How To Improve Your Singing Voice
Maybe you’ve done some singing before at a small level or you’ve heard people say that you have a nice voice, but you don’t have a ton of confidence. Or maybe you refuse to sing in front of anybody at all but love to sing loudly to the radio in your car.
If any of these situations describe you, or even if you are a seasoned professional, and you have often wondered how to improve your singing voice, I’ve put together a few things that can help you do just that, in a short period of time. In this article you will find out:
- How to create enough space in your mouth and throat in order to sing with strength and resonance
- How to eliminate nasality
- One exercise that all singers should be doing regularly
When I first began to sing in front of people, I was performing musicals in my church. My theater and vocal instructors used to always say to me, “Open your mouth.” You see I had a tendency to mumble and speak lazily, as did my other beach bum surfing buddies in Southern California.
Dropping the Jaw
What they meant to say was that I needed to create space in my mouth and throat so that the sound, made by the air from my lungs passing across my vocal cords, would resonate as much as possible, around the space provided, in my throat and in my mouth. Part of the answer is just that—open your mouth more when you sing. Allow the sound to come out without it being blocked by the inside of your mouth.
The other, more technical part is a combination of dropping the jaw and dropping the larynx. Since I’ve touched on dropping the jaw in a previous article, I’ll just hit it briefly here and focus more on the dropping of the larynx.
Dropping the jaw doesn’t simply mean lowering your chin, although that will happen naturally as you drop your jaw. Dropping your jaw can be best demonstrated when you yawn. Even an artificial yawn will work. When you yawn, feel the gap created at the base of your jaw, under your ears. That’s what it means to drop the jaw. Notice how much space is created in your mouth. This is where your jaw needs to be when you sing, especially during the higher notes and on vowels.
And, speaking of vowels, here’s a quick thought along the same lines. Vowels are where singing becomes singing. It’s not on the consonants. So, it’s the vowels that you want to ring out and allow to resonate. A common problem with the untrained singer is vowel swallowing. Instead of allowing the vowel to ring out, the vowel is swallowed and quickly passed over to get to the consonant.
Dropping the Larynx
Your larynx will have a tendency to raise when you sing, especially when you go to hit the higher notes. But for the ideal tone, your larynx should drop or remain steady. Let me back up and make sure you know what and where the larynx is.
In the middle of your larynx is a bump that is called the Adam’s apple. It is more prominent in a guy than a girl, which is why it’s not called the Eve’s apple (very technical, and funny stuff, huh?!). If you place your finger on your throat and swallow, you will feel your larynx go up and then back down. And if you yawn—as I had you do above—you will fell the larynx go down. This lowered position is what you want when you sing. This creates the greatest amount of space in your throat and mouth, which is what is going to give you the best tone and resonance, not to mention the greatest amount of power in your voice.
Another factor in how to improve your singing voice is to get rid of that nasally tone, which squashes the pure, powerful resonate sound that you are capable of creating. The primary culprit that causes nasality is your soft palate. Your soft palate is located in the upper back part of your mouth. If you follow the roof of your mouth with your tongue all the way to the back, until drops off and gets squishy, that’s your soft palate.
Notice what happen when you yawn. Not only do your throat open up and your larynx drop, your soft palate raises up. This is where you want to be when you sing.
When your soft palate is down, it blocks off some of the air from coming out of your mouth and redirects it to you sinus and nasal cavity, escaping through your mouth. Now, it’s fine to have some air escape out of you nose, but, in order to have the greatest tone, it should primarily come out of your mouth.
Now the nose has its function in singing, of course. When you mouth certain consonants, like ‘M’, ‘N and ‘NG’, the air is completely cut off from your throat. The only place it has to at this point is out of your nose. That’s great. But you want to get off of that consonant sound as soon as possible, raising up that soft palate and resonating on the next vowel. This is how you will eliminate nasality and use your primary resonators (chest, throat and mouth) more fully and your secondary resonators (sinuses, nasal cavity and nose) secondarily.
I want to give you a couple of exercises that will help you eliminate nasality. The first one, The Plug, is an exercise that you can keep coming back to in order to monitor your progress, and the second one, the Nair Exercise is one that would be a great one to add to your daily vocal warm up and/or strengthening exercise routine.
This exercise is to simply plug your nose with your fingers and attempt to sing a note, a series of notes or part of a song. Notice how nasally it sounds. Then see what you have to do in order to make it less so. This exercise will give you an idea of what it feels like to raise your soft palate and will be a good monitoring exercise to see where you’re at in terms of nasality.
This exercise is designed to warm up your voice while loosening up your sinuses and giving you an idea of where the nasal sound is coming from. Sing the word, ‘Nair’ using the pattern, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1”. Climb up each note until you’ve climbed up five notes; then descend back down. Then increase your starting note by one step, one key and repeat. Do this as many times as you can in one minute.
I hope this is helpful, and thanks for reading!