As a newbie in any chosen area, its always hard to make the first steps, especially when you have to make it on your own. Same applies to the world of singing. Although a solid singing technique requires some years of serious vocal training, there are some ways to improve your singing voice instantly. Let me share 5 with you.
While explaining the theory behind the idea, I will also give you one or two exercises so you can start off right away
1. Increase your tone
What the heck does that mean? Remember when I talked about the importance of the muscles in the singing process. A muscle has a certain tone. For instance, when you’re tired, chances are your whole body is toned low. Everything feels floppy and heavy. If you want to run it’s hard and you need some time to get started. In singing, a low tone leads to singing flat, unrhythmic and exhausting.
Now think of a cat. A cat that walks in the grass and suddenly spots a bird on the ground. Instantly, she is alert and ready to catch that bird. The cat is now in a perfect tone state. In her mind she probably quickly imagines every move she’ll make in the next ten seconds. She is READY.
Before you sing the first note, before you even open your mouth, that’s the state you should be in. If your body is perfectly toned, singing is so much easier, regardless of the current level of your skills.
Try it out. Imagine that you are the cat watching the bird. You will discover how your body reacts immediately to this image and shapes your tone to alertness.
2. Control your breath
Much has been said and taught about breathing. Terms like “breath support” can really be misleading, especially for beginners. One thing’s for sure, though: In order to produce a sound, your vocal chords need to close and they do so when air passes trough. That’s called Bernoulli’s principle and the physical effect, why airplanes can fly. Basically, they don’t take off because their strong engines shooting them into the sky, but because of the air that literally pulls them up. But what does that mean for singing? One of the underlying fundamentals are, that ideally you should sing only with the air. Your primary work should be, to let the air flow through your body and does all the rest for you. The vibrating, the vocal chord closing, the pitching. Another misconception is, how much air you need for singing.
One famous opera singer (I can’t recall his name though) once said, that you only need a spoon full of air to sing through a whole song. You don’t have to inflate like a balloon to get a better breath support. Mostly, the problem is not getting enough air into your body, but losing too much during singing.
So, breath control, in my opinion, is the better term. There are two wonderful, yet simple breathing exercises, you can start with.
- The lip-roll: Close your lips and blow air trough. Your lips should now open and close, open and close and produce a funny sound. I’m sure any of you have already made a lip-roll once in a while, even if it wasn’t on purpose. You can now practice a song by lip-rolling trough it. Try to keep your lips loose. If they are too tight pressed together, the air get stuck and the sound will interrupt. Work on this until you master it.
- The second exercise is a little more complicated, but I’m sure you will manage it perfectly. Stand up, put your hands on your waist and Inhale, so that your abdomen expands. Now hold your breath and release the air slowly by making a long hiss like a snake. Try to prolong it for 10 seconds. Then inhale again and start over. If you master this exercise and make it up to 30 seconds, you’re body will be prepared for using the right amount of air for singing.
3. Warm Up
To sing with a “cold” voice is like driving a long, heavy vehicle. It takes great efforts to get it going, it’s hard to maneuvre, the speed is limited and you have to be careful not to bump into something. A voice, that’s not properly warmed-up is tight and unflexible. You have to push for your notes rather than letting them fly.
So, before you start singing, you should always have a little vocal routine, where you stretch your vocal chords and get your voice in place. One of the best rock singers nowadays, Myles Kennedy from the band Alter Bridge, disclosed he has a 60-minutes warm-up session before every show. Well, you don’t have to do such an extensive warm-up, but put aside at least 15 minutes to get your voice going. Not only will you keep your sensitive instrument healthy, but it will also enhance your level every time you do.
For a minimum warm-up I would recommend following two exercises:
- Humming. That’s a key one. If you have no time at all, only do this one. Do it very lightly and exaggerate the airflow.The goal here is to get the air activating all resonating cavities. You should literally feel the air in your sinuses.Avoid engaging your vocal chords actively. Don’t be confused, when it’s more a blowing sound than a real tone in the beginning. The magic happens after a while, when your voice “comes in” by itself with a clear and vital sound.
- After humming, continue with vowel exercises. You sing a scale of, lets say, thirds in your middle range with all vowels one after another.
Having warmed up just a little, you will see an improvement immediately.
4. Sing lightly
Just bear this in mind. If you have to choose between pushing your voice or make it lighter, always go for the second one. If you want to build up a new, healhy and beautiful voice, you first have to get rid of your old singing habits. And singing habits often appear as pushing. Pushing is an unhealthy muscle engagement. Begin to develop an awareness, when you push. Then stop and try to do it lighter.
A perfect exercise for this is to sing from the bottom to the top very lightly. Lets say you sing an “Ah”. What you will experience is, that your voice changes through your registers and goes from chest to head. As your doing it lighty it can happen much easier. If you feel any impulse of engaging and not letting the voice go into head, try to cut that out. Maybe it won’t work the very first time, but with practice comes mastery.
Regardless of the level of your singing abilities, there are some approaches, that can help you to improve your singing rapidly. The right tone, the right overall tension of your body is something you can change through your mind within the blink of an eye. It can make a tremendous change of your intonation, your vocal agility and rhythmicity.
Breath control, as one of the pillar of a good singing technique, is easier learned than you think and will support your voice in many ways. As a seroius singer, you should never forget to warm-up your precious instrument. It can turn a what felt hard work into an effortless serenade.
Finally, singing lightly rather than pushing your voice will set the foundation for a healthy and successful vocal development. Less is more.