By Cari Cole
As one of the top vocal coaches in the country, I frequently hear: “What are your top vocal hacks (tips) for singers?”
Well, I could rattle off a long list, and yammer on for hours. (Yeah, I’m a nerd when it comes to vocals…) And I have a long list of favorite tricks up my sleeve over 20+ years of coaching singers….
But I love a challenge – so I pretended that I had only 5 minutes to tell you my top ones and so I wracked my brain to come up with the Top 3.
I started with my Top 20…
Narrowed them down to the Top 10…
And arrived at my Top 3!
That’s right — my Top 3 Vocal Tips ever.
Wanna know what they are?
Here it goes…
One of the things I am constantly teaching my private clients is that the voice is an instrument inside your body and you have to learn how to use it to get the most out of it. It’s very “physical” on the foundational level.
To have a strong voice and to have vocal consistency there are certain things you have to know and do.
There are some really simple ways that you can use, right now, to get a great sound out of your instrument.
And most singers (even professionals), unless they’ve trained, don’t know this stuff.
So I wanted to give them to you as if I was actually giving you a voice lesson…
Right here, right now.
So – stand in front of a mirror (because I’m going to ask you to watch your jaw and your head position to control movement as you sing)…
Here they are:
Cari’s Top 3 Instant Vocal Hacks:
1. The “Instant fix.”
This is a quick vocal hack that makes you sound better instantly so I called it the “Instant Fix.”
Say A-E-I-O-U (watch your jaw movement in the mirror).
Did your jaw close on any of the vowels?
Chances are your jaw closed on the E and the U – and most likely on others too, if not all of them.
Take your first two fingers and pull your jaw down 2”
(Or even better – use a plastic bottle cap or a cork (wine) to prop your jaw open.)
And speak the vowels again.
And repeat again (we’re trying to re-program muscle memory – so the more the better).
Now sing the vowels on one pitch. A-E-I-O-U.
Your goal is to keep your jaw open (long not wide) without closing for all of your vowels.
Repeat until you can do it.
Now sing a phrase of one of your songs – and make sure your jaw opens to the same position on all of your vowels.
You have to practice this a bunch before it becomes natural – but the more you do the sooner this new movement is programmed into your muscle memory.
And — you might be one of those lucky ones who notice the improvement in the sound right away (it will sound louder and more resonant with less vocal strain).
If you don’t – don’t sweat it – you will. It just takes a little practice. You might have some unwanted tension in your neck, jaw and throat muscles – try loosening them up and try it again.
The next time you perform open your jaw more on your vowels — it’s a quick trick that makes you sound better instantly!
2. “Magic High Notes.”
There is a vocal hack most vocal coaches know (if they’re good) – that if you want a singer to sing better high notes, teach them to take a deeper breath and push down on their diaphragm.
High notes require a faster speed of breath (so you need more of it) and more resistance (so you want to keep the diaphragm down).
To practice this – let’s do another vocal lesson.
Stand in front of the mirror.
Put your hands on your ribs (high up on your ribs under the bra strap or 2 “ under the nipple line). Grab your ribs with your thumbs wrapping around back.
Squeeze your ribs together and take a SLOW breath letting the incoming breath slowly push your ribs outward. Try NOT to breathe up into the chest but concentrate on the breath pushing your ribs out to the side (like they are on hinges).
Do it again and this time at the end of the incoming breath, let the last breath push your back ribs out (where your thumbs are).
Repeat this each time trying to stretch open the back of your ribcage (your back).
Do not lift the chest and feel free to round your back and bring your head slightly forward to stretch out your back more.
Now take another breath like this and as you exhale push down into your abdomen. Do it again but this time say “AHHHHHHH”. Make sure you do not tighten your throat as you press downward. And be sure not to drop the chest as you press downward. The chest stays upright. This is a little trickier than the “Instant Fix.” Now – do all of that again and sing a phrase of a song that is a little high for you (make sure your head is NOT forward and your chest is upright).
Did you notice the high notes came out easier? Practice this motion every day to work it into your muscle memory and your songs. (You have to consciously direct your body in this way and pretty soon it will become muscle memory!)
I love this one — it makes singing high notes so much easier!
3. More Power without Strain.
Who doesn’t want more power without strain?
This is a simple technique to apply – easier than the one above.
All you have to do is to keep your chin pointed slightly down and your pectorals slightly flexed (well sometimes it’s a lot flexed) when you go for more power.
Most singers reach forward or lift their chin up to sing with more power. While it may temporarily work, it causes vocal problems. Tipping your chin down not only works better and saves your voice – it actually SOUNDS better!
Stand in front of the good ‘ol mirror.
Sing an Ah scale up and down in one phrase (1-2-3-4-3-2-1).
Press your chin slightly in (point your chin towards the floor) — usually only 1” or so.
Don’t let your head bob up as you raise pitch. Keep it firmly in place.
Go all the way up the scale of your voice keeping this position.
Notice how the chin wants to move up as you raise pitch. Keep it planted.
This will give you more power and control and eliminate strain.
Practice it until it becomes natural!
Here’s to better vocals!