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How to Sing Quietly or Softly

Updated on April 21, 2016
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Respected vocal coach Audrey Hunt believes singing is our birthright. "If you can speak you can sing. Here's how.

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Singing Softly Is Not For Wimps

Learning how to sing with a soft, yet beautiful sound is one of the most difficult challenges a singer will ever face.

Singing is a wonderful form of expression. But until we learn how to sing softly, trying to be expressive is futile.

Singing reawakens what has been tucked away deep inside, bringing back into the light all our memories, dreams, conflicts, confidences and insecurities.

When we sing we are instantly connected to a deeper place within ourselves because sound is feeling. This brings us to an important step in learning to sing soft. We must imagine the feeling of softness even before we try to sing soft.

What does soft feel like to you? Images of cotton balls, rose petals, marshmellows, a baby's cheek and clouds are just a few visualizations that come to mind.

I remind my vocal students that 'If you can't imagine it, you can't sing it.' So dig deep into your imagination system because you're going to need it if you want to learn how to sing quietly or softly.

How to take a breath ~

Inflate the abdomen centered at the waistline each time you inhale air.  Release the air slowly as you sing.
Inflate the abdomen centered at the waistline each time you inhale air. Release the air slowly as you sing. | Source

An Easy Exercise For Singing Softly

Step 1

Begin by singing the word 'hot' on a comfortable tone, not to high or to low. Make it medium loud (mezzo forte.) Hold the note for a count of 1-2-3. Repeat this 3 times.

Tip - When initiating the 'h' on the word hot, be sure you inflate the abdominal wall, holding the inflated position until the 3rd count. This assures that you are using the diaphragmatic muscle which is your breathing muscle.

Because singing is sustained speech your breathing must come from the belly and not the chest.

Step 2

Now, imagine the lightest touch possible and sing the word 'he' on an easy tone. Make it soft (piano.) Hold the note for a count of 1-2-3. Repeat this 6 times.

Tip - In order to sing soft you must hold back air by tightening the abdominal wall as well as the buttocks. This is a huge help in controlling your air. Remember that it takes less vibrations to sing soft. That means not as much air is required (unless you're holding the note for a long period of time.)

These vibrations (taking place in the vocal cords) occur when air strikes the vocal bands setting them in motion and producing sound. So the louder you want to sing, the more air you need and the less volume you desire, the less air you need.

Much to the surprise of most people, it is more difficult to sing softly than to sing loud. It requires more skill and much more control.

Tension in the neck/shoulder area ~

Stand with good posture, unlocking the knees.  Take 3 deep breathes releasing the air slowly.
Stand with good posture, unlocking the knees. Take 3 deep breathes releasing the air slowly. | Source
To release all tension from the neck area, drop the neck and breathe deeply as shown above.
To release all tension from the neck area, drop the neck and breathe deeply as shown above. | Source

Goodbye Tension - Hello Silky Soft Singing

First, totally relax your entire body concentrating on releasing tension from the neck and shoulder area. You can do this either standing, sitting or lying down. Spend a good 7-10 minutes and if you've learned the belly breath (diaphragmatic breathing) inhale deeply and exhale slowly throughout each exercise.

Follow this with relaxing the lips of all tension with about 3-6 lip trills. Then concentrate on tongue trills. This may sound silly, but the lips and tongue hold the most tension, distorting the tone.

When you feel quite relaxed and void of stress it's time for another exercise to learn how to sing quietly or softly.

Do this exercise now.

In a standing position (this keeps all your singing muscles and spine lined up) first unlock your knees. Again you are releasing tension in the body. And sing a soft hum. Make sure the pitch is very easy and comfortable. Refrain from high and low sounds right now. Inhale, expanding around the waistline just before humming. Keep the chest high and quiet with no movement.

Tip: As you hum softly, keeping the lips relaxed you should be feeling vibrations in the lips or closely around the lips. These vibrations assure you that you are relaxed enough and rid of all unnecessary tension.

The second step is to begin with a humming sound on an 'm' and once the 'm' is stable add an 'ee' so that you're singing me. Go back and forth with this exercise humming the 'm' sound, then adding the ee.

Don't forget that the hum must be soft, so only allow as little air to escape as possible, still keeping the "me" very controlled.

Practicing these exercises several times each day will become automatic as your body learns how to prepare itself for a soft, quiet but controlled sound.

Don't Confuse Soft Singing With a Meek, Ineffective Sound

Even though your goal is to produce a softer tone, it must be controlled and supported by stable air. Singers need to know that even the lightest vocal sound needs body connection. Please keep the following in mind as you practice singing softly:

  • Keep a rounded mouth opening
  • Be careful that the tongue doesn't bunch
  • Keep neck and shoulders relaxed

What do I mean by singing with control? Again, it's all about air. The professional singer always determines exactly how much air is needed for a particular phrase or for holding on to a note longer than usual. Always measure every phrase to determine whether you need to inhale a large amount of air or a small amount of air.

You absolutely must prepare your body to meet this requirement just before you sing. When singing a soft sound you still want your tone to be a 'rich' and controlled soft tone and not a 'wobbly' and inefficient soft tone.

Like I said before, singing soft is not for wimps. It's a challenge even for trained singers. Be patient, practice diligently and it will happen for you.

Now get ready to sing with your new soft voice and test it out.

Abbybirdaytuyu -

Excuse me - what did you say (or sing?) Abbybirdaytuyu. Oh, I see. Happy Birthday To You.

Yeah - that's wut I said Abbybirdaytuyu.

Ok. We've all heard this song and most of us sing it at least 2-3 times a year. If you haven't heard ' Happy Birthday to you' all you need to do is youtube the title and sing along with one of the endless versions Or watch the video below to learn the words and melody.

So now, if you're good and ready here's another fun exercise to help you develop your soft singing.

  • Sing this song once all the way through with a normal voice and don't worry about trying to sing it soft at this point. We're just giving your voice a little warm-up. You can sing along with the youtube video or you may sing a capella ( by yourself without music.)
  • Next - This time sing only the first 2 phrases ' Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you.' Sing these 2 phrases in a medium dynamic. Remember to breathe from the abdominal wall.
  • Now repeat these 2 phrases singing with half the volume. Do this 6 times.
  • If this is just to difficult, stop at this point and do not continue. Instead go back to the humming exercises above and practice those until they become easy to sing on a very light tone.
  • For those of you who mastered this step, you will now again sing the same phrases as softly as possible. Repeat 6 times controlling the tone keeping the sound even.

If your words were barely mumbled and not articulated the listener will hear'abbybirdaytuyu.' So be sure to clearly and distinctly pronounce each word.

  • Continue to add the rest of the song a phrase or 2 at a time until you've gone through the entire song.
  • When you've completed this exercise, give yourself a hug or a treat.

Sing Along With This Video to Review The Song

Sing Happy Birthday With This Video Using Your Soft Voice

Famous Singers of The Past and Present ~ Soft Singing Talent

Much to the surprise of most people, it is more difficult to sing softly than to sing loud. It requires more skill and much more control.

One of the best male pop and jazz singers of all time is the great Tony Bennett. His soft tones blend perfectly into louder tones and vice versa.

Perry Como was spell-binding bringing his beautiful soft tones to his weekly Television Show in the 50's.

Another singer ( the daddy of them all ) bringing soft, almost lazy tones to the emotional phrase was Bing Crosby. His perfectly pitched smoothness influenced some of the best male (and even female) voices in the recording industry including Frank Sinatra, the" bobby-soxers" dream voice.

And then who can forget the soothing, romantic singing voice of the late Andy Williams (Moon River.). And you thought he was only famous for discovering The "Osmonds."

Michael Jackson could "melt an iceberg" with his soft, quiet voice whenever he was so inclined.

The great female singer of the 40's and 50's, Peggy Lee sold millions of albums to fans seeking her soft interpretation of marvelous lyrics. She is remembered fondly for her imaginative voice in the movie "Lady and the Tramp."

Rosemary Clooney ( the aunt of George Clooney ) had the most unique voice and style. Every note felt like velvet.

Note: These timeless singers didn't set out to sing with a soft, smooth, easy listening singing style. These artists were born with the necessary vocal properties. I mention the above singers as an example of pure vocal control which is needed for the production of soft singing.

Listen to the clarity of this soft but expressive voice and how every word is enunciated.

Final Exercise - Soft Voice

Here is your final exercise for learning how to sing quietly or softly.

  • Sing the song "Amazing Grace" along with the video below. If you prefer, you may hum along.
  • Now sing it again but this time select one phrase and sing it softly. You may choose any phrase or line of your liking. I suggest using the very first phrase to try your new soft voice out because it is in comfortable place range wise.
  • When the notes get higher, the body must exert more breath pressure so be sure you inhale more air to help you reach the higher notes. These notes will also sound louder and more powerful.
  • Another area you might want to sing softer is the very end of the song in each verse. Example: Was blind, but now I see.

The more times you sing and concentrate on where you deliberately want softer tones, the easier it will become.

Summing it all up.

Singing soft is harder to do than singing loud. It requires more skill and absolute vocal control.

Everyday, practice visualizing soft. You need to do this. You will be instantly calling on your imagination to define and feel soft in your mind in order to sing softly.

Always warm up your voice by humming softly. Just five notes up and five notes down are sufficient. For example:

  • Begin humming on an 'A' just below middle 'C' (men will need to adjust their voice either 3 notes lower or a complete octave lower.)
  • ABC#DE-DC#BA then transpose up 1/2 step BbCDEbF-EbDCBb and continue transposing up by 1/2 steps. Stop the transposition when the exercises become to high to sing easily.
  • To practice soft singing go from a humming sound to adding a vowel at the end of the hum. Ex. - Hummmmme - Hummmmmeh - Hummmmmo - Hummmmmmah.
  • Happy Birthday to You - Practice singing various phrases softly.
  • Listen to soft singing which will help you duplicate softer sounds using your voice.
  • Sing along with Amazing Grace, selecting which parts of the song you will use your softer voice to sing with.

Remember that as you are forming brand new good habits for singing, you are also stopping those bad habits which prevented you from being able to sing softly in the first place.

Be very patient with yourself. Don't expect immediate results. It can take days, weeks or even months to teach your body and mind to develop new singing habits.

Let your intuition guide you but let reason speak. You are the master.

Sing with joy ~

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© 2013 Audrey Hunt

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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Woo, lots of good information here. I have been working on "I Fall to Pieces" and it really is not easy to sing softly and does take some work! Thanks for your many tips.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, wow, I am actually singing softly!!! Who would of thought, not anyone at my church. I shall practice really hard and on Sunday, all in front of me shall turn around in, well, shock, when they see that it I who is singing so softly and beautifully . . . I added the beautifully part, as I am assuming softly doesn't necessarily mean beautifully?

      Thanks for the awesome hub here. My daughter is interested in taking voice, and so I shall share with her as well as vote up +++ and share elsewhere too!

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Audrey, if I had you as a voice coach back in the 60's I'd be in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame right now. LOL Seriously my friend, you rock with your information and suggestions. What a great teacher you are!

      love and blessings,

      bill

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hi Jackie -

      Great to see you here. 'I fall to pieces' is such a good song. And you are to be commended for working on it. Thanks for using my tips here and let me know if I can help you further. :)

      Hi Faith -

      I'm sitting here, bent over with laughter :) (I added the beautiful part.) OMG - you are so funny!

      How wonderful that your daughter is wanting to study singing. I'd love to help her. Thanks so much for all the votes and sharing!

    • HappyMikeWritter profile image

      HappyMikeWritter 3 years ago

      The information you provided are great. Wooow, simply speechless of how article can be done. I really like your style :-)

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is very interesting! You coached well on singing quietly. And singing quietly is more difficult, no doubt. I liked the exercise part.

      Well done and voted up!

    • pinto2011 profile image

      Subhas 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      HI vocalsing I cannot even imagine that this could be a topic and you have made a whole article detailing step wise how to champ it. Thumbs Up to you for your boundary less imagination.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 3 years ago from United States

      This is a fascinating hub as I have always wanted to sing well, but seem to have limited range and talent. I still sing all the time and usually softly so no one hears me! haha Anyway, I sing louder in church as I figure I blend in. I love the directions and am going to try them. Voted up and awesome!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      A great hub Audrey. I can not sing, but i must admit that i had a softer voice after singing with the video. It was fun to try. Thank you for an interesting and instructive lesson...Cheers

    • vocalcoach profile image
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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      billybuc - Thank you so much. And what the heck...you rock anyhow! I am so addicted to your hubs on writing. Thanks for teaching me so much. And did I mention billy - you rock!!! Love 'ya - Audrey

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Audrey, I grew up singing along with the albums of Andy Williams and Tony Bennett. Last year, I sang the Chris Tomlin version of Amazing Grace in church. Then, of course, there are those memorable Hawaiian ballads. Your hub was profitable to me in terms of learning about singing dynamics and techniques AS WELL AS a reminder of my roots and my passion for singing. You're to music what billybuc is to writing, and to have you both as wonderful peers here on HP, along with your beautiful daughter, Lisa, well, that's about as close to heaven on earth as you can get. Thank you so much for sharing this. Aloha!

      Joe

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 3 years ago from Dubai

      Informative and useful. It is very difficult to sing softly. Needs a lot of practice. Great hub, voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the wonderful and very useful voice lesson, Audrey! I've bookmarked it for future use. I will be following your instructions and singing softly very soon!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. Way back, we learned to project (regardless of true volume) without a mic.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 3 years ago from America

      Rosemary Clooney one of my favorites. I think my problem I'm to shy to sing. I would sing to the kids when they were babies but I always thought it sounded awful. You have good instructions in this hub and voted up and shared.

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 3 years ago from Michigan

      Audrey, You present the most helpful and interesting hubs ever. You really knocked this one out of the ball park.

      I love the way you help make concepts simple and yet deep: "When we sing we are instantly connected to a deeper place within ourselves because sound is feeling." and "singing is sustained speech your breathing must come from the belly and not the chest."

      I get what you mean about not confusing Soft Singing With a Meek, Ineffective Sound - Soft is powerful when it comes from a controlled voice.

      Was a treat to listen to Andy Williams - it's been years since I've heard him - what a gorgeous, soft and tender voice this man possessed.

      Lovely and so helpful Audrey - you are the BEST teacher!! Thank You!

      Blessings dear friend!

      Mekenzie

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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      HappyMikeWriter - Thanks so much for reading my hub and leaving your comments. You've made my day.:)

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      ChitrangadaSharan - How exciting to know that someone from New Delhi India has read my hub! So glad you like the exercises. I tried to keep them as simple and fun as possible. Appreciate your vote up. Regards - Audrey

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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Pinto2011 - Hello. You have put such a large smile on my face! I'm grateful for your comments and happy to know you. Thank you so much and enjoy your day!

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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hello Pamela - I remember that you love to sing and I really believe you have a bigger range than you realize. I teach singers how to open up their range and extend both the higher and lower ranges. As for talent - talent is just good, hard work. Keep singing, especially in church and allow that joy to come forth! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the kind votes.

    • vocalcoach profile image
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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Dearest Ruby - Oh yes you most certainly can sing :) Just let me at you!

      So glad you had fun singing along with the video. Have a great day and don't forget to sing me a song!

    • vocalcoach profile image
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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      hawaiianodysseus - You come by singing naturally. As you said, it's in your roots. A beautiful and lasting gift. When I was an entertainer on both Kauai and in Honolulu (The Outrigger,) I sang at least 25 Hawaiian ballads every night. They are endearingly beautiful. Dear Joe, you're kind words have touched my heart and brought me much happiness. What a gift to me to have found you right here on Hubpages. Much Aloha - Audrey

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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Vellur - Hello my friend from Dubai. Thank you for finding my hub informative and useful and for voting up. I can see that you really appreciate how difficult it is to sing softly. Have a wonderful day!

    • Theater girl profile image

      Jennifer 3 years ago from New Jersey

      This is very interesting and inforamtive even to an amatuer singer as myself!

    • vocalcoach profile image
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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      AliciaC - Hi and how are things in British Columbia, Canada? Thank you for finding my hub useful and as you are following my instructions let me know if you need my help. :)

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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Mhatter99 - How is Hubpages finest poet today? I learned to project the same way you did, way back then. And I'm glad I did! Thanks and enjoy your day!

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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      moonlake - Hi. Rosemary Clooney was my favorite female vocalist, especially when she recorded "Hey There." Have you ever thought about joining a choir? It's a good way to overcome shyness. I'm working on another singing hub containing tips for singing when you are shy or love to sing even when you think your singing is really bad. Be sure you read it when it's published. :) Thanks my friend for the vote up and for sharing. Have a great day!

    • vocalcoach profile image
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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Mekenzie - How great to see you here! I certainly appreciate your very kind comments. Glad you share my love for Andy Williams. Thank you so much and sending you hugs! Have a beautiful day my friend! Audrey

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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Theater girl - Thank you for finding my hub interesting and informative. I appreciate it. Take care - Audrey

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 3 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      You have developed such a broad range of knowledge. You are an expert in your field and it shows with these featured presentation that you prepare. Your choice of 'Moon River' by Andy Williams clearly demonstrates the lesson you laid out.

    • vocalcoach profile image
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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      mckbirdbks - I'm sitting here with a lump in my throat and a heart full of happiness. Your kind words have touched me so. How glorious it is to be appreciated for a life-time of work. As I've said before, you are a treasure Mike. Wish I could give you a great big hug!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 3 years ago from south Florida

      What a coincidence, Audrey. 'Would you please sing more softly?' is the request I usually received when I started to vocally perform. I always thought people meant something else by that remark. Now thanks to your professional guidance and explanation, I feel so much betterer! ;)

    • vocalcoach profile image
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      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      drbj - See? You were singing just fine, in fact people enjoyed your voice so much that they wanted to hear your beautiful soft tones. :)

      Q: Why did Mozart get rid of his chickens?

      A: They kept saying Bach, Bach!

      Thank you my friend! - Audrey

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very useful tips and suggestions, Audrey. Breath control has a lot to do with singing well. Thanks for sharing.

      Voted up, useful and shared and pinned.

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      Author

      Audrey Hunt 3 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      rajan - Yes, breathing correctly acts as a 'cushion' for the tone to ride on. Very nice to see you here.

      Thank you so much for the votes, sharing and pinning. Hugs ~ Audrey

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 3 years ago

      Sing to me in the soft

      tickling voice of a woman

      Whisper if you will

      I will hum along

      see I can't remember the words

      yet I love your voice

      even so...........:-}

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Hello my dear friend - This is so lovely. I think you should finish it!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Hi Audrey, my partner thought I was mad! lol! I was sitting here singing, hot, hot hot, getting softer! haha! Great advice, and what a great singing coach you are!

    • vocalcoach profile image
      Author

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Nell Rose - Oh, good for you! You may get strange looks from observers when practicing some of my vocal exercises :) Thanks, my friend!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 months ago from Long Island, NY

      This is another useful hub you wrote. You explain well how to train for soft singing.

      I was at a rock concert recently where the group yelled loudly and it was not entertaining at all. I felt they could not sing at all. Now that I read your hub I realize I was right. You mentioned that it takes more skill to sing softly.

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