How to Sing Better: 12 Things You Should Start Doing Today to Improve Your Voice

Like any other skill, singing is a talent you hone over time. Sure, there is some fate to who is bestowed magical pipes, but singing is also learned. Even naturally amazing-sounding singers can learn how to sing better.

The truth is that the majority of us are terrible at anything we try the first time around. But that doesn’t mean you should give up.

In this article, we’ll show you how to sing correctly. Whether you think you’re a terrible singer or simply want to improve your skills, these tips and tricks can help you improve your voice.

Master the basics of singing, and you can expect your confidence to soar too.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

1. Maintain Correct Posture

man singing

Proper posture is a must for singers, which means you should stand or sit with your back completely straight. Relax your shoulders, throat, and tongue muscles, removing any tension that may show in your posture as well. The feet should remain should-width apart, with your shoulders entirely in line with the hips and feet. Keep the knees slightly bent. This posture is called standing tall in the industry, and you should never lean, tilt to the side, or tip your head.

Your chin should also remain parallel to the floor, so avoid lifting your jaw to hit higher, more powerful notes. A common mistake singers make is to point the chin either up or down with emphasis. However, moving your head as you sing can cause damage to the vocal cords over time, whereas a chin that’s parallel to the floor provides more control and power.

If you’re not sure what proper alignment feels like, try lying on your back or standing against a wall with your shoulders and head touching as well. Use a mirror to see if your posture is straight. Sing in this position, and make sure you incorporate that alignment when you sing standing or sitting in the future. In the right position, you should feel like you could jump onto a moving train at a moment’s notice if needed.

2. Breathe From Your Diaphragm

Rather than breathing in air from your chest, singing requires taking a deep breath from your diaphragm. Correct breathing means your abdomen expands as your diaphragm supports the singing voice, not your chest. Your diaphragm, not your lungs, is the organ vital for breathing as you sing.

You can tell if you are using your diaphragm to breathe correctly by pushing down just under your rib cage while you ascend a scale or release to come back down the scale. Inhale with your nose and feel the abdomen expand as you breathe in. Exhale, and push down while contracting your abdominal muscles. Repeat the sit up-like motion when you’re singing until it feels natural.

3. Open Your Vowels

A quick tip for boosting your voice is to open the vowels, also known in the industry as the open throat technique. The trick lies in the jaw, and each position can drastically change the sound you sing.

Open your vowels by singing sounds like “ah” instead of “a.” Make sure to elongate your mouth, but don’t widen the mouth while you sing. The goal is to separate the tongue from the soft palette, so keep it along your bottom jaw. Maintain this tongue position for better sound quality.

To practice opening your vowels, start by pronouncing A-E-I-O-U as ah, eh, ee, oh, oo when you sing. The jaw should never close during a vowel, and it may take some practice holding your jaw with your fingers until you can form the sound with an open mouth.

Repeat singing vowels with an open jaw to grow your voice. However, don’t keep the jaw from moving freely, or you may sound like a robot.

4. Extend Your Vocal Range

Your vocal range is the notes, from low to high, a person can sing. Learning how to work out your vocal range is crucial because it helps identify which of the following eight main voice types you have:

  • Bass
  • Baritone
  • Tenor
  • Countertenor
  • Contralto
  • Alto
  • Mezzo-soprano
  • Soprano

In other words, your vocal range is the notes you feel comfortable singing without breathy, high, falsetto qualities added to your voice. Many people have a natural range between 1-2 octaves and maybe another octave in other registers. Once you know what yours is, you can begin to expand your limits.

To increase it, make sure you’re incorporating proper technique and posture. Vowels cannot come out airy, and you need adequate resonance before you can extend it. Begin only a half step at a time and practice singing short scales with a new note before moving on to a higher or lower octave.

5. Transition Between the Different Voice Areas

girl singing

Everyone’s voice contains multiple areas, and each region includes a range of notes you create from a particular section of your body. The lower the note, the deeper the sound comes from inside your body. Thus, lower notes resonate in the chest. You can learn to move between these areas to change the resonance of your voice and improve your singing.

The female voice contains three areas: the chest, middle, and head register. Here, the middle voice, sometimes called mixed voice, comes from the mid-region between your head and chest voice. The head voice is the higher notes you resonate using the dome, and you can feel the vibrations as you sing headnotes by placing your hand on top of your head.

Men, on the other hand, only have two areas, which include the middle voice for low tones and falsetto for high notes.

To transition from high to low notes, sing using your head clear to your chest voice. You should notice the notice moving down your chest as you sing along as long as you don’t remain singing the same note as you descend.

6. Humming

Simple vocal warm ups are essential because they increase blood flow to your vocal cords, but you don’t need lyrics or music to practice singing! Humming a song either as a question or in the form of disbelief (which change in pitch) can help you practice your scales.

Try practicing your humming with Do-Mi-Sol on an ascending scale before returning to Mi-Do. Focus on your accuracy and hit the right pitch for each note. As you hum scales, you should feel a buzzing sensation in your head, near the eyes and nose, that reaches clear into your chest as you hit the low notes.

Never skip a warm up before singing either. Failure to warm your vocal cords could lead to fatigue and hoarseness. Worst of all, you could seriously injure your vocals.

7. Trills

Trills, also known as a lip trill, is a technique that involves blowing air from your mouth to cause your lips to flap. The resulting sound comes out like the “brrrrr” you release when you’re cold, and you need to relax the lips for the exhaled air to vibrate them in place. If you’re too tense, the lips won’t move right.

If you’re having trouble creating the sound, try pushing the corners of your mouth down toward the nose. Relax the swallowing muscles in your throat, keeping them relaxed as you complete the exercise.

8. Keep the Larynx Steady

man with bowtie singing

A steady larynx is vital for hitting high notes. Rather than attempt to lift the voice box or larynx, which can strain your vocal cords, maintain proper vocal control. Try singing “mmm” with a closed mouth, keeping the throat relaxed.

Practice keeping your larynx in place by singing or saying “mum” repeatedly until you feel comfortable and relaxed. Place your thumbs gently on your throat just under the chin and swallow. The throat muscles you feel are the same ones you want to relax while you sing.

Avoid poking or pushing on your larynx during practice, but gently feel where it is to tell if it rises or falls as you sing. If it does, try to keep it relaxed by feeling for tension around these muscles. Your tongue muscles may tighten, causing the underside of your chin to feel tight. This is a sign you need to relax.

At first, you might make silly faces when you complete this technique. Keeping the sound near the top of your face may make your facial movements exaggerate, but it’s completely normal. Remember to try staying relaxed in the throat even if your face looks funny. With time and persistance, you can train every muscle to stay in a relaxed position as you switch through any scale.

9. Ear Training

Breath support and posture are vital, but your pitch is essential too. With ear training, you can train yourself to hear a note and perfectly sing it back. The process involves learning how to teach your ear to distinguish between notes and hitting the right note with your voice. It’s easier said than done for many singers.

Try cupping your fingers around your ears and face the music. Attempt to match the pitch you hear. You’ll notice the cupping helps you both hear the note and your singing voice much better.

If you find ear training challenging to complete alone, a voice coach can help. They have a trained ear to notice flat and sharp notes immediately, and a teacher will show you how to fix your pitch when they see you’re off-key.

Alternatively, you can buy what’s known as a vocal auto tune pedal which will correct your pitch for you (its sort of cheating, but a lot of pros use them so why not take advantage too!)

10. Sing Songs

There’s also no better way to practice your technique than to sing a song. You should have between three and five go-to songs in mind for your daily sessions. Ensure these songs are within your vocal range and keep them in your repertoire for when you need to perform a song last-minute.v

Once you feel good about your performance with a song or two, move on to more challenging tunes. Avoid singing over other singers, however, as doing so can alter how you hear yourself and fool you into thinking you pulled off the song.

Don’t go acapella either. Opt for a beat you enjoy or find the music to your favorite songs without the lyrics. Better yet, try playing an instrument like the guitar or piano to accompany your voice. Learning to play an instrument can help train your ear and make you a better singer/performer later.

11. Grow Your Confidence Through Practice

Lady singing
Image via pexels.com

Confidence is critical for any performance, but sometimes stage fright gets in the way – especially if you’re a beginner. One of the best ways you can move past your nerves is to get plenty of practice. Daily sessions boosts your confidence as well as your technical skills.

When you practice something new, try it at home first. In the privacy of your own home, you can work out the kinks to anything you want to perform in front of a group of people. This way, you can gain confidence in how you appear instead of relying on what other people think. Singers need to feel comfortable enough to show emotion on stage and sometimes be vulnerable.

You can try singing louder, bolder, or reaching new notes in front of a mirror to see how you look to the crowd. Or, try out new dance moves before breaking them out on stage. Performance-wise, your appearance is crucial to the song. How you feel in the moment should show in your eyes, on your face, and in your entire body language. They should match the lyrics and groove of the song.

If you don’t 100% feel the music, the audience can tell. A mirror is a low-cost way to watch yourself to help make sure your movements match the song, but you can also try recording your performance on your phone or camera. Watch the playback to see how you show emotion and passion during a song. With practice, you’ll develop confidence in your appearance and showmanship.

Image via Flickr / CC BY 2.0

As you try a new song, step away from your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to extend your range, sing a new genre, or try a fresh move. Never copy a song exactly, but focus on replicating the things you adore about your favorite singers instead and combine their visions to bring to the stage. Developing your voice is the perfect time to try new things, and every great singer knows that doing so can truly boost your confidence. Expect to find out new things about yourself, and learn to love what you sound like.

The important part is to find a place where you feel comfortable, so if your home isn’t the place you can sing loudly and look silly without feeling self-conscious, find the right space for you. Your practice space should be somewhere you can be alone, where no one else can hear you. The point is not to feel pressured to sound good but to create a place where you can feel comfortable trying new things.

How often should you practice? Well, if you want to sing better you need to make your practice a daily occurrence. Daily training is a commitment, and you must commit to training your voice if you want to see improvement. A couple of exercises once per month or even a few times each week isn’t enough to make a significant difference. You need to develop the right muscles and warm up your singing voice every day to enhance your sound.

People having trouble staying on track with daily exercises can use tools like the Vanido or SwiftScales apps for your phone.

12. Perform in Public

In Front of Friends and Family

house concert
Image via Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Start singing in front of people and slowly build to large crowds. Once you have tried out new tones, moves, and facial expression alone, work on your new skill in front of friends and family.

Loved ones are an ideal starting place for singing in front of people because they help you feel safe. Their opinions are also bound to be kinder, but remember to take their critique with open ears. Keep in mind that their input can help you improve your skills, as they may notice small mistakes you didn’t know you were doing.

Beginners should start with a single person, and work up to singing in front of more people as you get used to your range and build confidence.

At Karaoke

girl singing karaoke
Image via Flickr / CC BY 2.0

If you’re comfortable performing in front of people you already know and love, you may be ready to perform in your local community.

There are plenty of opportunities that don’t involve a formal concert setting, such as in singing holiday carols in nursing homes or children’s hospitals. You could audition for your church’s choir, sign up for acting classes, or join the local theater to get used to being on stage as well. Stage presence, even without singing, is ideal practice.

Karaoke is an excellent way to build confidence in your performance. Most locations have karaoke bars open to the public, and novice singers and pros alike enjoy the chance to sing without the nerve-wracking setting. The best part is that you can head to karaoke with friends or meet new people who also want to delve into a singing environment.

Doing karaoke may not help with your singing technique, but it does boost confidence, stage presence, and help you get over any anxiety you may feel from singing in front of a crowd. Plus, it’s fun!

In Front of an Audience/Playing a Gig

guy playing a guitar

Even without much experience on stage, you can boost your confidence the first time you play a gig in front of a real, live audience. Tip: Sing a familiar song the first time or two you sing on stage.

Select a song within your vocal range. Otherwise, the song may not flatter your voice. Rather than attempting to reach fancy notes, keep it original for now. The main point is to increase your on-stage confidence. Don’t worry about wowing the crowd just yet. Instead, sing like no one is watching you.

After you start to build confidence in your singing voice and stage presence, you can adapt the song to suit your style. Changing the song is how you make it your own, but you should only attempt doing so more and more as your confidence increases. Add in the sense of your style and personal identity to a song someone else wrote to make it yours, and you can move from a mediocre singer to someone the audience will never forget.

And don’t worry if you are feeling nervous! You can hide your nerves by cleverly positioning your body on stage. If you’re shaking, for example, try moving around. Walking around the stage and moving your hips to the beat makes you appear more confident and helps redirect your nervous energy out of your focus.

Focus your gaze on a spot just above the audience, toward the back of the room. If you’re nervous, avoid making eye contact with any single person and completely ignore the audience altogether. Other techniques can also help with nerves, like breathing techniques, and positive thinking.

Summary

So there you have it, our top tips for improving your singing. Remember, don’t try all these at once, that will just lead to frustration. Instead, take the ones that jumped out at you first and work on those, then move on to the next when you (or your voice) is ready.

Good luck!

Ged Richardson

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He's a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band 'Django Mango' and a lover of all things music. When he's not ripping up and down the fretboard, he's tinkering with his '79 Campervan.