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The Most Important Thing Beginning Singers Need to Know

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

Angela Hernandez, authors former student, and professional singer

Angela Hernandez, authors former student, and professional singer

Open Your Mouth to Improve Your Singing

"Let me out" cried the voice inside. "Please, I beg you, open the gates to the jaw and mouth wide enough for me to escape. Release me."

If your voice could talk to you when you sing, this is the plea you would hear. So don't be afraid to show off those pearly whites. Open your mouth to project your sound, especially when singing any word containing the "Ah" vowel. This is the most important thing singers need to know other than breathing correctly.

Now, let's look at the benefits for opening wide when you sing.

Vocal Tones Can Only be Projected When The Mouth is Generously Opened

Author's former student, Kristen McNamara, a finalist on television's American Idol.  Notice how she sings with her mouth fully open.

Author's former student, Kristen McNamara, a finalist on television's American Idol. Notice how she sings with her mouth fully open.

Yawning Exercise For Opening The Back of the Throat

In singing, backspace refers to the space in the back of the mouth as well as your throat. This is something all singers must learn to do as early as possible. The result of not learning to do this is a 'swallowed" sound, a non-pleasing sound, trapped in the very back of your throat.

Try the following exercise to help you create the open space needed for a great, free tone:

  • Yawn. Make it a real yawn. Relax your body and simply yawn. Do this 2 - 3 times.
  • This is where awareness and feeling come into play. This is how the soft palate is activated and lifts to make room in the back of the throat.
  • Feel the open space you've created in the back of your mouth and throat.
  • Now yawn with your lips closed. This is the open space you need. Feel it. Practice it.
  • Make this feeling a part of your everyday routine. This can be practiced while driving, sitting, during commercials while watching television, waiting in line, bathing, walking or laying down.

The soft palate is located in the very back of your throat. It's a 'moon-shaped' look which appears at the end of the hard palate (roof of the mouth.) Whenever you yawn your soft palate will rise to create more space in the mouth.

Yawning Improves Singing by Creating More Space in The Throat

Yawning relaxes the soft palate and the larynx drops to an "open' position.  This creates more space in the mouth.

Yawning relaxes the soft palate and the larynx drops to an "open' position. This creates more space in the mouth.

Sing Better, Sing Stronger With an Open Mouth

Here's a tip to help you open your mouth wider. It's simple and it works. Wash and dry your hands before you do the following:

  • Locate the first and second finger on either your right or left hand.
  • Place these two fingers perpendicular just inside your mouth between your front upper and lower teeth.
  • Keep your jaw relaxed.
  • This is about how much space you will need for singing specific vowels - especially the sound of ah. (Of course, this doesn't apply to vowels Ee, Eh, Oh and Oo).
  • Now with the fingers still in your mouth sing ah on a comfortable pitch. Avoid singing too high or too low.
  • Hold the ah sound for the count of 5.
  • Repeat 6 times.
  • Repeat this exercise but this time remove the fingers from your mouth on the count of two, still sustaining the ah sound.

It's natural to feel uncomfortable in the beginning especially if you normally sing with a small mouth opening. Don't worry about it. Keep practicing and before you know it singing this way will feel normal.

Check out the video below for more coaching on this exercise.

Drop Your Jaw to Project Your Singing

I'm not only dropping my jaw to project my tone, I'm also lifting my eyebrows which helps to hit those high notes.

I'm not only dropping my jaw to project my tone, I'm also lifting my eyebrows which helps to hit those high notes.

Another Way to Feel Space Inside Your Mouth For Singing

The following exercise is one that I teach my vocal students regardless of the level of expertise they claim to have:

  • To feel the space inside your mouth pretend that you have an egg in the back of your mouth. If you're not an egg lover pretend it's a golf ball.
  • When air is moved through your mouth the "egg" space remains open.
  • Sing a section of your favorite song, finding the openness of the yawn, and imagining the golf ball or egg space in the back of your throat.
  • Then practice singing words containing the Ah vowel, such as hot, and pretend you have a golf ball in your mouth.

Warning: Do not use a real golf ball or an egg.

Good Singing Requires a Generous Mouth Opening

I'm gently helping this young lady learn how to drop her jaw for a bigger mouth opening.  Doing so will project her tone and keep her singing on key.

I'm gently helping this young lady learn how to drop her jaw for a bigger mouth opening. Doing so will project her tone and keep her singing on key.

Don't Forget The Water

Singers require more water than non-singers. This is because the throat must be moist during singing. This includes practice and rehearsal time too. Be sure your water is room-temperature. Cold drinks will restrict your vocal chords and this is the last thing you want to happen. Singers must keep the throat moist during practice, rehearsal and performance.

Avoid anything that may cause dryness to your throat. This includes medications and anti-histamines. Of course, smoking, caffeine, and alcohol is a strict no-no and this includes vaping.

And if you're a screamer or yell often damage to your throat is right around the corner.

Singers Require Plenty of Water

Sipping room-temperature water during my rehearsal.

Sipping room-temperature water during my rehearsal.

Who Told You That You Can't Sing?

So once upon a time, someone (who knows nothing about the mechanics of singing), told you your voice stinks. Baloney! Hogwash! Ridiculous! This is like telling you "you can't talk." If you can speak - you can sing. But you must open your mouth wide enough for the sound to escape. You must drop your jaw.

You have just what you need right now. You have the talent (which is another word for working hard), the qualifications (you were given the right singing tools when you were born.) Your singing may not be as professional sounding as someone else, but that's okay. You're not competing with them. You're only competing with yourself. You only have to become the best that you can be.

Transform Your Singing By Really Listening To Your Sound

Great singing is all about feeling the mechanics of the voice. It's an awareness you must incorporate as you vocalize. Only when you are aware of your true sound are you able to bring about change. Study the way you sound and how your body feels as you sing. Listen to the texture, the tone, and control in each phrase. This is especially important when you first learn to sing. And it's a crucial step to practicing vocal exercises.

As an example, focus on being present with every breath you take. Don't let your attention wander. Concentrate on breathing from the belly instead of the chest and shoulders.

Breathe in all of the air you need for each phrase. Take in enough air, but don't inhale more air than is needed to sing through the phrase. This can cause swelling in the vocal bands. In other words, measure just how much air is needed for every phrase.

You begin to transform your vocal sound the very instant you develop awareness. I'm not talking about judging how you sound. I'm saying "be your own teacher" and pay attention to the technical control you have.

Do you think you don't have the talent to sing? Well, you do. You were born with the tools needed to develop a fine voice. These tools are available to you right now. You simply need to learn how to use them properly.

Closing Thoughts

I've dedicated half my life to helping others to sing with a better voice. I love it! What a privilege. I can't begin to tell you how blessed I feel.

The singing voice is closely related to one's self-esteem. When I witness the personal growth and development of both the student and their singing voice I am over-the-moon happy. With knowledge, practice, and dedication, oh, how high our confidence grows.

In a way, the mouth is a very personal thing and to be asked to expose our teeth and tongue can be uncomfortable. But the mouth is the biggest resonator in our body. And what does this oral cavity resonate? Sound. The sound of life and the sound of singing and laughing.

So, open your mouth and free your voice. Let it ring. Stop judging your sound. Just Sing!

Free Your Voice to the Possibilities

Open your mouth, open your arms and open your heart to free your voice and sing your song.

Open your mouth, open your arms and open your heart to free your voice and sing your song.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why is there tension in my voice?

Answer: Tension can be caused by holding tension in the neck, shoulder and jaw area of the body. Incorrect breathing (using the chest instead of the belly) can also cause tension. Relax the face muscles, the lips, and the tongue as you sing. I highly recommend learning the "ragdoll" relaxation exercise: https://spinditty.com/learning/Find-Your-Natural-S...

When tension is found in the body, there will be tension in the tone which can lead to vocal strain.

Question: When singing vowels can the mouth be kept wide open?

Answer: Of course, not. You must learn the correct moth positions for each vowel.

Question: I've been practicing singing recently and my friend says I'm having issues singing in tune. What exercises would help me to sing on key?

Answer: Ear-training exercises are helpful; however, you must practice regularly until the ear is fully developed. Try the following exercises:

1. Listen to a sound being played on a musical instrument such as the piano, guitar, or a singer. The sound should be a single sound only and not a series of sounds.

2. Record your voice as you repeat the sound you hear. Listen, listen and listen again to the comparison between the two sounds.

3. Is your sound the same or is it too high or too low?

4. Repeat step 1, 2 and 3 adjusting your sound (pitch) to match what you hear.

This may take time, depending on your present level of accuracy. The more you practice this exercise, the faster you’ll progress. Your goal is to be able to produce the exact pitch or sound you hear the very first time you try.

After completing step 5, as shown above, it’s time to advance to duplicating three or four notes at a time.

Finally, take one or two phrases making sure every sound you deliver is one hundred percent on key.

Always remember – the sound you think of is the sound you will produce

Question: Is it okay to feel that while singing your throat is sore, but it seems okay when not singing?

Answer: Absolutely not! A sore throat is an indication that you are straining your voice. Make sure you are breathing from the diaphragm.

Question: how much time does it take for vocal cords to open if you are regularly practicing for two hours a day?

Answer: The vocal cords open every time you make a sound. Practicing has nothing to do with it.

Question: Is it ok to drink cold water while practicing singing?

Answer: Good question. Cold temperatures can restrict the vocal cords, therefore it's best to drink room-temperature water. The vocal cords like warmth in order to perform at their best. Cold water restricts our vocal cords. It's important to spend at least 15 minutes warming up the voice before singing. Be sure to drink room temperature water during the warm-up period.

Question: How do I control my breath when singing? I keep getting out of breath when I sing higher.

Answer: The higher you sing, the more breath pressure you need. This can only be supplied by breathing from the diaphragm. Here is help for learning how to do this: https://spinditty.com/learning/TheMiracleofBreathi...

When you sing, the sound you make is determined by how much air you inhale and use as you sing. I advise you to take as much time as you need to learn diaphragmatic breathing. Otherwise, you risk damaging your voice. All professional singers breathe from the belly and not the chest.

Question: How can I maintain my pitch when singing?

Answer: I teach my students to take the time to listen to their tone by recording the voice. Also, breath support has much to do with maintaining pitch. Your singing rides on air and if the air is lacking, the notes are weak and off-key. Breath from the diaphragm (the belly) to support the pitch upi want to sing. Start learning scales and sing them every day.

Question: How can I sing through the diaphragm, should I inhale from my nose or mouth?

Answer: How to use the diaphragm properly is one of the most important elements for great singing. This article will teach you how in simple steps: https://spinditty.com/learning/TheMiracleofBreathi...

Always inhale through your nose! After you study my article, if you still have questions, let me know and thanks.

Question: How do I warm-up before singing? Is singing a simple and easy song a better idea than doing vocal exercises?

Answer: Warm-ups work best when designed for your particular voice. I recommend at least a 20-minute vocal warm-up before singing. Singing a song is not considered a warm-up. Warm-ups serve a purpose for the singer, depending on the singer's vocal technique.

© 2017 Audrey Hunt

Comments

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on May 14, 2020:

Thanks and I hope to see you again. I have several articles on singing.

Elaiandndnfjhfhjgugbmgrdy on May 13, 2020:

well its nice

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on December 14, 2019:

Hi Melissa

I'm thrilled to know you liked my article and invite you to come back anytime.

Happy singing!

Melissa on December 04, 2019:

Thank you for the many explanations in this article to improve my playing music

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on March 28, 2019:

Arpan

Be sure to use diaphragmatic breathing when singing. This helps to give a nice connection and will give a smooth tone. Avoid over singing. Keep the volume gentle, but clear. Avoid all harshness and keep your pitch centered at all times.

Arpan Chhetri on March 28, 2019:

Any tips for sweet and pleasant voice ??

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on November 28, 2018:

Smilez

Hi. Thanks for reading my article. I'm glad to know that you/re willing to open your mouth more when you sing. It really makes a difference. Thanks for liking my hub!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on November 17, 2018:

Thank you. What are some of your dreams? Do you have goals for your singing? There are steps to follow and work to be done as you pursue your dreams of success. Consider building a fan base as you perform publicly.

Also, work with a good vocal coach. This is the way to begin your career.

Nokwanda jiyeza on November 17, 2018:

I like to sing and I have are good voice too but I just need someone who can help me achieve my dreams

Smiléz on November 10, 2018:

Wow I'm so amazed with this pretty singing technique,I'm one of a kind that doesn't love to "open mouth" but I really found life in it.thank you so much

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on October 19, 2018:

imran

Thank you for being here. I appreciate your kind words. Sing with joy!

imran on October 15, 2018:

Hy very good article thanks for sharing keep up the good work

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on October 14, 2018:

Clara

Thank you kindly for your generous comments. I've a big smile on my face!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on October 13, 2018:

rahul singh

Thanks for reading my article about the singing voice. I'm glad you liked this information. Appreciate your kind words.

rahul singh on October 11, 2018:

Hy very good article thanks for sharing keep up the good work

Clara on October 10, 2018:

Best article on the topic of singing ! Much Needed .

kaypee on May 11, 2018:

I'm stranded because I don't have any help in fulfilling my career. I'm a song writer.

Abhishek on April 26, 2018:

I'm an indian . Wanna be an great singer . I'm dedicated to get that but i really need someone to give me that . I'm beging will you please help me. I makes you damn sure , that i will do my hundred pecent to get american accent.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 04, 2018:

C E Clark

Thank you so much for visiting and for your very helpful comments. I've actually created a vocal warm-up video, but I love your suggestion to make some short videos on this and other hubs I've written on singing.

I'm also working on a book about singing. It's a huge undertaking but something I really want to do.

C E Clark from North Texas on April 02, 2018:

What a great article for everyone, but especially people who aspire to sing publicly or as a vocation! Maybe you're already doing this, but if not, you might like to consider making some short videos (under 15 minutes) demonstrating either alone or with one of your students, what you are talking about in your articles on this subject. Hopefully adding another income stream . . .

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 01, 2018:

Hi Leland

Know what? I'm on the ketogenic diet too. My energy level has improved drastically and my sugar craving is completely gone.

What a marvelous couple you both are...a musician and composer coupled with a professional vocalist! It isn't often that I run across such a musical combination.

Thank you for your support and give your wife thanks from me.

Musically Yours

Audrey

Leland Johnson from Midland MI on April 01, 2018:

Hi Audrey

I can't believe you mentioned "no dairy!" I was doing the ketogenic diet and cut out milk and not only felt better physically, but also noticed a reduction in the phlegmy sensation in the back of my throat!

Yes, I do compose as well. My wife is a professional vocalist, classically trained choral and vocal performance and she would support everything you've said. I look forward to reading more of your work too!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on April 01, 2018:

Hi Leland

Thank you for your follow, for reading my hub and leaving great comments. To prevent phlegm, no dairy! Even milk on your cereal will bring problems. I use almond milk. Chocolate will also cause phlegm if taken in access.

I see that you're a songwriter. Wow! I'll be checking your hubs. I love running into composers as I taught Composition for many years at Moorpark College.

I'm glad to find you here at hub pages. This is a great place to share your articles. I wish you the best.

Leland Johnson from Midland MI on April 01, 2018:

I love all the practical advice. I've noticed that sometimes when I sing I get a phlegmy feeling in the back of my throat. I know that excessive clearing of the throat is bad for the vocal cords, so I try not to do that so much. Keeping the throat moist and lubricated makes such good sense. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on October 05, 2017:

Dear Dianna

Well, I'll tell you what...shoot me an email and I'll send you some information on how I can give you lessons. The first one is on me. :) Thanks my friend.

Dianna Mendez on October 03, 2017:

If only I could take voice lessons from you! You are such an inspiration.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on June 25, 2017:

Thish

Thank you for sharing your comments. I'm so glad to know that my article on singing has helped. It's difficult to project our voice when the mouth is not opened wide enough.

Ohla on June 25, 2017:

My daughter has a very nice voice and has a talent in singing. She has rhythem. But she doe n't like to open her mouth wide and sing though i always urge her to. This article helped me to impress with that. Thanks Audrey.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 08, 2017:

Hello dear Sha. It's wonderful when we cast our inhibitions aside as you've said and just sing. Thank you my friend for the kind comments. Stay healthy and very happy.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 08, 2017:

Audrey, I always sing my best when I cast aside my inhibitions and belt it out. This article certainly reinforces that!

I think it's wonderful you had a student make it to American Idol. You must be so proud (not to mention an awesome vocal coach)!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 07, 2017:

AliciaC

We often feel foolish when we open our mouth wide but oh, what a difference it makes in our singing sound. Glad you'll be trying these tips to improve your voice.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on February 07, 2017:

When my words inspire anyone to want to sing I couldn't ask for more than that. Thank you MsDora.

vocalcoach on January 22, 2017:

Hi Dora

Good for you! Singing daily refreshes the mind and the soul. It's free and also healing. Keep on singing my friend.

Linda

Very happy to know you liked these tips. Singing is a gift we give to ourselves. Sing often and thanks!

Genna

Your kind comments, full of wisdom, fill my heart with warmth and joy. We teachers go a long time without being acknowledged for our never-ending hard work. You've filled that void gap. Thank you on behalf of not only myself but teachers everywhere.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on January 22, 2017:

"Singing is our birthright." Absolutely. Music (and the arts) is the miracle of humanity. Your exercises are priceless -- including the tip about the water being at room temperature. I didn't know that McNamara was a pupil of yours, Audrey. I think your students were, and are, blessed to have you as their coach. Hugs and Happy Sunday.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 21, 2017:

Thank you for sharing these tips, Audrey. I'm going to try them. I'm sure they'll be helpful!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 21, 2017:

What a noble assignment yours is, Audrey. I practiced the instructions as I read them, except I didn't wash my hands and I didn't repeat six times. Still, you make me want to sing and I will more often. Thank you.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on January 20, 2017:

Hi Flourish

Yes, I've actually had a number of students on Idol as well as The Voice. So glad you like these tips and it's always great to see you my friend.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 20, 2017:

Wow, you're a former teacher of an Idol finalist! How neat. Your tips certainly give courage and confidence to people to find their voice.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on January 20, 2017:

Hi Ruby

I'm so happy you are still singing! And we all sound better singing at home. I hear the same thing with piano students. :)

Keep on making music my dear friend.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Idyllwild Ca. on January 20, 2017:

Dear Mar - I could not ask for more. To motivate and inspire is my constant intent. Thank you for your warm comments my friend. Have a spectacular day!

Hi Bill - Opening the mouth big enough to allow the tone to sound it's best seems easy. Your remarks are so true. Feeling my old bossy self again so check your email soon - ready to do more writing.

Thanks Bill.

love,

Audrey

Hello Jay - Shame on anyone who tells you not to sing. :) Tell you what - meet me on 'skype', sing for me and let me be the judge of how well you sing. This invitation is 'on the house.'

Meanwhile, keep singing!

Dear Martie. Thanks for trying to follow my singing advice. I do realize getting used to opening your mouth wider isn't that easy but with practice it will become automatic.

How I wish I had the opportunity to work with your voice. And I'm about ready to you tube my voice. The recording is finished. Now I just need to learn how to download it to you tube and add some background images.

Always something new to learn.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 20, 2017:

I learn something new each time I read your instruction's. I didn't know that cold water restricted the vocal cords. I am still trying to sing, funny how much better I sound at home than in church. I'm gonna open up wide and let it all hang out. Thanks Audrey..

Martie Coetser from South Africa on January 20, 2017:

While reading I actually tried your advice. Fortunately nobody could see or hear me. You make it sound so easy, vocalcoach. I am still hoping to hear you sing. Do you have any videos on YouTube?

Jay C OBrien from Houston, TX USA on January 20, 2017:

I recall singing in the shower, having a grand old time, then my wife came in and told me, "Never sing in public ever again." I recalled several other people told me not to sing, so I just sing to myself when I am alone.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 20, 2017:

That's one of those things that makes a great amount of sense when you read it, but may not have even entered our minds when singing. Great tips, my friend.

I hope you are finally feeling better. Get on the mend soon. You have a book to finish. :)

love,

bill

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on January 20, 2017:

Motivational and inspiring, dear Audrey - you are the ultimate teacher.

Have a lovely day!