Do you ever feel you are doing it wrong when it comes to singing?
Do you ever feel you are straining to sing, or don’t like what you hear when you sing?
Though there is no “right” or “wrong” way to sing, you can maximize your own voice by employing a few tried-and-true techniques from seasoned singers and vocal instructors.
Posture is essential. Your voice is your instrument (a nice, portable instrument) that you have to think of the mechanics of just like you would any other instrument. Singing is air being pushed out of your trachea into your mouth, and just as it is harder to breathe if you are collapsed or twisted, it is harder to sing.
Standing straight with your shoulders back allows lots of air to get into your lungs. Your chin should be down most of the time because this relaxes the muscles around your voice box or larynx and makes it easier to control your sound.
2. Warm up
Vocalizing uses muscles, including the diaphragm. Practice sliding your voice from low to high and singing scales. Also try holding one note as long as you possibly can in a mid-range.
Can you sing the note for 15 seconds? 30? Speaking of range…
What is the highest note you can sing comfortably? Virtuosic singers like Ariana Grande have vocal ranges of 3.5 octaves or more. Is your strength in the low notes or the high ones?
Determining your range will help you choose the songs that will make the most of the voice you’ve got.
4. Who do you sound like?
We all sound like someone — personally, I’m somewhere between Kate Bush and Celine Dion, except on bad days, when I’m somewhere between the Aflac duck and Screech from Saved By the Bell.
Is there any voice out there that approximately matches yours? Finding an artist you can aspire to sounding like will help you with appropriate song choices. As they used to say on American Idol (RIP), song choice is EVERYTHING.
Recording is THE most powerful tool you can use to instantly assess your voice. Try making a recording of yourself via the voice recorder on your smartphone OR take a video of yourself singing either with or without a backing track. Remember, you don’t have to share the recording of your voice unless you want to.
Be honest with yourself.
Do you sound as if you have enough breath or do you run out of air?
Are you matching the pitches of the original singer or does it sound like you are wandering off-key?
Can you hear if you are flat or sharp?
Can you understand the words, meaning, is your diction OK?
What are the key points where you would like to improve?
6. Use a video game
Singing video games have been popular for XBox and other gaming consoles for over two decades. Titles like “Just Sing” and games based off of popular shows like The Voice have been available for many years. What these games do is use pitch correction software, the same thing as Autotune, to detect whether or not you can follow the pitch and tempo of popular songs. They will give you a score that tells you how close you were in singing the correct pitches of the song in the game.
7. Learn what intervals are and study them
An interval is the space between two notes. What this means is the space can extend from teeny-tiny (this is called a “microtone” and is often used in various forms of Asian music) to gigantic, meaning so wide our human ears cannot hear either end of the spectrum. The intervals you will be dealing with as a singer will mainly be seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, sevenths, and octaves. These intervals are actually already familiar to you, but you might not realize it. For instance, here the some common intervals and the tunes they sound like:
Minor Second – Sounds like the intro of Beethoven’s Fur Elise or the scary approach sounds from Jaws
Major Second – Sounds like the beginning of Hot Cross Buns or Adele’s song “Hello”
Minor Third – Sounds like the Dreidel song or Brahm’s Lullaby
Perfect Fourth – Here Comes the Bride, O Christmas Tree, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall
Tritone (AKA Augmented Fourth) Intro of The Simpsons cartoon TV series
Perfect Fifth – First few tones of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/the Alphabet Song
Minor Sixth – First few tones of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer
Major Sixth – My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Minor Seventh – Part of Away In A Manger where “The little lord Jesus…” is sung
Major Seventh – First and third notes of Somewhere Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz
Perfect Octave – Take Me Out to the Ball Game, first and second notes of Somewhere Over the Rainbow
8. Don’t eat any dairy
This one may seem odd, but dairy is a total voice killer. Dairy produces mucus, and that is the very last thing a singer wants. Actually, a more alkaline diet — one that is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, will keep you from getting colds and flus. Nobody wants colds or flus. For a singer, a severe respiratory illness can result in scary, permanent damage to the lungs and vocal cords. Your voice box and lungs are your instrument, which means your body is your instrument… treat it well!
9. Do cardio exercise
This one isn’t just for health and to prevent colds and flus — it is so you can get more air into your lungs! Increasing your lung capacity will give you loudness, but more importantly, you will get control over your breath because you won’t always be worried about running out.
10. Keep at it
Any musical instrument takes a great deal of practice and perseverance. Though performers may make their performances seem effortless, effortlessness is an illusion! All musical performances take tremendous amounts of work behind the scenes. For this reason, singing in the shower has value. Any use of your singing voice adds to your accumulated singing practice. Practice in any form you can imagine. Get creative. Don’t give up!