Veteran vocal coach Cari Cole shares four singing tips to make your voice sound better1. Sing vowels with your jaw open
This is a quick trick that makes you sound better instantly, so I call it the “Instant Fix.” Say A-E-I-O-U (watch your jaw movement in the mirror). Did your jaw close on any of the vowels? Chances are your jaw closed on the “E” and the “U” – and most likely on others too, if not all of them. Take your first two fingers and pull your jaw down two inches – or even better, use a plastic bottle cap or a wine cork to prop your jaw open. Now speak the vowels again. And repeat again (we’re trying to re-program muscle memory – so the more the better).
Now sing the vowels on one pitch. A-E-I-O-U. Your goal is to keep your jaw open (long not wide) without closing for all of your vowels. Repeat until you can do it. Now sing a phrase of one of your songs – and make sure your jaw opens to the same position on all of your vowels. You have to practice this a bunch before it becomes natural – but the more you do, the sooner this new movement is programmed into your muscle memory.
And you might be one of those lucky ones who notice the improvement in the sound right away (it will sound louder and more resonant with less vocal strain). If you don’t, don’t sweat it, you will. It just takes a little practice. You might have some unwanted tension in your neck, jaw and throat muscles – try loosening them up and try it again. The next time you perform open your jaw more on your vowels, it’s one of my quick singing tips that makes you sound better instantly!
2. “Think down” when you sing high notes
When you sing a scale, try thinking of the way an elevator works: a heavy weight is attached to a pulley, and as the weight pulls down, the elevator goes up to the higher floors. So, the highest floor is reached when the weight is the heaviest. Similarly, you should use the most “weight” on your highest notes.
3. Sing with your chin down for more power without strain
Who doesn’t want more power without strain? This is one of those simple singing tips that’s easy to apply – easier than the one above. All you have to do is to keep your chin pointed slightly down and your pectoral muscles slightly flexed (sometimes it’s a lot flexed) when you go for more power. Most singers reach forward or lift their chin up to sing with more power. While it may temporarily work, it causes vocal problems. Tipping your chin down not only works better and saves your voice, it actually SOUNDS better!
Stand in front of a mirror. Sing an “ah” scale up and down in one phrase (1-2-3-4-3-2-1). Press your chin slightly in (point your chin towards the floor), usually only 1 inch or so. Don’t let your head bob up as you raise pitch – keep it firmly in place. Go all the way up the scale of your voice keeping this position. Notice how the chin wants to move up as you raise pitch. Keep it planted. This will give you more power and control and eliminate strain. Practice it until it becomes natural!
4. Control your vocal vibrato
Here’s a quick tip to get your vibrato working. Stand in front of a mirror; press on your chest with both hands, then raise your chest higher than normal. Take a breath in and then exhale, but don’t drop your chest. Sing one note and hold it as long as possible with your chest raised. Press on your chest halfway through the note (press kind of hard and raise your chest to meet the pressure). Relax the back of your neck and keep your jaw open as you’re singing “ahhh.” Imagine the air spinning around in your mouth while keeping your chin tucked down a bit and your chest raised. Keep in mind, overuse of vibrato is not a good thing in contemporary singing (pop, rock and R&B). At the same time, no vibrato is also not a good thing. So, try ending phrases with straight tone, then into a little bit of vibrato. The bottom line is to do what’s best for you.