There are several vocal “techniques” that I have seen on the internet that make me cringe inside. I just can’t stand idly by and let you, my fellow singer, damage your voice with these singing myths any longer. For your voice’s sake, I am going to divest you of these ideas.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that these people are giving bad information on purpose. They are probably perfectly well-meaning people who are just ill-informed, giving information based on outdated pedagogy.
Vocal Technique Myth #1: If you want to sound better, open your mouth more.
I was perusing Pinterest one day and you don’t know how many pins I came across that said, “if you want to be a better singer, Open Your Mouth more.” One even suggested that you have to have two finger’s width space between your teeth to get good sound.
If you’ve ever been in a choir, you probably heard your choir director tell you this, too. BUT IT’S WRONG!!! This
myth is ruining your voice!
The problem with this “vocal technique,” is that it actually introduces tension into the jaw. To see what I mean, try this:
- Place your fingers on the muscles just below your jaw hinges. Open your mouth slightly.Notice how the muscle is relatively relaxed?
- Now open your jaw 2-fingers width. Your jaw bone probably just had to travel forward, beyond the cheekbone and the muscles that control it have become tight.
See? Tension. The ENEMY of singing.
Want to get a good sound? You don’t have to open up your jaw so large- the inside of your mouth needs the space.
Do this instead:
Lift your soft pallet. If you’re not sure what your soft pallet is, do this: (This exercise is strictly for finding your soft pallet and learning to control it.)
- Make yourself yawn. Do you feel that movement on the roof of your mouth in the back? That is your soft pallet.
- Relax your jaw and tongue to a comfortably open position while maintaining the space you just created in the back of your mouth.
- Now that you know where it is, you can now consciously control its position.Play around with lifting and lowering it while keeping your jaw and tongue relaxed.
I do not advocate yawning before singing, however. Remember that jaw tension I talked about before?
If you need some more exercises to help alleviate tension from your jaw when singing, check out Open Throat Singing: Keeping Tension Out of the Voice. There’s a nice little printable you can download with all the exercises too!
Vocal Technique Myth #2: In order to have good posture, your back must be straight.
This is a misleading statement, at best. You see, the natural spine is not straight. It actually has 4 curves (from top to bottom): Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, and Sacral.
Your spine is actually not capable of being ramrod straight. If you were to try to force your spine into that unnatural alignment, it’s not only uncomfortable, but doing it over a long period of time will actually change your musculature. When your spine is out of alignment, some of your muscles are overstretched (and are therefore weakened), and some are shortened and tense.
Which brings me to another point: There’s a good chance that due to our modern lifestyle of sitting for long periods of time and staring, hunched over, at our phones or computers, that your posture is less than optimal. Meaning, you have already changed that musculature. Think about it.
Do you have back pain of stiffness? Tension headaches? Shoulder or neck pain?
Then you need a posture check. Because, guess what? Those people telling you that you need a straight back are actually trying to tell you: Poor posture is bad for singing and you might need to fix yours.
To learn exactly what poor posture does to your singing and, more importantly, how to fix your posture, check out, Why Proper Posture is So Important to Be a Good Singer. Plus get your FREE Proper Singing Posture Cheat Sheet!
Vocal Technique Myth #3: Singing “from your diaphragm” will make you a better singer.
Actually, humans can’t breathe at all without a diaphragm, so, really, you are always breathing with your diaphragm.
Real fast and simply put, when the diaphragm contracts, you inhale. When it relaxes, you exhale. There’s a ton more that is going on, but you can see why the myth is so silly.
What people are trying to tell you when they say “breathe from your diaphragm” is to stop using “Costal Breathing” which is your normal everyday breathing you use for speaking. Costal breathing is too shallow and doesn’t allow your diaphragm to completely contract.
For more detail on exactly why you should ditch costal breathing and what you should do instead, read “Improving Breath Support and the Myth of “Singing From Your Diaphragm.
Vocal Technique Myth #4: High notes are high
I’m sure you’re thinking “Wait, what???”
The notion that high notes are high comes from the visual representation of a musical pitch. High notes are higher on the staff, yes, but they are not physically higher in your body.
To produce a pitch, you exhale through closed vocal folds (proper name for vocal cords). The air vibrates the vocal folds and a pitch it produced. Which pitch is produced depends on the length of the vocal folds– not how high they are (as in raised larynx, which is another tension-inducer you want to avoid).
This means that you don’t need your larynx to rise up in your throat to produce a high note. Your vocal folds stretch to produce the high note. So, high notes are not high, high notes are long.
If you use that visual when you attempt to sing your high notes, it becomes much less tense, and therefore sounds better.
I came up with a set of 8 things you need to do to make your high notes more beautiful. There’s a printable download of the vocal techniques for high notes available on that post, too!
Vocal Technique Myth #5: Traditional Warm-Ups are Silly and Unnecessary
Ok, so this isn’t really a “technique,” per say, but it is a myth I need to bust for you.
Recently I was browsing the interwebs when I came across an article about warm-ups. The article began with saying that warm-ups are “silly” and “unnecessary.”
It has been ingrained in us singers from a young age that you must “warm up” your voice before rehearsing and before performing, but I try to be open-minded to new ideas.
The thought that maybe I’ve been wasting my time (and maybe you’ve been wasting yours) and maybe there’s a better way, got me to read the article in full to see just what the writer had to say.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t really any ground-breaking, time-saving, tip like I was hoping for. The writer’s advice was that the very term “warm-up” implies what the goal is, so all those warm-ups are pointless because you can just start to sing any song to warm up your voice. I was disappointed, to say the least.
You see, the writer is missing the point- there is a deeper reason that you should do vocal warm-ups and it has less to do with the actual “warming up” itself.
I don’t want you to miss the point, so I decided to write an article for my readers, Why You Shouldn’t Skip Vocal Warm-ups. In this post, I delve into the “why” behind doing vocal warm-ups (hint: it has a lot to do with efficiency) as well as the different kinds you should do to develop your voice.
Vocal Technique Myth #6: The best way to learn a song is to sing it over an over again
When I was first beginning voice lessons, I had a teacher who would play and sing the whole song for me in our lesson while I recorded it. As a kid in high school, I just listened to the song over and over again until I learned it. And even after “learning” it, I would sometimes still get my verses mixed up or make other mistakes.
Not to mention, that did not teach me how to teach myself. When I went to college, my professors expected that I would teach myself the songs and they would teach me the techniques to make it sound good. Problem was, I didn’t have a rehearsal method for doing that.
I ended up wasting a lot of time in the practice room because I didn’t know what I was doing. It wasn’t until I started to teach choir that I developed a strategy for learning a song that is methodical and purposeful.
You know that old proverb about teaching a man to fish? Listening to a song over an over to learn it is like being given just one fish. But if someone taught you how to teach yourself to learn a song, you won’t need someone else’s “fish.” I mean, you want to be a first-rate you, not a second-rate someone else anyway, right?
In my blog post, How to Learn a Song Quickly: My Step By Step Rehearsal Process, you’ll learn how to “fish” for yourself using my step-by-step process for learning a song in 15 Days. You’ll learn how to break it up logically and into bite sized pieces so that you literally have no excuse not to practice, even it you only have a few minutes to work on it.
At the end there is a special printable download that will help you get organized so you can stay on track with your song learning goals!
I hope that you have found these tips helpful! If, so, please share it!