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How to Improve Your Singing Voice: A Complete Guide

Let’s set the scene: It’s the love of your life’s birthday and YOU have been trusted with initiating the traditional ‘Happy Birthday’ song in front of all your friends and family. Or perhaps you’re at a holiday party at work and a microphone has been thrust into your hand: surprise! It’s time for karaoke in front of the whole office! You panic, freeze up, and completely butcher the song at hand. Sound familiar?

Whether we’re professional opera singers or complete novices, there’s no doubt that singing is something we all must do at various points in our lives. Society suggests that a great voice is something that people are born with — you either have it, or you don’t.

But did you know that with the right training and continued practice, anyone can improve their singing voice?

Don’t worry, you didn’t read that sentence wrong. It’s true. Anyone, with the right routine, diet, and willingness to improve their voice has the potential to become a fantastic singer.

But Incite, you say, how do I even begin to scour through all the online resources that will supposedly improve my singing?

Well, dear readers, luckily for you, we have taken the liberty of compiling the ultimate list to improve your singing voice from every corner of the internet. With only six tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the next Beyonce of ANY birthday party.

And the best part? Each one of these techniques is completely free.

So, sit back, relax, and get ready to sing like you’ve never sung before.

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1. Figure Out Your Vocal Register

If you sound like Morgan Freeman when you talk, you probably shouldn’t attempt to sing an Ariana Grande song the next time you do karaoke (that is, unless you’re REALLY brave).

This is why knowing your vocal register, or range, is integral to improving your singing voice. Essentially, a singer’s range is the number of notes they can comfortably sustain, from the lowest note to the highest one. Vocal ranges are commonly categorized into 6 voice types: Bass, Baritone, Tenor, Alto, Mezzo-Soprano, and Soprano. However, to improve your voice, you don’t need to be that technical: you simply need to find out the highest and lowest notes you can sing.

The easiest way to do this is to compare your voice to the keys on the piano. If, like most of us, you don’t casually have a grand piano kicking about at home, we recommend searching YouTube for a video on testing your vocal range. Here is an example of a useful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abLCxB7WdaQ

To find your range, you should start on Middle C on the piano, and sing a vowel sound (an Ah, Ee, or Oo). Once you’re able to sing the note, you should continue with the vowel sound and go down the piano to B, A, G, and so on. Once you have reached the lowest note you can sustain, you should write it down. You then need to repeat this process but go up an octave on the piano, from Middle C to D, E , and so on. You should then write down the highest note you can comfortably sustain once you reach it.

Once this is done, you should be able to calculate your vocal range! For example, if your lowest note was an E2, and your highest was E4, you have a vocal range of two octaves. Thus, you should be able to comfortably sing most songs that sit within this range.

We might not all have the 4-octave vocal ranges of Prince or Michael Jackson, but knowing the strengths and limitations of your vocal range is incredibly helpful when deciding which song to sing, and which key to sing it in.

2. Have the Correct Posture

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The foundation of any good singer is their posture. To improve your voice, it’s paramount to stand in a way that allows you to give your all. Identify your current posture whilst standing.

When you stand up, are you hunched over slightly? Are your shoulders pulled forwards? Do you look at your feet out of pure embarrassment and shame for singing in public?

These are all things that need to be fixed, as poor posture leads to singing notes that are flat, shaky, and generally off-putting. To improve your posture (and thus, your voice,) you should:

  • Stand as a soldier would, with your shoulders back and looking straight ahead
  • Place your feet a shoulder’s width apart, and soften your knees slightly
  • Elongate your neck as much as possible to open up your chest and airways
  • Tense the rectus abdominis region (or the abs area of your stomach).

This position allows for an optimal alignment of bones in your body, which your postural muscles rely on for support. Thus, if you sing and your body is misaligned, your potential is being prevented and you may sound worse than you actually are.

To monitor your posture whilst practicing, you can:

  • Ask a friend to watch you whilst you sing: are you slouching over, or do you stand up straight?
  • Look at yourself in a full-length mirror whilst you sing to make sure your postural muscles are being correctly supported

Remember: If everything goes wrong, try and look confident in yourself and the rest will follow. Looking confident whilst singing not only improves your physical form but also boosts your self-esteem whilst singing, which may make you sound even better.

We also recommend relieving any stress-related tension in the body before or after a performance too. This can be alleviated by chewing a piece of gum to release jaw tension and provide excess saliva for diction, or shrugging your shoulders to your ears and dropping them. Taking deep, slow breaths from the abdomen is also helpful for dissipating tension and introducing feelings of calmness before a performance.

3. Make Use of Warm-up Exercises to Improve Your Voice Free Group Of People In Lilac Uniform Doing Church Service Stock Photo

Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, it's time to really start working on important techniques that will add depth and diction to your singing. We recommend incorporating as many of the following techniques as you desire into a weekly routine, to ensure your voice is strengthened and challenged regularly.

Humming

Lip Buzz Warm-Up

  • This works in a similar vein to the humming exercise. Instead of humming, you should blow through your lips making a lip trill sound (similar to a motorbike).
  • This technique is important for warming up the lips to increase the accuracy of diction when singing.
  • To add an extra challenge to this warmup, we recommend replacing the lip trill sound with a ‘rolled r’ sound of the tongue. This ensures other areas of your mouth are challenged, encouraging further accuracy when singing.
  • Here is another video you can use to support this exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkg3C3D7T6s

The Hiss Exercise

This technique is useful for increasing breath control whilst singing, and it ensures you’re able to reach those more difficult notes. We recommend starting with a shallower breath and working your way up to holding your breath for longer:

  • Stand up straight, and take a deep breath in.
  • As you breathe in, count to five. Pull the air deep into your lungs, which should make your belly expand. At this point, your chest should not puff out and your shoulder should not rise.
  • Then exhale and count to 10 as you do so. When you exhale, you should make a hissing sound, similar to that of a snake.
  • When you’re done counting, you should be ready to take another breath.
  • You should repeat this technique 2-3 times as a beginner and 4 or more times when you become used to it.
  • When you become more practiced at the technique, we recommend singers breathe in for a 6 count and breath out for an 11 count, and so on.

Pay Attention to Nutrition

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Until now, this Incite guide has focused on the technical aspects of improving a singing voice. However, something that is often forgotten about whilst trying to improve the quality of one’s singing is nutrition. With the potential for dehydration, phlegm build-up, acid reflux, or eructation (gas), it’s clear that the right diet can make, or break, your performance.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Obviously, staying hydrated is important for several reasons. Both the brain and the heart are made up of 73% water, so sipping on H20 is integral to the nature of human survival.

Drinking enough water is very important for singers, as it helps to lubricate the vocal folds situated in the larynx. Without constant hydration, vocals may sound scratchy or forced, or you may not even be able to get the words out. Thus, drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day — and even more if it's hot or you’re exercising — is key to maintaining a good voice.

Furthermore, on the day of a singing performance (or a particularly important karaoke date), you should make sure to not eat anything too dehydrating. Examples of this include the following:

  • Salty foods (such as crackers, nuts, or chips)
  • Caffeinated drinks (such as tea or coffee)

Pardon Me!

Another thing you may want to avoid whilst preparing for a day of singing is high-fat foods or fiery foods. This includes the following:

  • Chili peppers
  • Dairy products (such as cheese, chocolate, and milk)
  • Carbonated beverages (such as pop and beer)
  • Citrus Products

Whilst every singer has a different reaction to the above foods, use those lists as a general guide to what you should and should not eat when undertaking a lot of singing. Experts recommend eating at least 2 hours before a performance, as you do not want to sing on an empty stomach! At the end of the day, you’re engaging your muscles to produce sounds, so it’s paramount to keep yourself well-fuelled.

A good idea is to eat a protein-dense meal — such as chicken, fish, or tofu — with a complex starch such as whole-grain bread or brown rice. Not to mention, eat lots of veggies to give your body all the vitamins and minerals it needs to perform well!

Whilst a second helping of a delicious dinner may sound like a good idea in the moment, make sure to not eat too much, as it could become difficult to reach all the notes needed for a song.

Make Sure to Practice Regularly

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Okay, readers, practice and routine may not be the most exciting aspect of improving your vocal technique. However, by incorporating fun warm-up exercises and singing songs that you love, a routine shouldn’t be too boring or mind-numbing.

Timing Is Essential

Setting aside a bit of time in your day for practicing vocals is essential to improving your voice. Don’t feel as though you must practice first thing in the morning. You can just as easily practice 20 minutes before you go to bed, or break up the amount of practicing by doing half in the morning and half in the afternoon.

The goal here is to make sure you practice as often and as consistently as possible, so don’t make yourself hate it! Make it work for you.

What’s the Right Routine for Me?

It doesn’t matter if you’re practicing for a grand opera number or a couple of folk songs for a local open mic night. All performances are based on a foundation of practice and knowledge of the songs you’re going to sing.

Whilst this will differ for everyone, here’s a rough estimate of what you should be doing to maximize any improvements to your voice:

  • Make sure to practice at least an hour after eating something, to ensure you are sounding your best.
  • Warm up for 10 minutes using a combination of the techniques described in the exercises section above. This could be anything from humming to lip buzzes!
  • Select the song you’re supposed to sing and record yourself singing it on your phone or computer. Watch it back and check your posture. Is it correct?
  • Whilst reviewing your song, you can also identify which parts were the hardest to sing, and which parts were easier. What could you do differently to improve?

Be Confident in Your Abilities

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At the end of the day, there are multiple things you could do to improve your voice. But the most important aspect is self-confidence. If you don’t believe that your voice could improve, you’ll only be holding yourself back from success.

You need to accept your voice for where is it at this current moment in time. The best part about singing is the enjoyment you can get out of it. Don’t concern yourself about being the next Rihanna or Johnny Cash. Just have some fun and throw yourself into the music. You never know what might happen…

Sing Like Never Before

To recap, here are our top 6 tips to ensure your voice improves:

  1. Figure out your vocal register
  2. Have the correct posture
  3. Make use of warm-up exercises to improve your voice
  4. Pay attention to nutrition
  5. Make sure to practice regularly
  6. Be confident in your abilities

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to drop them in the box below.

Author

  • Improve Your Singing Voice

    Mrs. Mandy Dokie was born and raised in the high desert. Her greatest joy in life and biggest supporters are her beautiful family including her husband of 12 years, and her 2 children, Rylan and Keira. She graduated from UC Riverside with a BA in Psychology: Law and Society. She has a passion for God, the outdoors, reading, writing, singing, and martial arts.

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