Vocal Techniques for a Better Singing Voice
Even if you have oodles of natural talent as a singer, there’s always room for improvement. If you’re looking to achieve a better singing voice, it’s all about the right vocal techniques.
It’s important to learn vocal techniques for a better singing voice. These will enable you to sing in ways you never thought possible. The learned techniques will also protect and strengthen your voice so you can sing stronger – and for longer.
In a competitive industry, you need to stand out. Unlock the secrets to a better singing voice with these 13 top techniques, and give your music career a head start.
Vocal techniques for a better singing voice
You may have heard of artists making it in music without professional vocal training. This is certainly possible, but sooner or later you’ll need to learn some solid techniques. And there’s no benefit to putting it off, but plenty of benefits to starting early.
What are some vocal techniques?
As well as the essential basics, there are methods you can employ to achieve more unusual sounds. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know in terms of technique, so you can improve and develop your vocals.
We’ll go through all the foundational techniques first, then we’ll move on to more complex and advanced styles of singing.
Singing techniques for beginners
#1 Breathing exercises for singing
Breathing is central to life. The first thing we do – and the last – is to take a breath. Breathing deeper is restorative to the body and breathing slowly calms the heart, blood pressure and mind. So not only will breathing technique improve your singing, it’ll relax you and make you healthier. There are various exercises you can do to achieve this. Try starting with this:
Breathe deeply into your belly and out into your ribs for a count of 3, hold for a count of 3 and breathe out for 3. Repeat, but extend the out-breath for a count of four. Keep repeating and extending a count on the out-breath until you go as far as you can. Repeat and increase the in breathe up also, up to a maximum of 6. Imagine you have a ring around your diaphragm and are pushing it down each time you breathe in.
What are the best vocal exercises?
The best ones are the basic ones. If you have good breath control you can do so much with your voice. Nail this and you’ll see the fastest and biggest improvements of all. Add in some yoga and aerobic activities and watch how your lung capacity increases.
#2 Vocal warm-ups
Another basic and foundational technique is the warm-up. This gets the voice moving gently and ready for more demanding singing. You should always warm-up before singing songs and warm-down again afterwards. Warm-ups include humming, sirens and scales.
You can follow these exercises to carry out an effective warm-up.
Can singing every day improve your voice?
Yes! And this is where you start. If you do nothing else, do a little warm-up and some breathing exercises and that’ll set you up for the day.
#3 Vocal pedagogy and posture
This may sound a lot more complicated than it is. Vocal pedagogy is the study of voice. It’s used in singing to explain how the voice works and define what singing is. As a singer, part of your technique is to understand the physiology of the voice and how your body works when you sing.
This technique is academic rather than practical, but it does have an impact on the practical application of singing – and in particular, posture. Correct posture is a super simple technique you can adopt straight away: stand up with a straight spine, with your shoulders back, your feet hip-width apart and your chin level with the ground.
Singing techniques pdf
Read more about vocal pedagogy, techniques and how the body works in relation to the voice, in this PDF.
#4 Cheat technique: take out the ‘h’s
This is a very easy way to conserve your breath and sound better when singing. The ‘h’ sound allows the quick escape of breath, depleting your reserves. Instead of starting a word or phrase with the kind of sound you might make when breathing on a mirror to clean it, skip over and go straight to the vowel. It the rest of your diction is clear, the words will still make sense in context. Similarly, many singers use the ‘ah’ sound instead of ‘ee’ on high notes, as it’s easier to make a sweet sound with that vowel.
Pop singers with good vocal technique
As a beginner, be careful who you imitate. Some famous artists have a good basic technique, others not so much (and many end up with vocal strain and nodules as a result of this and overuse). Here are some pop singers who do practice good vocal technique.
#5 Vocal techniques from drama students: diction
Our next technique is not sung but is very important. And that is diction. This is something that drama students and actors know all about, as they spend years working on crisping up consonants. You might think this won’t help in singing, but how you pronounce words and clarity of lyrics makes a huge difference. This technique is achieved with tongue twisters, so it’s a lot of fun. Use a variety to cover all the different sounds, you can even make up your own. Here are some you might like to try – see how fast you can get at them!
- She sells seashells on the seashore
- Red lorry yellow lorry
- Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
- How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
- All I want is a proper cup of coffee, made in a proper copper coffee pot
- Nine nimble noblemen nibbling nuts
- Quizzical quiz, kiss me quick
- Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager managing an imaginary menagerie
- Round the rugged rock, the raggedy rascal ran
Complete vocal technique pdf
If it’s helpful to have a crib sheet when working through your exercises, you can download and print off PDFs like this one.
#6 Vocal belt technique
Whether you need or can use this, will depend on the type of music you sing. Pop ballads and musical theatre songs are the most common sources of belt singing and it sounds very impressive.
What is vocal belting technique?
This uses a combination of upper and lower resonances to create a controlled, powerful, impressive sound. Produce a belt by following these steps:
- Open your mouth wide as you produce the sound.
- Keep your tongue down.
- Think of the sound coming from the front of your face as you sing.
- Make a note that almost sounds like a yell. You can practice this by sing/shouting the word ‘hey’ and extending the vowel to create a speak/sing note.
- Do the same with ‘whey’ and try to get the sound to resonate into your nose too.
- Engage your core.
Belting can be tricky at first, so this is one you will benefit from learning from a one-on-one coaching session.
#7 Voice modulation techniques for singing
Modulation technique allows you to create a powerful effect. It’s the ability to go from a whisper sound to a contrasting full-on belt – and everything in between. This is how you create the drama in your performance. It’s a must-have skill for those singing big ballads and emotional pieces, or genres of music that changes pitch between phrases, like Bollywood songs.
Vocal skills in singing
This is an advanced skill. So ensure you’ve got the hang of your basic technique first. You’ll need good breath control and ideally a decent range to pull this off. Your humming and sirening will stand you in good stead for developing modulation. Here’s a full class taking you through this technique.
#8 Twang via the aryepiglottic sphincter
Now we’re getting into some even more advanced and creative techniques. If you’d like to incorporate some twang into your tunes, this is how you achieve it.
First, try swallowing slowly and notice what happens. The area in your throat at the level of the larynx is the aryepiglottic sphincter. But you use something called the epiglottis to close it over, against the larynx. It’s the epiglottis that you have control over and it in turns affects the aryepiglottic sphincter, which changes the sound. Try singing a note clearly, then start to close your throat while still making the sound, as if you were about to swallow (don’t fully swallow, just move in that direction). You’ll hear the note sounds more ‘twangy’ – and that is how you use this technique.
You can play around with this and use it to produce unusual effects.
Types of vocal techniques
There are various techniques, but they can be categorised as foundational and advanced. This isn’t a technique you should try and master until you have your breathing, diction, posture and warm-up routine down.
#9 Vibrato singing techniques
Vibrato is a kind of soft wobble in the voice heard son extended notes. It often occurs naturally, so you may not need to learn this technique. Not all types of music need it, while for others, such as opera, it is essential. Some people have too much vibrato and have to work to reduce it. But a little creates a lovely sound.
How to sing vibrato
To sing vibrato you need to create a muscular tremor in the vocal folds. This mostly comes when you have a strong command over your more basic techniques. You must breathe from the diaphragm and have full control – the voice should be relaxed, but not overly so. You must have control over the speed the breath is released and have a balanced chest and head voice – not one that changes in tone dramatically between the two. Once you feel confident in these areas, then you may well find the vibrato follows naturally. But if not, you can start doing these exercises to add it in.
#10 Healthy singing techniques for high notes
The most common and easiest technique used to sing high is the ‘think low’ technique. As simple as it sounds, you just ht the note thinking low and it helps the sound to flow out. It’s very helpful to use mental imagery when singing and can really steer the voice. You can also use this technique to achieve a sweet tone – just think sweet! You should also open your throat and back up the sound with the breath, to sing high.
Professional singing techniques terms
Here are more techniques used to sing high: falsetto, whistle register. While to sing low, singers might use a technique called vocal fry. These are advanced and should only be attempted once you have excellent basic technique, and ideally with the help of a vocal coach.
Other terms you’ll hear used are chest voice and head voice, these refer to where the sound is coming from ie. singing from the chest.
#11 Classical singing technique
Classical singing demands a very specific kind of technique and one that takes a long time to master.
History of singing
Pop is perhaps the biggest genre now. But it’s a relatively recent thing and is pre-dated by opera, musical theatre, folk, jazz and classical music. Some teachers train from the basis of classical technique as it gives a strong vocal foundation.
#12 Nasality in singing (how to do it and how not to do it)
As with vibrato and twang, too much nasality is not beneficial. But as a singer, the more techniques you have under your belt the better. Adding in a nasal sound here and there can be effective and make you a more versatile performer – it’s also a super tool if you ever want to sing comedy character songs, especially in musical theatre.
To get a nasal resonance you need the sound to travel past your soft palate by lowering it, you should feel a vibration in your nose. This is often described as singing in the ‘mask’ ie. the front of your face – it helps to visualise this as you sing. Singing the sound ‘ee’ is the best way to test this out.
To get rid of a nasal sound, you need to do the opposite and lift your soft palate. To test if you’re too nasal, sing while holding your nose. If the tone is the same, but you just sound a bit like you’ve got a cold, you’re not too nasal. If you hear a distinct change, then you have a ‘nasally’ voice.
Female and male singers with ‘nasally’ voice
The nasal tone is very acceptable in pop, with artists like Miley Cyrus, Rebecca Black, Celine Dion and Nick Jonas all working it.
#13 Whisper pop
A massive trend at the moment is the soft styled, sassy whisper pop. Whisper singing is often used in modulation technique, but in whisper pop it’s all on one level – and every effective. It’s also an easy one to adopt, as it needs little control and simply a breathy tone. If you’re used to letting rip, you’ll have to hold right back and let the breath escape. You’ll also need a decent mic ad amp, as you can’t sing this way loudly.
The whisper pop queen Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish has taken the industry by storm with her fresh new vocals. Her music is a prime example of whisper pop at work.
How can I improve my vocal techniques?
Training with a vocal coach who has experience in your genre of music is a good investment and the fastest way to improve your techniques. If you are working by yourself you have to be careful you’re not doing it slightly wrong and cementing bad habits. Doing breathing exercises following instructions, humming and sirens are all very safe for beginners working alone and will make a big impact. More experienced singers can attempt advanced techniques at home.
Estill voice exercises and Estill’s voice training
If you are flying solo, here’s a good programme of exercises you might want to work with.
And once you’ve mastered all – or some – of the techniques we’re talked about, keep going. As a singer, you never stop developing your instrument. Your voice will change over time and so may your repertoire, so always think of yourself as a work in progress.
- What helps a singing voice?
Looking after your overall health and keeping well strengthens your voice, as does plenty of practice. Drink plenty of warm water and infusions and eat a nutritious diet. If you experience any vocal strain you should rest until it gets better and be sure to take regular ‘vocal naps’.
- How can I improve my singing technique?
If you can afford it, get a singing teacher to help you. If not, follow the exercises we’ve listed and subscribed to a good YouTube vocal coach or singing app. Don’t skip the basics and work on your voice every day.
- What are the 6 types of voices?
The types of voices are as follows: Soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, tenor baritone and bass. The first three relate to women, the last three to men. Your voice type relates to how high or low you naturally sing. It helps to determine which part you sing in harmony and what songs suit you.
Have you used any other vocal techniques for a better singing voice? How has it changed your performances? Tell us about it in the comments below.