Music inspires us and, if you are reading this, you almost certainly have a passion for music. The sounds of Africa fill our hearts like birds in song announcing another day. The stories of our culture and history are captured in folk songs, and music has certainly become part of our daily lives. It moves us emotionally and give us an opportunity to reflect or dream.
Do you want to learn how to express yourself and tell stories by using your singing voice? Maybe you have always dreamt of singing at a special event or on-stage, but can you sing and do you know how to sing?
A lot of people are initially shy about their singing voices. They have a desire to sing, but feel uncertain and some are even convinced they can’t sing. The good news and reality is that almost anyone can sing by taking singing lessons from a professional vocal coach. But, just like anything that is worthwhile, this is a process and will take effort from your side.
"Birds sing not because they have answers but because they have songs." - African Proverb
Before you start your singing lessons or your journey to discovering your singing voice, it helps to understand why you would want to learn to sing. In this article we explore some of the more common reasons why people would want to sing. Hopefully you will also discover how a vocal coach can be your secret weapon to realising your dream to sing from the heart.
Discover The Art of Singing
Singing is such a big part of our African heritage and sometimes we can get intimidated by the amount of talent that surrounds us. Along with folk songs, stories are passed on in music by our ancestors and easily flow from through family lines and tribes. Some of us, however, might be a bit worried about our singing and whether we actually know how to sing properly.
Similar to learning language, we learn to sing by copying the sounds and tones we hear from other people. If you listen carefully you will hear how certain singing habits or sounds are associated with certain communities and music genres. It is this ability to form sounds that are specifically in key that enables someone to sing songs in the correct way.
Have you ever heard someone singing and something just doesn’t sound right or it doesn’t blend well with other voices or musical instruments? This usually happens if someone is not singing in key. They are probably singing slightly lower or higher in pitch to the required note and it makes you notice something is off. Singing lessons will certainly cover how you sing on key and with the help of a voice coach you will train your ear to hear when you are on or off key. This is one of the basic requirements as you learn to sing.
The more you learn about singing, the more you will realise just how much there is to concentrate on when you sing. Not only are you focusing on the sounds you are making, but also on your pitch, breath control and the story or message you are conveying.
All at the same time!
There is no secret to finding your singing voice, it requires focus and a lot of practise.
Singing is a physically demanding activity and the first few times you take lessons you may be surprised at how out of breath you become. You will be using muscles than you are not used to using and it will take a lot of preparation and training to get to the place where you are able to sing with greater ease.
With singing lessons you will exercise your vocal cords and all the required muscles to develop a fitness and muscle memory that will help you make clear and consistent sounds when you sing. An experienced singing teacher will also teach you how to prevent vocal cord injuries, something some of the most famous singers, like Adele and Freddy Mercury, have. struggled with.
A good singing coach will show you how to sing by exposing you to a range of vocal exercises and techniques. Each of them addressing some of the following key fundamentals of singing:
- Singing on pitch/on key and what singing flat or sharp sounds like
- Vowel forming and mouth positioning for the perfect sound
- Placement of sound in your body to create a ‘head voice’ or a ‘chest voice’
- Vocal health, how to warm-up and take care of your voice
- Music theory and reading music (spot reading will allow you to sing on the spot just by reading the notes on a page and takes years of practise)
- Physical fitness and muscle development required for singing
- Relaxation and body positioning to sing from a neutral space
- The different types of breathing and using diaphragmatic breathing when singing
- Straight tone sound and the usage of the vibrato
- Belting, falsetto and other voice techniques
- Increasing your vocal range (being able to sing those high notes and very low notes).
These are only some of the vocal techniques that will help you work towards finding your best singing voice when you learn to sing. Not all vocal coaches are experienced and able to cover all these technical areas and you should try to find one that matches your ambitions or reasons for wanting to learn how to sing.
Becoming a Professional Singer
You might be dreaming about standing on stage with thousands of adoring fans singing along to a song you recently released. Performing in front of people is an exhilarating experience and there is nothing like a live performance where you only have that one chance to make a lasting impression.
Becoming a professional means you have to make a different level of commitment to the art. You have to master all the skills and delve deep into fully utilising your vocal instrument. But that’s not where your commitment will stop, you will also cover a variety of other areas to make you an actual performer and not only a singer.
This is where the storytelling and performance art comes in. Something that could make certain artists rise above others, as their fans fall in love with their public and stage personality.
Current reality television shows like X-Factor, South Africa’s Got Talent and SA Idols might have you thinking that people get discovered and they’ve instantly "made it" in the music industry. If you watch shows like The Voice you will hear how many of those artists have actually been working for years without achieving fame.
The reality of becoming a professional singer is a hard one and you must possess large amounts of passion, resilience and patience to actually make it in the industry. The best advice is to balance your ambitions with your love for singing. This way you can do small shows to keep your passion alive and build your skills and confidence, while you work towards achieving your dream.
"The only thing better than singing, is more singing."
- Ella Fitzgerald
Stage fright is something that challenges most performers and tightens up you muscles and vocal cords, affecting your singing in a negative way. An experienced vocal coach will be able to provide guidance on how you can navigate the challenges around singing publicly while also working in the performance industry.
Can you sing Rock songs, but also produce a classical opera sound? Most famous singers explored a range of genres in the process of discovering their own voices. It is this ability to truly interpret the tone, sound and ‘feeling’ of a genre that makes a true skilled performer rise to the top.
When you learn to sing on a professional level you will curiously delve into different genres to explore the capabilities and limits of your voice. You might also mix the sound of different styles and create a unique sound that will help you stand out from the thousands of aspirational singers in the business.
The best way of exploring your passion to sing professionally is to enlist the help of the right mentor and vocal coach and start singing lessons. Maybe they can help you to prepare for a small event like a performance in a jazz club or at a family member’s birthday party. This way you have a specific goal to focus on and can get your feet wet in a slightly more relaxed stage setting.
Can You Sing Just for Fun?
As singers we sometimes focus so much on getting it right that we forget the most important part in learning how to sing – the pure enjoyment in expressing ourselves through song. Every person who continues their exploration towards finding their singing voice would have started their journey because they have a love for singing and story-telling.
Singing is something we can enjoy ourselves as we get transported to other worlds, releasing emotions and completely disappearing in the ‘moment’ that is captured by that song.
Singing is also an activity made for sharing and most singers will find great joy in sharing their talent with others.
You can sing on your own or find a choir to sing and share with. It's almost guaranteed that if you sing out of a real love for singing, your contagious passion will automatically attract and involve more people. Just think back to moments where you were watching a performer who got completely lost in the story. Even if they are singing a sad song, you feel that deep down they are doing exactly what they love and are passionate about.
If you sing for the fun of it, you are fortunate and able to sing songs with a message you love.
Singing for fun means you can work at your own pace and it has never been easier to find the songs you love in today’s digital age. You can find backing tracks and songs that will suit your voice and express the emotional experiences you associate with. You can also spend time on YouTube to research how people interpret the same song in different ways and add their own personalities and flavour to it.
You could learn to sing on key here.
Whatever the Reason, Make Your Heart Sing
Whether you love moving people emotionally, want to become a famous singer on the global stage, enjoy tackling some of the most complicated and challenging songs, or believe you are born to sing, your love for music is reason enough for you to learn to sing.
Finding singing teachers in your area is easy with tutoring platforms, and most of them offer online vocal training or online lessons. Some voice teachers, like those on Superprof, might even give you a free singing lesson so you can experience their style and see if it's a good fit.
"Singing connects the mind with the heart and the heart with the soul. So sing. I dare you!" – Neal Donald Walsch
Most importantly, ensure you find a voice teacher with the skills to match your personal passion. Not only will they show you how to sing from the heart, they will also speed up your journey towards finding your real singing voice.