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I've taken vocal lessons before, and have found that whenever my vocal teacher says I'm doing something right (singing from my diaphragm, projecting correctly), it actually makes my voice sound worse. It seems that I actually sound better when I'm singing sort of quietly.

I have tested this on people I know. It looks like most people prefer my quieter singing, but those who have experience say singing from my diaphragm is "more correct". I've asked professionals, and I'm not damaging my throat; they just don't like my technique.

So what's going on? Are classical singers just being their uncreative selves? Or am I doing something wrong?

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When you are singing from your diaphragm correctly, every breathing muscle on the way up has an influence on the breath pressure. When you lock stuff up, fewer muscles are involved. Which means fewer things that can go wrong.

When children start walking, they may lock their knees to reduce the variables they have to keep under control.

It's not the preferred style of runners, however. Violinists have similar mechanical learning curves where they tend to lock joints (finger, chin, spine, knees, whatever) for an initial reduction of things they need to focus on.

This kind of stiffness, when done in your breathing, will make it harder to navigate large jumps, staccato singing, coloratura, marked articulation and a lot of other things. It may be more reflective of your normal speaking voice at the moment (though trained singers tend to eventually have a few singing techniques migrate into speech as well) which renders it more "natural".

However, there is little sense in chasing after a particular (potentially not all that sustainable) style at the start of your vocal education. Just go with your teacher. Once your voice and breathing is properly trained and formed, you will have considerably more leeway to choose different styles based on qualities and shortcomings you can expect to stay around in this kind of balance. But at your currently described level of learning, specializing on a particular style seems premature.

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Yes, there is a correct way to sing without belting or projecting.

Singing from the diaphragm will absolutely take your singing to the next level - it just takes discipline to develop. Hang in there. Singing technique is no joke and WILL make all the difference in your singing career, be it for personal enjoyment or fame. However, if you feel you aren't being given proper instruction seek a lesson or two from another teacher.

Some other things to consider:

Volume < Tone

Being able to keep pitch is way more important than keeping volume. While the two sometimes go hand-in-hand, I cannot stress this enough. Your voice is precious, no matter how long you have been singing. Belting has it's place, in music, but seek to maintain pitch above all - I am sure you do with your vocal teacher. Diaphragm technique takes time to develop. Eventually, you won't even think about it anymore.

Plenty of singers have volume issues, do not fret! Singing loudly isn't always sought after. What matters is pitch. Pitch, pitch, pitch.

Few are born with the natural ability to project their voice. The majority learn from a teacher - even those with natural talent need guidance. Check out my response to a similar question here.

Finally, SE is an inadequate place to learn singing technique. I do not mean to discourage your question - in fact, I encourage these questions! However, the truth is you cannot learn proper technique from personal trial and error. Singers need guidance as singing involves your whole body - its quite aerobic.

  • I agree with everything here, but I'd like to point out that tone and pitch (or intonation) are not really the same thing, though the often go hand in hand. You can have perfect vocal pitch but still have an undesirably gravelly or nasally or weak tone. Everything you said about pitch, I'd apply to both tone and pitch. – Greg Jackson Mar 10 '15 at 0:20
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When I started having singing lessons I got worse. This is because my teacher had to break down my old bad habits and start me over again, building new ones along the way. After a while, I got better. I learned to use my diaphragm (and got really loud in the process). I learned to control tone and power over the full range of my voice (which got bigger). I improved my overall tone, then I started to learn to sing quietly again without losing any of these good qualities, and also even louder when necessary.

And so on and so on.

Your current default singing style may sound nicer than when you try to use partially-understood and partially-learned technique, but ultimately training will get you something better. It's just unfortunate that it has to go through a dodgy couple of years or more first.

Singing is unique in music in that you go with some notions of how you do it already ingrained. We've all been singing since we were kids, and we're not really prepared to have our technique broken apart by a teacher, whereas really they're just trying to clear the ground to get you to the same place a beginning violinist would be at from day one when they don't even know which string is which.

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