13 Singing Hacks: A Cheat Sheet
Learning to sing is a pain in the behind, and while singing itself is actually a pretty simple process, the learning curve can be HUGE for someone who isn't naturally gifted as a singer, or someone who enters the game at a later stage. This cheat sheet of 15 singing hacks will put you ahead of the game and well past the curve - are you ready to take your voice to the next level and bypass those expensive courses and all the YouTube singing guru BS?
#1 - Resistance is key
I often see beginner singers try to push out more air to sing louder or sing higher, but this goes against the manner in which your voice actually functions. Your vocal folds come together and serve to resist airflow as you ascend in range, so the more air you push, the harder it will be to sing!
#2 - Think down
It's a cliche, I know, but focusing downwards on support as you learn to sing high notes will have the opposite effect and allow you to soar into your high range with ease. This is in part due to the mechanics of your diaphragmatic breathing system, and also in part due to the psychological element that plays a big part in great singing.
#3 - Your voice is a reed instrument
Your voice works in the same manner as a reed instrument, basically. So next time you try to force sound out of that reed by clamping and yelling, or growling from your throat, remember that while you can replace a wooden reed, you can't replace your vocal cords.
Great singing is all about consistent vibration, not brute force.
#4 - Vowels ain't vowels
Learning to articulate your vowels correctly for singing is key to have a great voice. Did you know there are specific vowels you should use when you sing, and that there is a particular manner in which they are created? A great example of this is a word like "pet", and how you should actually sing an AY vowel rather than an EH - but this AY migrates INTO an EH around your first break as the vowel opens up into the pharynx.
Tongue down - AH/AA/OH
Tongue up - AY/EE/OU
These six sounds all facilitate a sung vowel with a raised soft palate rather than a speech vowel - make sure you're making the right vowel choices when you sing instead of using your accented speaking voice!
#5 - Support isn't pushing or clenching
Take it from someone who tried every trick under the sun to 'compress' my diaphragm - bathroom movements, coughing, clenching; none of these will work. Support really means "rely", so make sure you're focusing on your breathing and a slow diaphragmatic release on high phrases/powerful notes rather than pushing from your throat.
It's a little subjective, but to me - support feels "lateral", meaning that the feeling I get when I sing a well supported note or phrase is really 'side to side' at the ribs with some engagement of the upper abdominal area.
#6 - There's no such thing as a "natural"
Say what now? That's right, there is no such thing as a 'gifted' singer, or natural 'talent' when it comes to singing, absolutely everyone has the same ability to develop their voice and build coordination in their vocal mechanism. Sure, there are those that possess a natural aptitude towards this balance, or face a smaller learning curve that you, but the end game is the same - Adele wasn't 'born' with singing talent, she worked for it, and she worked hard for it.
A 'natural' singer is simply someone who gets The Four Vocal Fundamentals right when they sing - with some practice, you can master them too!
#7 - Everyone sings differently
Every voice is different, and every vocal mechanism has it's unique differences too. What works for one singer may not work for another, even if they have a similar voice type. It's important that you work out what is best for YOUR voice and the way YOU want to sing, not what some BS YouTube guru tells you is a 'secret' that will be revealed in their pricey course, which brings me to #8
#8 - Perfect practice makes perfect
Have you bought a singing course - and you're practicing religiously but you're just not getting any better?
This is surprisingly common, and that's because you're putting too much faith in the exercises doing all the work for you; instead of using the exercise to improve your technique. I'm sure you're practicing lip trills, right? But, do you know exactly HOW or WHY lip trills are helping you become a better singer? The answer to this question is like the answer to many other questions and issues you might be struggling with in your singing.
Focus on the intention of each exercise so that you actually LEARN something from doing them, rather than treating a vocal routine like a weight lifting regimen - "lift weights = get muscles", where singing is more a process of "do exercises = learn how they work = learn to apply the concept in your singing = become better singer"
#9 - Ignore your favourite singers
Huh? Think about it, a great singer like Chris Cornell wasn't trying to 'sing like Chris Cornell', he was simply singing. If you're trying to copy your favourite singers, then you're in essence singing in the exact opposite manner to them. You can see how I'm using the Four Vocal Fundamentals here to approach singing in the style of one of my favourite singers, Layne Staley, without actually copying his tone or making the exact same stylistic choices that he made - this makes me sound much more natural and sing much more effectively and consistently than if I was just trying to warble my vowels and sing excessively bright.
#10 - Singing is easy
Let me rephrase, singing should feel easy and strain free. If you're straining and struggling, or something simply doesn't feel right or feel easy when you sing, then you're not doing it correctly. Most beginner singers are too heavy handed with their voices and often fight the natural function of their vocal mechanism, trying to contort and control something that is ultimately designed to function in the opposite specific way.
#11 - The singing on albums and recordings isn't exactly "real"
Think about it, a huge album like a Foo Fighters record, or an Adele record have been produced with an astronomical budget and recorded through gear that is worth more than a whole suburb worth of houses. Not to mention multiple takes, edits, drop ins and production tweaks along the way - coupled with editing, mixing and mastering to create the 'perfect' sound, there's absolutely no way you're ever going to sound the same as the singer off a multi million dollar recording project when you sing in your spare room or car. A better way to judge someone's voice and how it truly sounds is when they are singing along live to an acoustic guitar or piano with no editing - while they may be a truly great singer, you'll notice that their voice is likely imperfect and far away from the unearthly sound you hear on an album.
Keep this in mind when you practice. Nobody is infallible as a singer, and no one is absolutely 100% perfect and correct 100% of the time - if they sound absolutely perfect 100% of the time, then it's not real and you'll always feel down about your own voice when you try to sing that way. The voice is an instrument just like any other!
#12 - A great singer doesn't make a great vocal coach
Think about it, if someone has a natural aptitude for singing, and has always found the process easy - then how can they possibly help someone who is struggling with their voice? I experienced this first hand when I started learning to sing almost 20 years ago, I had quite a number of vocal coaches who just didn't understand why I couldn't just "Sing it better" or "okay - now do it without straining" (direct quote!). They naturally sang with a balanced onset, but this was something I had to train for years - a naturally gifted singer rarely makes a great vocal coach because they don't appreciate the difficulty some singers face in the process.
Take it from me - my singing improved leaps and bounds when someone could actually explain to me WHY and HOW I was experiencing strain rather than just saying "oh, don't strain". In fact, that is the reason I started Bohemian Vocal Studio in the first place; to provide other singers with the coaching I wish I had received from day one.
#13 - Singing terms and techniques are often figurative
This one totally opened up my world as a singer. For many years I tried to physically 'open' my throat when I sang and tried to 'lean' on my breathing and faced issue after issue when I sang. It wasn't until I realised that terms like Open Throat singing and Appoggio were largely a figure of speech and intended as a way to describe and explain the intangible elements of singing. To sing with an open throat, you actually need to achieve proper closure - closing the velar port as you open the soft palate, vocal fold closure and narrowed vowels are key to open throat technique
With these 13 singing hacks, this cheat sheet will help you learn how to sing faster and more efficiently than you could ever have imagined. Go back over this list before your next singing lesson and see which one of these hacks you've been messing up or approaching in the wrong way! A great place to start is the foundation 101 singing course, which will show you how to;