The Most Important Thing Beginning Singers Need to Know

Updated on July 7, 2018
vocalcoach profile image

Respected vocal coach and professional singer, Audrey Hunt lays it on the line when it comes to the responsibility of singing.

Angela Hernandez, authors former student, and professional singer
Angela Hernandez, authors former student, and professional singer | Source

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. | Source

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. | Source

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. | Source

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. | Source

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. | Source

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.

Beyond listening is hearing. First, you listen; then you hear.

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. | Source

If your song is to continue you must do the singing.

Audrey Hunt

Has this article convinced you to open your mouth more when you sing?

See results

Questions & Answers

  • When singing vowels can the mouth be kept wide open?

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

© 2017 Audrey Hunt

Comments

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    • profile image

      kaypee 

      4 months ago

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

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 months ago from North Texas

      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 . . .

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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 profile image

      Leland Johnson 

      5 months ago from Midland MI

      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!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      5 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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 profile image

      Leland Johnson 

      5 months ago from Midland MI

      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!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      11 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      11 months ago

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

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      15 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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.

    • Thish profile image

      Ohla 

      15 months ago

      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.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      19 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      19 months ago from Central Florida

      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)!

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      19 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      19 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

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

    • profile image

      vocalcoach 

      20 months ago

      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 profile image

      Genna East 

      20 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      "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.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      20 months ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      20 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      20 months ago from USA

      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.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      20 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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.

    • vocalcoach profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Hunt 

      20 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      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.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      20 months ago from Southern Illinois

      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..

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      20 months ago from South Africa

      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 profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      20 months ago from Houston, TX USA

      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.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      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

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      20 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

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

      Have a lovely day!

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