Wouldn’t it be great if we could teach ourselves how to sing well? If that were the case, Karaoke would sound a lot better, and the judges on The Voice would have a harder job of choosing the best singers. It’s true that singers can make some progress on their own with how-to videos on YouTube and DVD, but there is no substitute for live on-line or in-person singing lessons with a competent singing coach who can give you feedback on your progress. You may be thinking, “Of course, they would say that! They sell singing lessons!” but check out some of the evidence that true singing excellence is accomplished with the guidance of a well-trained and experienced voice teacher.
HOW WE SOUND TO OURSELVES AND TO OTHER PEOPLE ARE NOT THE SAME
First of all, how we sound to ourselves and how we sound to other people are different. We really can’t judge the quality of our own singing by just listening to ourselves sing out loud.
When you hear your voice inside your own head, the bones and tissues in your noggin tend to enhance lower-frequency vibrations, and your voice may sound fuller and richer that it may sound to someone who is listening to you.
That explains why hearing your own voice on a recording with no voice effects added (also called the the “dry” signal) sounds so weird to you. When you hear yourself sing on a recording, you are only hearing the sounds transmitted via air conduction and that is why judging the quality of your own voice is difficult.
YOU REALLY NEED FEEDBACK ON YOUR SINGING VOWELS
Most YouTube and DVD how-to-sing tutorials emphasize breath support (which is really overemphasized!) and hitting the correct pitch. But great singing involves much more than that. The vowels that the singer uses can take a good performance to great, and singing vowels are somewhat different than the vowels use to speak.
Knowing which vowels to use is an intermediate to advanced vocal vocal technique to help with tuning, modulating the singer’s airflow, and helping to drive the voice towards head voice (a thinner resonance) or chest voice (a richer resonance) depending on the desired effect. Specific vowels can project one’s voice in the back, middle, or front of the singer’s mouth.
Vowels require certain formations of the lips and tongue, and a competent vocal coach can guide you through this underemphasized but very important part of excellent singing.
SIFTING THROUGH YOUTUBE & DVD INFORMATION CAN WASTE A LOT OF TIME
YouTube and DVDs can contain all you need to know about how to improve your singing, that’s a fact. But some of these “educational” materials are produced by people who do not fully understand the science and physiology of great singing, and you can waste a lot of time (and money) purchasing materials that lead you down a deep rabbit hole that don’t improve your singing in the long run.
The best singing coaches will know what really works for you given your current level and singing goals. Given their experience with other singers, knowledge of the scientific evidence of what can take a decent voice to good and a good one to great, and their familiarity with what motivates singers to become virtuosos, you can save money and time by hiring a competent voice coach to help you sort through what works and what doesn’t for YOU.
WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
So, can you teach yourself to sing or should you invest in a singing lessons? That depends. Have you been able to glean basic singing information from the internet and DVDs? Are you wondering what next steps are? Are you on fire about taking your singing to the next level? Can you prioritize the time needed to strengthen the muscles that power the voice? If so, professional voice coaching is likely for you.