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.

2. Breathe

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.

Sing Like You Mean It!

Sing 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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18 Comments

Posted by Flora Bosh 27. June 2009 at 5:30 am :

Hi!
Nice tips but 4th one is quite difficult. It’s very difficult to communicate to your audience?
Hope i will know that soon

Posted by Teresa 28. June 2009 at 1:56 pm :

Hi Fiona! Thanks for the comment and question! If the song choice is yours, choosing a song with lyrics that you can relate to will make it easier to sing it like you mean it. If the song is imposed on you, as sometimes happens in competitions, it may be harder, but try to find some experience in your life that you can relate to the lyrics. A longer-term suggestion is to take a few acting lessons where you can learn techniques on how to deliver dialog which you can then apply to delivering song lyrics in a meaningful way.

Posted by Erstwhile D 23. July 2009 at 9:40 pm :

This is one of the most thought provoking articles I’ve read that’s been written for a karaoke audience. Thanks for taking the ad-nauseum novelty, carnival based element out of the dialogue and offering something substantial.

On point 4, It’s been my experience that singers tend to have trouble distinguishing between the original artists track and their own interpretation of a given song, ‘going on’ as a reference ‘in their heads’, as they sing.

One practice that I’ve learned helps me greatly is to read the full slide of lyrics, ahead of its timing, and then memorize it. Close your eyes and concentrate solely on the more subtle musical cues that help create a more detailed, complex vocal interpretation of the song and a more meaningfully personal delivery then follows naturally.

Simplified (for the functionally illiterate): Read ahead, know what lyrics are coming and close your eyes as you sing them to the music. Putting your full concentration to the blend of your voice and the track, forces the song to be delivered with more complexity and emotional impact, automatically.

Posted by Mike W 2. August 2009 at 3:31 pm :

i love to sing and someday i plan on being a singer and just as successful as Beyonce Knowles

Posted by Owen Kalanga 3. September 2009 at 4:05 am :

very good tips

Posted by Tom 1. November 2009 at 7:18 am :

Thanks for the tips! These are areas that I never gave thought to but will help in the future. Thanks again….

Posted by Handy Softwares 15. November 2010 at 1:06 am :

Very nice and useful tips!

Posted by Akarshan 17. December 2011 at 11:31 am :

I have just entered into the class singing classes. I had a melodious voice when I was 18. Thereafter I left singing and now at the age of 38 I am learning classical singing. My passion towards singing has forced me to start singing. Now I just want to get back my melodiness. But the question is can I get back my earlier voice if I practice for another five to six years?

Posted by screamneagle35 23. December 2011 at 2:08 am :

everyone who sang years ago can still sing, Just need to practice scales and lossen vocal chords up, and most of all if you have a song in your heart shame not to sing it good luck!!!!

Posted by jojo 9. June 2012 at 10:24 am :

HI I really did not try any but i hope i get better

Posted by jojo 9. June 2012 at 10:24 am :

laaalaaaa

Posted by judith 31. August 2012 at 9:59 am :

i really want to sing loud and melodious and also how to control my breath when singing

Posted by Mike Medina 17. October 2012 at 4:33 pm :

In regards to the tip 5, to use your ears.

I have found that different venues resonate differently which can confuse some vocalists. I always preach for vocalists to listen with their “Inner ears”. By Inner ears I mean to learn to pay attention to the sounds you hear from what is called “Bone Induction”. This is “listening” to the vibrations emanating from your vox that travel though your physical body directly to your inner ear, not sound reflecting from your surroundings back to your ears.

This sound is much truer as the surroundings will not mess with it’s harmonics. There is a pitch difference that you need to learn to adjust to, but once you learn that it is game on.

I have been doing this for the last 15+ years and I no longer need or even want monitors onstage.

Posted by elizabeth 10. November 2012 at 2:35 pm :

great tips they work extremly well thanks a lot

Posted by cwasiayamigah 17. April 2013 at 4:15 am :

thank you for this wonderful tips

Posted by Peter korankye 25. October 2013 at 3:26 pm :

That is very good!Thanks a lot!Because without these things,you can not sing quality and good voice

Posted by Shai 30. October 2013 at 7:55 pm :

Hi Teresa,Thanks for your tips,they are extremely useful and I have been practicing accordingly. It has helped me develop my voice even better.
Than you
Shai

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