It’s often said that the voice is an instrument, and just like how learning to play an instrument well takes countless hours of hard work, so too does singing well. In this article, I’ll be listing advice from different musicians on how to become a better singer, with the hope of putting beginning singers on the right track. Here’s the question I’m posing:
For aspiring singers still struggling to find their true singing voice, what primary piece of advice can you offer? Personal stories from signers welcome, along with of course tips backed by evidence.
So far we’ve received just 5 good comments, and I’m still in the process of reaching out to singers and adding to this piece. If you’re a singer yourself and can share anything on this topic, please make a submission here and I’ll add it to this article.
My singing career changed drastically when I started becoming intentional with warmups, exercises, and cooldowns. It helped to follow scales and smooth out transitions from head voice to chest voice to falsetto.
Another thing that helped me ‘find’ my voice was mimicking other singers, like a mocking jay. Seriously. I would listen to an R&B singer, a pop singer, a Jazz artist, a rock artist, and try to mimic their tone and timbre. It challenges your brain in a unique way. You have to focus on a run, or a ‘darker’ tone. Trying to sound like other people unlocks different capabilities that your voice has, and inevitably leads you to your own tone.
The last tip is recording yourself. It’s painful to listen back and cringe, but the reality is being able to re-listen to yourself will help you fix nasal problems, flat syllables, breathing problems, and much more.
--Isaiah Ram, Lessons In Your Home, Singing Lessons
To me music was always about making records and I started my career as a recording artist when I was 21. This was the first time that I was forced to produce a professional vocal track. I'm saying forced because a task like this was very difficult for a guy who didn't have the required studio expertise for making records. One of the mistakes I made was being very self-conscious about singing in tune and as a result, the phrasing, dynamics and pretty much everything else suffered. In fact, listening back to my very first EP is rather painful (in lack of a better term) and it becomes clear that singing with the right technique and staying in tune will not get you anywhere. I dislike my vocals on that release. I truly do. However, it was a start. I had been introduced to the sound of my recorded voice. Now, I only needed to make my music and singing sound like a real record, as opposed to sounding like a demo featuring a Jagger/Lennon imitator. I'm being harsh on myself but that's what I was at that point in my life. The worst part was that I was still oblivious to this fact myself.
Years went by and my voice got recorded more and more. I became a professional at some point and little by little when I was hearing my own voice through loudspeakers, I became more and more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses as a singer. Needless to say, I started focusing on my strengths and attempted to stay away from my weaknesses as much as possible. I was never aiming to become the world's greatest singer. That was never my goal. My goal was to find my own voice, to be the best possible me, if you will. And I still remember the day that I realized I'm onto something. I had cut a demo of The Impersonators track You Are The One (this was in 2013) and as I was listening back to it, I noticed that I quite liked the singer on it! It didn't sound like me but it sounded like a guy I'd like to listen to, so I decided to start building on that. This started a journey that continues to this day.
So I suppose I'd advice all young aspiring singers to find their own voice by recording themselves as much as possible. It's easy: tape your own singing, then listen to those recordings and take notes. What was great? What wasn't? Did it sound like somebody you'd listen to? You'll notice that you'll get there little by little. Analyzing your vocals like this is very useful and effective as it'll give you a chance to hear what you sound like, warts and all. However, there's another thing you've got to keep in mind and that's endurance, which is very important. Remember, the only way to make your voice strong and dependable is to sing every day. If you fail to do this, you've got nothing. Finding your own voice and style is very important but having a strong voice that doesn't let you down when you most need it is the key to everything. So, in short: sing, sing, sing and sing.
--Tom Tikka, tomtikka.com
The primary tip of singing is to sing vowels with an open jaw. In this way, you’ll sing better as this tip is considered an instant fix to improve your singing. All you need to do is practice this tip by opening your jaw with the help of a bottle cap and singing vowels. It would help if you keep repeating this tip until you achieve the open jaw singing.
After practicing vowels, sing the first line of your song. You’ll instantly notice the goodness of your sound. Thus, practicing this tip can be beneficial. It should be noted here that while practicing this tip, you may experience neck pain or throat muscle tension. In order to release the pain, try relaxing your neck or throat and jaw muscles frequently. You’ll soon start singing with an open jaw, and it is one of my favorite singing tips.
--Simon Lyon, The Sound Junky
My biggest piece of advice for aspiring singers is that while you’re singing, you should focus on how it FEELS, rather than how it SOUNDS. It’s a little counterintuitive to ignore the sound, but there are three reasons why you should. First, singing is supposed to be fun, and if it doesn’t feel good, your fun= canceled. Second, if it doesn’t feel good to you, it probably sounds awkward and strained to your audience, too, and their fun = canceled. Last, if you focus on sound rather than feeling, your ears can systematically mislead you: The sound you perceive is affected by outside factors like the room’s acoustics—which we shower singers all know! Your perception is also influenced by factors inside your body, like bone conduction (i.e., the vibration of sound waves in your bones). Bone conduction emphasizes low frequency waves, so in your head, the sound seems richer than it does to outside listeners. This phenomenon helps explain why you think your voice sounds “tinny” on recordings. (Side note: a high quality recording tells the truth, as it were, so I always advise people to listen back AFTER their performances.) If you want real-time feedback while singing, find a great teacher who can provide accurate feedback, which will help you learn how different techniques really affect your sound so you can sing your best!
--Amanda Terman, amandaterman.com
I grew up playing the piano and signing in church and school choirs. I also learned to play the guitar. In college I put myself out there and started signing in front of crowds. Singing my originals!
My best tip for you is to put yourself out there. Don't be afraid to sing karaoke, or sign up for a talent show or two. This will help give you the confidence you need. Also, take any criticism you may receive as a teaching tool and run with it 🙂
--Ben Tanner, Strummingly