Singing well takes a lot of practice and discipline. Sure, you may sound just fine singing along to your favorite songs on the way to work, but not so well to trained professionals. Well-trained singers of all stripes can make it look easy, and that is the secret of a proper vocal technique. Singing properly also better guarantees that your vocal chords will stay in good shape throughout your pursuit.
The first thing to do when training yourself to sing better is to stop and pay attention to the way you’re singing. When you breathe in, do your shoulders or chest lift? Do you sound nasally at times? Are you having a hard time getting out the high notes? Once you identify what’s wrong with your technique, you can work to improve it.
For example, if you have a problem with nasality, you will get a much better sound, and treat your larynx better, singing with a more open jaw. This lifts the soft palate, located in the back of the roof of your mouth, and opens up your throat. You can tell whether the palate is raised by holding your nose and sing a few vowels. A lowered palate causes nasality, diminishing the quality of the sound you produce. The best way to avoid this is to first make yourself conscious of that area—you can find the feel of the soft palate opening by yawning, or opening your jaw as if about to yawn, for example—and practice first with rounded vowel exercises: ah, eh, ee, oh, oo.
If it’s not the soft palate that’s diminishing the quality of your sound, you may be raising your larynx. Raising your larynx while singing is another thing to avoid. When the larynx is raised, it creates a tightness in your throat and restricts the amount of air you can expel from your lungs. To lower your larynx when you sing, try running through scales (ie. “do re mi…”) making a sound like “buh,” “guh,” or “mum.” These exercises will help lower the position of your larynx when you sing. Don’t get your larynx too low, though, because that will lower your ability to properly project. If that happens, try going through the scales singing “no” or “nay,” emphasizing the consonants, to bring it up.
There are plenty of other exercises to improve your vocal technique, each designed to improve and warm up an area of breathing and vocalization. Have a look at our articles which provide lots of information about singing exercises.