Improve Your Singing Voice Quickly [5 Hacks]
Want to improve your singing voice quickly? These 5 hacks are going to blow your mind. Singing itself is really a process of balance rather than a feat of muscular strength or brute force, so learning how to balance each element of the vocal mechanism is the best way to improve your singing voice quickly. Onsets, vowels, resonance, support – proficiency in all these aspects of a great singing voice can be developed in a relatively short timeframe as they simply require balance, control and consistency, giving you a better singing voice with minimum sweat and definitely no tears. Singing is actually a very easy process, but learning HOW to do it is often over-complicated by conflicting information, the big egos of many voice coaches and of course common singing misconceptions. Lets cut to the chase and improve your singing voice quickly with these 5 vocal hacks!
#1 – Onsets and closure
A vocal onset is simply the manner with which you start your resonance, literally, the onset of your singing tone. By balancing airflow and vocal fold closure, you will not only achieve an instant, powerful and strain free onset resulting in a resonant tone, you will actually have the added benefit of great vocal fold closure. Closing the vocal folds efficiently allows them to vibrate effectively so that you encourage and retain resonance as you hold a phrase or sing a high note. Onsets are easy to develop, but are often overlooked in many vocal methods – set up a balanced onset for the best vocal chord closure and most efficient use of your voice.
A balanced onset is simply a central balance between airflow and chord closure, meaning that your resonance is ‘instant’ without any other sound or breath occurring before resonance is achieved. Now, on either side of this balanced onset there is a breathy/aspirated onset where airflow passes the chords before you achieve closure, often resulting in a flat intonation and tiresome to the vocal folds and voice, and on the flip-side, we have a glottal/hard onset where closure is achieve before air is released, resulting in a harsh ‘attack’ sound that is not only tiring and potentially damaging to the voice, but often results in a sharp intonation due to the sheer force required to make your closed folds vibrate after the fact.
One of the best ways to develop great chord closure and find a balanced onset is actually to practice a crescendo, a small sound like EE works best. So, the initial point of the crescendo is likely a breathy onset, and the full end of the crescendo is just like a glottal onset, so by rights, the centre of the crescendo is where your balanced onset lies – practice the crescendo a few times, and then try to ‘start’ from the centre without either tail, leaving you with good closure and a great onset. Over time with this crescendo exercise you will learn the physical feeling of both support and vocal fold closure and you’ll be able to fine tune and adjust the balance of your onset accordingly to the style you’re singing, your voice and of course how effectively you can balance your onset.
#2 – Vowels
Onsets was a little bit more of a kettle-of-fish than I had intended, so lets keep this short, light and simple. At the end of the day, singing and speaking are not the same thing. Depending on your accent, it’s likely that you pronounce many of your sounds towards the front of your mouth (Like I do with my Australian accent), however, in speech it’s important that you create each vowel sound by forming specific shapes with your tongue for each sound, while allowing appropriate resonant space for each sound and the range you are singing.
The simplest way to illustrate vowel shaping is to have you alternate between EE and AH, like See and Car – you’ll notice that your tongue rises at the back for the EE sound, and lowers to a concave on the AH sound. Now, the key to singing vowels with consistency is to be efficient with the shape of your tongue; every time you sing a word that requires an AH sound, you simply need to form the same lowered concave shape with your tongue so that your resonance is always on point and you’re never straining to sing specific words or sounds.
Now, resonance space is a separate story. Resonant space in singing occurs when you raise the soft palate high into the back of your head so that your higher frequencies can resonate in the pharynx, which in layman’s terms in the resonant back wall of your throat/nasal cavity. The pharynx is the largest resonator in the voice, yes, even when you sing in chest voice – making sure you allow appropriate resonant space is paramount to an efficient and powerfully resonant singing voice. A great way to discover your own resonant space is to change from a closed vowel sound like OO to an open sound like OH (like “Woah!”) while directing the sound of your vowel backwards up into the back of your head. So, start a comfortable low or middle note on an OO vowel (tongue back, lips forward), sing up an octave, or follow your favourite scale, and gradually open up to the OH sound as you rise in pitch, sending the sound into the back of your head. The general feeling is one of a gentle yawn, or a stretching at the back of your head as the soft palate raises to allow resonant space and blocks off any airflow from occurring through the nose.
Forming your vowels properly and allowing resonant space will absolutely change your life as a singer.
#3 – Connect Chest and Head Voice
If probably doesn’t seem possible to many beginner singers, but chest and head voice can and DO connect when you learn how to do so effectively. Chest and Head voice are simply two forms of resonance that occur in your voice in the low and high range respectively. Ergo, to connect your registers and create a seamless note that travels from your lowest note to your highest note without a break, these two forms of resonance need to blend and overlap through the middle of your voice. This balanced connection and overlapping of the registers is often called Mix voice or Middle voice, where you literally mix the resonance from both of your registers instead of choosing either head or chest exclusively. The best way to develop this blend is to start small and light with a semi-closed sound like a lip trill – focus on connection and a seamless transition rather than ‘handing off’ between chest and head. Remember, to connect chest and head voice you actually need to blend either register into one seamless mix of the two.
#4 – Support
Support is the ultimate balancing act in singing. Support occurs when you skew the balance of airflow and air pressure towards pressure – limiting any airflow, but increasing the pressure of the air that is being released. An unsupported tone is actually the very same balance skewed towards airflow instead. Learning to support your voice takes a little time, but if you set up your posture correctly and develop diaphragmatic engagement, support actually occurs naturally as your singing voice progresses. To achieve support in singing, you first need to set up a healthy posture:
- Head up
- Shoulders back
- Chin Parallel with the floor
- Proud Chest
- Ribs Wide (Side to side)
Now, as you sing a phrase or ascend in pitch, you simply need to retain this posture and the wide rib position that you’ve set up in your posture. This forces you to breathe and sing using diaphragmatic engagement rather than ‘pushing’ the air out like bellows. If your voice goes breathy and weak, you’ll probably notice that your stomach comes in as you sing, or your ribs collapse. If you sing a powerful and resonant note, you’ll notice that your stomach moves forward and you retain the wide rib position that was set up in your posture.
Support is simply a fancy word for balance in your breathing mechanism. Are you singing with support, or are you blowing air?
#5 – Articulation
This one is easy. If you sing a simple resonant sound like a V or a Z, you’ll actually notice that there is TWO sounds occurring at the same time. That’s right, there are two sounds that occur on a resonant V or Z – the articulation that occurs at your lips, and the resonance that occurs in the back (remember the pharynx?). Keep this in mind when you practice lip trill exercises and progress towards singing actual songs – the sound of your words and consonants isn’t actually the same place or manner with which your singing voice resonance, this is a separate articulation of either aspirated air, remaining air, NO air, or resonance itself. When you sing, make the back of your head the focus of your sound while simply moving and shaping your mouth and lips to form any articulated sound like consonants or vowel variants.
Remember, consonants aren’t onsets. Behind almost every consonant sound is a separate, balanced onset that occurs in the resonance. As an example, the word “Game” – your resonance doesn’t actually initiate on the glottal “G” sound, it actually occurs on the “A” sound (most likely an AY/EH vowel) and the G is simply a small click that is performed with the back of your tongue. Now, if you struggle to sing a word like “Game”, you’ll notice that you’re trying to resonate on the G sound, or trying to bring your vowel forward towards the front of your mouth instead of allowing it to resonate in the back – just like the resonant V and Z sounds we discovered!
Articulation of consonants occurs as a separate and unrelated process to forming vowels and singing with a balanced onset, don’t let them melt into each other.
How To Get A Better Singing Voice
Obviously, practice makes perfect when it comes to how to get a better singing voice, but with these five simple voice hacks you’ll be well on your way to practicing more efficiently so you can improve your singing voice quickly. These 5 vocal hacks are also practical in a ‘real-world’ sense when singing actual songs. When you start practicing songs and learning new songs, you now know that you must form a balanced onset, shape your vowels effectively and maintain control over each one of the 5 important elements of a great singing voice.
Remember, a great singing voice isn’t a “strong” voice, it’s actually a “balanced” voice. Every single aspect of a great singing voice can be related to a form of balance, and every issue or hurdle you find along the way can be traced back to a lack of balance. Are you singing with balance?
A great place with how to get a better singing voice is the free Foundation 101 singing course here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will set you up with a bullet-proof and rock solid vocal foundation, including onsets, resonance, vowels, middle voice and SO Much more. Best of all, it’s totally free! That’s right, I don’t charge to reveal ‘secrets’ like compression or vowel modification, I simply love to teach and really want you all out there to achieve the voices of your dreams. Then when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level you’re welcome to book a Skype Lesson with me directly so we can start working towards extending your range and developing balance, control and consistency in your voice every single time you sing!
If you have any questions about how to get a better singing voice and improve your singing voice quickly, 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.