The 5 Steps I Wish I Knew As A Beginner Singer
Singing is great fun, and as a profession it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to sing the songs you’ve always dreamed of, and in my case – help other singers like you make the most out of the beginning stage of learning how to sing. Singing itself is actually a fairly simple process of airflow, vibration and resonance – but learning HOW to do so with finesse can be frustrating, in part due to all the various methods and tricks and secrets out there that are intended to make you sing better instantly, but really add fuel to the fires of confusion if you’re not one of those ‘naturally gifted’ singers who just get it right from the start and can magically sing a high C and above with ease and minimal training. I wasn’t a naturally talented singer to begin with, but with time, training, more training and yes, even more training; I’ve realised many of my goals as a singer and continue to help singers all around the world reach their own highest potential as singers. These are the 5 beginner singing steps that I wish I had known from day one so I could have learned to sing better – sooner and easier.
Singing Lessons Beginners Guide
You might have watched a few YouTube videos or looked up some singing tips online – and while you might have had a few “aha!” moments here and there, you’ve probably been finding that some of the more advanced singing channels that advocate advanced concepts like compression, vowel modification and masque are just that little bit too intense for your currently abilities as a singer, and some of these just don’t seem to apply to the specific beginner issues you might be experiencing at this stage in your singing career. Fortunately, this “singing lessons beginner guide” is going to demystify all the complicated terms and help you sing better – which after all, is the whole point of learning how to sing! Let’s get started.
Step 1 – PB&J (Posture, Breathing and Jaw)
You’ve already heard a million times that breathing is the key to great singing, but exactly HOW do you breathe correctly for singing? Strong breathing for a strong voice starts with your posture;
- Head Up
- Shoulders back and down
- Chin Parallel with the floor
- Proud Chest
With this strong posture, you can now engage the diaphragm by focusing on inflating the mid section, as though there is a bicycle tyre wrapped around your lower ribs. You can also try one of the many other common ways of encouraging diaphragmatic breathing such as figuratively inhaling through a drinking straw, laying on your back and breathing solely by moving your stomach, a quick “gasp!” or surprised inhalation from the mid section.
You can practice breathing absolutely anywhere and at any time, you don’t even need to make any sound! The more control and balance you have in your ability to first breath correctly, and then secondly moderate your airflow as you sing – the better your singing voice.
Now, the jaw really is another important element of your singing voice – not so much that you need to do anything special with it, but more that you need to release any tension from your jaw, neck, throat and posture before you practice singing. I realise that there are some YouTube singing channels out there that encourage you to open your mouth as WIDE as possible; but this is really a misnomer – the “open” sensation really occurs at the back/top of your mouth/throat rather than the jaw – so stop trying to fit your whole fist in your mouth and instead simply focus on a slack feeling for now in the back of your jaw rather than trying to manipulate your mouth or expressions for now.
Step 2 – Placement 101
For me personally, placement was a total game changer. Now, it’s not possible to physically move or ‘place’ your voice in a physical sense, but it IS possible to direct your resonance figuratively towards various areas along the vocal tract that resonate and ring more efficiently, along with making specific healthy frequencies which encourage a more open and powerful voice. I treat placement as a three stage process;
- Above the teeth (remove any unnecessary low end and low vibration below your top teeth)
- Forward (REALLY forward – like a baseball two inches in front of the face)
- Balance (Dominant registers for each register; Mouth, Pharynx, Nasal resonators)
Step 3 – Mixed Resonance
Your low notes are known as chest voice, and your highest notes known as head voice – but what about everything in between? It’s actually possible to connect both vibratory mechanisms in the voice into one central form of resonance, known as “mix” or “Middle voice” which connects from your lowest note to your highest note. The key to developing mixed resonance is to first create connection between your chest and head voice with simple exercises like lip trills, hoot exercises and closed resonant sounds like N, NG, M and Oui.
If you want to extend your range, and you’d like it to be a POWERFUL range, then mixed voice truly is the key. Someone who is singing “high chest voice notes” is actually singing a blend of chest and head resonance together in most cases.
Step 4 – TISK? (Take it slow, OK?)
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a great singing voice. It’s important that you don’t get sucked into “tricks” and “magic” and “secrets” that are often sold online – great singing isn’t a secret, and it isn’t just reserved for naturally ‘gifted’ singers either. Absolutely ANYONE can learn how to sing – I’ve had singers as young as 7, and older than 70 who have been able to build impressively powerful and free singing voices with the simple steps in this guide. Sure, there’s more to it than just breathing, finding mix and taking it slow – but this is where you MUST start. TISK, okay?
Step 5 – Resonant Space and Vowels
Keeping this guide as simple as I can for you beginners out there – resonant space is key to vocal freedom and extending your range. As you sing higher, instead of pushing and yelling louder and louder until your voice breaks – instead, you need to raise the soft palate and alter the space and shape of your vocal tract to enable efficient resonance in each changing register of the voice. You can try this yourself with a slight ‘lift’ at your cheeks straight up towards the eyes (like an internal smile that noone else can see), then by performing the very start of a yawn (not a full crazy Herman Munster yawn – keep it subtle and the beginning of the yawn) – and you’ll feel the soft palate at the back/top of your throat raise up into the back of the head to create space in the pharynx. This space is required for your middle and high range; and this also alters each of your vowel sounds as you ascend.
Instead of singing AH in the mid section of the voice when you sing a word like “Love”, the central vowel actually shifts slightly towards OH, like LOHVE, then LURVE up into the higher rage, then finally LOOVE as you fully release into head resonance. There are four main changes in each of the two main vowel groupings when you sing;
- AH/OH/AA – Hard/Hord/Heard/Who’d
- AY/ER/EE – Hey/Head/Hid/Heed
Learning to ‘allow’ these slight modifications when you sing is absolutely going to change your life as a singer. You can try it now with a simple “Lah, Lah, Lah” exercise along a major scale – as you get towards your first break area; let this sound become slightly “Loh” (like the word LOST instead of the word LAST) without pronouncing at your teeth or with your lips too much. You’ll notice that you get a similar subtle sensation to the yawn we performed earlier with the slightly raised cheeks under the eyes.
These 5 steps will get you started as a beginner singer, and will actually develop into powerful tools for your singing voice as you progress as a more accomplished singer. Remember, Vocal Foundation really is just like the Foundation of a house that is being built – the rock solid concrete base that your walls and roof (tone and range) are being built upon. Without a strong vocal foundation, your house will fall.
The best way to learn how to sing is to set up a rock solid foundation first of healthy vocal technique. You can get started right now with the Foundation 101 singing course here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to;
- Connect chest and head voice
- Sing without strain or tension
- Form your vowels correctly
- Place your resonance
- Sing in mixed voice
- Increase your range
- Improve your tone
- Warm up your voice
- SO much more!
You can also take part in this exclusive Mixed Voice Singing Lesson which will show you the Foundation 101 course in practice along with a super simple and practical way for you to sing with mixed voice right now!
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.