don’t let styling take a more important place than it deserves.
How to Test Your Styling
Remember when you just sang songs straight; no fancy stuff? Yes, the good old boring days. Well, I’ll bet you can’t do it now. Don’t believe me? Try it!
When you sing a song with NO styling, it’s really easy to hear weak places your styling has been hiding. You can hear if your real voice is strong and fluid or if there are weird spots or limits to your ranges you didn’t really notice before.
Removing styling lets you to hear how good, or not, your vocal technique (the engine that runs everything) really is.
Fixing problems in your voice always begins with getting solid technique training. Our tendency to style over unsure spots will only lead to more vocal problems.
Build a stronger voice and learn the basics of styling and you can create any picture you want and paint beautiful songs like a pro with ease.
If you’d like to understand the basic types of vocal styling so you can start mixing and matching and creating your own unique vocal style, check out the video how to: 7 Steps to Successful Styling.