I hope the title didn't scare you! Mistakes need to be made in order for us to learn and develop as singers, so don't panic if you're nodding your head as you go through the list – now you know exactly what you might need to work on.
When we first learn about breathing as singers, we tend to expand our ribs and lungs as far as they will go and release the air as slowly as possible. This is great for training your body to handle those long, supported phrases, but you don't always have to expand your ribs and fill your lungs to capacity. Mind blown, right? Breathe to suit the phrase and the tone you want to produce. Be as comfortable as possible!
2. Keeping your mouth shut.
Chew with your mouth closed, sing with it open. The higher you go, the more space you will need inside your mouth for the note to resonate. Create space by opening the throat and lifting the soft palate.
3. Trying too hard.
Okay, so singing isn't the easiest thing in the world to master, but we need to relax into it in order to be tension free and comfortable. If you find that you end up with a sore jaw, neck, face, shoulders, abdomen or throat – you may be forcing it in some way. Try singing lying down and paying attention to what muscles want to tighten up or push.
4. Choosing songs way out of your range.
Now don't get me wrong, you always want to be challenging yourself; but when you're a beginner bass baritone throwing yourself into a difficult tenor role, you're going to cause vocal strain. Ease your way into it. Aim to attempt songs that are one or two notes above where you're currently comfortable and sing the high notes gently until you're confident that you know where to place them and how to reach them safely.
5. Shouting when you want to be belting.
I cannot emphasise this point enough: belting is not the same as shouting on pitch. Belting should be performed as easily as any line in your chest voice. You need to create a mix of both chest voice and head voice, support the sound by controlling the diaphragm and move the voice forward to develop twang to start to find proper belt. There are plenty of teachers out there that can help blend the two and create a great mix for you.
6. Sacrificing tone for range.
I see a lot of students that only want to hit (enter extremely high note here) and they don't care what it sounds like as long as they can hold it. Nobody wants to hear a screechy high C that is strained and thin. Make sure you work steadily on increasing your range along with your tone so that you can sing the high notes with as much ease, confidence and strength as the lower ones.
7. Faking it.
Guys, we can tell when you're not feeling it, it's written all over your face. Take the time to work through the story and emotion behind the lyrics and tap into your character. Singing when tapped into a genuine emotion is the only way to truly connect with your audience.
8. Not paying enough attention to your vowels.
As a performer, you are a storyteller. People are listening to you in order to understand the story and engage with you. Elongate your vowels to project, articulate and gain more resonance. Also ensure that you are not swallowing your vowels (forming them all the way down your throat) as this can lead to strain when trying to sing in your chest mix. You want to imagine that you are speaking on pitch and then stretch the vowels from there.
Phew, well that's enough of me rambling away! Do YOU have any burning questions you'd like to ask me about your voice or specific problems you're facing when on stage? Leave a comment below and I'll be checking back regularly to answer them as best as I can.
Kim is a Melbourne based vocal coach who believes that having fun with your voice is just as important as your technique and performance skills. She likes to share her knowledge over on her singing lessons website Inspired to Sing and the new singing community site she's created, Inspired to Sing +