Sing Better Than Ever: 6 Tips to Improve Your Present Singing Voice
Are You Stuck With the Way You Sing?
You may think that you're stuck with the voice you have, but this isn't true. You can actually change the way your singing sounds today and end up singing better than ever. Sound too good to be true? Well, it's not.
Think of it this way. Let's say you want to build muscle in your triceps. You don't like the way your arms look. After checking out a few youtube videos, or getting tips from a body-builder, it's clear that you can change the appearance of your arms by consistently working on certain exercises. You may need to make some changes in your diet as well, but the exercises are mandatory.
Now, it wouldn't make sense to exercise your thighs if you want to concentrate on your arms. It's the same with the voice. Specific exercises geared to develop areas of the voice are essential to better singing. If singing on key is a weakness, it makes no sense to work on developing vibrato. How is vibrato going to help to carry a tune?
Several factors are necessary when it comes to singing with a better voice, depending on what your present strengths are as well as your weaknesses. It's important to focus on the exact areas that need development.
Make it a habit to always warm up your voice before singing. Warm-ups not only prepare your voice to sing better, they also help to prevent vocal damage. Warming up your voice will get you ready for singing challenges, resulting in a happier and healthy voice.
I can't possibly cover everything here but will introduce a few vocal techniques (skills) to help you to sound better (and in some cases) much better than you do now.
Warm-up Your Voice With Humming
There's no better warm-up for your voice than humming and here's why. Humming prevents vocal strain, is easy and natural, and prevents tension in the tone. It can be done anytime, anywhere. Try this right now:
- Put your lips together gently and hum in a comfortable tone. Feel the buzzing sensation in your lips. This indicates a nice relaxed sound.
- Repeat several times until the buzzing feeling becomes automatic.
- Beginning with a hum and keeping a relaxed sound slowly drop the jaw to form an “ah” sound. Now you’re singing and it should feel easy.
- Repeat the same exercise changing from an “ah” to an “ee.” Bring your lips to a slight smiling position as you hum to prepare for an “ee”.
What I'm teaching you here is the importance of relieving all tension in the lips, tongue, and jaw as you sing. One reason we dislike our singing is due to tension in our tone. Singing should always feel easy and never forced.
Proper Mouth Position for Singing the Vowel Ah
2. Open the Mouth to Sing With a More Powerful and Confident Voice
The first area to cover is the way you open your mouth. Sound silly? It's not and here's why.
With the mouth barely open, your singing tone will remain suppressed or hidden-sounding. You have to create enough space for the sound to come out. Don't be self-conscious about a generous mouth opening. How will your tone ring unless your mouth is open enough for the sound to escape? Ever watch a singer up close and personal on television? At times, you can see almost to the back of their throat.
So give your singing a big boost, by keeping the mouth open as you sing. You will quickly hear a more powerful and better sound. This is no time to be embarrassed. You're a singer and the mouth is part of your singing instrument.
To assure that the mouth is open wide enough, place two fingers (one on top of the other) between the top and bottom teeth. Keeping the fingers in the mouth sing 'ah,' then remove the fingers from the mouth while still retaining the 'ah' sound. Did your mouth remain open after removing your fingers?
An exercise to help you to train your mouth and jaw to the right position for singing words using the 'ah' vowel is:
- While using a mirror to monitor for openness, sing the following words in a medium, comfortable tone: hot, brought, not, fall, hall, tall, talk, walk, father, stars, bars, far, and broad. Remember to avoid singing too low or too high. Keep the pitch centered around your speaking voice.
- Be sure to sustain the vowel 'ah' for a few seconds before closing the word with the final consonant. In other words, say you're practicing the word "walk". Sing the first part of this word "WAAAAAH", holding the 'ah' before adding the final consonant, 'K'.
- As you repeatedly practice each word, start off by going very slow. Gradually build your speed until you can sing through the above list at a faster pace.
Tip: How long must you practice? The answer: Until whatever you're working on becomes automatic. Let's say your goal is to remember to drop your jaw each time you sing a word containing the "Ah" vowel. You practice consistently until this goal becomes automatic. You no longer need to concentrate on the mouth position.
Everyone is different. Some may see results quickly. For others, it may take a while. Best results are attained by practicing for a few minutes every day as opposed to practicing hour-after-hour, for long periods of time, one or two days a week.
Every song you sing uses five basic vowels similar to those learned in school. The mouth changes position slightly for each vowel. The more you practice correct mouth position for each vowel the better your voice will sound.
Proper Mouth Position for Singing the "Ah" Vowel
Shape each vowel correctly for better singing.
3. Breath Control: Learn to Breathe Correctly
Your singing sound rides on air and it's for this reason you must learn to support your sound by breathing correctly. One reason singers go flat is that the voice is not supported well enough. Belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is essential to applying the right amount of support. Maybe the following will help you to understand this a little better:
When you begin phonation (speaking/singing), air causes vibrations to occur within the vocal cords, which produces sound and will continue until you run out of air. If you are currently breathing in the air (inhaling) by using the upper portion of the lungs only, (just the chest) you'll not only run out of air too early but you may also find your sound is weak and breathy.
Learning how to inhale by inflating around your waistline takes practice and plenty of it. I would caution you to not get discouraged or give up while you're working on this new way of inhaling. You'll need to use this way of breathing to enhance your present voice, extend your vocal range, sing with vibrato, and project your voice.
As you work religiously to learn the belly breathing exercise, you'll be unlearning the wrong way to breathe and replacing that with the right way to breathe. This will bring more life and energy to your singing, helping you to sound more professional.
Connecting With Your Breathing
Learning the Belly Breath
- Lie on your back with your knees in a raised position. Your feet will be flat on the floor.
- Place a light book (or you can go heavy with the yellow pages, etc) on your stomach centered at the waistline.
- Once you feel completely relaxed, quickly lift the book using only your belly, which will then move upward.
- Hold this position for 5-15 seconds.
- Now, lower the book very slowly until the belly returns to its natural flat position. By lowering the book slowly, you are matching what happens as you sing. Your air must be measured carefully to prevent running out of air too soon. Your goal is to control the amount of air your release so that you have enough to finish the phrase of lyrics.
- Repeat this exercise several times, using a hissing sound as you release your air while lowering the book.
- Variations on this exercise would be to replace the hissing sound with a singing tone on an easy pitch. You will soon see how you are learning to control the amount of air you emit during exhalation.
- Breathe through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
When you have mastered the belly breath on the floor, try the same exercise in a standing position. Because you won't have a book resting on the abdominal wall, place your hand where the book was positioned in the floor exercise. Feel for the expansion around the waist and lower rib cage area.
Lastly, don't forget to always keep your shoulders absolutely still during inhalation.
Always keep the shoulders still upon inhalation.
4. Activate Your Resonators: About Your Resonating System
When you sing, you want to discover just how to activate all of your resonators. Your resonators are the mouth, nasal passages, chest, and head areas.
- Moving the sound forward means that when you sing, you make your tone resonate in these different spaces. At first, practice using the 'ee' vowel when you sing. This will help you to feel the vibrations in your resonating areas much easier.
- You want to avoid "swallowing" (singing from the back of the throat) the vowels as you sing. You may add other primary and secondary vowels as you progress.
- When you hear words like register, chest voice etc., these are essentially just convenient labels used to describe the difference in placement throughout the singer's range. Each of these registers vibrate when sound is produced. Feel for these vibrations when you sing.
- When you sing from low to high you want to avoid the "break" that sometimes happens. The way to do this is to develop a middle voice that lives between the low and high voices. The middle voice is the magic that the best singers in the world use. No matter what type of songs you prefer to sing, you need a middle voice.
5. Sing Songs That Are Within Your Comfort Zone (Range)
This tip is very important—it can make all the difference when auditioning or performing.
Some singers find it easier to sing very high tones, while others are comfortable in the middle range and still others love singing dark, lower, sounds.
- If you're a high soprano your best sound will be in the highest part of your vocal range.
- An alto would prefer very low to middle tones.
- The respective male voices must also stay within their comfort zone to avoid the risk of vocal damage.
Once you've discovered where your range is be sure to stay within your range. When you sing higher than is natural for you, you may end up with vocal damage as you strain to hit the notes.
So, how do you know if a note is too high? Anytime you feel tightness or gripping in the throat, you can be sure that the note is out of your range (too high). Another sign that a particular note is too high to sing is hoarseness. If you experience hoarseness after singing high notes, you must stop vocalizing.
When you find a song that you want to sing and it's in the wrong key for you (too high or too low), see if you can have someone transpose it down so that it is completely comfortable.
To reach higher tones raise the eyebrows.
Believing in Yourself and Positive Affirmations
Back in the late '70s, I was nominated for "Teacher of the Year" in the Music category for Vocal Education. I don't tell you this to impress you—I want to make a point.
Living in Southern California, I was up against some very good teachers who were much more experienced than I and also had more impressive credentials. Needless to say, I was more than a little surprised to find I had been the recipient of such an award.
At the awards ceremony, my students approached the podium one by one, sharing their experiences as students in my vocal classes. It soon became clear that they all shared one particular reason for their progress and love for my instruction: "She believed in me so much that I learned how to believe in myself too."
It was at that moment that I realized the importance of believing in yourself, which brings us to tip number one.
1. Believe in Yourself—The Foundation Of Great Singing
As a singer, I can tell you that if you don't believe in yourself, no one will. Your singing must ring true. You must have a hunger to express yourself truthfully and confidently. A confident sound contains a rich, ringing, and well-projected tone. If you lack confidence and are worried about how you sound, begin a program of positive affirmations and visualization to connect with your inner power. Here are some suggestions for positive affirmations to help you:
- I thank my Creator for my beautiful and perfect singing voice.
- Each time I sing, I am filled with confidence.
- People love my singing. My voice is awesome!
- I experience no fear what-so-ever when I sing for others.
- I allow my free, glorious, and heavenly sounds to touch the hearts of others.
- I accept my voice as it is. My voice is exceptional and brings its exclusive, rare and unique sound rich and beautiful.
- I am unique. My voice is also unique It's one-of-a-kind.
- Today, I release all self-doubt about my singing.
- I follow the dictates of my heart, regardless of what other people may think.
- I value and honor my singing voice.
- Every day, in every way, my singing gets better and better.
Create whatever it is that you need or want. Then, affirm your creation by repeating it over and over again. Visualize yourself singing in a place filled with people. Listen to the beauty and richness of your own singing tone so confident, grateful, and eager to share the precious messages contained in the song.
Visualize the moment down to the last detail. How many people are in the audience? Describe the size and look of the room, the stage, the band or accompaniment, the lighting, and your assistant. What are you wearing? How do you feel?
Remember, it is the decisions you make when you have no time to make them that define who you truly are.
Believing in yourself is one of the first steps to success. If you don't have confidence in yourself, it will be difficult to succeed in anything. Even these tips for better singing won't be 100% effective until you feel confident.
6. Sing Expressively: We Are Music—Music Is Our Birthright
Technique will set you free. After you have mastered the first five tips above, you've earned the right to express yourself emotionally as you sing. And, here's how.
When you sing, breathe life into every musical phrase. Sing with feeling. Be in the moment so that you can create your own truth. Don't miss out by allowing internal dialogue to clutter and distract your mind. Singing is a form of communication. Communicate your desires, passions, needs, wants, fears, joys, prayers, love, loneliness, pain, anger, peace—all the emotions and feelings which are appropriate for the song with your listener.
Do not be over-dramatic, just be truthful. Call upon your past experiences and use them to reawaken what has been tucked away. Singing connects us to a deeper place within ourselves because sound is feeling.
Singing brings back into light all our memories, dreams, tensions, conflicts, confidences, and insecurities. Use these emotions to convey the message of your song. Don't be a robot. Use a variety of dynamics: loud, soft, medium, and any sound in between. Pair these dynamics with the lyrics to establish more meaning. When you relate to the words and feel the message, your audience will too. This is your prime responsibility.
When you sing or speak, your vocal folds vibrate. Air breathed in is released and passed through your vocal folds. And, like two plucked strings, they release a set of vibrations which in turn set off other sets of vibrations. These vibrations are not only heard, they are felt. These feelings can conjure mental pictures, reveal past events, and sometimes teach us things about ourselves we were previously unwilling to accept.
Be vulnerable. Show and share your feelings. Feelings are not judged. They just are.
Singing is not only a release of energy, but a transformation of energy as well. The body, the emotions, and thoughts are all one. Singing is holistic in nature. It supports our wholeness as human beings.
This is the sixth and final tip. It is, perhaps the most important of all six tips for better singing. It's no wonder to me why most of my students have undergone some kind of personal transformation during our course of study.
Problem Solvers for the Singer
Solving the Problem
Inhale more air and connect words
Breathe in more air and sing with a lighter, relaxed tone, especially during the "break"
Throat hurts after singing
Not enough breath support. The voice is being strained.
A weake sound
Use more chest voice and increase the breath for power.
Reaching high notes
Avoid singing louder as you sing up the scale. Keep the voice relaxed and at a comfortable dynamic level.
A nasal sound
Keep the soft palate lifted during singing. Yawning will lift the soft palate.
Concentrate on correct mouth position for all vowels and consants
Frequently Asked Questions About Vocal Registers
What is vocal placement?
- Vocal placement is the term used to describe the technique of being guided by the vibrations and resonances of the body when singing. These sensations can usually be felt in the chest, face, nose, mouth and the head.
What is a vocal register?
- Opinions and descriptive terms differ on this subject. However, generally speaking, the word 'register' is used to describe a section of the voice. These sections are loosely categorized by how the vocal cords vibrate, the glottal, and pharyngeal shape, and where the voice resonates in the body and the resulting quality or timbre of the voice.
What is chest voice or chest register?
- Chest voice or chest register refers to a deep or rich full sound that is most commonly used during speech. Air flows over the vocal folds which are fully apart and the vibration or resonance can often be felt in the upper chest. This is the area of the voice where you should be singing the lower notes of your range. Male vibrations can be easily felt in the chest cavity, but most female voices have a more subtle vibration and must work on this area.
What is middle voice or middle register?
- The term 'middle voice' is not as commonly used as some of the other descriptions like chest and head voice. This section of the voice may also be referred to as mix or blend and it describes an area where a vocal bridge or passaggio may occur. Once the singer has mastered the art of moving smoothly through this transition area it is considered to be mixed or blended.
What is head voice or upper register?
- This is the higher part of your voice. Most people feel vibrations in the skull. Its important to sing with a lighter volume when exploring high tones.
What is whistle voice or super-head?
- Whistle voice or super head is the top end of the vocal range which sounds similar to a whistle or squeal. Few singers use the whistle register although it has gained popularity among some female commercial artists.
What is falsetto or false voice?
- Falsetto is the lightest register and requires loose vocal cords and incomplete closure which produces a breathy voice that can sound quite feminine, although it is generally used by men rather than women.
How's Your Self-Confidence?
Without a doubt, the one aspect that helps us to sing better than ever is a good supply of confidence. Confidence shows assurance and the ability to believe in yourself as well as believing in the song you perform.
How do we develop confidence when it comes to facing an audience?
Knowlege—How much do you know about your singing instrument? Have you committed to good vocal instruction? Are you studying with a qualified teacher on a regular basis? Do you take music theory classes? How are your sight-singing skills?
Preparation—How well do you prepare for your solo? Have you recorded your voice? Are the lyrics well memorized? Have you rehearsed "talk spots" in case of an emergency during your performance?
Experience—Doing is learning. Just be sure you're doing it the right way. Gain experience the following way:
- Be ready and willing to show off your singing ability to anyone, anywhere. Venues such as assisted living for the elderly, karaoke clubs, local choirs, talent shows, caroling, hospitals, and parties all offer ways to hone in on your vocalizing.
- Teaching others how to use their voice puts you to the test as far as understanding how your own voice works. This is also a good way to begin performing for an audience, even if it's only an audience of one or two.
Self-confidence is learned. We develop this trait, little by little. You have to work hard at building your confidence.
Singing engages our internal energy systems and utilizes all the senses. Every sound that is sung awakens a feeling, and each feeling triggers a memory or a thought. Each thought then triggers an action.
While we are singing, we open up fully to experiences that we were previously unaware of and feelings that have been hidden.
Singing is one of the more effective ways to heal and can affect personal change in our lives. Embrace your voice. Own your authentic sound. Keep learning new vocal techniques to help make the most of your singing. These techniques will set you free to sing without fear.
Stop comparing your voice to someone else. Embrace your own unique sound and keep working to develop this sound for reaching your goals.
Most of all, sing with joy finding gratitude in your own individual sound.
Karen Carpenter gave us one of the most beautiful voices of all time:
Sing a song
Make it simple, to last your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.
What a beautiful and necessary message. Singing really belongs to everyone.
So, again: Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear.
Just sing. Sing a song.
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Which Vocal Tip Helped You The Most?
Questions & Answers
I can sing anything unless it's really high or really low, how would you describe my voice?
You are probably an alto/soprano. Youtube has an array of videos to help you with this. Also, you may have a bigger range than you think. Study with a reputable vocal coach which will help you expand your present vocal range.Helpful 22
How can I sing without quiver?
Use additional breath support and tighten the abdominal muscles slightly.Helpful 6
Do you have suggestions for practice beyond scales and sirens? How long each day should I practice?
Your practice routine should be geared to what your specific vocal weaknesses might be. Example: Your vocal range is limited. Exercises which will help you to increase your range without damaging your voice should be practiced along with the right kinds of singing material. A qualified, experienced vocal teacher will know exactly what you need and assign you thus.Helpful 1
How can I sing high notes without my voice cracking?
Practice scales every day, using plenty of breath support, and lighten the tone on the higher notes. Keep the soft palate raised.Helpful 10
I'm trying to learn to sing. I'm practicing some basic exercises like lip rolls, aah sound, yaa, mum, etc. What additional exercises would be more helpful for me?
These are all good warm-up exercises, you should continue to practice these every day. Lip rolls and such, help to release tension which is an enemy to the singer. If there is tension in the face there will be tension in the tone. We want to avoid this. As far as additional exercises go - there are too many to mention here. But, depending on your specific voice, it's strengths and weaknesses, I will address those that are designed to help you release your natural sound.
In order to find your true, natural voice, you must be sure that you are breathing (inhaling) by expanding around your waistline. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing (belly breath). The sound you make when singing is determined to a
large extent by air. When you go from speaking to singing your singing sound rides on the breath. So you need plenty of air to sustain the sound. This air is executed upon inhalation. When you take a breath in, you are inhaling air (inhalation).
This air doesn't come from your chest; it comes from your belly known as the diaphragm. The belly breath provides you with plenty of needed air for holding on to the sound you produce — the more air, the better the sound. The more you know about breath control and how to use it during singing the better your sound will be.
A good exercise is to yawn and gently, but slowly, slide down. Repeat several times. For beginning singers, I instruct them to go directly from speaking to singing using words like "Hello, How are you, Goodbye for now". Make up your own words and phrases. Speak the word followed by sustaining (holding) and center your pitch.
Do this with different sounds. Keep your singing at a soft to moderate dynamic. Never force the tone.Helpful 5
© 2010 Audrey Hunt