“You won’t discover the secret to a nightingale’s song by opening its throat” Marcel Pagnol
There are choral singers all over the country. However, there’s a huge difference in quality between the best and worst of them. The one thing they almost all have in common is that they love music. Unfortunately, that’s not always enough to make yourself a quality singer.
If you don’t work hard on your singing, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever make any progress on your voice and you’ll continue to make avoidable mistakes. Like all art forms, especially learning to play musical instruments, you can’t become an expert without working on your singing voice, your vocal range, and your posture.
While your vocal timbre (how it sounds) is basically innate and you can’t really choose your tessitura, you can continually practise a song in order to get better at it, do warm up exercises for your voice, and regularly do singing exercises improve your vocal health, expand your repertoire, and broaden the range of notes that you’re able to sing.
If this is what you’re looking for, you should consider hiring a private singing tutor or maybe attending a music school in order to benefit from singing lessons in the UK, Singing lessons London, Singing lessons Manchester from a qualified music educator, vocal coach, or voice teacher.
Let’s have a look at 10 simple vocal exercises you can also do to improve your singing either with your teacher or when you’re on your own and just need to practise.
1. Warm Up Your Voice
You’ll never be able to sing Richard Wagner's Valkyrie, which lasts several hours, just by clicking your fingers! Before you tackle anything close to this, you’ll need to warm up every part of your body that’s going to be used in order to produce such vocal power over such a long period of time.
Whether you’re about to do a public performance or practise, you should consider doing a vocal warm up for your voice in order to make sure you’re in the best possible position to sing and alleviate any tension. That way, you can avoid any unwanted surprises when you sing. Vocal warm ups will also improve the sound of the voice and ensure that you're less likely to damage the larynx or your vocal cords.
You should also keep in mind that your voice needs around 6 or 7 hours to recover in order to be at its best and avoid fizzy drinks and dairy products before singing as the acids in them can harm your throat.
The best warm up exercise involves using a piano to work on your scales before you sing. However, those with perfect pitch can do so without the help of a piano. You can also go from low notes to high notes with your mouth closed in order not to overdo it before you perform.
It’s important that you remain as relaxed as possible. There are a lot of muscles around your mouth that you’re going to use. There’s nothing wrong with making babyish noises, slapping your cheeks and lips together, or even making an engine noise in order to warm yourself up.
You should be aware that vibrato is much better when performed by a voice that’s been warmed up. Additionally, warming up means that your voice will get less tired as it performs.
2. Breathing Exercises while Lying Down
Breathing is hugely important when it comes to singing. To sing in key with a powerful and moving voice all depends on your lungs! Here’s a really simple technique you can try...
Lie on your back and put a large book on your chest and then breathe normally and feel every part of your body that’s involved with breathing in and breathing out: abdominal muscles, ribs, etc. Keep breathing out until you can’t any more. Then breathe in slowly.
You can also put one hand on your ribs and the other over your mouth. The book should only go up very slightly. Hold your breath in your lungs for around 5 seconds before breathing out. Make sure that the book descends very slowly and progressively. These are the same parts of your body that you’re going to use when you sing.
Make sure that you remain straight, don’t lift your shoulders or fill up your lungs (as if you were about to blow up a balloon), don’t raise or lower your head, and always look straight ahead. The height of your chest doesn’t make any difference to a singer. It’s the diaphragmatic breathing, with a constant pressure, that is at the heart of the perfect chest voice. You need to ensure that you’re breathing with your diaphragm and opening up your floating ribs.
3. Work on Projecting Your Voice
There’s nothing worse than trying to sing loudly. This can quickly become a forced and horrible affair. If you want a powerful voice that you can hear, you need to work on having a voice that carries rather than a voice that’s merely loud. You need to imagine that you’re singing to someone who’s around 50 metres away.
You need to project your voice as effectively as possible. You can use your abdominal muscles to help you achieve this. As you start to run out of breath, you need to completely relax your muscles. You’ll want to then breathe in all the air lost but without forcing it.
You can then start again and you’ll start to feel the benefits of having a good singing technique which can be used as part of your warm up routine, too. Read more on how to improve your vocal timbre.
4. The Technique of Your Nasal Sound
Whether you’re a baritone, mezzo-soprano, or a contemporary singer, your nasal cavity plays a role in making every note you make since it acts as a sound box. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the case with your chest cavity. Learning to sing is therefore learning where to let the air flow.
A simple exercise to make this easier is to pinch your nose (without pinching neither too high nor too strongly) and make an “e” sound. Then unpinch your nose. You should go back to this technique after you’ve had a cold, for example, in order to get the right airflow back.
5. Work on Your Attack
The quality of a soloist depends heavily on how they start each note. It’s very important that they prepare their body before they produce any sound. This is a great way to gain self-confidence, too. Take the “m” sound, for example.
You should stop everything and take a look at what’s happening physically: the role the abdominal muscles are playing, what your larynx is doing, your lips closing, the position of your tongue, the air pressure, etc. You should do this for every individual sound you can make.
It’s important that you have an in-depth understanding of how you make every sound. That way, you’ll know how to improve them. The main goal is to avoid anything that’s unnecessary or damaging. A private singing tutor will be able to help you see where you’re going wrong and how you can improve.
Have you thought about getting singing lessons online?
6. Learn to Free Your Voice
Let’s talk about the cervical spine and the role it plays in having a voice without any obstructions. Improving your flexibility will improve the quality of your voice but also make singing more fun. You need to sing while making sure you don’t tense the muscles in this area but rather leave them relaxed.
You should gently roll your head around (as if your head was resting on a surface) while vocalising (“ah”, for example) while going through middle-range notes and ensuring that your shoulders don’t move. The area in question will naturally relax. This can also be really useful when it comes to fighting against stage fright.
7. Advice for Singing in Key
Before you dive in at the deep end, you need to make sure that you can sing in key. Music tutorials are obviously perfect for this. The practice you do during them will help you replicate the exact frequency of any given note.
Before you start crooning away, take the time to go over the melody in your head (without the words) paying particular attention to each of the notes. If you can imagine a melody in your head, you’re halfway there. You just need a music ear to do the rest.
At that point, you can just let your voice replicate the melody in your head. The best is to imagine a really simple song.
8. Perfect your Elocution
Articulation is the opposite of mumbling. It’s fundamental to singing well in your head voice and not just when it comes to singing in foreign languages, too.
This doesn’t mean exaggerated movements with your lips every time that you sing any given word but rather clearly pronouncing each syllable.
In fact, it’s the back of the throat where most sounds made. There are plenty of different expressions that both actors and singers use to warm themselves up. Think of things like “red lorry, yellow lorry”. In fact, most varied tongue twisters are good for this kind of thing.
Vocalising tends to involve vowels rather than consonants. It’s about improving your flexibility and finding the squillo by working with simple phonemes. You need to work on opening your pharynx, keeping your throat low, and your range.
It’s a simple tried and tested method for finding the perfect way to project your voice.
10. Tongue Raising
According to musicologists, two out of three vocalisations start with the tongue in the same position. It’s therefore important that every singer knows exactly how to use it.
Tongue raising tends to be caused by excessively contracting the root of the tongue which stops certain vibrations from occurring in the oral cavity. To work on the positioning of your tongue, there’s nothing better than exercises in which you repeat notes because the tongue needs to remain flat and near the lower incisors:
chant yor-yay-yor-yay-yee in order to find the ideal tongue position.
Sing nior-niay to reposition the tongue.
The linguistic gymnastic will help you avoid your tongue moving backwards which tends to happen with sopranos.