Can you learn to sing with correct technique only using videos and online courses - without feedback from a teacher that guides you? How much of a difference would it make?
Most probably, no.
As with many other things, a teacher is not absolutely fundamental, but a professional guidance ensures that:
- you follow an appropriate didactic path tailored on you, your needs and capabilities, focusing on improving your gaps and enhancing your strengths;
- you don't lose time with unnecessary or even wrong suggestions or practice;
- most importantly, you don't risk damaging your voice (possibly for life);
Note that while the above is valid for almost any subject, not only musical, it obviously is not a certainty: as with any job, bad teachers do exist, even professional ones. And a good musician doesn't automatically make a good teacher.
But, statistically, especially considering the amount of online tutorials for which usually there is no clue about the professional background of their hosts, an actual teacher is probably much more reliable.
Have to say that most, if not all of the singers I've played and worked with over the years (including myself) had no formal training at all - and some were extremely good. Main reason - there were maybe some teachers available, but certainly nothing on the net (no net, even!). And, just because it's on the net doesn't mean it's any good, be well aware of that.
It's often said, particularly here, that having a teacher is the answer That's fine if the teacher is good, and when one starts with a teacher, one often is unaware of his/her capabilities, experience, propensity, and doubtless even more big words...
I'd say that there's far more chance of someone becoming , say, an opera singer by taking lessons. But since we're all born with a voice of some sort, and we all learn to express ourselves using said voice, it would be natural for a lot of us to go further down that path, and become singers, naturally.
Learning to sing from the sheets, reading music, would be far easier with a teacher than struggling on one's own, though.
By the way, can anyone explain what 'singing properly' actually entails?
I would agree with musicamante's answer that in theory you can learn anything without a teacher. But there are risks. Even the best made videos cannot provide feedback or answer questions. Singing relies on you developing correct support and resonance. While it is possible to get this from hearing someone explain what is happening on a video all of this is internal and impossible to "see". You have to feel it and to that extent a lot can go wrong. You might thing you have support, correct mouth shape, and resonance in the sinuses but in reality you don't and this can damage your vocal chords if you push the volume and your range. To that end you might be cheating yourself out of your full range by not getting proper technique. I am taking classical voice lessons and from my experience I would never have been able to get where I'm at without the help I get from my teacher. I might think everything is fine but feel like yawning (due to lack to support), or feel a slight scratch in the back of my throat that I think is nothing when in fact if I change my mouth shape it goes away immediately. I might think I'm sounding okay but really the tone is off. Like I said, everyone is different and it is possible in theory but that has not worked for me.
Yes it is possible. I did it myself. I sing properly in the sense that I can sing a variety of relatively difficult music (opera, jazz, american songbook,world music) without injuring my voice, I produce sounds that I enjoy making and that other people like to hear. I am not a professional singer, and I don't think you could be a successful professional singer without some kind of training, even if it was just training in musical styles instead of singing technique. A rule that can save your teacherless ass in singing is that if it hurts you should stop doing it. If you feel pain or even discomfort after a singing session, then you are doing something wrong in your technique that you have to identify and fix, or you may lose your voice. Your voice may feel tired after a long practice session, or feel exercised, but if it crosses the line to discomfort do not wait: reduce or stop singing while you identify what you are doing to hurt yourself. I had no teacher, but I has sources of instruction. There was a radio show in New York that had interviews with the greatest opera signers then alive, and the host Stephan Zucker, asked them all the explain in detail what their singing technique was. I used that information to develop my own technique. I'm almost 50 and my voice is still healthy and I enjoy singing, but I have performed before an audience zero times. So it depends in part on what you are trying to do. If you get a teacher, then you must still remember that you are the only person who can protect your voice. There are teachers that give bad advice, -- if you feel pain then don't worry about whether the teacher said it was ok, your voice is telling you otherwise and you must listen. Stop, and then get a new teacher. In addition to learning from opera singers, I learned a lot about singing, especially the importance of diction to making good sound and communicating meaning, from recordings of Ella Fitzgerald. If you want to sing start listening to her ASAP.