How To Make Your Singing Voice Better
Learning how to sing takes practice, perseverance and the right vocal approach. Your voice is unique, and your approach needs to match the natural idiosyncracies and unique issues you face considering your voice type, native tongue and unique build of your vocal mechanism.
This tutorial will show you how to make your singing voice better with proper vocal technique and the right approach. Let’s get started with 10 ways to improve your singing voice!
10 Ways To Improve Your Singing Voice
These ten tips will help you sing better free using proper singing techniques from a professional voice coach. With time and training, these professional techniques will make you sing better and hit higher notes without straining.
1 – Set up a strong foundation
A strong foundation is key to powerful singing and a healthy voice. I often remind my students that the strength of their foundation dictates the strength of your singing voice – without a healthy base on which to build your technique, it will be hard for you to learn how to sing better without straining, and your ability to hit high notes will be severely compromised.
By setting up a strong posture, diaphragmatic breathing and placing your resonance properly, you have the best chance at singing in an efficient and powerful way. Foundation is key!
2 – Place your frequencies
Resonance placement is an often misunderstood aspect of a great singing voice. While it’s not possible to physically move or ‘place’ your voice as the name may suggest, it IS possible to encourage a specific band of efficient frequencies to resonate when you sing – this is the essence of proper vocal placement. Often mistaken as Masque technique by classical coaches and those with higher voice type, vocal placement is especially important for the baritone singing range as it alleviates the improper frequencies that often occur in the wider band of frequencies created by the baritone singing voice. Placement will help you sing consistently and in a sustained way with very little effort.
3 – Shape your vowels
We often pronounce our vowels in speech, and this occurs due to use of our vocal articulators which include the teeth, lips and tip of the tongue. In singing, however, you need to create your vowel sounds by forming a specific tongue shape and matching your vocal tract width to each sound. This is actually pretty easy to do, and is easily demonstrated with an EE vowel, the most narrow vowel sound requiring the back of your tongue to raise, and an AH vowel, the widest vowel requiring you to lower and concave your tongue – by developing and mastering these vowel shapes, you will learn how to sing better and free of strain in a powerful and consistent way.
4 – Release your registers
I’m often asked by budding singers how to sing higher chest voice notes and how to strengthen the TA (thyroarytenoid) musculature that allows the chest voice by adding weight to the vocal folds. This misconception about how your registers function is especially rife with Male rock singers who mistakenly believe that singing is a muscular activity rather than the process of coordination that it really takes to build a great singing voice. By building a released coordination of the TA and CT (cricothyroid) muscles, responsible for chest and head voice respectively, you will be able to retain the rich depth of chest voice while accessing the extensive high range permitted by the head register. This coordination is often called Mix voice or the Middle register.
Register release is one of the most important parts of any good singing regimen and is best achieved with a lip trill. Most singers at some point have been told to sing a lip trill as part of their warmup, but then as they progress in experience they overlook this incredibly important exercise as they see it as ‘beginner’ technique that they no longer need. This is likely due to the fact that singers often practice exercises without understanding the true intention behind their practice routine – a lip trill serves two purposes in a warmup, the first is moderation of airflow, and the second is register release. You’re never too experienced or too great of a singer to release your register and moderate your airflow – learning to release your registers properly will make your singing voice better, it really is that simple.
5 – Develop your Mix
The released coordination we just spoke of is known as mix voice, or the middle register – and is often lacking in an untrained or uncoordinated singer. By building a cohabitant relationship between the TA and CT muscles, you’ll learn to balance them together in the mix coordination, resulting in an extensive range that is consistent, powerful and sung in ‘full’ voice without a vocal break.
If you experience voice cracks or a major vocal break, this is due to lack of coordination between your chest and head register, and ultimately lack of mix register. With training you can develop your mix coordination to make you sing better and extend your range in a connected and full way.
6 – Consonants are Key
Singing scales and vowels are an incredibly important aspect of your singing voice, sure, but how can you possibly expect to sing songs if you don’t truly understand how to create consonants in the right manner? I like to group each consonant into respective types and then form a unique approach with each student depending on their voice type, range, native tongue and experience as a singer. Consonant groups often look something like this:
- Glottal – G, K, C
- Open resonant – M, N, NG
- Closed Resonant – W, Y, R, L
- Sibilant – S, T, X
- Aspirated – H, F
- Plosive – P, B, D
Obviously, this alters for each singer depending on the habits they have formed in speech regarding their consonant sounds. Each singer must form a new and separate approach for each consonant group to their speech consonants, and you’ll likely find that even two singers with an identical voice type and range often experience different issues in consonant production.
Singing consonants is actually very easy to do, you simply need to form a consistent and practical approach to each consonant group and train them in your routine each day to the point where resonant and strain-free consonants are the standard with which you sing. A great example is how a “W” consonant is actually replaced by an “OO”, as in “OO-ELL” in singing instead of “W-ELL” as in speech. A simple approach like this to each of your consonant groups will help you improve your singing voice and ultimately help you learn to sing better with very little effort.
7 – Belting is never the answer
If I had a dime for every time a beginner singer told me they were trying to belt, without having yet developed the released vocal chord coordination required for proper belting… Belting is, in essence, a ‘drag’ of the weight created by engagement of the TA (thyroarytenoid) musculature that allows your chest register up towards the point you would regularly be balancing your registers between weight and tension – tension being engagement of the CT (cricothyroid) muscles that allow your head register. I often have students wanting to learn how to sing like Chris Cornell saying they want to “Belt as high as Chris Cornell”, and while Chris Cornell was able to belt effectively, the powerful high range you hear in Soundgarden songs like Beyond the Wheel and Jesus Chris Pose isn’t actually belting, it is simply a very well tuned resonance, properly shaped vowel and of course appropriate support and register release. By avoiding your head register while developing your voice, or trying to sing higher in chest voice, you actually achieve the exact opposite – a high chest voice note is actually created by joint TA and CT engagement, in effect, enough weight to achieve the tone of chest, but enough tension and ‘pull’ with the head register to allow an extensive range. This fluid coordination is the essence of middle voice and is the means with which singers are able to connect their chest and head voice while singing in a full and powerful tone. Stop trying to belt all the time and build your register coordination first – you may find that the tone you are trying to achieve with a belt is actually achievable with a released and properly balanced middle coordination known as Mix voice.
8 – Stop trying to mimic
Lets face it, we all started singing because of ‘someone’, that ultimate influence that pushed us into learning how to sing better in the first place. For me, it was Chris Cornell with his powerful high range and fluid dexterity in any style of singing from extremely heavy rock to soulful blues and pop. Now, the secret to singing like your favourite singer isn’t by copying their sound, it’s actually to identify the elements of their voice that you enjoy the most and then impart these techniques into your vocal approach in a healthy and controlled way. Rather than trying to push my high range for the intense delivery Chris Cornell was known for, I instead have developed a similar twang to Chris by narrowing the very top of the epiglottis, while tuning my vowels a touch on the narrow side for a powerfully sharp resonance that is intense but released at the same time. The same goes for someone like Elvis – I often see Elvis fans put on the “Thank you very much!” vegas voice that Elvis is often parodied for, rather than building a consistent and rich range like he possessed – there is much more to singing like Elvis or Chris Cornell than snarling your lip or shrieking, respectively.
Trying to sing in a similar manner to your favourite singer is actually the best way to sound like them. Think about it, Chris Cornell wasn’t trying to ‘put on’ the sound of his voice, so if this is what you are trying to do, you are in essence singing in exactly the opposite manner to him and you’ll never reach your goals. Quit trying to mimic your favourite singers and instead identify the techniques that made their voice so inviting and unique.
9 – If you’re pushing, you’re doing it wrong
Quite simply, pushing through strain and pain isn’t going to help you learn to sing better, and in fact, will lead to vocal strain and put you at risk of a damaged and worn out voice. If you find you have to push to hit high notes, then you need to tweak your approach from your very foundation to identify the reason for this improper technique. Singing should be easy and strain free, you should never have to manipulate and contort your voice to hit a pitch or achieve your desired tone – if it feels wrong, you’re doing it wrong.
10 – Singing terms are often figurative
This was a lesson I wish I had learned from day one when I first started learning how to sing better. Figure of speech terms like Open Throat are often misinterpreted in a literal sense by well-meaning voice coaches who fail to realise that a direct translation of classical singing terms in this manner actually hinders singing development in many ways. As an example, the Italian term La Gola Aperta is another figure of speech which when directly translated into English becomes “The Open Throat”, so I often see singers trying to OPEN their throats and WIDEN their vocal tract as far as possible as though this is the ‘secret’ to great singing. Think about it, a YouTube guru does a professional singing video in a recording studio and says “Open Throat is the Secret to great singing!”, and then you try to sing with an open throat, failing miserably of course, and then you have to seek out expensive lessons with this guru coach or buy their expensive course to then be shown that in fact good singing often requires closure in many ways – you close your soft palate on vowel sounds, you close your vocal chords and you often narrow your vocal tract towards closure as you ascend.
A better interpretation of Open Throat is that you should sing without using your throat, in essence making a better translation “No Throat” instead of Open Throat. By treating figure of speech terms like Appoggio and Open Throat as LITERAL instructions, you hinder your own progress and leave yourself open to singing gurus who are using these well meaning singing techniques as marketing terms to swindle you into their courses.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t coaches out there who do truly understand that Open Throat is a figure of speech as was never intended as a direct instruction for singing. Find a coach who is able to explain and instruct you on these singing techniques in a practical and honest way and they will make you sing better – but if you follow a guru who uses a term like Open Throat as a marketing term, they will actually hinder your progress and put your voice at risk.
Improve your singing voice
If you wish to improve your singing voice, you need to improve your vocal technique. A great approach to singing is one that is designed for your specific range, voice type and native tongue – no two singing approaches should be the same. Two singers with an almost identical singing range and vocal type will no doubt require two different sets of instruction to achieve a powerful and strain free singing voice – a great singer is one who knows their voice well and has an approach to absolutely every aspect of singing, from onsets, to vowel shapes, the middle coordination, resonance placement, vowel tuning and so much more.
If you’re ready to take your singing to the next level and finally improve your singing voice with professional vocal training, you can book a Skype Session and get started today!
If you have any questions about how to improve your singing voice, you can 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.