Let's turn the wrong lightbulbs off!
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So you have a Vocal issue... if you google it long enough, chances are good that you'll find vocal coaches that offer the total opposite advice for dealing with your issue. What's right? Well, there are two questions to ask to get to the best answer:
There is lively controversy in what is deemed good vocal training, and different teachers embrace differing viewpoints and pedagogic philosophies. There is more than one effective way to accomplish training a voice. However, there are some ideas and techniques taught that actually limit and sabotage vocal ability... and that can even create damage in the voice. An idea is only wrong when it doesn't work!! From my practical experience, I give you...
- Which one works?
- Which one works the best?
7 wrong ideas:
1. When phonating (making a vocal sound) the belly should go out.Not in my experience! Your breath support and control are enabled and balanced by the low belly coming in when sounding the voice. Belly out, your voice will feel less controlled, and then your voice strains trying to make it right. Try it... see? Note that I'm talking about the LOW belly, below the belt line.
2. A Singer should inhale from the nose only.Aaahh... I have to come down on the side of NOPE. I have gotten a lot of work from singers in all kinds of vocal trouble from the chest breathing that comes from inhaling through the nose only. This notion comes from sports training where you inhale from the nose to moisten the breath, and from doctors who tell us it creates more nitric oxide which is good for the whole body. However, inhaling from both nose and mouth will result in much better results for singing and speaking. And it's not a good idea to Sing anyway when you jog or lift weights.
3. You should never drink coffee if you want to sing.Uhhh... if this were true, I would not be able to sing. Is coffee dehydrating? Yes. Is it debilitating to all singers? In moderation (one morning cup), far enough away from performance time -- and if the singer is not overly sensitive to caffeine -- it's not a problem I've run into. NOTE: If you ARE sensitive to caffeine, stay completely away from it. In all cases don't drink it close to, or during, performance. That goes for alcohol, too. Alcohol in performance may mask anxiety but it will dehydrate your voice and unbeknownst to you, it will play havoc with your control and intonation.
4. It takes at least a month of breath training to prepare a vocal student to sing a song.Nope. When I can correct a singer's posture, breathing problems can instantly disappear. Do breathing exercises help? Sure, especially with certain singers, but in my experience, even simple rib stretching and flexing can help instantly improve the singing breath. Vocal exercises can and should be used to memorize better posture sensations and breath strategies so you don't have to think about them. But when they are employed, vocal improvement should be immediate.
5. Singers should sing with arms hanging limp and still at the sides.NO. Sadly, this is a common belief of choir directors, musical theater directors and recording artists that gets me a lot of work. Turning the arms into what I call 'rib anchors" is one of the worst things you can do to a singer or speaker, because it drops the ribcage and gives the diaphragm too much slack to work the inhale and control the exhale well. That sabotages everything the voice does. Instead, if arms are to be positioned at your sides for visual reasons, try hanging your arms down with your elbows a little farther back than usual. That should help stretch the ribcage.
6. The face should be quiet and still... too much facial expression detracts from the performance.Nada. I've actually heard this from misinformed engineers, performance coaches and choir directors. Without an active face, you will never sing as well as you could with communicative facial movement... especially the eyes and eyebrows. Try freezing your face and singing a short phrase. Then use over-active facial language and sing it again. The difference in both vocal sound and feel will be profound.
7. You can't learn to sing unless you were born a singer (aka 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks').
Au contraire mon cheri... If you can talk, you can learn to sing. In every instance of "tone deafness" I've encountered, all it took was some consistent target practice to train the ear-challenged singer to aim at pitch. The question isn't 'can you learn to sing?'... it's 'how bad do you want to?"