Improve Your Singing Technique

Fix your singing technique now...

Will you be wanting to improve your singing? Then technique is one thing you ought to be concentrating on initially. A fantastic technique is at the basis of any amazing player. It’s not possible to have an incredible singer without a fantastic technique. As part of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning Singing’, hopefully this section on technique will help you improve simply and quickly.

Singing Learning Methods

Daily Exercises

There are lots of exercises singers can do to help them to embed a sound technique. Start off with a small range of pitch and pretty soon you’ll be adding higher and lower notes.  These exercises encourage consistent clear sound, help a beginner singer not to force their sound or to scream-sing, and will help with vocal stamina to prevent fatigue. If practised daily, or at least often, you will see the difference in a big way! A lot of exercises use scales and arpeggios which help to train your musical ear as you go. They are also an important part of learning how to form vowels and consonants precisely and clearly in a way which won’t get in the way of you making a beautiful tone.

Piano Exercise

1. Sirens moving into vowels

We’ve already talked about these but they are worth mentioning again. A siren is an easy sound to make and can warm up your entire vocal range and eventually help you to extend that range. Say the word SING, take off the S and the I and you have NNNNNGGGGGG. Move that sound up and down. When you need to sing a little higher imagine you are going to yawn. That yawn feeling opens up lots of space at the back of your mouth and allows your voice to move more freely. 

 Now use that siren sound to open into an AH shape up and down your range. Don’t change anything except a slight movement of your tongue to make the AH. Keep thinking of that yawn at the back of your mouth. Keep your mouth position tell and neutral.

2. Scales and Arpeggios

The Star Spangled Banner Arpeggio

A lot of exercises are made up of scales and arpeggios. Try an arpeggio up and down (a three-note figure) on each vowel sound. How steady can you make that sound? How consistent is the vowel sound? Watch that you don’t change that vowel sound by moving your mouth around too much (but don’t get tight, flexibility is always key!) How open do you need the front and back of your mouth to be? How smooth can you make the sound? Try moving up one note and singing your arpeggios again from that higher starting note. 

Try the same vowel sounds smoothly on a five-note scale up and down. When you get higher, if it starts to get tight, make a sound a little bit like a puppy whimpering. How does that feel? Now try the scale again and add in that whimpering sensation. It should have helped to release the sound a little.

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3. Onset

The way you start a sound depends on your vocal setup and what you are trying to achieve. Say:

“Hey, how are you?”

Notice that in this sentence you have started the words in three very different ways. ‘Hey’ and ‘how’ require a soft, aspirate beginning to the sound which if you added to every start to a sound could cause a “breathy tone” when you sing. Try not to start your scale exercises with this sound. 

With the word ‘are’ you’ll notice a hard feeling in your throat. This is your vocal folds coming positively together. This is called a glottal stop. This is a useful sound but we don’t want to make it all the time as it can interrupt the flow of a musical phrase. 

With the word ‘you’ you’ll notice an easy and smooth start to the word. This is called ‘smooth onset’, try to find this feeling for your scales without making too much of a ‘y’ sound.

There is another way to start a sound. Remember the way Britney Spears growls at the beginning of the lyric “Oh baby, baby” in the song “Oops, I did it again’? That’s called vocal fry and is quite a fun sound to make. However, we don’t want to make this sound all of the time. Watch that you don’t emulate Britney too much when you sing. Save it as an effect in some pop songs and musical theatre, it isn’t really heard in classical singing and shouldn’t become a habit in any style, you want to be able to add it in or take it away not rely on it as a way to start every sound.

4. Consonants

Improve your singing technique

You can now try putting consonants in front of the five-note scale or arpeggio. Consonants should be made as quickly and precisely as possible. A consonant should for the most part be short and clean – if you are taking too long to form the consonant with your mouth or tongue then the tone and pitch might be affected.

Try saying some tongue twisters and feel how consonants are formed in your mouth.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppercorn. 

The consonants all happened quickly, didn’t they? Now try singing this on one tone. Were the consonants as clear? Notice how this tongue twister is focused on keeping your lips moving with flexibility.

What other tongue twisters do you know? Where do you feel the work is happening when you say/sing them? Is it in your lips, your tongue or a combination? Remember to keep your jaw as relaxed as possible when you speak and sing them.

5. Good habits in posture, relaxed jaw

Make sure when you are singing the exercises that you keep monitoring your posture and your body, including your jaw for tension. Keep shaking your arms or shoulders or knees out if anything gets locked. Any tension anywhere in your body will translate into your voice. Remember that your feet should be planted on the floor if you can stand and if not, sit on the edge of the front of your seat. Keep yourself feeling tall but not rigid. Watch that your jaw or neck don’t stick out or bend forwards. A lot of us have bad habits from using phones and tablets now where we bend our necks forward to read, causing havoc with our general body alignment. Keep imaging that the top of your head is attached to a piece of string that is attached to the ceiling and it is pulling your head up a little, but keep it loose. You don’t need to stand like a soldier on parade when you are singing.

6. Effort versus discomfort

Improve your singing technique

Get used to singing being EFFORTFUL. That does not mean painful. If singing is causing you pain, or a tickle in your throat that makes you want to cough, then you either have some constriction or tension in your throat or with your jaw or tongue. Stop, swallow, take a sip of water and siren downwards and up again to release everything. Relax your jaw, massage your cheeks. Stick your tongue out whilst you sing – this will feel odd but if it feels impossible that you are likely to have a lot of tongue tension. If these feelings persist then take a rest and or speak to your teacher.

However, if singing feels effortful, then that is correct! Remember that singing is a whole-body affair. When you learn to do anything muscular it can feel really effortful at first but it will get easier with time, just like learning to hold a yoga pose can be super effortful at first but for most people can start to feel easier with practice.

Bonus Tips...

Sight Reading

sight reading

If you can you should try to read the notes on the page of music whilst you are reading the words. At least try to follow the direction of the notes as you sing. The music also acts as a map to tell you where to sing or play next and has many symbols and words which a composer has added to help you to interpret the music better. Perhaps try a music theory course on an app or from a book to help you with this, learning how to read what is in the music can be hugely demanding but also rewarding and enjoyable, as learning any language can be.

Improve Your Singing Technique - Summary

Taking the time to improve your technique in your practice will be the foundation of your singing. The time you take here will make your life easier down the road…

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