7 Tips For A Better Singing Voice
Singing is easy, right? That’s certainly what it seems like for the pros out there – but what about the rest of us that aren’t exactly gifted with a great singing voice? These 7 Tips for a better singing voice will absolutely rock your world (and rock your voice). Singing IS easy, it’s just the process of learning HOW to sing that is difficult and confusing, so lets simplify all that crazy jargon and the weird exercises into tips for a better singing voice that simply work.
If you feel like you have a bad singing voice, I totally feel your pain. As a guy with a lower-than-average baritone voice, I always thought I was destined to mumble away in the depths of Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash covers (both of whom I really do love, by the way) instead of the soaring and powerful rock and soul music I love so dearly. With 15 years of vocal progress now under my belt, I’m often mistaken for a Tenor with a ‘naturally good’ singing voice… I chuckle every time someone asks about my ‘tenor range’ and the look of confusion that follows when I speak to them with my naturally deep baritone voice range. Singing is a pure joy, and the process of learning how to sing should be a fun, easy and productive one. Are you ready to improve your voice with these 7 tips for a better singing voice? Lets get started.
#1 – Singing is easy
No, really. This one is numero uno for an important reason. If something is difficult, then you’re quite simply not doing it correctly. If you’re pushing, straining, struggling and forcing – you’re never going to get from point A to point B, you’re just going to push point A relentlessly until you realise you’re back where you started. Singing is ultimately a process of balance, not a feat of muscular and brute strength. Developing balance in your singing voice takes time, dedication and practice, but it’s seriously THE most important thing you need to understand as a budding singer that’s learning how to sing better. Every aspect of your voice can be traced back to balance, and every issue you experience can be traced back to a lack of balance. Everything from balancing your onsets, the balance between air flow and air pressure, balancing frequencies, balancing your tone – balance is the true key to a great singing voice.
#2 – Balance is key
Lets elaborate on balance a little bit more. As an example, the only healthy onset you should develop as a habit in your singing voice is called a balanced or coordinated onset – where airflow and vocal fold closure occur together at the very same moment to create instant, powerful and strain-free resonance. Another example would be the balance of resonance that allows a connection between chest voice and head voice. Many singers form bad habits around pushing and forcing because they feel that have to ‘control’ their voices and wrangle it into behaviour. The truth is, you already have a spectacular singing voice, you just don’t know how to use it properly yet. You don’t actually control your voice when you sing, you facilitate your voice. If you allow your voice to resonate naturally and you don’t fight resonant space or your tone, you’ll find singing much easier and you guessed it, achieve balance when you sing.
#3 – Chest and Head voice aren’t separate registers
Say what now? You heard me. Chest and head voice are simply two different placements for your resonance. If you learn how to blend the two, you’ll achieve a fluid, connected and ‘single’ note which travels from your low range to your highest head voice note. Many singers struggle with a voice crack and vocal break in the middle of their voice where they should actually be blending resonance rather than ‘switching’ between chest and head voice. Connecting chest and head voice is easy, especially when you start out with a semi-occluded sound like a lip trill or an NG. Start light, take it slow and remember, your registers are a result of resonance, there really isn’t a handoff that occurs through the middle of your range – you simply need to learn how to make both types of resonance ‘ping’ at the same time and “Whallah!” – you’ll achieve a strong connection between chest and head.
#4 – Not all voices are created equal
This doesn’t mean that you can’t sing the things that you wish to sing – I’m living proof that even a low baritone like myself can build a formidable and respectable vocal range, it simply means that you may need a different approach to another singer. Think about it, if I was to sing a Bon Jovi song, the truth is I actually have a full octave of range below where his first note sits as a natural Tenor – so by rights, the way I use my resonant space and the coordination behind the mechanism is going to be very different even if we both sang the same song. Stop trying to mimic other singers and find your own true voice – if you copy another singer’s voice, then you’re using the wrong instruction manual for your own voice.
#5 – Vowels ain’t vowels
The concept of vowel shaping took a long time for me to understand, in part due to my low voice but mainly because of my Aussie accent. I had no idea that singing and speaking were two totally different things, so I just pronounced, pronounced, pronounced and could never work out why I had no high range and my tone basically sucked. The truth is, you use the front portion of your face, known as the articulators – including the tip of the tongue, teeth and lips, to pronounce your vowel sounds. In singing however, your vowels are created by shaping the back of your tongue while making use of corresponding resonant space for the vowel, pitch and tone you are sing. When I finally learned how to shape my vowels effectively, my whole world as a singer changed. In singing, the word ‘vowel’ doesn’t really mean ‘sound’, it simply means ‘efficient resonance’ – and coincidentally perhaps, each form of efficient resonance has a particular sound that we identify as the main vowels in singing: AH, AA, OH, OO, EE and AY. If you aren’t shaping your vowels properly, and you’re just pronouncing and contorting your mouth to try and shape inefficient resonance, you’re going to experience consistent issues with pitch, strain, tone and range. Shape your vowels correctly and your voice will change instantly.
#6 – Sing a mix voice tone
While mix voice isn’t ‘physically’ an extra register you need to discover as a singer, in a resonant sense there IS a figurative third register which is neither pure chest voice nor pure head voice – in fact, your middle register occurs when you sing with BOTH high and low resonance types at the same time. This is where we get the concept of MIX or Middle voice, where you blend your resonance to improve your tone, release strain and achieve connection between the registers. Here’s a great tutorial I’ve put together on how to sing a mix voice tone – How to sing a mix voice tone
#7 – Resonance
It’s likely that you can already sing a resonant tone, but it’s likely you’re not really aware of how it relates to your singing voice. If you sing a simple resonant sound like V or Z, sure, there’s a buzz at the front of your face (the articulators!) where the sound is articulated, but if you pay attention carefully, you’ll also notice that there is a resonance buzz at the BACK of your head up in the pharynx. Bingo, you just identified your ‘singing’ voice resonance. Now, the secret to great singing is learning how to use your tongue correctly instead of the articulators to form your vowel sounds and resonate more efficiently. A great way to illustrate this concept is if you alternate between an EE and an AH sound – you’ll notice that on the EE your tongue rises at the back almost touching the roof of your mouth, and on the AH your tongue lowers right down to a concave in the base of your jaw. Congratulations, you just shaped two of the most important vowel sounds while creating efficient resonance.
Tips for a better singing voice
Singing is easy, but learning HOW to do it correctly can be a frustrating experience, especially with all the contradictory information and jargon that gets thrown around. These 10 tips will help you learn how to sing better and help you make better choices along the way on your journey towards becoming the singer that you KNOW you can become.
- Pronunciation is for speech, vowel shaping is for singing. Shape your vowels – AH, AA, OO, EE, AY, OH.
- Group your consonants – learning to sing consonant sounds correctly will take a literal load of your voice
- Mix voice occurs when you achieve a blend of resonance between chest and head voice
- Balancing your onset is key. A balanced onset occurs when you coordinate airflow and vocal fold closure.
- Your singing voice is unique, so the approach you use should match your unique voice (no two voices are the same)
- Resonance is key. Remember, ‘vowel’ in singing means efficient resonance rather than “sound”
- Force will make you hoarse (I just made that up on the spot – so witty, right?). It’s not weightlifting, so stop pushing.
- Learning how to connect chest and head voice should be your FIRST priority as a singer.
- Support is king. Support is simply a fancy word for the balance between air flow and air pressure.
- Singing takes time, practice and perseverance, it’s not a game of ‘secrets’ and ‘tricks’.
A really great place to get started is the free foundations 101 singing course available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a bullet-proof foundation for your extensive vocal range to be built upon. Foundation in singing really is just like the foundation of a house, without a rock solid base, there will be nowhere to build your walls (technique) or roof (range).
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 can start working towards extending your range and building balance and consistency into your voice every time you sing!
If you have any questions about learning how to sing or these 7 tips for a better singing 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.