3 Ways To Make Your Singing Voice Better
Some people are just ‘born’ with great singing voices, right? And while the rest of us toil away with scales and exercises, our naturally talented friends just step up to the mic and let wail to a hoard of cheers – what do these naturally good singers understand that we don’t? The truth is, singing is a process of balance, and like many things in life, some people have better natural balance than others. This doesn’t mean that they have a better voice than you, it just means they have an aptitude towards the coordination required for singing well, while some others may not. It’s like that kid in school that was an absolute freak at Math, or a total boss on the football field – this doesn’t mean the Math wiz isn’t going to grow up, discover a love for weight lifting and become a professional athlete, and on the flip side, who says the football jock won’t end up working in the finance industry when they leave school? Bingo – learning how to sing is a process of balance that can be learned and excelled at by anyone, whether you’re a ‘naturally gifted’ singer or not.
These 3 ways to make your singing voice better will show you exactly how naturally gifted singers balance their voice and manage to sing so well even when you seem to practice longer and harder than they do. Learning how to sing isn’t really about strength, or hours spent in the ‘gym’ so to speak, it’s about finesse, coordination and healthy habits. Lets form the same healthy habits as those naturally gifted singers with these simple ways to make your singing voice better!
#1 – Balanced onsets
The recurring theme of this tutorial is obviously going to be balance. Singing high notes isn’t about working out at the gym and building strength, it’s actually more to do with resonant space, the character of your vowel and how you moderate your airflow. One of the key steps to make your singing voice better is learning to balance your onsets. A vocal onset in singing is literally the onset of your resonance, the way that your voice starts to resonate when you sing. If you release air before you achieve vocal fold closure, you’ll create a breathy onset which is tiring to the voice and often causes a singer to be flat where intonation is concerned. Now, on the flip-side if you close off your vocal folds before releasing airflow, you’ll achieve a glottal or ‘hard’ onset which is unpleasant to the ear, damaging to the voice and often results in sharp intonation.
The only healthy onset, and the only one that you should form as a habit in your vocal technique is a balanced onset, where airflow and vocal fold closure meet together at the very same moment in a simultaneous balance to create instant, powerful and strain free resonance which has perfect pitch, a pleasant tone and is free of any tension. Balanced onsets personally changed my life as a singer. A great way to develop your onsets is to start with a small, bright sound like an EE and practice making instant resonance without any sound or sensation before you make a sound. If there is air before the onset you know you’re releasing air to soon, if it’s hard and ‘sharp’, then you know you’re closing off at the chords before releasing air – the key to a balanced onset is learning how to create instant resonance that has no other sound or sensation before your tone occurs.
Another great way to develop a balanced onset is actually to practice resonant crescendos from a very quiet sound to a fully resonant sound. The balanced onset is actually located at the very centre of this crescendo, so try the crescendo a few times first and when you’re confident, start your crescendo from the middle without the quiet tail at the beginning – you’ll notice an instant release of tension from your onset and an improvement in pitch, tone and almost every other aspect of your voice.
#2 – Connect Chest and Head Voice
As a budding singer many years ago, I thought my ‘singing voice’ was Chest voice, and everything else was falsetto – a gross misunderstanding of how the mechanism, and also how resonance works. After spending many years studying the voice and developing my approach, I realised that many of my issues as a beginner singer stemmed from a lack of connection between chest and head resonance. That’s right, chest voice isn’t a ‘muscle’, it’s a form of resonance that yes, often occurs due to engagement of the vocalis music, but not exclusively. If you sing a low note in full chest voice, and then you sing a high note in full head voice while paying keen attention, you’ll notice that these two sounds resonate in two different spots. Now, the key to connecting chest and head voice is actually to resonate in BOTH of these areas at the same time through the middle of your range – hence why this approach is called ‘mix’ voice, you are literally ‘mixing’ both forms of resonance.
The idea that you can/should “sing higher in chest voice” really shows a lack of due care where voice coaches are concerned – an instruction like this really should come with the caveat that chest voice is a type of resonance, not a muscle that needs to be ‘stretched’, and resonance occurs due to resonant space and how you coordinate your vocal folds between either weight and tension, or more importantly, both.
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BVS students Aisha and Moz of #kahunaduo in Sydney with a soulful rendition of the #BonJovi classic #Livinonaprayer Again, I'm personally so inspired when people follow their dreams and pursue their goals with passion and dedication – Aisha has a natural gift for singing, and with all the work and dedication she has put in to increasing power, resonance and consistency, it's great to hear her voice at work, whether it's soul or Rock 'n Roll – check out @kahunaduo for more incredible covers #bvs #soulful #jonbonjovi #livingonaprayer #kahunaduo #voicecoach #vocalcoach #rocknroll
Connecting chest and head voice changed my life as a singer and finally gave me the powerful voice I’d always dreamed of. Mix voice was one of the final ‘missing keys’ to my own voice. Are you connecting chest and head voice, or are you just pushing your chest as high as it will go?
#3 – Shape your vowels
There’s a reason why there’s no famous Australian singer with an extensive range that retains their broad Aussie pronunciation when they sing – the truth is, singing and speech are often two very different things. Considering all the different languages, accents and voice types in the world, we all have varying difficulty with the concept of singing vowels. As an Aussie myself, this was really one of the first things that made me thing “AHA!” and realise that my voice wasn’t inherently bad, I was just using it incorrectly. When we speak, we often use the front portion of our face including the tip of the tongue, teeth, lips (all known as the articulators). However, when you sing, you actually shape each sound using the back of your tongue while altering the resonant space in the pharynx by moving and shaping the vocal tract itself and also using the soft palate. An example of this with my own voice is the way I would speak the word “See” – which occurs with airflow escaping through the nose in a very forward and nasal way. Now, when i SING this word, it actually occurs with the soft palate raised so as to create more resonant space in the pharynx, and also to block of the passage of air into the nose – you can clearly see just how different speaking and singing can be from each other. Sure, a more open accent like various American dialects, and even Italian, lend more towards a connection between singing and speaking, but for the other thousand+ different accents and voices out there, learning to shape your vowels properly will absolutely change your life.
A great illustration of this concept is for you to alternate between singing an EE sound and an AH sound. You’ll notice that your tongue is raised on the EE, and lowered to a concave on the AH – it really is that simply to shape your vowel sounds! The three main tongue shapes are EE, AH and OO, and from these three main shapes you can actually form many different variations on each vowel, from AA and OH which both come from the AH shape, and the AY and EH vowel which stem from EE – shaping each sound in this manner will make your voice powerfully consistent while resonating like crazy.
How to sing with balance
You’ve probably noticed how each of these 3 ways to make your singing voice better involve an element of balance and coordination rather than any ‘tricks’ or musculature per se. This is because singing is ultimately a process of balance, not a feat of muscular strength. Learning to sing with balance takes time, perseverance and of course regular practice, but with these three tips alone you can improve your singing voice instantly and get your voice up to speed with those pesky ‘natural’ singers who seem to sing with balance with minimal effort.
From this point you can then start working towards range extension, increasing your power, improving your tone and many other of the ‘icing on top’ singing techniques that become very easy when you learn to sing with balance. Are you balancing your voice, or are you trying to force it to behave?
A great place to start is the free foundations short courses Foundation 101 which is available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio. This free course will show you how to set up a rock solid vocal foundation that you can build in a balanced way. Foundation in singing really is just like the foundation of a house – the solid concrete block that your walls and roof are built upon. Without a strong foundation, your tone and range will suffer due to instability. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching, you’re welcome to book a Skype Lesson with me and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building balance and consistency in your voice every time you sing!
If you have any questions about learning how to sing or how to balance your voice, 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.