Vocal Exercises for Singers
There are a huge variety of vocal exercises for singers that can help develop & improve all round vocal performance.
Although you will achieve the best results by attending voice lessons with a qualified teacher, here are some simple vocal exercises for singers that can be done daily or just before a performance plus some key dos and don’ts!
Vocal exercises for singers
Vocal Exercise #1 – Breath Control
Make sure your shoulders are not rising when you breath. If they are this indicates shallow breathing. As a result, you’ll likely get an initial blast of volume followed by very little else as your breath quickly runs out.
Your breathing should start much lower down with your stomach & diaphragm muscles expanding like bellows. If your stomach goes in when you breathe in you’re doing it the wrong way round!
Lie on the floor, relax & breathe normally. You should notice as you breathe in, your stomach & rib cage rise (inflate) and as you breathe out they become smaller again (deflate).
Practise doing short mini laughs with a breath in between – “Ha”, breath, “Ha”, breath – this makes sure the stomach is going in & on the breath going back out. Also, practice this in slow motion to help develop better control of your breathing. Think of squeezing a tube of toothpaste from the bottom up to keep that steady flow.
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.
Vocal Exercise #2 — The Lip Bubble
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 & gently blow a “buh” sound into your lips so they vibrate.
Once you’ve mastered this, use scales, slides up & down as high & low as you can & even use them on the melody of a song you’re learning.
Vocal Exercise #3 — Humming
Make a “mmm” sound in your spoken voice like you’re agreeing with something or have just had something tasty to eat.
You should feel a gentle vibration in your throat & on your lips. Once you’ve mastered it & it feels really comfortable hum through various scales. Do this with broken up notes, 1 per note “mm mm mm” & also in 1 long “mmmmmmm” smoothly across the notes.
Avoid starting on an “H” as this indicates you’re over using breath & make sure your tongue stays down & doesn’t start pulling to the back of your throat.
Vocal Exercise #4 — ING
Say “sing” & sustain the ING part. This may feel a little nasal but that’s fine. Slide through scales, from low to high & vice versa & also around the melody of songs you’re working on. As with the humming exercise don’t overuse breath & keep your tongue relaxed & as flat as is comfortable.
Vocal Exercise #5 — Perfect Your Vowels
Vowels have major impact on anything you sing as they are the sounds that are sustained & showcase the unique tone of your voice so they need to be controlled effectively.
Many singers find themselves modifying the sound & shape of a vowel dramatically to make it easier to reach certain notes or in some cases to 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 & jaw to try to create them.
A good starting point is a nice narrow O shape then work individually & 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 & 4 or 5 note scales up & down. Again, careful you don’t add any “Hs” to lever the sound out & keep that tongue relaxed.
Vocal Exercise #6 — Diction
It’s vital an audience can understand what you are singing so make sure you don’t get lazy with annunciation. Add consonants into your vowel exercises to crisp up your diction, they also help with breath control as they will create stops in the air flow at different points within your mouth & throat.
There are many variations to choose from but B, C, D, F, G, M, N are very effective.
Vocal Exercise #7 — “Speak” Singing
Your voice is at its most relaxed when you’re speaking in your own natural voice so try bringing it together with your singing voice. Work on tricky parts of songs in shorter more spoken way whilst maintaining the melody.
It will sound & feel rather soulless & formal but gradually you can start sustaining notes & adding more of your own singing style back in. You’ll be amazed how much easier it feels!
Vocal best practices for singers
- Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water.
- Avoid stress & stay relaxed especially as you’re leading up to a performance.
- Eat a well balance & healthy diet.
- Get plenty of sleep & rest.
- Train with a qualified teacher regularly.
- Speak at a natural volume & comfortable pitch.
- 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.
- Belt or shout songs or force your voice in any way.
- Practise the same mistakes over & over, you’ll only get better at them!
- Cough excessively & 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.
- Try to sing with a cold/flu or laryngitis.
- Try 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.