Almost all vocal coaches agree anyone can learn to sing. Singing well is a skill, improved upon with proper breathing coordination. It is an extension of speech. This means the language being sung will have an effect on the position used for easy production of the tone. Style will also affect vocal position—more space (in the back of the throat) is needed in classical singing style than is needed in “popular” styles. To become a “good” singer you must be able to breathe properly, sing with power (resonance) and sing in pitch. To become a “great” singer you’ll need to add dynamics and develop a style that’s all your own. To become a good singer you need to be able to sing to breathe properly and sing on/in pitch while producing resonance. You can do this with effective vocal exercises. If you’re trying to develop a commerical voice you need to add dynamics, smooth out your break (develop middle voice) and create a unique style/technique that’s all your own.
1. Learn to breathe properly. Proper singing begins and ends with proper breathing. This is the breathing that we all did as babies, the breathing that we all do unconsciously all day. When you breathe from the diaphragm, your shoulders don’t move and your chest barely moves at all. Your stomach will go straight out and straighten back in.
2. A raised larynx is a leading problem for many aspiring singers. If you put your finger on your adam’s apple and yawn, you will feel it move up and back down. The lower position is where you need it to stay. Try to sing up a scale with your finger lightly touching your adam’s apple; if it rises more than 1/2″ then you have some problems. A raised larynx will make it so your throat closes making high notes impossible, it will also make it hard to produce resonance, vibrato, etc. It’s something you need to work with a qualified vocal coach to verify and correct.
3. Stand tall with one foot slightly in front of the other one, feet shoulder width apart. This allows you to breathe easily and to allow maximum lung capacity to allow better notes and phrases.
4. Warm up by singing do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do with your mouth closed three times. Hum the same sequence three times, then sing it out loud.
5. Practice taking in deep breaths and exhaling slowly, as long as you can. A very good hint as to whether you are letting out a constant stream of air, required for proper technique, is by lightly touching your lips together and creating a bbbbbbbbbbb sound (while engaging your voice). If your lips stop vibrating together, then the air has stopped flowing freely.
6. Pronounce your vowels. Words are truly nothing but a constant succession of vowels with consonants dropped in occasionally to create meaning. So practice all your vowels at every pitch (high, low and in between). In English – AH EH EE OH OO. When you sing vowels, the jaw should always be dropped, and the tongue forward. EE is not a smiling form, but a dropped jaw vowel. OH should not have any teeth showing. OO is not a puckered mouth, but rather a slightly changed form of OH. The vowel sounds are important because when you sustain any note it is a vowel sound that’s actually sung. Mar(EE) Had A L(EH)tle L(AH)m
7. If you have pitch problems you can correct this by practicing scales (most coaches will recommend 20-30 minutes a day when starting out). Practicing scales will also strengthen the muscles used for singing and give you better control. To practice scales, identify your range (tenor, baritone, soprano, etc…) and know how to find the notes that cover your range on a keyboard or piano. Then practice the major scale in every key moving up and down using the vowel sounds. At some point you can start working in minor scales as well.
8. If your voice is weak, this is usually caused by under-developed muscles and/or improper use of the the resonators (the pharynx, the hard pallet, and the nasal cavity). Muscles can be strengthened and with training you can learn how to use your resonators to project a powerful voice.
9. Always be working on a new song. When you start a new song, however, start with the rhythm and conducting. Sing the things you enjoy and while you’re practicing, try singing the whole thing 5 times through, once on each vowel sound with no words. Then, when you sing the words, try and make the song sound as smooth and flowing as it did when you only sang the vowels.
10. Try to measure your progress every few weeks by recording yourself singing and being critical of the playback. Pick two or three songs to use as your benchmark: an easy song, and intermediate song and a difficult song. You can judge the difficulty of your song choices by the difficulty you have with singing them, if you don’t feel you can sing at all and want some suggestions, here are three that everybody knows: Happy Birthday (easy), Frosty The Snowman (intermediate), The Star Spangled Banner (difficult). If you just learning to sing do not begin practicing with your difficult song selection at first, your difficult song selection represents where you want to be and chances are you’ve got a long journey (many months) to get to that point. Some will be able to phase in their difficult selection after the first month, others may need to spend a few months working on pitch and breathing. If you are just starting out, focus your first month working on scales. It is recommended to use popular songs in a style you desire to eventually be able to sing in. When you listen to the playback of your recordings, keep a notebook and note parts where you messed up and work on these parts during the week in addition to the time spent on scale practice. If possible find acoustic/vocal or piano/vocal only arrangements of your song choices as these type of arrangements generally provide a clear vocal track untainted by multi-effects processors, which are common in multi-track mixes.
11. Be reasonable with your self-expectations, regardless of where you are coming from, if you can devote 20 minutes or more a day to practicing scales and songs you can expect measurable improvement within four weeks. Most pitch problems can be corrected within 3-4 months. Understand that your progress is linked to your ability to practice daily (as with most training). If you only do 15 minutes a day a few days a week, you could spend a year or more. If you devote yourself you could completely transform your voice in three months. Everyone is different. If you don’t hear measurable improvement in your self-training within three months then it’s probably time to get an one on one instructor.
12. Keep in mind all the professionals you hear have spent years developing and perfecting their technique. The more you work on your own voice the more you should gain respect for what your favorite singers have accomplished. You have to abolish the mindset that this is going to be easy for you. If it were easy, you would already be where you want to be. The pros make it sound easy and for them it still takes focus, but it comes more naturally because they have trained themselves over many years to make it that way. You can achieve the same thing in time.
13. Remember to adjust your style. The very basic lessons given here are meant for smooth, lyric singing and is based in classical training. This is the best way to learn, but of course, not all of you will be singing opera. So, take this basic information and try to work it into the style of music that you like to sing! A good way to do this is to pick a few artists you really like and try to master their techniques then try to mix them together. Before working on dynamics and unique style you should be able to breathe properly and sing in pitch. If you are just starting out don’t put any focus on unique style for the first few months unless instructed by a vocal coach to do so.