So you've decided to learn how to sing. That's fantastic! But wait...now what?
Whether you are completely new to singing or an experienced singer who'd like to improve your technique, it can be tricky to know where to start. So to make things a little easier, I have pulled together a few pointers based on my experience as a voice teacher working with people of all ages and abilities over the last two decades.
1. Set yourself a clear goal
In addition to being fun and good for your health and wellbeing, there are lots of reasons to learn how to sing. It will be helpful for you to think a little bit about why you want to sing and what your aspirations are.
For example, you might want to:
sing in a band or join a choir
make a recording
perform more confidently at karaoke or at a loved one's special occasion
pass a music exam
audition for a course
take the first steps toward making singing your profession
Whatever your reason is (and the list above is definitely not exhaustive!), it's important to set a clear performance goal to motivate you to stick with your resolution. It also makes it easy to tailor vocal training when you work with a voice teacher.
2. Learn how your voice works
Singing advice can be confusing and contradictory, partly because most parts of the voice are hidden from sight. You can get ahead of the game and clear up misunderstandings before they arise by learning some vocal anatomy and physiology.
A bit like having an owner's manual for your voice, it will pay off to know exactly what you are dealing with. The more you know, the more interesting choices you can make in your artistry.
Looking around for one-off vocal workshops to attend is a great place to start, either online or in your local area. My own teaching, which includes introductory and deep dive vocal workshops, is based on the Estill Model. This approach offers scientific, evidence-based, easy to grasp information that should be the foundation of any training.
3. Work with a voice coach
Teaching yourself singing with the help of blogs, books or videos on YouTube can only take you so far. Why? Because you may be unaware of your own habits and how they are holding you back.
Like a personal trainer, a vocal coach can help you pinpoint exactly what areas of your voice need training as you prepare for your performance goal. And because learning to sing involves more than just singing itself, a vocal coach can also help you identify other areas that need work. For example:
changing your posture
improving your musical ear
understanding and pronouncing foreign languages
building acting skills
Focusing on each one of these areas can improve your voice straight away, but you will benefit the experience and guidance of a vocal professional to help you identify and then apply them to you and your artistry.
Kickstart your voice
Sometimes committing to one particular activity is the most difficult part of the process, so it's amazing that you have decided to learn how to sing. Like any other new year's resolution, however, you need to find ways to help you stick to it.
Understanding what you want to do with your singing is a really useful place to start. You can use this information to set concrete goals and start building a support structure that will help you succeed. This could include increasing your knowledge about the voice and finding a vocal coach who can work regularly with you to take your singing forward.
Learning to sing is a fantastic, life-long journey of discovery, but even a short course of singing lessons with focused content can give you the kickstart you need. The most important thing of all is to start today!
Good luck and happy singing!
Stefan Holmström is a professional opera singer and voice teacher working with speakers and singers of all ages and abilities with a wide range of goals. He offers online and in-person vocal coaching and workshops from his studio in central Brighton in the UK. As an Estill Master Trainer (EMT), Stefan uses Estill Voice Training (EVT) as a baseline for safe and sustainable voice use.