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Singing - from zero to not-horrible - how fast?

NashSG

Member
Messages
3,830
I am not that good a singer, but I have picked up some things trying to improve.

You want to sing, you got to sing. It is an instrument, you got to practice. My practice is often singing along with music in the car by myself.

You got to know where your natural range is located. A big thing song writers do that don't sing all that well is that they write a melody outside their range.

I know doing this from when I was younger, until you really have a melody - it's just words on paper with some mental projection over a chord progression. So if you cannot sing the song well enough to get your idea out, you better be able to figure it out on guitar or keyboard and be able to play a 'lead line' of the melody for someone to be able to turn your idea into a sung song. If you really cannot do that, you really don't have a song yet. (And heck, I have been guilty of this myself being honest.)
 

sws1

Member
Messages
12,392
Having great technique, and having all the instructors, etc may give you great technique. But that's not singing.

I have great technique. Big range. Know how my voice works and can make all the sounds. I am not a great singer.

What makes you great is to sing alot, record yourself, and listen back...phrase by phrase and tweak your delivery so it sounds like you want. THAT's singing.

If you can do the latter, I'd argue you are much further along than those that did the former. (Like me) Adding the former will just make you even better.
 

Pick53766

Member
Messages
628
Having great technique, and having all the instructors, etc may give you great technique. But that's not singing.

I have great technique. Big range. Know how my voice works and can make all the sounds. I am not a great singer.

What makes you great is to sing alot, record yourself, and listen back...phrase by phrase and tweak your delivery so it sounds like you want. THAT's singing.

If you can do the latter, I'd argue you are much further along than those that did the former. (Like me) Adding the former will just make you even better.

That's not me even remotely. I am not looking for great. I am looking for "non embarrassing" when attempting simple stuff.
 

robertkoa

Member
Messages
4,200
OK - who took lessons singing or woodshedded and could not sing too well and now can sing like
1] Lou Gramm
2] Steve Winwood
3] George Michael

Let's make a list ...
The Mods will expand the thread if there is more than 1000 of you ....

Lol. It's a bit different from woodshedding on guitar for tens of thousands of hours and climbing ..

And very very very few teachers [ maybe zero ] can add the extra octave, effortless - to the male voice - if the guy does not have it naturally .
 

MyLittleEye

Member
Messages
53
Joining a choir is as good a way as any to build confidence, learn to read music, learn to harmonise, and develop one's ear training. Bear in mind that few people like the sound of their own voice. Hendrix certainly didn't and yet to most of us his voice is an intrinsic part of his iconic sound. Billy Holiday had limited range and Bob Dylan's voice is on par with his harmonica playing in my view (not great!) but they never worried about it and just got on a with it and sang. Even so called "natural talents" like Amy Winehouse would have practiced and practiced before they got noticed.

I compare my own singing voice to the likes of Phillip Roebuck and Eric Clapton; it's a bit weak and characterless but do I enjoy my own singing style in compared to the gospel-derived over-emoted auto-tuned warblings of many current pop divas. The up-and-coming singer who most inspires me with the power of her singing voice is Amythyst Kiah - check her out! Another inspiring folk singer from the same mould as Sandy Denny is Meg Baird. Johnny Flynn has a distinctive style I enjoy too.

My main problem is that I struggle to memorise lyrics - my brain just seizes up when I'm up front and solo! However, I've always enjoyed singing harmony and I'm better at remembering the words when I've rehearsed in a group.
 
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Slideman

Member
Messages
1,675
I probably could have written this thread from the OP. I'm mainly a guitar player and a song-writer with horrible vocal ability. I have excellent ear for pitch, and recorded, mixed and produced numerous songs. So I have what I consider excellent music ability, but not all of that can, nor should it be a given, that it could translate to vocal ability. I've come to the conclusion that being a vocalist is like playing a whole new instrument (and also in time/tune with the one you're expert at). Some will say that putting in the work will get you there - and there is some truth to this for some who are predisposed to that talent, but it is in fact, learning an entirely whole new instrument ...and until it's at par with your guitar playing skills, it will be a source of continuous frustration. I'd say don't give up, but go into it knowing it may be the equivalent of "I play guitar, now I want to learn how to play the tuba". There's a learning gap :).
 

sws1

Member
Messages
12,392
That's not me even remotely. I am not looking for great. I am looking for "non embarrassing" when attempting simple stuff.

Well, your singing teacher will gladly take 6 months of money to have you run vocalises, which likely won't move the needle, unless you are trying to sing high up in your range.
 

PeteNJ75

Member
Messages
51
Back in the day I fronted an all original band. Defeating crushing performance anxiety before each show was the routine. I knew I could bring the goods, yet always had to fight gremlins before stepping on stage. I wish I had something more insightful to say after all those experiences, but all I got is me thinking to myself, “F it, let’s tear this place apart!”
What did you do before shows you combat your anxiety/insecurities about performing? That’s currently what I struggle with the most when doing gigs with my band. I have the ability, but I had paralyzing stagefright (and I mean literally paralyzing) for many years, and getting out there on stage without a ton of booze these days is a major accomplishment (for me). But I’m never going to be a “good guitarist” until I learn to relax and have more confidence.
 

stutter chugg

Member
Messages
448
What did you do before shows you combat your anxiety/insecurities about performing? That’s currently what I struggle with the most when doing gigs with my band. I have the ability, but I had paralyzing stagefright (and I mean literally paralyzing) for many years, and getting out there on stage without a ton of booze these days is a major accomplishment (for me). But I’m never going to be a “good guitarist” until I learn to relax and have more confidence.
I think the bottom line is that I ran out of time to fear…now or never…you’re up…sound. And ultimately, you’re out of time to be bashful about being an exhibitionist, because it looks like you’re really digging it.
 

Dexter.Sinister

Still breathing
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,281
As in most things, intention and discipline supports craft. Craft requires purposeful work. Poor practice reinforces poor execution of craft.

If singing is important, prioritize regular targeted practice. If pitch is a problem, practice ear training in the most fluent medium (guitar? Piano?). Then work on developing your instrument (muscle support, breathing, singing without straining, etc). Technical advice from a coach, strategically applied, is often helpful. Recording your practice and reviewing after a period of rest is quite useful. Take notes and modify your practice informed by the review. Ask for feedback from skilled singers. Only sing purposefully. But do so often, as practice (with intention) is essential.

Singing is natural. Like stagecraft, it requires some athleticism to have control and to avoid damage from poor execution. I speak before large groups in halls several hours weekly. Practice in theater and in musical performance supports my speaking career. And vice versa. I can tell when I forget intention. I lose my voice. I lose my command. But a lot of this (for me) is mental. And attention to feedback from my body.

Singing is natural. And joyful. Some of
my highest experiences have been singing with others. I hope your practice brings you this sort of joy. It is communion of the highest sort.
 

Waldemar1

Member
Messages
12
Like with everything, start with simple songs but choose ones that you like enough that music will not let you think about thechnical side of your singing instead the songs themselfs must be most important when you sing. I like blues for this like Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher or early John Lee Hooker, it's simple but great. Practice, practice, practice and then teacher can give you some corrections, don't go to the teacher to teach you how to sing but to correct how you already singing.
 

david henman

Member
Messages
3,433
...well, i have been trying to learn how to sing for over sixty years. still haven't quite got the hang of it.
 

david henman

Member
Messages
3,433
Like with everything, start with simple songs but choose ones that you like enough that music will not let you think about thechnical side of your singing instead the songs themselfs must be most important when you sing. I like blues for this like Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher or early John Lee Hooker, it's simple but great. Practice, practice, practice and then teacher can give you some corrections, don't go to the teacher to teach you how to sing but to correct how you already singing.

...how about both. i have a feeling that a lot of highly skilled singers often go back to the basics. not that i would know - i am not a highly skilled singer...LOL!
 

david henman

Member
Messages
3,433
...one thing i have noticed in my short, almost sixty year career is this: guitarists love to talk about guitar playing - technique, skills, tricks, you name it. they love to share information, advice...all of it. i have never experienced that with other singers. i'm a singer who has been working with many, many other singers. it just never happens, except on all-too-rare occasions. at least, not in my all too brief experience..
 

Drew68

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,673
(some people just can’t sing, some who think that, can sing with some instruction).
FWIW, Taylor Swift released four albums and then decided she needed singing lessons. Her fifth (and best) album, 1989, featured an entirely different vocal sound from her previous recordings.
 

Jon C

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,877
FWIW, Taylor Swift released four albums and then decided she needed singing lessons. Her fifth (and best) album, 1989, featured an entirely different vocal sound from her previous recordings.

OK. That in no way contradicts my observation. :dunno :YinYang
 

poppunk

Member
Messages
1,292
Just like anything else, there are people who are truly born to be the very best at something and find it very easy to do. I've encountered countless people in music just like that...singers, guitar players, drummers, bassists, keys players. Some people, it just comes very, very naturally, too.

Just like there are natural athletes who are just physically better than anyone else, even with very little training.

I feel like the acquisition of ability for those who don't have the physiological advantages with their mouths/throats/etc for vocals is way harder than it is on guitar for those who don't have a "knack". While there are a few people out there who can really pick up and play guitar at the higher level faster/better, there are tons of decent guitarists and it's approachable. A lot of those people can do it without lessons.

There are very few full-on "natural" vocalists. It really seems like your physical configuration really limits you from the start if you're not advantaged and getting to serviceable is really hard. Getting people to learn to properly control things inside their body is hard; to me way harder than someone trying to control their fingers on a fretted instrument.

Lessons/coaching is really important for singing. Some folks 'have it' but frankly, even the best singers can benefit (and have benefited) from having a trained vocalist address bad habits, breathing, control, tone, etc with them. A competent vocal coach will show you how to support your voice, breathe properly, maintain control, etc without damaging your voice or developing bad habits.

I would never be able to fix any of my major issues I had without vocal lessons. I could always "sing in tune", but that's actually probably the easiest part. Not choking my throat off, known when I'm resonating, when I'm actually getting good support, how to shape vowels, etc.: I'd never get these without an instructor. And the damage thing is huge. It's analogous to hearing protection.

My instructor has an instructor. She went to music school for vocals and has a lot of experience. She still needs someone to see when she's creeping out of good technique, and to help her with more advanced things. The guitar instructor in the same place went to Berklee, is amazing, but he still has a guitar teacher. Not being able to afford lessons is one thing, but the idea that you can't make significant progress or keep yourself from falling into bad things without them, particularly for vocals, is wrong. Top-level pro athletes still have coaches; a person is delusional if they think Tom Brady doesn't get help from his QB coach.

I would say in 6 months, if you take lessons with a reasonably good teacher and do the exercises the teacher gives you, you should see some progress. Maybe try recording yourself every now and then to see if you're getting your money's worth.

I've done vocals in the past a bit, but didn't get serious about doing it (had to be the main vocalist in a band by default a couple years ago) until earlier last year and get lessons.

I made jumps in the first six months, for sure. A lot of people talk about the fundamentals with support, breathing, etc. but consistently doing them all at the same time is hard to learn. Really, really hard. So the first six months, you may get a lot better at breathing and support (and in my case, relaxing up top and opening up space). When that starts getting more natural and consistent, you can start focusing on resonance, diction, vowel shapes, etc.

I'm over a year into this, and I've seen significant progress. In another year I'll be significantly better. I don't know what the diminishing return point is on lessons and vocals for most rock people, but I'm not there yet. It's really slow going, and hard.

I feel like learning the primary TGP stringed instruments (gutiar/bass) to get to a reasonably functional level are way easier. There are more advanced techniques, but I really only had to control my fretting hand and picking hand enough early in time to play where laypeople wouldn't even notice I wasn't that good.

With vocals I have to control my diaphram, my lungs, my throat, my mouth, and my tounge. Trying to keep my tongue down for a vowel while keeping the back of my throat tall, while directing the sound in the right place for resonance, planning ahead for where breaths go, keeping support tight, etc. It's a nightmare and everything fights everything else.
 




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