Some of my favorite people have been silenced. This should never happen in America. Friends, family and people I meet who are full of vision, message and spirit are unable to join in the passionate expression that brings me the greatest and most direct access to joy. Tragically, the fear of singing in public prevents them.
I encourage the shy and uncertain out of a sense of guilt. I once mercilessly criticized my sister’s singing, and silenced her alto voice forever. It wasn’t her tone, pitch, volume or musical taste I critiqued. MJ’s unforgivable sin was singing between big, clunky 1970’s-style stereo head-phones that prevented her hearing and modulating her voice so we, her captive audience could recognize, appreciate and enjoy her stylings.
Someone returned the favor. I’ve elsewhere detailed my (mis-?) education in bass and guitar. One of my private guitar teachers questioned me to see if my garage band had any promise: “Do you sing? Do you have a singer? Sing something for me.” My responses generated the following ‘expert opinion’ (I was sixteen years old): “You guys aren’t marketable singers. Your baritone voices are twenty years behind the industry. Get a real singer. Who buys albums? Teenage girls. They want to sing with a guy in their range. Go find a real singer.” I quit him and never went back. The truth-kernel take away, that a higher range was possible and important, lay fallow for years. The band broke up that summer, and I moved on.
Virtually anyone can sing. Are we all virtuosos? Can all of us go note-for-note, perfect pitch, with Adele or Robert Plant or perform the effortless high-note overtures of Nate Reuss from Fun? Of course not. However, the human voice is a muscular system. That means it can be strengthened and disciplined to perform in a way that brings enjoyment and entertainment to its owner and to the world. Everyone can become a better singer.
Excellent vocal music instructors work in almost every neighborhood and some lucky schools. If your passion, talent or need to sing for a living are extreme, seek them out. Right here at Y!CN,
Music Instructor S.E. Jones has published an excellent beginning (cited below).
I make no claim to teach music. I’m a self-taught amateur (well, ok, well-meaning school teachers and choir leaders gave me a pointer or two), but I never gave up on proving that music-shop hack wrong. The following year, when the sting of losing my band-mates had dulled, I resumed singing. Thirty later, here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Improving your vocals has three requirements: Care what you sound like. Listen carefully to singers, to yourself and to anyone helpful enough to offer a sincere comment. Practice regularly: it’s a work-out, a matter of sense-memory, and a process of discovery. Your voice will only do what you condition it to do, but it can be relied upon to perform to that conditioning. You’ll discover and respect your limits as you expand them.
2. Talent varies. So does style. The singers and songs one practices determine the aspects of the voice developed. I emphasize three qualities in practicing, beyond hitting, sustaining and changing notes. Practice working the scratchy, breaking edge of my voice allows me to choose whether and when I’ll sound smooth or textured. I’ve also spent years working out with female voices to expand my range. Lastly, I enjoy harmony, counter-point and back-grounds, and I ‘play’ with these stylings when I practice.
3. Be creative. Opportunistically develop your instrument. Friends say there’s ‘nowhere to sing.’ I reply, “You shower. You drive. You jog.” I sing as I fall asleep or whenever music is available (karaoke files are unlimited online). If occasionally obnoxious, it’s constructive for my life-long singing project, and provides unexpected influences, techniques and experiments in vocalization. You are music – show us how good you can become!
How to Sing Better: Five Helpful Tips
– by S.E. Jones, Yahoo! Contributor