How to Sing: 12 Tips for Becoming a Better Vocalist
When it comes right down to it, everybody knows how to sing.
We all understand what sounds good or bad, and we get the basics of making notes come out of our mouth. It might not be in the right key, in our range, and it might not sound very pleasant at all, but every human does know how to do it.
That should be a comforting thought to anybody just getting started in this field, or perhaps to those who are already Singers, but who want to see how far they can take their skill. It’s a basic human function, for the most part, so it’s just about getting ready, practicing, and learning some techniques.
Doesn’t sound so scary, does it?
Here are a dozen items to work on and think about as you learn how to sing the best you can:
- Drink water
- Find the right Teacher
- Take lessons
- Sing from your Diaphragm
- Learn your range
- Calm your nerves
- Sing with loved ones
- Find smaller crowds
Before You Begin
Singing is similar to doing anything physically strenuous in that it requires a good amount of sleep, and missing out on your beauty rest can make a big difference in your performance. Getting seven or eight hours a night is ideal for everyone to be at their best, but if you dream of one day belting in front of a crowd of thousands, it’s especially true. While this is something you must hold to when going into any kind of show or concert, you should do your damndest to get a good night’s sleep before every practice and rehearsal as well.
2. Drink Water
The image of Rock Stars guzzling booze all night is certainly fun, but it’s one that is incongruous with a lengthy career and powerful, sustained vocals. Alcohol is one of many liquids that is bad for anyone looking to sing as well as they can. If you don’t just want to belt along to show tunes or match what those on the radio are doing, but actually make a career out of your vocals, you need to pay close attention to what you’re putting into your body.
Singers should be ingesting mostly water, especially before they are going to practice or perform. Tea (which is warm, but not scalding hot) is also acceptable. Everything else should wait until after the show.
Just as you are reading this article right now, you should spend a lot of time researching and learning what singing is, what it takes to be great at it, and what the best of the best did to get to where they are. It will be helpful for you to take in everything from the biographies of superstars, which detail the hard work they put in and their big breaks, as well as books and pieces from experts and Coaches. It’s impossible to understand the artform too well, and the more you know, the better you’ll be able to hone your own talent and potentially make it to the big time.
4. Find the Right Teacher
There is a lot you can learn from reading, watching YouTube videos, and practicing on your own in the shower or as you drive to work, but if you really want to become a great vocalist, there will come a time when you have to find someone more knowledgeable than you to help you step up to the next level.
If you’re young and still in school, there may be a chorus class, an afterschool program, or maybe a Teacher who is willing to work with you. The same can go for those in college, though with every course costing hundreds, perhaps even thousands of dollars, it’s a bit tougher to quickly sign up without thinking twice.
Even those most gifted from birth need to work with a Vocal Coach at some point in their lives, so there will come a time when you must do so as well if you want to be truly great. Before you choose just anyone, spend some time looking into your options, and weigh people’s reputations against cost and schedules.
5. Take Lessons
Once you’ve found the right person, sign up for lessons and stick to them. You shouldn’t work with a Coach every once in a while, but every few days, or perhaps once a week, depending on what’s happening in your life and what your goals are. You must make a plan with whoever you’re working with and stick to it! Being great at anything is largely about discipline, and as is the case with most things, you’ll always get better in time, as long as you stick with it.
One of the first things any great Vocal Coach or Teacher will show you is how to stand correctly. It might not seem like something that matters, but posture is incredibly important. Whether standing or sitting, it’s best to have your back straight and your head perfectly level, even if you want to have it cocked to one side or another. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to this position, and once you’ve mastered it and you’re a bit further along, then you can find out how to walk around, and perhaps even dance while singing.
7. Sing From Your Diaphragm
Too many people think singing is all about your mouth, or perhaps even the throat. Sure, those parts of the body are important and obviously nobody can sing without them, but that’s not where any note originates. They all come from one’s diaphragm, and learning to sing from there is a challenge everyone must face, even if it feels odd.
When people talk about singing from their diaphragm, a large part of it is actually about breathing, which is key to being a fantastic vocalist. You must envision you’re inhaling down to your stomach, not just puffing up your chest with air. You want your abdomen to be the focus, and this takes time to master, as it’s not what most people are used to when it comes to something as simple as breathing.
Through a series of breathing-only exercises, it will begin to feel a bit more natural to work with this oft-forgotten area of your anatomy, and in time, it will become second nature.
8. Learn Your Range
You may have dreams of hitting high notes like Mariah Carey, but it might not be in the cards, no matter how talented you are or how hard you work at it. People’s bodies are built differently, and everyone has different ranges they sing in. It will take you some time to figure yours out, and once you do, you’ll want to learn how to become the best soprano, alto, tenor, or baritone you can be. Don’t focus on expanding it, at least in the beginning—stick to your range and become great within those parameters!
Practice doesn’t make perfect when it comes to art, since perfect is not something that can actually be accomplished, but it does help you get to a place where you’re prepared, familiar with how to breathe, and ready to give the best performance humanly possible.
You’ll need to practice on your own and with whoever you’re working with, and you should do so often, probably every day, though in different capacities. If you really love to sing, you’ll want to do it all the time anyway, and though practicing isn’t just belting along to Katy Perry in your car on the way to work, it’s still a great way to do what you enjoy the most.
Consistent practice (which comes with discipline, which we’ve already discussed) is the only way to master every facet of the art of singing, and to rise to new levels.
The Next Steps
10. Calm Your Nerves
Something stopping many talented vocalists is nervousness, and while it’s a feeling you’ll have to move past, it’s completely natural. Everyone gets nervous, and nerves are always going to be present…but it doesn’t mean they need to stop you from doing what you love the most.
You may be nervous to step into your first vocal lesson. You may be nervous to sing at an open mic where you don’t know anyone. You may be nervous to perform the National Anthem at the Super Bowl…or maybe you’re scared of all three.
Nerves are not going away, for the most part, but you can learn to control them. Do some research and find techniques others use to rid themselves of their nervousness before they sing, make a speech, act, or do anything in front of a crowd. You may already be familiar with some, such as imagining everyone in the audience naked, but there are so many others, and this is something your friends, family, Teachers, and Vocal Coach can all help with as well.
11. Sing With Loved Ones
Speaking of all those special people in your life, you’ll want to sing in front of them at some point, even if it sounds scary. You will want to share your gift with those who love you, but it’s up to you to decide if that will come first, or perhaps last. You may feel totally comfortable belting alongside your parents or friends, especially if you’re already in chorus at school or if you sing in the choir at church. If so, that’s wonderful, but make sure they get a chance to hear you entirely on your own as well.
If not, this can be a first step to learning how to handle yourself in front of an audience. Chances are unless you’ve surrounded yourself with bad people, your friends, family, and others close to you will be forgiving and will help you as you find the note, overcome the shakes, and even learn to engage with those who have come to hear you.
12. Find Smaller Crowds
Some people will find it easier to sing in front of crowds made up of complete strangers at first before they can bring themselves to perform for those closest to them. If this is the case for you, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, and they can all be low-stakes ways to get some experience under your belt.
Find open mic situations, groups, classes, and the like where you can sing for anyone who shows up. This is sure to be outside of many people’s comfort zones, and that’s the point. If you can’t sing for 12 people, how will you ever do so for 10,000? Think back to the lessons you’ve taken and what you’ve learned when it comes to calming down and enjoying the moment and begin.
Remember, this isn’t going to kill you, and chances are you’re better than you think.
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