Do you want to achieve a better tone and improved sound? There are a huge variety of vocal techniques that will help develop & improve your voice. But it can be overwhelming working out where to start and which ones are the best for you.
Vocal exercises will provide you with tools to help you sing better than ever before. If you want to win competitions and achieve success, these need to be a part of your routine. The best singing exercises can be practised daily or as a pre-show warm-up.
Read on to find out how you could polish your performance and take your vocals to the next level.
Vocal exercises – 8 of the best exercises for singing
While it may be fun to launch straight into songs, vocal exercises for singers are an essential part of improving, developing and protecting your voice. Practising daily vocal exercises and warm-ups should be an important part of every serious singer’s routine.
The exercises we’ll tell you about here are simple and can be done quickly, as a warm-up prior to a show or gig. However, we do recommend that you don’t always fall back on just speedy exercises at the last minute. Spend time and put the work in and you’ll notice much greater results than if you don’t.
Daily vocal exercises
Does singing every day help to improve your voice? Without a doubt, yes. If you want to get better as a singer, daily voice exercises will improve your performance. Just singing songs alone won’t cut it. With regular daily singing exercises, you can vocalize notes and sounds you might not otherwise get to practice, trying out high and low notes outside of your normal vocal range. It’s the equivalent of vocal gymnastics. However, as with the Olympic gymnasts you see on TV, it doesn’t come without effort
If you are a beginner, you should take it slowly. If you suddenly start singing for 3 hours a day, chances are you might even damage your vocal cords. The muscles won’t yet be robust enough to handle that amount of vocal exercise. Keep your practice down to around 20 minutes a day for a few months until you strengthen your voice.
The best vocal exercises for singing
However, if you’re a singer with years of experience, things are very different.
Experienced vocalists can exercise their vocal talents for half an hour to 40 minutes each day and then move into singing songs from their set-list to see how that practice has impacted the quality of sound. You should build your voice up over time, starting off with these daily exercises in short periods of time until your vocals get stronger.
1. Breath control
One of the most basic and essential voice exercises for singers is breath control. While your breath isn’t heard, it is the bedrock of the sound you make. Breath control is the difference between hitting a high note well or screeching. It’s also what enables you to hold onto a note for a long time.
Make sure your shoulders are not rising when you breathe. If they are this indicates shallow breathing. As a result, you’ll likely get an initial blast of volume followed by very little else as your breath quickly runs out. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Your breathing should start much lower down with your stomach & diaphragm muscles expanding like bellows. If your stomach goes in when you breathe in you’re doing it the wrong way round!
Lie on the floor, relax & breathe normally. You should notice as you breathe in, your stomach & rib cage rise (inflate). Then as you breathe out they become smaller again (deflate). Visualise these areas filling up like a balloon. See how much breath you can squeeze in – it’s more than you might think. Remember to start low, but inflate all the way into your ribs, up to your armpits and down into the very bottom of your belly.
Here’s our next set of exercises. You can mix them up and add in some variations to make them fun and less of a chore. Record yourself doing them, as you’ll often find it easier to self-critique via playback.
2. Lip buzz
Vibrate your lips together so that they make a buzzing sound. Alternate the pitch for a few seconds each time, going higher and lower. Once you’ve mastered this, use scales, sliding up & down as high & low as you can & even use them on the melody of a song you’re learning. You’ll know it’s been working when you feel your lips tingling afterwards.
Make an “mmm” sound in your spoken voice like you’re agreeing with something or have just had something tasty to eat. You should feel a gentle vibration in your throat & on your lips. Once you’ve mastered it & it feels really comfortable hum through various scales. Do this with broken up notes, 1 per note “mm mm mm” & also in 1 long “mmmmmmm” smoothly across the notes.
Avoid starting on an “H” as this indicates you’re overusing breath & make sure your tongue stays down & doesn’t start pulling to the back of your throat. This is a handy exercise for when you’re on the go too. Hum when you’re out and about – walking, driving, or even on the bus. Not only will you be warming up your voice, but you’ll also be giving off a very jolly vibe too!
4. Ho ho ho
Practise Santa’s catchphrase with a breath in-between – ‘Ho ho ho’ then a quick breath. Make sure the stomach is going in and back out, so it’s pulsing on each ho. Practice this in slow motion to help develop better control of your breathing. Think of squeezing a tube of toothpaste from the bottom up to keep that steady flow. You can use a count, to keep track of your progress and even out that flow, both in and out. You can also use ‘ha’ and ‘he’ and move onto singing as well as speaking it.
It’s time to talk about consonants and vowels. No, not a game of Countdown, but how these should be incorporated into your vocal drills.
5. Perfect your vowels
Vowels have a major impact on anything you sing as they are the sounds that are sustained & showcase the unique tone of your voice. So they need to be controlled effectively to sound great and sing to your full ability.
Many singers modify the sound & shape of a vowel dramatically to make it easier to reach certain notes or in some cases to copy the style of another singer. EE is a notoriously difficult one in the higher range, so many singers convert this to more of an AH.
Practice the most common vowels found in the words you sing & work on maintaining a more consistent mouth shape to produce them naturally rather than manipulating your mouth, tongue & jaw to try to create them.
A good starting point is a nice narrow O shape then work individually & in turn across the following:
EE as in See, OO as in Soon, EH as in Stare, Oh as in Snow, I as in Sky & AH as in Star.
Use 1 sustained note & 4 or 5 note scales up & down. Again, careful you don’t add any “Hs” to lever the sound out & keep that tongue and jaw relaxed.
It’s vital an audience can understand what you are singing so make sure you don’t get lazy with enunciation. Add consonant exercises to crisp up your diction, they also help with breath control as they will create stops in the airflow at different points within your mouth & throat.
There are many variations to choose from but B, C, D, F, G, M, N are very effective. A simple trick is to do your vowel exercises, but add one of these consonants at the beginning. Work through one at a time, paying special attention to those that you find trickiest. (That’s a great tip in general: if you find something particularly difficult, that’s what you should work on most, rather than shying away from it because it’s tough).
Vocal exercises Youtube
YouTube is a fantastic source of vocal exercises and ideal if you want to watch how they’re done.
7. Ya ya
Our next exercise comes from vocal coach Eric Arceneaux and really helps to open up the voice.
Vocal exercises for singers to increase range
This next one is perfect for the shower, or when getting ready to go out. As with many of these exercises you can incorporate it into your daily routine to save time when you’re too busy for lots of dedicated singing practice.
Ing is another great sound for working your range safely. Say “sing” & sustain the ING part of the word. This may feel a little nasal at first but that’s fine. It helps work your voice into your hard palate (the upper part of the inside of the mouth). Slide through scales, from low to high & vice versa & also around the melody of songs you’re working on. As with the humming exercise, don’t overuse breath & keep your tongue relaxed & as flat as is comfortable.
Voice exercises to sing higher
One of the first reasons a singer will start to work on vocal exercises is to reach notes that have previously been unattainable. Want to sing songs with higher or lower notes than you can manage naturally? Get going with some of these vocal exercises to see a change. Just add in an extra note on the top of your range to your scales every 6 weeks or so.
If you’re young, with a strong, sturdy belt, the thought of vocal damage may be far from your mind. But the more you sing and the more you push your range, the more chance you have of doing some damage. The exercises in this article will prevent this and really keep your voice in great shape. Whether you’ve only just begun in your journey as a singer, or whether you’re a seasoned artist, this advice will stand you in good stead. Practice these vocal exercises as often as your schedule allows, and you’ll soon be reaping the reward.
- How can I open my voice to sing?
Try the ‘fire engine’ or ‘siren’. You might feel a bit silly trying this, but it’s a great voice exercise for singers. You make the sound of a fire engine on an ‘Ng’ sound, beginning with the low notes, going up through your range and back down again.
- How do you strengthen your vocal cords?
Never sing at full volume without fully warming up first. This can result in damage and will only hinder your progress in the long run. Breathing properly is also excellent for your overall health and wellbeing. If you’re healthy and well, your voice will be stronger and more resilient too.
- Do vocal exercises really work?
Singing exercises that stretch your vocals, will undoubtedly improve your singing. It’s well worth investing in a vocal coach too. The expertise of a professional is invaluable in taking you to the next level. Learn some mic technique too, for recording and live gigs.
Which are your best singing exercises and how have they helped you? Tell us about the vocal exercises in your practice in the comments below.