How to get a better singing voice
The Pros make it sound so easy, the high notes so effortless and lets not even talk about that beautiful, warm tone and sharp delivery – you might be wondering how to get a better singing voice, and I’m here to tell you that it’s actually EASY to learn how to sing better and nail that killer singing tone you’ve been slaving over.
Learning how to get a better singing voice starts with your foundation, no doubt you’re familiar with diaphragmatic breathing (if not, then I totally reccomend our complimentary short course breathing 101 to get started) and also the importance of a healthy posture:
- Head up
- Shoulders back and down
- Chin parallel with the floor
- Sternum raised (for a wide rib position aka appoggio)
Starting with your healthy foundation of a strong posture and diaphragmatic breathing, we’re first going to talk about vowels – the secret to a powerful singing voice. Now, I’m not talking about “AEIOU” in your native accent (Australian over here!), I’m talking about the shaped and tuned vowels that make up a POWERFUL and EFFORTLESS singing voice
Now, you may notice in your favourite singer’s voices that as they ascend in range, their words take on a specific “character” that you’ve often wondered about. This is called Vowel Modification – or a better term, is vowel tuning. As they ascend in range, they allow their vowels to take on specific characteristics throughout their voice to navigate their natural vocal breaks and allow their resonance to ‘ping’ in various resonance chambers throughout their vocal tract.
It’s a fairly simple technique, but it does take a little work and of course professional guidance to make sure you’re tuning your vowels properly. I suggest starting with our complimentary resonance course first to make sure you’re resonating properly – then following this simple guide for the most general way of tuning your vowels
First vocal break – as you ascend towards your first break, you need to listen to two key points in each of your vowel sounds (that’s right, every vowel needs to be tuned differently!).
- If you ‘roar’, ‘push’ or ‘shout’ at this point, it’s likely that your vowel is becoming too WIDE
- If you ‘flip’ or your voice ‘disappears’, it’s likely that your vowel is become too NARROW
Can you see a pattern here? The general rule is that you WIDEN through your first vocal break, and then your vowel becomes NEUTRAL in the middle range, then NARROW up into your head voice. That’s not to say that every vowel is the same, or any two voices are the same – being a low baritone, my A based vowels are naturally wide and EE based vowels fairly narrow, so as I hit my first break I actually need to narrow through the break before widening – if you’re having trouble working out where your vocal breaks are or how to tune your vowels, you can book a session with me today and I’ll show you how to tune your unique resonance.
How do you tune a vowel? The quickest “layman” way of tuning your vowel sounds is to modify the actual sound of your vowel, without using pronunication – for example, an “AH” vowel would widen to “OH” (the widest sound) at your first vocal break, then migrate towards “OO” (the most narrow sound) through your middle and high range. A much better way to do it is to tune each vowel individually by physically widening or narrowing your vocal tract – this is much more efficient than changing the vowel itself, and leads to a much more practical application of the vowel tuning technique.
Modifying the vowel in this fashion is a great starting point, but it’s important that you pay attention to what is actually happening when you change these vowel sounds – AH to OH to OO and EE to EH to EE. Once you understand the sensation of narrowing or widening your vowel, you can make the same changes in a physical manner without thinking of alternate vowel sounds.
Second break – this is where your vocal technique will either shine, or fall apart. Just as you widened through your first break, it’s likely that you need to narrow your vowel back towards a more neutral opening some time after that first troublesome area, then further narrow until you fully release into your pure head voice.
How to fix breathy vowels
Are you tuning your vowels properly, only to find that you are singing breathier and breathier the higher you go in your range? There’s actually a number of reasons for this, so we’ll approach each one with it’s own solution. Learning how to get a better singing voice is never a ‘one stop’ solution and involves not only setting up a powerful foundation for your technique, but also tweaking your technique in many subtle ways to ensure your resonance ‘pings’ with power and beauty no matter where you are through your vocal range.
- You’re not supporting your voice – obviously, if your breathing technique and foundation are lacking, then your voice is going to get breathier and weaker as you ascend. Make sure you check out my free breathing course to make sure you’re engaging your diaphragm properly.
- You’re over widening/narrowing – Tuning your vowels is a subtle and unique art, and it requires a delicate touch. This is why I feel the vowel modification method of “OH” and “OO” often causes more issues than it solves, forcing your to over widen and over narrow when it would be much more efficient to use the right musculature and keep your vowels pure and powerful instead.
- You’re widening your glottis – Twang twang twang. If you are getting a rounded and weak sound even though you’re supporting properly, using a powerful and balanced onset – it’s possible you’re also widening your epiglottis instead of narrowing for twang. This is subjective to style of course, but a little bit of twang goes a LONG way to building power, volume and resonance
- You’re abducting your vocal chords – Don’t tell Mulder and Scully! As you ascend, you need to take special care to adduct your vocal chords properly, aka proper chord closure. The best way to build proper control over your vocal chord closure is to practice a powerful crescendo from a very light onset into a fully resonant tone. With this approach, you’ll soon understand the difference between adducting… and pushing.
- You’re using your registers incorrectly – Your middle register is the largest vocal register, if you’re singing with Chest Voice and Head Voice with no connection, or trying to elongate these two “end and start” vocal registers, you’re going to run into a whole host of issues. Make sure you’re releasing your vocal registers as you ascend. Check out the simple tutorial I’ve put together below to learn how to bridge your registers correctly.
How to improve singing tone
Singing tone is another grey area where so many different factors come into it, it’s often hard to pinpoint a cause without professional help. Using the guide below, lets troubleshoot your singing tone.
- Nasal singing voice – If your voice is coming out nasal and nosey, the likely culprit is actually the soft palate. Did you know that there are a number of positions the soft palate must take for you to sing correctly? Keeping it as simple as I can, when you ‘hum’ or sing an “N” or “NG” sound, the soft palate is “open” – air is escaping through your nose. Now, when you sing a vowel properly, your soft palate should actually be CLOSED, so that no air is escaping through your nose – wild stuff, right? This is in direct contrast to the misunderstood idea that your throat has to be “open” to sing correctly – when it comes to the soft palate, the exact opposite is true. Your soft palate should be raised, yes, but it should be closed off against the back of your throat so that no air is entering your nasal cavity.
- Strained singing tone – If your tone is coming out strained, then no doubt your foundation is lacking and you’re putting your voice at risk. I see this often in rock singers where ‘tone’ and ‘character’ is often seen/heard as more important than singing technique or pitch. There’s a happy middle ground between a killer tone and healthy singing technique, in fact, a healthy singing technique will actually give you a POWERFUL and KILLER tone all on it’s own!
- Weak voice – this one ties in with the above point, worry less about being ‘powerful’ and focus on your singing technique. A weak voice could be one of a few different things and likely starts with your breathing, resonance and placement. From there I would look at your register control, twang and of course tuning your vowels like we discussed earlier!
Are you still strugging with how to improve singing tone? You can book a quick vocal appraisal or full skype session with me now in my booking calendar.
How to get a better singing voice 101
- Build your foundation – posture and breathing
- Build your resonance and placement.
- Sing the right practical vowel sounds with the correct tongue position
- Tune those vowels!
- Develop your consonant sounds
- Build your middle voice
- Release your registers
- Support your voice (when needed!)
- Learn to control the soft palate
- Learn how to sing with twang
- Improve your tone and troubleshoot your voice
Do you want to learn how to get a better singing voice? Let me know below any issues you’re experiencing with your voice along with any feedback about this guide – you can also book a session with me personally and I’ll show you how it’s done!
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.