How to sing -The basics
So you want to learn how to sing. That’s awesome! Singing is good for your health, is a great way to unleash your creativity, socialise with other musicians and is a whole lot of fun. In fact, learning how to sing is one of the top things many people wish they could do, but never get around to actually doing and so they leave that dream of becoming a good singer and developing an amazing voice unfulfilled. Its silly really because learning how to sing is actually really easy… if you know how.
So let’s jump in.
I’ve listed below the basics every singer needs to know when it comes to learning how to sing. I’ve tried to keep it simple so you can stay laser focused on just on the things you need to know and ignore all the things you don’t.
STEP ONE: Breathing
Breathe in, diaphragm pushes down. Breathe out, diaphragm goes back into place.
Breathing is the most fundamental aspect of learning how to sing because your breath is the magic key to making your instrument (your body) work. As you exhale, your air rushes past your vocal folds (also called vocal chords) making them quiver. This movement is what allows you to produce sound. Breathing for singing all starts with your diaphragm which is a thin muscular dome that site below your ribcage.
Learning how to tap into your diaphragm and breathe properly for singing is the very first thing any singer should learn to do. Take some time really getting this step right because if you don’t it WILL come back to bite you later. Everything comes back to your breathing; your phrasing, your pitch, how long you can sing notes for, even whether or not you will be able to do certain vocal techniques like vibrato. It all comes back down to your breathing, so get this step right first.
STEP TWO: Relax
Your whole body is your instrument and just like a sports professional, you need to build up certain muscles and remember to relax when you sing. Think about how a professional basketball player trains their muscles every day. They do cardio, lift weights at the gym and eat a special diet to keep their body in top condition. Then, when they go to play a game, it looks like the easiest thing in the world because they are relaxed when they execute a move.
Singers are exactly the same. You will need to build up the muscles surrounding your vocal folds and also your core strength, but then you need to relax each time you go to use your instrument to sing. This means relaxing your stomach muscles when you go to take a breath in and relaxing the muscles around your throat while you sing.
It seems like a really easy thing to do and it is… eventually. But first you need to get into the habit of relaxing because we naturally tend to hold a lot of stress and tension in our neck and shoulder area which can affect your breathing and therefore your ability to sing well.
STEP THREE: Develop your hearing
Singing is a hearing art form. That means, you need to develop those ears! Your job as a singer is to sing notes that are in tune and which sound good with the rest of the music and this is called PITCH. Having good pitch is an absolute basic for singers because it doesn’t matter how good your voice is, if you don’t sing in tune you won’t sound good anyway.
So how do you develop your hearing? Its called ear training. There are tools you can use to start hearing whether you are singing the right notes or not. These tools will help you to identify basics in music such as intervals, scales and even chords. The trick is to start with the simple stuff and get it right before moving on.
STEP FOUR: Replace bad singing habits with good ones
At the beginning, singing is all about breaking bad habits like mumbling and replacing them with good habits. In the case of mumbling for example you would need to start moving your mouth more and making sure you can hear all of the words you are singing.
I recommend taping yourself when you sing and listen back to hear whether you can make out all of the lyrics or not. If you can’t well, then you need to keep working on breaking that mumbling habit.
As a beginner singer, you won’t know which habits you need to work on. That’s where a decent singing teacher can come in handy. They should be able to point out if you are mumbling or slurring (slurring up to notes instead of hitting them straight on is a really common bad vocal habit that many, many singers have and it drives me nuts!!)
STEP FIVE: Sing a lot
What??? Yes its so simple that its overlooked. Singers sing. Runners run. Painters paint. If you’re serious about becoming a singer or even if you just want to improve your singing voice, the best thing you can do is to spend more time singing.
Just singing around the house or in the car will help you to:
1. Build up the muscles around your vocal folds
2. Help you learn repertoire – if you’re singing a heap of new songs from the radio then you are actually building up your repertoire list
3. Help you decide what type of music you like and what type of singer you want to become – there are so many different pathways you can take when you learn how to sing. Spending time just listening to music and singing along will help you to work out the type of songs you enjoy singing and what your musical influences are.