Like any other skill, singing needs to be honed over time. Whether you dream of performing on stage or just want to step up your shower-singing skills, learning how to sing better takes consistency and practice. While some people are inherently blessed with a good voice, it’s an art that can be learned by anyone – in fact, even the naturals can learn how to sing better.
The truth is that most of us aren’t going to succeed at anything we try for the first time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. A common misconception about singing well is that you’re either born with it or you’re not – and while physiological differences do affect your natural voice, vocal training is what makes the difference between an amateur singer, and a professional.
So, we’ve rounded up 10 hacks to help you get started on your journey to becoming a pro singer.. It may feel like there is a lot to remember as you’re learning how to sing, but don’t worry – the fundamentals will soon become second nature to you. Once you know the secrets to singing, you’ll notice your voice getting stronger, smoother, and better each day.
Proper posture is crucial for singers. Remember that your body is your instrument, so when you pay attention to what it’s doing, you might notice what’s holding you back.
Correct singing posture allows for your breath to flow freely throughout your body, affecting your vocal range – whereas slouching constricts your breath and affects your tone. Ensuring proper posture will free up space in your chest for your lungs to expand effortlessly.
But what does “proper posture” actually look like for a singer? Well, first, stand or sit with your back completely straight. Relax your shoulders, throat, and tongue muscles – this will also help eliminate any visual tension when you perform. Your feet should remain shoulder-width apart, and your shoulders in line with your hips and feet. Keep your knees slightly bent, avoid leaning, tilting, or tipping your head in any direction. This posture is also known as ‘standing tall.’
Your chin should also remain parallel to the floor, so avoid lifting your jaw to hit higher, more powerful notes. A common mistake singers make is pointing the chin either up or down with emphasis – however, moving your head as you sing can cause damage to the vocal cords over time, whereas a chin that’s parallel to the floor provides more control and power.
Since perfect singing posture can be hard to achieve at first, try practicing with a mirror – or, work with a qualified vocal coach to help you correct any postural issues you may be unaware of.
A common tendency among new singers is to breathe in vertically, instead of horizontally.
So… what does that mean? Try taking a deep breath. Did your shoulders move? If so, you are breathing vertically and pushing a good amount of that valuable air into your shoulders – where it has absolutely no use to you when singing.
So, rather than breathing in using your chest, try taking a deep breath using your diaphragm instead. Your diaphragm is a vital organ located right below your lungs, and it’s used for controlling your breath while you sing. The goal is to direct all your inhaled air into your balloon-like diaphragm so your abdomen expands – instead of your chest and shoulders.
You can tell if you are using your diaphragm by pushing down just under your rib cage while you ascend a scale or release to come back down the scale. Inhale with your nose and feel the abdomen expand as you breathe in. Exhale, and push down while contracting your abdominal muscles. Repeat the sit up-like motion when you’re singing until it feels natural.
Don’t worry if you find this too tedious or difficult at first – the good news is that you can reprogram your breathing habits over time and with practice. Throughout the day, be mindful about where your breath is coming from. Let that air come into your belly region rather than into your chest – this is where your vocal power will come from!
Now that you understand the importance of your breath while singing, the next step is to incorporate regular breathing exercises into your routine. Here are some simple ideas to get you started:
Inhale for a count of 4 so that your diaphragm is fully extended, then exhale for a count of 4 so that your diaphragm returns to rest. Repeat this breathing technique for a count of 8, and then for a count of 16.
As you expand your breathing capacity, you’re also training your muscles to use the available air to its maximum ability – an important tool when singing phrases of various lengths.
Inhale, feeling the movement of the upper abdomen and lower ribs, and then exhale while saying, ‘Ahhh’ (this sound should have a duration of 2 to 3 seconds.) Toward the end of the exhale, switch to just breathing (no sound) and feel the air whoosh out of your body. Basically, you’re breathing out your voice.
Feel how the body supports the breath and the action of the diaphragm whether or not there is sound being made. Also notice how the entire exercise happens with one, continuous breath.
Another tip to help you sing better and improve your voice is to enunciate your vowels –also known in the industry as the ‘open throat’ technique. The trick lies in the positioning of your jaw, which can drastically change your voice when you are learning how to sing.
Ensure you pronounce your vowels very clearly. For example, instead of ‘a’, sing ‘ah.’ Make sure you elongate rather than widen your mouth. The goal is to keep your tongue along your bottom jaw, and maintain this position throughout for better sound quality.
You’ve probably heard the word ‘tone’ a lot – but what exactly does it mean?
Your tone is your unique ‘vocal thumbprint’ – and it can’t be changed. Your tone of voice is primarily determined by the shape of your head, throat, and sinuses and therefore, it will always sound different than everyone else’s. .
A good tone is one that’s supported by good vocal techniques. As you’ve learned in the previous sections, this means starting with proper breath control and maintaining good singing posture – but if you still struggle with getting a good tone and bringing out the natural quality of your voice, try working with a professional coach.
Since there are many reasons your tone could be suffering, working with a voice coach can help you identify what exactly you need to work on – whether that’s insufficient breathing, a limited range, or understanding how to first attack a note or phrase.
Pitch is the quality that allows us to classify a sound as relatively high or low. It’s determined by the frequency of sound wave vibrations – and knowing how to sing on pitch will set you apart from amateur singers.
While some people have a natural ‘ear’ to hear and match pitches, others may need practice. So, how do you strengthen your pitch-matching abilities? One way to do this is to practice simple aural drills. Aural drills (or ear training) is a music theory study in which musicians learn to identify pitches, intervals, melodies, chords, rhythms, solfeges, and other basic elements of music, just by listening.
Start by playing a note on a piano to find your pitch and sing along. Then, subtly slide your pitch one way and then back to the note. This way, you’ll start training yourself to hear the varying pitches.
If you find yourself singing off pitch right away, just slide up and down your range until you find the note. And remember: it always comes back to technique – for example, if you have a tendency to always fall flat, you may need to work on your breathing technique.
The female voice contains three registers: the chest, middle, and head register. Here, the head register is responsible for the higher notes you create, and you can feel the vibrations of these notes as you sing them by placing your hand on top of your head. The middle register is responsible for singing mixed notes, which come from the mid-region between your head and chest registers. The chest register is responsible for thicker, heavier notes in the lower part of your singing voice.
Men, on the other hand, only have two voice registers – the middle voice for low tones, and falsetto for high notes.
Almost every great singer has found their unique style in a similar way – by copying their heroes.
However, aspiring singers often misinterpret this advice and practice any songs they like, instead of focusing on songs from their favorite singers.
But what’s wrong with that? Well, a huge number of the best songs in music history are performed by one-hit-wonders. Sure, these songs are catchy – but you learn very little about the actual art of singing from them. So, if you want to learn how to sing better, you need to copy good singers, not good songs.
A simple hack to achieve this is to make a list of your top ten favorite singers, and choose the ones you want to sound like. Remember, if you’re male, the singers on your list should ideally be male too as you will generally have the same registers. Once you’ve done this…
Once you’ve made a list of the singers you wish to sound like, check whose vocal tendencies you most align with. Chances are that you will only align with maybe half of them – or less. But that’s to be expected, as certain voices are so unique that nobody can copy them.
Then, it’s all about practicing. Every few months, take a step back and evaluate which voices you resonate with the most, and which ones you don’t. If one singer’s style doesn’t seem to align with your own anymore, cross off that name and replace it with a new one. After doing this a few times, you will eventually settle on a list with a good mix of voices that suit you well.
Unlike musical instruments that can be practiced for hours at a time, you can only sing for so long each day before your vocal cords have had enough. For most people, the cutoff is anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours – with 1 hour being the average.
The only way to get good at singing is to practice every single day – even if that means only doing short practice sessions.. And when you do, focus on strategic, quality practice and don’t overdo it so you can stay inspired and motivated to continue. Make your practice sessions fun. Create your own warm-ups, try singing with the wrong words, or pretend you have an audience and practice performing like you are on stage.
Be sure to also include vocal warm-ups into your regular routine. Vocal warm-ups are essential for increasing blood flow to your vocal cords – and you don’t even need to sing any lyrics for them to be effective. Humming a song that changes in pitch can also do the trick, and can be used to help you practice your scales as well.
Try practicing your humming. Focus on your accuracy and hit the right pitch for each note. As you hum scales, you should feel a buzzing sensation in your head, then near your eyes and nose, and then in your chest as you hit the low notes.
Remember to never skip a warm up before you start singing. Failure to warm your vocal cords could lead to fatigue and hoarseness, and worst of all: injury.
The more you perform, the more your confidence will grow as a singer. And as you work through these 10 steps to vocal excellence, be sure to check in with a coach to ensure you’re on the right track to making your voice the best it can be. And if in-person lessons aren’t possible for you, don’t worry – you can learn how to sing better with online courses as well!
No matter where your singing journey takes you, remember to breathe deep, have fun, and sing your heart out!
Check out Jayne Norrie’s How to Be Confident in Singing course and learn how to perform with the confidence of a star. In this course, Jayne will help you improve your singing with hands-on training, and exclusive learning materials you can’t get anywhere else.