How to sing like a pro

Before I dive into some of my top tips for singers, I’d like you to think about something. As vocalists, we don’t just commit to the physical act of making music and sound, we are an entire human being. Whilst studying vocal health education further I came across the term,

“You are a whole human being, not just a voice.”

And this really struck me. We must look after the physical, technical and psychological aspects of ourselves as human beings in order to achieve our vocal aspirations. Our mind and body must work in harmony for us to sing with ease and freedom.

Singing is a journey. In order to develop we must understand that practice really does make perfect. Like honing any skill, there is no quick solution. As unique beings we all work at varying speeds and travel along our own timeline. There is, however, an opportunity to watch yourself go from strength to strength and experience how some simple steps can see big results when you commit to yourself.

What do you want?

I always ask vocalists to first identify what it is that they are looking to get out of vocal lessons/study or performance. This can be anything from wanting to gain more confidence with their voice to wanting to achieve a bigger vocal range. Having an idea of where you want your main point of focus to be will allow you to witness your own development. Taking stock of where you are and where you want to be will help to inform you when you finally get there! Of course, you may not know specific goals yet and that is also fine. Getting started and simply singing is the best place to start.

Warm up and warm down

It’s important that vocalists make sure they are fully prepared to sing to keep the voice safe, well looked after and well supported. Now, each vocalist will be different – each is unique and no one singer the same. Even though we have the same internal mechanisms that allow us to sing, our bodies are different and should be embraced for that fact.

Dependant on what you have experienced the day before, for example, will mean each vocalist will need a different level of warm up. Some voices need more time than others. The most important thing is that we find balance otherwise either too little or too much vocal warm up can put our voice at risk of tiring or potential damage. What your warmup consists of however, can be the same for all of us. It doesn’t need to be fancy and involve lots of vocal acrobatics!

The Technique

  • Get moving. Blood flow throughout the entire body is important for the voice. We want to activate and wake everything up!
  • Keep the warmup light and easy. I like using slides between the 1st and 5th notes of a scale. You can then progress this to the full octave. Sirens might be something you are already familiar with.
  • Keep it simple. Scales work well to give the voice a full warm up. Vary the vowel and words to expand the exercise.
  • Pick a song. Using a couple of sentences of a song you know well then moving it throughout your range is a great way to warm up the voice. Perhaps you have a favourite TV theme tune or a song from your favourite artist? Something that you can take anywhere with you and recall in your head!
  • Follow a consistent set of vocal exercises so that you can observe any changes, developments or new achievements within a voice. These consistent exercises can act as a measure within your practice.
  • Once you have performed, done a session, recorded or had a full-on vocal practice it is important to cool your voice down. As vocalists we are much like athletes. Singing is a very physical process and so taking some time to warm down helps us to bring the voice back down to neutral. It will also benefit the voice ahead of the next day.

SOVT

SOVT stands for Semi-Occluded Vocal Tract. In simple terms it means the mouth is partially closed. During SOVT exercises there is less impact, collision and stress on the vocal folds.

A popular way to approach SOVT is with straw phonation. There is less impact and stress on the muscles while still allowing them to stretch. Can’t find a straw? No problem! You can use a tongue/lip trill, MMM or NNNGGGG sounds to achieve the semi-occluded vocal tract exercise. See some steps below!

  1. Firstly, test making sound through the straw.
  2. Now go from your lowest range to highest and then down again. (Slide)
  3. We are then going to vary the exercise by making progressively larger hills within the pitch and volume of your voice.
  4. Then pick a song of your choice and sing this through your straw.

Time to get singing!

Preparing the voice is key, so using all the above can become a consistent part of your practice. Granted, warming up and preparing the voice isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But when it comes to singing it is important that you feel you can just let go and let out your sound!

Start by singing through some of your favourite songs whether these are covers or your own. What you want will direct your focus here. Having an awareness of the full experience is good, however we also want to make sure that by the time we get to performing our muscle memory can kick in with all the technique stuff and we can just let go and have fun.

Our bodies are amazing

Our instrument is our body. This is something that I find incredibly fascinating and has been a big reason behind so much of my interest in singing. Your voice will develop and go through many changes. You will have great days and bad days. There will be times you feel out of control of your sound and times where everything just falls into place.

Remember, the key is your initial drive and love for your instrument. If you care, you will commit. And it is that commitment that will allow for a more open-minded and incredible experience for your voice.

Check out these useful videos to further your vocal knowledge:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZfCJ4xBYdY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lqiiYh_ZA4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R4f4bSxofs

https://youtu.be/0xYDvwvmBIM

To find out more, check out our courses here.

By Megan Sayer

As an active vocalist and musical theatre artist, Megan’s career has taken her from band leader on international cruise ships, to singing at the London 2012 Olympics for Coca Cola. She’s also trod the boards at The London Palladium alongside Jason Donovan and Wayne Sleep. An established tutor, Megan has led the vocal development of many students, both privately and at various institutions. She’s held the role of musical director on both the children’s choir for the Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat national tour, and Britain’s Got Talent Winners Collabro for their UK tour. Also a singer songwriter, she has her originals project ‘Franklin’ and works as a session vocalist for various artists and projects. Megan graduated from WaterBear with a MA in Innovation and Enterprise.
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