Understand vocal registers
Head voice- Not to be confused with “falsetto”, singing in your “head voice” is when the sound you are producing is mostly resonating from your sinuses. Typically your head voice will reflect the higher register of your range, and a brighter, rounder sound.
How to recognize if you’re singing in your head voice: press your fingers to the sides of your face, right in front of your ears. You should be able to feel a distinct vibration in the upper half of your face.
Middle Voice- Singing in your “middle voice” is when the sound you are producing is mostly resonating from your hard palate (the roof of your mouth).
How to recognize if you’re singing in your middle voice: if you press your fingers to the sides of your upper neck, right below your jaw, you should be able to feel the sound vibrating.
Chest Voice- When you sing in your “chest voice”, the sound will be much fuller and more powerful, more like your normal speaking voice and in the lower register of your range.
How to recognize if you’re singing in your chest voice: press your fingers to the middle of your chest, near your sternum. Speak. You should feel vibration. Try singing a note with this same resonance. If you’re doing it correctly, you should be able to feel your chest vibrating in the same way.
2. Vocal warmups and exercises:
When you are about to go for a jog or play a sport, you stretch. You get your muscles warmed up to improve your athletic performance and prevent injury. It is important to do the same thing with your voice before you sing. Doing vocal warmups before singing will optimize the quality of your voice and prevent vocal injury.
Warmup #1: Breathing
Place your hand on your stomach. Relax your shoulders. Your breathing should be focused in your lower abdomen, not your chest. Count to 5 while you slowly breathe in through your nose. Feel your stomach expand as you inhale. Hold your breath for another 5 counts. Count to 5 for a third time as you exhale through your mouth. Push as much air out of your body as you can. Do this a few times. It will help you regulate your breathing while you sing, and will allow you to sustain your voice for longer periods of time in-between breaths.
Warmup # 2: Jaw Relaxation
Relieve tension in your jaw by placing the heels of your hands right underneath of your cheek bones. Relax your jaw and let it drop as you massage the sides of your face in a circular motion.
Warmup # 3: Lip trills
Let your lips rest together loosely. Inhale. Exhale and release a steady stream of air through your lips, creating a trilling or “raspberry” sound. Start by trilling a high note and sliding down to the lowest note you can reach while consistently releasing air through your lips. Then do the opposite- start by trilling a low note and sliding up to the highest note you can reach. Spend a few moments trilling in both the lowest and highest registers of your voice. Do this a few times. This exercise helps to relax and open up your mouth and lips while also warming up vocally.
Warmup # 4: Scales/Arpeggios:
Vocalizing up and down scales will provide a maximum stretch for your vocal folds. Start with a low note. Jump up and back down the octave in thirds. If you are familiar with Solfege (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti), think of it as singing every other one. So you will be singing “Do, Mi, So, Do, So, Mi, Do”. The middle “Do” should be the highest note you sing and the first and third “Do” should be the lowest. This is called an arpeggio- a chord that is broken into a sequence of notes. Continue to slide up, starting on a higher note each time until you reach the top of your vocal range. Make sure you don’t try to push to hard past the top of your range or you may damage your voice.
3. Ways to practice and improve:
1. Record yourself- take a video or audio recording of yourself singing. Play it back and determine what sounds good and what needs work. Here are some things to look out for:
1. Timing- make sure you are singing on beat
2. Tone- is your sound bright or dark? Full or thin?
3. Pitch- are you singing in the right key? Are you sharp (singing each note too high) or flat (singing each note too low)?
4. Listen to music:
1. Pick songs that you know well to practice with. Try singing along and matching the timing and pitch of the artist.
Find some form of instruction
2. There are plenty of video tutorials on the internet that can show you various vocal techniques, exercises, tricks to expand your range, and music theory fundamentals.
3. Get a vocal coach. Regularly working with a trained professional can really help you take things to the next level.
Take care of your voice
1. Stay hydrated
2. Don’t drink caffeine
3. Get plenty of sleep
4. Exercise your voice every day
5. Try to avoid screaming or yelling
6. Don’t smoke
7. When doing exercises and warmups, only push the top of your range in small intervals.