The voice is a biological instrument, we all have access to it, but it relies on a symbiotic support system to work at its best. Like any other muscle, the vocal cords have to be worked on a regular basis to get the strength they need to maintain an impressive note.
Likewise, your diaphragm will need to be strong enough to support your respiratory system for the control it needs to deliver the notes in the way you want them heard. So just as an athlete trains the required muscle groups they rely on for their chosen sport, singers need to keep their ‘equipment’ in good condition.
And that is just the mechanics… when learning how to sing to the best of your ability, you will also need to practice and develop your pitch and have control over your tone and breathing before you even attempt any fancy melismas.
You will also need to develop yourself as an artist which takes a lot of confidence and plenty of self-esteem.
No one is born a phenomenal vocalist, true there are some who have been gifted a heck of a lot more natural ability than others, but for the most part, singing is something that has to be worked at.
Even some of the biggest divas on the planet have a hectic training schedule and anyone who takes their craft seriously is always looking to improve. The key to learning how to get better at singing is practice! Practice really does makes perfect.
The following 10 singing tips will help you to improve your singing voice and help you to learn how to sing better. If you really want to reach new heights and take your singing to the next level, you may want to consider online singing lessons.
Ready to begin? Read on!
10 Tips for How to Sing Better
- Warm-up your body
- Sing with proper posture
- Learn breath support & sing from your diaphragm
- Use vocal exercises to warm up your voice
- Memorize your lyrics
- Use vowel exercises to improve diction
- Train your ear to help sing on pitch
- Practice ‘hitting the high notes’
- Develop your own style
- Build your confidence
1. Warming Up
If you love to sing, then there can be an abundance of moments throughout the day where you might just burst into song. Appropriate or not, we have all been guilty, or is that just me?
If you sing a lot, then that probably isn’t much of an issue, but sudden singing can put a lot of stress on your vocal cords. Just as you would before a workout or run, you should warm up first.
Again, if you are more of a hobbyist, who’s never taken your singing much further than a karaoke bar, then you might be surprised to know just how many body parts you should prepare before you sing. So let’s break it down.
Head rolls can be really beneficial if you do them properly, you can start by turning left and right, stopping in the center. Next, you want to drop your head bringing your ear to your shoulder, repeating on the opposite side.
You can rotate from either side and repeat 8-10 times but be careful with dropping it backward as this can put unnecessary strain on the larynx. It is better to do semi-circles stopping in the middle rather than a full rotation to avoid any potential injury.
Bring your shoulders up with a breath intake, hold the breath for a count of three and then release, dropping your shoulders back down. Again do this 8-10 times, then you can begin to make small circular motions in unison. Roll them both directions forward and backward until you feel loosened up and relaxed. This will help with keeping your rib cage open.
Warming facial muscles
Okay, here is where you might feel a little silly… but there is plenty of method to the madness I promise.
To help wrap your lips around the words, especially more staccato songs or faster-paced lyrics, you need to get your facial muscles warmed up.
Starting with a face massage can be a great way to do this, releasing a lot of tension which many of us carry in our jaws without being aware. Using your fingers you can make small circular motions along your jawline from the bottom working your way up to the ears.
Do this with your mouth closed and then open whilst keeping your eyes shut (to lift your cheeks and remove the tension in the lower face).
Another area you might want to consider massaging if you are feeling stuffy is your sinuses. Take your index fingers on each hand and place them on the bones on either side of your nose below the bridge but not on the nasal cavity.
You can apply a fair bit of pressure. Take a deep breath in through the nose and keep the pressure applied for as long of a count as you have breath capacity for.
As you exhale, move your index fingers from the nose in a sweeping motion along the top of your cheek-bone, under your eyes, towards your ears, pressing and pushing. This will move any mucus away from the nose area, helping with tone and freeing up your upper respiratory airways.
Another good facial warm-up that opens the sinuses for singing is to force a yawn, simply keep faking yawns (you can stretch arms and shoulder at the same time) until you get a real one.
Here comes the ridiculousness…
- Lemon face/lion face
Imagine you have just taken a large bite of lemon and your entire face has contorted in reaction, puckering your lips, sucking in your cheeks, screwing up your nose, and shutting your eyes.
Next give me your best lion face, open-eyed, wide-mouthed roaring on the Serengeti.
Work back and forth between the two faces in succession until you feel silly!
- Lip trills
This is a bit similar to the straw exercise explained above.
For lip trills, though, you blow air through your closed lips, but keep them relaxed, not tight as is the common misconception, and sing an ‘uh’ vowel underneath it.
Your lips should be trilling. The resistance formed by your closed bubbling lips helps maintain something called ‘cord closure’, which is an integral part of your singing experience.
- Don’t neglect the tongue
Your tongue is also an essential part of your singing apparatus. You can poke it out a few times and give it a wiggle or try rolling your RR’s to wake it up. A few tongue twisters can also help you prepare for a night of singing. Make sure you cover a few different sounds.
“Red lorry, yellow Lorry” – Can be taxing for your tongue with the L’s and R’s.
“The tip of the tongue, the teeth, and the lips” – Is excellent for packing in the consonants and also a good reminder of some of the tools of your trade to boot.
Once again, the key is to start slowly and build up the speed until you are perfect 99.9% of the time.
2. The Importance of Good Posture
One thing that is often overlooked when learning how to sing is the importance of good posture. When you sing, the best posture is standing with your shoulders relaxed and rolled back, opening the front of your chest.
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and you should face forward to ensure that your spine is straight.
If you are seated, maintain this straight line and sit up straight with your stomach relaxed again, keep your shoulders rolled back and your chest open.
Your head should be up and your neck should be straight.
3. Breathing & Diaphragm Exercises
To sing with better support, you need to open your ribcage and keep it open to give your diaphragm more space. We breathe differently to sing than we do to speak. Normally, when we breathe in our chest rises, and when we breathe out it falls, as our lungs inflate and deflate.
When we sing, you want to do the second part a little differently. You need to learn to exhale without dropping the chest/ribcage. The diaphragm is in reality what inflates and deflates our lungs as a vacuum is created.
This muscle can be tricky to isolate if you haven’t been aware of it. It is responsible for a sustained note, the power under a chested note, and needs to be exercised to sing with any projection.
One easy way to know if you are opening your ribcage is to loosely tie a silk scarf around yourself when you breathe in at your fullest, then see if it drops to your waist when you start to sing, it should stay in place as the circumference of your open chest should remain the same throughout the song.
Dogs and monkeys
With your ribcage open as described above, pant like a dog with its tongue out, you will feel your diaphragm actively working. Doing this for a minute or two daily can help you identify it and also help you to use vibrato in a controlled manner with your singing.
A similar exercise to try is making “ooh ooh aah aah” noises like a monkey. This also gets your diaphragm working at a fast pace.
Remember with both that the movement should be only coming from below your sternum, a fluttering feeling.
Make your diaphragm work harder
If you lie flat on your back on a hard floor, the diaphragm has to work much harder, if you try singing a song that isn’t too demanding on the floor once a week you will strengthen the muscle.
You can work up to singing on the floor daily as you progress, then when you sing stood up with the correct posture you will feel bigger songs are much easier to sing.
Breath control exercises
To be able to sing a note for longer, or sing a longer line in a song without the need for a second breath, then you need to both build up your lung capacity and be able to release your breath more slowly in a controlled manner.
The latter of which is all the more important for a long bar of music that has a big note at the end to hit and project or hold.
Just like swimmers who practice holding their breath underwater for longer, there are lots of exercises you can do to help. None are more simple than breathing slowly in, then holding the breath, and then slowly exhaling.
Start with a count of 8 for each and incrementally kick it up a notch over time. You could try keeping a diary to chart your progress.
If you are struggling to exhale a note for a long enough measure, then you are releasing too much air at once. The following exercise might help.
Don’t blow out the candle
Stretch out one arm and imagine you are holding a candle in your hand. Blow as softly as you can for as long as you can without the flame going out. This will help you practice softer breath releases.
You can do this with a real candle placed safely on a surface if you are careful and having trouble visualizing it. It takes very little air to make the flame flicker, you want to ideally blow continually without the flame reacting at a 0.5-meter distance. Trickier than you thought huh?
4. Vocal Warm-Ups
The importance of warming up your vocal cords before you sing really cannot be stressed enough. Now there are many out there who will say skip the silly noises but they can really help you get to grips with your voice in the early days.
Some people naturally hear a vocal run and know instinctively how to get their physical body to do it, others need guidance on how to bridge the gap between the chest and head register for example. Likewise, many can imitate the tone of another singer naturally by reshaping their mouth and vocal cords to replicate the sound, but many people can’t.
Practicing some of these often referred to as sillier noises can teach you subtle things like lifting your palette in a way that changes your vocal tone completely.
We have gone in depth into the 16 best singing exercises and vocal warm-ups in another recent article, you should check it out!
But for a brief summary, you will want to practice all your vowel sounds, not the names of the letters but the sounds they make phonically “ah-ey-ee-oh-ooh.” We recommend doing this with each consonant of the alphabet.
“Bah-Beh-Bee-Bo-Boo, Cah-Ceh-Cee (pronounced key) Co-Coo, Da-Deh-Dee-Doe-Do.”
Glottal stops are important to avoid when you are opening and closing your vocal cords with control, so practice softening your G sounds and other consonants, some to focus on are hard C/K sounds H, M, and importantly ING.
When you transition between an N and a G, you naturally shift your palette to project your voice from the middle into the head register. Although you don’t want to sing nasally as a general rule, the exercise helps you feel the airflow shifting direction.
Don’t shy away from music theory, if you want to improve your singing then don’t skip the scales. They can help later on when you develop your own melismas, runs, and ornaments. All key to finding your own voice and singing style.
We recommend you practice chromatic, major, minor, pentatonic, and blues scales. You should also practice your arpeggios, vocal slides, and octave jumps which again you can read about in our best singing exercises article.
5. Memorize Lyrics
We crawl before we walk before we run. Always learn the words to a song before you sing them. You can’t sing your best if you don’t know which line comes next.
Learning the words as they are written rather than learning to sing along is a better approach. You can also think more deeply about the message and theme within the lyrics. This makes it easier to sing it with the emotions intended.
If it is a poignant piece you could even try monologuing the words before you attempt to sing it. Imagine the character’s reasons for saying what they are saying and get in touch with the song. This will help you make it your own.
On the subject of words, there is no point in singing them if no one can understand the lyrics. You need to work on your diction. Some of the vowel exercises in our article linked above can help with that, as can the facial and tongue warm-ups already discussed along with the tongue-twisters.
Think about the parts of words that need emphasis in a song. If you have a particularly thick accent you might want to round some of your sounds. Diction is important but make sure you don’t over-annunciate unless you are singing a classical or theatrical piece that calls for it.
One of the most important things to have a good grip on is pitch. When you learn a tuned instrument you know exactly where each note is. A guitar denotes the place to play with frets and a piano has individual keys.
When it comes to singing you are very much reliant on your own ears. The note you sing depends on how tight or loose your vocal chord is and the frequency at which they vibrate opening and closing. To learn where the notes are needs to become an intrinsic thing. But listening is the most important piece of the puzzle.
You should practice regularly with an instrument or accompaniment to make sure you’re singing what you should be. Note matching exercises are crucial.
You don’t have to be able to play a song on a piano but if you have access to one just play each note and match it with your voice. You can download virtual piano apps to your mobile devices to help with this one too.
There is a small percentage of individuals who are completely tone-deaf. These people won’t recognize that they are singing out of key with an accompaniment. If you want to learn to sing better, you will need a second set of ears for a second opinion.
If you are shy, there are apps that can listen to the note you sing and tell you what you are singing. There are also some that play the note and have you recreate it giving you the green light when you hit it.
Singing acapella can be beneficial for more advanced singers but only if you are not in the tone-deaf category.
8. Hitting the High Notes
Everybody has a different range and are either bass, baritone, tenor, (generally male) alto, mezzo-soprano, and soprano (generally female). There are plenty of apps to help you find out your vocal range. If you have access to an instrument you can sing to each note chromatically and find where your limits start and end.
Vocal range is somewhat dictated by your vocal cords. But you can learn to ghost a little lower than you are naturally capable of and you can stretch your vocals higher ultimately extending your range; this should never be done without a very long time period in mind. You can damage your vocal cords irreparably if you try to sing notes that are far outside of your reach.
Having a huge range isn’t everything, it’s more about quality than quantity of notes. It is more important to have an awareness of your capabilities so that you can use what you have well.
Sometimes hitting a high note is more of a mental issue than a physical one. We tend to visualize notes when we sing. If you are singing a sequence of notes that climb to a higher pitch, naturally you see it as steps up. Sometimes if you envision this as the complete opposite, you take away some of the anticipations of reaching it, making it less of a task.
A good vocal exercise for practicing your high notes is to actually take the entire song up one semitone or even a whole tone and attempt it in a higher key, that way when you sing it in the key you need to achieve, the high note in your voice will have already stretched much higher making it less of a challenge.
If you can just about hit the note but aren’t able to comfortably sustain it, then you can glide your voice over the note for a moment and drop below it adding your own character if needed.
9. Developing Your Own Style
We all have our idols, those that we look up to and so it is easy to get stuck imitating. But, everyone has their own unique voice. Trying to copy your heroes has benefits, in that it gets you playing around with your vocal tone and you can learn a few tricks along the way about the artists’ style.
But you should branch out and listen to many performers rather than sticking with one vocal style to find what is good for you. Don’t get stuck mimicking one artist.
Some styles you might not have considered might suit your voice better and ultimately singing needs to be comfortable. If you are trying to emulate something your larynx wasn’t shaped for you might end up sore.
Found a song you love? Try finding a different rendition, sing it in many styles and see what other artists have brought to the table. How could you do it differently?
Singing along to others will only help you develop in the short term, but with the music industry churning out cookie-cutter style artists no different from the next on a weekly basis you need something that makes you stand out from the crowd.
The majority of artists that dominate the charts have their own sound and their voices are recognizable from an opening line. You can hear a completely new song but know who is singing it from the get-go because they have something unique about their tone or delivery.
It is important to find your own accompaniment and sing without your favorite vocalist backing you up. Only then can you hear your voice properly.
This is a vulnerable thing to do and while many can belt it out to the car radio or sing alone in the shower, singing to a crowd can be an entirely different kettle of fish.
10. Confidence Is key
Someone once said that when it comes to delivering a rallying speech it is less about what you say and more about how you say it. The same can be said about singing. People listen less to the sound of your voice or the lyrics you are singing if you perform the song and deliver the emotion.
Many of us can sing from the comfort of our own homes. Performing, however, can get the best of us. This is generally linked to fear of failure and the feeling of being judged. A poor workman can blame their tools but if your tool is a part of your physical body the judgment can feel much more personal.
Firstly, the perception of this ‘judgment’ is usually being magnified by the nervous singer. The more nervous you are the worse you will sing. Our bodies have a physical reaction to the emotions we feel.
Many people who are anxious about something will find their threats close and they feel weak in the knees, their hands might shake and they may have trouble speaking. These are all disastrous if you are going to open your mouth and sing to an audience.
So singing with confidence is much more of a mental battle. You need to view those nerves as excitement. That knot in your stomach is now butterflies. Instead of focusing on whether or not you’ll hit the high notes, or remember the words. Go out on the stage with only the intention of enjoying the experience, come what may.
Make sure you have a relaxed posture, make sure you have practiced daily, and be humble. A likable person on a stage with a healthy attitude will win any crowd even if their performance wasn’t on point.
Final Tips & Advice on How to Sing Better
You can’t go wrong with the practice we have listed above for you, but there are one or two other important things worth a mention when it comes to diet and health when trying to improve as a singer.
You need to keep your vocal cords well hydrated especially before and during singing. You can cause fissures cracking the tissue if you sing with a very dry throat. So keep your liquids to hand on stage.
The best thing you can drink is room temperature water. You should avoid sugary drinks, the sugar can provide a coating over the vocal cords which whilst it might feel slick and lubricated is far from ideal. You might even find it can cause bubbles of saliva in the area and you could choke as you take a deep breath in to sing a line.
The exception here is pineapple juice which is a favorable choice if you are suffering from a sore throat because it contains enzymes that strip the throat lining, helping to get rid of harmful bacteria. But, this should be between singing and not whilst you sing.
Cold drinks should always be avoided. Your vocal cords work best at a body temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm fluids are much better but avoid caffeine before you sing. The warmth can help to open your vocal cords and unclog your respiratory system.
This is especially good practice if you have a cold. Steam can also be beneficial if you are ill. This is why you probably have noticed you sing better in the shower!
Many vocalists swear by an infusion of honey, lemon, and ginger tea.
Avoid gassy foods
Cucumbers, greasy foods, and dairy products can create a lot of gas, when you sing you are prone to letting it out and a burp down a microphone can be a huge embarrassment.
Smoking is detrimental to your respiratory system, so no matter how much you crave a gravelly vocal tone, you should stay away from cigarettes. If you are a smoker and serious about singing you should consider steps towards quitting.
Find a tutor
Our final piece of advice is to get yourself a tutor who can work personally with you on your vocal technique and correct you where you are going wrong.
If you’re in a situation where tutoring is not available or you’d prefer to learn at home, we highly recommend the 30 Day Singer online lessons, which guarantee a better singing voice in 30 days!