15 Tips for Improving Your Singing Skills

While I’m no singing expert, I have spent the last several years working to improve. I’ve learned a ton. I’ve become a lot more confident in my ability and have a stronger, more supported sound to show for all the effort! There’s still have a lot of work to do, but I also have a lot of knowledge to share from my years of struggle.

Here are 15 assorted tips for improving your singing voice!

1. Practice Daily

This is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you’re seeking to improve. When you practice daily, you flex all of the muscles associated with singing and improve your vocal stamina. Treat your voice like a muscle. If you don’t use it frequently, you’ll lose it! Singing daily will also help you get a feel for your own voice– how it feels and sounds at its best, and what it feels and sounds like when something is wrong. It doesn’t have to be hard, strenuous singing each day– practice as simple as light humming or singing along with the radio can be beneficial.

2. Don’t skimp on warm ups

Especially if you’re getting ready for a performance or some hard core practice– make sure you warm up! Warming up will make sure your vocal folds are ready for action and that you don’t injure yourself by leaping into the hard stuff. Warming up before a performance will keep you sounding your best. It gives you an opportunity to practice whatever you need to before you get out there, such as high notes or quick patter. If you’re wrapping up a long rehearsal or performance, warming down can also be of benefit– it gives the vocal folds a chance to “unwind” from the work. Doing a quick 10 or 15 minute warmup session per day counts as daily practice, too!

3. Find a voice teacher

A good voice teacher is absolutely crucial if you’re serious about honing your skills. One on one training is mandatory to really reach your highest potential. A skilled teacher can help you learn to reach your goals in a healthy, effective way, and can provide constructive feedback to help you get there. If you don’t already have a voice teacher you love, find one ASAP.

4. Train your technique

Learning about vocal technique is also crucial if you’re serious about singing. Learning proper technique will help you sound your best while singing healthfully. You can do your own research on this– there are lots of resources available online– but the best way to learn is from a teacher who can help you ensure you’re singing correctly.

5. Perform more

Getting yourself out there more is fun and very beneficial for every singer! Go out for shows, or go to open mic nights and karaoke– every little bit counts. Treat your auditions as a chance to perform! Get more confident and comfortable in front of a crowd, and you’ll find the entire endeavor easier.

6. Learn about vocal anatomy

Understanding the underlying structure and functioning of your voice will help you understand the best practices for singing. This is an often overlooked step in the vocal education process, but is very important for your growth as a singer and relatively easy to explore. YouTube is full of videos offering explanations of vocal anatomy, and there are a wealth of great books on the subject. Anatomy of the Voice by Theodore Dimon Jr is one of my favorites.

7. Learn about vocal health

Also absolutely required for anyone serious about improving their singing is learning about vocal health. Maintaining good vocal health is crucial for growing singers. Young singers especially have a habit of stressing and straining their voices because they simply don’t know better– this can be disastrous in the long-term. Learning about how to take care of your voice and use it properly will keep you in top shape and prevent vocal injury.

8. Learn basic written and aural theory 

This won’t improve your singing voice necessarily, but it will help you to learn music quicker, be better in tune with other singers and the music, and help you detect intonation in your own singing. It also makes riffing and harmonizing easier! There are a wealth of music theory and ear training resources out there, especially in app form. A few minutes of practice a day can quickly translate to easier learning and better performances.

9. Hear more trained singers

Just as visual artists can learn a lot by going to a museum and actors can learn from watching other actors, singers learn from hearing great singing! This is especially useful when learning about good singing technique. Some singers like Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston are famous for their impeccable technique. Seeking out masters in the field and finding what they do well can be very helpful for your growth.

10. Seek feedback 

If you’re taking my advice to seek a good voice teacher, hopefully this is already occurring. Seeking constructive criticism and advice from many sources is always beneficial. However, remember to take all feedback with a grain of salt, especially if you don’t know the critic’s credentials– great advice is hard to come by, and not everyone is qualified to give it.

11. Take care of your voice

Once you’ve learned more about proper technique and vocal health, taking care of your voice becomes a much more intuitive job. You’ll begin to get a feel for what is destructive to your voice and what is beneficial. In general, remember to keep yourself hydrated, and never strain yourself trying to sing far beyond your comfort zone. Consistent vocal stress can lead to injury, which can end careers early. Keep yourself at your best!

12. Explore different styles

Many singers like to choose a lane and stick in it. In musical theatre, this lane is often “contemporary musical theatre pop style”. While there’s nothing wrong with this, experimenting with other styles can broaden your range and introduce you to a wealth of useful skills. Consider trying classical bel canto style or opera, or get into rock and growling. You will learn transferable skills from each, and all singing (as long as it is done healthfully) will be beneficial for you.

13. Do your own research

There are a wealth of resources available to singers looking to improve themselves. The internet makes many of these resources free. Start looking for books, ebooks, websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, apps, blogs, magazines/e-zines, documentaries, and more relating to singing! Your options are endless and there’s never been a better time to find learning materials in an instant!

14. Find your own voice 

Many singers, especially young or new singers, are tempted to imitate styles of singers they respect or look up to. This can be damaging, as attempting to imitate the style of a trained singer without the very same training can cause vocal strain and injury. Therefore, it’s imperative that singers find and become comfortable with their own voice. This can be difficult to teach. Finding your own voice requires time and lots of comfort with singing. In the meantime, ensure you are not straining yourself to imitate Broadway stars or popular artists, and think about putting your own spin on their work. Your voice teacher, assuming you take my advice and seek one out, will be able to help you in this endeavor.

15. Join a choir 

Choir is a great way to learn more about music while flexing your singing voice! It also requires you to learn to blend and tune with others, and allows you to learn in a group environment. Plus, assuming you like to sing, choir is fun! Seek one out in your local community or at your school. The benefits really can’t be overstated.

Bonus Point: Be Confident

Nothing really sells a performance like confidence. Even if your singing needs work, confidence can mask some of your shakier points. Fake it until you make it! Keep practicing and getting better, but be happy with the growth you’ve made, and continue to show off your stuff: you’ll be a pro in no time.

Advertisements

Maybe You’re Just not a Belter: A Letter to a Young Actor with Vocal Strain

Dear Young Actor,

I get it.

You’ve listened to Barrett Wilbert Weed and Krysta Rodriguez and Sutton Foster and now you just want to sound just like them. We’ve all been there.

Contemporary Broadway is full of belters belting their faces off. It’s flashy and impressive and now basically everywhere you look.

Here’s the thing about belting.

Everyone has a natural shape to their voice. Everyone’s larynx, vocal folds, and resonators (like the mouth and sinuses) are built just slightly differently. This will change the way your voice sounds– speaking voices and singing voices alike all sound different from person to person for this reason. Some people’s vocal folds are longer than other’s, or thicker, or more slightly elastic– all of these factors will cause the vocal folds to vibrate slightly differently and produce different sounds.

Some people are built for different kinds of singing than others. This might be why some people you know can sing soprano with no training while you struggle to sing higher notes and vice versa.

Your speech patterns and habits can also effect your singing voice. For example, you might be prone to mumbling and always talk in the lowest pitches of your voice. You’d probably tend toward a closed mouth and the lower range of your singing voice, because this is what you’d be used to.

You can change the natural build of your voice. This is especially evident with training.

With practice, you can well and truly do nearly anything you want with your voice. Though certain biological disadvantages may stop you from being able to hit record-breaking high or low notes, you can achieve extraordinary results with training. The important thing is that you practice, and practice hard, with someone who can coach you to safely achieve these results.

Which brings us to where you are now: young, and early in your training, with a very sore throat.

Belting is not an in-born ability. Some might be biologically predisposed to it more than others, and some may have certain speaking or singing habits that helped them achieve their sound relatively naturally. However, no one is a natural belter. Belting takes years of time and practice to perfect safely.  The Broadway stars we know and love for their clear, powerful tone have worked likely for decades to achieve their sound. They have studied vocal technique extensively and learned to make habit certain behaviors that make belting easily attainable. They have specially trained the muscles that support breathing and phonation to take pressure off of their vocal folds and make the process safe.

When people don’t learn to belt safely, they end up ruining their voices. It’s common. The strained, tired throat you’re nursing now is in the very first stages of this downward spiral. When you strain to belt, you put pressure not on trained lungs or supporting muscles but on your vocal folds directly. The pain you’re feeling in your throat is from forcing the sound out instead of letting it naturally float. This can be traumatic to the vocal folds and the longer you do this, the more you risk permanent injury. At best you’ll find yourself in pain when you sing, or nursing vocal polyps or cysts that will go away on their own with vocal rest. Or you might end up with vocal hemorrhaging, which will require surgery to resolve and keep you from singing for months.

So give it a rest.

Your dreams are not in vain. You can learn to sing however you want. However, make sure you’re doing it safely. Find a good voice instructor. If possible, find one who can teach you the basics of classical singing technique– Barrett Wilbert Weed attributes her success with belting to her background in opera singing. Learn how to create a resonant, well-supported tone, and then worry about putting the power behind it. Feel free to explore pop and rock sounds, but do so in a safe way.

Remember, even with training, vocal injuries are incredibly common due to the demand for high, show-stopper belting. Even trained belters run into trouble when they have to belt at the top of their ranges 8 shows a week. So don’t rush yourself– take your time. Build up the muscles and perfect the habits you’ll need to keep your voice safe. Ask yourself if the song or role you really want is really attainable for your voice yet– and save it for later if it’s not. You’ll get there some day soon enough. Don’t blow your chances by being impatient.

And if you can’t achieve the belting of your dreams? That’s okay too.

Not everyone needs to be a belter. There is room for a wealth of voice types and personalities in performing. You’re better off performing in a way that is healthful and attainable for you than what is ideal for someone else. By all means, work and push yourself– but don’t lose sight of your own original sound, either. You were born with your own unique voice for a reason. Use it.

Take good care of your voice, and it will support your passion for the rest of your life.

You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Love,

A concerned friend