The title of this blog article might surprise you. After all, the author (yours truly) heads up a music education organization dedicated to providing the best in-home instruction available anywhere in the country, in just about every musical instrument you can imagine — including voice.
The point of that title — and the point of this article — is that voice lessons are not singing lessons. In fact, the term voice lessons ought to be replaced with voice training, or vocal training.
Your voice is a muscle.
Your voice is a muscle. It consists of two delicate and flimsy membranes that vibrate in a tube to give you the gift of gab. Turning the gift of gab into the gift of song is a process that requires careful training and deliberate exercise.
Muscles need training.
If you’re a weight-lifter, how do you get better? How do you get to the point where you can lift more weight? You train.
If you’re a martial artist, how do you improve your craft? You train.
If you’re a runner, how can you ever hope to run a marathon? You train.
The weight-lifter, martial artist, marathon runner, and singer have one thing in common: they need to learn how to control and develop their muscles to endure and perform at peak levels.
You really need a personal trainer if you want to be a singer.
I said that the voice is a muscle. More specifically, your voice a set of muscles, bones, and tendons. There are many moving parts. To control your voice, you must learn to coordinate and control all those moving parts.
Can you do it alone? Not likely.
Everyone’s voice behaves differently, and the best way to help you shape your specific sound is to have a coach — a personal trainer — who is an expert in how the voice is supposed to sound and experienced in teaching people how to bring out their particular sounds.
Unlike other musical instruments, many of which one can learn to play quite adequately by playing along with high-quality instructional videos, the voice is not an instrument that can be easily mastered without expert feedback. You’ll want to get voice lessons in Atlanta.
You don’t know how you sound.
If you’ve ever listened to a recording of yourself speaking, you’ve learned a crucial fact about the human voice: when we talk, we don’t sound to the rest of the world the way we sound to ourselves.
This is because we have bones in our ears — yes, actual bones — that alter the way we sound to ourselves. We hear ourselves through those bones.
So, if we don’t really know what we sound like when we’re talking, it stands to reason that we don’t really know what we sound like when we’re singing.
But your vocal coach will.
What’s more, a trained vocal coach can detect when your voice is stressed and can help guide you toward more relaxed singing. Being relaxed when singing is the way to create a richer sound.
Your mouth at work
When it comes to producing sounds, the three parts of your mouth — front, middle, and back — have different responsibilities and play different roles.
The front of your mouth controls your consonant sounds. (Try saying “boy” without letting your lips touch. Or try saying “tea” without touching your tongue to the front roof of your mouth. Didn’t think so!)
The middle section of your mouth controls your vowel sounds.
The back of your mouth — your throat — is your vocal engine.
Without properly forming your consonants and vowels, your words will be garbled. Without vibrations in your throat, there’s no sound, no singing, no talking. You can shape the words, but nothing will come out. Imagine opening your throat — not your jaw, your throat — wide enough to fit a golf ball in it. Your throat must remain open to get out the richest sound.
Train a little bit every day.
Getting the most out of voice lessons is about training your voice a little every day. Start with a simple humming warm-up. Then climb the scale steps up and down. Open up to an “AH”, switch to an “OH”, then end on an “OO”.
It’s not singing lessons.
An experienced vocal coach can help you develop and control all the elements that contribute to producing your best sounds. Under the guidance of a vocal coach, you will learn proper posture and breathing techniques. You’ll even learn about how different foods and beverages affect your voice, so that you avoid eating or drinking the wrong things before practices and performances.
But don’t call your sessions singing lessons.
And keep practicing. Keep exercising those muscles.