Everyone has belted out a song or two in the car or at their local karaoke bar, and while it was probably quite invigorating when it was happening, chances are there was more than a little shame that crept up as you ran the event over in your head afterwards, or were pointed at by another driver on the road. There’s nothing we can do about strangers pointing and laughing, but we can help with the quality of your singing. If you’re even just the tiniest bit interested in getting some basic vocal chops, we’re here to help. Read further to learn the basics of singing techniques, then check out this Complete Guide to Singing course to take your new skills to the next level and really sing like you mean it and not hurt yourself in the process.
Find Your Voice
Before you start giving Pavarotti a run for his money, you first have to learn the techniques to sing correctly. Part of the reason some folks are able to really belt out a tune in their car is because of the privacy, or at least the illusion of it. So, when first learning to sing, you’ll want to seclude yourself so you won’t feel self-conscious. Also necessary for these exercises are a mirror and a recording device.
- Posture: Correct posture is the first step to correct singing technique. A good way to know if you’re standing absolutely straight is to stand with your ears directly above your shoulder, and your shoulders directly above your hips. In this position you’re chin is at rest, but you want to keep your chin down while singing, which not only allows air to reach your trachea (windpipe), but also gives you full resonance in your pharynx. Look at how you’re standing in the mirror and use it as a model for how to stand when singing in the future.
- Breathing: Your breathing should be more controlled while singing. While keeping your shoulders still, let your lower abdominal muscles release when you inhale, basically popping out your stomach. When exhaling, push your stomach back in while your ribs stay expanded. This is the “Sing from your diaphragm” command you’ve heard vocal coaches on TV and movies talk about. This article about breath control has some helpful tips on controlling your breathing.
- Singing: You’ve postured, you’ve breathed, now you must sing! Keep your singing exercises simple here at the beginning. First sing each vowel (A, E, I, O, U), then combine them into one long word, alternating between the different pronunciations of the letters. For example, instead of pronouncing the “a” like “ay”, say “ah”, then “bay”, “say”, “day” and so on.
- Improvements: Now sing a song you know and love and record it, making improvements where needed. Next, sing just the vowel sounds of that same song, also recording and improving. For example, the lyric “Right now; it’s your tomorrow” becomes “eye ow; eh or oo ah oh”. This may be weird at first, but it’s a good way to improve your singing.
Techniques for Singing Safely
Now that we’ve got you singing vowels like a pro, it’s time to go over a few techniques that will not only keep you comfortable and uninjured while singing, but, most importantly, will hopefully get your voice sounding great.
- Relax your jaw. Sometimes singers tense up their jaw in an effort to control their voice, when in reality, a tense jaw means a tense throat because the two are connected with muscles, and this is no good for singing comfortably as it puts pressure on the larynx, preventing it from moving freely. Make sure you don’t push your jaw forward but keep it relaxed. Pronounce your words with your lips and tongue, not your lower jaw, which should move naturally.
- Open your throat. More than just relaxation, opening your throat will increase your resonance and give your vocal folds (the things in your throat that help produce your voice) more room to work. The physical action of smiling will give you an idea of what you’re looking for. This also helps keep your vocal folds from getting damaged.
- Keep your larynx (voicebox) in a neutral position. You can feel your larynx move up when you swallow and down when you yawn. You don’t want those. You want your larynx in its natural position, like when you’re speaking, which gives it the ability to move freely.
- Manage the air pressure on your diaphragm. You’ll want to keep air in your lungs to sing and provide the right amount of air pressure on your diaphragm in order to keep a smooth air flow to sing. This course on singing will show you how to use your diaphragm properly.
Ways to Sing
Hopefully by now you’ve found your singing voice and know how to use it safely. There are tons of ways to use your new-found voice, and here are just a few to get you started.
- Belting This is when the singer projects their voice to a louder volume. This is the epitome of singing from the diaphragm, but is potentially harmful to your vocal chords.
- Falsetto This is the higher vocal register made famous by the Bee Gees and anyone attempting one of their Disco-era songs. The tip to singing falsetto is to use your head voice as opposed to your chest voice found lower down in the diaphragm.
- Death Growl For all aspiring metalheads, the death growl is the Cookie Monster-esqe singing method produced by using the diaphragm and air pressure on the throat. Make sure to NOT squeeze your throat as that may cause damage.
- Scat Singing Not so much a physical alteration of your voice like the other methods, this vocal improvisation, made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and used most often in Jazz, is basically just singing wordless, made up syllables. It’s fun to do and might make a good warmup exercise. Also, you’ll never forget the words when scatting.
You can only read about how to sing for so long, so now you have to get up and do it. Be confident and be tough on yourself so that you actually get better, but not too tough, because singers can be sensitive about their voices. Don’t forget to breathe and relax, and keep recording yourself so you know exactly how you’re sounding – once you get good at singing, this vocal recording course will teach you how to properly record your voice, and this course on volcal mixing will train you to mix your voice properly when singing over music. It’ll be a long trip from shower singing to Grammy stage, and don’t forget the nice folks at Udemy in your acceptance speech. :)