How To Sing Better
What does exactly “singing better” mean to you? Singing with more confidence? Singing in tune? Hitting the high notes with ease? All the above? Something completely different? There are so many elements that come into play when you sing, that the very first step towards becoming a better singer is to be fully aware of your weak areas. Neglect any of your weaknesses and you very likely won’t fulfill your singing potential. On the other hand, strategic work, dedication and a will to refine your vocal skills will go a long way.
Before I get into more details, I would define a good singer like someone who can deliver a song with feeling and the support of a solid vocal technique. I will describe how you can get better at the technical and emotional sides of singing separately in this post.
The 4 Pillars Of Singing
I believe that there are 4 fundamental areas you need to master in order to become a better singer. You can read through all of them or skip to the section that’s more relevant to your needs:
Probably the most obvious element, you definitely want to make sure you sing in tune. Let’s make a practical example to explain what that means: if you’re singing along to a song, the melody you sing has to match exactly the one on the recording and should be neither sharp (pitched above the actual melody) nor flat (pitched below the actual melody). If you’re not sure, you can record yourself and find out whether your pitch is accurate when you listen back to your recording. If all sounds nice and smooth, you’re likely to be singing in tune. If you’re cringing by the end of the playback, you’re probably not. In this case, you can use the feedback from your playback session to highlight the sections that require pitch adjustments and pay extra attention to them when running through the song again. If still in doubt, I would recommend you book a few ear-training sessions, to educate your ears in recognizing pitches and their relative distance. Singing out of tune is most of the time a listening issue rather than a singing one. Don’t be intimidated though, it’s easier than it sounds and the benefits of such training will be huge for the quality of your singing.
You might object that there are software such as Melodyne and Auto-tune that can make you sound pitch-perfect both live and in the studio even if your pitch is sub-par.
That’s true to some extent. However, my counter-objection is that the more out-of tune someone sings, the more unnatural their voice will sound after it’s being processed by either software. So, despite the autotuners being amazing tools, you definitely need to develop an excellent control on your pitch, without having to rely too much on technology, if you want to sing better.
2. Breathing support
I’m not going to get into the details of a correct breathing technique here, although you can check out my other post Breathing For Singing if you want to find out more about it.
I just want you to be aware that a good coordination between your breathing and your voice is key if you want to sing better. The way you let the air go through your vocal chords, the pressure of the air, how you pace yourself while breathing out, the coordination between your abs and the muscles surrounding your rib cage all affect the quality of your singing. Breathing shouldn’t be an afterthought, rather the foundation of your singing. If your goal is to understand how to sing better, you definitely want to spend enough time developing a solid breathing technique that can truly support your singing.
3. Voice Production
Ask yourself: is your vocal onset balanced, glottal or aspirate? Can you project the sound of your voice? Can you use the cavities in your skull for more resonance or to achieve a different tone quality through placement (i.e. nasal?). Are you aware of your different vocal registers and can you access the most appropriate whenever you need? The list could go on and on and this paragraph alone could (and probably will) be the subject of a separate post. The point is that there’s a lot going on when you sing. Mastering any of these elements, one by one, will take you a step closer to becoming the best singer you can be. It takes time and dedication, but it can definitely be done, either on your own or with the help of an experienced vocal coach.
4. Vocal Technique
When it comes to vocal technique, I think of a skill set that can facilitate the way you express the emotions and meaning of a song through your voice. You want to make sure you can access any pitch within your range without struggling, especially when it comes to hitting the high notes.
“You want a voice that’s agile and able to move with precision through quick vocal licks. You want to be able to easily change vocal dynamics and move from pp (pianissimo = very quite) to ff (fortissimo = very loud) in a conscious and controlled way. You want to be able to add effects such as vibrato or fry when appropriate, to enhance the vocal delivery of your song.
I hope you don’t feel intimidated or overloaded by the information I’m providing you with. You’re roughly 900 words into this post, though. If you’ve managed to make it this far, I’m pretty sure that you’ll also have the determination to build your technique and learn how to sing better!
1/3 Technique + 2/3 Emotion = The Perfect Mix
Given the choice to watch someone sing with perfect technique but zero emotion or the opposite, someone with a rough technique but great feeling and emotion, I’d go for the latter any day of the week. A bad technique can be harmful for the singer’s voice though and I’m convinced that a solid technical foundation can also provide you with more means to express yourself. But how do you give goose bumps to your listeners (or even to yourself?). The key is a deep connection with the lyrics you’re singing. If you’re writing your own songs, that should come natural. If you’re singing someone else’s songs though, you should find a way to relate to the lyrics you’re singing and establish a personal connection, so that you can sing every word as if it was yours.
Also, you should pick songs that are suitable for your singing level in order to explore your voice’s full potential, without overwhelming it.
I hope you’ve found the info included in this post useful and that it helped you get a better understanding on how to sing better.
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