14 Oct How to Improve Your Singing Voice: Vocal Tone and Control
So, you have decided you want to be a singer.But do you have what it takes to sing like a pro? The reason they are able to sing the most insane power ballads or the softest, sweetest lullabies, is that they have mastered the art of vocal tone and control.
By learning the secrets to exploiting your tone rather than suppressing it, you will open doors to your vocal abilities that you never thought possible—and you don’t need singing lessons to achieve a good singing voice.
Control and Tone
What is tone to a singer? While control seems obvious—being able to control the power and sound of your voice—tone can basically be described as the way a singer resonates their voice using their body.
Specifically, you will need to learn to use the inner part of your cheekbones, your head, your nasal cavities, and even your breathing techniques to produce the sound you want, as well as amplification and control. This inner portion of your face is known as “the mask” and you will need to learn to use it in a way that suits you best and compliments your natural tone.
What Types of Exercises Should I do?
Although everybody has their own, unique tone, there are ways of strengthening certain muscles as well as your vocal cords until, with a little work—and a lot of practice—you will amaze even yourself.
Singing exercises are a lot like going to the gym, except not the same at all. The idea remains the same—you are building “core” strength and training your body to react in a well-tuned, predictable, and reliable way.
You mustn’t start off too heavy as your body isn’t properly conditioned for extreme performance yet, and you don’t want to cause yourself an injury, so start out soft and easy and slowly work your way up.
Due to the fact that these techniques are highly specialized, they are likely to be difficult at first, and also seem a bit odd or embarrassing while going through your routine. Just keep at it and anyone who knows their stuff will know what you’re up to. Even top-tier professionals do these exercises all the time.
There are different styles and methods to these exercises, but the basis remains the same—through learning and strengthening your muscle and breathing control you will, in the end, have much better voice strength and overall tone.
Breathing is an extremely important part of the control. To the newer vocalist breathing can turn into quite the bane, as it is easy to forget in the hectic midst of their first big performance.
If breathing exercises are worked at meticulously, you will start to realize that the benefit is not really having to move much air to achieve the sound you want. By using your diaphragm in a less violent way, you will remain it higher efficiency of breath and find it much easier to control your airflow and breathing cycles.
If you have no breath stored in your lungs for those big powerful moments, when the time comes you will basically just fizzle out. It takes a lot of practice learning to cycle your breath naturally so that you can hit all those quick notes and still have a bag of wind on reserve for the finale.
Open Your Mouth
When a vocal artist really opens up their mouth while singing, the difference in volume and impact is both immediate and obvious.
Not only are you moving your obstructing lips out of the way to create almost a bullhorn shape with your mouth, but you are also creating a situation where you can use your mouth to add shape to your voice, and can even project it to certain spots around the audience.
Though this is a different type of control, as opposed to diaphragm movement or breathing, you are still creating control over the way the audience is greeted with your voice.
The simple act of opening your mouth while you sing costs no extra energy and the payoff is huge, so make sure it becomes a part of your routine if it’s not already.
If you are experiencing trouble achieving the tone you want, it is more than likely because of muscle control.
The soft palate is a big part of whether your tone is being “closed off” and is responsible for either letting the sound out through your mouth or letting it resonate up into the head and mask for somewhat of a different effect.
If you are forcing your air too much upward into your mask you will create a very nasal sounding tone, whereas if you are cycling downward and allowing flow, you will produce a tone of much higher quality.
Control over this gateway is paramount in regulating the ebb and flow of your breath and tightly monitoring resonation, ultimately resulting in your tone. You need to practice strengthening specific muscles like this to gain maximum jurisdiction over what your body will do.
There are also practices for learning to move your larynx upward or downward, to create either a more pinched, or more relaxed effect. For example, to sing like Britney Spears, your larynx would be lifted, but to sing like Luciano Pavarotti, it would be relaxed almost like yawning.
By practicing singing through your vowels, A, E, I, O, and U, you will start to learn which sounds are produced in by resonating inside your mask, versus which resonate more from the back of the throat.
Through repetition and dedication to your craft, you will eventually start to realize that all of these minute motor skills are becoming less difficult, and you will be well on your way to stardom.
Don’t Add Tension
When you are trying to develop your one-of-a-kind tone be careful not to force it—and do not imitate others you hear on the radio.
When forcing your vocal folds to behave in a way that is foreign to them, you actually end up constricting your pipes, not allowing you to emit smooth, creamy sound.
The shape of your throat will become unnatural and restrictive to open flow, which will also restrict the depth of tone.
Power is generated from the diaphragm, so learning to put the pressure there where it’s supposed to be while still being able to keep your shoulders, neck, jaw, and throat relaxed will help you progress in leaps and bounds.
What you want to do is practice developing your own distinctive voice over time, and your own style will begin to shine through.
Learn the Difference Between Head Voice and Chest Voice
Where head voice resonates above the soft palate up into the nasal caverns, chest voice does so in the throat and mouth.
There are two different voices in everyone, and you must learn to make them work in harmony with one another.
The head voice is the higher pitched, often louder voice of the two, and chest voice—as its name states—is the lower, booming voice that we can put more air behind. When you learn to blend from one voice to the next and back again seamlessly, you will really be starting to move up to the top of your game.
This is called your “mix voice” and is essential to creating a full spectrum of notes. When you have not trained enough to have acquired a good mix voice and attempt to sing at the higher limit of your range, you end up “belting.”
What belting is essentially, is when you really have to strain and force air to hit a certain higher note. Now, while this may work momentarily and you just might get that note, what will end up happening is you will be winded, your voice will be strained, and you’ll sound weaker than before.
A great way to kind of learn where your mix voice lives is to keep your mouth closed and hum. Let the air cycle through your nostrils, but by humming you will be able to feel the sound resonating (a sort of buzzing) inside your head.
You will notice that, by making slight movements of the tongue, soft palate, or nasal passages, you can tell where the hum is coming from inside your head or even so as you move the sound down into your throat and mouth.
Play with this for a while until you can move the resonance wherever you want to and have greater control. Try and really hollow yourself out and make as much “space” in there as possible. In your head, it will almost sound like meditation, “Om…”, and you will hear the sound grow larger and more powerful inside you.
By training your mix voice, you are able to produce quality highs and smooth blends more efficiently, and much more sustainably so you can just keep on singing with as much power, clarity, and accuracy as you need.
By governing the relationship between these two voices successfully, you will gain a much wider ability and understanding of each new piece.
You should always practice different techniques if you wish to continually improve your tone and control. As we mentioned before, even the most upstanding professionals do this all the time, which is what keeps them on top—and ahead of their game.
What you are attempting to do in all of this is put together a system of relaxation, efficiency, sustainability of tone, and power from the correct source.
When going through your routine you don’t actually have to sing, per se. Just by using your speaking voice—your chest voice—and making noise loudly, you can still run through these little assignments and have a perfectly beneficial practice.
Through rigorous exercise and directed tasks, you will undoubtedly build your skill set and begin to construct a sturdy base for yourself to keep moving onward and upward.