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Reality Check - Is That How Your Voice Really Sounds? How to Manage Your Expectations

 
When you’re new at something, you often don’t know what to expect or how well you’re going to do at it. You’re feeling a mixture of excitement, enthusiasm and anxiety.
 
When you’re new at singing, you’re often enthusiastic about it. You’re also anxious because in the past, people have told you that you don’t sound good. Or maybe you’re feeling a little insecure about your voice although many people have said that you had a good voice.
 
In any case, you decide to take singing lessons. You’ve seen how effortless those professionals singers make singing look.
 
And it should be, shouldn’t it? I mean, singing is just like an extension of speaking.
 
You’ve been speaking your whole life. You’ve been singing (in the shower) your whole life.
 
So, this should be a piece of cake, right? Well, not quite.
 
This is a very common mistake that beginner singers make.
 
They overestimate their current abilities and underestimate the time it takes to get better at singing.
 
They have a false sense of competence about their voice. This is fair enough because we don’t hear ourselves accurately.
 
For other people, when we speak/sing, our voice travels from our mouth, through the air, into the other person’s ears.
 
For ourselves, most of what we hear of our voice is through conduction. The vibrations of our voice are transferred to our ears through our skull, brain and other tissues. A small percentage of the vibrations travel from our mouth to our ears.
 
Often times, people who have a false sense of competence regarding their singing get a reality check when they listen to their singing on recording.
 
“Is that how I sound like?! It’s horrible...”  Sound familiar?
 

Why Should You Have Realistic Expectations

 
#1: You need to start where you are to get to where you want to go
 
Have an accurate idea of where you are before you start your journey is essential to getting to your destination in time.
 
Imagine looking at a map. You can find your destination on it but you don’t know where you are. How likely is that going to take you to where you want to go?
 
At the beginning of your singing journey, have an accurate picture of what you sound like when you sing.
 
You want to know what your strengths are. What areas do you need to improve? What do you like about your voice? What don’t you like?
 
Do you feel relaxed? Tensed?
 
Can you describe the tone color of your voice? How do you sound?
 
Do you know what your current range is? Your voice type?
 
#2: You’ll be less frustrated and more motivated to practice
 
Becoming a good singer takes a long time. Professional singers make it look easy because they’ve been training their whole lives.
 
Learning to sing well doesn’t need to be discouraging or frustrating.
 
Look at it as a journey.
Wherever you are in the journey, enjoy each step that you’re in. Have fun and enjoy your practice sessions.
 
Try not to worry too much about your end goal.
 
Focus on the process. Pay your dues and you’ll become a confident singer before you know it.
 
#3: You’ll be more likely to seek help when you need it
 
If you know what your areas of improvement are, you can start seeking the solutions to your vocal issues.
 
You’ll be better able to describe to your singing teacher. You’ll find solutions faster on the Internet.
 
Most of all, you’ll be more humble and open to feedback/guidance.
 

How to Have Realistic Expectations

 
#1: Record your singing (tone, range, strengths, areas of improvement)
 
This is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve never heard your voice on a recording before (whether video or audio), you’d probably be in for a shock.
 
If you think that this will turn you off singing forever, then it’s probably not a good idea to do it.
 
An alternative to this is to seek out a vocal coach. A qualified vocal coach can give you an accurate assessment of your voice. He/she can tell you what you’re good at and what you need to work on. A plan can be made to help you be a better singer.
 
Assuming you have the guts to record yourself singing and listen back to it. Well done.
 
Using either the voice recorder or camera or your phone, record yourself singing 2 songs. One low song and one high song. The low song should sit mainly in your lower/middle register. The high song should stretch your voice higher but not too high.
 
Listen to the recording. How would you describe your voice?
 
What do you like? What don’t you like?
 
Write those things down.
 
#2: Set small milestones (goals)
 
When I teach private lessons, I give a free introduction lesson to new students.
 
One of the first questions I ask is: “What do you want to get out of singing lessons?”
 
Sometimes, the student would have a pretty well defined goal. Sometimes, they might say: “I just want to sound better and not strain my voice when I sing”
 
Whatever it is, I want you to get clear on what you want to achieve as a singer (amateur or professional).
 
It can be singing for fun, auditioning for a role in a musical, singing around the campfire or just singing in front of your friends and being called a good singer.
 
That would be your major goal.
 
Then you want to set milestones to get you there.
 
Setting 90-day milestones are a good way to go about it.
 
People often overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in 90 days.
 
If it’s only 90 days, you have more control over your goals and be able to adjust more easily.
 
Here’s an example:
 
Major goal: sing around the campfire with confidence
 
90-day milestone: practice and fine tune 2 songs to performance ready stage
 
That means you have 45 days to perfect one song. If you keep it up for 1 year, by this time next year, you’ll be able to sing at least 8 songs around the campfire with confidence.
 
This may not sound like a lot but the better you get at singing, the quicker you’ll be able to learn songs.
 
Who knows, you may be able to learn more songs in less time as you go.
 
#3: Be open to feedback/constructive criticism
 
It’s a good idea to sing in front of people once you feel you have enough courage to do it. Even if the audience is just your mom and dad or your best friend.
 
It can even be a vocal coach.
 
Ask for their honest opinion. Tell them you want feedback but the feedback has to be constructive.
 
Here’s how to give constructive feedback:
  • Frame it using “I” (e.g. “I’d like you to sing a little louder” instead of “You should sing louder”)
  • Say “try” (e.g. “Try to sing higher because I think you were singing too low”)
  • Focus on the positive and aim to help instead of putting someone down
 
And be open to their feedback. If you disagree, try to justify why you disagree.
 
Then, look for solutions. Watch online tutorials. Seek the guidance of a good singing teacher.
 

Enjoy Your Journey

 
You’re at the beginning of your singing journey. The most important thing to do now is to practice and enjoy your time spent singing.
 
Even though you may not like how you sound now, keep putting in the hard work. Build a solid foundation. Learn the correct vocal techniques.
 
As you “level up” as a singer, your confidence will increase gradually. You’ll feel more motivated to practice. You’ll get closer to being the best singer you can be.
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