Singing better 101 – how to sing well
Learning how to sing well is a confusing process, considering all the contradictory information and pricey ‘gurus’ out there ready to take your money at a whim for breadcrums of information. Thankfully, singing better doesn’t have to be such a painful or confusing process, and if you follow these 5 easy steps and take care to develop your voice in the right way – you’ll be soaring into your high range in no time at all!
First up, we need to talk about your foundation. Foundation is the cornerstone of a healthy and powerful singing voice, and we all know that foundation starts with your posture.
Step one – set up a healthy posture
Healthy posture for singing is actually pretty easy to do, so easy to do in fact, that it’s just as easy to forget. Using the following steps to set up your posture, this will now mark the start of your new and STRONG foundation:
- Head up
- Shoulders back and down
- Chin parralel with the floor
- Sternum ‘up’ like a proud knight
If you’re standing, you should also pay some attention to your stance by keeping your feet around shoulder-width apart, and in a natural, strain free posture.
This posture begins the healthy foundation that your powerful singing voice will soon sit on, so always remember – Head up, Shoulders Back and down, Chin Parallel with the floor and sternum ‘up’ for a wide rib position.
Step two – engage your diaphragm
If you’re having trouble with this, I suggest starting with my free foundations short courses or booking a session with me – you can also find indepth tutorials on my YouTube channel. Engaging your diaphragm is an absolute MUST for healthy and powerful singing – and really starts with the last step of your posture; widening your ribs. If you start with the wide rib position (aka Appoggio), then when you take a breath using your diaphragm, it will be like a vaccuum where the diaphragm lowers to create a negative space filled with air, rather than ‘sucking in’ air like we often do when we speak.
Step three – build resonance
This also leads into step four, but in short, your voice works via air PRESSURE rather than air FLOW – you actually need to learn how to hold back your air to create a vibrant, resonant sound rather than a ‘breathy’ or ‘flutey’ sound. It’s not air flowing across your vocal chords that makes a sound, it’s actually air PRESSURE making your chords vibrate that in turn allows for resonance to occur in the resonant chambers throughout the body.
There’s actually quite a few different types of resonance, such as twang, and tuned resonance – but for now, simply try to make a ‘buzz’ above your teeth rather than trying to ‘sing out of your mouth’ – it’s more like the sound occurs above your mouth than flying out of your mouth.
This brings me to the next step:
Step four – learn the practical vowel sounds
Did you know that there are specific vowel sounds you should be singing? Or at least, there is specific vowel sounds that allow for the greatest ease in resonance? These are what I refer to as ‘practical vowel sounds’ –
- AH (tongue concave and low)
- AA (similar, but with the center of your tongue forward)
- EE (Tongue ‘up’ at the back, down at the front)
- AY (Similar, but with the center of your tongue forward – also known as “EH” like “PET”)
- OO (There’s actually two different ways to do this, depending on how you’re singing…)
Using these vowel sound to replace the center of each of your words will allow for the greatest resonance and a release of strain as you ascend in range. Of course, these vowels can be modified and combined to create more difficult words and combination vowels, but for now – focus on creating these pure vowels and build your resonance.
Step five – tune your vowels
Tuning your vowels is a fine-tooth process that allows you to sing ANY pitch, with ANY vowel – but it’s important to understand how, and WHY you should tune your vowels.
For starters, each vowel has it’s own natural ‘width’ in the vocal tract – a wide vowel sound allows for more chest resonance, a more narrow vowel cuts off your lower frequencies before they are allowed to resonate. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can ‘sing higher in chest voice’ by simply singing with a wider vowel, the opposite, in fact. Certain parts of your vocal tract require a specific mix of chest and head frequencies to vibrate properly, so it’s really not up to you to decide ‘how much’ chest voice you allow, it’s up to you to LEARN how much of a chest voice/head voice blend is required to resonate at the pitch you’re singing.
Generally, your first vocal break actually requires a slightly higher mix of chest voice – aka you need to ‘widen’ in most cases, but this is obviously isn’t a hard rule. Secondly, you need to sit ‘neutral’ in your middle section, the most difficult passage of your voice, and then you finally need to narrow somewhat as you release up into head voice and your high range.
A super basic way of doing this is to sing towards a loose “OH” character through your first break, then progressively more towards an “OO” character as you sing higher up into your high range – of course, this is way too general guide to be particularly efficient, but it will introduce you to the concept and hopefully illustrate the feeling of ‘widening’ vs ‘neutral’ vs ‘narrow’ vowel widths.
Using these five simple steps, you’ll soon be singing with a POWERFUL singing voice and learning to release strain from your voice as you ascend and soar into your high range. The next steps beyond these five foundation steps would involve building your middle voice (aka “Mix”), learning to create your consonant sounds in the right way – and of course troubleshooting your voice using songs and your favourite singers to build your range and develop practical application of all of these powerful techniques.
If you’re ready to take your voice to the next level and build your middle voice, develop even more power and a killer tone, you’re welcome to book a session with me today!
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.