3 surprising tips on how to sing BETTER
There’s tons of tips on how to sing better here at Bohemian Vocal Studio – but these three SURPRISING singing tips really will make this one of the BEST free singing lessons online you’ve ever seen!
No doubt you’ve already learned the basics of a powerful singing foundation, so lets take things a step further and break down some of the more advanced, contradictory and even downright WEIRD singing tricks that work wonders, even when they seem counterintuitive.
It seems like we’ve talked about breathing over and over here at BVS – we totally love the singing breathing exercises in our complimentary short course breathing 101, but this next tip will really power up your breathing:
#1 Breathe DOWN on high notes
I know I know, that sounds crazy – but engaging the diaphragm and creating a vacuum of pressure by focusing our intention on ‘down’ or ‘out’ breathing rather than allowing upward flow of air will improve just about every aspect of your singing, from the onset, to the finish, to the tone and everything in between.
Think about it, your voice works via air ‘pressure’ rather than air ‘flow’, so why would you create more airflow as you ascend in range and you require a more focused sound? Exactly, you shouldn’t. You need to learn how to control your air pressure and negotiate your registers in the right way WITHOUT over support, and without releasing your air in a haphazard manner.
A fantastic way to do this is to imagine holding something heavy, say a big book or plate in each of your hands and figuratively hold them up near your shoulders with your elbows bent. Now, as you ascend in range, instead of pushing UPWARDS, gently lower each imaginary plate and focus on the strength that is now required by your core and lower ab muscles to do so in a consistent and smooth fashion – the more pressure or airflow you sing with, the more inconsistent your voice likely is. If you can learn this sensation and build the right muscular control to create JUST the right amount of support to sing in the register and range you’re pitching, then your range will be smoothe, comfortable and POWERFUL with very little effort.
It’s a weird one, but breathing ‘down’ on high notes is one of the keys to increasing your range and learning how to sing with more power and less strain.
#2 Start right, end right – start wrong, end wrong
Basically, your “onset”, or the way that you start your note, dictates your chord closure, register and even the frequencies that you are able to create – excellent singing DEMANDS and coordinated and controlled onset. Did you know that there are THREE different types of onset and, actually, four, if you count vocal fry? Most singers with pitch, sustain or stamina issues are experiencing so because of a poor onset, from either what is called a ‘breathy’ onset, or a ‘glottal’ or ‘harsh’ onset.
What is a breathy onset? A breathy onset is caused by a release of air BEFORE any chord vibration starts occuring. This is troublesome in a singing voice for many reasons, but mainly because it causes intonation issues and also dries out your vocal chords and can lead to strain. A breathy onset is only really useful and helpful in creating expirated consonant sounds like a “H”.
What is a glottal onset? A glottal onset, or what is commonly called a ‘harsh’ or ‘hard’ onset is where your vocal chords are CLOSED before air pressure creates vibration of the chord, leading to a harsh and ‘slammed’ onset which is neither useful or healthy for the voice in any manner. There are many different ways to create an aggressive attack and passionate delivery that don’t require a harsh onset – use it wisely or even better, not at all.
Which onset should I use? The third, and only healthy onset is known as a ‘coordinated’ or ‘balanced’ onset, where air pressure meets your vocal chords at the very point that they come together for vibration, coordinating both your breath control and adduction mechanism at the same moment. This creates a smoothe, comfortable and sustainable onset that leads to proper chord closure and ease of intonation – basically, this is how a great singer starts their notes, regardless of pitch, word or delivery.
How do I practice a coordinated onset? A crescendo from “light” up to a full sound is a fantastic way to build control over both your breathing mechanism and your chord closure – a coordinated onset generally sits in the direct center of the start and finish of a crescendo, neither breathy, nor glottal.
Are you now singing with a coordinated and intentional onset that leaves you with a powerful note requiring very little effort? If you still need some help with your onsets, you can book a session with me now and I’ll show you how it’s done!
#3 Open throat really means CLOSED throat
Crazy, right? The term Open Throat refers to a lowered larnyx, in essence – which suits a darkened operatic sound, sure, but is highly inefficient and improper for a contemporary or ROCK singing tone. The term is often confused with control of the soft palate, and even widening of the vowel as used in vowel tuning, when in actual fact, the soft palate should be closed on a vowel sound, and your vowels need to subtley interchange between wide and narrow many times as you ascend through your break and passagio areas (don’t fret – it’s actually pretty simple to do!).
How do you sing with an open throat? A better way to approach your singing setup is to break down the required elements for a healthy voice – control of the soft palate, good placement, a neutral larynx, release of strain, control of the tongue itself, and control of the tongue root for vowel tuning.
- Control your soft palate properly on vowels (closed) and resonant consonants (open)
- Control your vowel width by way of the tongue root
- Release your larynx so that it’s neutral, or lowered.
- Place your frequencies properly
- Create the right vowel shapes using your tongue
What is OPEN about OPEN throat? Truthfully, the term ‘open throat’ is better described as ‘neutral throat’ or ‘no throat’ – meaning that the throat and vocal chords have very little to do with the actual sound that you are phonating. Pressure created by air held in the diaphragm causes the vocal chords to vibrate, which in turn creates resonance up the resonance chambers high in the head and the nasal cavities – this sound is then “EQ’d” by subtle changes in your tongue shape and throat width to create the familiar sound that we hear as a singing voice creating words and singing songs.
Worry LESS about open throat technique and concentrate more on whether you can properly control the initial musculature of your voice – the diaphragm, vocal chords and soft palate. From there, you can develop control over the secondary musculature like the tongue and pharynx to increase your range and form the vowels needed for actual word production.
Three weird tip that really DO power up and improve your singing voice! Don’t forget to breathe DOWN as you sing higher, develop the proper onset so that you can create a powerful, sustained and healthy singing tone, and remember that archaic singing terms like “Open Throat” don’t necessasarily mean literally how they might sound.
If you’re ready to take your singing to the NEXT LEVEL, you can book a session with me now and I’ll show you these steps and more!
Feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
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.