You may be teaching yourself how to sing (by reading books and watching videos online) or taking singing lessons to improve your voice. As a beginner singer, you need a lot of real-time feedback and guidance.
I still remember taking singing lessons as a beginner. Usually, by the time I got home, I would have forgotten how to make the right sound or how to do the new technique.
Here are some ways to help you improve singing skills on your own.
Developing Self Monitoring Skills
As a singer, our instrument is inside our body. We do not hear our own voice the same as how other people hear us. That is because we hear ourselves mainly through bone conduction inside our skull. For everybody else, the sound travels from our mouth into their ears.
For that reason, it is very important for us to develop our self monitoring skills. We need to rely less on auditory feedback (what we hear) and more on kinaesthetic feedback (the sensations we feel in our body). When you are singing, be aware of how your body feels.
Ask yourself: What sensations do I feel when I lift my soft palate? Or when I sing with a heavier/richer tone? Or when I sing high notes?
Try to see the imagery in your mind. What does it look like? Describe it in your own words. There is no right or wrong.
Next, I want you to record yourself while doing vocal exercises and singing songs.
I usually do not recommend beginner singers to do this because they tend to get frustrated with themselves. If you think that hearing your voice will put you off singing forever, then I suggest you wait until you are more confident with your singing. However, if you are game, recording your singing is a great way to help you improve quickly. The key is to record your singing and then play it back immediately. This way, you get to relate how you actually sound with the sensations that you feel/how you sound to yourself when singing.
Take Notes/Keep a Singing Journal
I always encourage my students to take notes during their lesson. It is easy to forget what your teacher says during a lesson so even taking shorthand notes will help you to trigger the memory. You can even go one step further and video/audio record your lessons (with the permission of your teacher).
During and after your practice sessions, take note of what works and what doesn’t. Record your progress everyday. When you look back, you will be amazed at how far you have come.
How to Practice
How you practice matters just as much as how much you practice. Perfect practice makes perfect habits. If you practice a technique the wrong way, you will only get good at doing it the wrong way.
Be mindful of how you structure your practice sessions.
Always start with gentle vocal warm-up exercises such as breathing exercises and lip/tongue trills/humming. Gradually progress to harder and faster exercises as your voice gets more warmed up. It is good to set aside at least 15-20 minutes to warm up your voice before singing songs. Please avoid singing songs without warming up your voice. A lot of my students do this despite my constant reminders. Eventually, you will end up with vocal damage if you skip warming up before singing songs.
When learning songs, you want to start with easy and familiar songs. After that, you can move on to more difficult songs or songs that you are still getting the hang of.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the things that you need to think about when you are singing. You have to think about breathing, posture, articulation and by the time you start singing the second verse, you would have forgotten the lyric.
So, make it a habit to focus on one or two things at a time.
If you are learning to improve your pronunciation but you still don’t know the melody very well, allow yourself to sing out of tune once in a while as you focus on your pronunciation. Select only a small section of your song to work on until you get it right. You get to learn the song more deeply and perhaps more quickly this way.
Have the Right Mindset
Learning to sing is a lifelong journey. It is not an easy journey but every milestone you achieve is worth celebrating. It is an intensely rewarding pursuit. Remember: anything worth having is worth working hard for. If you are a beginner singer, allow yourself to make lots of mistakes. The sooner and more often you fail, the sooner you will find out the right way to sing. Learn to have a thick skin. Risk rejection. I would even recommend you to seek out rejection. Perform in public often and sought constructive feedback. There will be people who will try to bring you down - no matter how good a singer you are. It is your duty to desensitise yourself against other people’s judgment. If their feedback is constructive and helpful, then by all means take it onboard so you can be a better singer.
Experiment with your voice. Make different sounds and see how you feel.
Most of all, have fun and enjoy the journey!
You can find more than 80 000 songs to sing at home with your mobile, web browser, and smart tv from Singa, and get inspired by hundreds of curated singlists.
About the Author
Hi, I'm Benny Ng. I've been teaching singing lessons since 2011. Singing didn't come easily to me. I want to help you avoid the mistakes that I made. That way, you can become a confident singer quicker. Download your free e-book: Closet Singer to Confident Singer here - TopSingingSecrets.com