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How to Practice Singing Like a Professional

Author is signing and playing the guitar at a concert.

Balagopal Ramesh performs live as an independent singer and guitarist

Learn how to sing like a professional with our own Creative Marketing Strategy Lead & AV Specialist at 3BX, Independent Musician Bala Ramesh. Ramesh explores the fundamentals of singing practice and explores techniques with clever video tutorials and easy-to-follow steps.

Notes from a 3BX Indie Musician: How to Practice Singing

An Introduction into Singing

So you are here because you are looking for guidelines to practicing singing, I assume. You likely stumbled on this blog after some searching about how to practice singing — thank you for being here; I’ll do my best to make your time here worthwhile.

A vocalist and drummer are practicng together on stage

In this blog we are going to cover the following:

  • What is practice? What does it mean to “practice” something?
  • Why does practicing something matter?
  • How to prepare for your singing practice
  • How to practice singing
  • Tips and Reminders for Practicing Singing
  • …and finally, a conclusion with key takeaways about the why, the how and the ability to sing altogether

An Introduction to Practicing Singing from a Singer Himself

We all have that friend who quotes from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success. If you don’t immediatley recognize Gladwell’s name and best selling book title, allow me to jog your memory:

“To truly master any skill, you have to put in roughly ten thousand hours of practice.” – Malcom Gladwell, Outliers: The Story of Success.

Although your friend means well, Gladwell’s 10,000 hour metric seems daunting, doesn’t it? To be honest though, in actuality there’s no need to be discouraged.

Luckily for you and any other aspiring musician that you may share this with, I’ve spent some time reflecting on my own experience in practicing singing and have crafted this blog to help you begin that very journey! So, how does one practice singing? We’ll start by covering “practice” as a subject in and of itself.

What is Practice?

…and what does practice mean?
A singer practices singing in the shower

Practice/præktɪs/práctica/अभ्यास (abhyāsa) is defined as the repeated performance of an activity in order to improve one’s proficiency or skill in that activity. It involves mindful repetition to improve technique or speed, and gradually building up to more complex and challenging tasks.

Think about it like this – it’s a safe space for you to explore, experiment, make mistakes & improve.

Why does Practice Matter?

There’s no straightforward answer to this that you’ll find on Google. However, I can speak out of my personal experience:

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of learning something new and exploring all the new possibilities. But without consistent practice, that knowledge and those skills won’t truly stick.

Just like how a speedboat is meant to be cruising toward the rising sun and not rust away at the docks.

A speedboat driver cruises into the sunrise to represent a singer leaping into the hobby of practicing singing

Can I Become a Professional Singer Without Practice?

An idividual with a passion and a strong drive may become a singer without practice. However — and this holds true for anyone at any level of passion, drive and talent — without practice, progress will be slow and can be frustrating.

Did you know that the famous French impressionist painter Claude Monet painted the same haystack near his home, 30 times?

Picture depicts that French impressionist painter Claude Monet painted the same haystack near his home multiple 30 times

He would paint the same scene at different times of day and in different lighting. Each time, Monet would focus on different aspects of the subject and how those particular aspects respond to their environment. This repetition allowed him to hone his skills and capture the nuances of light and color. If you’d like to view Monet’s entire Haystacks collection, you can do so here.

I want you all to remember this:

The next time that you feel like you’re stuck in a rut with your practice (be it singing practice, soccer/American football practice, coding practice or any other type of practice in your life) remember that even the greats like Monet believed in the power of repetition and practice.

Before we dive into the good stuff, I want to emphasize this:

Practicing the right way is the key to unlocking your full potential as a singer. It’s not just about improving your performance of a specific song, but also developing the foundation and techniques needed to excel in singing.

How to Prepare for Your Singing Practice

Preparing for singing practice is just as important as the practice itself. In this section, we’ll cover simple steps you can take to ensure that you’re ready to get the most out of your practice session.

1. Set Goals When You Practice Singing

Take a moment to introspect and understand what you hope to achieve as a new singer. Your goals don’t need to be large and overwhelming, however. I’ve found it to be helpful to break each overhead goal down into smaller, more easily-achievable goals. It could start with something as simple as learning the lyrics to a song you want to learn how to sing.

Song writer digital tablet and woman with idea

2. Remind Yourself of Your Intentions in Practicing Singing

Reminding yourself of your motivations for wanting to sing will help you practice mindfully and view your practice as an exciting step in progress, instead of it becoming a chore or burden.

“How do I set goals for becoming a singer?”, you may ask. Some of the goals that I personally found to be helpful in my journey to become a singer were:

  • To improve breath control while singing
  • To increase vocal range
  • Improve pitch accuracy
  • To increase stamina while performing
  • To be able to play the guitar and sing simultaneously and not lose timing

3. Set Aside a Dedicated Time and Place to Practice Singing

Doing so will help you practice even more mindfully and therefore prevent you from wandering to other tasks or into a social media distraction rabbit hole.

Remember: this is your time. Immerse yourself fully in your singing! You can let go of whatever it is you’re holding on to; it’s going to be alright.

It’s best if you’re able to carve out some time from your early mornings right after you wake up. Your body & mind is well rested and the mind is usually in a state where it can be shaped to your liking. Just like water that takes the shape of any container you pour it into. This would aid you in creating a positive habit for your practice.

4. Find a Space in Your Home that You Can Dedicate to Your Singing Practice

Be mindful of who might be around you while you practice singing. Let them in on your intentions so they know and can show their support. Try to avoid singing in places where you might either not be allowed to or otherwise simply not supported in doing so. You want to choose an environment that is both supportive and comfortable.

Singer practicing outside where they feel comfortable

Did you know that Paul McCartney often practiced in his bathroom while composing for the Beatles quoting “[the bathroom] has the best acoustics?” Just saying!

5. Familiarize Yourself with the Song that You Want to Practice

This is a simpler way of saying it: “study the song you want to sing.”

Every composition, whether it is opera, rock, pop, hip-hop or grunge piece, follows a structure created by its composer.

Every track is unique (unless it is “inspired by ___” or “paying homage to ___” — we all know what that means) whether it is opera, rap, rock & roll or dubstep. Pick a song and listen it a little closer, then you’ll see what I mean:

Keep listening to that song until you can’t listen “no’mo” — understand the variations of each phrase. Now focus on the way the singer moves from one phrase to another. Where do they breathe in? Understand the structure, melody, scale and time signature of the song. Make notes of where you would like to focus on when you create your own unique rendition of that song. Pick out key phrases to emphasize that fit your emotions and your singing style.

via GIPHY

Take notes of which type of vocal register is being used throughout the song. This will help you make your singing practice goal oriented.

Think about the song “She Will be Loved” by Maroon V as an example while I explain identifying a type of voal register: In this song, lead singer Adam Levine uses a technique called “breathy tone.” Breathy tone is demonstrated where we can hear his sharp exhale at the end of many lines. This technique takes some practice and time to master. Identifying such intricate details makes your practice detailed and your singing a little closer to perfect.

6. Identify Your Pitch

Find the lowest and highest note in your vocal range. You can use any instrument like a piano or a guitar or a pitch-pipe for reference & to identify your pitch. There are several online resources and mobile apps to help you identify your pitch.

A Pitch Reference:

Not all of us are blessed with being “pitch perfect.” It is absolutely essential to have a reference point for the pitch we want to sing in.

A note is like a letter in the alphabet. Just as there are 26 letters that can be combined to form words, there are notes that can be combined to form melodies in music. There are 7 notes in music.

The seven notes in music are commonly referred to as:

A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.

In some cultures, these notes are also referred to using solfeggio syllables:

Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, and Ti.

In Indian classical music, the seven notes are referred to as:

Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni.

All these notes might have different names but essentially mean the same! Hence the phrase – “Music is a universal language”.

Here are some examples:

  1. A Pitch Pipe: A pitch pipe is the simplest reference for singing practice. It fits in your pocket and you can take your pitch pipe on your next hike to practice with a view. If you don’t have a pitch pipe, no worries – there are online resources for this very thing. Again, there are several free pitch reference tools available for singing practice which provides the ease of access on your devices on-the-go.
  2. A Piano or a Keyboard: You can never go wrong with the traditional pitch references. Don’t miss out the opportunity to make use of instruments if you have access to them. It only improves your dexterity.
  3. A Tambura/tæmˈbuːrə/tam-BOO-rah: In traditional Indian classical singing, the student practices using a Tambura, a long-necked plucked string instrument commonly used in Indian classical music. It provides a continuous drone that is used as a reference pitch.
A musician practicing singing uses a tambura as a pitch pipe to estimate her vocal pitch

Frankly, I’ve used its rich and resonant sound to meditate or even help me fall asleep.

How to Practice Singing

The art of practice can be sometimes overwhelming. Wrong practices may be hard to unlearn. But worry not! I am going to try and break it down step by step and guide you through the process. We’ve got this!

1. Breathing Exercises and Techniques for Practicing Singing

It’s important to focus on refining your breathing technique to support your singing. Here are some breathing exercises that can be helpful:

Diaphragm Breathing for Practicing Singing

  • Stand up straight & relax your shoulders (You may do this while sitting up straight on a flat surface)
  • Inhale deep and raise your arms & reach out to the sky while bending backwards. Observe your lungs expand in your rib-cage. Exhale through your mouth and bring your arms down. Repeat this a couple of times.

Lip Trills for Practicing Singing

  • Loosen up your jaws, mouth, tongue and your lips. We call those lip trills; channel your inner horse for this one.
  • Lip trills are a great way to warm up your voice, as they help to relax the lips, jaw, and tongue while engaging the diaphragm and respiratory muscles.

Gibberish for Practicing Singing

Go a little crazy on this one. Really shake it up and let out some gibberish. Remember Steve Carell from Bruce Almighty.

Simply start making sounds with your mouth, don’t worry about making any actual words. Let your voice go up and down, and experiment with different pitches and tones. This is an optional step.

It’s okay to skip this step; it won’t affect the overall quality of your practice.

Simply start making sounds with your mouth, don’t worry about making any actual words. Let your voice go up and down, and experiment with different pitches and tones. This is an optional step.

It’s okay to skip this step; it won’t affect the overall quality of your practice.

2. Warming Up Before You Start Singing

A warm-up sets you up for success and protects you from any possible injury to your body, particularly in the organs and muscls you use while singing. Even the best of best performers spend hours warming up. Even famous singer Christina Aguilera speaks to the dangers of not warming up before practicing singing in her Master Class.

Whether it is Beyonce, John Mayer of any other successful singer, you can be assured that they are spending a long time warming up before they perform. A good vocal warm-up helps you gradually work your vocal chords without straining or scratching them by improving blood-flow to the muscles needed for singing. You will be able to notice the difference between practice sessions with and without warm-up.

Single Note Hum as a Singing Warm Up

A scale in music is a sequence of notes played in ascending or descending order.
It is like a ladder with steps that go up or down. Each step in the ladder is like a note in the scale, and they all have a specific distance or interval between them.
For example, a C major scale is like climbing a ladder with white keys on a piano.

In your pitch, find the first note.

  • Begin by taking a deep breath and exhaling gently. Have one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. We want to use the air from the belly for this.
  • Have your lips closed, push the air out of your belly and hum the first note of your scale. Say Hummmmm (you should feel your belly go closer to your spine when you start humming).
  • Sustain as long as you can. Your voice might waver – but don’t give up, you’re doing great! Listen & hang on to your reference drone – let it lead you. You will find that note. Make adjustments as required.
  • Repeat until you feel like your voice feels steady and isn’t wavering.
  • You may also make use of Chromatic Tuning apps and hum into it. The app will provide you visually whether you need to go higher or lower in the pitch. Tip for this step : Do this without a pitch reference to create muscle memory and train your ear.

PS: If you feel your lips going numb, you’re doing it right. Find that resonance with your body!

Sirens Technique for Singing Warm Up

For this method, use vowels (Eeee or Oooo sounds are easy to sustain for longer).
Start with your lowest note possible and slide up higher as gradually as you can sustain to reach your highest note. Try and keep the sound as smooth and continuous without any breaks in each siren.

Hold Yourself to a Standard Vocal Warm Up Routine When You Practice Singing

Take a simple major scale like C. A good vocal warm-up routine is essential for singers to prepare their voice for practice or performance. One simple way to warm up is by practicing a major scale, such as the C major scale:

 C1 D1 E1 F1 G1 A1 B1 C2

The number following each note represents the octave, which refers to the range of notes between the note and the next instance of the same note. For example, C1 represents the first octave of the note C, while C2 represents the second octave of the note C.

You can go as high or low as your voice range allows you to warm up your voice. Remember not to strain your voice. You can also repeat this exercise with other vowels (Aaa, Eee, Ooo).

Major Scale

You may practice with variations like singing double stops.

Variation

3. Let Us Not Forget The Rhythm

Pitch is your Mother & Rhythm is the father

In Indian Classical Music, one of the first lessons I learnt was “श्रुति माता लयः पिता”
Which literally means in singing, Pitch is your Mother & Rhythm is the father. Always hang on to these two.

If you feel like you sometimes struggle with timing, definitely use the metronome. Especially for beginners, the usage of a metronome can be immensely beneficial.

Set Up a Metronome to Practice Singing with Rhythm

Start by selecting a metronome with a clear and audible tick sound. You can find free metronome apps on your smartphone or use a physical metronome device.

  • Choose a moderate tempo to start with, such as 60 beats per minute (BPM). This tempo will allow you to practice the scale comfortably and ensure that you’re not rushing through the notes.
  • Begin by setting the metronome to the desired tempo and practice warm-up exerciese along with the metronome. You can start from the lowest note and gradually move up to the highest note.
  • As you become more comfortable with the scale, gradually increase the tempo of the metronome. However, be sure to only increase the tempo when you feel ready. Take it slow – you can’t rush love or perfection.

Remember: to maintain good posture, breathe deeply, and not to strain your voice. With consistent practice, you will gradually improve your timing, pitch accuracy, and develop confidence in your overall singing!

4. Practice in Your Scale When You Practice Singing

When practicing a song, it’s important to start by singing the song using just your vocals and in your own vocal range, rather than relying on a pre-recorded karaoke track. This allows you to focus solely on your voice and helps you understand how to use your vocal range to its fullest potential.

Practicing Singing A Capella

Directly translated from Italian, A Capella means “in chapel or choir style.In most cultures, A Capella is usually interpreted as music that it is performed without an instrumental track. By practicing singing a song A Capella, you can develop your own interpretation of the song and experiment with different phrasing and vocal techniques. You can also focus on your breath control, intonation and articulation without being distracted by the music or the timing of the karaoke track.

Practicing Singing with a Karaoke Track

If you start by practicing with a karaoke track, you may unconsciously adjust your voice to match the pitch and style of the original singer, which can lead to strain and tension in your vocal cords. This can also lead to a lack of creativity and originality in your singing.

Once you’ve mastered singing the song with just your vocals, you can then move on to practicing with a karaoke track if desired. Remember: the goal should always be to use the karaoke track as a tool to enhance your singing, rather than relying on it as a crutch.

How To Record Yourself While Practicing Singing

Recording yourself is a valuable tool to improve your skills.

  • Set up a recording device: You can either record your video or your audio. This will help you to playback and listen to yourself.
  • Record regularly: Make it a habit to record yourself regularly, whether it’s every practice session or once a week. This will help you track your progress over time and identify areas that need more work.
  • Listen critically: When listening back to your recordings, try to be objective and identify areas that need improvement. Listen for pitch accuracy, tone quality, and any other technical issues that you are working on.
  • Take notes: As you listen, take notes on areas for improvement and create a plan to address them in your practice sessions. This will help you stay focused and make progress towards your singing goals.

Tips and Reminders for Practicing Singing

Seek Feedback When You Begin to Learn How to Sing

While being self-taught and learning from the internet can be helpful, nothing compares to the guidance and feedback from a vocal coach or mentor. These professionals have years of experience and can assess your abilities with a trained ear. They can provide you with customized exercises that challenge and push you to improve your technique and overall sound. By reaching out to mentors or coaches, you can gain valuable insights and advice that can help take your singing to the next level.

What is it Like to Work with a Vocal Coach or Guru?

Since the beginning of my journey as a singer, I have been fortunate enough to work with vocal coaches for my own Indian Classical vocal training. My coaches, also known as gurus in my field were always mindful of my individual strengths and weaknesses. Their guidance and support have been instrumental in shaping my singing abilities and helping me develop a strong foundation in vocal techniques.

A singer gets coached by a mentor or guru

In my experience, it’s important to stick with one mentor for a period of time rather than constantly switching between coaches. This is because each mentor might have their own approach and may want to start from scratch with you, which can be frustrating and time-consuming.

By sticking with one mentor, you can build a relationship and rapport with them, and they can better understand your strengths and weaknesses over time. This consistency will also help you to evolve and progress as a singer, rather than feeling like you’re constantly starting over.

How to Collaborate with Fellow Musicians and Singers to Improve Your Singing

Collaborating with fellow singers and musicians is an excellent way to improve your skills and expand your creativity as a singer.You might be the exact artist someone’s looking for to collaborate for their next project.

How do You Find Your Next Collaboration Partner or Vocal Mentor for Feedback?

Networking with Indie Musicians on 3BX

If you’re looking to jam with other musicians and singers, there are a few ways you can get started. One option is to seek out open mic nights or jam sessions in your local area. These events can provide a casual, low-pressure environment to connect with other musicians and explore new styles and sounds.

3BX is an online platform specifically made for independent creatives. 3BX is the place where independent musicians, painters, authors and sculptors come to begin their careerscareer as an independent artist.

3BX’s mission is to provide independence to independent artists. Folks at 3BX understand the requirements of a community for independent creators and provide just that very thing!

Check out our What is 3BX blog to learn more about Books Beats Box.

Four singers collaborate while singing and playing guitar

Finally, Have Fun While You Practice Singing

Learning new techniques and developing skills is hard work. Huffing and puffing at just techniques can get a little dry and make it seem like a chore.

Don’t hesitate to mix it up! And make it enjoyable. Take up fun songs that you like. Think about exploring new genres and incorporate creativity in your routines forget to have fun! Take up fun songs, even songs that you normally wouldn’t pick up. Remember that singing is a form of expression and creativity, and it’s important to maintain that sense of enjoyment and passion while practicing.

Final Words on How to Practice Singing

Have Fun While You Practice Singing

I mean… maybe think of how “Wierd Al” Yankovic would have his practice sessions. Definitely not as drab, yeah? The world is your oyster!

How to Collaborate with Other Musicians

Once you’ve found a collaboration opportunity, it’s important to approach it with an open mind and a team spirit. Be respectful of other musicians’ styles and ideas, and be willing to try new things. You might be surprised by the unique sounds and ideas that emerge when you collaborate with others.

How to practice singing diagram with 3bx

How to Collaborate with Other Musicians

Once you’ve found a collaboration opportunity, it’s important to approach it with an open mind and a team spirit. Be respectful of other musicians’ styles and ideas, and be willing to try new things. You might be surprised by the unique sounds and ideas that emerge when you collaborate with others.


About the Author

Bala Ramesh is the Creative Marketing Strategy Lead & AV Specialist at 3BX. Ramesh is a Indian Classical singer who functions on yoga and coffee. In case you didn’t guess, Ramesh is based in California, USA (…typical, huh?).

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