As you know, beginner vocal students always have a lot of questions. And since Intune Music’s incorporation in 2007, we have had so many questions from our students so we decided to just compile some of the most commonly asked questions about singing, so you can also learn from what our students ask.
Here are the top 5 questions, and our answers to those questions:
Question #1 :
Is the ability to sing high notes something that can be learned and improved on, or is our singing ability pre-determined and innate, i.e. something we are born with?
Answer #1 :
We can definitely learn how to sing high notes better, or even just to sing better on the whole, and that is what singing lessons are for!
It’s all about knowing how to use the correct muscles, and utilize our vocal folds efficiently and healthily, as well as to know how to produce a variety of vocal tones and dynamics. To quote a favourite sentence from renowned voice scientist Jo Estill, “Everyone has a beautiful voice.. you just have to know how to use it !”
Singing is a skill that can definitely be learned and improved on over time. We are certainly born with a certain set of vocal folds and related muscles, but we also learn to use our voice in our day-to-day interactions with people, and also in our cultural habits and family environment too.
And so, if we are used to talking low and soft, then we train our vocal muscles to do that very well. Alternatively, if we are used to talking loud and also up high in pitch, then we are strengthening those vocal muscles more often and we will certainly be able to sing loudly and up high without too much difficulty, because we do that all the time in our daily speech and singing anyway!
So, in a nutshell, yes we are born with a certain set of vocal apparatus, but how we use it, and which muscles we strengthen over time, can definitely be improved on through singing practice and proper voice exercises.
Question #2 :
Can bad singing technique cause me permanent damage to my voice?
Answer #2 :
Yes, certainly. If we learn to voice or sing in an incorrect or inefficient manner, or in a way that can potentially cause our vocal folds harm and abuse, then we will end up with permanent damage to our voice.
For example, if we constantly sing high notes and we squeeze our throats or constrict our sound, then we are exerting too much force onto our vocal folds and over time, our vocal folds may develop nodules or other problems.
Vocal nodules are calluses on the vocal folds caused by talking loudly or belting out songs using incorrect techniques. And trust me, these can be extremely painful! Those calluses will continue to grow if there is continuous usage of the vocal folds without resting them, and the growths can and will prevent the vocal folds from vibrating efficiently and regularly, causing also a change in the vocal pitch and tone.
So, the next time you go to a karaoke and you sing for hours and end up with a hoarse voice the next day, just remember that you could be causing your voice permanent damage if you do this regularly! Or, if you learn to sing in a wrong or potentially damaging manner, then you could be causing your voice more harm than good.
Here are some symptoms that you need to pay attention to:
Change in Voice
• raspy or scratchy voice
• breathy voice
• regular cracks or breaks when speaking or singing
• sounding lower-pitched than usual
• a shooting pain that goes from ear to ear
• pain in a certain part of your throat
• constant coughing and pain
• a constant need to clear your throat
• tiredness in your voice
Always remember to take lots of vocal rest and drink lots of fluids if you experience such hoarseness or loss in voice, and there are also some gentle stretching exercises for the voice that you can do to regain your regular voicing patterns.
It is strongly recommended to visit an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor if you notice that the symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks even after ample vocal rest.
Like the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and so when we are singing high notes, we should learn to use efficient and vocally healthy techniques so that we avoid causing our voice permanent damage and abuse.
At Intune Music, our instructors are all qualified and experienced, and we are extremely aware of teaching students to sing high notes in a vocally healthy manner. Check out the student’s feedback on one of our instructors:
Question #3 :
I think I can sing quite well in class, and I have also passed my vocal exams. But whenever I perform in front of friends or family, or even in public, it always seems like I’m out of tune and out of form. Why is that so?
Answer #3 :
There are certainly many factors that will affect how you perform ‘live’, and these would include things like sound equipment, equipment settings, venue and environment, as well as stage fright when singing.
Sound Equipment and Settings
During lessons or examinations, the vocal equipment is adjusted for you to sound your best. For example, during lessons at Intune Music, our vocal instructors would adjust the volume of the microphone and speakers, and also set the key of the backing track for the song at an appropriate key for you to sing at.
You might have heard singers request to raise or lower the key for their song, or to ask for more reverb or more highs or more lows in their voice when they are singing. You may also notice that most singers would request for a sound check before the actual live performance. This is just a way in which seasoned performers communicate with the soundman for their show, and the sound engineer will assist to do the appropriate adjustments that will make it optimal for the singer to perform during the live show.
Venue and Environment
Similar to equipment settings, the size and type of the performing venue also differ from venue to venue. These can range from a small enclosed room, to a huge stage with high ceiling, or even an outdoor performance venue. Each of these venues require different sound adjustments and settings in order to allow the singer to perform well.
This is actually one of the most common reasons why we may experience under-performing when we sing in front of friends, family or even at public performances.
Everyone gets nervous before getting on stage to perform, even seasoned performers! However, the trick is, to accept this nervousness and work through it, rather than to deny that nervous feeling and try to remove it, which then makes you obsess about how nervous you are, and makes it difficult for you to perform at your best.
To overcome stage fright, here are some suggestions:
1) Set Up A Relaxation Routine
We start to tense up our body when we get nervous and when we experience stage fright. So the best way is for us to try to get ourselves in a relaxed mood. Try breathing deep for a few times, or drink or eat your favourite food before a performance in order to calm yourself down.
Many singers also have a routine where we find a space in which we can be alone and quiet, and we mediate or run through the performance in our mind before we actually perform. That helps us to feel more confident about our live show later on, and also focusses our mind on what needs to be done.
Having a pre-performance routine also helps to calm the nerves, and it is good to establish such a routine so that you can go back to it every time you feel the stage fright coming on.
2) Think Positive
Many of us may start to think about questions like, “What if I don’t sing well enough later?”, or “What if I forget the lyrics to my song?”.
Get these questions out of your mind, and start thinking about the positive experiences in your performance. Your pre-performance routine and
meditation will certainly help you to calm your mind and to focus on your performance.
Even if you forget your lyrics, you can still improvise!
3) There is no PERFECT performance
Many of us fear performing in front of others, because we expect a lot out of the performance, or we expect ourselves to be perfect.
Performances are never PERFECT. There will always be something that you will not like, or that your audience will pick on. So, forget about all the pressure of having to do a perfect performance, and just do what you practised and rehearsed beforehand.
Treat it as though you are singing during lesson with your vocal coach! Or, sing as though you are singing to yourself in the shower! That will certainly take away the stress and nervousness that you might feel during a live show.
4) Get more performance experience
The best way to overcome stage fright is to perform more.
There really is no short cut or miracle cure to this! The more you perform, and the more you sing in front of others, the less nervous you will feel. Also, even when you feel nervous, you will still have the confidence to pull yourself through and sing well during your performance.
And so, when you do get the opportunity to perform, you should just take it up because each opportunity is a chance for you to gain more experience! At Intune Music, we always provide our students with performance opportunities, and our instructors highly encourage students (regardless of age) to participate actively in public performances.
For example, here is our Vocal student singing live on Capital 958FM !
Question #4 :
Should we avoid taking dairy products or milk before we sing, so that we do not ruin our singing voice?
Answer #4 :
The short and direct answer to this question is, if taking dairy products causes you to feel like your voice has lots of phlegm or mucus, then yes, please avoid them before singing.
However, if taking dairy products does not cause any reaction in your throat, then by all means, continue to have them!
A research in Australia showed that when 60 participants took part in a diary and mucus production experiment, it was observed that there was no correlation between mucus production and diary intake.
Another blind taste study was done with 125 subjects, providing them with dairy and non-dairy beverages of the same taste, and the results showed that regardless of whether they were drinking dairy or non-dairy beverages, they reported that they felt the beverage made their saliva thicker or it created a coating on their throat or tongue. It might have been the placebo effect that caused this, as it is such a common belief that dairy products cause increase in mucus production, and so our own expectations can skew the results of the experiment.
So, for all foods or drinks that we take, if it affects your voice and causes you to have reactions in your throat, then do avoid them. However, if they do not cause you any reaction at all, feel free to continue consuming them. I know of many singers who can eat extremely spicy food and still sing after that!
Question #5 :
Why do I sound different when I hear my own voice when I sing, compared to when I listen to a recording of my singing ?
Answer #5 :
The reason for this can be explained by the difference in the source of vibrations. When we are talking or singing, besides the external sounds that we detect, our inner ears also pick up the vibrations that are happening inside our head, and the bone conduction of sound delivers a richer and deeper sound which makes it seem that we possess a fuller or more bass in our voice, which we might lack in our voice recording.
Like some of my friends like to say, “We all sound like divas in our head.”
This is why many vocal coaches would advise students to record their own singing in order to know how we really sound like to others. Certainly, the recording has to be done with proper equipment, much like the recording equipment that Intune Music can provide for vocal recordings.
Doing a proper vocal recording of your own singing allows you to have a good indication of what others hear when you sing, so that you can tweak your own singing voice accordingly.
Here at Intune Music, our instructors are experienced and qualified in teaching singing and voice. Check out what our student said about our Vocal and Keyboard instructor, Zuo En: