I tried asking this in another subforum, but got no responses. Thought this was the next-most applicable subforum for my question.

I never had a good singing voice, or a good ear for that matter. After 2 1/2 years playing guitar, I now have a much better ear. I can hear some one sing a melody and then find those notes on guitar. As part of this process, I generally sing or hum the notes myself which helps me to find them on guitar.

I realized while doing this intermediate step that I was actually good at singing or humming the musical phrase correctly, or at least it sounded correct to my ears (and it was good enough for me to then translate what I was signing or humming to guitar which, in turn, sounded like what the original singer was singing, so I guess I was on pitch, or whatever).

This led to think maybe skill at singing is just a natural by-product of developing a good ear and then applying that good ear critically to the sounds you are making while singing, and focus on making "good" sounds the same why I focus on making good sounds playing guitar, and if I make a bad sound, I learn from the mistake and try to avoid it.

Recently, then, I've started singing lyrics to songs as I play them, which I never used to do. Sometimes I feel like I'm very in tune, other times I feel like it's very rough. It may be because sometimes I'm just not too focused, or I'm tired, or I'm slouching, or who knows? But the same has been true of my guitar playing; while I generally am improving over time, sometimes I feel fumbly and "off" when trying to play, and other times I feel more in a "zone" where I can do no wrong.

Anyway the general notion I'm starting to get is that I can learn to sing better, and maybe even get great at it, simply by singing everything I play, following the adage "practice makes perfect." However, I read so much on people doing specific exercises to sing better, sing from diaphragm, move between head & chest voices, and stuff like that, and about how all these accomplished singers have had vocal coaches and do these kinds of exercises... Makes me wonder if I can really expect to get good JUST from singing songs I like as I play, or whether there's a limit as to how good I can get from that, and I need to buckle down with some technical lessons maybe even a vocal coach, to get past just being passable.

I guess the answer I'd like to hear is that all those exercises are not really needed, and just practicing singing regularly (and with a pretty good ear) for months or years WILL constantly improve your singing voice till you are great if you stick with it. Honestly, those singing exercise sound REALLY boring. But I guess if they develop skills I cannot expect to develop just from singing songs I like, I could try to buckle down and do them.

Bernie Sanders for President!
Last edited by krm27 at Feb 20, 2014,
Like with anything, you can develop bad habits and technique by doing it unsupervised. Or just never realize which bad techniques are preventing you from getting better.

Look at guitar, there is basically endless information and videos available on the internet, and you can certainly learn to play from that. If you video or record yourself you can probably see that you come in a bit early in certain places, or you need to work on a particular phrase or chord change which sounded bad. But that's not everything. It only takes 5 mins for a good teacher to look at you and say "you're holding your pick too tight, and you need to use more forearm, and your left thumb shouldn't point that way and try and lower this elbow a bit, it'll be better for your back." That stuff is VERY hard to get right by yourself.

You can learn to do anything by yourself, and I teach myself most things, but go get a few hours of lessons every 6 months to a year, just to get proper feedback on what you're doing so you don't stray off the path.

My wife sings first soprano, doing Bach and Mozart and similar. She takes occasional lessons for technique and critique, as well as gets feedback from the choir director. It certainly speeds up the learning process. She does warm up exercises before choir practice, but besides singing some scales and favorite tunes, there's not so much of technical exercises going on. Granted, she's not a professional, but she is pretty good.

My advice to you is to sing a lot, and go to an occasional lesson. Ask specifically for them to check your technique, offer tips, and give you some suggestions for homework. Then go sing songs by yourself for 6 months and keep their advice in mind all the time (it'll be stuff like wider mouth, sing from your stomach, take more air, etc whatever, probably not scales and strange exercises).
Last edited by innovine at Feb 20, 2014,
I didn't read your whole post, but in terms of singing, the way I teach myself, is by listening to music and other people sing and try to match what they are doing, it's a slow process but eventually I learn how to open/close my throat for want of a better word in order to produce the right sound. I don't know if you've noticed but this is very difficult for me to put into words lol
I want to take vocal lessons myself over the next few months and I recommend you do to, if not to learn new techniques,increase your range etc. than just enough lessons to learn how to warm up your voice and not ruin your vocal chords with bad habits.
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The problem with "listen to people and try to match what they're doing" is that you have a different instrument than they do. Imagine, for example, that you tried to do that with guitar, only they have a 7-string and you have a six string. Trying to get those low notes is going to result in all sort of crazy complications.

One of the biggest problems I hear when I listen to amateurs sing is that they're trying to sound like something, whereas the fundamentals of good singing are all about getting out of the way: remove tension, relax, open up. The moment you try to sound like someone else you start adding tension, closing down parts of your voice.

Can you learn without lessons? I don't think so. I took lessons for about six months and my teacher could, by listening to me, tell me how to THINK differently, which changed the way I sounded. (One thing she often told me to do was to stop thinking of higher notes as being physically higher or further away. She could hear when I was going that even if she wasn't looking at me. But that was a solution to my problem - it may not be related to your problems).

The diagnosis problem is just so much harder with singing. I really think a grounding in a few months of lessons is really really important.