Make Your Singing Voice Better
[In Three Simple Steps]
Alright, you've probably already worked out for yourself that there's no real "secret" to singing, and there's no fast fixes or cheats that are going to turn you from zero to hero in five minutes of singing practice - however, what if I told you three simple steps that would improve ANY singing voice at ANY level in ANY style? Pretty bold statement, right? I'm happy to back it up for you with the facts.
As a broad explanation for how singing works, your singing voice is a simple process of air pressure, vibration and resonance. The process of managing air pressure and airflow in your singing is often called support. Vibration is created when you add airflow to vocal fold closure, often referred to as adduction or simply chord closure. Then finally, resonance is managed in your singing voice through resonant space and overtones that resonate in various shapes and sizes within the vocal tract - somewhat like tuning forks or an acoustic guitar's sound hole, and is generally referred to as a vowel, vowel shaping or vowel modification. So, with these three simple concepts in mind, let's improve your support, adduction and vowels with these three basic steps.
Step 1 - Consistent Airflow (aka Support)
Instead of focusing too much on the physical aspects of support for now, let's simply focus on the end result of consistent airflow. To test you airflow, place the palm of your hand an inch or so in front of your mouth when you sing a phrase. If you're having trouble singing without strain and tension, or perhaps your voice is weak and breathy - you probably felt very inconsistent bursts of air hitting the palm of your hand throughout the phrase. Congratulations, you just diagnosed one of the biggest flaws in your current approach to singing - inconsistent airflow, aka a lack of support.
Now, let's try it again and focus on releasing one, slow, consistent breath on which the phrase will sail out upon. After a few tries, when you get this right - you'll notice an instant improvement in our resonance, stamina and overall control in your singing. Consistent airflow really is one of the most important keys to great singing - stop pushing air out, and stop clamping off before a high note; just let your notes sail out on one consistent breath without interruption.
Step 2 - Forward Placement
If you can talk, you can already achieve vocal fold closure, so let's take the concept of resonance a step further by developing a forward placement. Instead of thinking of your voice as "in your throat with your vocal folds", figuratively imagine that your voice sits directly in front of your eyes and nose, and about an inch or so above your mouth. I know, it's a weird idea when you first get started - but forward placement is the magic sauce that is going to allow you to achieved mixed voice and sing higher chest voice notes without strain in the long run. Many beginner singers in particular are scared of forward placement because it's a little bit 'ugly' to begin with when you're practicing, but when you get your placement right and add in the resonant space we're about to develop in step 3, a forward placement is actually the most balanced and pleasant way to sing with a great vocal tone.
Remember, this forward and bright sound won't actually be so ugly when you develop your vowels properly, which we'll look at in the next step;
Step 3: Height In The Vocal Tract (aka The Internal Smile)
You might have seen singers struggling and straining, yelling and pushing before - and noticed that their mouth is spread from side to side in an extreme and painful-looking smile. This external smile is an absolute no-no in any serious vocal approach, and would be met with derision by any professional voice coach who values their students' vocal health in the long run. Sure, a smile will give you a superficially brighter tone and make it seem like you're singing better immediately; but the true key to improving your voice and increasing your range exponentially without the strain and tension created by a mouthy/toothy smile is actually known as The Internal Smile. You know, the bright eyed flash you'd send to a pretty lad/gentleman across the bar from you - not a psychotic smile like the joker while baring your back teeth and poking your tongue out. Instead, if you raise your cheeks a touch under your eyes, let your cheeks sink a touch at the back of your mouth and keep bright and open eyes, you'll notice an "open" feeling at the back of the mouth that can be accentuated by the beginning of a gentle yawn, or even inhaling from a "K" consonant sound. This my friend, is height in the vocal tract care of a raised soft palate.
Raising the soft palate and modifying the shape and size of your vocal tract in this manner is the key to creating your vowel sounds properly when you sing. If you're hitting a vocal break or straining when you sing, you'll notice that this "open" feeling at the back of your mouth closes off completely. This is also where the term "Open Throat Singing" get's it's name.
These three steps alone will take you much further as a singer than all the buzz words, compression, modes and magic secrets you could ever waste your time on YouTube researching. The truth is, compression refers to consistent airflow, modes are vocal tract setups just like the internal smile and placement, twang and all the NYAH and NAH exercises in the world are really just trying to get your to sing with forward placement.
The truth is, singing is much more simple that it's often made out to be. If you focus on these three steps alone and dedicate your time to mastering consistent airflow, forward placement and height in the vocal tract - you will see an instant improvement in your singing, and with these powerful setup steps, you'll find that many other concepts and instructions out there will make MUCH more sense and continue to encourage improvement in your singing with time and practice.
A great place to get started improving your support, airflow and fold closure is the Foundation 101 singing course here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, which will help you;
- Connect chest and head voice
- Created Mixed Voice resonance
- Support your voice
- Form your vowels correctly
- Increase your range
- Improve your tone
- Warm up effectively
- SO much more!
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.