Learn the fundamentals of controlling your voice when you sing, including breath support, accurate pitch leaps, and how to evaluate your own singing to keep improving.
After completing this module: you will be able to produce clear accurate notes when you sing.
You already have a basic ability to match the pitch of a single note with your voice. Now it’s time to build from there to tackling multiple notes and start hitting each note spot-on every time. This module will help you get control of your singing voice.
- Vocal Control Basics
- Vocal Control Exercises
- Singing Songs
Learn simple mistakes that singers make and helpful tips to help you develop good vocal control in this introductory lesson from the Vocal Control module:
Vocal Control Basics
So, you’ve got the hang of matching pitch and you’re feeling ready to start singing songs! Before you dive in though, there’s one more skill to develop: Vocal Control. Vocal control is one of the most fundamental aspects of singing, and is something every singer has to learn at some point. It is really the core skill of singing, which should be learned by everyone who wants to pursue singing seriously. Vocal control is not a term for a single specific element of singing, but rather encompasses a variety of aspects. Like it sounds, we are simply talking about “having good control of what your voice does”. This means that:
- Pitch accuracy
- Dynamics (controlling your volume)
- Breath control
All improve as you develop better vocal control. Practise vocal control and you will end up with a better sound overall, be able to sustain it better, and gain better vocal endurance.
The Feedback Loop
The biggest part of improving vocal control is learning to listen to yourself as you sing, and to adjust your voice when you notice you could make a better sound.
After a while this becomes second nature. It is easier to do when you know the music well, so make sure you have a good grasp of the song you’re singing. It is particularly helpful if you have memorised the music first, as your brain is not distracted by trying to work out what is coming up as you sing it!
Later in this module we’ll look at specific exercises you can do to develop your vocal control. First though let’s talk about the fundamental requirement for vocal control: breath support.
Vocal control is powered by breathing. To be able to reliably and easily produce strong, clear, well-pitched notes, it is essential that your body is providing enough air to the voice and in the right way: the speed and concentration of how air is released through the mouth and nose. Higher voices tend to use a mixture of chest, nose and head depending on the range, while lower voices use the chest a lot more. Get a good grasp of your vocal range and work out which parts of your body you are using to create the sound.
Even if a particular song doesn’t require it, breathe deeply and fairly slowly so you have a good oxygen supply for each phrase of the song. The more air you have in your lungs, the stronger a foundation you have for a good sound. Over time and practising this technique, you will learn how to breathe more deeply at a quicker rate in a useful way.
The voicebox and throat should also be opened up to allow more air to go through the trachea at a slower rate, which is key to control. If you are struggling to open your throat, make sure your neck and shoulders are relaxed, and that your head is in a natural in-lined position. You can also use the artificial yawning trick: as you breathe in, pull your tongue back. You should feel a cold sensation on the back of your throat which is identical to what it feels like before you yawn!
A big secret is that singing quietly requires just as much air as singing loudly. Singing quietly is also a lot harder to sustain than singing loudly, because for loud sounds you can use projection to make your voice carry. With singing quietly, you have to sustain your voice with breathing and air supply rather than projection. So during a quiet passage, or in a more tender song like a ballad, make sure you remember to breathe!
More air passing your throat at a slower, more consistent rate is better for vocal control than less air passing through faster and more abruptly. If you think of a sneeze, you tend to breathe quite slowly, but then the nose and mouth causes the air to come out extremely quickly. Your lungs/diaphragm and nose/mouth work differently, so make sure you don’t force the sound out through your nose and mouth too quickly. This can happen even when you breathe in slowly and with control.
Practise singing wordless notes, going firstly from soft to loud. Try to grow the sound as slowly and consistently as possible. Then do it again but the other way around, loud to soft. Try to get as quiet as possible without losing the sound. Do it in different parts of your vocal range, as some will be stronger and more comfortable than others.
Developing Vocal Control
All of these principles are things to keep in mind each time you sing. Over time they will become second nature. At first just try them one at a time, and combine them with the specific vocal control exercises in this module. You will gradually train your voice to automatically do the right things any time you open your mouth to sing. Once you have mastered the vocal control exercises which follow, they will continue to be useful to “warm up” your voice, which means getting it ready to sing with easy and gentle exercises before really putting it to use – similar to stretching before you do exercise. By internalising the techniques above and using the following vocal control exercises as part of your warmup, you will continue to develop and refine your vocal control.