How Do I Sing Better? [7 Singing Hacks]
Learning how to sing better takes time, dedication and persistence, but with these 7 Singing Hacks you’ll stop asking “How Do I Sing Better?” and start asking “What song am I going to sing next?” instead. Singing itself is ultimately a process of balance and control, not a feat of muscular strength – so with a few simple adjustments and these practical tips you will learn how to sing better in no time flat! If you’ve been asking yourself “How Do I Sing Better”, then these 7 Singing Hacks are going to blow your mind and open up your voice!
Singing takes time, practice and perseverance, so take your time with each of these 7 singing hacks to make sure you’re not brushing over an important piece of the puzzle that might really make the difference between a great singing voice or an inconsistent singing voice. Are you ready to finally find the answer to How Do I Sing Better? Lets get started.
#1 – Vowels aren’t vowels
That’s right, the vowels you use in speech aren’t the same ones you use when singing. In speech we often use the front portion of the face, known as the articulators – including the teeth, tip of the tongue and lips to form our vowel sounds. In singing however, your vowel sounds are formed by shaping the back of your tongue and altering your resonant space accordingly. A great way to illustrate this concept is for you to alternate between an EE sound and an AH sound, like SEE and CAR – you’ll notice that your tongue raises on the EE vowel and lowers to a concave on the AH. Pretty cool, right? Now when you sing, you simply need to ensure you form these tongue shapes for the most efficient resonance and powerful tone. In singing, vowels are more about tongue shape than they are about the sound of the word. Learn to sing your vowels properly for the most efficient resonance while improving your voice instantly.
In singing, “vowel” really means efficient resonance instead of a particular sound like you may expect, or like it does in speech. Instead of trying to ‘pronounce’ your sounds when you sing, it’s important that you form the right tongue shape and allow resonant space so that you avoid the pitfalls of using your speaking accent when you sing.
#2 – Support is king
Support is a fancy word for balancing air flow and air pressure. Singing doesn’t require much air-flow, it really requires air pressure to sing effectively – support is how you achieve this balance of support and air pressure. Support happens with diaphragmatic engagement and retention of a healthy posture. If the diaphragm comes up when you sing, then the balanced will be skewed towards air flow, but if you retain engagement and ensure the vacuum of space created by a lowered diaphragm continues as you hold a phrase or sing a high note, you achieve support due to an increase of pressure with a simultaneous decrease in air flow. Sound complicated? It’s really not. If you set up a healthy posture before you sing – head up, shoulders back, chin parallel with the floor, and then you stand with a ‘proud’ chest, like a proud knight or a lion, you’ll notice than when you then engage the diaphragm your shoulders and chest don’t move – your breathing now occurs solely from diaphragmatic engagement. The key to singing with support is learning how to control the diaphragm properly and develop the counter-intuitive motion of withholding airflow when you sing by ensuring the diaphragm stays engaged throughout a phrase or a high note. Support really is King when it comes to a powerful singing voice.
A simple way to break it down is to realise that a breathy tone occurs without breath support, and a resonant tone occurs WITH breath support. It might seem counter intuitive, but a powerfully resonant voice has less airflow and more air pressure than a weak and breathy one.
#3 – Onsets will make or break your voice
A vocal onset is literally the onset of your resonance and how your sound begins when you sing. While it’s possible to sing with an aspirated onset where airflow passes the vocal folds before they achieve closure, and a glottal onset where you achieve closure before releasing air (in essence ‘holding your breath’ before you sing) – the only onset that you should form as a habit in singing, and the only truly healthy onset is known as a balanced or coordinated onset, where airflow and vocal fold closure occur simultaneously to create instant resonance which is strain free, powerful and pleasant.
One of the best methods for developing a balanced onset is to practice crescendos all throughout your vocal range, from low to high. In a figurative sense, the balanced onset occurs at the very centre of this onset. If you intend to sing the same crescendo but cut off the beginning ‘breathy’ onset, you will achieve a balanced onset and no doubt really feel the powerful difference between the healthy and powerful resonance you achieve with balance, and the lack of resonance when you sing without balance. Balanced onsets are key to a healthy voice.
#4 – Resonance is key
Something that truly blew my mind and open up my voice when I discovered how to use it effectively is resonance. Your singing voice is a result of air pressure and vibration, ultimately creating the frequencies and vibration we know as a singing voice. By learning how to place your resonance properly while allowing appropriate resonance space in the vocal tract, your voice will be resonant and powerful every time you sing. Placement was a confusing concept when I first started learning how to sing, but it’s really just a simple matter of allowing the right frequencies so that your voice pings and echos within the vocal tract instead of the soft parts of the body which lack resonance, or simply travels out of the mouth without resonance. A great way to sense the feeling or resonant space is to open up from a closed vowel like OO to an open vowel like AH with the intention of sending your vowel backwards up into the area behind the soft palate, known as the pharynx. This area of the vocal tract is actually the largest resonator of the voice and is a key element to singing high notes without strain and also achieving a rich and powerful tone. This brings be to hack #5:
#5 – The Soft Palate
Not only will proper use of the soft palate allow you to access the largest vocal resonator in the body, it also plays a key part in directing your air flow appropriately on vowel sounds, fixing a nasally voice, relieving strain and many other important tasks for this on humble muscle. The soft palate is the soft fleshy flap that sits at the back of your throat at the top of your mouth and directs airflow either between your mouth or nose. If you breathe in through your mouth only, the soft palate is closed. If you breathe in through your nose only, the soft palate is open. Now, if you perform a gentle yawn at the back/top of your throat (not from your larynx) through the mouth only, you will achieve the raised soft palate position required for powerful singing and is a key element of vowel modification and vowel tuning, which is required to connect chest and head voice while maintaining a consistently resonant tone.
The soft palate is one of the “Big Three” muscles/processes used in singing – along with the vocal folds and the diaphragm, the soft palate is one of the very first vocal aspects you need to learn how to use. Are you suffering from a nasally singing voice, or experiencing a pronounced break between chest and head voice? If so, this is simply because you’re not using the soft palate correctly.
#6 – Connect Chest and Head Voice
If you’re a beginner singer, it might seem like chest and head voice are two separate voices, but in actual fact they are simply two types of resonance that have the ability to blend, overlap and ultimately connect with time and practice. Your vocal range is a result of a balance between vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension – your low range is created when you contract the vocal folds (weight), and your high range is created when you stretch the vocal folds (tension) – in the centre of your voice, sometimes known as Mix voice singing or Middle Voice, you have a proportional balance between both weight and tension which allows you to resonate with BOTH chest and head voice frequencies. Learning how to connect chest and head voice will absolutely change your life, and ultimately change your voice for the better in ways you could never imagine. It’s likely you can already connect chest and head voice with a semi-occluded sound like a lip trill, or even a gentle M or N sound. The key is learning how to use the above 5 hacks to ensure efficient resonance on your vowel sounds so they also connect between chest and head voice. If you think that professional singers get a powerful tone by singing as high as they can in chest voice, you’d be wrong – professional singers sing with a balance of both chest and head voice which allow them to access their mix register, the central balance between the depth of chest, but also while affording the extensive range of head voice.
Connecting chest and head is very easy to do, but many singers defeat themselves before even starting their journey by holding strong opinions about where and how to transition between either register – in reality, you don’t actually hand off between chest and head voice, you actually blend the two to achieve a bridge between your low and high range.
#7 – Consonants are a your secret weapon
Many singers, even really great ones, struggle with certain consonant sounds and certain words when they sing. This is by nature simple a part of the unique differences between our voices – but is actually easy to fix with the right approach. If you’ve ever wondered why a great singer’s speaking accent disappears when they sing, then you’re already asking a lot of the right questions and starting to understand that the singing voice and the speaking voice are ultimately two separate processes, just like walking and running aren’t the same thing even though they both use the legs. In singing, maintaining resonance is paramount, so how do you sing consonant sounds that lack resonance, or require a forceful push of air? The answer is Consonant Grouping. Consonant grouping is an approach I’ve designed to singing consonant sounds effectively which is very easy and consistent and ensures that you sing each consonant sound the same way EVERY time you sing them. A great example of a consonant group is Open Resonant, which includes Y, W, R and L – all of which can actually be replaced by a vowel sound, or a combination of a vowel sound and some articulation. Instead of creating a forceful “Y” sound like in “YET”, instead you should sing a pure EE vowel in the place of this tricky consonant sound, in turn making the word into “EE-EH-T”. If you sing this a number of times you will soon notice that any strain you experienced when trying to force out the speech consonant Y is now gone and you’re singing exactly the same sound, but with resonance. Another is to replace a W like “WELL” with a pure OO vowel, in essence making the word “OO-EH-LL”, which will have the same strain releasing effect and resonant tone you just discovered in the previous example. Open Resonants are just one of the many consonant groups you need to develop for a great singing voice, including Sibilant, Plosive, Closed Resonants and Glottal consonants, all which require their own individual approach considering your voice type, accent, experience and other individual things that make your voice unique.
These 7 vocal hacks alone will help you more than almost any other technique or exercise you could practice. At the end of the day, a singing exercise is really only as useful and practical as your understanding behind it is – if you’re not sure how or why you are practising an exercise, it’s likely you’re doing it wrong. Remember, your singing voice will only ever be as powerful as the foundation it has been built upon – a great place to start is the free Foundations 101 singing course available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to achieve many of these 7 hacks and so many more important parts of a strong foundation. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional training, you can book a Skype Lesson 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 better or these 7 singing hacks, 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.