Learning to sing
September 9, 2008 11:56 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to learn to sing?

I want to learn to sing. But I want to have a sort of natural, un-classically-trained sounding voice. I listen mostly to indie type rock, and that's also the kind of stuff I play on guitar. So I don't wanna sound anything like Freddy Mercury.

What's the best way to go about it: take lessons? And what's a reasonable amount of money for the kind of singing lessons I'd want -- $20 an hour? Or should I find some voice-training DVD set or something? I'm well aware that it's not the lessons that make you get good, but rather the practice time; so assuming some DVD set or whatever knows what it's talking about, maybe I'd save money in the long-run that way.

What do you think?

posted by frankly mister to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Previously. And here are some very helpful sites if you're serious.

I'll tell you how I got started. I took a "find your singing voice" class at UCLA Extension to get over severe stage fright. First class had 40 people. Last class had 6 because so many people chickened out when it came to standing in front of the class. But I was determined to get over my stage fright so I stuck with it. Then I was dared by a friend to sing at an open mic. To my surprise, people encouraged me so then I hesitantly pursued it further... in the end, against all odds, I ended up becoming a singer and enjoying making music onstage. But I got the majority of my formal training in that first class and then was self taught from there for the most part. I do regularly go to vocalist workshops and clinics when I'm performing just to keep my chops in shape and get constructive feedback to cut down any bad singing habits I might pick up, but once I got the basic foundation (learning how to breathe properly from your diaphram and how to sing naturally without damaging your vocal cords are the two most important things you will learn) for me the best teacher is a tape recorder and my own ear. I sing, I listen to myself, and I apply the things I've learned over the years. It takes time to develop your own style, it took me about two years... initially I sang too "pretty" and then over time my own personality starting coming through. It really just takes practice... the vocal cords are controlled by muscles so in order to become a better singer (no matter where you start out) you will *HAVE* to exercise those muscles -- it's just as if you were trying to get the rest of your body stronger and into better shape, it takes time and practices to improve your voice quality. And then once you get into shape, the main point really is whether or not you're enjoying it and whether it sounds good to other people... not whether you're technically perfect.

It's like listening to someone who plays the piano technically perfect but has no soul. Technique is a foundation, but it doesn't make a good singer. Singers like Rufus Wainwright or Elvis Costello are not technically great by any means, but many people like what they sound like and they put a lot of expression into what they do. Another case in point, Anita O'Day had botched surgery as a kid and so she had no uvula. For that reason, she never held notes. She was physically incapable of it. Technically, many teachers would have advised her not to sing that way -- believing that to succeed you had to hold notes and have vibrato like Sarah Vaughan -- but Anita still became one of the top jazz singers in history based on doing her own thing. Not that you're planning to end up becoming the next Anita O'Day but hopefully you get the point. Music is about expression, not about being perfect.

If you're determined to get a vocal coach, be sure to do research on the person's musical qualifications first. Hate to say it but a lot of people who call themselves "voice coaches" are hacks just trying to make a buck and in all honestly, compared to some of them you'd be much better off and probably have much more fun taking a class at your local community college. Not to mention that really bad advice can hurt your voice instead of help it.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:08 AM on September 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

I took voice lessons as a teen. I really enjoyed them and highly recommend one-on-one training. I had a great teacher who was also the music teacher at a local elementary school. She pretty much let me pick songs that I was interested in. miss lynnster has it on the nose. Even if you don't want to sing "classically" it's really helpful to know how to control your diaphragm. (
posted by radioamy at 3:27 AM on September 10, 2008

If you have a desire to develop your pitch and tone, learn to sing in tune, carry a note and how to breathe - (important) then go for the lessons. I think we're all born with innate creative talents that are latent and underdeveloped and the task of revealing that by *going for it* and sing, sing, sing - wherever and however - can't be over-emphasized. Simply have fun, learn techniques and share your gift with the world.
posted by watercarrier at 6:35 AM on September 10, 2008

I'm well aware that it's not the lessons that make you get good

Uh, probably wrong. Without a teacher you'll never know why you don't sound like the guy on your DVD sounds.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:41 AM on September 10, 2008

Learn to breathe. This one thing will make all the difference in both the quality of your singing and your stamina, and it's good for other aspects of your life, too (yoga, anxiety, swimming, running). Finding a good teacher is the key.

I wish you the best of luck. I always sang, but the singing classes I took in college changed my whole life. It's easier to sing now and I'm better at it, all for learning the proper breath control.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:47 AM on September 10, 2008


More so than any other musical (or artistic) endeavor, you can't know what you sound like unless you listen to a recording of yourself singing. Listen critically.

Lessons are similar, in that you have a trained person doing the listening for you, which speeds up the feedback cycle.
posted by lothar at 9:14 AM on September 10, 2008

Take lessons. You need to learn good technique, and since you're asking this question, your ears probably aren't developed to the point where you're able to properly judge and correct yourself. A good voice teacher will probably charge more like $40/hour.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:31 AM on September 10, 2008

I'm well aware that it's not the lessons that make you get good

Uh, probably wrong. Without a teacher you'll never know why you don't sound like the guy on your DVD sounds.

That said, no teacher can make someone a great singer if the student doesn't have the desire or ear. There has to be something to work with. And sometimes too much technique can actually muddy up someone's potential. I know some very mediocre singers who are addicted to taking singing lessons and they never leave the safety of what the teacher tells them... but that's not how real artists of any kind grow to be great. You need to move yourself forward as an individual when once are ready if you really want to find your own sound. It takes time, experimentation, and experience. First turn to other people to learn good technique with your instrument, develop good habits, and then use that foundation as a stepping stone to build great sounds with on your own terms. And never think you're too far along to take lessons again, creative people should be perpetual students. Refresher courses can really help you refocus.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:26 PM on September 10, 2008

Sing. Everyday. Scales to warm up. 3 hours everyday.
Concentrate on hitting the correct note. Get lessons on how to use your body to sing correctly (different parts of your mouth and your diaphragm). And then practice practice practice. The rest will kind of follow - and then you just practice all that some more.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 5:27 AM on September 11, 2008

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