Good Voice Techniques
• Talking/singing with minimum effort is the key to a good
human voice is an
energy that can easily run out, requiring time to recharge anew, however gifted one is. The
best voice in the world has its own needs and limits it shouldn't cross.
It's unnatural to keep speaking or listening to others continuously; after all,
silence is more valued for human civilization.
Pleasure and stress don't go together. Singing while voice or ear is stressed/unready
leads to bad performance, and to bad voice eventually. Even emotional stress
can easily show in one's voice
and harm performance, transpiring in spite of oneself. (No
wonder voice-stress analysis is used as a lie detector.) Singing or
talking comfortably with minimum energy hones one's "sense of sounds," leading to
a sensitive voice, which is what a beautiful voice is all about.
• Focus during singing is vital. Singing is an input and output, receiving and
producing sounds, by the eardrums and
vocal organs, respectively. One can initially focus only on hearing and
making sounds, by singing to oneself, enjoying their very vibrations received by their ears and the
physical relief felt in the throat, lungs and head. Having "attentive ears
& sensitive vocal organs" automatically guides one to good singing, by:
- hearing yourself: listening carefully to your
own voice, preferably, with eyes closed, body still, away from noise, and even
ignoring others' reaction to your voice;
- articulating sounds should be enjoyed just as enjoying
hearing them or any other physical pleasure, e.g. eating (chewing/swallowing/spitting/ruminating
exercising (loosening/tensing up vocal cords), stretching, yawning, crying, laughing,
Conversely, excessive crooning/humming to entertain oneself inattentively, for long times,
dulls and "chokes" voice, because of lack of focus.
• Following others' footsteps is a simple guide to singing. Many
people learn to imitate others' voices to improve their own, which is
partly & initially useful, by keeping somebody else's voice "in mind" while
performing. Imitation is a good guide for beginners, just as painters and poets
made replicas and parodies of others' works. (Even countries import others'
technologies and cultural values until they develop their own.) For example,
Frank Sinatra used to sing like Bing Crosby early in his life (when
style was common), until he developed his own style.
Imitating others' voices/intonation/singing style usually happens
unconsciously, and it is a must sometimes to cope with one's environment and the people one lives with.
It's why certain places, eras and languages have their particular conversation and singing
habits one is influenced by. No wonder it's difficult sometimes to enjoy songs
by people from other countries, languages and eras.
• Singing with power completes singing with pleasure and focus. A
powerful voice is not necessarily a beautiful one, but a beautiful voice must be
powerful enough to sing. Power, in singing or otherwise, is just a
medium for beauty & happiness. A strong voice needs mastery of breathing, vocal cords,
and the entire body.
- Sport improves breathing control, be it power/cardio/relaxation exercises.
- Certain drinks & foods help control one's voice.
- A suitable environment is needed for vocal exercises (private, quiet,
etc.). Otherwise, one should focus on
- "virtual" powerful singing, i.e. voiceless exercises of vocal
organs, where you feel you
can but you won't;
- low-volume singing with more use of head voice to better hear oneself.
Technology has made strong voices less needed than before. It is gradually replacing
not only volume (by use of microphones), but also pitch, length, and voice ornaments. Eventually, one will be able to live with
a totally synthetic voice, or
even many voices.
• Performing with pleasure turns singing into a good experience to
both audience and singer. One needn't complicate such simple rule, esp. those studying
or analyzing voice, because, after all, signing is an instinct we share
with other animals (like chirping/croaking/mooing), whose brains are not complex like ours.
(An animal rarely abuses its voice, whether good or bad.) Our voice is part of nature, and the best singing is that close to nature.
evolved our brain is, it still cannot make sounds; it only "processes" them.
should reflect and evoke nature: the resonance of water drops in a cave, the weeping of wind,
the echo of mountains and depth of thunder, the cry of a young animal, the joy of a bird chirping
... Above all, it
should reflect those basic simple emotions we share
with animals: joy, sadness, pride, fear .. or just resting and silence.
Whatever one learns about singing rules, one should always keep the
larger picture and main purpose in mind, that is, enjoying & letting others
enjoy what they do.
Curbing, Deepening, Smoothing, and Ringing
- It's the easiest protection and energy-saving technique for the voice, as curbing the mouth forces one to use minimal energy, which is vital to avoid
exhaustion, the number one vocal problem.
- It forces one to use lower speech organs and ventriloquism. Alternating
between mouth-tightening and abs-tightening is vital for air control, as too
much or too little air can change voice dramatically.
- It gives diversity of ornaments and better pronunciation, unlike
open-mouth operatic singing that disregards both ornaments and pronunciation
(focusing on powerful accurate singing instead).
- It is relaxing to the mouth and facial muscles, which increases mouth
sensitivity, where actual sounds eventually vibrate and come out.
- It even increases sensitivity and control over the use of words, forcing
be verbally frugal, using minimal
- It can be done with minimal mouth opening (a slightly open mouth), or minimal mouth moving
(a still mouth) even while mouth is wide open (like a sculpture with mouth agape) which is
good for high-volume wordless notes.
- Some do it out of confidence, apathy, or privacy: hiding feelings or mouth (teeth, food,
Singing aloud with a closed mouth is difficult for beginners. Instead, most voice students
are initially asked to fully open their mouth during singing, to make the best of
the air in their lungs (the "air-box" that weakens/strengthens sound like a
bagpipe/accordion/organ). Mouth opening helps master pitch, volume and duration, at the expense of
beauty, as long as strength is favored over beauty (e.g. for high volume
accurate operatic on-key singing).
Unfortunately, mouth opening is facially exhausting and contorting. However, students can gradually learn to use maximum air on demand, even with a closed
- Mastering low notes gives control over breathing, which in turn controls volume, pitch and length. Accordingly, they express the voice of reason, self-control, and the masculine yang side of life.
- They are less noticed than high notes, making a good "background"
for group singing.
- They are less exciting, unable to express intense emotions. Rather,
low notes can be relaxing, neutral or even apathetic to the ear.
- They have less coloration and ornaments. It's why there are less famous
bass singers. It's also why broadening is more common in operatic singing than popular singing (that is more concerned with singing
emotionally and beautifully).
To "broaden" one needs:
- More sleep, rest, physical slowness, and upright positions, as it mainly
vibrates in the
chest more than the head or throat.
- More air in the lungs to be exhaled slowly during singing.
Having a full stomach helps achieve this, but singing "on a full stomach," like some opera singers do, has
to body as well as voice. An empty, relaxed, tightened stomach is better.
- Doing silent yawning/laughing, or any open-mouth voice position, as mostly
done by Billy Eckstine (and less by Dick Haymes) who also used to "trill" like opera singers.
- It can take the form of scooping (like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dick Haymes),
modulating between low
and high notes with more respiration (air), as done by Bing Crosby and many in news
reading and commercials. The "airy" notes' relaxing effect counterbalances the
serious bass notes.
can take the form of operatic broadening as done by Elvis Presley and Italian-influenced
Americans (Jim Nabors, Vic Damone, etc.).
- High notes are better for expressing emotions.
- They are more heard and distinctive. Using them is useful for voice control
during conversation/singing in a quiet environment, for privacy or otherwise.
It's also useful for distant, invisible and cacophonous communication. The high-pitch call used by some tribes for communication is the loudest
traveling sound ever recorded. Too much exposure to loud high-pitch or
low-pitch sounds is naturally painful and harmful. A group of screaming women/children/birds/bats/bugs can be
extremely annoying to the ear.
- High notes clean up the voice of hoarseness and other flaws. Many singers take a
"feminine break" during singing, e.g. John Lennon's Imagine (the
high-pitch "yo, hoo, hoo" at couplet ends).
- They are more used in voice ornaments.
- They are more distinct, and physically and emotionally needed, in pain, fatigue and grief.
(It's hard to weep with low notes.)
- It gives resonance and beauty to voice, like metal/hollow objects: caves, bells
and most instruments.
- Mumbling low notes through the nose is a useful exercise for relaxation
and control, where sounds vibrate on the top of
the mouth (like the mooing sound of a cow). Examples in acting: Jack Nicholson
& Dustin Hoffman. Examples in singing: Dean Martin.
- Although nasalizing with a closed mouth makes sounds come out vague & inarticulate,
they are resonantly attractive to others and quite clear to oneself.
- Uttering high notes through the nose causes a very sharp arrogant unattractive twang, although it makes words perceived very clearly by listeners. Usually
long-nosed people, midgets,
snobs and nerds speak this way.
Examples: Michael Douglas.
- Nasalizing is best with a deep smooth voice. Otherwise, it turns into a
mechanic twang with a smooth-only voice, or into mooing with a deep-only voice,
or into a whimper if voice is neither smooth nor deep.
Some languages are more nasal than others, including more nasal sounds, like
French and Asian languages. Because of
its "vagueness," nasalizing is more common in religious singing.
Some voice problems are permanent and difficult to cure, where one cannot but
cope with them. Such are caused by genes, accidents or years-long problems.
Temporary voice problems can be fixed.
- Loss of voice is the most serious problem. If caused by a medical
condition or an accident, treatment is needed. If by voice abuse, silence
should be kept until voice returns to normal.
- Hoarseness is the most common voice problem, caused by exhaustion,
dehydration, drug abuse, smoking, and fats. Mucus naturally develops around vocal cords for their safety
and flexibility. However, too much mucus mars the voice. Getting rid of mucus
by force is even worse, causing long damage. Because it's so common, and many
voices are naturally hoarse, it is sometimes accepted esp. for expressing
pain, anger, stress ... as in popular and gypsy singing.
- Sharpness results from over-stressing words, which leads to developing constant
mechanic robot-like overtones in one's voice difficult to remove or
hide. It grows in many contexts: teaching, coaching,
tour-guiding, etc. Nevertheless, stressing sounds is important
when talking to a cacophonous company, or even in making an argument. It makes
one's voice easily distinguished by others, and by oneself, which is initially
useful till one commands their voice and discards such unnecessary overtones.
- Croaking results from over-talking in
a serious assertive manner, as in reading news, giving commands, quarreling,
- Whining: childish, hyper-feminine voice results from
overusing emotional and sensational talking without control.
intentionally overusing the head voice out of apathy or laziness.
- Mouth/throat infection,
caused by cold, over-talking, certain foods, etc. Silence is most advised at
such times. Yet, some people grow impatient to talk while still recovering
from an illness. They may even like their voice while sick (their
nasal head voice caused by nose congestion, or deep chest voice when
phlegm grows around vocal cords).
Face/mouth exhaustion, caused by over-acting (overusing facial
expressions while talking) and over embellishing voice.
- Breathing problems, caused by respiratory, digestive, or abdominal
conditions: congestion, overeating, cramps, wrong singing positions, etc.
Solutions: When not ready to talk, or your voice is not in shape, do the following:
- Be silent or talk less.
- Whisper, use level intonation, use short sentences, or even "mumble,"
talking to yourself more than others, if it doesn't offend them.
- Use well-known expected language stereotypes, which require minimum effort by both
listener and speaker.
- Sleep and rest. It's not good to talk much after waking up; rather
wait till throat smoothes up by time passing, drinks, foods, or everyday conversation
and mere body movement that naturally rids the throat of over-night mucus.
However, sleeplessness/pain/grief can be temporarily useful for voice
sensitivity, making one make minimum effort while talking/singing and using
mostly head voice, which is attractive but not strong.
- Avoid hemming and clearing your throat loud. Rather do it voicelessly.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other causes of dehydration.
- Avoid over-talking, over-stressing pronunciation/notes, yelling, whining,
and extreme/sudden voice changes as when imitating others' voices or studying
- Focus on the things you know you can do with your voice.
- Protect and hone the few vocal skills you have.
- Find alternative non-vocal mediums to make yourself understood by others
correctly: body language, technology, positive silence ... and actions.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Music
How to Listen to Classical Music
Speech vs. Silence