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How to Sing Quietly or Softly

Audrey Hunt, a renowned vocal coach, shares valuable information for singing like a professional. Learn how to improve your present voice.

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.

As we sing we reawaken what has been tucked away deep inside, bringing back into the light all our memories, dreams, conflicts, confidences and insecurities. We are instantly connected to a deeper place within ourselves, drawing on our own feelings.

This brings us to an important step in learning to sing softly. Try to imagine the feeling of softness just before you sing, then ask yourself "what does soft feel like?" Images of cotton balls, rose petals, marshmallows, 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.

Teach Yourself to Sing Soft

Step 1

Begin by singing the word ''me" on a comfortable tone, not too high or to low. Make it a medium sound to start with. Hold the note for a count of 1-2-3. Repeat this 3 times.

Tip - When initiating the 'm' on the word "me", 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 softest sound possible and sing the word 'he' on an easy tone. Hold the note for a count of 1-2-3. Repeat this 6 times.

Tip - In order to sing softly 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 fewer vibrations to sing softly unless you are required to hold the note for an extended period of time.

Some folks think it's necessary to use a more closed lip and mouth position when singing quietly. Not true. You still need adequate mouth opening for each and every word.

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.

How to Control Your Voice For a Quiet Sound

To control your voice, breathe from the belly and not the chest.  Keep the chest high and quiet as your belly and rib cage expand.

To control your voice, breathe from the belly and not the chest. Keep the chest high and quiet as your belly and rib cage expand.

Goodbye Tension - Hello Silky Soft Singing

Whether you sing loud or soft, it's important to release tension in the face, neck, and shoulders. Tension is the enemy of the singing voice. It hinders your natural sound by producing un-needed tension in your tone.

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.
  • Now, hum softly avoiding all tension in the lips. Make sure the pitch is easy and comfortable. Refrain from high and low sounds right now.
  • Be sure to inhale, expanding around the waistline, just before humming. Keep the chest high and quiet with no movement as you inhale.
  • The next step is, to begin humming on an 'm' . Once the 'm' is stable add an 'ee' so that you're singing the word 'me.'
  • Continue several times with this exercise, concentrating on the vibrations across the nose and in the lips.
  • 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.

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.

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.

The Rag Doll Exercise

Keep the knees unlocked to avoid strain on the lower back.

Keep the knees unlocked to avoid strain on the lower back.

Reduce Tension in the Body and Voice With The Rag Doll Exercise

Quiet singing requires unleashing body tension and the neck, shoulders and knees are the biggest culprits. So this is what I want you to do before tackling your favorite song:

The following body position involves these three sections of your spine.

  • The Cervical vertebrae which are the neck.
  • The Thoracic vertebrae which are the middle of your back.
  • The Lumbar vertebrae which are the lower back.

Now, If you're ready, you are about to unhinge these 3 sections:

  1. First, standing with good posture, unlock the knees. Legs will be shoulder-width apart.
  2. Next, roll your spine (cervical - neck) slowly until your chin is tucked into your chest.
  3. Bringing your shoulders forward will help with touching your chin to the chest.
  4. Now, you will roll the thoracic or middle back area slightly forward like you are doing a cat stretch. Allow your arms to loosely dangle
  5. Keeping the chin tucked into the chest, roll the lower part of your spine, the lumbar region, down until you touch your toes or as close to your feet as possible. Arms should be loose. Avoid tension by trying to touch your toes.
  6. Remain in this position for about 5-10 seconds releasing all the tension in your body.

Tip: To build your breath support, take a big breath at the beginning of this exercise. Slowly exhale using a hissing sound, throughout this rag doll exercise until completed.

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 softly 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 - What?

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 available. You can also 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 softly 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 in a very light tone.
  • For those of you who have mastered this step, you will continue to sing the same phrases as softly as possible. Repeat 6 times controlling the tone and 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 Soft Voices of The Past and Present

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. These great legends all shared the most important skill of all. They were masters of diaphragmatic breathing.

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" bobbysoxers" 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 '40s and '50s, 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.

An Example of a Quiet, Clear Voice

Amazing Grace Sing-Along Exercise

Here is your final exercise for learning how to develop a softer sounding voice:

  • 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 a 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.
  • You can also select the very end of the song in each verse. Example: Using a lighter sound, "Was blind, but now I see."

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

Sing Along to Amazing Grace Using Your Soft Voice

Summing it all up.

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

Every day, 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 half-steps. Stop the transposition when the exercises become too 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.
  • As you sing any song or exercise make sure you are controlling your air by breathing from the diaphragm and not the chest. This is crucial for good singing. Make it a priority.
  • Your vocal cords (folds) need moisture. Keep hydrated by drinking room temperature water often. Cold, or iced drinks will restrict the vocal cords and this is not good.

Remember that as you are forming new 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. Enjoy the journey.

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

Sing with joy ~

Please take this poll. It will confirm that this hub was helpful

© 2013 Audrey Hunt

Comments

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on September 13, 2017:

Dear Keith

What a heart-warming story this is. Your example of soft singing as you sustain the tone is just what I'm talking about. Choir singing is a very valuable source for improving one's voice. I'm so glad you've share your story. Thank you.

Keith Lello on September 13, 2017:

A lifetime of singing in the shower, around the office, at public Christmas carol gatherings and the like, I thought I was a pretty good singer but finally giving in to all the suggestions I should join a choir, I discovered how much I had to learn. Holding a note while singing softly was just one of my shortcomings! My short time with one of the best male choirs in Hobart has improved my singing and having great voices around me allowed me to disguise my soft-voice wavering by remaining silent during those critical long, soft notes, relying on my fellow singers to cover my inadequacy.

I have spent a little time doing all the exercises as I worked my way through this item and found, to my surprise, with one session, I was able to detect an improvement in my ability. I am not so silly as to think I have overcome all my difficulties but there is a definite improvement which I will be continuing to build upon.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 04, 2017:

Hi Glenn

Singers, especially those that sing rock, are risking the loss of their voice sooner or later. They should know this and take precautions to protect their vocal chords. Thanks for being here my friend.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on August 31, 2016:

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.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 29, 2014:

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

Nell Rose from England on April 29, 2014:

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!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 14, 2014:

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

ahorseback on November 12, 2013:

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...........:-}

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on July 26, 2013:

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

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 26, 2013:

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.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on June 02, 2013:

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

drbj and sherry from south Florida on June 02, 2013:

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! ;)

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on June 01, 2013:

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!

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on May 31, 2013:

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.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 29, 2013:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 29, 2013:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 28, 2013:

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!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 28, 2013:

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!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 28, 2013:

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. :)

Jennifer from New Jersey on May 28, 2013:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 27, 2013:

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!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 27, 2013:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 27, 2013:

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!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 25, 2013:

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.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 25, 2013:

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!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 25, 2013:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 25, 2013:

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

Susan Ream from Michigan on May 24, 2013:

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

moonlake from America on May 24, 2013:

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.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on May 23, 2013:

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

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 23, 2013:

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!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 23, 2013:

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

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on May 23, 2013:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 23, 2013:

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

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on May 23, 2013:

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

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 23, 2013:

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!

Subhas from New Delhi, India on May 22, 2013:

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.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 22, 2013:

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!

HappyMikeWritter on May 22, 2013:

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

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 22, 2013:

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!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 22, 2013:

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

Faith Reaper from southern USA on May 22, 2013:

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

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on May 22, 2013:

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.