Singing. Part 3

The third article on tips and basics of singing.

Ultimate Guitar

Thank you for reading the third article of my singing series. The first can be found here. The second can be found here.

This article will focus on projection, phrasing, dynamics, and some falsetto.


One of the hardest things to do with singing is to sing at an audible level while being in control of your tone, pitch, phrasing, and technique. If you over-sing, not only will your throat hurt, but the muscles surrounding it will get sore, your mouth will get sore and tense, even your tongue and facial muscles can get sore. The trick is to sing, as the clich goes, from the diaphragm. Remember breathing correctly from the first article? That is the first step in projection.

The main technique to learn for projection is to relax in your throat while increasing your volume. Some ways of doing this is to clench up a foot instead of your throat, deeply bend your knees and then stand up again while getting tense, and open your embouchure more than you usually would. Acoustic singing in small environments shouldn't be too much of a problem, though. Visualize projecting your voice so the person in the back row can hear you loud and clear, even if you're singing a soft section of the music.

Projection with a microphone is a little different than an auditorium, as you can well imagine. There are the issues of feedback, volume control, balance, and anything that comes with electronics. The biggest issue with a microphone is distance. The farther you are from the microphone, the more sensitive it will have to be to pick up your voice. This means the microphone may have to be turned up so much it will pick up background noise or even the speakers, which will result in feedback. The simple solution is to modify the distance between you and the microphone. This is also the best solution for pickup and feedback problems.

When singing into a microphone, you don't want to eat it. That is when you hold it so close it's almost in your mouth. When you start off quietly and close, you don't want to suddenly go extremely loud without moving it away. This can be shocking to the audience, cause speaker problems, mixer problems, and annoy the sound engineer. Increasing the distance slightly as you rise in volume will ease the volume in while still creating a wonderful increase in sound. I cannot give any mathematical equations for how far to move per decibel, so it's a good idea to rehearse in a garage and/or at karaoke, or any place with an ample system.

Remember to sing to the back of the microphone, rather than just the head of it.

Phrasing And Dynamics

So now you can be heard, but do you actually have something that is a single sentence? Phrasing is the art or technique of bringing a sentence into music. Inserting breaths is the same as inserting a / in poetry for a new line. Barenaked Ladies, Sting, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and even Blink 182 use breathing and phrasing to enunciate different things in their music.

Showing the breathing pattern in the lines of the Beatles song She Loves You will show how breathing can accentuate lines and ideas. I'll show the breaths with asterisks (*) which are normally notated in written music as apostrophes ('). She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah * / She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah * / She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah * You think you've lost your love, * / When I saw her yesterday. */ It's you she's thinking of * / And she told me what to say. / She says she loves you * / And you know that can't be bad. * / Yes, she loves you * / And you know you should be glad. * Ooh! *

Notice how in the line And she told me what to say / She says she loves you they don't take a breath between thoughts. This strings it as a single idea, bringing it out and giving it emphasis outside of the line-breath-line pattern.

The easiest way to think of breathing and music is to think of it as a sentence. Would you say I like cheese or would you say I like. Cheese.? Breathing often acts as a period in your musical lines.

Even the Sex Pistols knew the concept of this. In Anarchy in the UK they sang I am an anti-Christ */ I am an anarchist */ don't know what I want / but I know how to get it */ I wanna destroy * passerby / 'cos I wanna be * anarchy. Notice their breathing pattern to accentuate their main point.

Dynamics are an integral part to phrasing. Dynamics are the part of going from soft to loud, loud to soft, loud to louder, soft to softer, etc. They are used in many ways to accentuate and build songs. Whether singing loud, louder, soft, or barely audible, you want to support your voice as best you can with proper breathing. In fact, if you pressurize your breath properly, you can sing loud and soft phrases even longer than if you don't pressurize at all.

Dynamics can really make a song sparkle and build. Notice how Blink 182, Sum 41, and Britney Spears all have just two or three dynamic levels which they switch between from verse to chorus and then verse. KoRn, Frank Sinatra, Matchbox 20, Jack Johnson, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, and System Of A Down all use dynamics which build up the song just until it's ready to start ending. They also use dynamics to shape single lines. Think of the line from System Of A Down's song Aerials: And we are the ones that want to choose / Always want to play / But you never want to lose. Remember how the singer drops his voice to a quieter tone when he says lose? That is a perfect example of using dynamics to shape a single line. You can also see the opposite effect when he sings We drink from the river / Then we turn around and put up our walls and sings louder with walls. He's simply accentuating the focus of the line.


I decided to touch on falsetto a bit on this article because there have been a lot of questions about it.

Falsetto is basically the technique you use when you sing higher than your normal voice. This can be heard with the BeeGees, The Four Seasons, and The Tokens (remember The Lion Sleeps Tonight?). This is also known as your head voice. Open up my clip Falsetto and you'll be able to know exactly what to do. The clip goes from a higher singing range into a falsetto range in an off-key scale. I'm sure everyone, at one point or another, has sung in their falsetto.

To project with your falsetto, you must take extra care to not tense up your throat. This is the hardest thing to do because more tension is required on your vocal cords to produce the higher tone. That tension comes from the muscles which act on your vocal cords. It's really quite easy to tense up your throat, so as you go higher remember to bend your knees or clench your feet (or whatever you do) to release that tension.

There is an area between your normal (chest) voice and your falsetto. This is called the passaggio, which is Italian for passage. Slowly warming up and singing scales up to and into your passaggio will decrease the range of it. A lot of passaggio follies can be exercised by singing louder or more forcefully until you can get the notes well enough to back off and sing more quietly into the problem areas.

That concludes this article of singing! The next one will cover exercises, voice maintenance, and whatever else I feel it needs or people request.

Thank you.

88 comments sorted by best / new / date

    SingSabre aka shit face, some thanks are in order firstly i forgot to say what a ***en ball i had listening to ur songs in the 1st place, seriously ive never laughed so ***en hard in my life!!! WEll done. Oh and another thanks for reminding me about the moderating im gonna notify him too, u know, to see if he can get u to do us all a favour and shut u the *** up! Oh and i'll ***en post u a song mate, and it'll be a shit load better then any grogen that poors out of ur sad sack mouth. Timzorsisamother***er: or what ever ur name is, u seem to love sabre *** so god damn much and OBVIOUSLY have some obsession with shit, so why dont u go lick his ass u brown noise little terd!!! *** up love ricki kisses all round!
    Timz0rs: thanks! I enjoy writing them! BMAN: That'd be great! Could you PM me the compilation and I'll see if it sparks anything I can add. I'll definatly give you credit in the next article.
    SingingSabre, like people are asking for examples of songs of people singing falsetto and such. So I was just saying if you wanted me to compile of list of songs from various genres. Its up to you though.
    To SingingSabre: All three of your articles are extremely well written... keep 'em coming. To Ricki_Jones: Do us all a favor... go to your bathroom, take a big shit, and drown yourself in it to save us from your ignorant, bullshitty remarks. Thanks.
    Ricki: A) let's see you post a better song...or even post at all. B) That was unconstructive, rude, and intentionally inflammatory. I am notifying a mod to see if the spamming of these comments forums can stop.
    SingingSabre, i just read over all these post and was appeuled at the things that alfi_d and Tia had written about ur singing, so i decided to listened to ur singing and found what they had posted even crueler when i came to the asumption that u OBVIOUSLY have some sort of mential illness if u think that ur singing is good! I mean seriously dude i cant even find the words to describe how bad that was, next time i want to damage my ears with a such ***en awefull sound i'll walk into my bathroom go to the toilet and do a big shit couz that'd have to sound better the the damaged sound that comes out of ur mouth!!! And ur rendition of little red corvete, FUCK ME, prince would have a hard attact and die if he was ever unlucky enough to hear it! I thought of telling u to save everyone and never sing agaian but i realised the unsafety that at any given moment u could open ur mouth and unleash hell upon us all, the only way to save my poor poor ears is to remove ur voice box and stop u from ever punishing us with that sound again! And all ur bullshit about constructive critasisum is just one more reashorence on how crap u actually are and cant handle anything constructive but hey i realise my coments may come off as cruel ecspecially to someone with a mential disorder so i'll humor u with some constructive critasisum... Next time u go to sing (and god help us it is in the privesy of ur own home where noone can hear) take a hint and SING IN FUCKEN TONE!!! ~xox~
    Applejacks, you can learn to pressurize each breath to a small degree or to a large degree. You don't need to pressurize each breath to the fullest. It's just a good habit to get into with some pressurization. The difference between head voice, chest voice, and falsetto is pretty easy. Chest voice is powered from your chest, head voice from your head, and falsetto is an artificial high voice. SRV: middle voice would be between chest voice and falsetto...aka your head voice. Or they could be talking about between your chest voice or head voice and your falsetto...your passaggio. But you wouldn't sing in your passaggio. KORNMAN: thank you. I don't believe I've had the pleasure of having my article referred to as "delicious". Thanks for spelling correctly, even!
    uh kind of like the last question, what is the difference between head voice and falsetta? Doctadre said something at the beginning of the replies but i didn't really get it. and how do you sing in the head voice.
    I'll make a list for the next article. SingingSabre, just tell me the "Deadline" and I'll get it for you. So far requests for Low singers, and falsetto. Any other examples needed?
    WHat about Middle voice, i've read some people say there is chest, middle and head and some say there is only chest and head, what do you think?
    awesome article. a question about the first one: are you supposed to compress every breath you take even between lines? because its kindof hard to do.
    original: I'm sure you know firsthand that girls don't have but only one range. Females not only have chest voice, but also head voice and falsetto, just as males.
    Axl Rose does sing in falsetto a lot actually, you can tell his falsetto voice if you watch So Fine on the Use Your Illusion DVD (i can't remember if it's I or II though). But where he sings "how could she be so cool, how could she be so fine" that's his normal chest voice, then Duff sings and Axl has that part where he sings "i wanna reach up and grab one for you", that's falsetto, and Axl uses his falsetto a lot, songs like You Could Be Mine and It's So Easy he doesn't, but like Sweet Child O' Mine and Garden of Eden he does
    could someone give me a list of rock singer that are reallly low, cause my voice is low, thanks.
    ricki_lones: if that aint *constructove critisism* i dont know what is!?! ha ha Tia -xox-
    yeah, good 3rd article. As a trained singer I know this already, but you really do know what you're talking about. Nice one.
    The guy who wrote this knows a lot about singing...or at least a lot to help beginners But I know more So if u have questions ask me But to clear up something I found, head voice and falsetto are totally different Head voice is strong and connected, like heavy metal singers use (look up nitro...lmao) Falsetto is weak and breathy, like when u pretend to be a girl. Think: prince, the darkness, the beegees Falsetto happens when the vocal chords have stretched as far as they can (as high as u can in full voice) and they stop coming together rapidly and just stay open, letting lots of air through Head voice is when they zip together (like a guitar string getting shorter) to make the space that air can go through smaller. You have to train with a good teacher to learn this co-ordination (well I'm sure u could do it at home but if u can get a teacher its 1000x better) Message me if u need more help
    Alfi_d : gave you CUNSTRUCTIVE critism. That YOU asked him to give in the second artical. And you simply couldnt take it. He even quoted your own articals. I must say I like the articals very much, but from a very apprehensive point of view after hearing you sing. Keep singing by all means and dont go drown yourself in poop or anything like that. My two cents for everyone hear is just listen to and SING along with alot of music! Practice. Your voice is not just a instrument, Its a muscle and needs to be trained. Just like going to the gym.
    yo alfi d (wtf dus the d stand for? i have sum ideas) just if u hate singingsabre so much just get out of here and make ur own ****ing tutorials for singers?
    like i mentioned in my last comment ... Ricki,Alfi...tia... u all need to get laid ..i know!! why dont u guys have a threesome .. itll make everyone happy!
    Singing sabre I have lost my Fallsetto.... really..... how Do i get it back? i need to find it... can that happen to people... and why have i lost it?
    Aaahhhh... I read all this stuff about singers how use falsetto and there's a band (if you haven't already heard of it) called Muse. Listen to Matt Ballamy in the song Microcuts. He sings the entire song in falsetto cranking into some really high notes in the chorus.
    BMAN: just get it into me whenever you can. I'm sure whatever you send will spark ideas in me. I really appreciate your help.
    SingingSaber You PRick... I don't believe you told me to *** off, As soon as I give you your constructive critis***inism you told me to "*** off"... YOu've been asking for it for the last Million posts and as soon as you get it, you don't accept it... your an idiot!
    we're not here to talk about my singing, we're here to comment on the article.
    he did refer back to your 'LITTLE RED CORVETTE' number SABRE - and these articles [your SINGING SERIES] seem to be an outline of your recordings so what do you mean?! Alfi_d isnt commenting on your article! ??? Tia -xox- and just for shits and giggles: i actually did like the article! its just your posted examples that dont do anything for you.
    Alfi: we're not here to talk about my singing, we're here to comment on the article. Fuck off.
    THis is Constuctive critisism... Singing Sabre: in your example's "Little Red Corvette" and "Hapily ever after" Your breathing technique is all wrong sing from Your diaphram Not through Your arse Check your posture,Try to imagine a string from the ceiling to the top of your head holding you up, Not a Pole Shoved Up your arse and out your mouth... visualizing how your sound is coming out... make Sure It's comming out your mouth...envisioning it coming out of you straight as a laser beam not sloppy like a diahorrea shit... Remember singing in key is also good When you tried to get louder in "hapily ever After" you certainly did, you actually overdrove my speakers, But Vomit yuck how out of key was that... . The trick is to sing, as the clich goes, from the diaphragm. With Your timing and guitar playing... GET A METRONOME seriously as FAST as you can... Tap your foot, Bob your head, count, Do WHATEVER to keep yourself in time... Are you Right Handed? i suggest you get a left handed guitar and start from scratch, Learn how to strum...AND...IN TIME... it sounds like your stumming your guitar with a straight wrist and arm and with a very RIGID hold on your plectrum, Relax your wrist leave a little bit of slack on your pick... your also actually strumming the guitar more to your words than to the song, everytime you stopped singing the guitar stopped with it thats all i can be bothered to do right..... Soon To be More tips from alfi Cya
    AnyDJ: girls have falsettos, too...not just men. broken_bottles: thanks. I just wanted to share what I can of my training and knowledge.
    there is a difference between falsetto and head voice
    falsetto is (obviously for guys since girls only have one range) when you're imitating a soprano. head voice is when you're imitating emo singers.
    actually, basses sing better falsettos usually. they don't always go as high, but they often sound better. i'm a bass, and have a better falsetto than most tenors i know.
    Incubus's Brandon Boyd tends to use Falsetto a lot as well in his songs. Obviously he doens't use it the whole time, but a song where you sing in falsetto would be some stuff from Dashboard Confessional (emo i know) like Ghost Of A Good Thing. Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service (ya same singer) do it as well but for a rock band, Eagles? Journey? Led Zepplin? N.E.R.D's Pharell Williams uses it a lot, and they are actually pretty cool. and um...usher... (notice how I COMPLETELY drifted away from rock lol)
    Should i try to extend my normal range farther or just switch to falsetto, or will there be no power there in falsetto.
    Mick, check your local music stores. They'll have information on which teachers are good. SRV: I can't answer your question about Axl or Chris. Sorry. As to rockers which use falsetto all the time, I can't think of any. They usually just use it to accentuate things. Prince uses his falsetto a lot. His song "Kiss" for example, is done in falsetto.