How To Sing

A few tips that will hopefully make your singing more powerful and musical.

Ultimate Guitar
This lesson isn't for beginners. The reason being, beginners have an underdeveloped ear. However it could be useful for anyone who is just starting out to read this and store it for later. This is aimed at those of you who can pick out a melody on a guitar or keyboard and know it's right, but when you sing it, although it isn't badly out of tune, you have the feeling it's a bit weak and there's something lacking. Maybe your singing isn't excruciatingly bad but when compared to a powerful singer, it's definitely missing some vital ingredient. Maybe your singing is tonally a bit thin. Maybe it lacks volume and power. Although it isn't badly off key, maybe the melody isn't very well defined, particularly during certain awkward sentences where the rhythm is a bit clunky. Maybe a phrase should end with a flurry of notes but instead it's a bit of a mush. This may be due to one simple thing; you're trying to sing the words and not the melody. The trouble is that you've spent most of your life SAYING words and not SINGING them. So what we need to do is remove the words and focus all our attention on the tune. Start by making sure you understand the melody as a collection of musical phrases, rather than a bunch of sentences. Pick out the melody on a guitar or keyboard, and copy it with your voice to make sure you really know it. Next thing to do is play the song and sing the melody in as powerful and tonally even way as possible. It's important to vocalise the melody in a way that produces the most even volume and tone. Try doo sounds, dee sounds, la sounds etc. You'll find some have much greater projection than others, i.e., they use much more of the body to produce the sound. They involve the stomach, chest and head, and not just the throat and mouth. It's the fact that some speech sounds are more difficult to articulate whilst keeping even tone and volume, which may be at the root of the weakness in your melodies. So settle on one that allows you to sing the melody strongly and evenly. Now practice the song until you're confident that you can sing the melody powerfully, paying close attention to how tonally even, and melodically well-defined it is. Then switch straight back to singing it the old way with the emphasis on the words. Hopefully you'll notice a marked difference in the quality of the melody. You'll probably find that the melody is now suffering. All that even tone and volume has gone and the song sounds musically weak again. So now we can hear how the words have been robbing our songs of their musicality. So switch back to singing the melody, but this time make sure that you THINK the words while you do so. This is important because some words and sentences will have a slightly different rhythmic feel than others, even though the melody is basically the same. You need to start associating each syllable with its relevant note. So when you say the word intoxication in your mind, each of the five syllables, in-tox-i-ca-tion, has its own clearly defined note which you're singing very powerfully and evenly with your voice. The next step is to gradually reintroduce the words. We do however want to bring them back without losing any of that musicality. Don't bring them back all in one go. Gradually let the shape of the words mould themselves around the evenly toned melody. As soon as you feel the melody suffering, immediately switch back to pure melody and try again. You might now find that you can shape the words around this even and powerful melody, but it sounds a bit odd not in a bad way, it's just that the words are now taking a back seat to the melody instead of the other way around. As a result, it now sounds musical but it's a bit unnatural. So this is the place you've been reaching for. You can maintain a melody whilst shaping the words around it. So now it's just a matter of returning to singing your songs in a normal way but with the invaluable experience that you now have of singing melodically. You just have to marry the two ideas together; articulating the words in a natural way with a well-defined, tonally even and powerfully projected melody. YOU CAN DO IT!

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Its useful advice, without a doubt. It just doesn't seem worthy enough for its own article, even though it is important.
    wow....nice one... i already got those thing s you have mentioned...i use to sing but when i'm going to see the big crowed...i will fell out of loss control...its just that im damn badly pressi\ured about the presence of the crowd and the people...i'm always shy and timid...and when i'll going to sing a high pic\tch by myself...that was headtone i can reach it but when i'll going to do it with numerous people i will begin to tremble and i cant rach it anymore the way i do when i'm practising....
    Great lesson, I've been working through this exact problem set lately and this is a very effective way to think about it.
    this is helpful. It really explains why a lot of famous singers scat first before adding words so they can have the melody they want and then put words to it. best example Jason Mraz.
    Such a good lesson, my singing voice has been driving me insane it just seems to have it's own temperamental behaviour, but this makes a lot of sense. Thanks for writing this, it's a very refreshing article on what is so often the most frustrating skill to practise.
    Great guide, singing is such a useful for guitarists, especially as lots of bands now seem to want us to do backing vocals
    Thanks so much man I've been playing for years but started singing this morning. Can see the acoustic is gonna get some use now!
    great lesson i did everything with an Interpol song that kinda suits my registered but there was still that something missed... and when a sang it with La's... Damn i never knew or thought i cuold sing like that jajajaja
    I was thinking more Waterboy/Rob Schneider. Helpful article though, thanks very much for sharing. If I can actually sing whilst playing my girlfriend might stop taking the piss.
    it drives me crazy that i tough myself how to play guitar, how to play harmonica, and i even understand theory now but i need vocal lessons. the one part that should be natural is turning out to be the hardest
    @toolbox420: Right? I have good tone, pacing. It's just getting the melody to flow in my singing.