Your voice is an instrument that needs training and practice so it improves. Fortunately, there are lots of exercises that teach you to breathe or vocalize properly. Whether you’re working with a vocal coach or on your own, you can warm-up with your favorite techniques. Use these skills when you speak professionally and learn how to improve the quality of your singing voice. It’s also important to avoid damaging habits such as overuse, shouting, and coughing which can strain your voice.
Pant at different speeds to build breath control.
Start with short, fast panting for about 30 seconds and then do slower medium panting for another 30 seconds. Finish with 30 seconds of low, deep panting. Changing the depth of your breaths and the speed of panting will give you more control over your breathing.
You should feel air moving deeply through your lungs when you do the deep panting.
Practice blowing out a single breath in controlled bursts.
Learn to take deep breaths before speaking or singing so you don’t run out of air in the middle of a line. Extend your arm and hold out your index finger. Take a deep breath and imagine your finger is a candle that you need to blow out 5 times. Release the breath in 5 bursts so they’re equal in length and power.
Doing this exercise will give energy to your breaths. This can prevent your voice from sounding flat or boring as you speak or sing.
Lip trill to prevent vocal fry.
You’ll damage your voice over time if you frequently speak or sing with vocal fry. Instead of making a low, creaking or rough sound based in your throat, practice bringing the sound from the front of your mouth. Take a full deep breath, bring your lips together and blow the air out of your mouth so your lips vibrate quickly or trill.
Trill through your entire range and play around with the sounds you make.
If you have trouble trilling, try humming instead. This will also move the sound from your throat to your mouth.
Vocalize your vowels to prepare your voice.
Stand up and bring your shoulders back with your feet apart. Use a deep voice with a full breath to say or speak “Maaaa, mayyyyy, meeee, mowwww, mooo.” This will open your voice and help you relax.
You should feel the muscles in your abdomen tighten as you sing these words.
Do solfege scale exercises to improve your pitch.
Most people are familiar with practicing scales that ascend and descend along with a piano. Start with a major scale in the key of C and sing solfege notes such as “do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do,” while ascending the pitches. Then decline back down to the pitch “do.”
Solfege scales will help you train your ear to hear and adjust your pitch.
Develop a simple warm-up program.
If you can, work with a professional voice instructor to make a program designed specifically for you. You can also create your own 10 to 15 minute warm-up using basic exercises that you enjoy. If you’re unsure how to begin, sit or stand with your shoulders relaxed and start with this simple warm-up program:
Whole body stretching (3 min)
Breathing exercise such as controlled breaths (2 min)
Loosen your lips and jaw by trilling or humming (2 min)
Sing up and down scales or speak some of your lines (4 min)
Stand tall with your shoulders back and feet apart.
Your feet should be shoulder width apart and you need to bring your chest forward. Good posture will allow the air to move easily from your lungs through your mouth. Your voice will have a better sound and seem more energetic because you have good air flow.
Avoid locking your knees or tightening your shoulders. Try to keep your body loose and relaxed as you sing.
Open your mouth wide and move your tongue forward.
Stand in front of a mirror and sing a few lines while you pay attention to how much you open your mouth. Then open your mouth and place the tips of your index and middle fingers in it. Your mouth should be open much wider. Remove your fingers and bring your tongue towards the front of your mouth so the tip is near your bottom teeth.
Practice singing with your tongue forward and mouth open. You should notice a better sound because there’s more space in your mouth for the sound to resonate.
Study other singers, but sing within a range that’s comfortable for you.
Pay attention to how other singers breathe, hold themselves, and move their voices. You may learn little tricks such as tucking your chin on high notes or bringing your chest up to maintain energy. It’s important to remember not to push your voice out of its comfort range or you could damage it.
Instead, work on improving your tone and breathing so the quality of your voice improves.
Breathe from your diaphragm to improve your sound.
Keep your shoulders in place and breathe deeply from your stomach instead of your chest. Comfortably release the air as you sing. Don’t push it out forcefully or wait until you feel like you’re going to run out of air before breathing again. Develop a comfortable breathing pattern as you sing.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to tank up on air before trying to hit a high note. You can sing high notes with proper breath so you don’t strain your voice.
Enunciate your words so your voice sounds clear.
The exercises that stress vowels and the scales that use consonants will help you bring out the words you sing. When you focus on delivering the words, the sound of your voice will improve and become clearer.
When you practice a song, determine which words you want to really emphasize. This might mean that you take a breath before singing the word so it’s energized.
Stay hydrated throughout the day.
Drink non-caffeinated beverages such as water, herbal tea, juice, or decaf coffee. Try to drink 6 to 8 8-ounce (240 ml) glasses of water a day. Drinking plenty of fluids will keep the vocal folds in your voice box hydrated so they move easily.
Avoid alcohol if you’ll be speaking or singing soon because alcohol irritates the mucus lining of the throat.
Avoid vocal extremes such as whispering and screaming.
You’ll damage your vocal folds over time if you consistently scream or use your voice loudly. The folds can become swollen and red which will make your voice raspy or hoarse. Whispering also damages the vocal cords because they’re tightly squeezed.
Give your voice a rest.
It’s hard to give your voice a rest if you’re constantly performing, but your voice will become strained and overworked if you don’t. It’s also important to rest your voice if you start to become sick. To rest your voice, try to talk or sing as little as possible for a few days.
Plan on taking “vocal naps” according to your schedule. For example, avoid speaking or singing during your lunch break or on your commute home.
Sip water or gargle salt water to clear your throat.
Since coughing can harm your vocal folds and cold medication such as decongestants may dry them out, sip water instead. You can also try clearing your voice by gargling salt water for about 30 seconds.
Sucking on a cough drop or lozenge is safe for your vocal cords and will stop a cough.
Contact your doctor if you have a hoarse voice that doesn’t improve.
If you’ve rested your raspy voice but it hasn’t gotten better after 2 to 3 weeks, schedule an exam with your doctor. If you don’t have any other illness and you don’t smoke, there may be a problem with some part of your vocal box. The doctor might refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor for a diagnosis.
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