Q. Hi. Your online lessons intrigue me very much. I’m a full-time student and don’t have much time, but I am a firm believer in my schedule clearing up when I die, so I can go ahead and sleep then. Singing is something that makes my soul vibrate. Language in itself is beautiful in all forms, and singing exists to me as a serendipitous paradox; the passion, the vulnerability, the quiet power that the two birth; the mere thought of articulating that relationship makes my heart want to explode. Here’s the catch; I can sing…in the car. To be quite honest, I have never had the balls to try it without GaGa or Simon and Garfunkel to back me up. And you and I both know who is backing up whom. Sigh.
I know you are a busy man (with your three convenient locations) and probably get emails like this all the time. So I will not allow myself to expect a response, but I was just wondering your thoughts. Singing is something–the only thing–that I would like to do for me and no one else. School is my priority, but potentially doing something I love this much could make my life even more wonderful than it already is. Any thoughts, or is this just a pipe dream? And if it is, you can bet on the fact that I’m not going to belt to the radio any less. Regardless, any tips would help. I’d be willing to give a lesson a shot and would welcome any advice with open arms.
A. You left one very important thing out of your lovely ode to singing — it came BEFORE language. Before there was speech as a form of communication there was only the musical sounds of our voices to express how we feel. From the ugly sound when you stub your toe on a rock to the melodic hum when eating sweet berries, humans first used singing to convey information. From those early musical sounds words were created and eventually the rules formed for languages. Before there was the written word all history was passed down the generations via song. Obviously everybody sang back then. It’s only in recent human history (the last 500 years) that someone would refer to themselves as a non-singer.
If you told a friend that you only allow yourself to laugh or cry when alone in the car – your friend would suggest you get emotional guidance form a professional. That friend would probably say the same thing if you shared that you wrote to a vocal coach about improving your voice. This is what current culture has done to our very innate ability to sing. If you can’t sing at a professional level then you should not even allow it into your life. That’s crazy! Does that mean we shouldn’t ever laugh or smile if we have less then super-model teeth? Unless we can let the tears roll on cue like a professional actor should we leave crying to the pros?
Singing, laughing, crying, breathing, sucking, extracting the rules of language, flinching and grasping are all instincts we are equipped with at birth. No one needs to be taught these things. The only reason I have a job is because people want to improve their ability to sing to a professional level – but I’ll be the first to say training is not necessary. What you need is permission to sing. You have always thought that permission should come from others – but it can only come from you. That’s true with super-stars as well. I certainly hope you’re not too busy to laugh or cry and if you do that a lot you’ll be pretty good at both. Add singing to that list.
When in the car blast your favorite song and at some point turn the radio off and keep singing. Get used to hearing your voice alone. It just takes time to find the wiring within you to ask your voice to do refined things. As time goes by you’ll occasionally hear things you like. Then it’s time to buy some Karaoke CD’s and leave them in the car. They’re a perfect middle step because you’ll no longer have GaGa to guide you. My bet is you’ll be looking for longer routes to and from work – and then eventually just staying in the car until midnight. And that’s when that same friend will, once again, suggest you get emotional help from a professional . . . . and I’ll be waiting for that email!
Q. Mr. Baxter, when I was in the fifth grade, a girl I liked was joining the choir, so to be close to her, I went to sign up also. I didn’t know there were going to be tryouts. I had had zero training or instruction in singing, so didn’t know what I was doing. There were two teachers at the piano and two girls in the room, and when I attempted to sing, they all laughed at me. But the teachers had pity on me and let me be in choir anyway. I have attempted to sing many times since, with poor results. My question is, is it possible that my vocal cords are just not made for singing? Can I train my vocal cords for singing? Is there a surgery available out there that one could have to make it possible for them to sing? I would really enjoy it if I could carry a tune. Thank you so much for your time.
A. When I was in fifth grade I also had a crush on a girl. So I worked up my courage and attended the school’s dance because I suspected she would be there. She was – with her friends. Even though I had had zero instruction or training in dance I still asked her to join me when my favorite song was played. My time with her lasted all of twenty seconds before she and her friends bursted out in laughter at my moves. No one had pity on me. I have attempted to dance many times since with very poor results. Is it possible my legs just are not made for dancing? Is there a surgery available out there that one could have to make it possible for them to dance?
If you’re suspecting that I am making fun of you – I assure you I am not. What I would really like is to alter your perception of singing from something that is exclusive to something that is inclusive. All humans have the necessary body parts to sing (and dance). However, most of us don’t have the emotional perspective necessary to pursue something as healthy as singing and dancing simply because we are aware that there are others who do it better. What a shame.
Humans are not wired to sing in order to win awards and be celebrated. We are wired to sing so that we can express our emotions in a much deeper manor then language allows. Humans are not wired to dance so that we can wow everyone at the club or wedding. We are wired to move rhythmically so that we can demonstrate that we are worthy candidates for mating and passing on our genes.
Even though I was never deemed worthy enough to share my genes with my fifth grade crush – I have since deemed myself worthy to pursue all things that pull at my heart – whether I am talented at those pursuits or not. I sing, I write, I teach, I play basketball, I paint, I dance (badly), I garden, I work with wood, etc all because our ancestors have left us in incredibly good shape in terms of survival. So now it’s all about the pursuit of happiness. That doesn’t mean you should be happy all the time – it means you should pursue your passions in order to fulfill your spirit.
So don’t let another day pass by without singing. It doesn’t matter how awkward or restricted your voice is at first – just sing. As you continue to pursue this passion you will uncover buried emotions – buried since the fifth grade. With the intellect and perspective of an adult, it’s time to re-label those fifth grade feelings just exactly what they are: the observations of a fifth grader. I wouldn’t take financial or career advice from a fifth grader. I wouldn’t take relationship advice from a fifth grader. I wouldn’t take singing or dancing advice from a fifth grader. Would you?
It’s time to let yourself sing.
Q. I’ve taught myself guitar without any lessons and I’m a quite gifted guitar player, I only wish I could teach myself to sing. I have no idea about singing terms and stuff, but I can sing faster paced stuff where I don’t have to hold the notes, but as soon as I try to hold the note, it just sounds bad, my voice isn’t cracking, it just sounds weak and meager and kinda droning. So I guess my question is how can I get a semi quick fix to make my voice for powerful while holding notes, my dream would be to be able to sing like John Lennon cause I think he has one of the best and unique voices ever?
A. You taught yourself to play the guitar but you didn’t teach yourself how to build one. If you built your own guitar you’d find that it would behave much like your voice does now. That’s the weird part about learning to sing. It’s more about building a better instrument. You don’t need to know the terms, you need to release your jaw and tongue as much as possible to create an open resonator.
Q. I’m 25 years old and have literally been singing in public theater plays since I was 6yrs old starting with Oliver. Problem is I came from a small town that people would periodically stop on there way through and my parents were told I was incredibly talented. They wanted nothing to do with it. Since than I got married had two kids and I still cant shake that hollow feeling it haunts me. I cant sleep I just need to know if there is any chance in hell to learn the vibrato exercises ( cause I have no vibrato ) But I still retain a 5 octave range and the sad thing is I’m not even sure what that means! I just feel so much pain when I think about it, I can feel it in my bones, I cant watch certain shows that show these 10 yr old with perfect vibrato and they sound like adults. Is there any hope for me or should I just succumb to the fact that its to late and I’m not as talented as I remembered.????? PLEASE PLEASE Just a little opinion. I would be forever grateful!
A.I don’t understand what causes your emotional distress. Is it that you never developed vibrato or that you’re not performing anymore? I’m thinking it’s the latter and that you’re also thinking that vibrato is the ticket back onto the stage. It’s not. There’s plenty of hope for you to develop vibrato. It’s all about releasing the muscles that surround your larynx. I am recording a download product very soon that will be focused on this very issue. Until then, my instructional CD, “Sing Like an Idol” would be very helpful to you. Vibrato is addressed along with lot’s of other vocal and performance tips. If you can’t sleep because you long for the stage I recommend you start investigating local theater groups and see what’s out there. No one is going to knock on your door so it will take some initiative on your part. Believe me, if you posses a five octave range your local theater group would love to have you come aboard!
Q. when I’m singing the sound I’m hearing isn’t the sound that’s coming >out. I was just wondering am I tone deaf and if so is there anyway to help >it?
A. The sound you’re hearing is a mix of what’s ringing in your head and what’s projected out of your mouth. How could anyone listening hear what’s inside your head? So, yes, what you’re hearing is a little different then what everybody else hears when you sing. You are not tone deaf. You just need to develop your singing.
Q. i sing alot, so sometimes people ask me about how i do what i do…more often than not, i run across people who feel like they can’t find melodies, they stick with somewhat monotonic melodies and want help with discovering ways to create more interesting, more colorful melodies…i suggest they start to improvise over a few notes or chords…may i ask, what would your advice be to this question? thanks
A. My advice is that they explore their instrument rather then the musical options. What restricts their thinking is a lack of connection to their voice. The mind can only assign what the body can already do. Voice lessons would stretch and develop their vocal capabilities which would in turn expand their musical horizon. I’ve seen it happen thousands of times.
Q. Hi mark, I’m 20 years old and I’m a alright metal singer, but my problem is that I can’t get my voice loud enough and sometimes after I practice my throat hurts, wondering if there was anything I could do to improve the problems I have (I have the same vocal style as Randy Blthye from lamb of god -stuff from their albums “As the palaces burn” and “Ashse of the wake” and their new album)
A. Why does your voice have to be loud? The truth is what you need is a better rehearsal situation where you can hear yourself without shouting. The voice puts out about 15 watts of power at peak. Just look at the wattage of the guitar amps in the room and watch the way your drummer bashes his kit and you’ll see why your throat hurts. The short term solution is to wear ear plugs so you don’t get lured into competing with the volume of the instruments. Just sing the songs so your dynamics are appropriate to the lyrics. Your band mates may not hear you if you’re not shouting but they’re not listening to you anyway. The long term solution is to become rich and famous so you can rehearse in a sound stage.
Q. I’m 17 and I’ve been singing for 2 years now, and I’ve been taking classical lessons for 6 months now. >I really wanna know how to scream like foo fighter’s Dave Grohl (breakout) or Mike Patton (faith no more’s digging the gravewhat a day), but whatever I do I can’t get the same type of sound. when I try screaming like this it hurts my chords and it’s out of tune. >usually after I try it’s hard and almost impossible to sing clean. >can you help me?
A. You can’t learn to scream and take classical lessons at the same time. Well, you can but the two are polar opposites — so both will suffer. Everybody that screams has had to work through the soreness in order to find the right mix of push and pressure. My MP3 lesson, “The Five Secrets of Screaming,” can guide you through the process.
Q. I am 61 and I always wanted to learn to sing well. I know nothing. What can you recommend? Thanks.
A. I recommend you stop wanting and start working! First off; just sing. Feel your way around a song. Explore your voice, not what you hear others do. Along with that you should exercise your voice with a voice teacher. Ask at your church or local music store for some recommendations. It’s too late to sing like a twenty year-old but never too late to optimize what you’ve got.
Q. I love the web site! I am in a rock band that is composed of me and my sister and my cousins. Everyone says that we blend well. I am aware that getting a record deal takes not only talent, but politics. Is their any advice you have for having the ability to meet the right people and “be in the right place at the right time”? I know a few bands personally that have a thoroughly developed list of credentials, yet they are just waiting to get signed, and are traveling around the state doing shows under the “seeking a record deal” status. What decides who gets signed and who doesn’t? After you get your music online, what is the next step?
A. The next step is to sell so much of your music on-line that labels swoop in to steal some of your profits. There’s no politics — it’s just money. Those bands that hustle their music and create a huge public awareness (much more then just the home state) are the ones that get the attention. The irony is that by that time you really don’t need a label. There’s nothing to wait for. Spend hours on-line loading your MySpace with friends and start booking tours of your region. Playing for strangers is how you learn what works for stage presence and what doesn’t. Your friends and family are not objective enough.
Q. personally, i think i can sing pretty well ( i know it sounds big headed but i dont want to get into it all haha) i just havent got the confidence to get on a stage and sing in front of more than about 4 people. My friends think i have a great voice and are always encouriging me to get up there and do it, but “get up there and do it” is not really rhe advice im looking for when im really scared about it. Have you got any tips for me at all? Absolutley anything would be appreciated. Thanks
A. What your friends don’t understand is that performing takes much more then just an ability to sing. There are millions of people who sing really well yet have never performed. It takes courage and a desire to express yourself to others to get up on stage. Not everybody has or wants those bad enough to tough it out through the first few shaky times. Do you?
Q. Ok, well I love to sing I am 14 and i think my voice is great my friends and family say its really great i did the talent show in school last year and well i was sooooo nervouse but i pushed myself into doing it and boy did i stop in the middle of the song i sang the starspangled banner and even the teachers said i was good the choir lady asked me if i wanted to be in choir and i did but it was way to late so now im thinking of joining this year maybe but heres the real question how do i get my self use to people i like shiver when i sing around them and you can hear it in my voice what should i do?
A. If you want to sing then you’ll have to sing through the shivers. They don’t last that long — once you start practicing with the choir you’ll get used to singing with people around.
Q. hello mark i need to learn how to scream somewhat close to lamb of god i can do cannibal corpse but not lamb of god. i’ve done it before but that was in a room with a lot of noise and it actually hurt the crap out of me. so would you have any ideas? quiet exercises?
A. I disagree. I don’t think you need to do a scream like Lamb of God. I think you need to do a scream like you. There was nobody out there like Lamb of God when they were just jamming and getting their sound together. What did that guy use as a target? It certainly wasn’t Lamb of God. He just did the best he could and gave it his heart and soul. You should to. Then some day I’ll get an email from some guy needing to scream just like you.
Q. Hey Mark, I’m a 17 year old, just started trying to sing, i can hit notes and all but im not happy with the way my voice sounds, is there anyway you could change the way you pronounce sounds while your singing or anything along those lines? if you know what i mean.
A. Absolutely — the voice is the most flexible instrument in terms of color and dynamics. You should explore it via exercises instead of songs. That way you’ll discover what is unique about your voice rather then constantly comparing to someone else.
Q.Hi Mark,im a 13yr.old girl whos having trouble with my singing.I have a wonderful voice but the problem is that i cant quite sing high notes to well.My chorus teacher in school assigned me to soprano & im struggling with that.I also have a solo coming up ,& theres also alot of high notes in the song.My teacher wants me to sing high, but i cant sing as high as she wants me.What can i sing high notes without any mess ups,like are there any exercises or anything i can do to improve?
A.The real problem is that you don’t want any mess-ups. Imagine a baseball player asking what he can do so that he always gets a hit when at bat. That seems impossible doesn’t it? No body wants to mess up of course but singers tend to over protect themselves against embarrassment. So practice your solo at home where no one can hear you and let yourself mess up like crazy. After you stop laughing you can then explore the real potential of your voice without all the guards up.
Q.hey mark!i am only 14 yrs old and i want to sing like professionals and i have no one to guide or instruct me so can you please tell me where to start from as i am interested in singing rock.tell me all i need to do.please mark i shall be obliged thanks
A.You should start like all the professionals did — by putting a band together. Find some players in your area who are just starting out like you. After a few years you’ll get much better and the next step will become obvious.
Q.i believe i’am a good singer, ijust don’t have the voice training, so i lack confidence. people would say i have a great voiceand if they could sing like me they would look into singing as an career, I’m my own worst critic
A.There are millions of people like you. It’s not the voice training that makes the difference it’s the hunger to be heard. Talent does not make you famous — it’s drive. It takes so much effort to get out there and perform I recommend you start even though you don’t think you can do it. By the time some opportunities come your way you’ll be so thankful for them you’ll find the courage to put your fears aside.
Q. Hello, Mr. Baxter. I am an 18 year old woman, currently beginning to go through the motions of getting myself known and respected as a singer. I have my first major event/audition in two days (my city’s version of American Idol) and, while my voice is good, I’d like to know if there’s anything I should do to prepare for this. I’m intensely nervous, and I fear that this will show in my performance. If you can help me in any way, I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks so much.
A. There’s nothing that will help in two days. However, if this is a career path for you it would be best to think of this audition as a rehearsal for the more important auditions to come. American Idol type cattle calls have nothing to do with a real career in the arts. They simply tease people’s fantasy about being discovered when in reality becoming an over-night sensation takes years and years of hard work. You will be less nervous every time you subject yourself to the scrutiny of others — so do it every chance you get. The outcome of any one audition just couldn’t matter less if you are serious about singing for the rest of your life. So enjoy the practice of singing under pressure. Make mental notes of what you want to change next time. If you should do well — that’s great. If not — figure out what went wrong. Either way the experience is invaluable.
Q. I’m in to contempary christain music. I want to check out what I need to do to get started.
A. All you need to do is start pouring your faith into a song. If you don’t play an instrument than you’ll need to find someone who does. If you don’t like the results then you can work with someone like me to fix the problems.
Q. My question: What is your opinion of a woman singing cover songs that are written from a man’s perspective? Such as Sweet Caroline, Arms wide open, Brown eyed girl, Angel is a centerfold etc. I perform one or two sets with a duet, two guitars and a drum machine. I have a wide variety of songs that I sing comfortably, both male and female driven lyrics. Some high, some very low. I feel the lyrics when I sing and so I sing as if I was that person who was moved to write such lyrics. I was wondering how the audience may perceive the conflict of a female singing “You my brown eyed girl” etc…. Thanks, Great site! I plan on picking up your book as well.
A. I don’t have any problem with it. Lyle Lovett did a great cover of “Stand by Your Man” and Ottis Reading wrote and had a hit with “Respect” before Aretha Franklin made it hers.
Q. I’ve just started a band and we are trying to find a singer. I think that i could do it, but we want someone who can sing-scream. No matter how hard i try i cant go about being able to do it. Ever time i go to scream no sound comes out. Is everyone capable of singing like that? If so where does the sound come from? I also like the raspy sounding voice, I know that that is the worse thing that you can do to you vocal cords but is there anyway to achive that sound? Every time i try to scream nothing comes out. Does every one have the vocal capability to sing like that? I was wondering if its possible for everyone one to sing-scream. Because when I try to nothing ends up coming out. Where does the sound come from and how would you go about trying to develop my voice to be able to do that. I also like raspy sounding voices, and i was wondering if there is any kind of techniques to achive that sound. I also really like the raspy type sounding voice…even though that is suppose to be the worst for your voice, is there anyway I can achive that sound?
A. You don’t say what instrument you play but I find it interesting when absolute beginners compare their voices to singers who have years of experience. Every time I pick up a guitar it sure doesn’t sound like Hendrix — and I know exactly why. I never spent any time learning how to play guitar. I didn’t in part because I know so many great guitarists that when I listen to my pitiful attempt at playing I get frustrated and give up. Learning to sing is just like any other instrument. It takes a couple of years of basics to be able to do the fancy stuff with conviction. I’m sure you don’t go mute if you’re screaming at a baseball game — you’re just clamping off your throat in anticipation of the shock. Learn to sing a little first. Stay in pitch, increase the range, improve the non scream tone — then you’ll discover how to add a little edge.
Q. I want to be able to sing better but i dont know how to get started. do you have any tips about basic singing tecniques as i am a bit clueless! please help as you seem to know what you are talking about!
A. The first step is just to sing — and keep singing no matter if you like the sounds you make or not. As you do this, think about how you would like your voice to sound. Ask yourself what your voice is not doing? The gap between what you would like your voice to do in the future and what it is capable of doing now will give you direction. I don’t think you should do this on your own, though. Some people are just better at learning when it’s explained to them in person rather than reading it. I would find a teacher in your neighborhood and start with a few basic lessons.
Q. I have a question that I should be the one to answer but I just don’t know why? I can sing only when the radio or something is playing a song I know and the louder the music the better I sound. Everyone all my life has told me how great I sound and that they thought I was the person on the radio. That all changes when I sing with no other person I can’t get anything to come out right at all unless I’m hearing it with the original singer. This is the strangest question ever isn’t it but I just had to see if someone has ever heard of this before and if so how can I change it. I love to sing I can feel my insides flipping to the outside of my skin when I get so into a song I would just love to have that both ways. Thank you for your time.
A. I get this question all the time — because there is a huge difference between singing with the radio and alone. It’s the same as riding a bike with training wheels and without. There are lots of balance and coordination issues which are avoided when singing with a guide vocal. Without the guide, you’re on your own and your muscles are over reacting. Voice lessons are a quick way to access your potential. If that’s not an option, get some Karaoke CD’s of your favorite songs and sing along to the music minus the vocals. There are plenty of Karaoke sites listed on my links page.
Q. Do you have any advice on how much movement on stage is enough, considering a two guitar, drum machine cover band. I sing about 16 out of 45 songs per gig. ex. Bitch-Meredith Brooks, Give me one reason – Tracy Chapman, Building a Mystery – Sarah McLaughlin. Joker – Steve Miller. I usually tend to tap my foot and slap my leg. A few people that I know suggested that I move around more. I obviously can not dance and sing at the same time. So I was wondering if you had any suggestions on how much movement is appropriate for the type of band I am in.
A. Movement is not appropriated by the type of band you’re in — it’s by the type of person singing. If you’re uncomfortable moving then stand there and tap your foot. If you were a mover and a shaker you would inevitably get comments about moving less.
Q. I am a 26 year old model in florida. I have never had voice lessons but i’ve always been interested in singing. I love entertainment! I always sing to myself or in the shower but my voice sucks. I love modeling but know that my true desire is to sing. What do you suggest? I would love to send you my pictures and get your opinion if you think i even have the look. Through the years of modeling I’ve been told by numerous people a great look helps. Please give me some advice? It is greatly appreciated. thank you
A. Now matter how great you look there has got to be a lust for singing which drives you know matter what other people think of your voice. There are plenty of people in the music business that I don’t think sing well and others that don’t look good. Regardless of what I think, they’re out there doing what they love — and so should you.
Q. Hi.I m in a heavy metal band,some months ago we recorded a demo cd.this demo took great mark (in a magazine) but the voice wasn t so good (as they said).they said that my voice needs to be more men voice.My voice is a little childish but i think that that this is normal because i m 17 years old (and when i recorded the demo i was 16). so i m writing to you to tell me what i must do to improve my voice.is this normal to have a childish voice? within the time my voice will become stronger or what? if i take any lessons will i be improved? i like singing a lot but when i hear all these bad critics for my voice i feel depressed.i want to do anything please tell me what your opinion.i m looking forward to hearing from you desperately! Please answer me
A. Your voice sounds childish because you’re still a child. It will definitely improve in time — especially with lessons. Negative criticism is something every singer has to deal with. The voice is a very personal instrument so when people comment on it we tend to take is personally. Even the best singers received negative comments about their singing. In the end — you either love to sing (and therefore won’t let the comments stop you) or you were singing for expectance and will find it too difficult to continue. I hope you keep singing.
Q. Should I look like Britney Spears or Christina Aguilerra before I even THINK about promoting my voice talents? I’m a little overweight and want to know if I should lose some. I’ve never seen an overweight singer.
A. Here’s the sad truth as told to me by many A&R people. A female sends a package and they look at the picture first. If she’s looks good, they listen. A guy sends a package and they listen first. If it sounds good,they look at the picture. BUT. And there’s always exceptions. Jill Scott refused to send a picture and play that game. Truth is, if you’ve got the goods — there’s always a way.
Q. Mark, I really appreciate your answers, I didn’t think you were going to, but I was wrong. Your advice really helped me, I was actually worried thinking that I was killing my voice or loosing it ’cause of the singing with the CD playing on. You know, someone once said Singing is like praying twice (if the translation is right), and I really feel that. I believe that when you sing, your soul takes control of you, your body, your everything and just flows away free. I’m just saying this ’cause I think you understand what I mean and know that I’m not good expressing my feelings. I love music, I love it most if I sing it, and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, though I know it’s hard, it doesn’t pay very well (here at last) unless you are some kind of a W. Houston or M. Carey….wich I’m not…but I don’t care, ’cause this is my dream and I’m gonna figth for it. I’m not expecting an answer for this mail, I just wanted to let you know that I’m just one of you people, a music-singing lover, and all I wanted from this was to share with you my feelings. I Thank you so so very much, really.
A. Praying doesn’t pay very well either — and that never stopped anybody from getting on their knees. Sing for the rest of your life!
Q. I’ll make this plain and simple. I love to sing. I’m not very good. My voice isn’t strong. I can’t “scream”. I can’t make my breath last. I can’t get air. It hurts after singing. Any tips?
A. I know this will seem mean, but here’s how your question looks to me: I love hockey. I’m not very good. I can’t skate. I can’t shoot the puck. I can’t defend. My ankles hurt after playing. Any tips?
My point is that you are avoiding the ground level work you know you need. Start with the basics — not trying to scream. Find a voice teacher or gather as many books as you can get your hands on. Vocalize and build a stronger instrument. Then the tips can make a difference.
Q. Hello Mark I have been a guitarist in a rock band for about 10 years and we recently lost our singer. I have been doing some back up singing but now my bandmates want me to take the mic. I love to play guitar and I like to sing, tut for some reason I can’t be a lead singer and play guitar at the same time. My hand just stop. I can do backup fine. We can’t seem to find another vocalist that fits and I the closest so far. Any suggestions? Thanks and we really dig you site. It’s awesome!
A. Break down the elements. Play guitar and speak the lyrics to “mark” the rhythm of the singing. Sing and play what little guitar you can. Slowly this will build to the independence you need.
Q. I AM REALLY GLAD THAT YOUR WEBSITE EXISTS. IT REALLY HELPED ME A LOT. BUT I STILL HAVE FEW QUESTIONS FOR YOU. THESE ARE 1. WHEN I SING, EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT NERVOUS OR SCARED, MY VOICE IS A LITTLE SHAKY. HOW CAN I GET A ROUND CONSISTENT VOICE WITHOUT SHAKINESS WITH IT? 2.I CAN SING IN HIGH NOTES, AS EXAMPLE, “STAR-SPANGLED BANNER,” WHICH IS MOSTLY HAVE HIGH PARTS, BUT THERE ARE HIGH NOTES THAT I CAN REACH, BUT I SOUND THAT I AM STRUGGLING. HOW CAN I HAVE THE HIGH PITCH VOICE WHEREIN I SOUND LIKE I AM STRUGGLING, LIKE IT IS MY VOICE’S NATURE? 3.WHEN I SING IN LOW VOICE, I CAN’T SING IN HIGH NOTES WITHOUT PUKING, IS THERE A WAY THAT I CAN SING IN HIGH NOTES IN A LOW VOICE WITHOUT PUKING. 4.STEVEN TYLER IS A GREAT SINGER, WHEN HE FIRST BECAME YOUR CLIENT WAS HE ALREADY GOOD JUST TRYING TO IMPROVE HIS VOICE A LITTLE BIT, OR WAS HE STRUGGLING TO BECOME GOOD? I JUST WANT TO KNOW IF A NOT-SO-GOOD ORDINARY SINGER CAN BE REALLY, REALLY GOOD IN ONE-YEAR’S PRACTICE
A. One year is way to short. Do you think you can become a great guitar player in a year? Practice is the answer to all of your questions. Watch your face when you’re practicing. Don’t let any tensions show up when singing the high notes. My book would be a lot of help to you.
Q. I’m a guitarist/songwriter, I’ve never had vocal training & I am not very happy with my voice. Sometimes it’s ok, sometimes I dont like it at all. My question to you is, can anybody learn to sing, or more to the point sing well. I love writing songs & I really like the songs that I write and aim to be a song writer rather than a guitarist. I also am not comfortable having other people singing my songs, my previous band had a fantastic female singer who had been trained since she was three. She was convinced that my voice was good enough to develop into a decent singing voice. I have just moved to the country & have no access to a singing teacher, what would you recommend as a learning aid? Am I wasting my time/money?
A. You are daring me to say you can’t sing. This e-mail is a log jam of thoughts. (sometimes the voice is good, sometimes bad/I want to be a songwriter but don’t want others to sing my songs/a trained singer says I can improve my voice with training so I move to a location where that’s not possible/you have obviously thought about this enough to write me this e-mail but don’t want to waste your time practicing some vocal exercises)
I speak to enough people like yourself to know that any encouragement I offer will fall on deaf ears. You already know you can sing well if you apply yourself. You know you can’t be a songwriter unless others sing your songs. You know how difficult it is to market yourself while living in the country. I recommend you take a long walk in the woods and ask yourself why you fear success so much.
Naturally, I recommend my book as a learning aid (but you already knew that, too). But not until you see the sabotage in your mind set. There are dozens of singers on the radio I don’t think are very good (I’m sure you can name dozens yourself). The only difference between them and you is permission. They gave themselves permission to move forward — and so they did.
Q. i need some help.I love rap music i listen to snoop,dre and eminem. i live in ireland and i think that hip-hop is the best music. rap is’nt as big in europe as it is america but eminem has shown that it sells over here.i am a white 18 year old male and i KNOW that i am goodenough to be europes answer to dre,snoop and shady.I just need some pointers of how to get started coz i dont know any hip-hop lovin labels over here. please help me,ill thank you when im famous.
A. Hip Hop is a do-it-yourself art form. Record some tracks — press some CD’s — and start spreading the word. Sell disks out of the trunk of your car — free style with a boom box on the street — set up clubs nights in the local taverns. Basically you have to create the scene — that’s how the pioneers of rap broke it in the states.
Q. I am a 42-year old female who must have sang in a previous life or is going to sing in the next. The reason I say this is because I want so badly to sing that it makes me sad that I can’t. I don’t want to necessarily become a star or sing to the masses. I just want to sing from the heart so that my family and friends and especially my husband “get it”. I want them to smile at me and say, “damn, that was good!” My question is, can you (or anybody) teach an old dog a new trick? I can’t seem to let go of this feeling inside me and I cry because I don’t understand why God didn’t give me the ability to sing out loud. I never told anyone this (except for my husband) for fear of being laughed at (you know, go get a life). My husband hasn’t really discouraged me from seeking this out, although there are times I think he’s not too hopeful for me. Please let me know your answer before I make a complete fool of my self. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
A. God did give you the ability to sing out loud — but you’ve placed unreasonable stipulations on it. If you require others to approve of your activities than you automatically grant them power to disapprove. People can learn to sing at any age. What is difficult is removing the ulterior motives. I’m sure there are things you do which your husband doesn’t support and it doesn’t phase you. Singing from the heart is not about the sound of your voice. Singing to impress others is not about singing. There’s nothing stopping you from singing when alone. As you become more comfortable, sing in another room where you know your husband can hear you but you did not ask him to listen. Time will establish your love of singing to the people around you. If you are always singing — no one will tell you to get a life, because singing will obviously be your life. The anxious feeling inside you is God telling you to sing. I wouldn’t argue with Him.
Q. My daughter is eleven years old. She loves to sing, has a good voice and good presence and has dreams of someday performing. The director of the adult choir I sing in thought it would be a good idea to have my daughter join the choir as well–as a means to expand her range, familiarize her more with music, and help develop her voice without having to get private training yet. As her mom, I have been inundated with advice. Some people are shocked that I haven’t been taking her to get professional voice training yet, as if I am somehow cheating her. Others tell me that professional voice training isn’t really of much benefit until a child has reached a certain age of physical maturity. Still others say that, while voice training is a waste at her age, she just needs to make sure she’s using her voice “right” so she doesn’t damage it… (That last one is the most nerve-wracking–without training, how do we know what is right? A real catch 22…) I am also a singer, but have never had formal training. I can give her pointers here and there from what I’ve picked up, but my knowledge is pretty limited. Lord knows, I don’t want to teach her any of my *bad* habits… If there were some kind of self-study materials or pointers…or some kind of tips I could get that could be useful for a kid her age, that would be great. Fact is, here in Washington, MO, there aren’t many vocal instructors, and most likely there are even fewer of quality. Plus, my daughter is a typically happy, active 11 year-old kid who loves singing, dancing, soccer, hoops, swimming, riding bikes and the 800 zillion other things girls her age love to do. If there’s a way she can avoid specializing too early, that would be great… If there’s a way I can get my daughter some guidance without going full-blown into formal vocal training, that would be great… Perhaps too tall an order?
A. I think you’re doing the right thing by looking for a little guidance rather than specializing. Have her join you at choir, unless that would take away your experience, and use the mutual interest as a subject the two of you can explore. Her instrument won’t be fully developed until 18, but muscle behavior is really what dominates a person’s sound. It’s not too early for her and not too late for you to read up and learn about singing. Many people are confused about what is correct. To put it simply, correct singing is when the sound comes out of your mouth as you intended it to without causing fatigue to the throat. I would not worry about damaging your daughter’s voice, there is a much greater potential for injury when she plays soccer, hoops or rides a bike. Ya got to let them live.
Another reality is that, to make a living as a performer she would have to leave Washington, MO. I assuming this is not an option for you and I don’t recommend that parents encourage this. It is every kid’s dream to be a star, but the life is not a glamorous one. There are lots of books and videos on singing, I just so happen to have written one myself, and I think that would be a great place to start. If she develops a passion for performing, which is what it takes, there will be no stopping her. If not, singing will be just another facet contributing to a wonderfully well-rounded young lady.
Q. I first must say it is incredibly gracious of you to be answer questions, especially in an age where you can’t get squat without money. So thank you. Well, I have two questions. First one is, I’m 15, and I hate the sound of my voice. I’m not being modest either. Really, it’s bad. However, I can sing, but what use is singing if it isn’t pleasant to listen to. So my question is, since I’m only 15, is there any chance my voice could get better? Next question is, I’m a “speech-level singer”, I think they call it, most people call it belting. Anyways, I was wondering what advice you have for speech level singers. It’s hard to decipher what advice is towards those who sing in a singing voice, or those who sing the way they speak. If you could help me, that was be totally great. Thanks again.
A. A lot can change in a short amount of time when you’re 15. Your body hasn’t fully developed yet and your skills are not a fraction of what they could be. It is way too early to judge yourself. What if you just started playing piano at 14? Would you think you’d be worth listening to by 15? It takes practice. Lot’s and lot’s of practice. You can’t wait until you think you sound good. Some people never like the sound of their voice, and I’m talking about superstars, but they like to sing — and so they do.
My advice to speech level singers is to watch yourself in the mirror sometimes and make sure you’re not adding any facial tension to support notes. Let it develop from the inside. Get involved at school or church so you can sing with others. That way you can blend in and still get some experience.
Q. Hi i am a 18 year old who love to sing and dance. My family say that I don’t have what it take to be a singer. See my family always put me down on everthing I do. Anyway i think i have a nice voice I just need a few lessons. One of my teachers said that i had a nice voice too. My question is what can I do to get a better note.
A. Lots of singers have succeeded without family support. Keep on singing if that’s what you love to do. If you stick with it, they’ll come around. The more you practice, the better you’ll sound.
Q. How come I can hear when other people are off tune, I can pick out a tune on a piano, but I cannot hear that I, myself, am off tune in every note I try to sing (unless I have recorded myself, and that is a big laugh). Is there any way to correct this problem or are we born this way with no help of improvement?
A. You can hear when other people are off because you have a good sense of pitch. You cannot sing in pitch because your muscles are uncoordinated. Singing in pitch has nothing to do with your hearing. You don’t realize you’re off key when singing because your intention is blocking your judgement. Listening to ourselves on tape allows us enough separation to “hear” when we’re off. You would benefit a great deal from warming up before you sing. Loosen your hips and neck and watch for facial tension when singing — these are the places where we get thrown off.
Q. Hey Mark I don’t think you remember me but I E-Mailed you a few times last year with some vocal problems that I’ve been having. I was in a band at the time and I had problems with my voice cracking, I would just like to say that I took your advice in some of the e mails you returned explaining how to prevent this problem and I also studied your free lessons that you would post up every so often, they really helped allot, It helped me with my confidence and my problem is all cleared up. Later on that year I quit that band I was in and started writing and recording some material out of a basement with a buddy of mine, the stuff we were doing you could say is very radio friendly with drum loops and allot of programed stuff. It turns out that from the stuff we recorded landed us a record deal with warner music , we landed the deal in late march and recently recorded our first half of the album in california which was an amazing experience. Rick Neigher produced the first half of the record so far and the players we had work on this album were amazing. Tim Peirce (guitar) and John Peirce(bass) we also had John Beisley(piano and keyboard) and Vinnie Caluta (on drums) the best drummer I’ve seen it was allot of money to hire these players but our budget allowed us to do so. We were very fortunate to record at suset studios and aswell at A&M studios I guess it’s now JIM HENSON’S or something but whatever….
I would just like to say thanks to you and your web site for being some guidance during this hole thing and I will continue to be supportive of this web site. I tell everyone about it .
Ps.. We are called WAVE and the company figures the album should be ready for a spring release the first single is called “CALIFORNIA”
A. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I looooove this story. So many times a singer’s problem is not their voice but their band (or music). Best of luck. I can’t wait to hear the result.
Q. hello mark i am a 14 year old teenager who can sing aceptionally well. how do i get my big break? i need help. can you give me advice or help me in any way ?
A. No such thing as a big break, just a lot of little breaks. It’s very hard work. Surf the web and sign onto every music business site you find. Try www.getsigned.com, www.musicconection.com,www.jpfolks, www.tonos.com, www.taxi.com or www.performermag.com for starters. By the way, you’ll need a demo and some photos. Are they done?
Q. hi i want to be a singer. i’m 19 and i am male. i don’t have any musicians and i don’t have any songs written. i want to first start out like the backstreet boys and britney spears then as i become more experienced i would like to use my creativity to gradually do my own stuff and become a star like madonna. i see my self as the male version of madonna because i’m smart, artistic, creaitve, and most importantly i am driven to become a famous successful singer. please help me. thanx
A. Unfortunately, you’re already over-the-hill to start out like Britney and Backstreet Boys. These were very active singers at very young ages (most with the Disney Company).
To embark on a pop career like those you mentioned, you’ll need to seek out a production company or manager who is willing to back your hype. It took an investment of 3 million dollars before ‘N Sync made a dime. At your age you need to have an incredible look, dancing and singing talent and relocate to Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta or Orlando. Check the industry papers for calls for teen vocalists. Because of the wild success of young pop, there will be hundreds of clone acts coming out. But you better hurry. This trend is already peaking.
Q. I have always wanted to learn to sing well. I am not a rock star wanna-be, I just would like to learn to sing. I am a Police Officer by trade and I would like to know where to get started. I have never taken a singing lesson and I live in Texas. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
A. There’s nothing special needed except a desire to sing. While in your car or shower, if you should notice something you don’t like about your voice, that observation can be brought to a voice teacher and exercises can fix the problem. Range, pitch accuracy, tone and control can all be greatly improved by addressing them via vocal exercises. Singing, however, does not require anyone’s approval but your own. So enjoy singing, and if there’s something you don’t like — get it fixed.
Q. I was wondering where I could find a study guide on hearing the music and matching your voice to the right tones.
A. What you are looking for is called ear training and there are dozens of books on the subject on the market. I don’t recommend any one in particular. I have always felt, though, that this is the wrong name for this subject. Your ability to perceive whether a pitch is higher or lower than another is only half the battle. Getting your voice to sing the pitch you’re thinking is a more common problem and has nothing to do with the ear. It’s all about coordinating the muscles involved with singing. For that ability, there are hundreds of books — but hopefully you’ll give mine a try first! (The Rock-N-Roll Singer’s Survival Manual)
Q. Hello there. I was hoping you could answer my question. I am fifteen years old and I really like to sing. I would love to become a singer and make records. In order to accomplish this I need to now how to get started. Should I book lessons right off the bat or is there other steps that should be taken as well? I appreciate you taking the time to read and answer my question.
A. You are asking two questions How to become a singer and how to make records. Becoming a singer is easy . . . just sing. If you don’t like what you hear you can train and develop as much as you’d like. Making records is completely different. If you have something people will buy, like talent, looks, an attitude, then a record company or a producer will be interested. I hope you know you are not alone in your desire so it means standing out among thousands of girls just like yourself. If you think you have it in you to fight for recognition — by all means give it a shot. If not, no one can take away your love of singing.
Q. Do you think it’s too late for me to start working on my voice? I’m 15.
A. Late? Your’re a lttle early. 16 is best, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a jump on things.
Q. Dear Mr. Baxter, I don’t quite know how to begin. I was encouraged to look into voice lessons by my family after singing at a family dinner recently. Now, I don’t believe that I have a good enough voice to be a professional singer but would like to give it a shot if at all possible. I was wondering if you can recommend a starting point for me. I would appreciate any advice you can give.
A. First off you should be thankful for those encouraging people around you. Many don’t get any support from family — it makes it so much easier when they are behind you. I think the best way for you to explore your voice is by singing with Karaoke tapes. There are companies which make “music only” tapes of every song imaginable. Three suggestions are www.prosing.com,www.soundchoice.com and www.pocketsongs.com. After singing some of your favorite songs for a while, you may notice some flaws you would like to work on — that’s the best time to seek a teacher. I do offer video lessons which are essentually a private lesson filmed in my studio — except you’re not there. They are a good way to start because the tape provides a visual guide to use when exercising your voice. All you have to do is e-mail me again if you’re interested.
The main thing to remember is that singing is for your enjoyment. Making a profession out of it requires a lot of networking, perseverance and plain old luck. However, nothing should stop you from singing anytime you want.
Q. I just finished reading your article on www.getsigned.com. Very accurate. I was hoping you could help answer a question for me or provide a little advice. I have been singing and writing forever. I was an opera singer for several years. Spent several years in rock bands. Recorded a CD locally. About two years ago, my last band broke up (long story involving a woman… not surprising eh?). Anyway, is there any way for someone like myself to be heard by national representatives (either record companies, producers, agents, etc) without performing live (at this time) or actually paying for legal representation? Are there any reputable people who will listen to a CD of a past band to judge a singer’s vocal capabilities as well as his/her songwriting abilities? I have copies of the CD, also MP3 versions that are easily emailed to play on the computer.
A. To answer your question yes, there are people who will listen to your material. I think TAXI is a reputable company (cost a couple hundred to join) and a good place to get constructive criticism. If you don’t want to pay, then simply join the 50,000 bands or 200,000 other musicians who lobby the 500 labels out there for their support. It will only take every spare minute and every penny you’ve got. If you can raise the eyebrow of a veteran A&R guy, then you are an incredible song writer. If you don’t have the energy to go through all the hassles and rejections of contacting these people, then it doesn’t matter how talented you are — the music business is not for you.
Always remember, singing is an art — and therefore you do not need the agreement of others to sing. A career in singing, however, requires the same money, time and commitment as it does to land a seat in public office. That’s why the best people for the job don’t necessarily end up in the seat — only the ones willing to campaign. Hope this helps without turning you off.
Q. I am 16 and I’m in a rock band. When we got together we didn’t have a singer and some how I fell into the position. I’m not a great vocalist but I was the only one who could even semi do it. I was wondering if someone like me who doesn’t have a massive amout of natural talent can do this? And if so maybe you could help me. Thanks a lot and please get back to me soon.
A. 98% of rock singers begin, like you, by default. If you like to sing, you will get better. If you love to sing, you will get great. If you get into trouble (losing your voice) seek out a teacher to help you eliminate bad habits. There are books and videos and lots of teachers to draw info from. Use what works and makes sense to you. Just remember you are using your body as an instrument and it hasn’t finished developing yet. Don’t write yourself off so soon. Keep the faith. Good luck with the band.
Q. Mark, I am a 52 year-old, on-again/off-again singer who has had some past moderate success in singing classical, blues, jazz, rock and folk-rock. I am looking to get back into the business by recording a CD and then promoting it in the Northern and Southern California market. But, I don’t know what style/voice will make me believable at my age. I still have the urge, but need some help in knowing the right direction. Suggestions?
A. The key word in your question is promoting. The real question is: What style are you willing to tirelessly promote. Judging by your past success, I’m sure you sing well in every style. Which one, though, would motivate you enough to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco for an unpaid gig, then sprint up to Crescent City for an interview on a small wattage radio show, back down to Fresno next day for an in-store performance (again, unpaid), then it’s off to Bakersfield only to find you’ve booked yourself into a country club. Next day’s gig is in San Diego, which becomes doubtful because the oil pressure in your car is dropping like mercury in a Minnesota winter. All this to sell 16 CD’s. If you ate fast food and slept at least one night in your car, the little promotion jaunt would have only cost $300. I know many bands that would consider that a very successful week. Would you? Breaking a new disk takes this kind of against-all-odds attitude until a buzz is created. This is the main reason record companies don’t sign new artists who are in their forties or fifties. They are usually unwilling to promote themselves to this extent.
I don’t mean to rain on your urge, but what makes someone “believable” is the level of sacrifice required for the opportunity to sing. Anyone these days can make a nice sounding CD. What makes an artist stand out, is if they are willing to mortgage the house to promote themselves. That’s what Tom Scholz did many years ago to keep his Boston project alive after every record company turned him down. He was already a successful engineer at Polaroid and risked it all to make his music. Like his style or not — the rest, as they say, is history. Something to think about.
Q. Dear Mr. Baxter I have enjoyed your commentaries on Get Signed.Com and can’t wait for your next column! I have a question/dilemma that has been troubling me and I really need a professional opinion I have been taking vocal lessons 3 times per week for the last 14 months with a private coach. The problem is she has told me that I should not start my singing career, even on an amatuer level, until I am fully “established” singing with the correct technique (diapram use without throat intervention, ect.) which boils down to another 6-12 months of lessons. However, I do not share her opinion and wish to begin singing A.S.A.P. while continuing to simultanesouly train my voice. What would you advise in this situation? You input would be very appreciated.
A.I respectfully disagree with your instructor. Unless you’ve got some record executive waiting until you blossom (Clive Davis waited for Whitney to develop — she sang every day for a year before recording), you got to start learning the ropes of the business as well as developing your skills. Both take a lifetime to master. You should always be improving your vocal abilities (working with coaches, etc.) and, at the same time, learning to be more business savvy (usually we learn from our bad career moves). The saddest part is that ability — especially technique, is not a ticket anywhere. There are many other elements (looks, personality, contacts, marketability) which have to be in place to get a career moving. These take time to develop. The cruel truth is that some of the best vocalists I work with are unknowns to the world. Art (singing) is not a destination — it’s an endless journey into the heart. A successful career, however, relies on other people becoming inspired to work on your behalf (usually to line their pockets). Getting out there and creating a buzz is the first step.
Q. I can imagine your very good at what you do. I write songs. I can’t say that I have a beat to put them to at this point but, I love writing as much as singing. As far as goals, it’s hard to say I haven’t even sang in front of an audience yet. Although, I have always dreamed of being a well known name, and with the proper confidence I would love to do record albums. So now I’m intrigued. What next?
Go to your local music store and/or comb through any entertainment papers you have looking for beginner musicians to write with. You can always place an ad yourself, but there are a lot of nut-jobs out there, so it’s better to be the caller. You are looking for a guitar or keyboard player who is willing to take your ideas and make them into songs. If he or she is a beginner, than they will be as intimidated as you — in other words, no need to freak out about your lack of experience. Together, you need to write at least three songs you feel strong about.
Record your three songs on a simple four track tape machine. Musicians usually have one of these. You will discover a lot of things about yourself and singing in general during your attempt to record your songs. Always remember this is a process. Everyone’s first demo’s stink, but if you don’t make a first attempt, there can be no second attempt.
Take your recording, which may be attempt number five by the time you like it, and make copies to distribute to local clubs which host open mike nights and to other musicians who might be interested in joining your vision. You and your new found partner should do some very informal gigs (as a duo at an open mike night) before you ask other musicians to form a band. You should also hang out in the clubs which have the kind of music that matches yours — this is the best place to meet people who would understand your direction.
There are about seven mores steps I can think of to become an internationally know recording artist. But you must not dream ahead of your self. You have some catching up to do. Subscribe to Musician Magazine and any other song writing mags you run across. Check out the million plus music web sites ( getsigned.com is a good one) Read and learn from the stories, but only concern yourself with the current step your on. Each step can take months or years — depending on your conviction, luck and courage. It is not worth thinking ahead of the steps to come. The only way you’ll complete the first step is by growing and coming out of your shell. This provides the foundation for the next step, and so on.
By the time you get to step three, you will know the remaining steps — this is not rocket science. Count on being discouraged, embarrassed, humiliated, frustrated, humbled, inspired, optimistic and, at times, elated. What better way to know you’re alive?
Q. I was reading several articles on the getsigned.com website, and they all talk about being in a band to get a record deal, yet on the radio, I keep hearing that solo vocalists get record deals too. That’s what I’m curious about. I would love to sing as a career, but yet I’m not in band and i don’t write my own music. Do record companies give contracts to just vocalists? Because if they do, I’m considering looking for an agent. I’m very serious about this because singing is my strongest feature and my strongest passion. I don’t want to do anything as a career, but sing. I know that there’s a lot of business work to having a solo career, but I also like business too. Not as much as singing, but I still like it. I haven’t been able to find any info on just soloists, so if you could just answer these couple questions for me I’d really appreciate it.
A. Just to name a few, Celine Dione, Madonna, Michael Bolton, Cindy Lauper, Sting, Lenny Kravitz, Jonny Lang, Michael Jackson, Gloria Estephon, Cher, Joan Osbourn, Alonis Morrisette, Sheryl Crow, Shannia Twain, Seal, Janet Jackson, R Kelly, JZ, Puff Daddy and every other rapper on the planet were all signed without a band.
What matters is talent and your ability to promote. Best of luck to you.
Q. I’m 16. I came across your advice for warming up before singing at ‘getsigned.com’ , and thought I’d email you to see if you had any advice on how to get a good voice teacher who specializes in pop music, and how to find out where to send my demo tape to? Any help/advice you can give will be greatly appreciated. Thanks ever so much.
A. Finding a good voice teacher is a hit or miss thing. Ask a lot of questions before starting and you’ll get a feel for someone. Sending a demo tape depends on what you’re looking for. A band? Gigs? Press? Management? I suspect your answer will be “a record deal” but unless you’ve already got the first four steps in place it’s not worth sending a label your demo. Record labels are in the business of putting products on shelves. The old days of artist development are all but gone. You’ve got to approach them with everything in place and ready to sell.
Q. Hello, I was recently on the internet when I came across your website. I love singing, and always have. I was just wondering if you have any tips on how to get started (performing).
A. Performing runs parallel to vocal talent. You don’t have to have talent to begin performing nor does talent guarantee you’ll find a place to sing. Depending on what kind of music you sing, there are night clubs or talent shows for you to contact. If there’s nothing in your area, then you’ll have to be the one to organize a show. Use a church or local hall and spread poster announcing your intentions. If all that sounds like too much work then you need to reconsider your desire to perform. It’s very hard work.
Q. I have always wanted to learn how to sing. People tell me I have a good voice, but it still needs a lot of work. I was wondering how could I increase the range of your singing voice? Also how could I make my singing voice sound not so flat when I sing certain notes.
A. Training your voice does all of these things. There are physical behaviors involved with singing. When they are coordinated, the range increases and the tone improves. Check in your local newspaper or music store for a teacher in your area. Voice lessons can make a big difference.
Q.Is it possible for someone who can’t carry a tune (me) to be able to learn how to sing?
A. Is it possible for someone who can’t dribble to learn to play basketball? Of course. Singing is a physical event requiring muscle coordination, just like any sport. However, singing is an art, not a sport. Sports are defined by specific abilities — art is not. It is easy to learn to sing, but becoming a professional singer is another story. It’s easy to dribble a basketball — joining the NBA is a different story.
Q. I am not an active singer but music is my passion and I love to sing. I am an artist that needs to draw at least eight hours daily so I will not fall behind in my deadlines. I am also a writer, since I draw what I write (I write and draw comics). My point is that I am very busy (specially in tight deadlines) and I hardly have the time to sing, plus I live in a very small apartment where the neighbors can hear all I say, imagine if I sing with a loud voice. So, what can I do to improve and to practice efficiently with this circumstances?
A. Sing when drawing. Stay even later at work so you can sing when no one is there. Sing when walking down the street. Sing in the car (if you drive). Sing when the subway passes by. Stand in a closet with a pillow against your face and sing. Attend an open mike night at a nearby club and sing a few songs. Or, go to a loud club and sing with the music. I am sure there are plenty more ideas but these are things I have done to satisfy my vocal fix.
When you do have time, work on the physical form. Watch for inconsistencies in vowels when changing pitch. Watch for facial involvement when changing pitch and/or volume.
Q. I’m curious about the “thrash” singing style, at least that’s what I call it. What I’m referring to, is vocals like that of Rob Zombie, Clark Brown (I know he can sing smooth if he wants, but I’m talking about the songs he “screams” in), oh heck, who else… The singers from Testament, Slayer, I think you get the idea… Is there a correct way to sing like this? When I try it when I practice to myself, it wears my voice pretty fast. Not only that, I can’t always do it without having my larynx raised, but yet it sometimes sounds good. And another question, having to do with the larynx; In your book, you say that proper singing is done with the larynx lowered, or relaxed. Now, before I go on, let me tell you that my goal in singing has always been to be able to sing the highs like Dio, Geoff Tate, Bruce Dickinson, etc., without difficulty. Before I got your book, when practicing to myself, there were days where I could do it rather well, then there were days where I couldn’t come close, sort of a hit and miss situation. But there always seemed to be a consistency, that being my voice wearing out after so many songs. Now that I’m reading your book, I notice that to hit those highs, I’ve always raised my larynx. Singing with a relaxed larynx now, totally changes things. I now can’t hit those highs at all, and instead, when singing with everything relaxed, I have an Elvis-like voice, totally the opposite of what I want. I do notice that I can last a lot longer singing like this. I also have tried, when singing along to covers, to use my “true voice”, instead of attempting to emulate the song. This works sometimes, but it doesn’t sound right with all stuff, especially with songs that are originally sung high (Queensryche, Iron Maiden, etc.) As I stated, singing the high stuff with a raised larynx, while I understand how it takes away from volume, I can still sometimes make it sound good this way. What I’m wondering is, even though this isn’t considered “correct singing”, if I continue with it anyway, using the techniques I’m learning from your book (with the exception of relaxing my larynx), will the muscles involved adapt, and build, to where I can last a good long while, singing with a raised larynx? Or, should I keep trying to sing high with a relaxed larynx, no matter how terrible I sound doing it, in hopes that it will build the muscles up to where I will sound better and better, eventually reaching my goal? I refuse to believe that all “professional” singers (as in, singers in bands that have albums out, and are popular) sing the correct way.
A. Most popular singers don’t have very good technique. They are famous for the songs they write or their personality. They pay for their vocal inability by canceling tour dates and having operations. But, they are also very successful, so who am I to say what they’re doing is wrong.
Singing covers is another story. You have to be a good imitator. This means duplicating everybody’s bad habits. If you’re just singing on weekends, you’ll get strong enough to last the two nights — no matter how you sing. Poor technique becomes a problem in multiple night situations.
Right now, you have a lot invested in lifting your larynx to sing high notes. In reality, the two activities are completely separate. It’s like a guitar player thinking he has to lift his guitar to play up the fret board. The tension necessary to lift the larynx is why your voice tires so quickly. You will be able to sing high notes from a rested laryngeal position but it will take time. You have to be willing to sound bad in the process, just like any beginner playing an instrument.
The harsh singing that’s so popular now is murder on the throat. That’s why it sounds so cool. There is a way to use a minimum of pressure to produce the sounds but it still has to be aggressive or else it will be too wimpy. Most importantly, these vocal sounds come as an extension of personality. What attracts listeners to these singers is the fact that they are willing to sacrifice themselves physically. Are you? Most rock singing is attitude. My job is to help singers survive their success. Best of luck with yours.
Q. I’d like to know what is the best way to deal with a boy’s change of voice. My son’s voice is changing. He’s turning 13 and loves to sing and perform (at this point, in school musicals in a school that emphasizes the performing arts). What is the best path for “care and feeding” of the male voice through this period? How many years does it take, on average,for the voice to settle into its adult range? Are there any exercises which if performed at this stage can maintain or improve the higher end of the (eventual) range?
A. Have your son do the warm up exercises on the video everyday to keep his folds flexible. The grow spirt will continue into mid twenties. The male voice doesn’t really settle down until late thirties. Consequently, men push down on their voices to avoid the unsettled feeling and to sound more masculine. This behavior restricts many aspects of singing. The changes in the throat (increased mass) do not have to cost your son any range. High notes are nothing more than stretching the vocal folds. If he continues to visit his upper register (which will become falsetto) it will remain available to him as an adult. Just think of your legs. If you never stopped doing splits and stretches and sitting cross legged — your adult legs would be as limber as a child’s. Muscles only loose their flexibility when we stop challenging them.
Q. I’ve just checked out the lessons you’ve posted at www.getsigned.com. Very interesting and useful advice, thank you. I’m a guitar player who apprehensively sings, simply because I can’t find the right singer for my band! I’ve got a light voice, which does not go well with most of the blues/rock songs we do, so I’m not very vocally authoritative. But much of my difficulty occurs with playing (guitar) and singing at the same time……I’m getting better at it over time, but it’s still a struggle…..if I concentrate hard on my playing, I tend to lose the vocal melody, and vice versa. I’m sure there are many others out there with the same difficulty, and may I suggest it could be a worthy post subject? Any advice gladly accepted!
A. The problem here, is that neither the guitar or your voice are improved by thinking. It takes time but, in the end, both are rewarded by the split attention. I also play drums and keyboards while singing, and recently, do all three at the same time. Bottom line if you have to think about it, it’s not incorporated deep enough.
Q. First I would like to say that I think it is great that you put a free singing lesson site on the internet. It truly shows how much you love singing, most internet sites will not give any lessons or advice unless you give them money. So Thank You! Second I have a singing question or another topic for a lesson. My voice is terrible (well thats what I think and people say) but I love to sing and I would love to be able to sing good. Is there any exercise that can enhance my voice to sound good or am I stuck with this voice? What should I do? I truly want to learn how to sing. So if there is any advice you can give I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.
A. Saying that your voice is terrible is too general a term to define a problem. Singing is a physical event, so any tangible problems you can identify are easily fixed. The hardest part, however, is separating your emotions from your observations. Is your pitch good but the tone is bad? Is the tone bad on every note or just the high ones? These are the kinds of questions that lead to real solutions. Keep singing. Keep exploring.
Q.I would like to know if some people are just not born to sing. i love to sing and i feel music like it is in my soul, but i sound flat and nasal, think lucy ricardo trying out for ricky’s show. can lessons really pull out an inner good voice? i am 33 yrs old and rather petite, can it be done, in your professional opinion? thanks for your time, and the free advice on your web site
A. Yes, Michele, I help people do it every day. What I cannot give to people is a love for singing — which you obviously have. Start learning now. The longer you wait, the more you’ll question yourself. You have nothing to lose by learning to sing. Don’t deny yourself of the things you love.
Q. im 16 years old is it to late for me to start a voice lesson? and can anybody take a voice lesson and become good at it? did u taught alot of famous people that where bad and then they became good?
A. Sixteen is a perfect time to start. Go for it.
Q. If I send you a demo tape, can you advise me how much help and training I need, before sending this tape out to major labels or recording companies?
A. Have you ever heard a CD and didn’t think the singer was very good? I know I have. So what if I had told those people they weren’t ready? Some singers, who I don’t think are very talented at all, are selling millions. My point is it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks — but you. If you think you are good then you’ll have the confidence to promote yourself, which is the name of the game. If you don’t think you have what it takes then you should find a teacher and get to work.
Q. I am going to start a children’s choir to prepare Pre-K to sixth grade kids. I have very little training. I am doing this as a volunteer at school. They have no funds and no personnel for the choir. I need help.
A. You don’t need any training to give these kids a great experience. Chose songs which are fun and easy to sing. There must be a web site with suggestions for songs. At such a young age, singing should be pure enjoyment. Forgive the bad pitches and sloppy phrasing. Their bodies (instruments) will change completely in the coming years, but the encouragement you offer will last a lifetime. Thank you for volunteering.
Q. HI MY NAME IS JIM AND I HAVE A 10 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER WHO LOVES TO SING GOSPEL MUSIC. SHE HAS BEEN SINGING SINCE SHE WAS ABOUT 6 IN CHURCHES AROUND OUR AREA. I WAS WONDERING IF THERE WAS ANYTHING WE COULD DO AT HER AGE RIGHT NOW THAT WOULD HELP HER, SHE HAS NEVER HAD VOICE LESSONS BUT I AM TOLD BY MANY SHE SOUNDS PROMISING SO I WOULD LIKE TO HELP HER ANY WAY I COULD.
A. Congratulations on having such a talented daughter. Her love of singing is the most important thing to nurture at this point. Her body (instrument) has yet to develop fully which means there will be changes to come. Developing good basic warm up habits (like in my video, “The Singer’s Toolbox”) will be the most useful way for her to spend the next few years. Around 16, she can begin to develop because her instrument will remain the same for many years.
Q. Thanks for your site! Great information! I’m 36 and have never tried to sing. My husband (a drummer) has been in lots of local bands in the 10 years we have been together. Right now the band he is in has great musical talent, but lacks vocals (and the presence of a “front person”). I’m wondering…. can someone like me learn to sing and how long would it take if I really dedicated lots of time to this project? I have no real “natural” talent, is this important?
A. Personality is more important than natural talent. If you love to sing and are an extrovert, then dive in. It can come together very quickly. If you’re shy or insecure, you can still do it, but it may take a few years to feel comfortable.
Q. I am 20 years old and from the Atlanta GA area. I believe I have a voice and I can sing, but I don’t have a band. Could you tell me how to get one? I don’t have any lyrics either. Jennifer Lopez got started without a band I believe. I don’t see anyone in her video, but her i.e. the people who play the music. Could you please tell me how to get started?
A. Do you look like Jennifer Lopez? Or Ricky Martin? Why don’t you have any lyrics? What have you been doing for the last five years. Do you want to be a singer or just famous? Is it that you don’t want a band or don’t know how to put one together? These are questions that only you can answer. Obviously, you don’t have to look like Jennifer or Ricky to be famous . . . but it doesn’t hurt. You also don’t have to have a band, but if you don’t — you better be a really great singer or song writer. To get started, you first need to discover what is unique about yourself. We are all special, it just takes a little exploring to find what’s inside you. Write lyrics and sing them to made up melodies. Then find someone to help you put them to music. I write for a magazine in Atlanta called Southeast Performer. (find them at www.performermag.com) In the back there is a listing of bands looking for singers. Go to music stores and ask the guys behind the counter if they know of anyone looking to start a band. Start snooping around — don’t wait for someone to call you — Jennifer didn’t.
Q. All my life I have had dreams of being a professional singer, the next Madonna. I am very interested in your training, but I would like it to go further than just singing lessons. If you feel I have the voice, the look and the guts to be what it takes to be a Grammy Winner, then I need you to help me. I am a very hard working individual who will stop at nothing until I achieve my goals.
A. There are never any guarantees that a better voice leads to a Grammy, or even a career in singing. Sustaining a career requires lots of promotion and hard work building a fan base. It takes a team of people. Managers, agents, record executives and lawyers all working for the same goal — your success. If you are unique and have something you think the public will buy — then you should start building a team of professionals around you. I can help you sing better. I do not care whether you are going to sing in the shower or for millions. I treat the super stars I work with exactly the same as the amateurs. If you want to improve your voice, I’d be glad to help.
Q. I’m a doc in Eugene, Oregon. After 4 years of medical school and three of residency I’m done. Now I have a job that allows me to pursue the kind of things that I’ve always wanted. One of them has been vocal training. I’ve sang since I was a kid, continued through high school, then gave it up in college. I do it for the pure pleasure. I would love to learn how to sing, but I don’t know where to start. I’m not interested in pursuing a career in this, but consider it a hobby I’ve never had the chance to learn. I’m a rank beginner in terms of technique at the age of 39. I don’t know if you are even the right person to help. However, if this is the right place, please either email me in return.
A. Ironically, you should start to learn to sing by singing — humming, scatting, snipits of songs or full renditions. Start in the shower, the car, when your cleaning up after dinner. Sing all the time. There is no such thing as a bad note — only ones you didn’t mean to sing.
Improving your voice, it’s tone and control, is easy at any age. Yes, the sound of the voice is genetically determined but singing is a muscular activity and therefore fully adjustable. Singing is easy, loving your voice is another story. At 39, there are many subconscious voices, doubting, criticizing, censoring. After singing a while, take your observations/questions and find a vocal coach. I’d be happy to answer any question you may have. Singing is an art and therefore its training is not linear process. Discover what’s missing in your singing before putting yourself on a program of improvement
Q. I have a daughter who is nine years old who has a beautiful, strong singing voice. When she sings locally I get voice teachers wooing her, but when I went on my own to a Conservatory of Music in search of a presumably reputable tutor, (I live in New Jersey) they tell me they won’t even accept a child who has not yet gone through puberty for fear of thickening the vocal chords and ruining her voice forever. I can’t imagine them turning down business, so I tend to believe them. Do you know how I can find out about the truth of this matter? I would hate to do something wrong, I really appreciate it.
A. It’s basically true, but dramatic. Your daughter’s voice (instrument) has not even begun to develop. Solidifying a singing technique (physical behaviors) which address her current needs would compromise her abilities once she matures — if (and this is an important if) — she does not adjust her technique as she ages. It would be fine for her to learn basic fundamentals of singing (how and why to warm up, breathing, etc.) Developing a mature tone is premature — but would not “ruin her voice forever.” I think the best thing you could do for her is simply allow her to enjoy singing without any pressure. She will create her own in due time.
Congratulations on having such a talent in your life.