There are many resources available online to improve your singing. YouTube, for example, is a goldmine of information, with all the professional singers and vocal coaches out there, ready to share their knowledge with the world.
However, despite having so much information at our fingertips, some misconceptions about singing still survive this digital era.
For example, many people still think that singing is a sort of divine gift you were born with. According to this false myth, whoever has a raspy, unpleasant voice and sings mostly out of tune has no chance of improving their vocal skills.
This idea couldn’t be more distant from the truth!
With the right training, anyone can drastically improve their singing. They might not become the next Callas or Caruso, of course, but with singing lessons and some ear training, it is possible to improve your intonation and your vocal emission.
Singing can also be an important skill to develop for any musician. Whether you play the bass or the drums, or any other instrument, singing can improve your musicianship. For instance, it will improve your ear, but also your breathing, resulting in a more relaxed approach to your instrument.
Singing is often the first approach non-musicians have to music. Letting your voice go can be extremely liberating and singing can be your passion, no matter what your job is and what level of musical education you achieved.
We could say that singing is the most “democratic” musical activity, in the sense that we can all approach it, no matter what. After all, we all have a voice, so we are all built to sing!
However, to keep your vocal cords healthy and deliver a good performance, it is necessary to master a few techniques.
Do you need to get singing lessons to learn them? Short answer: no!
Of course, a teacher is the most valuable resource you can have when learning how to sing. A teacher can hear and see what is going on with your voice, adjusting his or her advice accordingly.
You won’t have such precious feedback if you decide to teach yourself.
But if you follow a few basic rules and keep your voice monitored, trying not to hurt it, you can get good results or at least a solid foundation before turning to a qualified teacher.
In this article, we’ll go through a few basic tips on how to sing better without lessons.
Let’s start from the very basics.
What is the “fuel” of our singing? That’s right: air.
We produce a sound, singing or speaking, only if the airflow gets through our larynx and vocal cords. Without air, we can’t produce any sound at all.
This means we’ll need to work on our breathing to improve our vocal emission.
First of all, try to breathe from your abdomen rather than from your chest. Avoid raising your shoulders.
With this kind of breath, you’ll prevent your larynx to get obstructed and you will activate good support for your airflow.
Support is a keyword here.
What is support exactly?
In a few words, it’s the mechanism you’ll use to control your vocal emission.
Focus on the tiny spot right underneath your belly. Breathe in and softly contract that tiny stop to control the emission. You’ll notice that just a little contraction will help you regulate the airflow.
This is essential when singing, as you will need some strong breath to go through longer phrases.
Here’s a good exercise to master this skill.
Place a hand on your belly and breathe in, trying to raise your hand while breathing (in other words, breathe “through” your belly). Now emit an “S” or a “Z”, contracting the tiny spot we have already identified. The contraction will help you make the emission longer.
Repeat this exercise a few times before you start warming up your voice.
2) Always warm-up
Before belting out your favorite songs, remember to warm up your voice. It is dangerous to sing without properly preparing your apparatus. After all, athletes always warm-up before a race or a competition, so why shouldn’t you?
Some good news: many warm-up exercises are also useful to learn some technical tips. Let’s see them in more detail.
A beginner’s exercise consists of humming single notes, holding them for as long as possible. Contract the tiny spot underneath your belly to control the vocal emission as you did in the breathing exercise mentioned in the first paragraph.
A more advanced version of the exercise consists of humming three subsequent notes in a scale (such as C – D – E) and back (E – D – C).
After some humming, you can repeat these exercises in a full voice.
4) Be relaxed
Humming can become dangerous when you do it in the wrong way. Wrong, in singing, almost always equals strain.
Whenever you feel your throat too rigid or too tired, you are doing it wrong.
To sing properly and safely, engage your abdomen, but keep all your body relaxed, especially in the area of the throat, the neck, the jaw.
If you feel your jaw too tight, you can massage your cheeks with your fingertips while doing your humming exercises.
If you feel your throat or neck strained, stop, relax, and start over.
When you think of your voice as something developing in your larynx, maybe forcing that area of your body to reach higher and higher notes, you will do more harm than good.
Imagine your voice raising from your support spot instead: the air column will naturally get to the larynx and your vocal cords. You don’t need to do anything to force it: with good support comes good emission.
5) Practice every day
You use your voice every day, many times a day. You are not even aware of the challenges you throw at your voice on a regular basis!
With some good practice, you will not only improve your singing but you will also do a favor to your voice.
Remember to practice every day to master these basic techniques. Singing will become much easier and more relaxed.