What's our goal?
You probably opened this guide with a simple goal: “learn how to sing (better)”. But what does that mean? If we don’t know what we’re really after, how do we know what to do? Or when we’ve achieved it?
To me, this is “good” usage of your voice:
- No need to think about it.
- It doesn’t hurt and your voice doesn’t tire / change quickly.
- Only the necessary muscles are active; the rest is relaxed.
- You have control. Control over volume, tone, keeping a steady note, whatever you want to do.
- You can be understood clearly ( = good articulation)
An easy test
There’s a quick test you can do.
See if you can go from speaking to singing without any issue or change.
The best singers can be telling a story, then suddenly burst out into song, then go back to telling a story. The tone of their voice stays constant, whether they say or sing a word. They can sing very softly, yet controlled.
Many people struggle with this simple thing. Why? Because they have all these bad habits when it comes to singing. They think they need to tense their muscles. They think they need gallons of air, or a super wide mouth, or whatever. The result is that you, subconsciously, change your posture, breathing, everything when you start to sing.
This is probably the biggest issue. If you’re able to remove this “tension” before producing a note, you’ll make your life a lot easier.
So, what are we aiming for?
- Whenever you do the exercises (in this guide), check for these bad habits. Maybe your neck strains before you start singing. Maybe you take a gulp of air. When you notice it, try to relax and see if you can produce a note without that habit.
- These exercises help relax and coordinate muscles. When doing them, make sure you do them as relaxed and correct as possible.
- But when you’re actually singing? When you’re not doing the exercise? Stop thinking about it. Just sing. Let it out. The exercises should have trained you to automatically do the right things.
In my case, my body was really tense. (Because I’m in quite some pain due to my chronic disease.) I couldn’t even do many exercises … until I spent a few weeks doing only relaxation exercises and no other singing (or speaking, really).
Often it doesn’t feel like you’re progressing—even if you actually are. Because progress happens in bursts. Because you need to climb over some physical obstacles, before the path towards better technique is available.
With every exercise, try to do them daily and stick with them for at least 1–3 months. If you see no improvement then, you can safely give it up and focus on something else. (There’s no sense doing something every day that has no benefits.)
And as always: if possible, regularly visit an expert. They can ensure you’re not training the wrong way and probably give more specific tips.
I’ve heard some say that vocal exercises are stupid and only teach you to sing in a boring way. This is not true, of course.
Many rock and metal singers do vocal exercises before all their shows. So that they can scream all they want without hurting their voice (very much). Screaming is never good, but good vocal technique can minimize the stress if you are that wild.
The results of not doing this can clearly be heard in singers like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, who barely have a voice left. If you have control over your voice, you can sing any way you like.
About the exercises
This guide will often mention ~5 exercises per topic. Don’t try to do them all! It’s way too much work! Singing will stop being fun and become a chore.
Pick the ones that work best for you. Pick the ones you enjoy the most, or which are easiest to integrate into your daily schedule.
Where possible, I do sort the exercises from beginner to advanced. As such, when in doubt, just start with the first exercise and move down the list.
I also don’t provide a video for the exercises. For every exercise, you can find countless of high quality videos that show how to do it (and maybe how it should sound). I always encourage more research and finding your own path towards learning something!
Besides, it felt pointless to make more myself. And slightly impossible, as I do not have the equipment, besides a very good microphone ;)
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