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How to Sing Better: Tips for improving your singing
Posted on July 26, 2019
Congratulations, you’ve made the decision to take on one of the most notable roles in a band: the singer. But before you attempt to reach the extremities of your vocal range like Freddie Mercury, there are a few steps you should consider.
These first steps will get your body and voice ready to start practicing. It’s like warming up before a gym exercise; this prevents you from hurting your voice. Learning how to sing is much more fun when you don’t strain your vocal cords too much in the process.
Follow these tips to improve your singing voice and learn how to sing better. As AC/DC puts it: “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll.” In other words, learning to sing doesn’t come easy and requires some work. So remember to keep practicing, and soon you’ll be hitting high notes and navigating different vocal techniques with ease.
Control your breath
The most important tool for any singer is, of course, their voice. Your own voice is unique, so take good care of it. With time and practice, you’ll eventually find your own style of singing that suits you the best. One important aspect of singing and training your voice is practicing regularly with the help of breathing exercises and learning breath control.
The first step to maintaining your voice is to breathe correctly. If you take a breath now, does it feel like it’s mainly your shoulders and chest moving up? Whether you breathe like this naturally or not, it’s a very shallow way of breathing and something we want to avoid.
Luckily, this is something you can unlearn and improve your singing in the process. As a singer, you want to use a breathing technique called diaphragmatic breathing.
In diaphragmatic breathing, you use your stomach, diaphragm, and abdominal muscles to provide stability to your core. Not only is diaphragmatic breathing good for improving your overall singing technique, but it is also helpful for relaxing and reducing stress or anxiety. Practice breathing like this:
- Place your arms around your belly.
- When you’re breathing, you should feel your belly, ribs, and back expanding. This is the breathing technique you want to use when singing.
- Breathe in through your nose to your stomach. Feel your stomach expand against your hand. Your chest should remain still.
- Exhale through your lips while keeping your core strong. As you exhale, feel your stomach move down.
- One helpful method is to imagine that the inhaled air flows first all the way down your spine and then expands your torso 360 degrees.
Now that we’ve got you conscious of your breathing, it’s time to release some tension. We’ll be focusing especially on your throat, jaw, and neck. After singing or doing some singing exercises, have your vocal cords ever felt exhausted and sore? Or does your neck pulse and feel sore like it would after a workout? If this sounds (and feels) familiar, you might have vocal tension.
Don’t worry, there’s something we can do to alleviate this tension and make you feel better. When you sing properly, you will not encounter such pain and tension. To continue with our earlier gym workout analogy, this is like stretching after a good exercise session or workout to help you recover and come back stronger for the next time.
First, stick your tongue out. That’s right. Get it out of your mouth and maybe give it a good stretch by making some circles. You may already feel some tension leaving your jaw and neck as you release your tongue.
As you sing, your tongue should be allowed to rest and not really take part in the process of making a sound. If you still feel like your neck is getting involved in your singing and your tongue is getting tense, try to sing while sticking your tongue out. This might sound and look silly, but trust us, it’s a great way to ease any tension you might have.
Tension in the neck and shoulders
Next, we’re going to relax your neck and shoulders. Many people raise their shoulders and tense their necks while singing. Similarly, many people may clench their jaws when they’re very focused on any activity that requires their attention. Be aware of this next time you’re practicing or doing some vocal exercises and see if this is a problem you’re having as well.
To help with tension in the neck and shoulders, we’re going to do a simple lengthening of the neck.
- Lean your head towards your shoulder and take deep breaths.
- Try to relax and feel the side of your neck lengthening gently.
- You can also think of pushing your shoulder down gently, the one you’re leaning away from. This way you feel the lengthening a bit more.
- Inhale, raise your head back up, and exhale.
- Repeat on the other side.
Proper posture for singing
In addition to relieving tension from the upper body, remember to also check that your posture is good. Learning correct posture is an integral part of becoming a great singer. As with playing any instrument, avoid slouching over and pay attention that your core muscles are providing enough support for the rest of your body.
Stand up with your knees unlocked. You can think about standing in a moving bus without holding on to anything. What kind of strength and support would you need from your legs in that situation? If your knees were locked and your legs were stiff, you would fall instantly. Instead, think of a strong but elastic support from your legs, butt, and back. This leaves your upper body and stomach free so you can do the deep breathing we talked about earlier.
Warm up your vocal cords
The importance of warming up before beginning to sing can’t be emphasized enough. Like muscles of your body, you can hurt your voice and vocal cords with improper preparations and no warm-up. Proper singing warm-up also helps you to expand your vocal range and strengthen your voice. This allows you to sing for longer periods of time without your voice getting tired, for instance.
Here’s how to warm up when you practice singing:
- Stretch your jaw muscles and face. You don’t have to stop there. If you have the time, make sure to stretch your entire body, including your neck, sides, and back. This will work wonders, especially if you’re practicing early in the morning while you’re still stiff after getting out of bed.
- Another way to relax your muscles and stretch is by letting out a great yawn.
- Do breathing exercises regularly. Follow breathing exercises like the one we described above to prepare your body for singing.
- Test the limits of your vocal range. Start producing a voice at the bottom of your vocal range. Then slowly glide to the top of your vocal range, but don’t strain your voice too much. Glide back down to a low note and repeat.
You can find helpful singing warm-up exercises in Yousician by navigating to the Learn → Workouts tab.
Train and improve your singing voice
There are no shortcuts to becoming a great singer, but that doesn’t mean the learning process has to be boring. Try to create a routine from the different exercises we’ve listed. Perhaps you can start your mornings by concentrating on your breathing before getting out of bed or cheer up your neighbors by giving them a demonstration of your vocal range while making breakfast.
The most important thing is to practice whenever you have the time and you will not be interrupted. As you make daily practice a part of your routine, you’ll notice your voice and singing improve in leaps. Even if you’re in a hurry, try to squeeze in at least 10 minutes of singing practice every day.
To start doing those vocal practices in the morning, you might want to know your vocal range. One way to find it is to use a piano or virtual keyboard. Go through the notes to see how high and low you can sing. You can also use our app to find and calibrate your vocal range. This will help you pick the songs to practice in the beginning. Knowing your vocal range and transposing songs to a lower register is especially helpful for male singers and those with a lower voice.
Later you can even check if your vocal range has improved. This is a great way to track your progress and hear the improvements in your singing voice and vocal range. As your vocal range increases, you’ll be able to sing high notes that you couldn’t reach before. Or maybe your goal is to go lower to hit those bassy low notes.
Learn to sing with your favorite songs
You’ve now made your way through a bunch of facts about singing, and are eager to start using your voice now. That’s the spirit. After all, what really keeps one from practicing is motivation, and in the case of singing, motivation often comes from singing the songs you actually like. Sing songs you enjoy to improve your singing voice, and practicing won’t even feel like work. Who said learning how to sing better has to feel like a chore?
Luckily, Yousician has a variety of well-known songs from different genres and artists to choose from. You can also set up the difficulty according to your skills when searching for songs to sing.
So, choose a song that you like and start your journey of becoming a better singer. Soon you’ll be able to sing along to Freddie Mercury’s live improvisation!
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