I only teach private lessons two days a week. It doesn't seem like a lot - but most of the time I am booked from morning to night without a break. My time with my students is ALL about them - their voice - their hang-ups - working toward their goals. In many ways it's not even about singing. And much of the time I INSIST that they stop trying to sound "good." Nothing good can come from trying to sound good. When you push your boundaries and go far outside of your comfort zone - THAT's when you get better, and subsequently start sounding good.
Here's some regular challenges we deal with in our voice lessons:
It's OK to sound bad. If you sounded perfect in every way what would be the need for a teacher? And no one always sounds perfect anyway. Okay - There are a few magical unicorns of voice out there who always blow my mind. They are not the norm. Stop comparing yourself to what you think you are supposed to sound like. Which bring me to our next challenge...
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF to anyone else. You'll never sound like them and why would you want to? That's epically boring. Be YOU. You're all you've got when it comes to your voice. Also...
Don't believe everything you hear on the radio. There's tons and tons of processing and effects and compression on every single thing you hear on the radio. It's not what we sound like naturally. It's not real. It's gear! You'll never sound like THAT while singing raw without any kind of microphone connected to tons and tons of GEAR and a producer/engineer who knows how to use it. So forget what you are hearing and just be the best voice YOU can be. Learn how to control your sound naturally without gear to fix stuff. Which brings me to my next common student challenge...
You're not yelling - you're belting. And yes - all those singers you are hearing on the radio are also "yelling" (belting) but they are being COMPRESSED with tons and tons of fancy gear connected to their microphones (oversimplification here) to make them sound balanced between the rest of the instruments. Compression is a way to cap intensity (another very layman explanation here) so that your big loud power notes don't blast out of the radio and drown out the rest of what's going on and offend the end users precious ears. I am pretty sure every single person that has come through my music room has worried about "yelling". You're not yelling - you're projecting. And yes - it does sound a whole lot like yelling, but when you do it correctly (from your power generator - your diaphragm) it has a similar feeling to yelling. Mostly because most people never belt so when they finally do the only thing they can connect the feeling to is that one time they yelled at their Dad right before they got kicked out of the house. (This is a made up story for drama and to help make my point.) Singing is loud. Accept it. What's the point of singing if no one can hear you? You must project a lot of the time when you are singing. Embrace it.
The last one I'm going to talk about in this post is range. OMG how many times a day do I hear "What's my range?" Answer: Who cares!!??? It. does. not. matter. It's what you do with your range that matters. It's WHY you have that specific range that maters. It's ALL physiology vs your mental game going on while you're vocalizing. Anyones range can be expanded, but not without relaxation, which comes from confidence, which comes from training, which is enacted with knowledge... which goes back to - your range is irrelevant. Get over how high you can sing. No one cares what your high note is if you sound tense and uncomfortable while you're hitting it. Focus on your inner voice. Why are you singing? What are you singing? Who is behind that sound coming out. Let. It. Out. Your range will follow shorty behind. I promise. I see/hear it all the time.
I could go on and on about the things I hear on repeat, over and over again, from almost all of my students. I may add to this post later, but for now - just know that in order to be a GREAT singer all you have to do is tap into your authentic self. Be honest. Be bold. Be fierce. Push every boundary you have ever known. Put yourself OUT there. Is it easy? Nope. But it feels totally fucking amazing when you finally figure it out.
Keep letting go of that voice! Don't let it be trapped inside your head and your body. Keep trying. Slowly - it will lead you exactly where you need to be. I promise.