10 Reasons Why Practicing Isn’t Helping

You only need one of the ten reasons to slow or stop your progress.  Most people have more than one.

  1. No one showed you how to practice.
  2. You’re practicing the wrong things.
  3. You’re practicing the wrong way.
  4. You’re not practicing enough.
  5. You’re practicing too much.
  6. No one told you how to practice.
  7. You are a perfectionist.
  8. You have little or no objectivity
  9. You are not being analytical.
  10. You are hyper-critical.

“Repetition is the mother of skill”. The repetition of doing things the wrong way or at the wrong time is the mother of failure.

Some Common Misconceptions About Singing

You don’t want to spend four years of your time, to get better at singing, do you?  Four years may sound like a lot, but I recall a famous French horn player telling me that he had heard that it can take eight years to build a voice.  He heard this from someone while he was working for The Metropolitan Opera.

Does it take four years?  No.  Not, if you know what you are doing.  Older methods of voice training only worked for the singers who didn’t need it in the first place.  The lucky ones, endowed with a natural voice and enormous talent, became the stand-out singers.  It was almost impossible to mess them up.

Now that science has been allowed to enter the world of singing, we know what helps a singer, what hurts a singer, and how to properly train and maintain a singer’s voice.  Sadly, many singing teachers still repeat the worn out and useless phrases that they, themselves, had drilled into their heads.  It could also be the reason that many singing teachers are really bad singers and have never ever worked at singing as a profession.

Proven false by physics and medical science are these common myths, some of which can harm or destroy a singer’s voice:  “Sing from your diaphragm.”  “Place your sound in the mask (or up and over or through your eyebrows or _____ )”  “Support your voice with your abs (or your rear end or your pee muscles)”  “Open your mouth two or three fingers wide.”  “Visualize _____.”  Fill in the blank with anything, but it will be a waste of your time.

There are at least thirty of these phrases, which are completely useless and potentially harmful.  Some people have had their voices destroyed by such things or by not knowing how to take proper care of the voice.  Julie Andrews is one such example.  She had surgery on her vocal nodules, which caused scarring, which caused her voice to be useless for singing.

You can learn to sing correctly and have all the range, power, musicality, style, and artistry.  Or, you can study with people who simply want your money and do not care how you sing or if you will ever reach your full potential.  I can show you how to discover the differences between what works and what does not and why that is.

I’m here to help.  I’ve had students on The Voice, on Broadway, and also signed to recording contracts.  Where do you want to go?

MYTHS about singing

Proven false by both physics and medical science are these common myths, some of which can harm or destroy a singer’s voice:

  • “Sing from your diaphragm.”
  • “Place your sound in the mask (or up and over or through your eyebrows or _____ )”
  • “Support your voice with your abs (or your rear end or your pee muscles)”
  • “Open your mouth two or three fingers wide.”
  • “Visualize _____.”  Fill in the blank with anything, but it will be a waste of your time.

There are at least thirty of these phrases, which are completely useless and potentially harmful.  Some people have had their voices destroyed by such things or by not knowing how to take proper care of the voice.  Julie Andrews is one such example.  She had surgery on her vocal nodules, which caused scarring, which caused her voice to be useless for singing.

You don’t want to spend four years of your time, to get better at singing, do you?  Four years may sound like a lot, but I recall a famous French horn player telling me that he had heard that it can take eight years to build a voice.  He heard this from someone while he was working for The Metropolitan Opera.

Does it take four years?  No.  Not, if you know what you are doing.  Older methods of voice training only worked for the singers who didn’t need it in the first place.  The lucky ones, endowed with a natural voice and enormous talent, became the stand-out singers.  It was almost impossible to mess them up.

Now that science has been allowed to enter the world of singing, we know what helps a singer, what hurts a singer, and how to properly train and maintain a singer’s voice.  Sadly, many voice teachers still repeat the worn out and useless phrases that they, themselves, had drilled into their heads.  It could also be the reason that many singing teachers are really bad singers and have never ever worked at singing as a profession.

You can learn to sing correctly and have all the range, power, musicality, style, and artistry.  Or, you can study with people who simply want your money and do not care how you sing or if you will ever reach your full potential.  I can show you how to discover the differences between what works and what does not and why that is.

Diaphragmatic Support Doesn’t Exist

Are you “singing from the diaphragm”?

I just saw a video done by a “top” vocal coach. He sells lots of his courses online. He has over 300 videos of himself and his students on YouTube. Isn’t he wonderful? I think he thinks that he is.  He even makes a statement about our checking the sources of people who teach singing.

Let’s check his sources a little.

Why? Well, he mixes truth with fiction. This doesn’t help anyone, but it makes him sound clever to the ignorant, people who just do not know science. How do I know it is fiction? I took the time and money and used the part of my mind, which professionally has done architecture and structural engineering.

If you haven’t known such types of analytical thinking, you might not easily think in a strictly analytical way (if and when necessary). I cannot unhear what I hear, and I cannot unknow what I know. Why not mix fiction with facts? Do you put poop in your soup? There ya go.

My sources of information

My sources for anatomy have been Gray’s Anatomy, The Structure of Singing, by Richard Miller, two speech therapists, and eight physicians from several disciplines, one of whom was an ENT. Since many singing professors spout the same old myths, why Richard Miller? He was the exception and actually studied anatomy and was even an adjunct of the Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Otolaryngology.

Gray’s Anatomy is an actual book that’s about three inches thick and in it you can discover what doctors all the way back to the 1700s have known about the diaphragm. Gray’s Anatomy isn’t that old, but in the 1700s, the physicians knew that the diaphragm was the inhale muscle, not the muscle of forced expiration.

The muscles of forced expiration are: the oblique and transverse abdominal muscles, the triangularis sterni, the rectus abdominis and the internal intercostals. These are facts. These are proven. These come from verifiable and reliable sources and are known by the top medical professionals. Never let a vocal coach perform surgery on you, unless he or she is also licensed and certified to do that.

It gets worse. The man on the video, the “top” vocal coach talks about “diaphragmatic support”. The diaphragm lacks proprioceptive nerves and is essentially numb. You cannot feel it and you cannot know its precise location. That being true, how would that impact or assist a singer if some one tells you to have diaphragmatic support? It turns the singer into a believer of something which is simply not true. This is dangerous. It sets up a cult-like mentality. It strips the singer of critical thinking because the singer will not go out and research the structure and function of breathing. The singer is told to manipulate something that cannot be felt and, also to use that (the diaphragm) in a way which is literally impossible.

Boxers throw jabs with the shoulder and the triceps. They throw hooks with the shoulder, pecs, and biceps. It is both stupid and ignorant to expect a muscle to do what it cannot do. There is structure and function and it acts and reacts the same all the time. Sorry.

Singing and teaching singing is not a religion; it is an art and a science. You don’t paint fine lines with truck tires and you don’t do brain surgery with chewing gum.

10 WARNING Signs of Amateurish Singing. 

Even some professionals suffer from sounding amateurish at times, so you are not alone!  Let’s get to it!

  1.  Too little or too much feeling.
  2. You over-breathe or under-breathe.
  3. You are yelling, instead of singing.
  4. You are not in tune.
  5. Your rhythm is faulty.
  6. Your singing style doesn’t match the song style.
  7. You sing to the microphone, instead of to the audience.
  8. You look disconnected from the song or you look uncomfortable.
  9. Your voice cracks when you don’t want it to.
  10. You’re monotone and/or boring.

If you haven’t noticed or solved these things, you can save yourself a lot of embarrassment or criticism by getting help to fix the 10 WARNING Signs of Amateurish Singing. 

True Or False? Anybody Can Sing.

True Or False? Anybody Can Sing.

True, if they have at least one vocal cord (nowadays they are called vocal folds).

An African proverb says that if you can walk, you can dance and if you can talk, you can sing.

Okay.  But how well can you sing?

The answer is partially subjective but is also objective, in that there are tacit agreements listeners share, of which they may or may not be aware.   Do we care?  We do.  Listeners notice:

  1. If a singer is in tune.
  2. If a singer knows the words.
  3. If a singer knows the melody.
  4. If a singer sings in the correct style.
  5. If a singer’s timing is off.
  6. If a singer’s rhythm is faulty or wrong.
  7. If a singer sounds amateurish.
  8. If a singer sounds like an accomplished professional.
  9. If a singer looks confident or over-confident.
  10. If a singer looks scared.

What do you know and what can you do?

Knowing something and doing something can be related, but not always.   It’s possible to do something extraordinarily well but have no idea how you do it, why you do it, and what you’re doing.  When you sing a melody, there are intervals or distances between the notes.

The tones of the notes are the result of vibrations at a measurable and precise number per second (such as A 440) but you don’t think about these when you are singing.  If you are out of tune, we would educate you about intervals and practice them, but we wouldn’t care about vibrations per second of each tone.

A melodic line has intervals in it, one after the other.  It’s possible to execute them perfectly and know or care what they are.  This is part of the artistic aspect of singing.  It is as if there is something organic, if not innate, in singing.  It’s not all about mechanics or mathematics, but they are also part of the process of music and of singing.

You don’t have to know the nature and use of pentatonic scales, but you may well be able to ad lib and improvise with them, singing the “riffs” of modern music.  They can be taught and exercises can be done to enhance them, to speed them up, to make them more accurate or more interesting.  When we approach these things, we’re approaching a thing called jazz.  You might recognize jazz when you hear it, but you may not have a profound understanding of it.

Some people can use an instrument and play by ear.  Some can read music perfectly well; some read it poorly.  Some people can play by ear and read music.  Some people can improvise and some cannot, or do not.  Anything can be learned and/or practiced.  Ability can grow out of willingness to learn and to practice.

Where you are, as a singer…

Like it or not, know it or not, you are at some level of development as a singer.  Consider this, and it is in the order of their importance for any singer, but especially a professional one:

  1. Musicianship
  2. Vocal Technique
  3. Having and developing Artistic Imagination
  4. Able to be objective; how you sound, not how you feel about it
  5. Perseverance and work ethic
  6. Talent – You’d be amazed if you knew how much you do have.
  7. Ability to work with others and to understand business

The above Seven Pillars of Performance Success are from a book written by Richard Miller, about whom Seth Riggs said is the most inspirational pedagogue he has ever met.  The Book is On The Art Of Singing.  Get it.  Read it.  Learn and grow from it.