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Spooky, Jocko. I was thinking of posting a thread on this very subject today, with pretty much the same content.
I am certain that lessons would help just as they help with your guitar playing, having someone to spot the mistakes and guide you to do certain correct things that had never occurred to you.
Serious suggestion - join a choir! Can be great fun, and you don't have to be a great singer as long as you're in tune - I've been in choirs, and it's a real buzz.
I've been in choirs, and it's a real buzz.
Maybe try adjusting your truss rod Megi.
I think it's buggered tbh, over-tightened it once, and now it's snapped and gone all loose...
I took a short course of "singing lessons" many years ago. If you have a reasonable "natural" voice to start with (I don't particularly) then it's a great start.
I think a lot of people have this vision of being taught endless scales. However, a good teacher will actually work with you on the "feel" of singing. It's about utilising the body's natural acoustic cavities rather than just singing from the vocal chords/throat (which I always did before the lessons and always found my voice going after 30 minutes of so). And then exercises on how to practice getting the right note first time without wavering up or down to the desired note.
And then it's about practice (which if done right will also extend your range). End of the day the voice is just as much and instrument as the guitar. Sure a virtuoso guitarist can probably put in a blistering performance after not playing for a while, but for most mortals that's not the case. Same with singing - if the effort isn't made to practice singing regularly then the desired results won't be achieved (and that's not just belting out a few songs). Since taking up guitar again a year ago, I also re instituted my vocal exercises - half an hour commute in the car every weekday.
To be honest, unless you're looking at getting into opera, it's not so much singing lessons, but more vocal coaching and then vocal exercises. I'd thoroughly recommend finding a teacher and have a few coaching sessions.
I've found that the two things that have (both temporarily) improved my singing the most were (1) practicing singing along with a couple of exercises from one of Roger Love's books daily. These were just simple arpeggios going up a half step at a time. And (2) learning to breath properly whilst doing (1).
When I applied these two things religiously for a while I noticed a distinct improvement in my tone and ability to hold notes steady for longer.
Alas, finding time to do these things regularly is very tricky and I don't like to do them around other people so i have to wait for an empty house - and as the lad's finished school and the girl's finished uni' this doesn't happen very often.
Plus I don't think my breathing's that great. Used to have very bad ashtma (made worse by breathing in some bad dust in my twenties) and it's taken me along time to get back to 'normal' but when I try singing I can definitely feel the lack of capacity.
That said, I know I could improve if I put the work in, and when the kids have got full-time jobs and are out of the house again I might get back to it...
I'm a chronic asthmatic - if I didn't take the pills and the inhalers for a couple of days I'd be in hospital PDQ. However, within the constraints of my breathing limitations I keep myself fit. However, if I leave off my fitness regime for a week (a simple cold, if it goes to my chest, can lay me flat) I find that my singing goes really off. Yet straight after warm down after exercise my voice really is at it's best. So future gig gear will include instruments, amps, and a cross trainer (or a cross dresser if it's a Wednesday night).
A good singing voice has a natural and desirable timbre. An ear for music (intonation) is critical and if you don't have it then it can't be taught.
Volume can be helped by breathing but again, some people are just born with natural projection. You can train this or use microphones to supplement.
Range can be trained to an extent but there are limits to this too. It's important to pick songs in the right key for you or transpose them to suit.
What I'm saying is this. I have reasonable timbre, good intonation, ok range. I spent lots of money and time with different teachers but to not much effect.
I learned it all and my voice is BORING ! But at least I know it.
Like many things if you have it you have it. No amount of training will bring you talent. Singing teachers may bring some improvement with expression, the formation of vowels... the use of head/chest/belly, breathing and timing. I highly recommend the practice of recording and listening to your work a few days later for an objective view.
I suppose many would say that Seasick Steve et al can't sing for toffee. But his voice is perfect for his music. Perhaps finding the right music for your voice is more of an answer than seeking to train it into something it isn't. A pity then if you, Jocko, turn out to be the world's greatest falsetto - something which I get the impression is not your thang.
Above all else you must be prepared to lose ALL inhibition (I hasten NOT self awareness.) A person who is unable to emote in front of others will never be a good singer.
Sadly for most of us singing ain't going to happen. That's why there are always more musicians than singers. Front vocals anyway. In many ways the backing vocal can be difficult too because you're always reaching for the third or fifth instead of the obvious melody line.
Jocko, If you have a good enough ear to pick out melodies and chords on guitar you have more than a good enough ear for singing. Pitch is purely a matter of practice, and easier to achieve if you already play an instrument because you can practice singing through playing in unison.
Treat your voice as you would any instrument. Firstly work out the techniques. Here I think there's no substitute for 121 lessons/coaching because bad technique will a) not produce good results, and more importantly b) potentially lead to vocal cord damage/nodules etc. Unlike a guitar (six strings nailed onto a piece of wood) everyone's vocal physiology will be different and a one size fits all YouTube/DVD approach is unlikely to cut the mustard.
Then it's a case of practice like you would any other instrument. In the same way that if you don't keep up on guitar practice you lose the nuances, timing and muscle memory, the same is true of singing - the vocal cords are also muscle that needs to be regularly exercised for the purpose that you want to use them for - ordinary speech is different from singing.
In the same way that someone's guitar playing can be boring then it's true that a voice can be boring. But that can be overcome through development of technique and a style that suits your voice. If you've already recorded your voice (which when you play back probably sounds completely different to how you normally hear it through internal vibrations) find someone whose music you like that has a similar voice and then work out what vocal techniques and chops they use to raise it above the mundane. I might have mentioned this before, but as an example if you listen to Richard Thompson and analyse his singing he has a very limited vocal range (most guitarists only listen to the guitar parts!). But he obviously understands that and works within that limitation to very good effect turning something that could be boring into his own immediately identifiable vocal style.
It can be done - I've done it, especially recognising I naturally have a fairly nasal vocal sound and worked hard at extending my lower range and projecting it at higher volume (difficult to do without coaching on the technique and understanding how the different resonance cavities impact this) to overcome a weedy nasal sound and to then use combinations of straight notes and vibrato to add interest. After a year back playing guitar I'm just getting back some of my vocal qualities as well, having put as much work into that as I have guitar. Interestingly I've also found that my voice has naturally deepened since 25 odd years ago when I was in my late twenties. But as usual with anything music, you have to put the work in to rise above the nondescript.
Thanks for all the great responses guys. My biggest problem with my voice seems to be lack of range. I appreciate that I will just have to find what key suits and if it turns out to be Eb, tough. Another of my problems is neither of the Mrs J's have give me any encouragement to sing (says it all really) so I have become rather shy about giving it a try.
Stick me in the car, with some C&W on the radio and I will belt it out, but that is about it.
And that there is a point. If I sing loud my voice is not too bad, but if I try to turn the volume down I end up like a toad in a mud hole.
Still, you have given me plenty food for thought. I will certainly look out for a voice coach in my area and see what they have to say. Thanks again.
My range is very limited, too. I can just about get to a D - as per the second string / third fret. Although I can get down to a low E. So not quite two octaves. But they're low octaves. Most popular music seems to be written for higher singers. But as already stated above - we have what we have and it's how we learn to use it that's important.Alas, I haven't learnt much in that regard yet
The good news is that my favourite male vocalist at the moment is Jeffrey Foucault - maybe because of the songs as much as the voice, but the two (the great songs and the vocal stylings) compliment each other perfectly. A bit like Kristofferson in the early days. And it feels like it might be achievable... As opposed to wanting to sing like, say, Paul McCartney. Which would be nice, but clearly never achievable for me and my range. Quite a fan of John Fogerty too - another whose voice and songs were a perfect fit.
Don't think it's a case of "singing like", it's just the songs.
Most singers don't use all their range on all their songs - so just pick the ones where you can transpose to your range.
Personally, being a folkie, I've previously often sung unaccompanied (or unaccomplished - the viewpoint probably depends if you are me or the audience). One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was never pick up an instrument to work out he accompaniment until you've nailed how you want the vocals to sound (a strand of what Kevin was saying about imparting emotion). Then develop the guitar (or whatever instrument) part(s) to complement the vocal, not the other way round,
That won't work for everyone but I've never done any purely instrumental pieces beyond just bedroom noodling - performances have always been songs. But if you are more of an instrumentalist rather than a singist, the natural tendency is to get in the comfort zone and work out the guitar part first, which can then be a bit of a bugger to add vocals to - do it the other way round is my opinion (which of course is worth exactly what you paid for it).
The other thing I meant to add to my previous ramblings is also to concentrate on articulation/diction. It's something I've also struggled with even in normal speech. On the few songs I've heard from Derek that he's posted here I have to say his word articulation is excellent - nothing worse than someone singing and you can't make out the words. A couple of classics:
Bobby Vee "Oh a tree in motion......"
CCR: "There's a bathroom on the right...."
I always thought Hendrix sang "'Scuse me whilst I kiss this guy"
Jocko, just a thought and an extra idea to the excellent info above, try a speech therapist, or somebody that teaches 'public speaking'. (Obviously with the final goal in mind being singing. Letting them know that before you go. One session should be enough to establish if you speak clearly enough for your singing.)
Several reasons why but importantly, if you can clearly pronounce song lyrics in the first place, you have a better chance of being able to sing. It's no good even if you CAN sing, if people can't understand a word you're saying!
As an 'ampshire 'og who needed elocution lessons, (insisted on by my parents who couldn't understand a word I said - which I renamed 'electrocution lessons' because I didn't want to go), they were actually the best thing I ever did.
I learnt to speak clearly, breath properly, hold my body correctly, etc!
When I came to wanting to sing, a large proportion of what I needed was already there!
I came across a couple of names for tutors who do Drama, Public Speaking and Singing, here in Fife.
Presumably after 15th September you might not be striving for perfecting the Queen's English?
She will still be our Queen whatever happens. Personally I am living in hope but expecting to die in despair.