It is important to spend at least 10 minutes to warm up before singing. Just like an athlete wouldn’t go and run a race without stretching you need to think of your voice in the same way, you don’t want to strain it! Here are some simple yet effective warn up techniques to help you become a better vocalist.
Useful Vocalist Terms
Belt: When you produce a well supported powerful sound. (Think Whitney Houston ‘And I’ from the song I Will Always Love You.) Even though it will be loud it should not be forced. If you are belting correctly it should be comfortable. This is the reason you are able to produce a loud and powerful sound.
Chest Voice: When you sing in the most comfortable part of your range. Singers often find the sound vibrations resonating in their chest and throat. Most of the time Pop/Rock singers are aiming to use this sound the most.
Head Voice: You naturally use your head voice when you sing in the highest part of your register. The sound is a lot lighter than chest voice. Female choral/classical singers use head voice a lot.
Blending: When you transition between head and chest voice smoothly, therefore they aren’t as obviously different. The spilt between chest and head voice for males is E-Gb above middle C and for women around an Ab-Bb above middle C. Blending is when the transition between chest voice and head voice isn’t really obvious.
Mixed Voice: When you have a good blend between head and chest voice.
Larynx: Another word for the voice box.
Soft Palate (Velum/muscular palate): The top part of your mouth.
Become a Better Vocalist
Breathing: This should be simple right, we all do it everyday? However as a vocalist learning when and where to breathe is essential to the expression of the song. A vocal technique to help you sing through phrases is the counting technique. What you do is: breathe in for 1 count, hold your breath for 1 count and then exhale for 1 count. Then you increase this each time. It will seem easy at 1 count but you will start to notice it becomes more difficult with each count. This will increase your vocal stamina and the ability to sing through phrases. (Obviously never go too far so you pass out, because that definitely will not help your vocal technique!) A good number to aim for is around 10-12 when you first use this technique but build up to this gradually.
Diaphragm: One thing you will come across as a vocalist is people telling you to support from your diaphragm. So it’s important to know where it is! A quick way to find where you diaphragm is and what it feels when in use is to make a harsh “shh” sound. When doing this a few times in a row and you should be able to feel it working. The aim is to have this feeling every time you are singing. Using your diaphragm is so important because it supports your voice. If you are trying to belt but are not using your diaphragm you will end up pushing from your throat which is NOT good and you will not have as much vocal stamina!
Smile: Smiling stops you from going flat as the action of turning up the corners of your mouth slightly sharpens the note you are singing. Also when you are smiling it is more appealing to your audience. No one wants to watch someone who looks like they don’t want to be there. At first it will seem unnatural but when you watch yourself back it will probably seem like a natural expression. As a singer/performer it is always important to record yourself and watch/listen to yourself back.
If you feel like your voice is tight DO NOT push from the throat as this could potentially damage your vocal chords. A lot of singers with bad technique can produce a loud sound but are straining their voice. The general rule is if it feels like a struggle then your technique is wrong. The most important thing to remember when singing is to be as relaxed as possible in your throat. Humming a song or scale doesn’t put any pressure on your voice so is brilliant if you need to rehearse but you are feeling a little under the weather. Singing is very psychological, if you think you can’t sing a part of a song you probably wont be able to! That’s why it’s important to use vocal exercises to remind yourself that you actually can sing the song!
One psychological technique is picture some stairs in your mind. Every time you have a high note picture yourself singing to the bottom of the stairs. The worst thing you can do is think about reaching for the note because by thinking about reaching you will probably end up singing/straining from the throat. Most of the time, the reason vocalists can’t sing a section of the song well is down to the fact they are using incorrect technique. However, singers tend to think “I can’t sing” if this happens.
Below are a few techniques to try out. The aim of these is to make you more relaxed in the throat and improve overall vocal technique with the ultimate aim to improve your confidence in your voice. Become a better vocalist with these techniques:
Singing with an ‘Open Throat’:
Sing an ‘ah’ – like you would at the dentist with your tongue out – to a scale. It might look a bit weird sticking out your tongue but it is a simple way to stop yourself pushing from your throat when you can’t quite reach that high note. This also will make you realise what it feels like to belt without pushing from the throat therefore you can transfer this to how you sing normally. The aim of this exercise is to have a raised soft palette and lowered larynx.
So this one is hard to describe but when you were a child you most likely did an impression of a zombie or monster by using this vocal technique. It sounds like a sort of crackling buzz. Vocal fry is great for extending your range and if you are finding it difficult to reach lower notes in your register.
Sirens is great for extending your range and making it easier to hit those high notes. They work well on sounds such as ‘eee.’ All you need to do is start at the lowest note you can reach then slide up and down (mimicking a siren.)
Taking vocal lessons will improve your voice massively. Below are some great vocal coaches with online resources that can help you become a better vocalist (also look at a previous blog for vocal coaches around the UK):