Singing lessons are a fantastic way to improve your voice, and the world's most respected artists have all had lessons at some point or another in their careers.
A teacher can guide and assist you in numerous ways in order for your voice to grow, strengthen and reach its full potential.
Often though circumstances, unfortunately, do not allow for the taking of singing lessons. It could be for a variety of reasons, including financial limits or perhaps even building your confidence toward singing in front of another person.
In the meantime, should you not be ready for lessons quite yet, here are a few tips and pointers to help you start on the road to improved singing.
Please keep in mind, however, that these are not substitutes for professional voice training, but rather smaller stepping stones to be used in the interim period on your way to some voice coaching.
Look After Yourself
Teacher or no teacher, your voice is something that should be looked after and cared for. This is true for all singers.
The best way to do this is for you to remain healthy.
A nutritious diet and enough rest will create a strong immune system, which will, in turn, lead to protection from voice-affecting illnesses like the flu.
Exercising will help to increase the ability of your lungs, manage stress (which can also affect your voice) and aid in breathing more effectively. Keep in mind that smoke will cause irritation and strain on your voice as well as dry it out. Some medications may also cause a dry throat.
You need to stay hydrated for your voice to perform at its best, so drink enough water. Dehydration may cause your voice to sound nasal and affect your ability to hit exact notes.
Remember To Warm Up
In the same way, that a sportsman warms up before a training session, your voice needs to be warmed up before a singing session. Warming your voice up improves your sound as well as aid in preventing injury.
Should you feel any discomfort, pain or strain, stop immediately. This pertains to both warm-ups and during singing.
Practicing scales is a great way to warm up. This will also help you to perfect your ear training. Ear training is a skill which enables musicians to identify things like notes, melodies, chords and scales merely by listening to them.
Here are a few warm up exercises that you can use:
Tension during breathing can have a massive effect on your vocal muscles. This exercise will aid in releasing tension and can be done without the aid of any professional voice training.
Your muscles need to be trained to breathe correctly, but apart from breathing, posture also plays an important role.
Breath travels to the mouth straight from the lungs and poor posture can create an obstruction which could, in turn, affect your singing.
Breathe in normally and exhale. Keep your shoulders relaxed and low. Repeat your breaths whilst making sure they are taken from the stomach, with no tension on your neck, shoulder or chest area.
Feel free to put a hand on your tummy as a reminder to keep the focus there. Now, make a long “s” sound whilst exhaling, similar to the sound made in the word hiss.
This exercise aids in releasing lip and vocal tension.
Lightly place your lips together and gently and steadily blow the air out in order to create a trill sound. Hold the note whilst the air moves past your lips.
Once you are comfortably holding the note, keep going with it and proceed with a scale.
This exercise aids in relaxing the tongue and works in the same manner lips trills do. Again, no formal voice training is needed to perfect this exercise.
Start by placing your tongue behind your top teeth and whilst exhaling, create a tongue trill with the “r” sound. While keeping the note steady, start moving up and down a scale without straining or irritating your voice.
Make a recording
Recording yourself whilst singing has various benefits, and it's so easy.
Many laptops and phones have recording devices should you not wish to invest in a microphone straight away.
Firstly, it will give you an opportunity to hear yourself sing. This also paves the way toward singing more comfortably in front of others.
Secondly, it enables you to track the development of your voice and monitor how far you have come. The progress made will motivate you to keep moving forward.
Thirdly, a recording can help you to identify the specific areas that need focus, but also the areas which you liked hearing and can feel proud of!
Consider using an instrument (even a digital one that you can find online) to accompany your song. It will help in hitting the right notes and to keep you in tune.
For the best results, try to have a daily practice session. If you find that you have a busy day ahead and might not be able to put some time aside for any singing lessons, sing in the shower or on the way to work!
Any chance you can find to sing...just sing! This will help your voice to strengthen and grow even faster.
If you are looking to fill your voice with natural vibrato, here is a quick exercise:
- Do this exercise in front of a mirror. Using both hands, press on your chest and then raise it up with a deep breath, higher than usual. Breathe in and then out, without lowering your chest.
- Keeping your chest raised, sing and hold a note for as long as you can. About halfway through singing the note, press on your chest again whilst raising it further.
- Keep the back of your neck relaxed, your jaw open, chin slightly tucked and chest raised, whilst singing the note.
When you press down on your chest, it allows you to monitor your breathing and be completely aware of the position. You can confirm that it is still raised and feel if your chest perhaps starts to drop during the exercise.
So remember, it is always best to take singing lessons with a professional, but the bottom line is that there are a wide variety of things that you can do without a teacher to protect and grow your voice and reach your maximum potential.
As with anything in life, there are also exceptions to the rule. Some singers have managed to become world famous without ever having a voice lesson! Ellie Goulding is a prime example of this. Never having had a voice lesson in her life (apart from a lesson on breathing) she has become a huge musical sensation.
So take it all in and consider what it is that is holding you back from taking lessons and whether that reason will change in your foreseeable future. If you need to be reminded that sometimes the impossible is indeed possible and that you can, in fact, make a start on your career without initial lessons, have a look at Justin Bieber’s first experience!
“I started singing about three years ago, I entered a local singing competition called Stratford Idol. The other people in the competition had been taking singing lessons and had vocal coaches. I wasn't taking it too seriously at the time, I would just sing around the house. I was only 12 and I got second place.”
And with that bit of vital inspiration, I rest my case...
About the Author: Julie Adams
I am a mom, a music lover and teacher from Tampa, FL. After completing a Bachelor of Music in Performance Arts, I traveled for several years before returning home where I started offering private piano and singing lessons as extra income. I met my husband in 2009 and 2 years later moved to Dallas where we settled down and I started focusing on vocal training to aspiring singers and performance artists of all age groups. I still enjoy playing the piano very much, and in my spare time you will catch doing some horse riding, drawing, doing some light reading, or just spending quality time with my family.