Singing secrets: Expert tips for 'rockstar'-level vocal excellence

Want to sing your head off, but do so in a reloatively healthy way? Here is some advice the pros use.
Queen File Photos from Northern California
Queen File Photos from Northern California / Steve Jennings/GettyImages

Hello, rockers! Here I am going to go over some singing advice that experts give (singers, vical coaches, etc.), despite not being the greatest singer myself. What's refreshing is that most of the advice I found seems rather straightforward and not particularly daunting. It's also worth a try, right?

So let's start with the myth that, when singing, your abdomen should be very tense. When singing, it's actually not necessary to keep your abdomen tensed the whole time. In fact, maintaining constant tension in your abdomen can actually hinder your singing performance and lead to unnecessary strain. Also, apparently, the advice of "inhaling to your diaphragm" or "inhaling to your belly" does not accomplish much of anything, other than possibly confusing people as to what the hell it even means.

Instead, focus on engaging your abdominal muscles in a supportive manner. This means using them to provide steady support for your breath rather than tensing them excessively. Your abdomen should remain relatively firm and engaged to control the flow of air, but it shouldn't be rigid or overly tense. After all, should you really need to feel that tense if you're singing with your "heart and soul"? You should sing in a way that limits stomach pain.

Singing might benefit from lightly tensing your abdominal muscles

Here's where the advice gets a little awkward: Lightly tensing your abdominal muscles, including your abs, while singing can actually be quite beneficial. The emphasis here should be on the word "lightly." Think of that expression "A little dab'll do ya." It's sort of the same idea here.

This practice of light tension in the abdomen, often referred to as "engaging the core," helps support your breath control and provides stability for your voice. When you engage your abs, you create a firm foundation for your breath to flow from, allowing for better control over pitch, tone, and volume. However, it's valuable to maintain a balance. You don't want to tense your abs excessively, as this can create unnecessary tension in your body and inhibit your ability to sing freely. The tension should be moderate and relaxed enough to allow for natural breathing and vocal production ("support").

Examples from voice coaches

Here are some tips for properly engaging your abs while singing, and also some of those odd-sounding (and, frankly, a little silly-looking) "hissing" exercises can let singers strengthen their breath control.

This expert has us focus on the lower abdomen. Indeed, istead of tensing your abs high up near your ribcage, concentrate on engaging the muscles in your lower abdomen, just below your belly button. This area is where you'll find the most support for your breath control. And here is another expert.

Practice breath support exercises as she does, and you can probably imrpove your singing abilities. Work on exercises specifically designed to strengthen your core and improve breath control, including even that "ssssss" sound exercise (though, if someone walks in on you doing that exercise out of context, they might find it odd). Pilates and yoga are also said to be great practices for the purpose of singing, as that top video seems to indicate, and both are said to have other health benefits, too.

Other bits of advice for singing

Avoid excessive tension. Be mindful not to tense up too much, though you needn't be entirely "lazy," either. It seems the trick os to find some "Goldilocks zone" that is just right. You want your muscles to be engaged but relaxed enough to allow for free and natural movement (which means you will still want them to "tighten," but lightly).

It's also important to maintain overall relaxation in your body while singing, especially in areas like your neck, jaw, and shoulders, as tension in these areas can negatively affect your vocal tone and agility. If you're unsure about proper technique, consider working with a vocal coach who can provide personalized instruction and feedback tailored to your voice.

Of course, it also makes sense to maintain a relatively healthy lifestyle, unless you want your voice to only sound gravelly and rough (though there are ways of doing that anyway, without a constant junkfood diet). Bruce Springsteen apparently maintains a healthy diet (though he has had health issues that negatively impacted his singing).

Lastly, here's a bit of fun advice: Try some of these tongue twisters in order to alleviate tongue tension:
Read leather, yellow leather.
Unique New York.
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers.
Selfish shellfish.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Admittedly, I don't spend much time doing these exercises myself, as I am not really a singer, and I definitely still eat junk food. However, I am not writing this article about myself, am I? So get out there and sing, if you are so inclined, and consider taking some of these steps along the way of your musical journey.

Here's an infamous System of a Down song built largely around tongue-twisters and weirdness: