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Been trying to sing for years and still not off the ground. Help!

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hypnotoadmk
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Hey guys, I've been a lifelong musician and played piano and guitar since I was a child. As a teeen I also started playing bass and producing electronic music (Bonobo/Emancipator and cinematic soundtrack kinda stuff) and started playing inbands and gigging. I'm now in the final year of my music degree. With the right amount of time, practice and patience I've cracked most of the musical challenges I've embarked on, but singing continues to frustrate and baffle me.

 

Aside from just singing in my own room away from prying ears, my parents signed me up for singing lessons in my mid teens. I gave up after a while till I went to university, where we recieved bits of vocal tuition in one of the modules. I still practice singing regularly but I'm getting absolutely nowhere three years down the line. I have the basics of breathing from my diaphragm, spend 15/20 mins warming up, but I still experience throat pain (tension?) and literally cannot hit a sodding note. I break songs down, practice individual passages, but cannot hit a note at all still.

 

Theres nothing wrong with my sense of pitch in an instrumental sense, I gave up on tabs/sheet years ago and learn all of my piano and guitar stuff by ear, but somethings going dramatically wrong with my singing.

 

Apart from occasionally experiencing a bit of pain in my throat I don't FEEL like theres any tension in my voice (obviously there is though due to pitch problems), and although I see and hear a lot about tongue/mouth placement for vowel sounds I've never properly had it explained to me. I also hear people at my uni talking about the amount of air released when trying to hit a note making it go flat/sharp depending on air pressure?

 

With guitar, brilliant playing comes from many different areas/things all combining to a great sound so I'm sure these ^ are all very important but I just cannot get them all together enough to just hit one flippin' note. And with the work/reward I'm used to experiencing from my musical studies I'm literally at the point of beating my head on the wall after trying to sing for years and getting absolutely nowhere!

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It would def help if you posted a sample of you attempting to sing something. Usually throat tension is a bi product of undersupporting. Sometimes, people new to diaphramic breathing think they are using it. However, they actually end up locking up the stomach muscles, therefore not actually moving any air. Also sometimes from this the chest will take over and move the air. Which will cause many issues

Also over supporting can cause throat tension as well. The larynx muscles have to work overtime to stop the flow of air, which will equal into throat pain, loss of stamina and trouble with pitch. Also will cause you to use too much vocal weight.

Bringing me to the end of this, too much vocal weight. Too much weight can equal over supporting, trouble with pitch in the middle of your range, and most of the time choaking off your higher notes. Also of course throat pain. As you can see how the balance of everything works together.

These are just general ideas from your description. A sample will actually allow us to help you though, instead of just throwing around educated guesses.

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I'm training for a year now, and started at a relatively old age to pick a new 'instrument' and I still see results. I get lessons every week and get constant corrections to my technique and it helped me A LOT. I also try to find tips from forums (mainly this one) and books. And I'm still a novice... jut like one is after playing any instrument for a year. So basically - try working from scratch with a new teacher... at least for a few month. 

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Get a vocal coach and maybe home study proggram like 4 pillars of singing...invest time in practising the correct way and progress will come..also sing alot of songs in between so u dont get burned out by scales and what not...i cant give yoi a better advice...i started a year ago completely by myself..just singing along my guitar also and my progress has been AMAZING...im just now started to get into it more seriously and learning about technique..and its going great.. just keep at it and dont be afraid to ask questions...

Also upload samples here regurarly..there are TONS of ppl who can help u here..even some proffesional vocal coaches..and ofc the founder of the forum Maestro Robet Lunte...

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I just want to add, that throughout my life I was taught that constant practice makes you better. Which I always thought of as 'want to get better at running? run a lot!'. That's far from being true. If you're doing something the wrong way, repeating it a lot might not get you too far. You need to practice good practices (sorry for the pun...). 

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I just want to add, that throughout my life I was taught that constant practice makes you better. Which I always thought of as 'want to get better at running? run a lot!'. That's far from being true. If you're doing something the wrong way, repeating it a lot might not get you too far. You need to practice good practices (sorry for the pun...).

Absolutely...in fact..practicing something the wrong way can cement your technique and get u set in a wrong way that it makes harder for you to get back to rihht track

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Great responses guys. M.i.r, when I say I have "basics" of diaphragmic breathing thats exactly what I was looking for in an answer, by basics, I mean just

 

> Breathe in, mid/lower belly expanding

> Breathe out, mid/lower belly naturally deflating

 

And obviously they'll be a lot more to it/applying it

But like, my abdominable area muscles are getting involved involuntarily when I don't feel like they should. Like they are being employed to hold the "in" stage of the breath when my belly is inflated and I'm not trying to release any air. Dunno how that reads but I hope you can kinda interpret what I'm saying? haha

Like how do I know when I'm doing it more towards the correct way aswell?

 

Still very confused about vowel sounds/shapes and what I should be doing with them too.

 

And JohnnyL, yeah I completely agree. The thing that pisses me off most about singing is the natural flow of learning any instrument for me has always been Learn Songs/Practicing/Gradually improving bit by bit, and that just isn't coming off at all with singing for me as of yet.

 

Cheers guys! Keep it coming

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Even just a cell phone recording works as long as its not clipping.

As for abdominal issues here is a very basic exercise.

Imagine you are about to say something but then stop, even put your finger in the air, like someone interrupted you. That is your vocal folds closing. We will use this in a sec.

So the beginning of the exercise starts with your breathing from the diaphragm. Inhale then exhale a few times, the chest should have very little movement though you will feel the area get full with air. Now the next inhale stop, hold your air but not with your throat. You should feel no pinch or anything there. If you release your breathing muscles at all air should come out without having to change anything in the throat. If you feel a pinch, or that feeling describing in the first paragraph, you are doing this wrong. This exercise done correctly is the very basic of supporting your voice. Holding the breath with the body so the throat can get the air it needs for tone, not too much not too litte. So it can do what it needs in freedom.

Now the actual exercise. Inhale, hold your breath as described above. Now close your vocal folds as described in the beginning. Now slowly release the breath through the folds and make noise until you need to take a breath. Slow, controlled, solid tone....doesnt matter what note. Feel all the things happening with the body. How the body slowly deflates, yet you dont feel tension in the throat. Start with the smallest sound possible, then increase to a confortable level, no yelling though. Just a nice steady comfortable volume.

This is the very basic of vocals, closed folds...firm but not too firm. Support from the breathing muscles, holding back a certain amount of air, yet still moving it. You want compressed air, but not forcefully blowing it out. Kind of like letting the air out of a balloon and making it squeel. Too much you hear just air, not enough no noise.

One day this will all be second nature. The main goal is just knowing how to set the body up so it can do what it needs. If all is natural, your body will automatically call for more or less air, fold closure ect. Just by what the mind orders, basically just have to learn how to set things up and get out of the way.

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You could also do a hiss on the s sound which will give you a feel for how the air will escape. However, remember, when you actually sing, you won't have the back pressure of an 's' to regulate the air. You use the 's' to calibrate escape speed and pressure and then, you get rid of that "training wheel" when you sing a song.

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Cheers guys, loving these great responses.

 

So I'm trying your exercise but I have a few questions, with this close of the vocal folds, I tried your "interruption" thing, but I really have no idea whether I can actually feel something very slight or I just think I can cos I'm waiting for it, if you get me. Whether its there or not, its extreeeemely small and slight.

 

Think I'm doing the rest of the exercise right? The throat feels loose but starts to tighten/tense up more as I come to the end of the breath/air? And to maintain that looseness I have to make a really quiet noise, my throat tightens if I try and go louder (assuming that gets better with practice if this is the correct technique).

 

 

This sound like I'm on the right lines? Also, theres some involuntary flexing/movement/action from my abdominal muscles as I breathe, should that be happening?

 

UPDATE: About 15 minutes on I'm starting to feel some pain/soreness in my throat. Guessing that means its going wrong?

 

UPDATE again: Spent a while on this tonight and stated being able to boost the volume a bit, but after a while starting getting a bit of throat pain so went back to the volume I was trying it at before. Started getting a lot of throat pain then too and had to stop, as far as I was aware nothing had changed in what I was doing? Any ideas?

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Hey guys, I've been a lifelong musician and played piano and guitar since I was a child. As a teeen I also started playing bass and producing electronic music (Bonobo/Emancipator and cinematic soundtrack kinda stuff) and started playing inbands and gigging. I'm now in the final year of my music degree. With the right amount of time, practice and patience I've cracked most of the musical challenges I've embarked on, but singing continues to frustrate and baffle me.

 

Aside from just singing in my own room away from prying ears, my parents signed me up for singing lessons in my mid teens. I gave up after a while till I went to university, where we recieved bits of vocal tuition in one of the modules. I still practice singing regularly but I'm getting absolutely nowhere three years down the line. I have the basics of breathing from my diaphragm, spend 15/20 mins warming up, but I still experience throat pain (tension?) and literally cannot hit a sodding note. I break songs down, practice individual passages, but cannot hit a note at all still.

 

Theres nothing wrong with my sense of pitch in an instrumental sense, I gave up on tabs/sheet years ago and learn all of my piano and guitar stuff by ear, but somethings going dramatically wrong with my singing.

 

Apart from occasionally experiencing a bit of pain in my throat I don't FEEL like theres any tension in my voice (obviously there is though due to pitch problems), and although I see and hear a lot about tongue/mouth placement for vowel sounds I've never properly had it explained to me. I also hear people at my uni talking about the amount of air released when trying to hit a note making it go flat/sharp depending on air pressure?

 

With guitar, brilliant playing comes from many different areas/things all combining to a great sound so I'm sure these ^ are all very important but I just cannot get them all together enough to just hit one flippin' note. And with the work/reward I'm used to experiencing from my musical studies I'm literally at the point of beating my head on the wall after trying to sing for years and getting absolutely nowhere!

Have you ever been taught how to control the air so that you only use as much as you need to produce a solid tone, not just blow it all out aggressively trying to "hit" notes? (this is a big no-no and causes a lot of throat tension/pain/drying/wear and tear). Have you ever been taught how to release tensions from your jaw, tongue, neck, chin, shoulders, etc.?

I would have to hear a sound file but I'm guessing those are the two things you need to get going ASAP

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Well before you go and try holding back your air which you need to sing don't, it will only start to cause more tensions because it's not very natural. i just did a video on this hopefully I will put it out this week. It's a common mistake among some and is "putting the cart before the horse." Through proper technique the vocal folds will get better at approximating and adducting which will in turn "feel" like the air is being held back. You need the the air to vibrate the cords and in time the cords will do there job more efficiently. I have been getting a lot of students whom are holding there breath (and sound like it)and also tightening their stomach just to tighten it another no no..

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    Hypnotoadmk, send a sample. We are not here to judge by your faults but to help. Unfortunately there is no way to really help until some of the teachers hear what the faults are. No need for embarrassment  or anything, a sample is what is needed. ;)

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Well before you go and try holding back your air which you need to sing don't, it will only start to cause more tensions because it's not very natural. i just did a video on this hopefully I will put it out this week. It's a common mistake among some and is "putting the cart before the horse." Through proper technique the vocal folds will get better at approximating and adducting which will in turn "feel" like the air is being held back. You need the the air to vibrate the cords and in time the cords will do there job more efficiently. I have been getting a lot of students whom are holding there breath (and sound like it)and also tightening their stomach just to tighten it another no no..

Dont worry good sir, never advocated "holding your breath singing". I just like that exercise cause it keeps you from blowing out all the air at once if that is an issue he was having. Also helps with letting the folds close before singing, to try and help start a balance process. I dont know since I havent heard him, just throwing out broad spectrum advice maybe hoping to get lucky.

I know you must always keep compression, that is why I mentioned the balloon metaphor. That is also why I said something about just setting the body up right so it can do what it already knows how.

I think we can at least both agree on letting the body find its own balance lol....Hey I even recanted a while back and admitted I agreed with you that there should be no such thing as "support";)

P.s. I look forward to watching your vid, will when I get home. I am already 3 gigs over on data and pretty sure that vid will tip it to 4 ha ha.

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HYPNO.....

No you shouldnt feel throat pain, any pain is a no no. A little tight before warming up sure.

Doing the throat closing exercise, you wont feel hardly anything what so ever. It will just feel closed, and if you tried breathing through it, you would make a noise. However, if you are feeling a heavy pinch or something, then you are prob either constricting or closing the false folds.

However, I dont have much else to comment on until I hear a sample. If I or anyone else keeps firing in the dark, may actually cause a problem where there was not one before, or make one worse.

If you are over abducting to begin with, and I have you work on a closure exercise to help with under abducting, then obviously that will cause a much larger issue.

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I know you must always keep compression, that is why I mentioned the balloon metaphor. That is also why I said something about just setting the body up right so it can do what it already knows how.

 

^This, right here.

 

It's not so much that I am "holding back air." But when I have the right feeling the note, I don't notice so much any "strain" in the throat, but I have noticed sometimes, that I am not blowing as much air. It's more of a relaxation thing, to me.

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One thing you might try is to sign up for Marnell Sample's email list.  He will then send you a series of videos on some basic singing topics.  There are... very in-depth, borderline tedious--however, very well done.  I did not spend a great deal of time doing them, but I think they helped my throat relax and find some new sensations that I had not previously perceived.

 

He sometimes posts here.

 

http://www.vocalliberation.com/

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