You might be confused about the validity of the million different singing methods out there, ranging from the classically-based opera rulebook, to the mystical “imagine your voice as its own person” kind of thing. (I’ll take this opportunity to correct a popular rumor: no, the larynx does not tilt or swing forward and back inside the neck. But it does slide up and down.)
So how do you know if a technique DOES work? Here’s a guide:
- If you can’t understand it, then you won’t gain from it. Some vocal training books, techniques, and entire methods are so complex that you need a Harvard degree just to figure out what’s being said. Some vocal coaches use big, important sounding words, and for a second we all think “whoa, they must really know their stuff.” But it turns out at a core level, (even if they do know their stuff) it doesn’t translate into much benefit for you.
- Trust your gut. Years ago, a vocal performance graduate sat down for her first lesson, and 30 minutes later she had tears streaming. “I was so vocally frustrated in college, but what you just made my voice do in 30 mins was unbelievable!” It’s a common belief that you must work years, or even a lifetime to truly make progress with things like range, power and control. These things can absolutely be perfected over a lifetime, but it shouldn’t take that long to see progress. On your first session, (or your first exposure to the exercises,) and you should feel, hear, and KNOW a difference. If you’ve been doing the same things over and over again and haven’t seen major results, it’s time to try it a new way.
- The “MIX” is real. The mixed voice is the key to power with ease, range with safety, and control with emotion. Here’s the 2-minute version: your low voice is called Chest voice, your high voice is called Head voice. If you are using them as two separate entities that don’t communicate with each other, you’ll only be able to get notes that are, (yep – you guessed it) very low, or extremely high, with an obvious “break” or bumpy transition in the middle. By opening up access to your middle register (pharyngeal voice) you get to blend all three together for a seamless, powerful, and expressive mixed voice (or “mix voice.”)
- Even the most effective method takes some work. Singers sit in front of me, and within minutes they are daringly singing 4, 5, 6 notes higher than they have before, but there are two stages to long-lasting progress. First, the exercises “trick” the body into a muscular response that the brain hasn’t learned yet. So as amazing as these moments are, nothing will feel reliable yet. (And unpredictability is the main thing that prevents you from having confidence.) But when the brain latches on and turns it into muscle memory, then you’ll be able to confidently reproduce these tones exactly when you want them.