Improving my singing

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Rockin John, Dec 4, 2002.

  1. Well, we've tried and tried to get a vocalist. Had another guy down last night......were let down [as usual] by a couple more. And still no singer:(

    So, as I've been filling in for these past few months, I've noticed my voice getting stronger and more able to cope.

    The upshot is that I've volunteered myself to be the singer.

    The question then is, for all you singers, is there any wisdom on the subject of improving my singing still further.


  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    The advice I've heard is to lay off the booze, coffee and cigarettes but I imagine that's not what you want to hear ;)

    However, it's certainly wise to gently warm up your voice and to practise with it every day - try humming scales and arpeggios etc before getting on stage and belting out your vocals.

  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think it's something that's very hard to be objective about. I've thought of joining choirs locally but really need a bit more confidence. I have noticed that there are lots of singing workshops/part-time courses advertised at colleges and was thinking this was the way to go?

    I noticed one recently where they were talking about vocal workshops based on Motown/Old R&B styles - e.g Stevie Wonder, Marvin gaye etc.
  4. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    Make sure you are using your voice correctly. Sing from your diaphgram not your throat. I know that sounds weird but that's what you do. Warm up. Sing in your range - don't attempt to hit notes that you can't reach yet - you'll get there. I've been singing most of my life and i could still probably benefit from voice lessons. Don't drink or smoke - worst thing you can.
  5. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Some good advice - and as Bruce says, it's difficult to be objective. If you're talking about pop/rock/whatever music here, singing along with records is useful.

    But, you must learn to distinguish the difference between what you hear and what everyone else hears. And, there really is a big difference. To this end, I recommend recording yourself. That will give you an idea of what you really sound like. At first you may think it sounds awful, when in fact it doesn't. This is because you've been used to hearing it in your head all this time. So, record yourself a lot - singing different kinds of songs - learn to appreciate how your voice sounds, and learn how to sing so that it sounds good outside your head as well as in it.

    It's really easy to sing a song that you like, thinking you've done a good version of it, and that you sound like the singer you're trying to emulate. Then you listen back, and get a rude awakening :) It's so easy to do an impression of another singer, and in your head it sounds just like 'em, but to everyone else it sounds like you *trying* too hard (and sometimes failing miserably) to sound like that person.

    I would suggest, that when you sing a song, don't try to sing it as if you're that person (and try to put in all the little nuances you hear in their voice) -just sing it as if you're *you*. Which you are :)

    Also, practice singing at home with a microphone. If you're used to singing without one, you'll find singing into one, and hearing yourself back over a monitor, or whatever, is quite different.

    Other than these points, just really *listen* to what sound you're making. It's so easy to sing without paying attention to the sound, and the tuning can be all over the place.
  6. sleazylenny


    Jun 20, 2002
    Mpls, MN
    I've been doing leads and backups for years now, so here's what I've learned.

    Don't drink when you're gigging. The alcohol not only dehydrates you, but it messes with your pitch control and your perception of what your really singing. Keep a big ol' glass of H20 onstage, preferrably closer to room temp. It's absorbed easier and is less hard on yer pipes when it's a bit on the warm side.

    If your band is loud onstage, drop your volume and make sure you have adequate monitor coverage. If you can't hear yourself well enough, you'll sing too hard and strain your voice.

    Warming up is mucho important. Get a good routine that stretches you out and includes all the vowels.

    Speaking of those pesky vowels, learn which ones are weak for you. E's tend to be tougher in the higher ranges for most than A's ( it has to do with how much your throat opens when producing the vowel sounds).

    Spend some money on a vocal coach. learn where your bridges ( the points in you range where you switch from chest to throat, throat to head ) are.

    Thinking about going from background vocalist to frontman? Make the transition slowly. Doing 3 sets a night is physically very demanding. I've seen guys think nothing of it, burn themselves out on friday and have nothing to give on saturday. Plan your sets out so that your easier material starts off the night and your opening songs for each set aren't barnburners. BTW, instrumentals are godsends!

    Aside from that, the best advice I've seen given here is sing like yourself. That's golden.

    Good luck,
  7. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    All excellent advice above. There is a book with much of that advice and more. I can't find my copy, but I think the name is "The Rock Singer's Survival Guide."

    Another piece of advice above that I would repeat is either taking vocal classes or having a session or more with a vocal coach, preferably one who coaches in your music style.

    One advantage is that they will help you identify your natural range and show you how to expand it without damaging your voice.

    I never had a personal coach, but I did take classes in a group setting. That taught me a lot. One thing that it taught me was that some people have the most wonderful natural voices, like velvet, but others with less "perfect" voices may have an interesting delivery or charisma in their presentation that more than compensates for what their voice may lack. Think of Bobby Dylan, Rod Stewart, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, countless other blues and rock singers. Frankly, I think audiences can tolerate almost anything as long as the singer isn't flat or sharp.

    Another thing I learned is that you can "blow out" your voice. I tried too hard in that class trying to sing with unaccustomed volume. Well, I ended up painfully hoarse for weeks. A coach can help you prevent that from happening. You don't want to end up like Julie Andrews with vocal chord nodules that may have been career-ending for her.

    In fact, I just had a bout of vocal chord nodules for about six months. I croaked instead of talking that entire time. Believe it or not mine came from laughing too hard at Jay Leno night after night. I don't watch him anymore. But my point is, there are many ways to abuse your voice. As a singer, you have to guard your 'instrument" as carefully as you care for your bass guitar, even more so.

    Hey, check out that book I mentioned. It is worth the money.
  8. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Good advice from Boplicity!

    Along the same lines, I suggest, if you're gonna be doing a lot of rock singing, don't do too much screaming. Y'know, the real high Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Led Zep stuff. I think it can wreck your voice. I suppose it's all very well if that's the only kind of singing you do, but...

    take Paul McCartney as an example. He used to do all that stuff, particularly in the Beatles early days with their rock'n'roll stuff, e.g. Long Tall Sally, I'm Down etc. Also some of the later stuff - Sgt Pepper, Helter Skelter, Oh! Darling, Maybe I'm Amazed... He did his really high gravelly rock & roll voice. And look at his voice now. I saw him sing Blackbird live at some event (may have been the Queen's Golden Jubilee), and his voice was really bad - knackered out.
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Yup, I noticed that, too. I wondered about it, because, for example, Mick Jagger seems to be doing all right and he is my age, 59. Come to think of it, Paul McCartney is too. But I think some folks do have more delicate vocal chords than others.

    You would think that Jagger's "sex, drugs and rock n roll" lifestyle would have destroyed his voice, but it hasn't...unless he is lip syncing his vocals on the current tour. I don't think he is, though, as the Stones claim to play a different set every show. He is amazing.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think it must be to do with his "Sympathy for the Devil"! How else can you explain it? ;)
  11. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yeah, Jagger's voice is still good. I would suppose it's because Jagger doesn't sing as high as McCartney. McCartney used to sing really high, and up in that range, it really does hurt. Jagger sings in a more reasonable tenor range, so his voice has held up. And maybe, as you say, he has less delicate vocal chords. Certainly, McCartney used to have a more delicate sound than Jagger has ever had.
  12. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I was feeling very comfortable with my singing, up until about a month ago when I got really sick and my throat got really sore, and ever since it hasn't felt the same :(
    I'm 17 and my voice is already pretty deep, I gathered It has changed as much as it was going to, and while hte general tenure of my voice is the same, it feels like I still have some funky stuff going on in my throat, I don't think that it recovered from being sick properly.
    warm-ups are great, singing really open and low tones helps to get me warmed up; trying to fill my vocal chords and.
    similar to when I warm up on an upright with long bowed open strings*

    *I'm not a very proficient upright bassist but if there is one thing I CAN do its long tones, I can usually hold it for a couple minutes :D
  13. It really depends what you're singing. just do it a lot and get used to it, and like someone said, sing along to records.
    and if you have to remember a lot of lyrics, i hope you have a better memory than me. 'cause if you don't, you're totally screwed:p
    I try doing backups a bit, and singing for a little side project i'm trying to get moving along. i just try to feel uninhibited and see what happens (kinda like how i play bass)
  14. Jagger also isn't into the "drugs" part of the Triumvirate of Debauchery. I know he used to drink a lot, but other than that he's clean.

    Plus, I'm fairly sure that the Stones embraced onstage monitors just about as soon as they came out in the mid-'70s.
  15. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Hmmm, well McCartney's been clean for quite a while too... I don't know what Jagger did in the way of drugs in the 60s & 70s, if any...
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yup - all the signs point to the fact that McCartney is aging normally and that Jagger has a picture in the attic somewhere!! ;)
  17. Martha01


    Sep 20, 2002
    Thats not certainly true if you say that Pauls voice is not great anymore then you must see him live.Paul have done a tour in the us this year and have got great reivews by the critics he sings all the beatles tunes in the same key as they where recorded.

    And if you would put Jagger and Mccartney on the same scen, Mccartney would destroy Jagger totally.

    In the Concert for New York Mccartney started with Im Down in perfect key and then he sang a tune called Yesterday in perfect key too.

    I dont think Jagger have that talent to go between one of the higest vocal and then to a perfect ballad as Yesterday.
  18. This is the reply I began before I went sick last week. I'll read what's been posted since and reply again.


    It's nice to see the old faithful guys popping on to give me a hand again.

    I smoke about 5 ciggies a day, drink about 2 pints of beer per year, and have about 2 coffees per year. Guess the fags would have an effect but not the other two!

    The main reason I've grasped the nettle - barring that we can't find a singer - is that I usually did 2 or 3 songs from the set + backing and harmony when we had a singer and more than a few people have volunteered good comments about my voice. I've heard a recording of myself a number of times and felt fine about it.

    Even the wife complimented me when we played outdoors in the summer. Now, me 'n' her don't say nice things to each other, if you get my drift!!! So there has to something farily OK about my voice for her to come up with a comment like she did.

    In other words, I felt my voice had promise. It just needed nurturing.

    The singing within myself thing is dictated by the very basic PA. That is, 100W with 2, 2X12, rather crappy mics and no monitors. I've had to sing 'hard' to hear myself although we've now learned to turn down a bit. I once sung through a good PA, monitors and all that, and was amazed how much easier singing was, over our set up.

  19. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Sure McCartney still sings them in the same key, and in tune, that's not the issue. The issue is the sound of his voice. It's crap! It just sounds knackered. I saw him singing Blackbird and Hey Jude on TV live at the Queen's Golden Jubilee Concert. It was painful.