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Why Singing Lessons Don’t Work

Why Singing Lessons Don’t Work

Instead of giving you a synopsis of this episode on Why Singing Lessons Don’t Work, I’m including a transcript.  It’s that important.  So here it goes!


I’m going to get a little controversial with you and probably step on some toes, and feelings in the process. But hey, maybe I’ll help some people at the same time. And that’s the important part. To me it’s worth a few hurt feelings and squashed toes.

Today, I’m going to tell you why most singing lessons don’t work.

I’m going to start off with a little mental demonstration.

Image if you will. You’ve just boarded a small plane in Miami or somewhere on your way to Barbados for a vacation. You’re about halfway there when the pilot and copilot come walking through the cabin and then jump with the last two parachutes.

Well, obviously somebody’s gotta land the plane. And that somebody is you. But all you have to rely on for training is a video game flight simulator you once played, or movies you’ve watched where a passenger ‘magically’ lands the plane saving everyone on board.

You think ‘Ok. I’ve seen snakes on a plane, how hard can it be right?’

So, without any understanding about taking off, landing, how the controls work, the navigation, gauges, wind speed, surface speed, approach speed, angle of approach, how to put on the brakes etc., basically all the necessary fundamentals on flying, you’re supposed to land this plane safely.


That’d be terrifying. Well, for some it’s just as terrifying to sing on stage in front of a live audience. And that is simply due to poor singing fundamentals or no fundamentals at all.

The Why

A LOT of vocal coaches skip the fundamentals. Most of your most popular online singing courses do as well. They go straight to the sexy shiny tips and tricks.  Or they skim the top of the important stuff giving you just enough information to be dangerous so to speak, using the airplane example from before.

Or even more disastrous, you take these lessons, think you have it all under control, go out and sing, fail a little bit, if not miserably, and then give up singing for good.  For the rest of your life.  You decide that you just can’t sing.  That you don’t have “it”. And it’s over before it even starts.

They use catch phrases like “Better Vocal Control”, “More Accurate Pitch”, “Improving Tone”, “Improved Power”, “Vocal Agility”.

Ok fine. Let’s take a look at a few of those.

Marketing Catch Phrases

Better Vocal Control – How about vocal control at all?  How about knowing exactly what vocal control is? What IS actually doing the ‘controlling’?

More Accurate Pitch – Of course they’re assuming the student can even sing in tune to get more accurate from. Better yet, what IS singing in tune and why is it important to understand what pitch even is?

Improving Tone – How can you improve tone when you don’t even have a knowledge of tone to improve.  What is tone? What are the mechanics behind it? How about we learn how to create tone before we try to improve it? Huh?

Vocal Agility – This one is a funny one to me. Ever have a spouse, partner, parent, friend, teacher, anybody chew you out for something?  In the middle you usually hear a phrase like ‘and another thing…’ or something like that. Context aside, think about what their voice was doing throughout it all.

Goes something like this.

“I can’t even BELIEVE you would even think about doing something like that!  Seriously? What in the world were you thinking? Obviously you weren’t or you wouldn’t have done it in the first place!”

Going up and down, and loud then soft, then jumping high then low. That’s some serious vocal agility there. But it certainly isn’t singing. So how about we teach the student how to sing notes first before bunching them all up and attacking vocal agility?

Tips and Tricks

Now as you know it’s true.  I do give several tips and tricks so to speak in my free YouTube videos, FB Posts, and my podcast.  But everything I do is to help you start down the road to REALLY learning how to sing and learning the basics.  I don’t stop with just tips and tricks.  My courses are not about tips and tricks.

Those are shortcuts. Shortcuts to helping you sing one thing in one specific way. You leave all happy with your progress and your new trick. But then what? Are you actually ready for the stage?  Are you actually ready to walk into the vocal booth and nail it?

There are no shortcuts that work.  You have to know the basics. So, before you take any lessons from a vocal coach, check THEIR understanding of the basics. Otherwise you are learning how to fly from someone who doesn’t have a pilots license.

I’m not saying this because I want you to take vocal lessons from me instead of them.  I don’t even give new students vocal lessons. Period. And I will explain in a minute. I will explain why I think it would be ripping them off if I did.

Qualifying Questions

Of course, I’m not saying that ALL vocal coaches, lessons, online courses etc are this way.  Just most of them.  So how do you pick out the good from the bad?

Well, if you’re looking at using a vocal coach, check their understanding of the subject with some questions.  If they can’t answer them, or they hem and haw with their answers, walk away. If they DO answer, ask them if they teach THOSE things as well, and give you exercises for you to learn how to do them yourself.

Here are some questions you should ask.

  • First off, do they practice what they preach? Do they perform on a regular basis? Are they in a band? Do they do musical theatre? Are they session singers recording in a studio on a regular basis?
  • What does it mean to be a singer?
  • What are some of the lies and false information that could kill a singing career before it starts?
  • How do they handle stage fright?
  • How do they handle breath control when singing? When DO you breathe when singing?
  • How does the voice ACTUALLY work? What are the mechanics?
  • How do they visualize what they are going to sing before they sing it?
  • Do they understand what sound is, what a note is physically made of and how does it relate to the vocal cords and muscle memory?
  • Do they have simple step by step exercises to train you how to sing in tune?
  • What is the head voice and chest voice and how do they physically work? This is trick question. There’s no such thing as a ‘head voice’ or ‘chest voice’.
  • What are the basic mechanics and tools of shaping the sound and manipulating vocal tone and switching or mixing voices?
  • What are the actual physical mechanics that makes a pro sound like a pro?

The answers should be very simple and teachable.

They ARE teachable.  I know they are. Students who take my courses learn them every day.

Even if they did teach that stuff, can you imagine how many hours it would take to learn all of that?

Why I don’t give lessons to NEW students

And this leads me to why I don’t give lessons to new students anymore.  I do give lessons, but not to NEW students. Why?? Simply put, I’d be ripping them off. Just to learn the basics, depending on where you are starting could take anywhere from 10 – 20 – 40 hours of lessons, or more.  At professional vocal coach rate of about $75 an hour (on the low end) that’s $750 – $1500 – $3000 JUST TO GET THE BASICS TO BEGIN TO BE A ROCK SOLID SINGER, before even touching advanced techniques. And that’s if you’re a fast student.

My students MUST take my course.  Then we have a solid common ground to make tweaks and introduce fine tuning.

Even then I don’t go directly into lessons.  I do Feedback and Tweak Videos where the student sends a video after each major Element of Singing demonstrating to me what they’ve learned and are able to apply it.  I then send a video back to them – that they can view whenever they want, as many times as they need – giving them feedback and offering tweaks or suggestions or changes needed.

THEN once the student has reached a point where they have mastered all the videos and information – because they have had an UNLIMITED amount of time to review, repeat, and master the exercises – only then will I book an appointment, if it’s even needed at that point.

Because, nothing I teach in my course is just an exercise.  I teach tools. I teach tools that can be used over and over again to train with, and learn how to sing…well… whatever you want to learn sing.

These are not tips and tricks that you can only apply for a single purpose.  They’re designed to build skills.

Free Online Course

I have a free online course called Vocal Lessons For Beginners that gives you introductory information and exercises you can do right away at But more importantly it gives you an idea of my approach to singing and how to sing. It also gives you an idea of the 6 Elements of Singing and what is covered in my other courses.

So, if you’re actually serious about learning how to sing and are ready and willing to put in the time and practice it takes to become a professional singer, starting from the ground up, then I can help you.

Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism said it best. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Sing on,



How To Sing Harmonies – Part 3

How To Sing Harmonies – Part 3

Welcome back to final part in a 3 part series on How To Sing Harmonies.  As I go over in the intro, this episode is released late due to A/C leaking problems here at the studio.  Had to vacate for a bit.  But we’re back and rockin’ away.  In this episode I’m actually borrowing the audio from a YouTube video I did on How To Sing Simple Harmonies. Not really borrowing, as the entire purpose of recording the video was to ALSO create the audio for this podcast.  I did it this way simply because I was able to get good stereo separation from the video sound in order to separate the different parts for you in your ears, as you will soon hear.

Here’s what I go over in this podcast:

Answer a listener’s question about where I got the podcast intro song I use Sing On Yeah!  You might be surprised at the answer lol!!

  • How the exercises are laid out and how to practice them.
  • 3 parts demonstrated.
  • Melody Primary Notes Exercise
  • 3rd Part Harmony Primary Notes Exercise
  • 5th Part Harmony Primary Notes Exercise
  • Melody, 3rd, and 5th full notes with transition notes Exercise.
  • Singing each part with me with stereo separation Exercise.
  • Conclusion

Let me know if you have any questions.  Until then..

Sing On!


How To Sing Harmonies Part 2

How To Sing Harmonies Part 2

Oddly enough, even some professional singers have a problem learning how to sing harmonies. It’s not just a beginner problem.  Essentially it is an ability to hold your own, be an individual voice, and sing with others at the same time.  This part 2 version of how to sing harmonies introduces you and helps you train yourself to hold your own note and sing with other.  In this instance the other singers are me! I will use editing magic again to bring in me singing both notes. This is what we will cover:

  • What harmonies are recap.
  • What the 1st, 3rd and 5th harmonies are.
  • SINGING EXERCISE with you holding the main (tonic) note with me and then my voice coming in again with the 3rd.
  • SINGING EXERCISE with you holding the 3rd with me and then me bringing in the tonic.
  • SINGING EXERCISE with you holding the tonic by yourself and then me bringing in the 3rd.
  • SINGING EXERCISE with you holding the 3rd by yourself and then me bringing in the tonic.

And then as usual the wrap-up!

Let me know if you have any questions, and as always Happy Singing!


The Biggest Lie And The Tone Deaf Test

The Biggest Lie And The Tone Deaf Test

In this episode I wanted to dispel one the most, if the not the most, blatant lies about singing. It is the first and biggest barrier to singing – Tone Deafness.  It is also disguised as what is known as the ‘It Factor’.  It is a widely accepted phrase and is complete B.S.  “You either have it or you don’t”.

  • So, in this episode I’m going to cover the following:
  • An infallible test that proves someone isn’t tone deaf.
  • The difference between someone who is Tone Deficient and someone who can sing.
  • How to teach someone who is Tone Deficient how to sing.
  • Listening Exercises to increase tone efficiency.
  • Singing Exercises to practice Intonation.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and as always…

Happy Singing!


Tension and Emotional Expression

Tension and Emotional Expression

In this weeks episode, I dive into the professional end of singing, and go over the use of the 6 Element of Singing – Dynamics, and how to invoke emotional expression using Vibrato and Volume to create tension. Here are the topics covered:

  • What causes tension in music.
  • How instruments create tension.
  • The difference between chordal tension and vocal tension.
  • The importance on the use of volume increases, decreases, and silence to create tension.
  • How intermittent vibrato creates tension with a short vocal EXERCISE.
  • Detailed Breakdown example of the use of Dynamics to convey emotional expression.

The 6th Element of Singing is the element that takes singing from…well…just singing, and turns it into art. To access detailed exercises on how to master Dynamics, take a look my online course on the subject.

Let me know if you have any questions!

As always, Happy Singing!

Michael Graves

Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers

In this episode I take common Quora questions that are requested of me about singing and performance and answer them in more detail with vocal examples.  Hopefully this will fill in some of the blanks for you as well!  Here’s what we cover.

  • As a singer, how long do you spend recording vocals for a single track?
  • How will I know if I have reached my falsetto?
  • Is singing ability like a muscle that can be improved or is it a gift that you are born with?
  • How do I have a powerful voice, but not loud?
  • What’s the best technique to sing high notes without voice cracking.

As always let me know if you have any questions, and of course don’t forget the courses that give yo the basic tools to completely master these singing problems yourself!

Basic Pitch Lesson Part 2 – Transitional Notes

Basic Pitch Lesson Part 2 – Transitional Notes

This episode is a continuation of Basic Pitch Lesson Part 1 (of course that is obvious given the title lol!).  In this one though I cover the following:

  • What are transitional notes as opposed to Melody?
  • Step 1. Singing the note me from last episode.
  • Step 2. Listen to my transitional notes.
  • Step 3. Match the transitional notes slow mo.
  • Step 4. Match the transitional notes sped up.
  • Step 5. Sing the transitional notes with me slow mo.
  • Step 6. Sing the transitional notes real time.

Conclusion on the importance of transitional notes.Again let me know if you have any questions and don’t forget to check the Singing From Scratch YouTube Channel and FB Page!


Basic Pitch Lesson Part 1 – Sing Along

Basic Pitch Lesson Part 1 – Sing Along

In this episode we want to concentrate on basic pitch matching.  Nothing even close to being fancy here.  Just hearing and matching. Here are the topics!

  • What is a note as in regards to sound?
  • Match the notes with me.
  • Transition to notes with me.
  • Transition to notes faster with me.
  • Sing the notes along with me.
  • Recap on frequencies and notes
  • Intro into Part 2 – Melody and Transition
  • Conclusion

As always, let me know if you have any questions!

How To Sing Like Freddie Mercury

How To Sing Like Freddie Mercury

This episode would be better titled how to use the 6th Element of Singing – Dynamics to convey emotional expression like Freddie Mercury, but that title would have been way to long! Freddie was a master at all 6 of the Elements. But let us start with this one.  In this Episode I cover the following:

  • Introduction to the Episode – How To Sing Like Freddie Mercury
  • I give an example of what we are going to examine.
  • Use of the 6th Element of Singing – Dynamics and why it is the single most important element for turning Singing into Art.
  • Description of Vibrato
  • Volume to Vibrato SINGING DRILL
  • How to avoid vocal strain when singing high notes
  • Recap and conclusion

I also have a video going over this information on my YouTube Channel

Also check out the Singing From Scratch Page on Facebook

But if you REALLY want to learn how to do all of this, learn the basics with my online courses at


How To Sing Harmonies

How To Sing Harmonies

This one should actually be called How To Learn How To Sing Harmonies, but that’s a bit long for a title.  Here’s what I go over:

  • What is ‘Harmony’ and what does it mean to be harmonious?
  • What is all this 1, 4, & 5 business?
  • Vocal Examples of harmonies.
  • PRACTICE DRILLS with me to work on your harmonies.

Let me know if you have any questions!!

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