How to Keep Your Singing Voice in Shape

Updated on February 5, 2019
vocalcoach profile image

Respected vocal coach, Audrey Hunt lays it on the line when it comes to the responsibility of singing, performing, and avoiding vocal strain

Kristen McNamara, finalist on American Idol, uses her vocal skills as taught to her by author, Audrey Hunt
Kristen McNamara, finalist on American Idol, uses her vocal skills as taught to her by author, Audrey Hunt | Source

Sing Often and Properly

Most of us have heard the phrase "use it or lose it" as it applies to the body and mind. But do you know that there is another reason for paying attention to this saying? Well, there is, and it has to do with your singing voice. That's right. To put it bluntly, if you don't sing regularly, in time, your voice will become weaker and your singing will lose its luster.

You can be born with the most beautiful voice in the world but if you stop singing for any length of time your vocal stamina will suffer. You'll begin to notice how you can't quite reach those high notes as easily as you once did. Maybe your singing doesn't sound as controlled as the last time you sang. There may be any number of things about your voice that need fixing. Because you haven't been singing regularly, you'll need to work hard to bring your voice up to par.

The message is clear: Singers can't afford to rest on their laurels. Taking a vocal vacation may not be a good idea.

14 Tips for Singing Correctly

But keeping that voice beautiful, consistently, isn't just about singing often—it's also about singing correctly. If you practice a song or a vocal exercise incorrectly, you will be repeating a bad habit that will soon become ingrained and take longer to correct. So, make sure when you use your voice, you use it the right way:

  1. Breathe the right way always. Stop using your chest to inhale and start using your diaphragmatic muscle which is responsible for 70% of your breathing. If you need a quick lesson on this, click here.
  2. Use the correct vocal register as you sing. Feel for vibrations that occur in these resonating areas.
  3. Always warm up your voice for 10 to 20 minutes before singing or practicing.
  4. Keep your neck and shoulders quiet and relaxed as you sing.
  5. Avoid straining as you reach for higher notes. Do not over-sing.
  6. Record your practice sessions to make sure you sing on key and to correct other vocal techniques such as diction and tone quality.
  7. Control your tone at all times. Avoid a wobbly sound and be sure you don't run out of air as you sing.
  8. Check your diction as you sing, opening all vowel sounds, and completing consonants by slightly exaggerating the final consonant on words .
  9. Sing with expression and emotion. To convey the message of the song you must feel the emotion and breathe life into each word.
  10. Use a smooth, gentle, tonal attack. Avoid scooping the tone or attacking the sound too harshly.
  11. Concentrate on building your technique continually. This must be your primary focus.
  12. Your choice of songs must be within your vocal range. If the music is too high or too low, have someone transpose it into your key.
  13. Use both soft tones and medium to loud dynamics when singing. This helps with expression.
  14. Control your vibrato. If yours is too fast or too slow, check your breath support which ultimately controls all vibrato.

Remember, your entire body is your vocal instrument. Singing is movement. Take walks, dance or go for a bike ride each day. Do something that you enjoy to keep your body physically active. We are designed to move.

8 Vocal Techniques for Better Singing

Singers focus the most on how their voice sounds. Then, if they aren't satisfied with the sound, they simply keep on repeating the same thing over and over again. This usually brings dismal results. So when putting the phrase "use it or lose it" into action it's crucial to sing with good vocal technique.

Your body, being your vocal instrument, houses all singing tools. I'm telling you that you already have everything you need right inside of you. You were born with every single tool that is needed to sing with a beautiful sound. The only thing that's required of you is the desire to sing and a comittment to learn how to use these tools by studying the voice, practicing techniques, and being consistent about it all.

I've listed a few things for you to focus on as you work on developing your present vocal sound:

  1. Breath Control. When taking a breath, just before attacking the tone, be absolutely sure you're using your diaphragmatic muscle and not your chest. How to Inhale Using the Diaphragm.
  2. Sing on Key. Be careful with your pitch. Sing in the very center of the tone, not on the edges which result in singing sharp or flat. Breathing correctly, by avoiding the chest area and focusing on the abdominal area, helps tremendously to sing on key.
  3. Record your voice and listen carefully for a well-balanced tone.
  4. Your body houses resonating areas, also known as chest, middle and head voice. Study these placements for tone beautification and learn to concentrate on the natural vibrations that occur in these areas.
  5. Posture. Because the whole body contributes to how you sound when vocalizing, always use good posture and make sure the knees are unlocked. Avoid tension in the neck and shoulders.
  6. The mind. Attitude is everything. Stop being overcritical and judgemental with your singing. Enjoy the entire process, especially your strenghts.
  7. Sing within your comfortable vocal range. Avoid straining which can cause vocal problems such as vocal nodules.
  8. Always spend a few minutes warming up the body and the voice before a practice session.

Nine Opportunities for Singing

There are plenty of opportunities available out there for singers to share their voices. And when you anticipate a performance coming up, you'll be more inclined to practice and use your voice. After all, you want to be prepared and that means singing those songs repeatedly.

I've spent my life singing for every event possible. Here are a few events that I've enjoyed and you may want to try these too:

  1. Cruise lines. Have a demo and promo package ready when you apply. This is a great way to meet fun people.
  2. Hook up with a local band. Check out the local music scene and when appropriate hand your demo to the leader of the band.
  3. Get an agent. Some of the most enjoyable gigs I've had were through an agent.
  4. Community Events. Offer to do charity work or apply to sing for up-coming events.
  5. Community Theater. Audition for singing roles in musicals. Here's how to prepare for an audition.
  6. Assisted Living For Seniors. I owe a large part of my singing career to entertaining facilities for seniors. This is a great way to learn the ropes for more extensive entertaining gigs.
  7. Children's Hospitals. Brush up on songs that kids like, depending on the age-group, and visit local hospitals to help bring joy and smiles to these children.
  8. Family Night. Make it a priority to meet with the entire family once a week. Invite members to prepare a song to sing. Print out lyrics to familiar songs for the whole family to sing together. Share only encouraging remarks.
  9. Sing children to sleep at bedtime. They love this (no matter how you sound) and it relaxes them immediately.

Sing While You Play an Instrument

Friend, Jeff, singing along to his ukulele.
Friend, Jeff, singing along to his ukulele. | Source

More Fun Ways to Sing More Often

Do you play a musical instrument?

  • Whether you're a beginner or accomplished musician, whether you play the piano, guitar or ukulele, sing along as you play your instrument. I knew a famous drummer who even made it a practice to hum or sing syllables as he practiced his drums. My son is a professional bassist and often sings as he works on particular techniques and material for gigs.
  • Join a community or church choir. This is a fun and rewarding atmosphere for using your vocal skills as you blend your voice with others.
  • Audition for a local musical theater production. I've been training singers for years who are involved in musical theater. I can't begin to tell you the progress I've witnessed with voices of singers busily engaged in this media.
  • Volunteer for organizations needing moms and dads to rock and sing to infants and small children. Some of these babies were born addicted to drugs.

Audition for a Musical Theater Production

Author, in character, working on a new song for a musical production.
Author, in character, working on a new song for a musical production. | Source

Work With a Qualified Singing Teacher to Improve Your Voice

Sign up with a qualified vocal teacher for a few singing lessons to keep you on track and to build a better voice.
Sign up with a qualified vocal teacher for a few singing lessons to keep you on track and to build a better voice. | Source

Benefits of Vocal Lessons

Last, but not least, sign up with a qualified vocal teacher for a series of lessons. You'll be seeing her, or him, at least once a week, sometime more often, which assures you of honest feedback about how you're progressing.

Most singing teachers and vocal coaches have plenty of experience listening to hundreds of singers and know exactly what is lacking in terms of technique. This includes breath support, singing on key, proper diction, using resonating areas, vibrato, posture and relaxation.

A beautiful singing voice requires a balance of all vocal techniques and not just two or three. As your technique becomes solid and automatic your voice will improve drastically.

You'll also be given specific assignments to practice from week to week. These assignments can either be in the form of specific vocal techniques you need to work on or you might be given a new song to learn.

Singing lessons can also help to develop your musical ear and performance techniques. Lessons may also help to reduce or even eliminate fear of public performance.

As you study with a qualified vocal coach you will receive encouragement as you progress. This, along with your vocal progression is bound to increase your self-confidence. This new degree of confidence only makes you sound better in the long run.

I highly recommend it!

How to Form the Mouth to Sing the Vowel "Ah"

Author, showing a vocal student how to form the vowel "Ah" for a better singing sound.
Author, showing a vocal student how to form the vowel "Ah" for a better singing sound. | Source

Singing Is Not Just For a Privileged Few

Whether you're a shower singer or have a desire to sing on stage, know this—singing is meant for everyone—not just a privileged few. You were born to sing and so was I.

The only difference between a singer you admire and yourself is this: You have the very same singing tools placed in your wonderful body. The difference is simple. You haven't learned how to use your ingrained tools. Do whatever it takes to explore the mechanics of singing.

Once you do, sit back and enjoy your beautiful voice! You have a song within you. Do not let it waste away, don't let it die inside you.

Sing!

If I cannot fly, let me sing.

Stephen Sondheim

Questions & Answers

  • I've met individuals who sing off-key, and don't even seem to know. Are you suggesting that fixing the problem with off-key singing is a self-help project? Does off-key singing have anything to do with one's ability to hear?

    Most folks who sing off-key don't recognize that they do. Problems with pitch have little to do, if anything, with the ear or hearing. Vocal techniques such as lack of proper breathing, (diaphragmatic), articulation and focus and awareness are the reasons for singing off-key. Ear-training programs are available on youtube and I have a complete ear-training program available as well. Depending on an individual's problem with this issue, most can be helped just by working with these programs. Others may need the help of a vocal teacher.

© 2019 Audrey Hunt

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    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 weeks ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Mvano Qanguie

      You are the type of person I write for when it comes to singing. Thanks for sharing your excitement with my suggestions. And thanks for introducing yourself.

      Sing with joy!

    • profile image

      Mvano Qangule 

      3 weeks ago

      Hi I'm 16 years old. It is like 11:05PM right now . This has given me so much hope to grow and improve myself. I'm so excited for what this is going to do for me and I am learning so much! I haven't read all of the pages yet but I'm so excited anyway (just thought I'd introduce myself

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      3 months ago from the short journey

      This encouragement to sing every day is much appreciated. Though I do do not have a talent for singing publicly, thanks to hearing my husband sing and being in a church with a wonderful music program that includes beautiful congregational singing my singing voice has improved over the years and I do not want to lose the gain. So grateful for the tips!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      3 months ago from Houston, Texas

      When I first saw your title my immediate thoughts were practice, practice, practice. After reading it, you offered much good advice including posture, breathing, and more. We once had a dog that loved to accompany us when we would sing a certain song. Ha!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Nell Rose

      Studying singing with a qualified instructor is actually something all of us can benefit greatly from. Since we can't hear our own true vocal sound, feedback from an expert is invaluable. You had a bad case of bronchitis which can take a very long time to heal. Heading back into singing should be done slowly and easily.

      Thanks!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      3 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Aurelio Locsin

      Thank you for being here. Yes, the sooner we learn some of these singing tips the easier it can be to apply. Still, they can help at any age.

      Keep singing, my friend!

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      3 months ago from Orange County, CA

      I wish I'd seen this hub when I was much much younger and could carry a tune. It might have helped me keep my singing voice as I got older.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 months ago from England

      I could do with some singing lessons. I had a pretty good voice years ago, but then after bouts of bronchitis etc it's gone. I tend to croak when I sing, it drives me insane.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Thelma

      Karaoke is so much fun! I enjoy it too. Your family sounds wonderful. Singing is a great way to bond. Thank you.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      4 months ago from Germany and Philippines

      Great tips Audrey. I love to sing but only when we are having a karaoke family bonding at home. It is always fun.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Nithya Venkat

      How nice it is to see you here. I love hearing that you sing. This is a wonderful way of showing self-love. I believe anyone can develop a better voice, especially with a few lessons from a qualified teacher. Thank you.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 months ago from Dubai

      Great pointers and tips. Vocal lessons are of great help. Singing is for everyone, oh yes I sing a few songs on and off.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Linda

      So sorry about your throat condition and so glad you're okay. Your range can be increased...carefully. When you sing up the scale, do not increase your sound. Keep the dynamics balanced between your chest, middle and head voice. If you sing too loud, the vibrations needed for higher tones will be disrupted. I hope this helps a little.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Dora

      I'm happy to answer your question and while I wait for this in the question section here's a little reminder for singing on key. Most of us don't realize that how we take a breath has everything to do with the pitch we produce. If we lack sufficient air, the tone will be weak causing us to sing off key, or flat. So brush up on diaphragmatic breathing which also has tremendous health benefits.

      Thank you so much.

      Audrey

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      GlenR

      You can do this! Keep your dream alive as you practice these vocal exercises. The main key ingredient is breath control! All other vocal techniques need air for the best results.

      Thanks for being here!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Shauna

      So glad you love to sing, Sha. It really doesn't matter whether you have a terrific voice or not. It's the joy of singing that's important.

      As for my posting a video - I've been trying to do this for years but always seem to run into a glitch of some kind. I've even tried using my cell phone. But I'll keep on trying and I sure thank you for suggesting this.

      Hugs,

      Audrey

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Pamela

      I'm so happy to know that you love to sing, in spite of feeling that you don't have a good singing voice. If you were studying with me, I'd soon change your mind about this. :) When you break out in a song, consider just what it is you don't like...then let me know. Is it your sound? I can fix that. Do you have trouble with the pitch...I can fix that too. You deserve to sing with a sound you can be proud of - at any age.

      Thank you for your support!

      Audrey

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Liz

      Singing in a choir is a wonderful way to use your voice. You were lucky to have a conductor skilled in the use of the human voice. Thanks.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Chitrangada

      I'm so happy to hear that you liked these tips for keeping your voice in shape. It's crucial that we protect our voice from any type of damage when we sing. Thank you, my friend, for all your support.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Will

      It's great to see you again! And when you find me an investor to open a chain of singing studios, let me know. Lol. Seriously, your support has meant a lot to me over the years. You're the best and I thank you.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      4 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Audrey, thank you for such wonderfully-written article. Three-plus years ago I was stricken with a sore throat that would not go away. I visited countless doctors (ENT, gastric, etc.) and no one could find the source of the irritation. I could not speak without suffering, so singing (which I love) was totally out of the question.

      Then, as silently as the malady descended, it disappeared. It was not an overnight healing, but a matter of weeks.

      After not using my voice for 3 years I found that I had lost my breath control and range. The control is back, the vibrato controlled (and perhaps better than before because I am truly concentrating), but my range is still less than it was prior to my illness. Can I ever hope to regain what I lost, or could age also be a factor (I'm in my 7th decade on this planet).

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Bill

      As soon as I stop laughing, I'll respond to your comment. :) Hey, even a "not so great" Neil Diamond voice is better than most professional singers these days. When my book starts flying off the shelf (s), I'll get myself to Washington and work on that vocal range of yours.

      Love,

      Audrey

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Louise

      Singing, because we just love to sing, is the best reason of all. I love hearing that you sing along to good songs. Keep it up!

      Andrew

      Yes, singing is so therapeutic. Many studies have been done on how depression is lifted as we sing. It's good for the body and it's good for the soul!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hi Flourish

      I'm glad you like this section. I was hoping it would be a helpful source. Sharing our singing, regardless of how skilled or unskilled we are, can make a huge difference in the life of a shut-in, a person with an illness, or anyone or group who needs cheering up.

      Thanks, my friend!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hello Hari

      I'm so happy to hear that this article will serve as a guide for you. I couldn't ask for anything more. Thank you and sing for joy, my friend!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Hello Tim

      I can't express how grateful I am for your kind comments. Your thoughts, written in such a beautiful way, mean the world to me. How blessed I am to have connected with you here on HP. I'm honored to be your friend and so appreciate your taking the time to read my article.

      Stay safe, and warm, during this very cold time.

      My best to you,

      Audrey

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      4 months ago from The Caribbean

      Audrey, great lesson as usual. Every time I read you, I renew my resolve to put something from the article into practice and to sing more. I will send you a question singing on key.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      GlenR 

      4 months ago from UK

      My one remaining ambition is to able to sing well enough to join Rock Choir, but suspect that it's not going to happen in this lifetime. But hope is eternal and I will practice your tips in the hope of improvement.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      4 months ago from Central Florida

      I don't sing professionally, but I sing all the time - even at work. I have the radio on in my office and sing along without realizing I'm doing so most of the time.

      Singing, like laughter, is good for the soul!

      I'd love to hear your voice, Audrey. Would you consider posting a video in one or all of your articles?

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      4 months ago from U.S.A.

      audrey,

      Wonderful article. Loved it. You are a vocal champion who we adore, dear friend. I've done most of your suggestions for singing at least once. I think I enjoyed band work the most. But working with choirs was pretty special.

      Thanks for a superb article, Audrey. Your tips on how to keep the voice fresh and full of life musically makes me want to go sing a hymn or two right now.

      May your day be blessed and peaceful,

      Much respect and admiration,

      Tim

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      4 months ago from Sunny Florida

      I have never had a great singing voice, yet I like to sing. I have noticed with age I do not sound good. I think your article has great advice for anyone to maintain or improve their singing voice.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 months ago from UK

      Many years ago I was in a church choir with a very keen choir master. A lot of your tips bring back memories from this time.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent article and some valuable tips and suggestions!

      Singing is therapeutic and regular practice is so important for those who love singing.

      I agree with you that merely having a good voice cannot make a great singer. It’s important to use it effectively and efficiently.

      Thanks for sharing this wonderful article!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      4 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      When are you going to open your nationwide chain of "Anyone can Sing!" studios?

      You would be a gazillionaire, because people would flock to your doors just so they can finally carry a tune.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm afraid I'm losing mine. :( Not enough practice, I'm sure. The range is diminishing rapidly. I now sound like Neil Diamond without the talent. lol

      love,

      bill

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      4 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Excellent advice for those who love to sing and want to maintain strong vocal chords. A daily work out for the singing voice is such great therapy.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      4 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I sing all the time to songs, but no, I wouldn't sing in public. I don't have the voice for that. But I always feel better when I'm singing along to good songs.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 months ago from USA

      I like your suggestions as to where a person can practice his or her singing. Old folks and kids would love the entertainment in particular.

    • shprd74 profile image

      Hari Prasad S 

      4 months ago from Bangalore

      Audrey Thanks for this fantastic hub. It is a guide for me now on.

      - Hari

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