Singing Techniques | Vocal Technique
Finding different ways of vocalising will help you become a better artist. But what are these methods and how do you learn them?
Basic singing techniques are essential for aspiring singers. Advanced vocal techniques will ensure you can both diversify and find your niche in a competitive industry. From breathing to belting, if you want to make it big, you need to get to work.
Read on to get the lowdown on what these terms mean and how they can help your vocals to shine.
There are plenty of different genres and style of music and many have their own singing techniques. For example, rock vocalists tend to have a bit more grit and a raspiness and use vocal fry and falsetto. R&B singers tend to be known more for their range and their runs. Pop divas use whistle register or belt. While classical singers are all about vibrato and power.
Learning more about different styles of singing will help you find a path for your own style as a vocalist. Understand that you have limitations regarding your range, vocal agility and tone. Don’t feel like you have to fit into a style that doesn’t suit your voice. However, the more techniques you can master, the more versatile you’ll be as a performer.
Singing techniques to sound better
One of the best things you can do for your voice is to give it a warm-up before you sing. You should never sing at full volume without fully warming up first. Failing to warm up your voice can result in damage and will only hinder your progress in the long run. From there you can move on to work on more advanced techniques.
Many singers fall into a trap of doing endless breathing exercises to help them sing well. However, this shouldn’t be the case. Many breathing issues singers encounter, such as running out of breath, are often down to vocal muscles functioning incorrectly. Here are the important basics that you should be getting right.
Make sure your shoulders are not rising when you breathe. This indicates shallow breathing and will result in too much air pressure on your vocal cords. You’ll likely get an initial blast of volume followed that diminishes as you sing, causing your breath to run out. The cycle will then continue and become very hard work.
Your breathing should start much lower down with your stomach and diaphragm muscles expanding like bellows. If your stomach goes in when you breathe in your doing it the wrong way round.
Lie on the floor, relax and breathe normally. You should notice as you breathe in your stomach and rib cage rises and inflates. As you breathe out they get smaller again and deflate.
Practice doing short mini laughs with a breath in-between – “Ha” breath “Ha” breath “Ha” etc. Make sure your diaphragm is going in and out as you breathe every “Ha”. Also, practice this in slow motion to help develop control with your air pressure and flow. Think of squeezing a tube of toothpaste from the bottom up to keep that steady flow.
Vowel vocal technique
Vowels have a major impact on anything you sing as they are the sounds that are sustained. They also showcase the unique tone of your voice so they need to be controlled effectively.
Some singers modify the sound and shape of vowels dramatically to make it easier to reach certain notes or copy the style of another singer. Practice the most common vowels found in the words you sing. Work on maintaining a more consistent mouth shape to produce them naturally rather than manipulating your mouth, tongue and jaw to try to create them.
A good starting point is a nice narrow O shape then work individually and in turn across the following:
EE as in See
OO as in Soon
EH as in Stare
Oh as in Snow
I as in Sky
AH as in Star
Use 1 sustained note and 4 or 5 note scales up and down. Again, be careful that you don’t add any “Hs” and keep that tongue relaxed.
This is a loud way of singing, perfect for pop ballads and musical theatre. Here’s how to form a healthy belt.
You need to work on a diverse range of vocal techniques to become a complete and well-rounded singer. You will find that your technique becomes greater than the sum of its parts when you work on multiple facets of your voice.
Working with a range of styles will also help you understand your voice better. Whilst this article mainly focuses on pop vocal technique, try looking into rock vocals, hip-hop and R&B vocal technique. You have to sing in different ways for different styles and this will help you become a more complete singer.
What are vocal techniques?
Vocal techniques are essentially the same as singing techniques, but encompass genres like rap and grime, which may not, strictly speaking, be ‘singing’. There are a huge variety of vocal techniques for singers that can help develop and improve all-around vocal performance. Although you will achieve the best results by attending voice lessons with a qualified teacher, there are simple vocal techniques that can be done daily at home, by yourself.
Types of vocal techniques
Whether you’re a singer, rapper or somewhere in between, here are the techniques that involve the speaking side of vocals.
Diction is the clarity of your enunciation when you’re singing. It will help an audience understand what you are singing so it’s important not to get lazy with diction.
Add consonants into your vowel exercises to crisp up your diction. This also helps with breath control as it creates stops in the airflow within different points in your mouth and throat. There are many variations to choose from but B, C, D, F, G, M, N are very effective.
Your voice is at its most relaxed when you’re speaking in your own natural voice. Try bringing it together with your singing voice. Work on tricky parts of songs in a shorter more spoken way whilst maintaining the melody.
It may sound rather soulless and formal but gradually you can start sustaining notes and adding more of your own singing style back in. You’ll be amazed by how much easier it feels and it can also help you learn to rap.
This is a vocal technique that produces a low raspy sound. Take care with this technique, as it can risk damaging your voice. Be sure to follow the instructions in the video carefully. Or work with a vocal coach.
Singing techniques for beginners
Find out what you should be doing before you even start singing with our do’s and don’ts for singers below.
- Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water.
- Avoid stress and stay relaxed, especially as you’re leading up to a performance.
- Eat a well balanced and healthy diet
- Get plenty of sleep and rest
- Train with a qualified teacher regularly.
- Speak at a normal volume and comfortable pitch
- Practice in the “right way” daily.
- Seek medical advice if you have prolonged hoarseness.
- Gently “walk” through new songs when you are first learning them.
- Keep your voice at a comfortable “Speech Level” at all times when singing
- Warm-up properly before trying to sing with a lot of power or volume
- Shout songs or force your voice in any way.
- Practice the same mistakes over and over, you’ll only get better at them!
- Cough excessively and clear your throat continually.
- Consume dairy products, citrus fruits/juice, fizzy drinks, coffee or alcohol on or before the day of a performance.
- Talk a lot on the day of a performance.
- Sing with a bad cold/flu or laryngitis.
- Continue to sing if it hurts or feels difficult in any way.
- Try to talk or shout over loud noise
- Whisper loudly or sing in a “breathy” voice.
- Try to change your natural speaking or singing voice
Singing technique exercises
Here are some more exercises to support your technique.
Lip bubble vocal exercise
This should sound like you’re mimicking the sound of a car engine. Support your face around your jawline with your fingers. Squish your lips together into a loose pucker and gently blow a “buh” sound into your lips so they vibrate. Use scales to slide up and down as high and low as you can and even use them on the melody of a song you’re learning.
Humming and singing
Make an “mmm” sound in your own spoken voice. You should feel a gentle vibration in your throat and on your lips. Once you’ve mastered it and it feels really comfortable hum through various scales. Do this with broken up notes with 1 per note “mm mm mm.” Also, you can try doing it in 1 long “mmmmmmm” smoothly across the notes.
Avoid starting on an “H” as this indicates you’re overusing breath. Make sure your tongue stays down and doesn’t start pulling to the back of your throat.
Nasal vocal exercise
Say “sing” and sustain the NG sound. You can say “Sing” without the “Si” part if you’re struggling to make it. This may feel a little nasal but that’s fine. Slide through scales, from low to high and vice versa. You could also try doing this around the melody of songs your working on. Don’t overuse breath and keep your tongue relaxed and as flat as is comfortable.
Whistle register and falsetto
These are very advanced techniques to help you sing extremely high notes. Here’s an example of what this sounds like. However, this should only be attempted with the help of a vocal coach.
Classical singing technique
One of the most common vocal techniques is vibrato. This is a powerful tool for any pop vocalist. However, it came from the world of classical music and opera. Vibrato essentially comes down to variations in pitch within a sustained note. It’s produced through variations in your larynx and diaphragm. The speed of this variation is another important factor. You’ll be able to have a wider pitch variation and a faster speed when you become better at controlling vibrato.
How do you get vibrato in your voice?
This can be mastered when you build up more control over your larynx and diaphragm. A common mistake for singers is to shake their head or their chest to produce vibrato. You should be able to do it with no movement and with complete control over your muscles.
Vocal exercises will help you build up vocal strength and make you more aware of the role you diaphragm and larynx play. It is much better to start off with a slow vibrato with minimal variation in pitch. Sustain any note and slowly vary the pitch with your larynx and diaphragm. As you get comfortable, go slightly faster until you have a professional sounding vibrato. Controlling your breath, as well as working on nasal and humming exercises will definitely improve your vibrato technique.
Becoming a great singer is more than just technique. The kind of lifestyle you live will also seriously affect your ability to sing. Damaging habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking will really inhibit you from achieving your potential. It can also make singing really uncomfortable and isn’t sustainable if you plan on singing day after day. Your voice is an instrument but also a muscle and a part of you. This means it can’t be fixed at your local instrument shop if it gets damaged. Usually serious damage to your vocal cords will require medical attention. This is why you need to give it extra thought and care to keep it in good shape.
What are the 6 types of voices?
The six main types of singing are soprano, mezzo-soprano and alto for women, tenor, baritone and bass for men. Find out what the lowest and highest notes you can sing are. This will be your vocal range. Have a look at the different styles of singing and see where you fit.
What is it called when singers shake their voice?
Vibrato is when singers shaking their voice when they sustain a note. Although it sounds like it is shaking, there is actually very little body movement involved. It’s actually all controlled in the larynx in your throat and your diaphragm, which is just above your stomach.
Can vibrato be learned?
Yes. But it also occurs naturally when your larynx is struggling to hold the pitch on its own and tremors. This can sound great, especially in an emotional performance. However, it can happen when there’s a lack of control. Stay in control of your vibrato with the techniques in this article.
Which singing techniques work best for you? What are your go-to vocal techniques for your genre of music? Let us know or post a demonstration video in the comments below.