Improving my own voice

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by EricWatkins, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Feb 10, 2007
    Decatur Il
    Hi everyone. First post in this part of the woods I believe. I am a keyboard player of many years, I play bass, and I have a decent home studio. I am about 40 years old and I have decided that I want to learn to sing. I dont have basically any natural talent towards this goal either. But as a performing musician and a studio owner, I really want to be able to carry a tune. So as I start to try this, I am realizing just how bad I am. Although it's a bit discouragig, I figure like all things, it can only get better if I keep trying.

    So pitch-wise, I can basically recognize when I'm on or not and I think I can refine my singing ear better with time. Some of my biggest problems as I see them are: Tone, Breathing, and Control. A tall order I know. On top of that, my range is probably pretty small.

    Now, I realize that I am not ever going to sing like Steve Perry, or Chris Cornell, Josh Groban, whoever. But I would really like to be able to sing some basic punk pop like Green Day, All American Rejects, or The Killers.

    There are 100s of net videos of how to sing and many contradict each other. The most promising course I have found is this one:

    Does anyone have any input about any of this. I am really open to suggestions towards a direction to take. I have looked around town for an instructor but I cant seem to find one anywhere around here. I know that one on one would be best but if not available, is this a good program or are therte others I should be looking at?

    Thanks so much for your help.

  2. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Feb 10, 2007
    Decatur Il
    I should also mention that I have recorded my own voice against some karaoke tracks for my own critiqing. If there was someone who really thought they had some advice to offer based on hearing a recording, I could send them an example but dont say I didnt warn you. I'm not going to post it here on the forum because that would be just a giant laugh spot on the forum. :oops:

    Anyway, thanks.
  3. TopherNeverDies

    TopherNeverDies Active Member

    Aug 14, 2008
    Well considering your vocal chords are like a muscle you should start taking care of it and working it out before entering any strong man competition. Having a good ear for pitch is a good start. Now you should look at how to take care of your voice. A lot of singers miss this and have a hard time on tours where they have to sing almost everyday.

    Water, that's a must. Your vocal chords are one of the last parts of your body to get water. So drink plenty of water and make sure to keep them hydrated. You'll hear from most singing coaches that you should stay away from certain foods and liquids. But no one person is the same. Some can't have any diary because their throat develops flem easier than others. Some are more resistant to it, and I know a few who like to have a little flem. It's always best to eat healthy but if you can't give up some foods (like fried foods) then I would experiment to see how much isn't a problem. As with everything else in life, moderation is key. Breathing is also very important. You want to breath with your stomach not your chest. You have to back to breathing the proper way, the way we did when we were babies. I.E. Your chest does not move, instead your belly fills up like a balloon during a deep breath and slowly releases.

    Next comes exercise. You have to exercise your voice like there's no tomorrow. I think most coaches recommend 3-20 minute warm ups a day.
    A lot of people can't do that but you do what you can. Of course if you were going to perform or record you would need a warm up. Just like lifting weights, the more you do it the more you can lift. In time you'll start building your range. It takes patience and hard work. Most people have the hardest time with middle voice.

    Singing voices are developed best at childhood. That's because kids talk in funny voices and apparently that's a good exercise for your vocal chords. It may help you discover a certain singer voice. Being able to do impersonations is actually very helpful. Hope this is a good start.

  4. StephenMC

    StephenMC Member

    Dec 10, 2007
    Take private voice lessons. If there aren't any pop or rock coaches, take from a classical coach and learn the fundamentals.

    Breathing (both inhalation and singing/exhalation) is the most important factor in good singing. Singing "on the breath" improves tone and range and control and helps relieve neck and throat and jaw and laryngeal tension, all the things you're having problems with.

    Range is mostly fixed by learning to sing in a good mix of chest and facial mask voices. Try to find a coach who teaches speech-level singing. Preferably one who can teach you to mix and to belt. Musical theatre teachers will do beautifully.

    Also. Practice every day, at least an hour, what your coach tells you to practice. If you have intonation (pitch) problems, play the melody as you sing it, but as you're an experienced instrumentalist, I assume you're okay there.

    Find a coach, even if it's two hours a week an hour and a half away. You can teach yourself to sound good, but it's a lot harder to learn to sound good and not ruin your voice.
  5. Just sing your heart out. Write about what's real. When you're not doing that sing along to songs that stretch your range. Sing in the shower, sing in your car, sing when you're making lunch. That's how you get better. Singing courses? All brainwash.
  6. Greener

    Greener Guest

    That kind of depends.

    Practice doesn't make perfect.
    Perfect practice makes perfect.

    If you are doing the wrong things you will only get better at being bad...

    Singing along to songs doesn't help much either, you fall behind because you are singing along with another voice, not instruments. Also, the pitch of the singer helps you and so when you are solo I laugh :p

    Singing lessons will teach you to use the diaphragm for getting proper breath control and having a teacher there to point out problems and offer solutions will get you on the road to having your own ego runway at a stadium gig.

    Also, bad teachers are bad. Everyone thinks they are a good teacher. I once told a drum instructor I wanted lessons learning double kick patterns. He said his teacher was currently teaching him double kicks so if I started lessons with him now he'd be able to show me the basics and by the time I was ready he would have learned double kicks and would be prime to teach me. I left the building.
  7. StephenMC

    StephenMC Member

    Dec 10, 2007
    Close, Shawn. But not true.

    Too many singers have been losing their voices because of what Greener's talking about. Perfect practice makes perfect.

    I probably should've said this: take everything your (good) coach teaches and then make it your own. They'll teach you the technicalities, how to make a good sound, how to sing in tune and high easily.

    Once you take that and have the fundamentals, you make it your own. You give it flair and emotion. A vocal is nothing without emotion or style. But the foundation should be there.
  8. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    Feb 10, 2007
    Decatur Il
    Thanks for all the help guys. I'll let you know if I make any progress.
  9. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    Nov 30, 2008
    Lake Ki-Chi-Saga, Minnesota USA
    Hello Eric,
    I would highly recommend that you try to find a vocal instructor if you are serious. Perhaps you lack the commitment and the budget to do this. Of course you must search for a teacher that you like before you commit. I have found that with some coaching you can cover a lot more ground and attain your dreams.

  10. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2003
    I've been busy with a number of projects recently so I'll chime in now.
    I am a vocal coach, private instructor, professional gigging musician (singer/piano) and a high school choral director.
    Singing is vowels on a pitch. If your ear is good and you can tell when you're off pitch, then learn to recognize your habits and fix them in advance. Always be recording!
    From 20+ years of experience - pitch problems that are not related to range issues tend to fall into very few categories. Not knowing the difference between 1/2 steps and whole steps and making intervals too large on descending lines. Solve by learning the difference between steps. On a keyboard this is easy to spot, vocally this is a LOT more difficult than it sounds, learn your keys and where the whole/half steps fall. Mark them in a score for good measure and practice without accompaniment. General rule - make ascending line's intervals larger than you think and descending lines smaller than you think. Make all 1/2 steps small and try to keep on the high side. This is a general rule but applies to 80+% of most problems

    Range issues can rarely be solved without coaching from a qualified instructor. Much of singing is taught through imagery and visualizations but the general rule here is start out light and worry about volume later. If you can still sing falsetto start in that range and work that range as low as possible. Then work back upwards with that light quality being careful to eliminate all tension in the face,neck, and shoulders. You can't increase a lower range but what is there can "sing" better with practice and through minimizing tension. Be certain to keep head level and not stretch or contract the muscles around the throat as you sing higher or lower. Again easier said than done, but practice with a mirror and you can spot your own tendencies.

    Tone is primarily good support sent into the proper shape of the mouth with nothing else getting in the way. Singers have the distinct disadvantage of having to adjust pitch for every vowel on every word. In essence, its like changing the shape of the bell of a trumpet on every note. That's why so many singers sing out of tune.
    Practice on pure open vowels - Ah, oh, Ay, Ee, Oo and when you can sing those in tune start to practice getting words as close to those vowels as possible.
    A consistent tone is the result of a consistent amount of air sent into the vocal mechanism. I tell my singers to start small. Begin by hissing and creating vowels on a single pitch using about the amount of air you can send through a straw. Alternate hiss and OO to begin and you''ll get the picture. Start in a slightly high range and work 10-15 minutes/day. Middle C or as close to it as possible is a good start.
    Good breath is the result of good posture. To allow your lungs to expand into your stomach area as they fill with air, your rib cage needs to be slightly elevated. Stand with your hands on your hips and monitor your shoulders. Keep your shoulders in place and let your arms fall to your side without dropping your shoulders. If your rib cage is in this position your stomach can move in and out as you inhale and exhale. A good way to test this is to lie on your back as you're falling asleep and notice your stomach motion. Try to recreate that motion (stomach moving outward as you breathe in and moving inward as you breath out) as you are standing and singing.

    Doing all of these things is a beginning only, but if you're interested in improving your technique, all of the above will get you well on your way.
    Fun? not necessarily, but the end results should be worth it.

    Good luck

  11. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    I'm certainly no vocal expert, but if I may chime in here... I think most of this advice isn't really what EricWatkins needs. It's like a drummer asking on a guitar forum how he can learn some simple chord patterns so he can be a more complete musician, and being told to find a teacher who will tell him to play like Zakk Wylde. Ideally, yeah, he would want to play like Zakk Wylde, but does he really want to put in those kind of hours? Probably not. And I don't think EricWatkins wants to put in the hours to become a stellar vocalist. He wants to be able to sing on the level of Green Day. Seriously, he doesn't need a vocal coach. The best thing to do is to just sing along with music and try his best to hit all the notes. I did the same thing: I stunk at singing and just started singing along, and now I lead music for my church youth group, and I'm still not stellar, but I can certainly carry a tune.
  12. Hilary

    Hilary Guest

    I'm having an experience that is identical with Eric's

    Sing every day. I make recordings of long tones (like two measures) in chromatic scales (plastic keyboards with " bik - tuc tuc bik - tuc tuc " drum patterns are great for this). I sing along with these recordings whenever I'm going any distance in the car. Make the recordings stretch you up a few notes and down a few notes.

    Saxophone teachers tell you to play long tones to warm up your horn, for the first half-hour or so of your practice session. It is a good practice for voice as well.

    On days when your voice is shot, stop and rest for a day or two.

    Record yourself singing along with something. You need to know what notes you're missing and how you're missing them. You can't do this in real time.

    Learn to work your diaphragm. The singer at church told me some things about that today.

    Push. Uncommitted volume doesn't work. Sing with authority. This is important.

    If you don't run or do treadmill, start. You have to be strong to sing and even stronger to play a saxophone, if you're going to do it right.

    There's more but these are the issues that I've been working on.


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