Are you struggling to create a beautiful sound? Maybe you’re too self-conscious to perform in public as you don’t believe you’re any good at it. Or perhaps you’ve written some tracks you’d like to release, but you don’t feel confident to record them yourself.
So you’re asking: why do my vocals sound bad? Chances are they’re not as bad as you think. And if they’re far from perfect, a little practice and know-how can completely transform your singing. It’s not all about natural talent but is a lot to do with effort.
Read on for everything you need to know and do to change your voice, whether singing on stage, at karaoke nights or when recording your music.
Why do my vocals sound bad?
‘Good’ singing, along with all forms of artistic endeavours, is somewhat arbitrary. What one person thinks is good, might not be the same as another’s opinion. So don’t feel downhearted if not everyone loves your style. Even the top musicians experience this. However, there are some fundamentals of singing that you do need to nail to be widely accepted as a good singer.
Still not convinced that you can alter your voice and make the grade? Check out this video to understand how you can improve and start with your first warm-up exercise.
Why does my singing voice sound bad?
Let’s look at the specific reason (or reasons) you may be having issues. Which of these do you think you’re struggling with?
- Lack of control
- Poor tuning
- Harsh tone
- Singing notes out of your range
- Tension in the body
- Choosing the wrong repertoire
- Pushing and straining
- Colds, flu and laryngitis
- The wrong equipment (in performances and recording)
If you’re a new singer it may be that you need to work on all of these. And that’s totally normal. You may have heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at something. That may or may not be true on a literal basis, but it does illustrate the point that you need to keep at it if you want to get to a pro-level. So don’t expect overnight results. And do expect to work hard at it.
How do you fix bad vocals?
Let’s take a look at each of these issues and identify how to improve on them.
Lack of control
Control is all about the breath and is one of the basic tenements of good singing, so work on this before anything else if it’s an issue. On a basic level, you need to access the full capacity of your lungs so that the breath goes in both vertically and horizontally. This wil provide you with enough air to support the sound. Next, you need to be able to release it in a sustained way. Imagine a blown-up balloon. If you were to pinch the top of it, the air stays in. You can either release the air on your terms gradually, but easing your grip, or by completely letting go. If you let go, the air comes whooshing out in one go.
Developing control in singing is much like a gradual release of grip on that balloon. But it’s a little trickier when it comes to doing this with your body. Follow these breath control exercises to find out how to do it and train your muscles to cope.
Sort your breathing and yot one will usually follow. However, if you’ve still got an unpleasant sound to your vocals, you can work on making them sweeter. Here are some tips for sweetening up your tone.
Singing notes out of your range
Occasionally this applies to the lower register, but the culprit for painful notes is almost always the very top of your range. First, identify the notes you can sing comfortably and stick within these for the time being. Once you have a solid foundation of technique you can sing through scales as part of your training and ease (not screech or force) the voice up the way. If a song is currently too high, get it transposed, or drop an octave where required. Or sing another song completely, which brings us onto…
Choosing the wrong repertoire
This is the simplest fix of all. Maybe you’re just singing the wrong songs. We don’t all suit every single genre. So try experimenting with different ones. You may stumble upon an unexpected vocal niche. It’s also a good idea to stick to music written for your voice type. You can search for songs according to this, be it tenor, baritone, bass, soprano, mezzo or alto.
Pushing and straining
This is a false shortcut to achieve power and range. But these elements only come with training. Don’t be tempted to force your voice in any way and if you ever feel hoarse or sore after singing, you’re doing it wrong (unless of course, you have an illness that’s causing it, in which case you definitely shouldn’t be pushing your vocals). Return to the techniques we’re discussing in this article and build up your voice, rather than pushing it.
Colds, flu and laryngitis
If you normally sound great but are having the kinds of issues caused by phlegm, raspiness and hoarseness, it’s best to rest your voice for a while. Keeping hydrated is vital, and sipping warm drinks can help. But if you absolutely need to sing on, you can find out how to perform when you’re sick, in this article.
We’ll also cover common issues such as tuning, tension, equipment and technology for recording further along in this article.
Bad singing techniques
Not only will bad singing techniques impact your sound, but they may also inflict damage on your vocals. Correct technique will give you longevity as a singer and protect your throat, larynx and vocal folds. So even if you don’t fancy lots of exercises and technique, you shouldn’t skip them.
Here’s a (before and after) video of a singer who went from ‘bad’ to brilliant. It proves how much you can alter your vocals over time and will hopefully inspire you to do the same.
How to make your voice sound better when recording
Perhaps you sound good when practising or on stage, but you need a little help to up the ante on your recordings. Here are some of the components needed to create a top-quality track.
- A great microphone (we’ll expand on this shortly)
- A quiet booth in which to record (this can be made at home)
- Recording and editing software
- Really good backing singers and/or instrumentalists and/or backing track
- Studio singing technique (notably clear diction)
Why does my singing voice sound bad recorded?
There can be other issues that surface when recording your singing and not all relate to the equipment you’re using. Diction may become all the more important, especially if you’re hearing popping ‘p’s and hissy ‘s’s. The simple answer to this is to practice some tongue twisters. Make this a part of your vocal routine if you’re a recording artist, as well as a live performer.
Here are some more exercises you can do to improve your diction and get studio-ready.
How to record studio-quality vocals on your computer
More and more artists are recording entire albums using their own equipment. While a recording studio is always preferable, if you’re not able to get into one due to budget or geographical restrictions, your computer is the next best thing. You’ll need to download software with autotune and to mix and master your tracks. These processes go a long way in helping you sound better. You’d be surprised to hear how some famous artists sound pre-edit!
Recording vocals at home and recording vocals in bedroom
Recording at home can be a challenge, with exterior distractions and a lack of professional equipment. Build your own DIY singing booth in your bedroom, to dampen the sound, reduce extraneous noise and cut out the echo.
Why do I sound bad when I sing karaoke?
Karaoke is deceptive. Because it’s a performance setting that allows literally anyone to have a go, it may seem like it should be easy. But it’s far from it. Many karaoke tracks are tricky to follow and you may find it hard to pitch even a song you know really well. Yet so many people seem to ace their favourite numbers. The key to this is to practice with the karaoke track before getting up in front of a crowd. Make sure you can pick up the topline and know when to come in, otherwise you could be in for an embarrassing set.
Singing out of tune
A major problem with karaoke is hearing the notes to enable you to pick up the tune. Unless you have perfect pitch, you can easily end up flat, sharp, pitchy, or completely off the note. This is the kind of thing that causes audience members to wince. And if you already have a tendency to one of these, it’ll be much worse with vague backing. Being able to sing on the note is vital for any vocalist. So if this is the issue that’s hampering your singing, following the instructions in this article to fix it.
My vocals sound thin
While there is a place for a thin sound, this may not be right for you, or it may be just too thin. If you’re trying to build power to no avail or feel your voice is pinched, you need to open up your vocals and release tension. First, be sure to work on the foundational skill of controlled breathing. Once you’ve got this down, it may be that all you need to do, is open your mouth wider to let the sound out. If your voice is still thin, try these methods:
- Raise your hard palate, as if you’re about to yawn, then try singing from that position. You should achieve a fuller, richer sound.
- Stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed and feet hip-width apart. As you sing imagine the notes bouncing off the back of the room.
- Eradicate any tension. This can creep when you’re nervous or apprehensive. Massage your jaw, have a good yawn and do some facial yoga.
Choosing a microphone to make the voice sound better
There’s a saying that ‘a carpenter is only as good as his tools’. To some degree, this applies to singers also. You may have perfect technique, beautiful tone and spot-on tuning, but if you’re amp’s producing a distorted sound or your mic is tinny, you’re never going to sound incredible.
A dynamic or condenser mic is generally best, although it depends what you’re using it for (video, live or recording). This is a large subject which we’ve covered in more detail with plenty of recommendations in this article on the best microphones for singing.
Mindset is everything. Try not to focus on the negatives, but don’t ignore them either. Identify what needs to change, make a plan and work toward a vocal transformation. With a bit of work and positive thinking, it’s not only possible to sound good, but very probable. Maybe make a recording of yourself now, so you can make your own ‘before and after’ compilation and monitor your progress. Tracking the changes can be a great motivator on days when you feel you’re not getting anywhere.
Can someone with a bad voice learn to sing?
Everyone has the capacity to learn to sing and develop a level of proficiency. A good start is not to label yourself as a ‘bad singer’, but rather believe you can do it! Commit some time and effort to practise (there are free lessons on YouTube) and you’ll see a huge improvement over a few months.
Is singing talent or skill?
Both. Some people have a natural ability, others pick it up as they go along through music lessons and self-improvement. The most successful formula is the vocalist born with talent, who also works on the skill of singing through coaching and learning good technique.
How can I hear my real voice?
You’ll sometime see singers cupping their hand over their ear. This is to create an echo chamber to hear the voice more clearly – it’s especially useful when you have others singing or playing around you and you want to zone in on the sound you’re making. Recording yourself is also a good method.
Do you think your vocals sound bad? Have you been able to improve your singing? How did you do it? Share your tips and vocal concerns in the comments below.