Would you like to have a great voice like Christina Aguilera or Kelly Clarkson? To be a great singer, you must take care of your body while you sing and while you rest. With practice, effort, and lifestyle changes, you too can have a beautiful singing voice.
Part 1 of 3: Maintaining the Lifestyle of a Singer
Step 1. Maintain systematic hydration
As a child you probably learned that your voice comes from the larynx (or voice box). The larynx contains muscles called "vocal cords" (or vocal folds) that are covered with a mucous membrane. In order for your vocal cords to vibrate properly and produce a clear voice, you must keep the mucous membrane hydrated. Systematic hydration means maintaining healthy levels of hydration throughout the body's tissues.
- Long-term hydration is much more important than short-term hydration, so having a few sips of water the day before a performance won't do you any good.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of plain water (not tea or soda) daily.
- Avoid dehydrating drinks that contain alcohol and caffeine.
- Drink extra water to make up for the alcohol or caffeine, if you drink them.
- Avoid all fizzy drinks (even those that don't contain caffeine) if they give you acid reflux.
Step 2. Practice topical hydration
In addition to keeping your tissues hydrated internally, you can also keep your vocal cords moist and healthy through external means.
- Drink your 8 glasses of water throughout the day instead of sipping large amounts at once. This will ensure constant external hydration.
- Chew gum and suck on hard candy to keep your salivary glands engaged.
- Swallow your saliva every now and then to clear your throat without clearing it, which is bad for your vocal cords.
- Keep a humid environment. If you live in a dry climate, you can buy a personal steam inhaler at a drug store or hold a warm wet towel over your mouth and nose for a few minutes.
Step 3. Rest your voice regularly
You may love to sing, but if you want to do it right, you need to take breaks from time to time. Just like athletes rest muscle groups for a day before working them again, you need to rest the muscles that produce your voice to avoid damaging them from overuse.
- If you practice or perform three days in a row, take a day off.
- If you practice or perform five days in a row, take two days off.
- Avoid talking unnecessarily each day if you have a rigorous singing schedule.
Step 4. Don't smoke
Inhaling any type of smoke (either as an active or passive smoker) dries out the vocal cords. Smoking also decreases saliva production (which is important for topical hydration) and increases acid reflux, which can irritate throat tissues. However, the most important effects are: decreased lung capacity and function and increased coughing.
Step 5. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Your body is your instrument, so you must take care of it. Obesity is related to poor breathing control, which is one of the most important skills a singer must master, so control your weight with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
- Avoid dairy products that create excess mucus, which clears your throat.
- Avoid excess caffeine or alcohol, both of which dehydrate the body.
- Eat enough protein to handle the exercise your vocal muscles undergo through regular use.
- Exercise regularly to control your weight and improve your lung capacity and control of your breathing.
Part 2 of 3: Control Your Breathing
Step 1. Understand how breathing works
The most important muscle to know about is your diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle that runs the length of the lower rib cage. The action of contracting the diaphragm (inhaling) presses on the stomach and intestines to make room for air and reduces the air pressure in your chest, which allows you to draw air into your lungs. To exhale, you can simply relax your diaphragm, allowing air to leave your chest cavity at a natural rate, or you can keep your diaphragm pressed against your stomach and intestines to control the rate of exhalation. The latter is very important for singing.
Step 2. Be aware of your breathing
To improve control of your breathing, you need to be in complete harmony with the entry and exit of air from your body. Find a quiet, distraction-free environment where you can sit for a few minutes a day and focus only on how it feels to your body to breathe in and out.
Step 3. Practice pulling your breath down your body
Many people breathe very shallowly, which does not allow optimal breathing. Therefore, you need to learn to breathe in a way that allows you to make the most of your lung capacity.
- Inhale slowly and deeply, feeling the air pass through your mouth and throat and move through your body. Imagine that the air is very heavy.
- Visualize yourself pushing it all the way down to below your belly button before letting yourself breathe out.
- As you repeat, inhale faster. Keep imagining that the air is heavy and pushing it towards your stomach. Feel your abdomen and lower back expand.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. When you inhale, make sure the hand on your stomach moves more than the hand on your chest. You should pull the air deep into your body, not superficially up to your chest.
Step 4. Practice holding your breath on your body
After taking a deep breath and pulling the air down your body, try to control how long you can keep the air in your body without feeling uncomfortable. Try to increase the duration.
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, making sure to pull your breath into your abdomen as in the previous exercise. Try to hold it in for a count of 7, then breathe out.
- Repeat the process several times.
- Over time, try to increase the amount of time you can comfortably hold your breath.
Step 5. Do exhalation exercises
Exhalation exercises are important for holding steady notes. Without them, your voice could shake when singing.
- Inhale deeply through your mouth, pushing the air into your abdomen.
- Rather than letting the air rush at its own natural rate, keep your diaphragm engaged so that you can control the rate of the exhale.
- Take 8 seconds to expel all the air from your chest.
- Once you've exhaled, contract your abdominal muscles to push the remaining air out of your lungs.
- One of the most important parts of improving your breathing is making sure you exhale completely.
Part 3 of 3: Exercising your voice
Step 1. Do vocal warm-up exercises before singing
If you were an athlete, you wouldn't start running before stretching, as it could strain and injure your leg muscles. This same principle applies to the muscles involved in singing. Before subjecting your vocal cords to the stress of an important singing rehearsal or performance, you should make sure to warm up your voice so that it doesn't strain it.
- Humming is a good way to gently enter the song at the top of your lungs. Before you start singing, practice a few scales on a hum.
- The lip trill warms the muscles involved in exhalation in order to prepare them for the controlled breathing that singing requires. Keeping your lips pressed, push the air through them to create the sound we associate with having a cold: brrrrrrrrr! Advance through your scales in this way.
Step 2. Practice your scales
Although singing songs is your ultimate goal, you should practice the basic scales daily. This will help you control your voice, stay focused on pitch, and move more easily between adjacent notes and disparate notes.
- Listen to YouTube videos to make sure you adjust your pitch appropriately to match the actual notes you need to hit.
- Practice singing scales higher and lower than your most comfortable octave to increase your range.
Step 3. Practice tuning exercises
Tuning exercises like pitch intervals help you easily move from note to note without losing pitch. Intervals are the distance between two notes and there are many different exercises that take you through a wide range of vocal exercises. The 7 main intervals are: major second, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, major sixth, major seventh, and perfect eighth. You can easily find examples of these interval exercises on the Internet.
Step 4. Record yourself singing
Sometimes it's hard to hear how we really sound while singing. Record yourself singing your scales, tuning exercises and favorite songs to hear how you really sound. You will not be able to improve if you cannot realize what you are doing wrong.
- NEVER drink cold water before singing. This will impact your vocal cords and you will end up sounding really bad. Drink room temperature water, but hot tea is best.
- Have fun! If you are auditioning or performing, choose a song that you like and master.
- Don't be afraid of your voice. If you don't think you can hit a note, give it a try anyway. You never know!
- Don't forget to vocalize when you start singing words. The clearer you are, the better you sound.