Do you long for gentle, mellow vocals? Perhaps you’ve tried to bring subtlety to a harsh tone, but find you just end up sounding too quiet.
There are many famous artists renowned for their beautiful yet understated vocals including Billie Eilish, Jónsi from Sigur Rós and Birdy. You can learn how to get a soft singing voice by working on exercises and developing the right techniques.
In this article, we’ll give you the tools to segue between soft and powerful sounds. Not only will this help you become a more versatile vocalist, but it’ll also enhance your sound.
How to get a soft singing voice
Many contemporary artists are eschewing loud, belting vocals for a more gentle sound. Billie Eilish is a notable example, taking the industry by storm with her barely-there vocal approach. This style communicates either a laid back, uber-cool style or an appealing and relatable emotional vulnerability.
While it’s true that we are all born with a natural voice – and that may or may not be soft – we can also adapt and work on what genetics has already provided. Some of our vocal styles are also learned behaviour. And this is why you may end up singing much liken the artists you listened to growing up, or like your peers.
How can I make my voice softer for singing?
You’ll be glad to know that this is one of the easier singing techniques to master. Once you’ve nailed it, it’s also easier on your voice and requires far less physical energy and muscle than a ‘big’ vocal. The caveat to this is that singing high notes is much easier to do loudly than softly. But soft songs and a gentle approach are generally more comfortable. Here are the three factors that influence making your voice softer for singing.
- The removal of any tension
- How you control your breath
- Avoiding nasality, the enemy of a soft tone
You can test whether you have a nasal tone, by singing a note, then pinching your nose as you continue. If the pinch changes the tone and makes it tricky to sing, you have a nasal voice. The exercises we’ll cover in this article will help with this. But you can also find out how to stop singing through your nose, in this article.
How to sing softly and lightly
Next, we’ll take a look out how to release any tension you may be holding. A soft tone requires a free flow of notes, unhindered by rigidity and tightness. Otherwise, your voice may sound strained or harsh. Try these exercises to ease your singing muscles into a state of relaxation.
- Yawn. It’s impossible for your throat to be tense while you yawn. Note the feeling so you understand how a relaxed throat feels. It should be open and free with a slight lift in your soft palate. For a higher airy sound, you’ll need to lift your soft palate a bit while singing. For a lower soft, husky tone, the soft palate should be in a neutral position or slightly dropped.
- Massage. We often hold the tension that arises from everyday life in our faces. But your facial muscles have an influence on your vocal resonance. So give them a good massage. You should also massage your throat and larynx area, but be very gentle in this area.
- Pull faces. When you gurned as a kid, little did you know it was giving you a fantastic facial workout? A limber face is a relaxed face, so give it a good old stretch. Stick out your tongue and wiggle it around. Give a big smile and a furrowed grimace. Look as surprised as you can. All these faces will help your muscles and the fascia surrounding them to chillax.
- Trill your lips. By blowing through your lips and flapping them like a horse, you’ll eradicate any mouth tension.
- Siren on an ng sound. This is one of the best vocal exercises you can do as it helps with range and warms you up safely. Practising the siren is especially important if you want to create that versatility between a louder, bolder sound and contrasting softness.
- Hum. Another super safe way to warm up, humming apes the kind of quality you’re looking for in a soft tone and gets you used to sing without a tonne of volume.
How to sing with a soft airy voice
If you have an ethereal type of branding as an artist, singing with an airy voice is ideal. Some of this effect can be added at the mixing and mastering stage, but there’s much you can do to adopt it too.
Certain songs will lend themselves to an airy sound. But you can achieve this quality of voice using a couple of techniques.
This is a technique we often recommend in singing and it’s one of the easiest to master. The caveat being, you must suspend disbelief and just go with it. Your brain is a powerful tool and it will often do what you imagine. So think airy before you open your mouth. Imagine your voice floating and picture yourself as being totally relaxed, somewhere lovely (even if you’re not).
The sigh is an excellent warm-up. It’s a bit like the siren in that it gets the voice moving safely. Try a big sigh from high to low, but add in some extra breathiness. This should help you channel the airy tone you desire.
It’s also important to eat well and drink plenty of fluids. This can guard against a harsh, throaty or hoarse tone.
Soft singing songs
The right choice of repertoire can really help you out too. That’s not to say you can’t use a song that’s not and alter it to make it soft. In fact, this can be a very effective way to give an overused song a new take. You can also bring in contrast by using loud backing with a soft-toned vocal, or vice versa. But if you want to cover an existing gentle tune, here is a variety of suggestions old and new:
Let Her Go by Passenger
Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springstein
Mad World by The Neon Crew
All of Me by John Legend
Save Me From Myself by Christina Aguilera
No Freedom by Dido
Don’t Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
You’re Beautiful by James Blunt
This Wild Darkness by Moby
Ghost Towns by Radical Face
Hedonism by Skunk Anansie
Bad Guy by Billie Eilish
Fields of Gold by Sting
Everything to Feel Something by Lily Allen
Say Something by A Great Big World
Olsen Olsen by Sigur Rós
Soft singers male and female
We’ve already mentioned Billie Eilish, Sigur Ros and Birdy, but who else rocks a soft tone? Here are some of the famous names sporting a softer sound. Emulating how they sing, can also be useful if you want to know how to get a soft singing voice. Not all soft singing voices sound the same, however. So identifying what kind of tone you’re aiming for will enable you to drill down into perfecting your sound. This list provides examples of a range of diverse vocals. Who’s most resonates with you and which artist would you like to use as a singing role model?
Gabrielle’s vocal quality is velvety, rich and soft. This type of tone works well with mainstream love ballads.
Ellie is a singer who appears to have a naturally airy, high and very feminine voice. But she does bring more power into her songs when required. And she offers a lot of diversity through her songwriting, effects and vocals. This means she can transition between dance tracks and emotive love ditties such as this one.
The Irish folk singer had a surge of popularity in the 1990s and early noughties. her music is often used via sync licensing as it’s easy on the ear and atmospheric. Enya uses an exclusively soft tone, in an instrument-like way. Her floaty vocals blend seamlessly with the other sounds incorporated into the tracks.
New on the music scene, Celeste has a deeper soft sound than some of the other ladies on the list. It’s a sultry, velvet tone that she mixes up with more power-driven segments to great effect.
Sam leads with his emotion and is a very expressive singer. So he uses both belt and soft techniques to communicate and effectively convey the feeling of the song.
Rock and folk genres often prefer a husky soft sound, as opposed to an airy soft tone. Tom Waites is a good example of this.
Lana Del Ray
The songstress is known for her moody, melancholy tunes. These are well suited to an almost apathetic sounding couldn’t care vibe. Of course, any singer presenting this image has worked to perfect this style.
Cigarettes After Sex
Cigarettes After Sex opts for a low, sexy vibe, a little like Celeste’s, but with a very simple minimal melody.
Coldplay’s mellow sound has stood the test of time. And Chris Martin’s soft dulcet tones have had much to do with this. As the band creates its own music, they’re able to fit their songwriting to their strengths.
Eva Cassidy’s folksy, haunting vocals are a great example of airy singing. She had a knack for both covers and original tunes and proves how relaxing and moving it can be to listen to this type of sound.
My singing voice is too soft – why is my voice so soft when I sing?
Perhaps you have the opposite problem. If you have a naturally soft voice, the issue may be with producing enough volume. It could be your solution is as simple as getting a really good mic. This will be sufficient if you want to run with a soft, gentle sound, rather than singing more powerful or rocky tunes.
If however, you want to develop a bolder tone, you’ll need to work on projection. Some people just tend toward a softness naturally or don’t breathe deeply enough or sustain the release of breath, to support the volume. This can be worked on. Check out these exercises to improve your projection.
Now you know how to get a soft singing voice, it’s up to you to put in the work. It’s helpful to have a clear idea of your branding as an artist as this will guide on the kind of sound you should be working toward. You don’t want to limit yourself to soft singing if it doesn’t suit your genre. However, it’s an increasingly popular sound that’s well worth harnessing. Even if you do still want to belt now and again. And if you have a naturally gentle tone, see how you can play on this to your advantage.
How can I make my singing voice sound better?
A common issue is a dull tone. If this is you, try raising your soft palate a little as if you’re about to yawn. Practice and vocal training make a huge difference in singing, in particular, breathing techniques. Eat well, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep as this also impact your sound.
Can anxiety affect the voice?
Most definitely. Anxiety – especially performance anxiety can cause your voice to crack, or even completely disappear. Stage fright is a debilitating condition, but there are many ways to combat the issues associated with vocal anxiety and be able to perform at your best.
Why is whispering bad for the voice?
It’s no myth that you should avoid whispering if suffering from a hoarse or lost voice. The act of whispering actually places more strain on your vocals and can cause damage especially if you already have a weakness there. Speak quietly or with a breathy quality if you want to reduce volume.
How did you get a soft singing voice? Is it natural, or did you have to develop it using vocal techniques? Let us know and tell us what kind of songs best suit you in the comments below.