How to Sing Better in 2020
Improve your vocals with this complete guide and practice plan
Last Updated: June 2020
Want to learn how to sing better?
In this guide you’ll learn exactly how to improve your singing voice – from breathing and prep to techniques and practice – so you can become a better singer fast.
PLUS, we’ll give you free vocal exercises and a daily practice plan at the end!
If you follow this guide you’ll have:
- better control & less strain,
- enhanced pitch + a wider range
- more power, projection and clarity.
- a solid plan on how to improve
- vocal exercises to practice daily
We’ll go over some important fundamentals, share dope vocal exercises and get into advanced tips that will take your singing voice to the next level.
At the end of the guide, we’ll give you an entire practice plan (with singing exercises) for FREE that you can use to become a better vocalist quickly.
Whether you think you already have a decent voice or not, the good news is you can become a professional singer. If you put in the work…
Special Note: If you want to fast track your learning and improvement, we recommend looking at online singing lessons. We have a couple of personal favorites – check out our HearAndPlay Vocal Mastery Review and our 30 Day Singer Review. They’re your best bet at a better voice quickly.
Bottom Line – the voice you’re “born with” is not the voice you’re stuck with.
You can become a good singer. And we can help.
What Great Singers Focus On
All the different areas you need to focus on to master your voice
Let’s be real – singing like a star isn’t an easy task. There’s so many areas to focus on like:
- Pitch (singing in tune)
- Vocal Range (what range of notes you can sing)
- Breath Control (not gasping for air between notes and breathing correctly for singing)
- Dynamics (being able to sing soft and sing loud)
- Strain (not hurting your vocal chords)
- Tone + Resonance (the unique quality of your voice)
- Power, Projection and Clarity (making sure you’re heard)
- Vocal Registers (singing from your head, your chest or a mix of both)
- Confidence and Performance Technique
- Much, much more…
That’s a lot of shit to worry about…
But you don’t have to worry because the information and exercises below will help you improve on all those areas.
Related Site Sections You Might Like: How to Sing Harmony
Want to REALLY Sing Better QUICKLY?
The 30 Day Singer program is one of the BEST training for singers out today that will improve your voice faster than ever!
How to Approach Everything
It’s all about your lifestyle
Just keep one thing in mind – this guide is just a start on your journey.
If you’re really serious about becoming an elite singer, you need a structured, guided approach to vocal improvement (and consistent work/practice).
You’re probably thinking, “so you mean I need a vocal coach?”
Yes, and no…
Vocal coaches are damn expensive. And they’ll only meet you a few times a month.
What we’re talking about is Online Singing Lessons (like HearAndPlay's Vocal Mastery Program).
They’re super affordable, available anytime, anywhere and take you by the hand, step-by-step to exactly where you want to go.
Free videos on YouTube (and even free guides like this one) – as helpful as they are – just don’t cut it or even come close to what you get from structured training by an expert.
They leave you frustrated without the ability to ask questions and get quick answers. They also don’t tell you where to go NEXT, which is important in consistently getting better.
And since they’re free, you know you’re not getting their best advice/techniques. Proper singing lessons are your best choice.
The Ideal Singer Lifestyle
How to live life in order or master your voice
In this section, we’re going to go over important things that will speed up your progress in singing better with more vocal control.
These may seem unimportant, but don’t neglect them. They go a long way in improving your voice.
First off, drink lots of water to stay hydrated and avoid drying out your throat. That means before you’re singing but also when you’re just going about your regular day.
Cold water may feel great going down, but drinking your water at room temperature is much better for your voice and vocal chords. Warm drinks like tea can also help a lot to sooth your throat, allowing you to produce better sound. BUT stay away from things like coffee.
Caffeine isn’t your friend in this case. Neither are sugary or carbonated drinks like soda/pop. If you can’t cut them out altogether, definitely don’t drink anything cold/caffeinated/sugary/carbonated before you sing or even just practice singing.
Side Note: Smoking ain’t great for your voice or ability to breathe either. (Full Disclosure: I smoke, and kinda like the raspy quality it gives. But it WILL kill you early. Just sayin…)
Practice… Every. Single. Day
There’s no getting around this one. You can’t sing better by just reading this guide or watching a singing lesson. You have to commit yourself to DAILY practice without fail.
Be committed and consistent. Ideally, you should be practicing 1 hour each day. But even 15-30 minutes every day is so much better than 2 hours once a week.
Real talk – this is the only way you’re going to get better.
What’s the best time to practice? Either right in the morning, or before you go to sleep.
Get Out of Your Own Way
Sometimes our self-consciousness can hinder us from explosive growth. One of the BIGGEST roadblocks to success as a singer, is the fear of sounding bad and having people hear how “bad” you sound. And when you’re practicing new skills, a lot of us tend to sound/look stupid until we master that skill.
Just remember, most great singers probably really sucked in the beginning. But they practiced, and fought through the “screeching cat” phase to absolute greatness. What’s more is even if they’re great now, when they’re practicing/training (yep, even the greats still practice/train daily) they still probably sound stupid!
A part of training your voice is making weird noises and funny facial expressions. It’s just how it is. It’s how you get better!
So, if you can train your mind to not care about how you look/sound in the beginning, you will become great.
If you’re the type that doesn’t want to “embarrass themselves” in front of others, try finding a practice spot where no one else can hear you or see you.
It’ll help you get out of your comfort zone and out of your own head. You won’t be afraid to sound or look “stupid.”
If you can’t find a place you’re totally alone (roommates, parents/siblings, thin walled apartments) try your best to instill the thought that EVERYONE sounds bad when they’re practicing, that’s why they practice!
And anyone that might be “laughing” at you will be absolutely blown away by your progress and you can stick it in their face afterwards. Success is the best revenge.
Bottom line – you want to be ok with belting out loud notes, making funny noises/sounds and getting kinda weird.
Fundamentals of How to Sing
Master the Basics
In this section, we’re going to go over the absolute fundamentals that you need to master before diving into the vocal exercises.
Get this stuff right, and you’ve already won half the battle.
Skip over this, and you’re just hurting yourself and your ability to improve.
Finding Your Vocal Range
Knowing your vocal range is important. In this guide we show you a way of extending your vocal range, so knowing where it’s at now will come in handy.
Your vocal range is the number of notes you’re naturally able to hit with your voice type.
There are a bunch of different voice types, and you likely fall into one or two of these types:
- Mezzo Soprano
We have an entire article on how to find your vocal range that goes deep into this.
But here’s a quick primer on what to do:
- Go to a piano or download a piano app on your phone/tablet/computer (try to make sure it’s got 88 keys – the full range of a keyboard)
- Find the lowest possible note you can hit naturally (i.e. without cracking/croaking or becoming “breathy” or “scratchy.”
- Use a vowel sound like “ah,” “ee,” “oh,” “ooh” or “uh” to sing
- Start near the middle of the piano and work your way down to the lowest note you can sing and sustain comfortably. You shouldn’t be straining at all. It should be natural.
- Now do the same thing, but work your way up the keyboard until you get to the highest note you can sing comfortably. You shouldn’t have to go into falsetto or an airy/breathy voice.
- Write down those two notes on paper
This is your general vocal range – the span of notes your voice naturally fits in.
Later in this guide, we’ll show you how to extend it.
Interested in seeing where your favorite singer’s vocal range site? Check out this dope ass tool.
Proper Posture When Singing
Believe it or not, how you stand when you sing can have a huge effect on how you sound. Here’s the proper posture to have every time you’re singing or practicing.
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back
- Don’t tilt your body back, forward or to the sides.
- Keep your chin pointed downwards
If you’re trying to hit high notes, or project your voice more, don’t start lifting your chin.
Despite what you may think, keeping your chin down actually gives you more control and power. What’s more is tilting your chin upwards can actually cause issues with your vocal cords.
Think “down” when you want your voice to go “up.” Kinda like adding more weight to the higher notes you’re trying to hit. If you find yourself wanting to get more power when singing, instead of moving your chin up, start to flex your pectoral (chest) muscles.
Finally, when you’re singing try and keep your larynx as steady as possible. Don’t let if lift up.
Here’s a trick to help you find your larynx muscles:
– Put your thumb under your chin right above your neck.
– Now swallow
Those are the muscles you’re trying to keep steady and not lifted. They should stay relaxed throughout your singing.
How to Breathe Properly When Singing
Breathing is so important when it comes to singing. You don’t want to be gasping for air between notes. You also don’t want to run out of air when you’re trying to sustain a note.
Just remember this: breathing for singing and breathing for talking are two different things.
When singing, you want to get the maximum amount of sound out while using the minimum amount of air possible.
When you sing you want to sing from your diaphragm, not your chest. The diaphragm is the muscle below your rib cage. When you breath from this area, your stomach should expand and contract. When you’re singing up a scale (ascending) your diaphragm will push downwards. When you go down a scale (descending) it will release, or push back up. Here’s a way to practice the feeling of proper breathing while singing:
- Put your hands on your stomach
- Breathe in through your nose
- Breathe out through your mouth and push downwards and contract your abdomen muscles
While doing this, your abdomen should push out when you breathe in. But make sure you’re not moving your chest up or outwards while doing this.
When you breathe this way, your abs should feel almost like you’re doing a sit-up. Here’s another way to get the feeling right:
- Lie down on your back with your knees raised up (like you’re about to do a sit-up)
- Put a large book on your stomach, centered at your waist
- Relax all your muscles, and push the book UP with your stomach/belly
- Hold this for 10 seconds
- Lower the book slowly until your stomach is back in its original position
When doing these exercises, try using a hissing sound when breathing out. Slowly let the air out until your stomach/abs flatten – don’t rush it.
Once you get the hang of it, try singing a note instead of using the hissing sound. Keep doing the exercise over and over again, until it’s second-nature to you.
How important is breathing correctly during singing?
Well, if you do run out of breath, most people probably won’t even notice it consciously. But you best believe they will feel it emotionally and the impact of your singing won’t be as strong or as deep.
Music is all about emotion. So, if you’re doing anything to lessen the emotional experience (like breathing wrong) your performance will suffer.
How to Sing Vowels Correctly
Remember how we said breathing for singing vs. talking is totally different? The same goes for how you use your mouth – especially when it comes to singing vowel sounds.
When you’re singing the sounds of A – E – I – O – U, you want to exaggerate your mouth movements.
Open up your vowels by keeping your jaw wide (not long, wide) when singing vowels. Here’s how you can practice singing vowels correctly:
- Say “ah” or “uh”
- Make your mouth long (up-down), not wide (left-right) when making the sounds
- Keep your tongue against your bottom jaw or bottom teeth when making the sounds
- Now, try saying “A – E – I – O – U” while NOT closing your jaw at all
- Keep repeating that until you can say the letters with your mouth/jaw totally open
- If you feel any tension in your neck/jaw/throat – stop, loosen up and try again
The idea is to re-train your muscle memory to sing vowels in that way, so you don’t have to think about it when you’re in the middle of singing a song.
Your lips may move into different shapes – that’s ok. But don’t close your jaw or your mouth when you do. Once you can say the letters properly, try singing a musical phrase/lyric you know.
When you get to the vowel sounds in that lyrics/phrase, keep your mouth and jaw wide open.
You want to practice this way of singing until it’s totally natural and becomes second-nature so you don’t even have to think about it.
Beyond Singing Basics
Intermediate techniques for a better singing voice
Now that you know what to practice to get your voice to the starting line, let’s talk about some intermediate techniques for a better voice.
We’re going to get into the following areas of vocal training:
- Power & Projection
- Cracks & Breaks in the Voice
- Extending Your Vocal Range
- Hitting High Notes
- Transitions Between Vocal Registers
Singing With More Power & Improving Vocal Projection
Contrary to what you might think, getting more power and projection out of your voice doesn’t come from increasing your volume or screaming out notes.
It comes from proper technique.
It’s actually pretty basic and we’ve already covered everything you need to do to get more power out of your singing voice.
- Keep you jaw open
- Tilt your chin down
- Flex your pectoral muscles (chest)
- Improve your breathing
- Keep your tongue out of the way (press it against your bottom teeth if you have trouble)
If you do all these things, over time you’ll notice it’s easier for you to sing powerfully and project your voice more.
Here’s an article on how to strengthen your voice.
How to Sing In Tune – Improving Your Singing Pitch
No one wants to sing off-key. But hitting every note exactly is tough as hell, especially when you’re first starting out as a singer. When you’re practicing singing, use a piano or other instrument to match note pitches.
If you don’t have access to a piano, just use a free “piano app” on your phone. Hit a note on the app/piano (ex/ a C note) and try to match it with your voice as exactly as possible.
This is something you want to do daily across your entire vocal range.
Once you’ve practiced matching your voice to the piano, try using a guitar tuner app (or a real guitar tuner if you have one) to see how well you’re doing. Basically, you want to:
- Hit a note on the piano (don’t let it sustain or ring out)
- Sing that tone into the microphone of your guitar tuner or phone using your voice
- Check the reading on the app/tuner to see how close you were to hitting the perfect pitch.
The tuner should show you if you’re a little bit flat or a little bit sharp.
Try adjusting your vocal tone until you can get as close as possible to the perfect pitch of the note you’re trying to sing.
If you’re really serious about music, then you can take this a step further and memorize different notes’ tone and pitch.
This is where you’re basically training your ears to become familiar with what different notes are. So, if you hear a note played on a piano you can immediately recognize it and know “oh, that’s an A flat!”
It’s tough and takes time, but can help a lot in your music life. For this you’ll want to use some computer software or a phone app.
Fixing Cracks & Breaks In Your Voice
Don’t you hate trying to hit a note only to squeak or crack or just all out go silent?
Those cracks and breaks occur because you haven’t trained your voice registers correctly.
Your voice will usually do that when you’re trying to transition from one vocal register to another.
What’s a vocal register? It’s where you sing from.
You can sing from your head (head voice) or your chest (chest voice).
You can also mix with a “mix voice” which combines head and chest voices.
Basically, if your vocal muscles are weak they can cause your voice to crack/break.
How to Extend Your Vocal Range
Have you figured out your vocal range yet? If not, see above. Once you know your vocal range, you can try extending it so you’re able to hit notes even higher and lower than you can naturally.
Before you do this, though, make sure your vocal technique is on point (practice the basics!). You want to be sure your voice has proper resonance and you aren’t singing “airy” vowels. To start extending your range do this:
- Go to the piano (or piano app) again.
- Hit the lowest note you can comfortably sing in your existing vocal range (you wrote this down right?)
- Now move down one half-step (the note directly to the left of – i.e. beside – the note you just hit).
- Try singing this note without being breathy, scratchy or raspy.
- If you are breathy or off, keep practicing it until you’re comfortable singing this note naturally.
- Next, hit the highest note on the piano that you can comfortably sing within your existing range.
- Now move up one half step (the note directly to the right of the note you just hit
- Try singing this note without being airy or cracking.
Only practice those two new notes until you’re fully comfortable with singing them naturally, and your voice doesn’t crack, break or get airy/breathy.
Once you’ve mastered those two new notes, you can work your way up/down another half-step. Take it slow and don’t rush. Extending your vocal range is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s ok if it takes a long time to do. And don’t push yourself too far outside of your normal vocal range too quickly. You may end up harming your vocal cords if you’re not careful.
That’s also why it’s a good idea to take online singing lessons to help with extending your vocal range. They’ve got great exercises and advice on how to do this properly.
How to Hit High Notes When Singing
Everyone wants to be able to hit those magnificent high notes like Mariah Carey or Beyonce, but that’s a really tough thing to do. She’s the type of singer that’s just naturally gifted with a super high range.
But you can still improve how well you hit high notes when singing. But here’s the number one tip to hitting high notes: Don’t ever strain your vocal chords trying to hit high notes.
Hitting high notes when singing comes from developing good control over vocal registers (i.e. your chest voice, head voice and mix voice). When you’re able to transition between those registers properly, it makes singing high notes so much easier.
In fact, despite what you may think you actually need less air to hit high notes, not more air.
Quick Tip: The next time you find yourself straining to hit a tone that’s all the way up there, try raising your eyebrows instead. It sounds stupid, but it works!
How to Transition Between Vocal Registers
As you know by now your voice is made up of 3 vocal registers – head voice, mixed/middle voice and chest voice. Each of these areas represents where notes are sung from within your body.
- Head Voice – the higher area: put your hand on top of your head and sing to feel the vibrations when you hit certain higher tones
- Chest Voice – the lower area: put your hand on your chest when singing to feel the vibrations of the lower tones you sing
- Mix Voice – a combination of head and chest voice. This is where the transition takes place when you’re going from low notes to high notes and vice-versa.
Your voice will shift from one to the other to properly hit certain notes while you’re in the middle of singing. Moving between these areas changes the resonance of your voice.
Being able to control that change in resonance makes your voice sound so much better.
When you’re singing, and transitioning between low and high notes, it should feel like the notes are actually moving in your body towards your head or towards your chest.
Don’t try and keep all the notes in one area of your body – it’ll make it sound worse than it should sound. The real key here is just to consistently practice and exercise your voice.
Be sure you warm-up and practice the vocal exercises we get into below EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Doing these once in a while won’t help you as much as doing them every day, like clockwork.
Advanced Tips for a Better Singing Voice
Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, these will push you even further
Now let’s get into some intermediate to advanced tips on improving the way you sing.
Before trying this stuff, make sure you’re already implementing the tips we’ve given you so far.
How to Sing Better With Vibrato
Vibrato is a technique that’s used to add some spice to a sung note/phrase. It’s essentially vibrating your voice to add effect. The problem is, vibrato can be over-used.
And that’s the sign of an amateur singer, not a pro. So, let’s be clear on one thing – DO NOT USE TOO MUCH VIBRATO.
Especially if you sing pop music, rock or r&b.
The best way to use it effectively is to end your sung phrase with a straight tone, and only add a tiny bit of vibrato to the END of the note.
Try it out – sing “aaahhh” in a straight tone, and put vibrato on it at the very end before you stop singing the note.
Sounds dope, right?
Improving Your Vocal Tone
Despite what some might think, a good vocal tone doesn’t come from singing loud. A great vocal tone happens when you can sing it at a medium level of volume.
To get a good tone requires the right amount of air – your vocal folds have to be strong enough for good closure, without actually touching. Too much air and you’ll sound “breathy.” Too little air and you’ll sound “nasal.”
Now there’s nothing wrong with sounding breathy or nasal – as long as it’s a stylistic choice, and not your natural singing tone. Where you want to be, is in the middle of those two extremes.
The problem is that the way we hear our voices in our head is totally different than how others hear us. That’s why the first time you ever heard your voice recorded and played back to you, you probably cringed.
So, what’s the solution? There’s a product called HearFones which can help you hear how you really sound.
They’re great to train with and adjust your vocal tone as you’re singing. If you’re trying to improve your vocal tone HearFones are a great, affordable tool to help you do that.
You just put them on and start singing. You’ll hear how you sound accurately and can adjust your vocal tone as you sing.
Eventually the way you sing using the HearFones will become the way you sing naturally (muscle memory is a great thing). Check them out on Amazon.
Even if you do get a set of HearPhones, we highly recommend also recording yourself when you’re practicing or singing. If you record all of your performances and practice sessions you can easily study the playback in-depth.
You’ll be able to quickly spot areas, phrases, notes and more you need to work on.
It’s a super helpful thing to do, and you don’t need any fancy equipment. Of course, the better the quality of the recording, the more subtleties you’ll be able to hear, but you can use your phone or laptop too.
Just study your own singing to see areas that need improvement.
How to Sing Better During Live Performances
It doesn’t matter if you’re performing for a small crowd, a large theater or in the studio for a record – your performance quality is EVERYTHING.
So how do you make sure it’s the best possible performance you can give? Confidence is a huge part of the answer.
And two of the best ways to be confident in your voice and ability is to:
- Practice and train yourself to be “ready,” – master the fundamentals
- Memorize the piece of music you’re performing
Reading your lyrics from a sheet is ALWAYS a big no-no. When you’re singing you want ALL of your energy/focus going to your vocal style/sound/tone/emotion.
If you’re preoccupied with trying to remember what words to sing, you can’t focus on your performance.
When you’re reading lyrics, your focus is on the words in front of you, not on how you’re singing.
That’s why knowing your song inside and out is crucial to a successful performance on stage or in the studio.
When you memorize every aspect of a song and internalize it (i.e. “you’ve done it a million times”) you’re not worried about the words, you’re totally focused on the delivery/performance. A
nd you’ll be more likely to let your raw emotion shine through.
If you read off a sheet when performing/recording a song because you don’t know the lyrics properly, you’re a clown. Plain and simple.
Full Disclosure: In the studio, I still keep the lyrics in front of me for reference. But the point is I ALWAYS have the lyrics basically memorized. The sheet is just there for reference and if I make lyrical adjustments on-the-fly.
Finding Your Signature Sound as a Singer
Once you’ve mastered the basics of how to sing, it’s important to start working on your own unique style.
What separates an average singer from a great singer is a unique style.
But you can’t really develop your style if you’re still struggling with the fundamentals. That’s why this is an advanced area.
Developing a signature singing style really comes from confidence.
Building confidence as a singer comes from practicing the basics (above) until you’re on-point technically, and not worrying about whether you’re singing properly or you sound decent.
Once you know how to sing correctly (and sing well), it’s time to start listening to a LOT of your favorite singers.
Internalizing what you like about each of them and letting those characteristics shine through in your singing style helps you develop your own unique signature sound.
Free Vocal Exercises and Singing Practice Plan
Download our free set of singing exercises and a full practice plan for improvement
Ok… If you made it this far, you’re obviously serious about becoming a great singer.
That’s really dope. Most people just don’t care enough. Sure, they want it. But they ain’t willing to put in the work it takes.
You probably are. So here’s a FREE set of vocal exercises and a full plan of action you can use to improve your singing vocals starting today.
Just enter your name and email address below and you’ll get instant access to 4 important vocal exercises as well as a 6 week “action plan.”
We’ll send it to your email so you’ve got it handy everywhere you go.
Short Cuts to a Beautiful Singing Voice
Taking things even further with a structured approach
If you follow the free singing practice routine and singing exercises we gave you above, it will definitely help improve your voice in a couple months’ time.
Do the exercises daily and follow the practice schedule to a T.
If you don’t have enough time for it every single day, you can shorten it, but try to maximize your practice time as much as possible.
Want to REALLY take your singing voice to the next level…? Read on…
Like we mentioned earlier in this guide – structured, guided and progressive singing lessons are the ABSOLUTE BEST way to go when you’re trying to improve your voice. There’s just no denying that. Vocal coaches are way too expensive.
And sometimes a really good one is hard to find in your hometown. A lot of vocal coaches won’t teach you the styles you want (because they don’t sing in those styles). Some are just like high school choir teachers. Is that who you really want to learn from? And of course, they’ll only meet you once a week for a half hour or so.
Sure, they’re still super helpful and useful. But if you ask us… it’s not the best (or most efficient) way of improving your voice.
That’s why we highly recommend you take online singing lessons.
- They’re super affordable
- They’re structured
- They take you step-by-step, by the hand to where you need to go
- You’re never frustrated not knowing what to do next
- You can use them anytime, anywhere you want
- You can take them anywhere you’re going (vacation/travel/etc)
- You can go at your own pace (faster or slower)
- They often come with a money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with them
The singing program of choice here at Deviant Noise is HearAndPlay's Vocal Mastery Program.
Full Disclosure: We really believe in this product and receive compensation (at no extra cost to you) if you choose to purchase Vocal Mastery through our links.
We think it’s one of the best available online singing lessons. And tons and tons of people have been really happy with the results they got from it. You get a ton of great exclusive vocal warm-ups and exercises to use in your practice and Aaron’s methods of teaching are really great.
Each lesson is packed with valuable information about singing like a professional.
We highly recommend you try it out for yourself. We’re sure you’ll be happy with it.
Cot-Damn! That was a long ass guide. But we hope you enjoyed it.
If you’ve got any questions, hit us up in the comments section below.
And if you know anyone that would find this big-ass, monstrosity of a guide useful, please share it on social media.
We’d really appreciate it. (And you’d look like a boss for knowing about this lil gem on the gigantic internet…)
Thanks again fam, peace!