5 Things you can do to improve your singing voice
Whether you’re singing Happy Birthday to someone at the office or singing along with the radio in your car, it never hurts to try to sound a bit better. Here are five easy-to-learn tips to improve your singing today.
1. Stand Up
When you sing, your posture can have a huge effect on the way you sound. Your chest, and more importantly your lungs, need to be open as wide as possible to get a good sound. Stand up straight, stretch out your arms and keep your shoulders down and back. When standing, feel your weight on your feet. If it is not balanced, shift your body, bend your knees, straighten your back until your weight feels balanced on your feet. You will know if you are well balanced if you can raise your toes without feeling a change of balance. To open up your chest, imagine holding a huge beach ball in your hands. Fill up your lungs with air and feel the expansion in your chest. So today when you sing, standing up will go a long way to improving the way you sound and look.
Believe if or not, there are many different ways to breathe. For singers, you don’t want your shoulders to move up when you take in a breath as this will only create tension in your chest and neck. Instead your belly should move out and in (your chest will expand too). Practice taking in a quick full breath and then slowly exhaling the air. If you have more singing experience, work on exercising your diaphragm - it can help you control your breathing.
Also, for each song that you sing, plan where you are going to take your breaths. You do not want to be taking a gulp of breath in the middle of a lyrical phrase. By planning and practicing where to take your breath, you will be able to concentrate on delivering the lyric.
When you are singing today, be aware of your breathing: how you are breathing and where you are taking your breath during the song.
3. Open your mouth
This sounds like a no-brainer but many of us don’t open wide enough when we sing. We might think that our mouth is open wide, we might be shy to open it wider than we normally do, or we might even think that it’s our style to sing with a mouth that is only slightly open. Whatever the reason, it won’t hurt you to try to open your mouth wider than you normally do. Physically, you know your mouth is really wide open if you feel like yawning. When you yawn you will feel the increased space in your mouth and throat. In fact, practicing yawning will really open your mouth to let your voice flow out. For today, exaggerate opening your mouth really wide while singing and if possible record yourself so that you can listen to the difference in the sound of your voice. Make adjustments until you get the sound you want.
4. Sing like you mean it
Over our lifetime we will sing thousands of songs, from Happy Birthday to Auld Lang Syne. Sometimes we sing just for fun, and in those cases it might not matter whether you sound like you mean it or not. But if you’re singing a solo, that you really care about, making sure you mean what you sing will add tremendous value to your performance. I don’t mean over-performing it, or belting it out really loudly. Singing loudly or holding notes for a long time does not necessarily add meaning to your performance. What will make the lyrics more believable is the phrasing, intonation and texture that you give to your delivery of the lyrics. For each song that you want to perform, ask yourself these questions:
- Why are you singing this song?
- What does the song mean to you?
- What do you want to communicate to your audience?
When you have the answers to these questions for the song, practice speaking the lyrics out loud. Speak the phrases as if you were saying them to someone. Know who you are saying the words to and why you are saying the words. Next, before singing the lyrics, practice humming the melody. Listen to where you want to place emphasis and think about how you want to place emphasis; sometimes you will want to sing louder to add emphasis, but sometimes singing with a quiet whisper-like voice can add more impact than a loud voice. Also think about which notes you would like to hold and which you would like to cut short. When you are ready, sing the lyrics to the melody. For the song that you are singing today, practice speaking the words first, humming the melody and then putting the two together and sing the song like you mean it.
5. Use your ears
Controlling what comes out of your mouth, starts with your ears. There is a reason why singers practice scales and follow other musical exercises. The more you can train your ears, the easier it will be for you to sing the notes on key. Although you can spend years training your ears, paying attention to a few details today can improve your performance now. If you are singing with musical accompaniment (live or recorded) listen to the music as you sing and keep your pitch tuned to the music. If you are singing a cappella, you will need to sing from memory and so you’ll need to listen to the music in your memory. This requires more practice than singing with accompaniment but can be quite rewarding. In both cases when you perform you will need to listen to both the music and your vocal. To improve your performance today, listen attentively to the music once without singing along before you perform it. When you are performing the song, let the music guide your voice, you’ll sing great.
A few other thoughts
Paying attention to any one or all of these 5 tips will help improve your singing today, but like anything else, the more you practice the better you’ll be. Practice your posture and your breathing daily so that it becomes natural to you. Learn the lyrics and melody of the songs you sing so well that they seem they could have been written for you. Learn the music so well that you could sing the song in any key, with any musical accompaniment or a cappella.
When you are singing or practicing, if you start to feel pain in your throat, neck or head, stop immediately. Singing should not hurt and any pain that you experience when singing will mean that your muscles are tired or that you are straining for something you are not ready for. Stop singing, take a break, relax and try again later.
All of that said, the best way to improve your singing voice is to sing!
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