I write my own songs. I love my songs. But my songs are nothing without lyrics. The music is beautiful but the words set to that music make it truly beautiful. Singing goes along with songwriting but what if you don’t have a beautiful voice?
I definitely don’t have a beautiful voice. My voice is ugly - or so I think. You don’t need a great voice to be a good performer. I always think to myself that because my voice is awful people won’t like my songs. The opposite is true. People really do like my songs. I once had a guy yell out “Hey man, you’re really good! Keep going!” just as I was about to end a set. This happened during a performance I didn’t think was very good at all. Everyone hates their voice when they hear it played back to them. But your voice may not be as bad as you may think.
The important thing about singing is to stay on key and to hit the right notes. This isn’t as hard as its made out to be. It just takes practice. You didn’t become a great guitar or piano player over night did you? Same goes for your voice. People have this idea that you are either born with a good voice or not. This simply isn’t the case. I think this false belief comes from the fact that as humans we use our voices all day long.
The first thing you need to do is find your range. The easiest way to do this is to find a piano or keyboard of some kind and goes through all the keys starting with the lowest. Match your voice to each note in every key. You may not be able to hit the low notes or the high notes. You may fall somewhere in the middle. Once you’d identified your range you need to practice singing in each key. Go through your Do Re Mi’s until you can go through every note in every key of your range without using the keyboard to match your pitch.
Once you can Do Re Mi your way through your range without the help of a keyboard to match pitch you’re ready to move on to keys outside of your range. If you can’t sing in more higher keys than lower keys I’d advise you to practice the high notes you can’t grasp and vice versa. Go through the same process for all the keys out of your range and you should start to become a much better singer in no time. You may not be able to extend your range much from your initial starting point and thats fine. The fact that you’ve practiced and can now hold any note in your range without using a pitch matching tool like the keyboard is reason enough to celebrate.
You may still not like your voice though. This is something that will never change unfortunately. But mastering your range will give you the confidence to sing in front of anyone anyway. A few tips though:
- At first write songs that stay within your range. When you move on to the higher or lower keys out of your range you should definitely write songs in them as part of your practice
- Once you know what your range is and you know what keys you will never be able to sing (knowing this takes a long time) then you know what keys you can write your songs in
You no longer have to feel embarrassed to perform your songs anymore. You won’t have to hire a singer either. Everyone has a range and as long you practice singing in that range you will never sound bad. Take Billy Corgan for instance. He has a voice only a mother could love but his songs don’t sound bad because of it. He hits the notes he needs to hit and his songs are now hits (I know, I know, it was lame of me to use ‘hit’ so many times like that). The Smashing Pumpkins are my favorite band and I sometimes joke that my voice is ugly because Billy Corgan taught me to sing.
Projection is a big part of making this work but this post isn’t about the details of singing because although I took voice lessons for two semesters at Columbia I’m no expert when it comes to singing. What I do know is that following these basic guidelines will vastly improve your skill and confidence. Happy performing.