By Nathan Straub
When I first began learning how to sing, my imagination was limited in understanding what the voice was capable of doing. In fact, like most people I believed that great singers were born with skill and everybody else made due with mediocrity. As I later learned at college, this is simply not the case.
All throughout college, and at no fault to my incredible voice teacher, I struggled with my voice. It was too small, couldn’t sing big enough high notes, and wouldn’t last longer than a few songs before wimping out. While I was practicing late one evening, I had a crazy thought. What if people who had naturally beautiful voices were just used to using their voices the right way, and everybody else had it wrong to start with? What if beautiful singers were told from day one that their natural voices were beautiful, and so they didn’t need to worry about sounding “bad?” Meanwhile, everybody else was judged with critical opinions and have since added negative habits in order to counteract the harsh reactions that other people have given them. Habits such as a tense tongue, tightened jaw, or raised eyebrows can yield tightness in voices that sounds strong in the singer’s ears but strained in all others.
These questions made me decide to try singing “badly” and listen to what happened. At first this was very difficult because I normally will fix my voice as I’m singing. But once I started to just cover my ears and sing as effortlessly as possible, I immediately noticed a huge change. Difficult passages came out effortlessly. High notes soared for twice as long, and didn’t grow tight over time. I could sing gigantic arias with very little strain on the voice. It was like a miracle!
My discovery (which took place at 2:00am during finals when I should have been writing my history paper) led me on a journey of personal acceptance that has since allowed me to find real peace with my own voice. In fact, I believe that a big step for all young singers (and some older ones, too!) is to accept the voice that you have been given. If you can sincerely believe your voice is a gift, then its beauty will come out in some amazing ways!
Here are some methods you can try with your own voice:
- Cover your ears and experiment. Try singing a siren and listening to how your voice feels at the extreme parts of your range. What happens in the middle? Next, play with singing your favorite song but covering your ears. Does it feel easier to sing? Try recording both sounds and compare the two!
- This one is a little cheesy, but it worked wonders for me! Look in a mirror and tell yourself you have a beautiful voice. Not because you’re some super diva who needs to have their ego charged, but because you have been given a gift. If you can’t learn to love your voice, then how can you expect anybody else? Plus, it is way more fun to sing once you’ve accepted the instrument that you were given. Take my word for it!
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. It is not your job to sound like a professional, even if that is your aspiration! People don’t become great singers by trying to be something they’re not (although it’s a great way to hold yourself back). Instead, take a step back and enjoy the process. Nobody becomes great overnight, and learning how to sing is as much about the struggle as it is about the accomplishments. Have fun!