10 Singing Techniques Every Singer Needs to Know
Learning how to sing doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing – but with all the conflicting information and difference of opinions out there, it often can be. To make singing an easy and more enjoyable process, I’m going to share with you 10 singing techniques every singer needs to know, and I’m going to follow up with an in-depth tutorial each month explaining and training you how to sing better using each one of these professional singing techniques. This first tutorial is a basic overview of the 10 singing techniques every singer needs to know, and next month we’ll get stuck into learning how to develop each of these techniques.
As you can see from this first tutorial, learning how to sing better is simply a process of building coordination and control. Absolutely anyone can learn how to sing better by learning these 10 singing techniques;
#1 – Diaphragmatic Breathing
The diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle which lies at the base of your lung cavity. While it’s an involuntary muscle itself, you can develop control over this powerful breathing muscle by engaging the adjoining muscles and following the right thought process to breathe correctly for singing.
Diaphragmatic breathing really starts with your posture setup, so make sure to set up a strong posture – head up, shoulders back, facing forward and with your feet around shoulder width apart in a natural stance. With this healthy and strong posture, it’s easy to engage your diaphragm with one of the following methods:
- Breathe low and sharp as though you’re breathing through a straw
- Lie on your back with a book on your stomach – make the book move solely with your breathing!
- Hold your arms out as though you’re shooting an arrow sideways (keep your head forward) – now breathe
- Pant like a dog getting incrementally slower until you can control your breathing in a muscular fashion
#2 – Appoggio
Appoggio is the concept of managing your airflow solely through the extension of your diaphragm rather than expansion or contraction of your ribs. This requires you to develop control of your rib expansion by using your intercostal muscles and developing a strong posture.
I like to add rib extension as an ‘honorary’ extra step to my student’s posture setup, by way of raising the sternum without breathing in – by raising your sternum in this manner, you allow your breathing to be controlled solely through extension of the diaphragm rather than contraction of your ribs like we often use in speech.
Appoggio translates literally to ‘lean’ or ‘support’, but I personally like to think of Appoggio as meaning breathe laterally.
#3 – Vocal Placement
Vocal placement is the concept of removing and minimising any excess frequencies which aren’t resonating in an efficient manner. Often mistaken for classical Masque technique, learning to sing with placement will allow you to focus all of your energy on powerfully resonating frequencies rather than any dull or improper resonance.
A great way to develop placement is to practice a simple “N” exercise with the intention of removing any vibration occuring below your top teeth. By continually practicing in this manner, you encourage a specific band of frequencies to occur that resonate in an efficient manner.
#4 – Register Release
Register release is especially important for singers with a low voice type. The powerful strength built into a lower baritone voice like mine means that we often sing with improper chord coordination and a vocal timbre that is too weighty and heavy to connect our chest and head registers. Learning to release your registers is the first step in connecting chest and head voice and building an extensive vocal range.
Lip trills are the bees-knees where singing is concerned, and not only train you to release your register, but also teach you how to moderate your airflow in the proper manner.
#5 – Balanced onset
Your voice is capable of creating three different onsets when you sing – an onset being the way that your frequencies start resonating.
- Breathy Onset – Air is passing your chords before you achieve proper chord closure
- Glottal Onset – Your chords are slammed shut before you apply air pressure
- Balanced Onset – Air pressure and vocal chord closure occur at the same moment for perfect phonation
Singing with a balanced onset is the only way to start singing. This requires training, consistent practice and an understanding of the different elements of your vocal mechanism.
Coordinating your onset in this manner allows you to sing with peak efficiency and a balanced tonality that is powerful, but not harsh or forced. A key part of singing with a balanced onset is how this connects, or more importantly, is separated from your consonant sounds in the words you sing. As an example, the resonant onset for the word “Tongue” actually occurs on an AH vowel in singing – somewhat like t-AH-ng. Learning to balance your onsets properly will improve almost every aspect of singing from your vowel production, register control, placement, word clarity and so many other aspects of great singing.
#6 – Vowel shaping
While we often articulate our vowels through pronunciation in speech, singing actually requires you to sing with a specific tongue shape and coinciding vocal tract width for each of your vowel sounds, AH, AA, OO, EE and AY/EH. Learning to shape your vowels will allow you to sing any word in any part of your vocal range with resonance. A great example is to toggle between an AH and an EE vowel in a smooth way – you’ll soon notice that your tongue forms a different shape for each of these sounds with an AH requiring a low and concave tongue, while and EE requires your tongue raise at the back. Learn the right tongue shapes to sing ANY word in a clear, powerful and resonant way without strain throughout your whole vocal range.
#7 – Resonance tuning
Along with keeping a specific tongue shape and tract width for each of your vowel sounds, as you ascend in range you need to make slight alterations in the width of each of your vowels to allow for the most efficient resonance. This is often achieved by vowel modification or the more precise technique of resonance tuning. A great example of tuned resonance is again to toggle between your EE and AH vowel, but pay attention to how the root of the tongue moves back and forward, back on the EE vowel and forward on the AH vowel respectively – at the same pitch, an EE vowel is more narrow than an AH vowel is. Learning how to control your width for each vowel individually is the first step to tuning your resonance into your high range and developing the unique set of vowel and width changes that occurs throughout your middle and high range.
#8 – Consonant grouping
Grouping your consonant sounds into their corresponding types and then developing a customised approach to each group is the only way to effectively sing consonant sounds with consistency and proper articulation. Speech consonants and sung consonants are very different animals and require specific training to allow proper singing technique to continue through each of these potentially difficult sounds. While each singer will surely have their own unique issues with and require a unique approach to consonant sounds and diction considering their accent, native tongue and physical build, a general guide to consonant groups looks a little like this:
- Glottal – K, G
- Aspirated – F, H
- Open Resonant – N, NG, M
- Closed Resonant – L, R, Y, W
- Sibilant – S, T, X
- Plosive – P, B
Developing a unique approach to each of these consonant groups is an important part of building a great singing voice – why leave any aspect of your singing up to chance?
#9 – Mix voice
We’ve all heard of chest voice and head voice – but did you know there is another third, POWERFUL register that is called the MIX or middle register? By developing central coordination of your two main registers, you will learn how to sing with the depth and richness of chest voice, with the extensive range that head voice affords. The mix register will allow you to sing higher than ever before in a powerful and full voice with very little effort, and is immediately recognisable in the pleasant and powerful tone that professional singers often create.
Middle Voice doesn’t really exist in a ‘physical’ sense, but for beginner singers, it is an absolutely vital concept required to connect chest and head voice with ease, while learning proper register control. Coordinating the TA (thyroarytenoid) muscles, which allow chest voice, and the CT (cricothyroid) muscles which create your head register is the manner in which Middle Voice functions in various coordinations.
#10 – Support
Support is one of the final elements of a healthy singing voice and requires you to master every other technique on this list, so that you can then focus your energy on managing the amount of air flow and air pressure that vibrates your vocal chords. Support is a direct extension of diaphragmatic breathing and the literal meaning of Appoggio. Support is actually an extension of Appoggio in my approach to singing, where you learn, or depend on the widened rib position we set up in Step #2 Appoggio, and focus our intention on retaining rib width as we ascend in range, or as we amplify our power and resonance. Ensuring proper breath support while singing is the difference between a weak voice, and a powerfully resonant voice that is free of strain.
By developing these 10 singing techniques, you will be able to build a powerful and extensive vocal range that is expressive, consistent and confident, every time you sing.
Are you struggling with any of these 10 steps? You can book a Skype Session for professional guidance on any of these steps with Bohemian Vocal Studio today!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.