Sing out!

Thanks to the Internet, there’s a wealth of information out there for musicians, from professional advice to amateur experiences and it’s great to find more and more customers coming into the store already clued up on their craft. But, there is one group of people who are clearly still in the dark: singers.
If you want to learn how to play the guitar, getting your hands on the info you need couldn’t be easier. Finding a guitar teacher is easier still; we have tons of guitar teachers at our door looking for students. Singers, on the other hand, find it very difficult to source reliable information, tuitional material, and teachers. Fortunately there are some good vocal coaches around, but you must be prepared to travel or take lessons online via Skype.
In order to provide some assistance on the subject (instead of merely highlighting that it’s tough to get any), here are the answers to the most common questions we are asked by singers:

Which mic should I buy?
As a singer, I am disgusted to find that the general opinion on microphones for singers is usually that the venue will have mics. A microphone is a very personal thing to a singer. Each microphone will present your voice differently. Take time on choosing a microphone that suits your voice. Most stores will allow you to demo mics in-store (usually by throwing a pop filter in front of it).
Here are the live microphones I own:
Sennheiser E945 – For the quality stuff!
Exceptional warmth, body, and a very smooth sound overall
EV N/D967 – For the LOUD stuff!
Very good off-axis rejection (for cutting out drums and loud guitar cabs), fantastic for cutting through the mix, superb presence and clarity

What equipment am I expected to have?
Personally, I think that a singer should be expected to have a microphone, any vocal effects they wish to use, and an in-ear monitoring system if necessary. It is common for singers to purchase a PA system too, but if there’s anything other than vocals going through it, I would be asking for other members to chip in.

Should I sing with a cold?
Personally, I wouldn’t perform whilst ill. The positive will be not turning down a gig. The negative will be damaging your voice and having to pack it in for weeks afterwards while you recover. If you’re a good singer, you can sing with a cold and will make it through the gig, but it won’t be your best performance and you’ll be going through hell, as singing is a very physically demanding task (especially under roasting hot lights!). One piece of advice I will give you is to steer clear of ‘throat-coat’ style products for singers, as well as throat lozenges and the old ‘trick’ of drinking milk instead of water. A numb/partially protected throat may feel like it’s going to be fine, but realistically, you’ll be causing damage to yourself without realising it. All a singer needs is water. Tap water is fine. Put your money away.

How do I get really good, really fast?
You can’t. You may have taken a gig for a Soundgarden cover band in two months, but it’ll be the most embarrassing night of your life. I equate singing to weight lifting. Singing relies on strong muscles, correct breathing support, and control. Singing like Chris Cornell without years of practice is like strolling into a gym and performing a perfect deadlift – ain’t gonna’ happen, buddy.

I’ll leave you with some advice that has improved my singing a great deal:

1. If you’ve never had lessons – get some. I guarantee you’re doing it wrong.
2. Drinking booze to kill your nerves will kill your voice.
3. Stay lubricated. Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, coffee, and soft drinks like coca-cola, as they will dry you out.
4. If you’re having to really push to hit a higher note or you find you’re losing your voice towards the end of a rehearsal/gig (or sooner), see point number 1.
5. Warm up before singing and warm down after singing – just as you would before and after exercising.

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