This post might cause some offence and it may ruffle some feathers. I hope that’s OK, because if you’re reading this site, you expect the truth. We speak a lot about what will work; Now it’s time to highlight what won’t work. The journey down the road of Bad Vocal Technique is long, painful and can seriously regress your singing. I’m sure you don’t want to go there.
There are some Vocal Programs/Schools of Thought that hyper focus on any of the following topics:
The over focus or sole focus on one topic creates ‘delusional singing’.
What do I mean?
Let’s understand what happens when you study a Voice Technique that focuses mainly on, say, Breathing.
- You listen to the Voice Teacher extol the virtues of Correct Breathing Technique. They are utilizing the correct approach, so it sounds great when they sing.
- You try it. At first you struggle. Eventually you succeed and feel the satisfaction of singing with excellent Breathing technique.
- You do exercises. You perform songs or arias. You feel on top of the world. Things you struggled with before suddenly seam easy and you’re flying!
- You keep your focus on Breathing over the next week or two.
- You hit a snag in a song or you crack or struggle in some way. You re-invigorate your focus on Breathing.
- That doesn’t work.
- You feel stuck and back to square one. You may even feel like you have regressed.
We’ve all been there. Experiencing the highs of advancement in our singing, followed by the low of struggling over the same things again.
What happened is the Hyper Focus on one area of voice.
When we focus only or primarily on one element to the exclusion of everything else, we forget that singing is a compound exercise.
A compound exercise is an exercise that uses lots of muscle groups at once. For example, Squats, Bench Press, Running, etc.
You need every muscle in your legs, back, torso, arms to work in tandem to run properly. If you only use your leg muscles, you would fall over because your torso wouldn’t stabilize your body!
In singing, there are multiple elements that need to work together in tandem. You need Breathing, Support, Vowels, Resonance, Palate/Throat placement, etc.
In the example above, the singer focused on one area alone. The ‘muscles’ or discipline required in the other areas weakened over time. At first, this wasn’t noticeable, because the other areas were still strong. (Stage 3). Then over time (Stages 4-7) the other areas like support and vowels weaken. This means you struggle. It doesn’t matter how good your breathing is if you can’t support adequately and if you can’t enunciate correct vowels!
There is no panacea, no magic element that fixes everything. Instead, all the correct elements need to work synergistically for good singing to happen.
OK, so how do I find a technique that is well-rounded?
The key to finding a good technique is to look for a Voice Teacher who doesn’t hyper focus on one area. If the answer to every questions you ask is “ Just breathe better”, then you’re in trouble. Imagine a doctor saying you need to increase your Vitamin D intake every time you got sick. That’s clearly nonsense. Not every illness has the same cure. In Singing too, not every vocal issue has the same remedy.
Look for a nuanced approach. If you are short of breath on longer phrases, then yes, it could be a breathing or support issue. But it could also be a vowel issue. A Teacher who understands your physiology and your habits can help identify the real issues.
Be suspicious of any program or teacher who tries to sell you a one-track method of Vocal development. It probably won’t work, and you will probably see short-term progress followed by long term stagnation. Not good.
On a Related Note…
I always find it funny when people ask me for a singing tip. It’s like asking for a tip on how to do Brain Surgery. Yes, singing is multi-faceted and it requires lots of things to be working together, but…
How does that work?
We tend to look at pop singers and think “Oh that doesn’t look hard”. There are 2 ways to answer this.
- The singer doesn’t have any good technique, and makes it look easy because they actually are doing nothing advanced vocally, and there is a lot of sound engineering manipulation. So yeah, it’s easy when you cheat!
- They do have good technique, and it took thousands of hours to develop with top vocal coaches. Heck, they even had a Voice coach travel with them on tour to warm them up every day for an hour! Robbie Williams is a pop singer with a great technique. He makes it look easy, but he had to work on it! Check him warming up here. So it looks easy because you see the singer at the end point of all the hard work. At this point, yes, it should feel easy. Remember:
Singing is complex to learn, but should be simple to perform.
There are multiple elements in Singing that need to work together correctly. It takes time to master these, to get to a level where we achieve a well-rounded technique.
Whenever we grow in one area, we may start feel other areas lagging behind. This is a call to start working on those areas. We keep cycling and improving on all areas, and become better, well-rounded singers over time.
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