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The process of becoming a singer is not a quick one. It doesn’t come without challenges! But it is a rewarding journey for sure. Today I want to tell you a little bit about it from a vocal coach’s perspective, so you can understand better the stages that a singer goes through and why is it important to not miss steps!
As singers, our instrument is ourselves. That is magic and unique! And it also means that the process of becoming a singer is very different for everyone. It means that for some people it is a slower process than it is for others, and that is completely fine.
The beginning phase of becoming a singer is one of the most difficult ones. You start your singing training, with lots of hopes and dreams and perhaps some fears! During this phase, your vocal technique (provided that you work with a professional voice coach or teacher) will be focused on building foundational skills. Depending on the methods that your singing teacher uses, this may, or may not include breathing and posture exercises.
There are lots and lots of different vocal methods and all of them have their own advantages and benefits. As a vocal coach, I use a lot of elements from North American vocal techniques and from the Functional Voice method, along with body and energy awareness techniques. I often incorporate breathing and posture exercises into my student’s training, which I find is crucial for successful and effective voice training.
There are many reasons for incorporating breathing and posture training; but to summarize, you set up your larynx function through your body posture and breathing. To give you an example, one of the larynx’s functions is to act as a pressure valve so you can move heavy things away from you. Which is really useful in our daily life! However, if you set up your larynx that way when what you want is to sing, you will be trying to sing from a closed throat and you will be forcing your voice.
A holistic vocal coach will have these aspects in mind when designing a syllabus for your vocal training; to ensure that you use a voice from a functional approach for better, faster, and more sustainable results.
However, if your teacher works from a general syllabus, these steps might not be part of the work you do with your teacher. It is important that when you search for a vocal coach, you get one that works well with you particularly and not just the cheapest one you can find. As a singer your voice is your only instrument, you can’t just go buy another pair of vocal cords!
In regards to specific vocal warm-ups and techniques, your training will be based on discovering your low voice and your high voice (some teachers will mention chest and head voice). At this stage, you are not required to have strong high notes or amazing low notes, or even expand your registers. Simply “awaken” your voice muscles so you can start the process of building a balanced and strong voice!
For some people, this can mean that they will be doing lots of “Hey!” and “Whoop!” sounds, and for some people, it might mean that they will just be working hard on building their chest voice at a strong enough level to be heard!
In terms of musicality, at this stage, you will be working on your rhythm and pitch skills and basic ear training, unless you are already good at that.
Once you have discovered your different voice registers and are confident enough to sing songs with the correct rhythm and pitch, the technical work will be a little different. You already know how chest and head voice sound AND feel, now is time to blend them! Some people call this “mixed” voice, which is a terminology that I find useful as well. It is all about blending your different “voices”, so you have one connected voice through your range. This is an exciting phase in which you will suddenly find yourself singing high notes with power and without panicking! It is not an easy process and it requires daily quality practice. Having a skilled mixed voice allows you to sing songs without “flipping” through the register to a falsetto sound, pushing your voice hard, or adopting a nasal tone.
After some years of dedicated practice, you will be able to start training at an advanced level. Congratulations! This is an exciting stage in your vocal technique in which you will start developing strong stylistic effects.
A lot of singers want to skip all the previous steps and go straight to this phase! And that is why we see unstable and pushed vibratos, unhealthy screams, and all sorts of vocal manipulation effects that end up in breaking the singers’ voice and damaging it. Skipping steps doesn’t go well with a dedicated and professional singer that cares about their art and their instrument.
Once your mixed voice is strong you are ready to start working on the more advanced stuff. You will be training your voice muscles to perform sustained notes and vibrato effortlessly. In addition to that, you will be working on your specific choice of style. Depending on your chosen music genre, you will be developing different skills such as riffs and runs, flips, screams, distortion techniques, etc.
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