So, you have finally decided to give singing a try for real. For most of us, this is a road filled with hard work and patience as we slowly improve our singing skills. Hours of singing scales, mimicking pitch and tone, and breathing exercises await you, but there is no need to feel discouraged. As your ability improves, you will enjoy instant rewards when you realize how far you’ve come.
The first challenge you will encounter in your training is how to practice singing. There are plenty of singing methods, courses, and books that promote one way or another to improve your singing. While all of them claim to produce results, the results are much more individual. What works for one person might not be effective for another. The good thing to know is that you can learn to sing, so don't think it's not something you can't improve!
I have prepared a short guide about how to practice singing for vocal improvement, and I’ve outlined some of the most popular singing methods and exercises. If you want to know more about how you can improve as a singer, read on!
Make Practice a Daily Ritual
The way singers practice and train their voice is very similar to how professional athletes hone their skills. In the case of singing, your body is a live instrument – including your diaphragm, vocal cords, and tongue – that produce your singing voice. And you must train your instrument the same way athletes train for competitions: Practice.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of a daily practice routine. This routine is the backbone of your singing improvement and a way to learn to push your voice to the limits – but not beyond – and forge a reliable, consistent performance. Singers need technique, stamina, and physical fitness to withstand the physical challenges that singing performances entail.
At the same time, be aware that you can overtrain your vocal cords and potentially damage them by excessive practice and stress. Make sure to listen to your body and keep your practice routine demanding but reasonable.
Before getting into details about specific exercises, let’s touch on the three most important aspects of your daily practice routine: Location, time, and duration.
The location of your practice should be quiet and without distractions. It might be your room, home office, basement, or attic. You need just enough space to move around for your warmups and stretch your body freely. Beginners especially should not invest a lot of money into creating a practice space or renting one.
There is no wrong time for your practice routine. Some singers find it helpful to practice in the evenings and mimick the time they expect to perform most of their gigs. Be sure to make your practice time consistent, as this will help you develop a habit and put less strain on your body.
Finally, the duration of your practices will vary based on your skill level and stamina. Most beginners find it challenging to make it past 15-20 minutes of singing exercises to start, while more advanced singers can easily go through a 60-minute routine. Follow the program appropriate for your skill level and listen to your body. If your throat hurts when you sing, it’s time to stop. Otherwise, you risk damaging your vocal cords and negating much of your progress.
Singing Exercises for Improvement
You’ll find hundreds of singing exercises online, and some of them will suit your needs and goals, while others might seem redundant and unnecessary. With experience, you will be able to adjust your practice routine to your needs and get the best out of your practice time. Until then, here are the main exercises you should consider including in your daily practice:
Warmups are essential to a quality practice routine. They set the tone for the practice and help protect your voice from strain. Some of the most popular singing warmup exercises are lip buzz, solfege, and mah-may-me-mo-moo.
Lip buzz helps improve your breathing and stamina for singing. It is a simple exercise, as you vibrate your lips together, hard enough to feel a tingling sensation in your nose, ears, forehead, and cheeks. You can vary pitch when you do a lip buzz. Choose a pitch and hold it for 3-5 seconds at a time.
Solfege is the famous “Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do” exercise. It helps your ear training and understanding pitch better. You start with singing the scale from middle C and go up and down octaves within your vocal range.
Mah-may-me-mo-moo is an exercise for articulation, or diction. It will help you develop a clear voice that can deliver complex lyrics with clarity. It is a relaxed exercise, where you can pick a tone, for example, A3, and sing out the phrase clearly and slowly, focusing on each em. By moving up and down a scale, you can improve your diction further. This sort of practice is great for expanding your repertoire with singing styles such as raspy voice, too!
When you ask professionals how to practice singing, most of the advice will include some form of breathing exercises. Breathing exercises strengthen your diaphragm and improve your lung capacity, letting you develop a more powerful voice and increase overall singing stamina.
Controlled inhale/exhale exercises are great for strengthening your diaphragm. They are extremely easy to perform:
- Inhale your lungs to full capacity in four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds.
- Slowly mix it up by inhaling to ½ capacity in two seconds, hold for two seconds, then inhale for another two seconds until full capacity, and hold for another two seconds, finally exhaling for 4 seconds.
- Finally, repeat the same pattern in ¼ capacity increments, with one-second holds.
Another great way to develop stamina for signing is by doing standing posture and breathing exercises.
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Raise your arms so that they are parallel to your shoulders, making a T with your body.
- Pace your breathing and take slow breaths as you inhale and fill your lungs. The same goes for exhaling. You should feel tension and difficulty filling your lungs compared to your regular singing stance.
- To further improve the effectiveness of this exercise, add weights to each of your arms.
Read Next: Key Breathing Exercises for Singers
Focus on One or Few Songs
As a beginner, you will find it extremely challenging to tackle multiple songs at the same time and develop a genuine understanding of them. Instead, you should focus on a particular song that you like and at a level appropriate for your singing prowess. As you master a song to your or your coach's satisfaction, you can introduce more songs to your repertoire.
The easiest way to do this is:
- Pick a song that suits your skill level and about which you feel passionate.
- Spend time listening to the song and identifying areas that make it unique and moving.
- Practice singing the song while recording yourself, and compare your recordings to the original. Take notes and observe where you are missing the pitch or need to put more rhythm into your singing.
- Don’t be afraid to put emotion into your singing as you experiment with a song. In the end, making a song your own is what all singers strive to do.
Don’t Overthink, Just Do
One of the worst things you can do is spend months and months trying to come up with a perfect practice routine that will suddenly turn you into Whitney Houston. That is time poorly spent, when you could have been practicing to better your own voice. As a beginner, your focus should be on familiarizing yourself with the singing method and developing your routine through practice and experience.
There are plenty of resources and materials available for learning how to sing properly. Picking the right course for you has never been easier because most of them offer money-back guarantees. Find the course that suits your goals and an instructor with whom you believe you can connect. These steps will help you develop a routine and stick to it. For starters, you can look at the Superior Singing Method VS Singorama 2.0 (two of my favorite singing courses).
Follow your routine – including warmups, breathing exercises, and technique exercises, but don’t forget to have fun and mix it up from time to time. Nobody learns to sing unless they genuinely enjoy it. Make the learning experience an enjoyable one, and you will see results in no time.
I hope you find this guide useful and motivating. Start and expand your singing adventure today!