Many of us in the world are wasting our sweet and unique singing voices due to silly fears of not being able to succeed at the popular hobby. Are you looking to find your voice and attempt the art of singing for the first time?
Coming from a professional singer that remembers her first few attempts several decades ago, It can be an awkward but very rewarding experience.
Contrary to popular belief, most people have the basics needed in order to become good singers.
Sean Hutchins, director of research for the Royal Conservatory, said to The Guardian, "Only around 2 percent of the human population doesn't possess the skills needed to determine the right pitch to perform a song."
There's a high chance that you have the capability to find your own voice, and not only that, but you'll find one that is actually pleasing to your ears and others! Here are a few things I want to share with those looking to start their singing journey.
The first thing you want to do before singing is properly hydrate yourself to get the best version of your vocal abilities and sing safely.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is essential, and it is important to hydrate before a long performance at the right time. If you want to hydrate in time properly, be sure that you are drinking water at least two hours before your performance.
Next, doing a vocal warmup is a great way to ease your body into singing without causing any damage or irritation. I use several go-to warmups nearly every day as a professional studio vocalist.
There would be such a different sound coming out in my recordings if it weren't for the positive effects I get from doing these exercises before singing for an extended period of time.
Check out some of my favorite vocal exercises here.
It is important as a new singer to identify the range that your voice fits comfortably in. Many newbies go for a song that their voice isn't suited for and suddenly decide they aren't good at all before considering their range.
The human voice is capable of going lower than any note on the piano and higher than any human can actually perceive. Vocal ranges are often broken down into four voice types in choral settings: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Where does your voice fit in it all?
Most will say that a soprano's range usually spans from C4 to C6. Some sopranos can sing much lower than this, but this doesn't mean that they lose the title of a soprano. Others can sing way higher, like in the video above!
Many will say that the range of an alto is usually from F3 to F5, but I like to think of it closer to F3 to D5, especially when we're talking about belting range in the style of pop or musical theatre.
A common vocal range for tenors in music is C3 to C5. Some people lower the top-end range to a B4 instead of C5 because it's such a challenge for guys to hit a high C in their chest voice.
A bass can usually sing from the range of E2 to E4, right above middle C. The bass clef comes in handy for this range since the notes found on the clef are where basses find their most comfortable singing range in.
Not sure about what voice type you fit in? Find a piano or digital instrument and start pitch matching by singing the phrase "la"! Go down the scale and mark the lowest note you feel comfortable singing.
Timbre is one of those tricky words many people think they understand, but only a few people truly do. Some like to confuse vocal timbre for the pitch or the tone, but it's more than that.
Timbre can be described as the tonal color of one's voice, and many people can be hitting the same note with widely different sounds in their individual timbres. Finding your natural timbre is like finding your natural and unique voice.
Some people think voice types and timbres can be used interchangeably, but that isn't the case. Vocal timbre can be a helpful indicator of your voice type, but finding your type is more about identifying your singing range rather than just the color of your tone.
Bright and rich or dark tones are common when describing a singer's vocal timbre. You can also describe the color of one's tone as piercing, silky, mellow, warm, light, airy, or breathy.
It's pretty easy to identify which timbre descriptors can fit your voice, but if you aren't sure, take a stab at recording yourself so you can get clear audio of how you sound without hearing yourself ringing in your own ear as you sing.
Light and airy singers have faster vocal agility, while rich voices can move slower and have different approaches to runs, riffs, and melismas.
While some examples of rich instrumentation pair well with rich voices, a light voice paired with rich instrumentation may work better because of the contrast.
Vibrato is the natural wobble in your voice that takes place when you hold a long or semi-long note. It's a variation between two pitches that often happens very fast and can help bring richness to your singing tone.
Some singers have a heavy vibrato that wobbles so much that it sounds like they're off-key, while others barely have a vibrato at all and sound like they're singing straight-tone.
While I was going through the process of overdoing my vibrato for fun in my youth, I was able to pinpoint the singing moments where I actually had some pretty cool vibrato wobbles without trying.
I found my natural vibrato the most when comparing it to my forcefully trying to add vibrato.
For example, I would sing Whitney's "And I Will Always Love You" first with some obviously fake mimicking, and then I would go through it once more without trying to force it.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can also find your vibrato by first going through a song with a 'straight tone', which means forcing your voice to never wobble, then try the same phrase again without that force, and see where your vibrato naturally takes you.
Your natural vibrato comes out the most when the muscles associated with your vocal cords are most relaxed and free, along with great breath support and a good general technique, so it's easiest to find when you're not forcing anything and know what you're doing.
The more you practice and learn your voice, the more your natural vibrato will come out.
The highest register among these three main registers is the head voice. Most singers describe singing in their head voice as a head-ringing sensation that allows you to sing high in your range without having to strain your voice.
On the opposite end, your chest voice, also known as your modal voice, is the voice you use when you speak, shout, and sing in your lower range.
Singers can reach high notes with their chest voice, but it can be quite challenging and damage your voice over time if you don't do it in a healthy manner.
This singing method is known as belting. Singers feel notes in the depths of their chest and stomach when signing within this range.
Your passagio (transitional notes between registers) can be a challenge when moving between chest-to-mix or chest-to-head voice, often causing singers to crack or sing pitchy.
Your mixed voice is simply a mix between your chest and your head voice.
A vocal mix is an act of combining the power from your head and the power from your chest into an even mix of the two to provide you with resonance and ease without causing strain.
After you figure out your range, continue doing warmups and scales, as they are great ways to sing through your vocal break over and over, and aim to pleasantly match the tones when you start to shift registers.
The best tips for singing comfortably and pleasantly throughout your vocal breaks involve singing with good posture and tons of great breath support.
You also want your sound placement somewhere right in your belt and head voice (usually forward through your neck or mouth area), and to be focusing on one main vowel sound to avoid awkward diphthong sounds.
Now that you know a bit about vocal range, vocal registers, and other things you can do with your voice, study the way the singers in these genres interpret their songs. What is their range? Do they do runs and riffs?
What emotional levels do you feel from their singing? Do they sing lightly, heavily, or a mix of both? Is their voice more thin and light, or full and resonant?
To get a feel for what style(s) of singing draws you in the most, you should first just listen to all the styles of singing.
Play some pop, try out some folk, play some jazz, tune into all types of rock, play some gospel, play a metal band, go to some opera, throw in some rap, and finish it all off with some throat-singing samples.
This process can help you get a feel for a million different inspirations that will all come together to reflect your vocal style and preferred type of singing.
As you have already gotten a feel for what your voice can do in your particular range and style, see how that blends with the music that speaks to you the most.
Have you ever tried to sing seriously while lying on your back? It may seem silly, but it's a regular voice-teaching exercise that music professionals have been using for years in their studio lessons.
So many different teachers are using this for beginners because it works for so many aspects that beginner singers suffer from.
Lying on the floor automatically puts your body in a great position for singing. Too many times, you'll see singers restricting themselves with a poor, hunched posture. Bad posture can make you sound nasal, affect your pitch, and limit your singing range.
Many singers get their breathing wrong when they first start learning how to sing correctly. So many people (including the old me) think that to get a good deep breath in, you need to suck in your stomach. This is not true and is limiting your breath support!
Grab a book and lie down on the floor with your back in a relaxed position against the ground. Place that book on your stomach, and begin to take deep breaths in and inhale out with a hiss that isn't forced.
You'll want to see the book rising as you breathe in and expand your stomach, and slowly, yet evenly, fall when you exhale. The more that book rises, the better your breathing ability will be throughout long sung phrases.
Closely related to your posture, your tightness, and tension can also be reduced when you sing while lying down on your back. A lot of tension that singers suffer from is focused right in the larynx and mouth area, and lying down automatically fixes that for you.
Popular professor Richard Miller from the Oberlin College-Conservatory of Music wrote in his bestseller that "Lying on the back places the entire body, head to toe, in alignment, and the sternum is dissuaded from falling."
"In the supine position, the head, neck, and torso remain axial, and problems of laryngeal positioning, voice registration, and clavicular breathing are avoided."
It’s a very humbling experience to hear yourself sing for the first time. When we sing or talk, we hear something completely different from what other people hear.
Even when hearing your speaking voice for the first time, you’re going to be thinking, “who is that sounding like that?”
You will likely be shocked, and that shock can be easily confused with dislike. When you hear yourself sing, you’ll be thrown off by its newness, but don’t let that turn too much into “I hate my voice!” or "I'm bad at singing!"
Since you’re hearing yourself in a whole new way, take this time to use that to your advantage. Hone in on your voice's hidden strengths and weaknesses and make changes where you see fit.
Are you hearing something you definitely don’t like? Practice getting rid of it. Hearing something you never knew you had and you could turn into something better? Work on that and make it another one of the things you can show off!
You’ll soon adjust to hearing your singing voice once you just keep singing and keep recording yourself over and over.
Between your tweaks and generally getting used to your tone, you will slowly start to gain confidence in the sound coming out.
One common way that new singers overdo it is when it comes to the process of belting. Belting loudly with a beautiful tone is a great thing to hear, but that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do for your health.
Breathing is also critical. Without good breath support, good vocal placement, and knowing to limit your belts or "screlts", you could be severely damaging your vocal cords.
Sometimes new singers also try too hard when it comes to runs, riffs, or melismas. Just because you can do good vocal ornaments doesn't mean you have to put every single one you know into a song.
Some songs benefit from being sung more simply without a bunch of fast notes being done.
Another thing to remember is that singing for too long can cause vocal fatigue, bringing scratchiness and soreness and even making you lose your voice.
Not enough singers know the irreparable damage that can happen to your vocal cords if you overdo it by singing for too long without vocal rest.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her recent collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
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