Vocal Training Tips to Improve Your Singing

Vocal Training Tips to Improve Your Singing

For many, the voice can be one of the most difficult instruments to master, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. As a singer in several rock bands, I can tell you that there is no other feeling in this world quite like being able to captivate an audience with just your voice.

But what does it take to master the art of singing? Well, for starters, it takes a whole lot of dedication and practice. But practice for the sake of practice is not enough. If you practice the wrong techniques, you may improve slightly by virtue of continually using your voice, but you will not make nearly as much progress as you would if you practiced correctly. In this article, I want to give you 10 vocal training tips that will set you on the path to success.

1. Understand how the voice works

First, before starting any vocal training program, it is essential to have an understanding of how the human voice actually works. You can’t begin to master any art or craft unless you fully understand the tools of your trade. With singing, your primary tool is your voice, and more generally your whole body. For this tip, we will focus on the voice, however.

Vocal TrainingSpeech and singing occurs when your exhaled breath passes over your vocal cords, causing them to vibrate and create tone. Your vocal cords literally look like two cords on either inside your throat, next to your larynx. A singer is able to change the pitch and tone of his or her voice by learning to mold and shape the vocal cords. It is helpful to thing of vocal cords like the strings of a guitar. As you know, the thicker guitar strings are the ones that play the lower notes, and the thinner strings play the higher notes. Similarly, a vocalist stretches and shapes the vocal cords to make different sounds as the breath passes over them. The goal of any good vocal training program is to train your vocal cords to form the right sounds in combination with your exhaled breath.

2. Sing like you talk

One of the biggest mistakes that beginner singers make is that they try to “make” their singing voices sound like someone else. While there is nothing wrong with trying to emulate the great singers, it is also important to remember that the most natural tone for your unique voice is your speaking voice. Whenever you try to affect your singing voice to sound differently, you put strain on your vocal cords and inhibit their full range of movement to create the tone you want to achieve. This, in turn, can lead to several issues with pitch and range. When you are starting out, it is important to begin with your natural voice and then slowly work on increasing and developing your range and pitch. So, to begin, it is helpful to pay close attention to what your normal speaking voice sounds like. From there, try to keep your singing voice sounding as close to your speaking voice as possible. Once you have mastered this, you can think about adding slight tonal changes to your voice to increase your range incrementally and in control.

3. Begin your vocal training with a Warm up

Good vocal training should always involve a warm up. It helps to imagine your vocal cords as strong rubber strips that need to change shape instantly so that the air flowing over them produces a specific sound. For rubber to be moldable like this, it needs to be warm and supple. The human voice is no different. Just like any other muscle in our body, it too needs to be warmed up before it can achieve its full range of movement and suppleness. I usually try to warm up for at least thirty minutes before I start my regular vocal training, and for at least forty minutes before I perform on stage.

4. Add tongue trills and lip rolls to your vocal training

Vocal TrainingBefore you start your vocal training session, it is important that you get your vocal cords as relaxed as possible. Not only does this make your vocal training more efficient, but it also reduces the risk of injury to the cords. Modern vocal coaches have found that one of the easiest ways of relaxing the voice is through tongue trills and lip rolls. A tongue trill is when you vibrate your tongue against the roof of your mouth to produce a “drrrr” sound. A lip roll is when you hold your lips closed and vibrate them using a “brrrr” sound.

5. Train your vocal cords by working on proper cord closure

If you notice that your singing is overly breathy or that your voice tends to “crack” on certain notes, this could be because you do not have proper cord closure. When your vocal cords are not closed correctly during singing, excess air passes over them causing a breathy tone. To practice proper cord closure, try starting off with a low “vocal fry” sounding “ooo” and slide up to a comfortable high note. You’ll notice how much more consistent and full your tone sounds.

6. Practice singing vowel sounds

Vocal Training VowelsWhen singing, the way our vocal cords function differs not only from note to note but also from sound to sound. After a warm up, a classic way to begin a vocal training session is to practice singing each of the five vowels individually, and then sequentially. These vowel sounds are like the elemental building blocks of singing, with which you will later form words and songs. Building these vowel sounds into your muscle memory time and time again will help you nail them onstage naturally.

Once you feel you have clearly sung each vowel sound, you will want to work on switching quickly between each type of sound in different combinations. A helpful way to think about this is again by thinking of how a guitarist practices. First, a guitarist must learn how to form his or her fingers on the guitar neck to create chords. Once he or she can play each chord necessary for a song, the next step is to practice switching between them. Vocal training works in much the same way. First you need to be able to sing each type of note, then you can work on switching between them by putting your vocal cords in different shapes. You will find it is easier to go between certain vowels in sequence, and more difficult to switch between others. Eventually, you will get comfortable switching between all of them, however.

7. Sing scales and arpeggios

Singing scales and arpeggios is the next logical step in vocal training. As stated above, when singing different notes, your vocal cords must instinctively know how to shape themselves to produce the desired notes. For this to happen, they must be used to forming various notes a thousand times over. Practicing singing scales and arpeggios will help take this to the next level. When you practice a scale or an arpeggio, the muscle memory of your vocal cords internalizes the positions and movements to create specific notes. By practicing various scales and arpeggios, your vocal cords will be able to accurately hit any note you need to sing, provided it is within your range.

8. Plan your practice

There are so many different areas that each singer needs to work on when vocal training. Some might need to work on their scales and arpeggios to improve their intonation and some might need to work on strength building exercises so that their vocal cords can handle the workload of long performances. Whatever it is that you need to work on, it always helps to plan your vocal training for the day, week, and month. This will also help you to be consistent and to keep better track of your progress.

9. Be consistent

To be effective, vocal training should be consistent. The voice can be one of the fastest deteriorating muscles in the human body. In fact, I have gone through periods where I have lost months’ worth of progress just by being lazy and not practicing for a couple of weeks. So while it’s important to practice the correct techniques, it is equally important to practice consistently. For example, practicing for an hour every day is often better than practicing for six hours once a week. Vocal training will take time, and consistency will help you maintain your progress and reinforce your muscle memory.

10. Be patient

Few people, if any, are born with a “world-class” singing voice. Although some people may have a bit of a head start genetically, the voices of singers like Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder were developed and polished with lifelong vocal training. Becoming a great singer takes time, so prepare yourself to put in the work necessary in the long run. If you are not patient with training your voice you can risk injuring it, sometimes irreparably, and can also end up losing your motivation.

If there’s one thing I’ve come to understand about great singers, it is that the learning never ends. Great singers are always learning from each other and practicing what they learn. At the end of the day, anyone can perfect their singing voice with enough dedication. Remember, if you only get 1% better every time you practice, you will be 100% better after 100 sessions! I hope you have found at least one or two useful ideas out of these vocal training tips, and I encourage you to review them from time to time. Just like vocal training, you can always improve by reviewing and strengthening what you already know.

Quick Singing Tips: The Essential Guide for Guitarists Who Want to Sing
Quick Singing Tips: The Essential Guide for Guitarists Who Want to Sing

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