How to Sing: 12 Tips for Becoming a Better Vocalist - Careers in Music
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songwriter playing a songmusic producer at work stationrock star performing on stagetour manager making phone callmusic teacher with studentmusic therapy session

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:

  1. Sleep
  2. Drink water
  3. Read
  4. Find the right Teacher
  5. Take lessons
  6. Posture
  7. Sing from your Diaphragm
  8. Learn your range
  9. Practice
  10. Calm your nerves
  11. Sing with loved ones
  12. Find smaller crowds

Before You Begin

1. Sleep

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.

3. Read

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.

Actually Singing

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.

6. Posture

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!

9. Practice

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.

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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.


Can you teach yourself to sing?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

We actually did a whole blog on the topic of teaching yourself to sing and we believe that the answer is yes! You can teach yourself to sing. There are loads of great YouTube tutorials and blogs on various topics, like different methods for learning how to sing and guidance on things to do and things to avoid as a Singer.

You’ve got to practice, though — a lot. You’ve also got to educate yourself about maintaining vocal health. You don’t want to injure your voice by practicing incorrectly or doing something risky. This is where a Voice Teacher can be helpful.

One caveat: it’s much easier to teach yourself how to sing pop, rock, and country styles than it is to teach yourself classical or opera singing.

Can you learn to sing if you have a bad voice?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

First of all, we need to explore the concept of having a “bad voice.” Often, people who think they have a bad voice are just untrained or have a vocal range/sound outside of our stereotypical notion of women with Mariah Carey-like five-octave vocal ranges or men with smooth, deep Barry White-like voices. So, yes, you can learn to sing…and then maybe your idea of having a bad voice will disappear.

But, you may be saying, what if I’m tone deaf? Well, there’s good news for you. According to the BBC1, the actual percentage of tone-deaf people is extremely small. In fact, Andrea Brown, a London-based Voice Teacher, who teaches vocalists who join something called “Can’t Sing Choirs and vocal courses for the tuneless” says that only about 2% of the people she works with are truly tone-deaf.

The takeaway? Most people can learn to sing — “bad” voice or not — with the help of an understanding Voice Teacher.

Can you learn to sing or is it a gift?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

Yes! Anyone can learn to sing. You may refer to your vocal abilities as “a gift” but that doesn’t mean you need to have been born singing with the vocal abilities of an Adele, Whitney Houston, or Frank Sinatra. Some people are naturally blessed with impressive vocal abilities…but many other vocal techniques can be learned to give yourself a more resonant, moving, beautiful singing voice. Try out some YouTube tutorials or take lessons with a Voice Teacher and see how far you’ll be able to progress with a little practice and belief in yourself!

  1. 1Lane, Megan. "Can the tone deaf learn to sing?". BBC News Magazine. published: 10 January 2011. retrieved on: 14 August 2020
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