Establish a Regular Routine of Working Out
The first piece of advice I give anyone wanting to improve their singing voice is to establish a regular routine of working out. Singing is a sport. While it uses many of the same muscles as talking, it’s the difference between taking a walk down the street and running a marathon. It’s the difference between picking up a gallon of milk and lifting 575 pounds.
If you’re not working out most days by either running at least 5-10 miles or picking up things that weigh between 200-300 pounds, you’re never going to run the 26-mile long marathon or lift the 575 pounds in one go.
Having the strength and stamina to sing a three-minute song while projecting your voice in such a way that it sounds beautiful and that people can hear you and understand what you’re singing takes daily vocal workouts.
What I Don’t Mean by a Daily Workout
Singing along with the radio or even singing a few songs for a half hour or so is not a workout. Most songs do not require that you sing throughout your entire range.
I also don’t mean something easy. If you’re working out, it should cost you something physically. It should feel like you’re working.
Through daily exercise, the average person is capable of acquiring a 2-1/2 to 3 octave range. Not only that, the average person is already capable of singing in at least three registers. But unless you are requiring those things of your voice on a regular basis, you’re never going to get there. You’re not going to be able to just walk over to that 575 pound thing and lift it up.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…
A Daily Vocal Workout That I Recommend
Chris and Carole Beatty have produced multiple CDs to train vocalists, but my personal favorites are these two:
Most days, I use the for medium and low voice, but if I’m having a good day, I stretch and use the one for high. Granted, Chris has a weird formal manner to him, but he and Carole have crafted vocal workout perfection. Not only that, these CD’s are accompaniment tracks, and you can just focus on singing without having to find a piano to get your pitches.
Take the Time to Learn All The Melodies
The only thing about these workouts is that it takes some concerted effort to learn the little melodies. And unless you are singing them with the correct notes, you’re going to be flailing around. You might be lifting the 200 lb. weight, but it’s not going to look pretty. You’ll be expending way more energy waving it around in the air as you try to lift it than is necessary.
So learn the little melodies: all 20 of them. I already had my degree in voice when I first tried to learn the Beatty’s workout, and it still took me two weeks of daily practice to get them under my belt.
Learn How To Correctly Shape All the Vowels
I was thinking I could find a YouTube video of someone already explaining this, but, alas, they are all way too technical, so I had to do my own video (see below). Meanwhile, suffice it to say that your mouth shape should look like the vowel you are trying to sing. If you’re singing an “o” sound, you’re lips should be shaping an “o”. If you’re singing an “ah” sound, your jaw should be stretched way open to the point at which you could fit two finger widths between your front teeth.
This takes a bit of work, and you’re not going to like the way you look or feel. It’s different than every day speaking. I mean, WAY different.
To project your voice in a sustainable tone, you have to OPEN your mouth WAY BIGGER than you ever do in daily speech. One of my former students, Dana Shelton, said, “Oh, you mean OPERA OPEN!” Yes. Opera open.
And you’re not going to ever feel good about it or even be able to do it unless you’re working on it daily and watching yourself in the mirror. One of the exercises is just on an “ah” vowel for about three minutes. You don’t get that kind of work when you’re just singing a song.
Work Up to the Entire Thirty Minute Workout
The third step is to work yourself up to being able to sing the entire 30-minute workout in one go. I find that a great place to do this is in the shower. The reverb is great, the humidity is lovely, and you just sound better in there. Science has shown that if you sound good to yourself, you actually sing with better technique.
Do the Workout Five Times a Week For At Least Two Weeks
The fourth step is to experience the benefits of all your work. Once you can sing the entire workout correctly in one go and have been doing it at least five times a week for several weeks, NOW go sing some songs for at least 45 minutes and see if you don’t feel like you can sing anything. All of a sudden you will love your voice and everything about singing and never want to sing again without a complete warm-up.