Many aspiring pop singers have this daily routine that looks somewhat like this.
- 15 minutes of lip trills, tongue trills and singing scales
- practicing pop songs while singing through the diaphragm
- while singing with chest, head, mix and belt -voice.
In this article I’ll share with you why these practices don’t work for many aspiring pop singers.
Plus, what to do instead to achieve the pop voice you want and get good at singing with it, once and for all.
Singers sing scales for many reasons, but mostly to accomplish one or more of the following 3 things.
1. Gain high notes
2. Train their singing voice
3. Warm up their singing voice
Let’s go over them one by one.
Singing Scales to Gain High Notes
In the singing world scales have this sort of mythical status.
But if you think about it, singing a scale is just singing notes; like you’d do in a song.
And just like singing songs scales can be quite challenging.
Nevertheless, many singers believe that by singing scales, they’ll gain high notes.
But that would be the same as telling a singer who can’t sing high notes to start singing Ariana Grande songs!
It doesn’t make sense and it could be dangerous even.
Singing Scales to Train the Singing Voice
Many aspiring pop singers believe that it’s a good idea to train their singing voice, by singing scales.
However, I don’t believe it’s beneficial for aspiring pop singers who still have to find their pop voice.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great form of training for singers who have found their pop voice, and want to program it even deeper into their muscle memory.
However, many aspiring pop singers do this form of training from the get-go, with the sound they currently have.
As a result, they only program that sound deeper into their muscle memory.
Plus, they get better at singing with that sound, instead of the sounds they really want to sing with…
I believe it’s better to first activate the sounds you want to sing with and then program it deeper into your muscle memory, by singing scales.
Singing Scales as a Warm-Up
Lastly, many singers sing scales to warm up their singing voice.
But if you consider that singing scales is just singing notes, does it really matter what your warmup your singing voice with?
I would say, pick an easy song you love, or a part of a song that’s not challenging, after that a more challenging one and so forth.
In addition to this being just as effective as singing a scale I believe it’s way more fun and enjoyable to practice like this.
Especially when you’re still in the process of shaping your sound and learning how to sing in general.
The Chest, Head, Mix and Belt-Voice -Framework
This is the next practice I believe prevents you from finding your pop voice.
Before we get into what goes wrong when singers apply it, we must understand a bit more about it’s history.
The earliest recorded mention of the term chest-voice was, according to this Wikipedia article, around the 13th century.
And that’s where the problems with this framework start.
As you can imagine, the understanding of our human anatomy has increased over the past two hundred years.
Plus, as stated in the article, singers and singing teachers alike don’t even agree on what it’s supposed to sound like!
Although some interpretations of chest-voice are more common than others, this makes it confusing for everyone.
The same goes for Head-Voice.
The earliest recorded mention of the term Head-Voice was, according to this Wikipedia article, around AD 95.
But again, the understanding of our human anatomy has increased over the past two hundred years.
And as stated in the article; the use of the term head register has even become controversial…
But it gets worse.
This is because someone at some point thought it was a good idea to put Head and Chest -voice into a blender and call it Mix-Voice.
Mix-voice is commonly believed to bridge the gap between Chest and Head -Voice.
You see, according to what I believe is the most common interpretation of Chest-Voice, the sound of it contains much density/weight/intensity.
However, the downside is that it’s hard/impossible to sing high notes with this version of Chest-Voice.
When singers try to, many find that their singing voice starts to sound weak, squeaky or like it ‘breaks’.
On the other hand, what is most commonly thought of as Head-Voice can be used on high notes.
However, the downside of this version of Head-Voice is that it lacks that density/weight/intensity of Chest-Voice.
Mixing the two would create a Head-Voice with that weight/density/intensity to its sound.
Plus, since it’s Head-Voice it we should be able to use it on high notes.
In theory, this sounds like a great solution, right?
In reality there are 2 common problems singers run into when singing high notes with Mix-Voice.
The first problem is this.
Since this mix between Head and Chest -Voice waters-down the density, weight, or intensity of Chest-Voice; singers end up with high notes that sound fragile compared to their low to middle notes.
Instead of a more intense or impactful version of their general singing voice.
The second problem…
…is that Head-Voice oftentimes ends up having a classical or musical theater sound.
Which as an aspiring pop singer, is the last thing you want!
Consequently, singers end up trying to mitigate that by:
- masking the sound of Head-Voice
- strengthening their Head-Voice
- or making their high notes sound more like Chest-Voice.
Lucky for us, singing powerful high notes in a pop style, can be way easier to achieve.
The big ‘aha’ only a few seem to talk about…
…is that most of todays pop singers sing with sounds that are way easier to sing with, than most other sounds.
These are sounds that anyone can make.
Plus, they can be used on low, middle and high notes.
One of these sounds has that density/weight/intensity to it that many singers want to bring forth when singing high notes.
Making it possible to achieve powerful high notes that simply sound like a more intense version of your overall singing voice.
We’ve come to the last bundle of practices that keep many aspiring pop singers from finding their pop voice.
Lip trills, tongue trills & singing through the diaphragm.
As you might know, singers and teachers focus much of their practice on the amount of air used, while singing.
This is where exercises like this come in:
· lip trills
· tongue trills
· humming through a straw
· tensing and relaxing certain muscles in the belly and torso.
The goal of these exercises is to end up singing through the diaphragm.
This is supposed to help singers get a feel for how much air to hold on to or let go of while making sound.
Which muscles to use to do that.
Plus, how much power those muscles need to use at what moment.
Applying this mechanism results in:
- being able to sing safely without strain
- to sing louder and higher without strain
- long notes and sentences without getting out of breath
- and to improve the sound of your singing voice altogether.
But here’s where it oftentimes goes wrong.
Since singers practice this mechanism with the sound that happens to come out of their mouth while doing that lip trill, tongue trill; they learn to attach or associate these sensations to what that sound needs to function.
Instead of the sounds they want to sing with.
Even worse, when they practice this mechanism completely divorced from making sound, in the case of hissing, they simply don’t learn how much power is needed when actually singing.
Moreover, when singers apply this mechanism randomly while singing it’s not surprising that mistakes happen impacting their sound quality.
For example, when singers try to sing impactful sounding high notes, they easily overdo it.
As a result, their high notes are louder but the sound itself thins out so much that it’s anything but impactful anymore.
This was my experience too.
My already thin and uninteresting sound got morphed into a louder but even thinner sounding version…
When I adopted a Sound-First Approach to singing, things turned around for the better.
The Sound-First Approach to Singing.
With the exception of the chest, head, mix and belt -voice framework, most of the singing techniques we’ve talked so far are designed to help singers sing better.
Not to help singers find their pop voice.
As a result, singers only learn to sing better with the sound they currently have.
All the while they’re hoping for that (slow) shift towards what todays pop singers sing and sound like.
With a Sound-First Approach to singing you approach singing kind of backwards.
A Sound-First approach to singing is where you first activate the sounds todays pop singers sing with.
Then, you learn to activate this sound consistently.
As well as learning to sing safe and easy songs with it.
After that, you learn how to sing through the diaphragm with this sound.
Still on safe and easy songs so you get a feel for what this sound needs.
After that, it’s way easier to start singing more challenging songs and high notes with these new sounds.
I’ve found that this approach makes learning how to sing quicker and easier.
For advanced singers and beginners alike.
But also more fun because you’re learning to sing with the sounds todays pop singers sing with, from the get-go.
Now you know the practices preventing singers from finding their pop voice.
I hope that cleared some things up for you.
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