How To Sing Better 

My name is Roger Burnley, and on this page I'm going to show you how to sing better... much better than you're able to sing right now. 

Why am I the person to help you with this?

Well, I've been a vocal coach for over 30 years. I've helped thousands of singers discover their best voice. Many of these have gone onto become world class singers, selling millions of albums worldwide. 

5 Exercises That Will Change Your Voice Forever

Over my long career as a vocal coach, there have been few techniques more effective than the 5 exercises I'm about to show you.

These are the same exercises that my star, Grammy Winning clients use to keep their voices in tip top condition.

No matter what level your voice is at the moment, by practicing these exercises for 20 minutes each day you will hear wonderful improvements in your voice within a few short weeks. 

Check out the video below for a brief introduction to this singing exercise series. 

Watch The Videos And Then Use The Audio Files to Practice

Below you'll find a video lesson for each exercise. 

Watch that first. Once you have a solid understanding of how the exercise is done, use the audio file below the video and give it a go.

Don't be surprised if you feel your voice opening up in range as well as gaining a richness in tone quality.

I know these exercises will do wonders for your voice, as I've seen them work over and over again every day.

Let's get started!

Exercise 1: The Lip Trill

Watch this first and then practice the exercise with the audio file under the video.

And here's the audio file for this exercise so you can practice along.  

Let's discuss this exercise a little further... 

The Lip Roll

This first exercise is called The Lip Trill or "Lip Roll".

You've probably seen many singers doing this before concerts and in singing competitions on TV. 

The reason is, it works like a charm. 

Remember The Goal When Practicing The Exercise

The goal of doing this exercise and any other exercise is to be able to sing without your voice box moving around too much. 

When your technique is a little out, what tends to happen is your voice box will move up and down. 

This cuts off your air, which takes away from the quality of your voice, limits range etc. 

What The Lip Trill Will Do For Your Voice

When you practice the lip trill and your voice box starts to stay relaxed, you'll notice you'll be able to sing through your range with your vocal chords adjusting by themselves to hit each note. 

What does this mean? 

It means that you'll be singing without strain or tension! 

It's the muscles around the voice box that cause the strain and tension, so when they are nice and relaxed singing becomes much easier and more enjoyable.

Practicing The Exercise Will Help You With Your High Notes

In your lower notes and your speaking voice it's much easier to keep your voice box relaxed. 

It's when you sing into your higher notes where it becomes very important to maintain this relaxed state. 

When you do this correctly (and the Lip Roll exercise will help you with this), your vocal chords will actually shorten or thin. This makes it much easier to hit higher notes with a full and vibrant tone quality.

Doing The Exercise

In the video above you'll see me demonstrate the exercise. You can also download the mp3's and practice along. 

Here's a demonstration that shows how to place your hands when you're practicing.

You'll need use your hands in the beginning, but as you get better you'll notice that you'll be able to do the exercise without your hands on your cheeks. 

As you're doing the exercise a great thing to do to help with the placement of your sound is try and keep it above your cheeks. 

You may even need to exaggerate the sound to keep it in the area that I'm showing in this demonstration. 

You'll know when you're doing this right because you'll have the exercise of hearing your sound in your head. This may not happen right away, but you will get the hang of it with practice!

Try to keep your sound focused above your cheeks - This will help keep your swallowing muscles relaxed.

Remember Not To Push Your Sound

As soon as you try and push your voice, the voice box will begin moving around, which as you know is bad. 

So as soon as you feel yourself pushing your sound, try to back off and make the sound smaller.

Maybe The Best Singing Exercise Ever Created?

The lip roll is one of the most brilliant singing exercises ever invented. If you want to know how to sing better, this is the place to start. 

It helps you eliminate vocal tension. Over time it will increase your range. It fees your voice up.

In short it begins programming your body to produce sound correctly. 

And over time this correct way of producing sound will become automatic to you. 

So watch the video above, download the mp3's and begin practicing! 

Exercise 2 : The Tongue Trill

The Lip Trill is exercise 1 in this series of the top 5 exercises. 

After you've got the Lip Trill Handled, let's move onto the second exercise. 

Watch this first and then practice the exercise with the audio file under the video.

Here's the audio file for this exercise so you can practice along. 

How To Sing Better - The Tongue Trill

The purpose of this exercise is to get your body experiencing sound without your swallowing muscles coming into play. 

This will free your voice up and give you:

  • Better tone quality
  • More vocal range
  • More freedom in your voice
  • You'll also find it easier to use different stylistic things like vibrato, licks, trills etc
  • In short, it shows you how to become a better singer!

Experience Your Swallowing Muscles

To get an experience of these swallowing muscles, put your thumb under your jaw and swallow. 

When you do this, you'll feel these muscles come down, and also move your voice box out of place. 

This is what we are trying to eliminate with this exercise. 

Cutting Off Your Airflow Blocks Your Voice

Another thing to do is once again, put your thumb under your jaw.

But this time, do a deliberate yawn. 

You'll notice when you do this, the muscles will again come down. But also, you'll feel you will be cutting off your air. 

This is a big problem for a large percentage of singers, and correcting it will do wonders for your singing. 

Let's Do The Exercise

Now, for the best explanation of the exercise you'll need to watch the video up the top of this page. 

But the basics are to start with your thumb under your jaw, and to start humming on a scale while allowing your tongue to freely vibrate.

You'll be able to feel when your swallowing muscles are tensing up because you have your thumb under your jaw.

What's With The Funny Face?! 

You'll notice me having a funny face when practicing the exercise! 

The reason for this is it makes it easier to get the sound to sit above the cheeks which helps you sing without the swallowing muscles coming down.

Exercise 3 : Humming

And here's the audio file for this exercise so you can practice along. 

This Is One Of My Favorite Exercises!

It has so many benefits for your voice, the main one being it removes your swallowing muscles from the singing process. 

It's also a really great exercise if you need a really fast warmup before a performance.

As well, it helps a lot with your tone quality and vocal health, because it trains you to make a really clean and correct sound.

It Gets You Producing Sound With Much More Freedom And Ease

So here's how the exercise is done. 

First, place your thumbs under your jaw like so.

Be sure to keep your thumb under your jaw so you are aware when your swallowing muscles come down.

This helps you feel when your swallowing muscles are coming down. This helps you to let go and relax these muscles. 

Then begin humming on the scale. Download the mp3 files just below the video so you can sing along. 

You may need to exaggerate the sound to make sure it stays above your cheeks, and doesn't fall back into your throat. 

Look at this picture to see where you should be focusing the sound. 

Here's What To Do If Your Sound Fall Apart

If at any stage your sound falls apart, and gets all airy (breaks into falsetto) what you need to do is go back and sing it again using less sound. 

Doing it with less volume and less air will make it easier for your vocal chords to stay together, keeping that clean sound. 

By practicing over and over again, you'll train your voice to hold the vocal chords together correctly, and then you'll begin to be able to do it at a higher volume. 


You'll find after doing this exercise for a few minutes, your voice will feel like it has much more freedom.

You'll also feel more control over your voice.  

As an added bonus, your speaking voice might even feel better too!

Vocal Freedom = Control

It's a little counter intuitive, but the more freedom you can give your voice, the more in control of it you will be. 

Most people try and control their voice to the point where they get too rigid, and muscles that should not be working get in the way. 

Instead if you can unblock your voice so you have complete freedom, you'll have all the control you could ever want.

5-10 Minutes A Day Makes A Big Difference

Just a few minutes of practicing this exercise (and the others in this series) will give you huge improvements over time. 

Exercise 4 : Nay Nay Nay Vocal Exercise

Watch this first and then practice the exercise with the audio file under the video.

And here's the audio file for this exercise so you can practice along. 

In exercise 4 we are using a "Nay nay nay" sound on a scale that will help you to gain freedom and get your swallowing muscles to relax and release.

Watch the video above for a demonstration. 

The reason we are focussing so much on getting these muscles to release is it makes everything so much easier. The swallowing muscles tensing up are one of the things that really blocks a lot of singers (even great ones!). 

So the point of this exercise again is for you to experience creating notes going through your range as high as you can get without using these swallowing muscles.

Once again, it's very helpful to put your thumb under your jaw for this exercise so you can have the awareness of when your swallowing muscles are coming down. 

It can take some patience to do this perfectly.

It's really about putting in the work. But over time singing will become a lot easier because of this work.

Use Less Sound As You Sing Higher

Another important point is that as you sing higher with this exercise you will ideally use less sound as you go higher. By that I mean you are backing off how much air you are using. 

Trying to force too much air through will do exactly what we are trying to avoid, which is engage those swallowing muscles. 

You'll find that your body will respond much better using less air as you go higher into your range. 

Record Yourself And Listen To Your Pronunciation Of The Sound

It's a good idea for you to record yourself doing this exercise.

The reason is that if you are tensing up your swallowing muscles, you'll notice that as you sing higher you'll start to change the pronunciation of the sound. 

In other words as you sing ‘nay, nay, nay, nay, nay’, if the "Ay" part of the sound starts sounding more like "Ey" (I call this "going wide") this means you are engaging the outside muscles in your neck.

These outside muscles in the neck are connected to the swallowing muscles and the result is they will come down and block your sound. 

So it’s going to always pull you out of place and the swallowing muscles will come down. So instead you want to sing ‘nay, nay, nay, nay’,and focus on pronouncing the "AY" part of the sound correctly. 

If you record yourself doing the exercise you'll be able to hear very clearly how you are pronouncing the sound. And this will give you the feedback you need to do the exercise correctly.

How To Use Vertical Hearing

A good tip for keeping the pronunciation of your Nays on point is to use what I call "Vertical Hearing". 

This means to focus on hearing your sound in your forehead. And also try to keep your sound going up and down in a vertical line in front of your face. 

This is really just a mental exercise. And while it might not be technically what's happening to the sound, it's an excellent tool to keeping your voice in a good place. 

You'll find by doing this you will be able to sing with your "Nays" up and down your vocal range keeping the pronunciation consistent and correct. 

Let's Talk About Hitting Your Lower Notes

We've just discussed how as you sing higher your "Nay" sound might start to widen in it's pronunciation. And we've gone over some tips to correct this. 

The other bad habit that is common with this exercise is what happens when you are singing your lower notes. 

Often singers will feel their sound fall back into their throat as they go lower. 

Once again, the result of this is your swallowing muscles coming down and blocking your voice. 

An excellent tool you can use to help prevent this is to try to experience your sound above your cheeks a bit more. 

To do this, here's another little mental exercise you can use:

Instead of thinking you are singing down to the note, flip it around and "think" that you are singing up into your lower notes. 

It might feel a little strange at first, but with some practice you'll find that by thinking you're singing up into your lower notes, you'll experience more of your sound above your cheeks.

Doing this will will give you a lot more freedom in the lower range of your voice. 

Getting Through Your "Break" Without Your Voice Falling Apart

Now, you’ll experience places in your voice where you go through what we call a break.

Your "break" is the place in your voice where you’ll feel a very definite shift in the tone that you are getting. 

The key in getting through your break and into your upper vocal range is to not disconnect into a falsetto sound. 

Your falsetto is what happens when your vocal chords come apart and your sound develops a very airy like tonal quality. It also loses a lot of the tonal depth. 

So instead you want to keep your vocal chords connected as you sing into your upper range. 

If you watch the video above you'll see me demonstrate singing up into my higher notes, and as I'm doing this I can feel my voice resonating in a different place, but the vocal chords are still together. 

It's very important to keep this connection with your chords and in the long run your voice will really have a lot more control and tonal depth because of it. 

Release Into Your Higher Notes 

Another great trick to use with this Nay Nay Nay exercise is to think to yourself that you are "releasing" or "letting go" into your higher notes. 

Once again this is about creating a little mental picture that will help your body to physically produce your sound the way it was designed. 

The reason this one works is singers often associate their high notes with, "I've got to really go for those notes", which leads to pushing and engaging all the muscles you don't need. 

By thinking that you're releasing into your higher notes allows you to let go as you sing higher. 

Let's now move onto the fifth exercise, which is using a descending scale. 

Exercise 5 : Descending Scale 

The last exercise in this how to get a better singing voice report is a very effective one. 

Exercise 5 is the same one we used in Exercise 4 but we are just doing a descending exercise on a descending scale.

Here's the audio file (this goes into the Descending part of the scale at 1:20) 

Now, again as I explained earlier the value of this is for you to start to train your body to go into your lower notes without falling back into your throat.

Your brain is very smart and that's why these little mental pictures work so well. 

When your brain hears where the note is that you're going for it will actually tell your vocal chords what size and shape it needs to form to match that note. 

Once again, it's a very good idea to find something you can record yourself with (like a smart phone) and then play back yourself doing the exercise. 

This gives your brain even more feedback and it will naturally make adjustments just from hearing what you are doing. 

It Can Take A Little Time To Reverse Bad Habits

If you've been used to singing and creating sound in a particular way for a long time, it may take a little time for these exercises to sink in. 

This is another reason why recording yourself can be so valuable. If you've been doing a certain thing for a long time, you may not notice you're doing it until you hear it played back. 

As long as you are persistent, with practice and listening back to yourself, the bad habits will fall away and become replaced with solid technique. 

Try Using Other Sounds Than "Nay Nay Nay"

Once you start to master the exercise doing it on the ‘nay, nay, nay’ it then becomes really valuable to do the same exercise, the same pattern on different sounds. This is another very good one of my tips on singing better. 

Each different sound you use will have a different impact on your voice and give you a different benefit. 

For example, using the sound "Mum" is something that will have the tendency to fall back in your throat. 

So using "Mum" will help you practice trying to experience your sound above your cheeks. 

You'll find using "Mum" is a slightly more advanced exercise than "Nay". So it's important to first master "Nay". Then move onto "Mum" and try to get to the point where you don't feel your swallowing muscles come down. 

The Two Parts Of Your Tonal Quality

Now let me explain why these sounds (Nay, Mum) works so well.

There are two parts or components of your tonal quality. 

There’s the ‘eh’ edgy sound which pulls up in the muscles and the larynx. This sound typically comes out when doing the scales on the word Nay. 

Then and then there is ‘ah’, a rounder sound that has almost a yawning quality to it. This comes out in the word Mum and it will typically pull your larynx down slightly. 

So what you are trying to do is find the balance between those two sounds that will allow your larynx or your voice box to stay more relaxed and more in place. 

Once you start to master this, again you’ll feel so much more freedom in your voice. 

There are other sounds you can use too that will give you different challenges. 

‘We, we, we’ is a great one because W's give people a lot of trouble. So if you're able to successfully sing the exercise using this "We, we ,we" sound you know your voice is in a good place! 

If you find the "We" sound challenging a good tip is to add more of the ‘e’ sound and you’ll create that ‘eh’ edgy sound that you've developed from practicing "Nay nay nay".

This will help make the "We" sound much easier to achieve. 

How To Sing Better - Practice These Exercises Long Term

Consistent daily practice is the number one way the brain and body can learn and improve. 

Often you will find when you do a new exercise it will feel very difficult at first. The first practice session is usually frustrating because you don't feel like you're close to doing the exercise well. 

But don't worry!

In the time in between each session your brain will be ticking over. Processing. Piecing things together. 

When you come back for a second session on the exercise things will feel a little easier. Maybe not perfect yet. But definitely improving. 

By the third or fourth session your brain and muscle memory will be really getting the hang of it. What seemed impossible a few days earlier is now feeling much easier! 

So the key is to stick with it! This is how you will become a better singer. 

Practicing these exercises 20 minutes a day or every few days will lead to incrementally gaining more freedom and vocal range.

Each time you begin to gain more mastery over an exercise it will bring new abilities to your voice. 

And with consistent practice, you'll feel the quality of your voice gradually increase more and more.

So be patient with these exercises and have fun!

Do this long term and you will develop a voice you love using that you're proud of. 

I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial about how to sing better. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below! 

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About The Author

Roger Burnley - Vocal CoachRoger Burnley - Vocal Coach

Roger Burnley is a vocal coach located in Hollywood, California. He has been teaching the voice for over 30 years and singing for even longer than that. 

Notable past and present clients include Macy Gray, Brandy, Ray J, The Beastie Boys, James Torme, Taylor Lautner, Nona Gaye, and many more.

His clients have collectively sold more than 30 million albums, with several reaching Platinum and Gold status. 

Roger has been featured on VH1, TV Guide Channel, TV One,
and MTV appearing as a vocal expert.

About The Author

Roger Burnley - Vocal CoachRoger Burnley - Vocal Coach

Roger Burnley is a vocal coach located in Hollywood, California. He has been teaching the voice for over 30 years and singing for even longer than that. 

Notable past and present clients include Macy Gray, Brandy, Ray J, The Beastie Boys, James Torme, Taylor Lautner, Nona Gaye, and many more.

His clients have collectively sold more than 30 million albums, with several reaching Platinum and Gold status. 

Roger has been featured on VH1, TV Guide Channel, TV One,
and MTV appearing as a vocal expert.

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