Are you pumped to join the ranks of your favourite professional singers but don’t know how to give your voice the workout it needs? Follow these daily vocal exercises for singers and you’ll notice a marked improvement in no time!
- Why do I need daily singing exercises?
- What are the best daily exercises for singers?
- Warm-up exercises to prepare your voice
- Breathing exercises to help build your stamina
- Vocal cord exercises to help you expand your vocal range
- Pitch exercises to help you stay in tune
- Tempo exercises to help you stay in time
- Rhythm exercises to help you keep to the beat
- Diction exercises to help you articulate
- Build a vocal workout routine and stick to it
Why do I need daily singing exercises?
As an aspiring vocalist, you need to have just one goal in mind: improve your singing voice. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been singing professionally for years or if you’re a newcomer – if you put the time in to understand your voice and learn which parts of it could be improved, then exercising those parts will make you a better singer.
Whether you’re focussing more on a mental or physical aspect of singing, the more you work at it, the more naturally it will come to you. When you repeat the same exercises over an extended period of time, you will form good singing habits and train your vocal muscles to perform at their optimal level.
Exercising consistently every day will improve your singing voice in a more gradual, healthy way than trying to cram in an intense vocal practice once a week. Remember, your vocal health is more important than anything else, so don’t do anything that might risk you losing your voice.
Read more about why resting your vocal cords is essential for good vocal health and how to recognise when you need to take a break in our article Vocal Rest: Why Silence Is Golden For Singers.
While planned periods of rest are still an important part of your workout, here we’re going to focus on the workout itself.
What are the best daily exercises for singers?
We’ll take you through the best exercises and top tips to prepare your voice, stay in tune, keep to the beat, and more. Let’s get started!
Warm-up exercises to prepare your voice
As with any form of exercise, the first thing you will need to do is warm up.
If you were going to the gym to lift weights or heading down to the running track for a few laps, you would first need to warm up with some stretches and cardio to raise your heart rate from resting and increase the blood flow around your body.
It’s the same for singers – where athletes stretch their legs before they hit the ground running, you warm up your voice before you sing a single note. Once you’ve primed the right parts of your body, it will respond better to what you’re trying to make it do.
Vocal warm-up exercises will not only make it easier for you to sing better and for longer, but will also help stop you from straining your vocal muscles.
Parts of your body that you perhaps wouldn’t associate with singing can have an impact on your vocal performance, especially tension in your neck, shoulders and jaw.
Read more about jaw-loosening exercises and other vocal warm-ups in our article Vocal Warm-ups to Whip Your Singing Voice into Shape.
Breathing exercises to help build your stamina
Breath is the foundation for vocal production. If you run out of breath, your voice runs out of steam!
To help you understand how important breath is for vocal production, here’s a recap of how vocal production works:
- You inhale air into your lungs
- You exhale air from your lungs through your vocal cords
- Your vocal cords vibrate to create sound
So the more air you can inhale, the more air you can exhale – and the more you can exhale, the more air you can push through your vocal cords.
This is where diaphragmatic breathing comes into play. When you actively engage your diaphragm, you create more space for your lungs to inflate.
When we breathe without engaging our diaphragm, we usually feel our chest expand as we breathe in, and deflate when we breathe out. While this lets us inhale enough air for regular speech, it’s not enough for singing.
Try instead to inflate your stomach when you breathe in, keeping your chest flat. You should immediately notice how much more air you can take in – see if you can count up to 5 slowly as you do.
Aside from training yourself to breathe in more efficiently, you must also train yourself to breathe out more efficiently. You can do this by exercising your breath control.
After taking in your efficient diaphragmatic breath, hold it in before letting it out. Purse your lips and slowly push out the air – see if you can exhale for 10 seconds.
Find out everything you need to about breathing for vocalists in our article:
Breathing Exercise Tip: Try blowing through a straw to exercise your breath control. Since the opening of the straw is so much narrower than your mouth, the straw will stop you from breathing out too quickly.
Vocal cord exercises to help you expand your vocal range
Your vocal range is the distance between the lowest and highest notes you can reach. If you don’t warm up your vocal cords before you start singing, you may find that you struggle to reach quite as low or as high as you could if you did.
One of the best ways to warm up your vocal cords is to make a siren sound like a fire engine. Even professional vocalists swear by this technique, so don’t feel embarrassed to try it!
After taking a deep breath, pick a random starting note and say a long ‘ooh’. As you’re saying it, slide your voice up as high as you can without it breaking, and back down again.
These exercises are known as ‘vocal sirens’. To find out more about how they work and how they can help you become a better singer, read our article Vocal Siren Warm-Up Exercise: A Step-by-Step Guide.
Want more tips to help you push the boundaries of your vocal range? Take a look at our article How to Expand Your Vocal Range.
Vocal Range Exercise Tip: See what the highest note you can sing is before doing vocal sirens, then compare it with the highest note you can sing after the exercise.
Pitch exercises to help you stay in tune
If you, like about 1 in 10,000 people, are blessed with perfect pitch, then you may not need to practice this as much. If you’re in the 99.99% with the rest of us, then don’t worry – by following these daily pitch exercises, you will soon discover that practice does indeed make pitch perfect.
The first step to practice singing in tune is to find your home note, or ‘tonic’, which is the note that defines which key you’re singing in. A common home note is C – specifically the third C on a standard piano keyboard, C3, for male singers, and C4, also called ‘middle C’, for female singers.
This is easy if you have access to a piano or keyboard at home or in your practice space, but don’t worry if you don’t. There are plenty of free music maker apps, such as GarageBand for Apple devices and Walk Band for Android devices, which include a virtual piano keyboard.
Alternatively, you can find plenty of videos on YouTube that will play your note for you:
Whichever method you use, play yourself your starting note and try to match it with your voice. If the note you’re singing is lower than the note coming from your keyboard, then you’re singing ‘flat’; if you’re singing a note that’s too high, you’re singing ‘sharp’.
You will most likely be able to hear whether the note you’re singing is slightly higher or slightly higher than the note your keyboard is producing. However, if you want to check your accuracy to within a fraction of a Hertz, you can use a vocal tuner app like VocalTuner or Vocal Pitch Monitor.
Many vocalists describe ‘picturing’ the note they’re trying to sing in their mind. Over time and with enough practice, you’ll be able to imagine what a middle C sounds like, so you’ll be able to sing it without having to play it first!
Read more about how to practice singing in tune in our article How to Improve Pitch and Sing In Tune.
Now you’ve found your home note, it’s time to venture away from it – while making sure you can find your way back to it.
Solfege and scale exercises are a useful way for you to learn intervals, which are the distances between notes. Let’s try one!
Start by singing up the scale from your tonic to the fifth note (the ‘dominant)’, then back down again to the first note. In letter notation, this would be ‘C D E F G F E D C’, and in solfege, this would be ‘do re mi fa so fa mi re do’.
Once you’ve done this, move your tonic up a half step from C to C? and repeat the five-note scale. Keep moving your tonic up a half step each time you sing through the scale until you reach the next C.
Here are some more solfege exercises for you to try:
All of these exercises are based on the major scale, which many popular songs are also based on. However, there are many other scales in music, and by learning and practising them, you will gain a fuller understanding of the relationships between different notes and improve your pitch.
Want to find out more about different scales and how they can help develop your vocal abilities? Take a look at our article How Scales and Arpeggios Will Improve Your Singing.
Pitch Exercise Tip: Play a C3 or C4 on your keyboard and keep the note in your mind for 10 seconds, then sing it into your tuner and see how close you were. Try adding more notes to your sequence and see if you can sing the full five-note scale in tune from memory!
Tempo exercises to help you stay in time
When you perform with a band, keeping time is not just the drummer’s job – it’s every member’s responsibility to stay in sync.
Now, we know that we’re not robots, so it’s perfectly natural to speed up if you’re feeling nervous or excited or slow down if you’re being extra careful or cautious. However, time waits for no one, so you’re going to need to steady yourself to stay in time with your backing track or band.
Luckily, there’s an invention designed to help you do exactly this: the metronome!
With a metronome, you can set the beats per minute (BPM) to whatever speed you want.
Choose a slow tempo to begin with, then once you’re confident you can perform your piece at that speed, gradually increase the tempo. You can do this for singing exercises, such as the solfege exercise, or for full songs you are learning. If you can sing a full song at a faster tempo than the original without tripping over your words, then you’ll find the normal speed much easier!
If you don’t own a physical metronome or don’t want to purchase one at this time, you can find videos of metronomes at various speeds on YouTube.
Start at 60 BPM – one beat per second – and run through the five-note solfege exercise, singing one note per click. This is quite a slow tempo, so don’t give in to the temptation to sing your next note before you hear the next click!
Now, let’s double the tempo to 120 BPM – two beats per second – and try the exercise again. Most popular songs are played at a tempo close to 120 BPM, so you should find it quite comfortable to sing at this speed.
If you’re a real adrenaline junkie, try cranking the speed all the way up to 480 BPM and see if your do re mis can keep up!
Starting your singing exercises at a slow speed will help you trust the tempo and let it guide you. Slowing down the tempo is also useful when you’re learning a new song, especially if that song is a little on the quicker side.
If you’re learning a song by singing along to a YouTube video, you can adjust the playback speed. Or, if you want more control over the BPM and the pitch, you can download an app like Music Speed Changer.
Top Tempo Exercise Tip: Find the BPM of the song you’re learning, then set your metronome to 0.75 of the original tempo and sing the song at that speed (without speeding up!).
Slowing down the tempo of the song you’re learning is also a great way to study that song’s rhythm in more detail!
Rhythm exercises to help you keep to the beat
Even if you don’t play an instrument, you still need to have good rhythm as a singer. Having good rhythm is all about understanding the ‘beat’, or ‘pulse’, of the song that you’re performing.
While some songs have much more complex rhythms, the majority of pop songs are in the time signature ‘4/4’, meaning they have a distinct ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ pulse that you can follow throughout. Other notes often fall between these counts, landing on the ‘ands’ or ‘offbeats’.
Finding the beat of a song and synchronising yourself with it will help you pinpoint precisely where all the offbeats need to go. It’s worth remembering that beat 1 is not always the first not you sing.
Let’s use an example we’re all familiar with, which also suggests some ‘handy’ things you can do to focus on the beat:
Starting with the hand claps, clap throughout the song at the same speed as the characters clap at the end of each line. Notice that the first word, ‘if’, does not fall on beat 1 – the ‘hah’ of ‘happy’ does.
If we break the first line of the song down, we can see where the beats and offbeats fall:
So you start singing the song on a 4, not a 1. Ready – after 3!
As Elmo’s good friend Abby Cadabby so rightly put it, another great way for you to follow the beat – one that’s also much more subtle when you’re performing onstage – is to tap your feet.
Put your best foot forward and tap out the same rhythm that you were clapping. Now your hands are free to play an instrument, grasp a microphone, or even do jazz hands.
If you’re feeling particularly rhythmical, you can take a leaf out of Queen’s book and combine stomping with clapping:
Whether you’re a hand clapper, a foot stomper, or even a finger clicker, you can sharpen up your rhythm skills by finding the pulse and figuring out where the notes around it fall. This also works for more unusual or complex time signatures.
For a more in-depth look at rhythm and tempo, check out our article: Timing: Rhythm and Tempo Explained for Singers.
Rhythm Exercise Tip: Tap your foot along with the song you’re learning and make note of how much of the melody falls on the offbeats.
Diction exercises to help you articulate
Good, clear diction is essential for singers, rappers, and all other types of vocalists who need their message to not only be heard, but understood.
Lip trills and tongue trills are both invaluable vocal warm ups because they loosen up your articulators, which are the parts of your mouth you use to shape and define the sounds you create in your larynx into distinct vowels and consonants.
Loose lips and a loose tongue make it easier for words to slip out – that’s one secret we don’t mind sharing with you!
To do a lip trill, put your lips together and make a motorboat sound. The ‘brr’ vibrations will release any tension or stiffness in your lips.
To do a tongue trill, put your tongue against your teeth and make a drill sound. The ‘drr’ vibrations will loosen up your jaw as well as your tongue.
Both of these exercises are great for your articulation. Find out more about how you can combine lip trills with other vocal exercises in our article Lip Trills for Singers: What Are They and How Can They Help.
Correct enunciation is vital when you’re performing in front of an audience – even the people at the back need to be able to understand every word that comes out of your mouth.
Enunciation is different for singers than it is for public speakers, however. When you sing, you stretch out your words for much longer than you do when you speak.
The part of the word that you sing is the vowel, and the consonants shape the vowel sounds into words you can distinguish by stopping your airflow in different ways.
Some vowel and consonant sounds lend themselves better to sustained notes than others. For this reason, singers often ‘modify’ the vowel and consonant sounds that they sing so they can sustain notes more effectively.
A famous example of modifying words to make them easier to sing can be heard in the titular song from 1968’s ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. Listen carefully to how ‘chitty’ becomes ‘cheedee’:
‘D’ is what’s known as a ‘voiced’ consonant, whereas ‘t’ is ‘unvoiced’. You make an unvoiced consonant like ‘t’ by closing your vocal tract without vibrating your vocal cords, which means you completely stop your outward airflow.
Try singing a ‘t’ sound with a slight hum leading into it, and you’ll find yourself making a sound more like a ‘nnn-d’. A ‘d’ is essentially a ‘t’ with some vocal cord vibration added, which is why the modified word ‘cheedee’ flows more easily when sung.
The trick is to not deviate so far from the original words that people can no longer tell what you’re trying to say!
A good way to exercise your articulators is to practice tongue twisters, because they typically include words that are difficult to say in sequence.
Take a phrase like ‘proper copper coffee pot’. The ‘p’, ‘k’, ‘f’ and ‘t’ sounds are all unvoiced, which means you have to stop vibrating your vocal cords to make them.
If you modify the tongue twister to include voiced consonant sounds, you should be able to sustain a note throughout the whole phrase. Pick a single note and try to sing ‘brobber gobber govvee bod’ without cutting off your voice.
Want to find out more about modifying words? Take a deeper dive into diction and read our article Diction for Singers: Using Pronunciation & Enunciation to Enhance Your Vocal Performance.
Diction Exercise Tip: Look at the lyrics of the song you’re learning, and make notes of any tricky vowels and consonants that you could modify.
Build a vocal workout routine and stick to it
Now you’ve explored the different vocal exercises and understand how they can help to make you a better singer, the next stage is to create a routine to stick to.
By following a carefully planned routine, you won’t waste any valuable time trying to decide which exercise to do next. You will also reduce the risk of making your voice hoarse – or losing it altogether – with carefully planned breaks.
Want to know the most productive way you can spend a half-hour practice? Read our article Master Your Voice: A Step-by-Step Singing Practice Guide.