by Paul Morris
Tip 1: Think about breath. Without proper breathing, you aren’t using your voice to its full potential. To find out if you’re breathing correctly for singing, place your hand on your stomach and inhale. Your hand should move out–your stomach should be expanding, not your ribcage and chest. That’s because you need to support your breath with your diaphragm–the muscle underneath the lungs that inflates them. The diaphragm is activated by abdominal muscles, and it’s much stronger than the muscles between your ribs–the muscles you’re using if your chest, not your stomach, expands with your breath.
Tip 2: Focus on posture. Your breath travels from your lungs straight up through your mouth. If its passage is twisted, kinked, or blocked in any way, it won’t be able to get out efficiently. How you stand has a big effect on how you sound. You should be standing with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Your chest should be lifted to give your lungs plenty of room to expand. Your shoulders should be back and relaxed.
Tip 3: Relax. If there’s tension anywhere from your abdomen to your head, it’ll affect your sound. Your facial muscles, tongue and throat muscles, vocal cords, jaw and shoulders should all be as relaxed as possible. There are plenty of jaw and facial exercises as well as warm-up activities that will help you relax the muscles in your shoulders, face, and vocal cords.
Tip 4: Know where to put your tongue and soft palate. The soft palate should be raised–this will give more space for your voice to resonate. The tip of your tongue should be placed at the back of your teeth. This will keep it from blocking your throat if it’s positioned too far back.
Tip 5: Watch what you eat. There’s nothing better for your voice than water. Period. If you have a performance coming up, avoid dairy and thick drinks for at least three days beforehand. Drink only water the day of the performance.
Tip 6: Don’t strain. Pay attention to your body. If something hurts when you sing, you’re either at the limit of your range or you’re doing something wrong. You should be able to sing at a strong, healthy volume if you’re maintaining proper breath control; if something hurts because you’re singing too loudly, you’re probably not supporting your voice well with your breath–the vocal cords are doing all the work. If you hurt when trying to hit certain high or low notes, however, it may be that you’re trying for a note that’s outside of your range. It’s true that good breath control can expand your range, but the size of your vocal cords determines the pitches you can reach. You may not be able to hit certain notes no matter how well you support your voice. It’s important to choose songs you can sing comfortably. Above all, don’t try to sing if you have a sore throat–you may make it worse.
Tip 7: Warm up before singing. Don’t go straight into a song without a good warm-up first. A good warm-up routine should concentrate on relaxing your body and getting your breath ready, and should start with simple deep breaths. It should progress to light humming from there, and then some scale work once you feel ready. It’s important not to strain too hard during the warm-up process–don’t reach for notes that aren’t comfortable, and don’t sing at the top of your volume.
Tip 8: Get a teacher. A good voice teacher can really help you improve your voice. It’s sometimes hard to determine how you sound when you’re by yourself; even the most dedicated singer can get into bad habits without feedback. A teacher can give you immediate feedback on how you’re doing and address specific problems you may have.
It’s a shame that so many people think they can’t sing–and wouldn’t be caught dead singing in public. In truth, singing is something anyone can learn to do. Follow these tips and practice, and you’ll have a singing voice you’ll be proud to show off.