As you’re learning to sing, you’ll likely have a lot of questions. And don’t worry, that’s what your voice teacher is there for! Once you’ve got the basics down, though, you might realize some of your beginner questions were a little…well… silly! Here, teacher Elaina R. answers some of the common questions and lays some rumors to rest…
As a voice teacher, I get asked some pretty weird questions about singing. In fact, I get so many that I decided to write an article about it! Here are the weirdest questions students ask voice teachers – and the answers you may have been wondering about yourself — that can help you become a better singer.
Let’s start with this eye-opening question. First of all, I hate it when people talk about singing from the diaphragm. Steve Martin reportedly popularized the phrase “sing from the diaphragm” in his comedy sketches, and he isn’t exactly an authority on the voice. There are three major muscle groups involved in breathing, and this statement discounts two of them.
Secondly, hunching over definitely does not help with proper breathing! Hunching over collapses the torso, reducing the volume of air that you can breathe in. Here’s a helpful infographic on proper breathing and posture.
No, it’s a sharp. Learning the basics of reading music (including key signatures, note values, and the two basic clefs) makes you much more flexible as a singer. Check out my introduction to reading music to get started!
Nope. Women can’t be tenors, but I don’t blame you for getting confused. Voice types are hard to define, and the many subsections and qualifiers make it a convoluted topic. The two basic voice types for women are soprano and mezzo-soprano (known as alto in choral settings). Check out this introduction to voice types to learn more.
No, it doesn’t. Tilting your head up actually strains your neck, making it more difficult to sing. Go ahead and stretch your head up, then try talking. Do you hear how strained your voice sounds? That’s exactly what happens when you try to sing in this position.
No, no, no! I’ve had students get faint during lessons because they didn’t have enough to eat beforehand. I’ve actually had to feed one student during a lesson! While it’s true that the stomach is right under the diaphragm (an important breathing muscle) and that going to a buffet immediately before a lesson isn’t a good idea, please don’t starve yourself.
My small stature (I am five feet tall) has made me a target of the “you have such a loud voice for such a small person!” comment ever since I can remember. But in actuality, just like the general population, opera singers come in all shapes and sizes. Singers of my voice type (coloratura soprano) are often my size.
Remember how the stomach is located directly under the diaphragm? Deep breathing compresses many of your organs, including the stomach. This causes some people to burp. To avoid excessive burping during your voice lessons, don’t drink anything carbonated on your way to class.
These questions get their own category because I have gotten so many of them. Here are some of the strangest ones:
- Is singing in head voice bad for you?
- Is head voice “fake singing”?
- Does chest voice come from your chest?
Head voice and chest voice are just the two main registers of the human voice. They both come from the vocal cords, not the actual head and chest (names can be deceptive). And no, neither of them is bad for you.
Bring On The Weird Questions
Don’t worry: weird questions about the voice are good! There isn’t a lot of reliable vocal information out there, and airing out your strangest queries can help you learn about your voice. So don’t be afraid to ask your voice teacher about any of your vocal musings; the answers may help you become a better singer!
Photo by U.S. Army