Sing Better Than Ever: 6 Tips to Improve Your Present Singing Voice
Belief in Yourself - An Absolute Must For Better Singing
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 to impress you -- I tell you 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 be confident if you expect to sing with the best voice possible. 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."
- "I allow my free, glorious, and heavenly sounds to touch the hearts of others."
- "I accept my voice as it is. My singing is exceptional and brings its exclusive, rare and unique sound rich and beautiful."
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 six tips for better singing won't be 100% effective until you feel confident.
2. Open the Mouth to Sing With a More Powerful and Confident Voice
With the mouth barely open, your singing tone will remain suppressed or hidden-sounding. You must 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 it to? Ever watch a singer close up 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 sound.
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.
- Be sure to sustain the vowel 'ah' for a few seconds before closing the word with the final consonant.
- As you repeatedly practice each word, start off by going very slow. Gradually build your speed until you can sing through the list at a faster pace.
Every song you sing uses the five basic vowels found in the lyrics. The more you practice correct mouth position for each vowel the better your voice will sound.
Proper Mouth Position for Singing the "Ah" Vowel
Tip: Shape Each Vowel Correctly For Better Singing
3. Breath Control: Learn to Breathe Correctly
Belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is essential to a better sounding singing voice.
The tone that you sing actually "rides" on the air that is being exhaled as you sing.
When you begin phonation (speaking/singing), air causes vibrations to occur which produces sound and will continue until you run out of air. If you are currently breathing in air by the use of the upper portion of the lungs only, you will not only run out of air too early, but also have a weak and breathy sound.
Learning how to inhale by inflating around your waistline takes practice. As you repeat the belly breathing exercise, you'll be unlearning the wrong way to breathe and replacing that with the right way to breathe.
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 mouth simultaneously.
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 ribcage area.
Lastly, don't forget to always keep your shoulders absolutely still during inhalation.
Tip: 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 effect personal change in our lives.
Karen Carpenter gave us one of the most beautiful voices of all time:
Sing a song
Make it simple, to last your whole lifelong
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.
© 2010 Audrey Hunt