Whether you’re a seasoned soprano or can’t seem to sing a single note in tune, this week at Musical U is for you.
From advice to the supposedly “tone-deaf” to some inspiring revelations for experienced vocalists, this week is all about making the world of singing a little bit less intimidating.
Mexico’s King of Pop
Few Latin pop stars broke as many barriers, released as many hit singles, and left as big a mark on the genre as Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel.
The man’s greatest talent was his hard-to-imitate voice – this was his starting point for his songwriting process, in which he would compose a melody with accompanying lyrics, and then fit the arrangement to his vocals. When Mexican five-piece indie rock band Canvas decided to cover his 1980 hit “Yo No Nací Para Amar”, they understood the need to keep the vocals of the song center-stage.
Learn how Canvas conserved Juan’s melodic genius while putting their own unique spin on the tune in Before and After: Covering Juan Gabriel.
Many musicians start out their careers by performing cover songs exclusively. Learning classic songs from successful musicians can have a tremendous impact to your ability to create your own fantastic music in the future. Emily Dolan Davies explains how this was the turning point in her musical career.
Arranging music is as much an art form as composing the melody! There are many different approaches that you can take when composing the arrangement for your cover song. How can you get started? Stan Stewart from Muz 4 Now describes two approaches to arranging, and compares the benefits of each.
The original composition was based off the melody that Juan wrote. Composers frequently will write the melody first, and the chord progressions and other instrumentation later. But what if you don’t have an instrument handy? Can you write with just your internal music audiation? Jon from The Art of Composing takes you through this process.
Debunking Vocal Myths
There sure is a lot of folklore circulating in the vocal world. Though some of the more ridiculous myths have long ago been dispelled, others persist, passed on from teacher to student without anyone peeking behind the curtain and looking at the relevant research to see if the knowledge holds up.
If you’ve ever been told that there is only one “correct” way to sing, or if you’ve ever blamed your vocal damage on bad technique, this is for you:
In 5 Myths About Singing: Debunked!, Molly’s Music founder and vocal teacher Molly Webb digs into five common-yet-untrue myths about singing, and gives you the truth about how you should be practicing to achieve your vocal goals.
Perhaps the most pervasive vocal myth is that being a singer is a talent that people are born with. This is fundamentally untrue. Singing is a skill that takes years of practice to master. For an inspired take on this, K-pop Vocalists’ Vocal Analyses explains why singing isn’t merely a talent, but also a skill.
Is there a “right” genre of music to start studying to help you become a good singer? The short answer is… no! If you want to improve your singing abilities, it may be a better approach to learn proper singing techniques rather than a specific genre. Chuck from Power to Sing explains in his mini-lesson.
Molly debunks the myths about singers and their diaphragms. After all, the diaphragm is the muscle that controls your breath, so you are always engaging this muscle when singing. However, we know that breath control is a very important aspect to being a singer. For some helpful tips on proper breathing for singers, voice guru Katarina H shares her three simple steps to inhaling effectively while singing.
Making Shy Guys Sing
George Bevan is a music teacher who specifically seeks out students who can’t sing.
To show them that they actually can.
Having dealt with “tone-deaf” students throughout his teaching career, George started seeking out ways to help them, experimenting and developing his own techniques for vocal training along the way. He even started a boys’ choir called “The Choir Who Can’t Sing”, and took them on to countless successful performances.
After years of success, George has started documenting his insights in his blog, Music@Monkton. He went on to help us here at Musical U with our Tone Deaf Test and SingTrue app. In Learning to Sing in Tune, with George Bevan, we sat down with George to chat about takeaways from his childhood music lessons, the benefits of making mistakes, the missing ingredient of many traditional choirs, and how he gives shy vocalists the confidence to express themselves.
George was such a pleasure to have on the podcast and we were very interested to gain his insights on vocal teaching. If you want to hear more from his vast experience, enjoy his unique take on why inner hearing is important (and how to develop it!).
George talked about his first experiences in the choir and having to learn to sight read. This was not always an easy task and he shared that he actually failed Grade 5 sight reading! If you are struggling, or perhaps don’t fully read music yet, Molly at The Prepared Performer has some exercises that will really help you get started.
George continues to battle the perception that some people “just can’t sing”. Through his methodology, he was able to consistently prove that anyone can sing! Audrey Hunt explains how we were all born to sing, and addresses some ridiculous reasons people may be led to believe they can’t.
Sing in Tune: Your First Step
Fact: actual tone-deafness is rare. “Tone deaf” describes an inability to distinguish between differences in pitch.
A more likely explanation for your singing difficulties is that you’re having a hard time staying in tune. Fortunately, this ability can be learned with the appropriate practice.
However, you have to walk before you can run, and a lot of people skip several steps when trying to learn to sing in tune. Think you can’t sing? Look to this week’s podcast episode About Finding Your Note to show you the first step to singing in tune.
A great way to begin developing your musical ear is by embracing the concept of relative pitch. While perfect pitch may seem like the better ideal, relative pitch is far more attainable and infinitely more useful. The Music Studio explains the benefits of relative pitch and how it’s different from perfect pitch.
Christopher shared a great lesson for finding a pitch from the Musical U SingTrue app. There are many other exercises that you can use that will help you to develop your musical ear and begin to perfect your own sense of relative pitch. The Music Training Club offers another fantastic exercise for this.
Many of our fantastic students join Musical U convinced that they can’t sing… and that they may in fact be “tone deaf”, when all they need is a little training. Fearless Singer explains why you can sing and hear pitches.
Your Vocal Journey
To encourage you to kick off (or continue!) your singing journey in a fun way, we found this fun quiz from our friends at TakeLessons.com. Enjoy!
For many aspiring musicians (or even pro musicians who are primarily instrumentalists), the vocal world can be an intimidating one. However, if a group of shy teenage boys can take to the stage and belt out a beautiful tune, there’s no reason you can’t take those daring first few steps to learning to sing in tune.
So find your note, ignore the vocal rumor mill, take a cue from Juan Gabriel, and put your voice front and center in your next musical masterpiece!
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