With the joy of re-marketing techniques and sneaky codes, the internet knows we like singing from our online behaviours. As a result, you’ll likely have had the adverts for several online voice training systems pop up somewhere. All colourful and attractive.
I think it’s a given to say that downloadable online voice training systems are intended to help. That is unless there was a particularly unscrupulous villain-type fella who wanted to DEVASTATE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IN ONE SWOOP! We should remember though, that pretty much every system is also designed to provide someone with an income, which is totally cool. If they have a great service and you pay for it, that’s the basis of business. In order to make it a teeny, weeny bit more attractive to an undecided individual reading the copy, there will be some embellishment to the success stories and benefits. That’s also the basis of business, so tread carefully.
Keep on the lookout!
If you can see through the hype and are still keen to give something a try, here are a few pointers to help you get the best out of something.
1. The honeymoon period
Let’s compare singing with the diet and exercise game. If you’ve been scoffing chocolate bars and ready meals for the last ten years then your body is probably going to be in bad shape. If you also have a sedentary job and you don’t exercise in your spare time then you probably get out of breath during a tiddlywinks competition. It sounds extreme but there are millions upon millions of people who live every day like this.
In swoops a fitness trainer with a convenient regime for you to try. You work out at home for fifteen minutes a few times per week and take the stairs instead of the lift. You cut out alcohol and replace two meals with juiced fruit and veg. Within days, you start shedding the pounds.
After three weeks you’re looking much trimmer and you’re super-motivated to keep going, but things start to slow down after five weeks and you eventually plateau. The scales don’t move and you’re REALLY hungry. Again, there’ll be seven figures of people who have been here too!
It’s great that the regime initially encouraged you to even begin cleaning up your lifestyle. We can thank the trainer for that one. If the trainer targeted the right people, you can bet that 90% of the downloads were from people who were really struggling with their weight.
That means any decreased calorie and increased exercise approach would have an effect immediately. You don’t need a masters in sports science to craft that package. All you need is a bunch of people who need direction and haven’t had the basic food education to figure it out themselves.
Singing is pretty much identical. If you’re a novice, don’t have a daily warm up in place, sing far under your vocal break, don’t know how to explore the extremes of your range or vocal/larynx positions, and sing out only once or twice per week then yeah…. any change in your singing behaviour is going to exhibit a change.
Five to ten minutes of full range sirens through a straw each day is going to simultaneously increase the amount of time you’re singing each week and get you above your break more frequently. Again, you don’t need to be Dr. Titze to know that’s going to help you in the short term. You also only need to have watched one YouTube video to implement it too.
The point here is that if your new approach is a steep contrast to your old habits then you’ll feel some effect. Does that make it amazing or credible? Nope. Will you learn something that you might take on forever? Possibly. Is there a good chance you’ll plateau or reach some kind of block that stops you from completing the program? Yes, and even more so in singing systems. How do you avoid that? Well, read on.
2. The TV ‘Psychic’
“Yes, my grandfather was called John”
From that point on, the ones in the room who are willing to believe WILL believe that the TV psychic truly has a connection to the other side. The sceptics will consider that the probability of someone in the room having a deceased family member called a very common name like John is 85.6%. It’s morbid I know, but we can just about draw experience from my tenuous example.
There’s a similar probability associated to the low larynx approach to training. So many singers have unnecessary tension in the muscles that raise the larynx and the muscles that form the basis of our lowest notes (or chest voice). The influence of a low larynx approach is that it counters the tension in the larynx raisers and can help train the transition through the vocal break.
The vocal tract shape of a low larynx, especially on a closed vowel like OO, also encourages the muscles that form the basis of falsetto/head voice (whatever you want to call it). That’s potentially great for untrained singers who are a bit ‘yelly’ as they approach the break.
There are, on the flip side, novice singers who need the absolute opposite. They won’t know what they need but will willingly go through a voice training system to try and improve. These people benefit very little. At some point, if the system doesn’t include advice that works for their situation they will likely give up early. They may even get worse. Maybe the program does have some exercises included that would do just the trick but they’re in phase 3.2. Our singer may not make it that far because they grew despondent and they wouldn’t know what to look for if they wanted to skip ahead anyway!
“I’m hearing more from John. Was he in the army or connected to the army?”
There’s another good chance that Grandad was in the army or his father was, but as the psychic goes deeper it becomes less likely that they’ll hit the mark. In your voice training program you may land lucky in the honeymoon period. If the next phase doesn’t match your needs, however, you’re parked again. The further you go on, the less likely you are to fit the program.
On the other hand it might, so you’re getting your moneys worth here!
3. “I’m an opera singer!”
I’m not taking anything away from the skill of pro opera singers, but the notion that they can sing anything is out the window. In fact, if you take many of the fundamentals of classical singing (like Bel Canto, for example) on to contemporary singing you can totally damage yourself over time. It’s advisable to ignore that part of the sales patter and focus on the content itself.
4. “Would you like a voice like mine?”
This is a common approach in selling a course, and it’s not necessarily bad. Honestly, I would have more faith in my coach if they could sing well AND guide me to my goals effectively. In voice training, you’re at less risk if you go with someone with an OK voice but has a great attitude and willingness to learn. You increase your risk if you go with someone who sounds incredible but is teaching based on their own sensations and intrinsic experience of their voice. If you happen to buy online voice training from someone who can’t sing and has no education, then call a doctor immediately.
On the other hand, if you find someone who sounds great, hasn’t got an ego, has had some kind of professional career and is informed by legit voice research then you’re laughing!
Develop your skills
This truly isn’t sales on behalf of the worlds singing teachers, but occasional input than from a qualified and trusted vocal coach is crucial. Finding one of those in this noisy world will need another blog post! There’s a couple of reasons for this:
a) Training your ear
This is HUGE. Vocal coaches train their ear because they need to be able to hear the settings of your vocal folds, breathing system, and vocal tract through the sound. It’s a mad skill. We also need your sensory feedback to be able to create a clear picture of what’s going on down there. If the goal of your voice training system is “to develop a strong and healthy mixed voice!”, how will you know what the heck that even is?
Despite the easy feel of it, mixed voice should be fairly rich. However, there are plenty of singers and voice coaches who mistake falsetto for mixed voice and end up with a weak upper register. If you know what you’re listening for and what it may feel like in your body, you have a fighting chance of knowing when you’ve achieved the specific goal of the exercise or course. You’ll also avoid vocal injury, especially if you’ve bought “Death Scream Masterclass Volume 2”.
b) Staying relevant
There might be myriad of exercises in there to run through or choose from. To avoid succumbing to the psychic, a vocal coach can give you an honest review of your situation and what you should focus on. You may need to avoid low larynx exercises or focus a little on vocal fold closure. Either way, a coach can guide you on what to practice and what to avoid.
None of us want to injure ourselves. Neither do the course creators want you to. Despite good intentions, I have read through a few voice training programs recently that made me wince. I mean, I’m not a purist, but these were unreal.
The stature of one of the course writers was quite something, which was a distress. Many of us would trust them absolutely, even if it felt wrong and your eyes watered during the exercises. After all, they taught [insert most famous female singer] and [insert most female male singer]!
Singers usually believe that if something goes wrong it’s their fault. Tactless teachers are also well known for blaming the students for not being able to understand their instructions rather than acknowledge the danger of, and the responsibility for, their advice.
One pretty vague way to try and spot a charlatan is to see if there’s any industry backing behind them. Do other qualified coaches endorse them by retweeting or quoting them in blog posts? Teachers who respect each other usually say so in some way. Although it’s feasible that a great coach could lack professional backing, it’s still worth noting as a possible red flag.
There was an entire chapter in the above mentioned course about how the medical world, speech therapy community and professional bodies had all turned down his methods when he approached them for an endorsement. The retort for that was “Oh, they have seriously missed out now because I’ve now worked with [insert mega music icon]”.
Most open-minded vocal coaches will be able to spot a clanger when they see one. You should absolutely run it by one if you have an inkling that it could be damaging you. Your 30 day money back guarantee should be claimed if it’s a dud!
The Ideal Scenario
You may have had voice training in the past and be fairly well versed in how you should sound. You are best placed to take on voice training systems and discern between the tosh and the tools. Better still, the program may also have some way of measuring your voice before you train so you get prescribed the correct stuff.
I’ve only met a few people in my career who have gone even more ‘ideal’ than that. They had a lesson, every day, for a few years! It’s crazy expensive, but insane results ensue. Click here to visit the National Lotto if you want to explore that avenue.
Back to reality
For us mere mortals, we have to educate ourselves to do that job occasionally. The internet can be full of dodgy information, so spend time finding yourself a good coach. Use that coach to provide you with feedback. Someone who you can pop in and see every now and again to make sure you’re on the right track. There isn’t a person in the world who won’t move forward quicker with regular live feedback.
That way, you’ll spend your money wisely and get the best possible outcome from an online voice training system. Over time, you’ll also develop a great ear. That’s the key to being able to work well in these systems without getting your fingers burnt.
Saying all that, just make sure you buy our online voice training systems whenever they’re released (super massive wink face).
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