Whether you have dreams of performing your own songs or just want to be better at karaoke, teaching yourself to sing is an honorable goal. While some people opt to seek out a professional voice tutor, doing so can sometimes be prohibitively expensive. Plus, many people who want to improve their voices are self-conscious about how they sound. At first, even singing in front of another person can seem daunting.
If you teach yourself to sing, you can improve your voice in the comfort of your home without having to worry about how you sound. However, if you're like many would-be vocalists, you may not be sure just how to begin. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the ways you can begin teaching yourself to sing.
How to Sing: How Do You Start?
So you want to learn how to sing. Before you start, you'll want to make sure you have some idea of what to do. In this list, we'll help you see what you need to know as you learn.
1. Understand Head Voice And Chest Voice
Before you even begin practicing, it can be helpful to know a little about your singing voice. There are two main voices used by singers -- the head voice and the chest voice. Of course, both are produced by the vocal cords, but the head voice, which is used to create higher notes, often feels like there is a vibration within your head. On the other hand, the chest voice is lower and warmer.
In order to reach your full potential as a vocalist, you'll need to be able to switch between your head voice and chest voice, using something that's known as a mixed voice. We'll talk about learning how to sing with a mixed voice a little later on. In the meantime, the video below offers a helpful breakdown of the chest voice and the head voice. It may seem hard to identify these voices at first, but with a little practice, you'll be able to identify them and switch between them with ease.
2. Make Breathing Exercises Your Friend
You might not think of your voice as something that needs to be exercised. But singing takes practice, and practicing the wrong way (or without warming up) can lead to vocal strain and even injury. Singing well involves having great breath control -- after all, singers produce sound by moving air through the body.
Breathing exercises alone won't make you an excellent singer, but practicing awareness and careful control of your breath go a long way toward improving your voice. Breathing from the diaphragm is extremely important. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing is a good first step, and after that, you'll want to move on to some breathing exercises. If you want a place to start, check out this vocal workout video -- it will take you through some key vocal exercises to do each time you practice.
3. Work On Ear Training
We know that you're trying to train your voice -- not necessarily your ear. However, part of learning to sing the right pitch is being able to identify the pitch of a note you hear. If you ever want to perform covers of existing songs (even on karaoke night), being able to identify and match a pitch is crucial.
One simple way to train your ear to pitch is by playing a song out loud. Choose a note you hear, pause the music, and try to match the pitch. You may be able to hear for yourself whether you've matched the pitch, but you can also record the music and your voice and play it back. A simple way to train your ear (and also learn your vocal range) is to play a note on a piano and then try to match the pitch that you hear.
Training your ear has other perks, too -- if you play an instrument, it can also help you master the art of playing by ear. Playing by ear makes it much easier to learn to play songs you've heard, and it's also a great tool for songwriting. If you aren't sure how to start, this video on level one ear training may be a good place to begin.
4. Practice Singing "All In One Flow"
This tip kind of goes along with breathing exercises. More accurately, it's a skill that you'll likely be able to develop once you get more comfortable controlling your breath. But what do we mean by "all in one flow?" If you listen to a song you like, you may notice that words in each line seem to "flow" together. This is because the singer is singing each line in one exhale.
This technique isn't hard to practice, and it's definitely rewarding -- you'll probably find that your voice sounds better and smoother. Pick a song and sing along with it, making sure that you sing each line in one exhale. If you can't completely make a line, don't worry -- after all, learning to sing takes a good bit of practice. Continue your breathing exercises, since they can help you develop better stamina. If you want to hear what this sounds like, check out this video for inspiration.
5. Make Sure You're Aware Of Your Head, Chest, And Mixed Voice
If you want to sing well. you need to make sure you're aware of your range and the various "voices" you can use. Earlier, we talked briefly about the head voice (higher notes which usually feel like they vibrate in your head), chest voice (lower notes that seem to vibrate in your chest), and mixed voice (a combination of both). Without a professional around to point out when you're singing with a mixed voice or head voice, it can be hard to know when you're using which voice.
Luckily, there's an exercise you can do on your own that will help you build awareness of your range and different voices. To do this exercise, start with a high note at the top of your range. As you sing, gradually lower the pitch.
While you're at the higher end of the range here, you'll probably notice what feels like a vibration in your head. At the lower end, you'll probably feel a vibration in your chest. In the middle, there's a hybrid voice where you should feel some of each. Make sure to do this exercise frequently -- it will help you identify each type of voice. As you practice more, you'll also become more comfortable and familiar with your own vocal range. If you want to learn more about your mixed voice and how to find it, this video is a great place to start.
6. Record Yourself Regularly
You can probably already tell if you hit a drastically wrong note, but it's impossible to gauge your exact vocal tone by listening to yourself sing. This is because your voice will always sound more full and resonant in your own head. However, recording yourself as you sing has a few advantages. For instance, it can help you assess the tone of your vocals. When you listen to a recording of yourself, you can more accurately pinpoint where you want to improve. Maybe you want a fuller, warmer tone. Or maybe you get a little pitchy when reaching for high notes.
Recording can also help you track your progress. It can be easy to get frustrated with yourself when you feel like you aren't progressing as quickly as you want to. However, if you go back and listen to some older recorded practice sessions, you'll be able to see how far you've come.
You don't need a full studio setup to effectively gauge your vocal tone. Often, a simple at-home recorder will do the trick. An all-in-one recorder like the ones featured in this video can be an affordable, practical way to start recording.
7. Take A Course
We know this is a list that's primarily about teaching yourself to sing. But many self-taught people do reach out for help and guidance along the way. The internet grants you easy access to seemingly limitless resources, and some of these resources can help you improve your singing.
In particular, online music and voice lessons have become especially popular. While these courses don't give you the same interaction with an instructor that you get with in-person classes, they are an easy and affordable way to get some guidance. If you want to see what a course might be like, check out this sample video lesson.
Even if you're on a tight budget, there are plenty of completely free internet singing resources -- numerous singers have free YouTube videos where they teach singing techniques and even offer sample vocal lessons. If you do have some money to spend, online courses tend to be relatively affordable. In some cases, you can take an inexpensive online course with an option to pay extra for a one-on-one lesson with the instructor.
Some Online Singing Courses
8. Work On Expanding Your Range
You may already have a sense of what your vocal range is -- your range is made up of the pitches you can consistently hit. However, if you're like most people engaging in vocal training, you probably want to be able to hit high notes as well as reach warm lows.
Often, expanding your range successfully comes down to regularly practicing vocal exercises. For example, when singing a scale, you might want to work on briefly hitting a higher note than you're comfortable with before going back down the scale.
It's important to be patient with this process, though. Many people end up pushing themselves too hard, resulting in vocal strain and other difficulties. Expanding your range takes practice and time, and you'll need to set smaller goals -- if your natural range is fairly small, you won't be able to achieve an impressively large range overnight. If you want a few more example exercises to get you started, check out this interesting video.
9. Practice Projecting
Learning to sing isn't quite the same as speaking, but self-taught singers can learn a lot from the mechanics of speaking. Think about the difference between speaking in front of a crowd and having a quiet conversation between two people. When conversing, you don't need to project your voice in order to be heard. However, when speaking for a crowd, you project your voice.
Try projecting your voice in front of a mirror. You probably notice that, in order to project, you speak from your diaphragm. This allows you to project a fuller-sounding voice. Practice "singing from your diaphragm" -- it can be intimidating to sing at full volume, but you won't be able to develop your voice to its full potential if you sing at very low volume.
Figuring out how to project well can be one of the challenging points of learning to sing, so it can be helpful to get different people's perspectives on how to do it. Check out this video on how to project.
10. Teach Yourself To Sing With Vibrato
Have you ever heard your favorite singer sing with vibrato? This is the pulsating pitch variation that can sometimes be heard toward the end of a sustained note. No singer wants to constantly use vibrato, but when it's used sparingly, it can add a whole new dimension to the songs you perform.
That said, vibrato isn't something that you should start to learn immediately -- in order to learn a real vibrato, you'll need to build on proper breathing techniques. For instance, some singers produce a slow, unsteady vibrato-like effect that's actually called a wobble. A very fast vibrato effect, called a tremolo, can happen due to anxiety or poor airflow, and it can also happen to singers who excessively use alcohol and drugs. You may not think you'll be able to tell the difference between these and genuine vibrato, but you'd be surprised -- a true vibrato is pleasing to the ear, while tremolo and wobble effects sound unpleasant, even if you're untrained.
If you want to start looking into some of the ways you can begin learning to sing with vibrato, this video can teach you some exercises to use.
11. Work On Improving Your Vocal Tone
The first time you try singing, you may or may not like the tone of your voice. And you may already know that range and tone are two different things. Think about two different guitars. You can play the same notes on both, but you may find that you like the sound, or tone, of one guitar more than the other.
Of course, like good singing, the good tone is somewhat subjective. You can improve your tone by making sure you open your mouth all the way when you sing and making sure that you sing from your diaphragm. Make sure that you are engaging your core muscles -- this kind of support can work wonders for singers in all genres.
If you want to improve your tone, you might want to try recording yourself and playing it back. If there are particular singers you admire and want to sound like, you may want to try to sound like them. Record yourself trying different vocal techniques -- you may be surprised by what ends up working for you. If you want to achieve a richer, more remarkable tone, this video can show you some tips on how to do so.
12. Invest In A Singing Critique
Working to teach yourself to sing can be a challenge -- after all, you don't have a voice instructor there to help you see when you're making mistakes. Of course, not everyone has the budget or the desire to seek out in-person instruction.
Luckily, there's a sort of happy medium that you may find helpful. Plenty of vocal tutors and reputable sites offer video critiques of your voice. You simply need to record a video (or audio, depending on site requirements) and send it. With a critique, a qualified person will be able to point out some of your vocal strengths as well as what you may need to work on. But the best part about a good critique is that it won't just tell you what you need to work on, but how you can work on it. Then, equipped with some new strategies to try, you can continue working to improve your voice. This video offers an example of one vocal coach's critique and what you can expect.
13. Make Time For Regular Practice
Your voice is an instrument. And just like with learning an instrument, you need to make sure you set aside plenty of time to practice. Teaching yourself to sing requires discipline, and if you want to see improvement, you'll need regular practice sessions. This isn't to say that you need to sing every single day -- in fact, overusing your vocal cords can lead to damage and even permanent complications.
Aim to practice at least a few times a week. It's a good idea to do some vocal exercises each time, as well as practice singing songs that you like. You want to make sure that you keep your voice healthy, especially as you continue to practice. This video will show you some healthy vocal habits to make sure you keep.
14. Don't Forget The Importance Of Warmups
If you're about to undergo a vigorous physical workout, you want to make sure that you warm up first. And while you might not think of singing as physical exercise, it's important to remember that the physical structures involved in singing can become injured.
In order to minimize your risk of injuries and to keep your voice as healthy as possible, make sure you practice some vocal warmups before each practice session. Most vocal warmups are fairly easy to do -- they're designed to relax your throat and vocal cords. Humming scales, singing octave slides, and even lip buzzing (essentially making the motorboat sound with your lips) can all be part of a successful warmup. Remember, the goal isn't to strain your voice or hit amazingly high notes -- you just want to prepare yourself for the practice session ahead. In time, you'll probably find a warmup routine that works best for you, but it's a good idea to try different techniques to find what exercises you like. This video can take you through one singer's usual warmup routine.
15. Know Your Limits
While teaching yourself to sing can be an enjoyable activity, being a self-taught singer is not without its dangers. For example, even singing with poor posture (usually a hunched posture that can result in both vocal injury and compromised singing ability) is something that self-taught singers may not realize they're doing.
Another thing that singers who are self-taught commonly do is overextend themselves. It's important to know your own limitations -- you might be tempted to strain to reach very high notes, which can result in injury. Growth as a singer is almost sure to happen, but you do need to be realistic and patient with yourself. If you're ready to start on your journey toward being a singer, check out this video on things all singers should know.
Just like with any skill, learning to sing takes practice. If you don't like how you sound at first, don't give up! We would encourage you to try several different things from our list. Of course, if you want some targeted feedback from a professional, consulting with a vocal coach may be something to try. In the meantime, dedicated practice (with some help from outside resources if you need it) can get you a long way. Hopefully, you found our list helpful. Don't forget to share if we've helped you learn to sing!