Do you struggle to be properly heard when performing on stage? Does your throat often become sore after singing loudly?
If you need more volume during a live performance, it can be tempting to yell or shout. But this doesn’t sound good and will damage your voice. Instead, you should develop voice projection in singing by learning and practising vocal projection exercises.
In this article, we’ll take you through 11 techniques for you to gain vocal power and always reach the back of the room.
Voice projection in singing
Many performers use exercises to learn how to project their voice when they sing on stage. It is very important for performers to learn how to do this without shouting, making sure even the people in the back row can hear you loud and clear.
Vocal projection is about enabling volume in the voice for the benefit of the listener and relates mainly to live performance. It is also a great tool in bringing dynamics to the performance. Being able to successfully increase and decrease volume whilst singing is a vocal technique that can help enhance your performance and highlight the emotion in the song.
How do I project my singing voice?
You can learn how to project your voice better with vocal projection exercises that focus on breathing from your diaphragm, diction and resonance. Improving your diet and lessons will also help. But how do you know if you’re not projecting properly, or if you’re singing in the wrong way? What are the tell-tale signs to look out for?
Do you ever have a sore throat after singing – does it keep coming back even when you don’t have a cold? Have people told you you have a harsh tone or sound ‘shouty’? Do you notice these things when listening to yourself back on recordings and videos? If so don’t despair. You’re not stuck with these afflictions. And a base shouty tone can even be useful for learning certain types of singing, such as belting. You just need to know how to harness it, adapt it and use it in the right way.
Vocal projection exercises
Projecting isn’t just about being louder. It’s about being capable of volume and resonance while sounding good. As with everything in music, practice makes perfect. So expect to put some time and effort in. Here are the exercises and techniques that’ll take you to a great voice.
The way in which you hold yourself has a direct correlation with the way the sound flows from you to the audience. Even if you have crisp diction, breathe deeply from your diaphragm and take care of your body, if you don’t stand up straight the sound doesn’t have a clear path out.
1. Perfect your posture
Stand with your shoulders back, your feet hip-width apart and your spine straight. Dip your chin slightly – at times you may wish to tip your head back, but do this in line with your spine. Picture the sound flowing out from your belly, up through your throat and out of your mouth. If you slump and slouch it becomes blocked.
This is a very simple technique that can change your sound in seconds. Good body alignment will also prevent injuries later in life, promoting spine health and protecting your muscles, ligaments and fascia. It will also give the impression of confidence on stage and creates a better image.
2. Stretch and release
If you’re holding tension in your jaw, tongue or throat, the voice may not be free to get out – as with slouching. Make sure that all these areas are relaxed and released. Facial yoga will enable you to stretch these muscles out. Here are some other quick and easy things you can do:
- Poke the tongue right out then from side to side
- Massage the face and jaw gently
- Tip your head back to get a throat stretch, then right forward to achieve a neck stretch
- Open your mouth as wide as possible for a few seconds, then make it as small as possible
- Pretend to chew for a few seconds
Voice projection exercises
By mixing your chest and head voice, as well as opening your mouth more, you’ll be able to create more overtones that make your voice sound better and louder. Resonance often results in vibrato (a kind of pleasant wobble you hear when singers hold onto a note).
3. Resonance scales
To help improve your resonance, try doing scales whilst singing Nae, Nja & Ng. While you do this, lift your soft palate. See how much vibration you can create with your mouth closed. Then open and see how the sound rings out.
4. Lip trills
You should warm up every time you intend to sing to help prevent potential damage to your voice. A great way to do this is to practice going up and down scales using a lip trill. Exercises with your lips closed enable you to increase volume and gain power, without forcing or straining your voice. Work up as much volume as you can in this way first. Then move toward opening the mouth and letting the sound out, but without pushing from the throat.
Vocal projection exercises for singers
In order to be able to project your voice successfully, you’ll need to start strengthening the muscles in your larynx which hold your vocal cords together. It’s difficult for power and volume to come through in your singing if these muscles aren’t strengthened. Working with a good vocal coach will really assist you in achieving this. But there are things you can do at home too. The larynx muscles can be strengthened through volume exercises.
5. Strengthen the larynx
One easy exercise for increased volume is to lie on the floor with your arms beside your head and breathe deeply for 2-3 minutes. Then, try taking a deep breath, hold it and as you do so, try and swallow. Next, sit on a chair and hold your breath. Place both hands under your chair. Pull as if you are trying to lift up your chair with you in it. Let go of your breath and say “ahh” while you continue to pull.
How to project your voice from the diaphragm
And it’s not only so that you create a better quality of sound. A chief reason you need to nail this technique is for the health of your vocal cords, larynx and throat. Sing too loudly for too long incorrectly, and you’ll find you lose it pretty quickly. Especially when you come down with a cold or flu.
The diaphragm is your vocal powerhouse. If you work out you may know this area as your core. This muscle runs from the bottom of the chest to the abdomen. If you’re breathing from the right place your diaphragm will fill with air as you breathe in, expanding.
It’s important to remember to breathe from the diaphragm so that the chest rises and your shoulders don’t scrunch. It helps your lungs to increase their capacity and over time will give you more power in your voice.
So what else can you do to develop that loud and lovely voice you’ve always longed for? Let’s move on to more techniques suitable for both beginners and more advanced singers.
6. Breathe with your diaphragm
Breathe deeply and make sure it’s form your stomach, not your chest. This is where your diaphragm is located and will help you generate a lot more projection power. Place your hand on your stomach and try breathing. Then relax and reduce as you breathe out. Your hand should move as you inhale and exhale.
There are many exercises you can work to improve the strength of your diaphragm. For example, breathe deeply and exhale on a hissing sound for 10 seconds. This will help with your breath control and help warm up your voice for the louder notes. As with any muscle, if you stop using it for long periods of time it will get out of shape. So it needs ongoing work to stay strong.
How to project your voice singing softly
Projection isn’t only about being loud. You can sing with a whisper but still project to the back of the audience. Use plenty of breath and project softer notes. Vocal modulation (being able to go from loud to soft, and change your tone at will) is a useful skill. It creates drama in performance and makes you more memorable.
Vary the loudness of your voice on an ‘mmmmmmm’. Start with a soft sound, then middle volume and then loud. Repeating this numerous times will help your projection and dynamic range.
8. Sing to the back wall
Actors are trained to speak on stage without microphones. An inside tip from the world of theatre that can also be useful for singers is to sing to your space
Look to the back of the room or auditorium. As you sing or speak, lift your chin slightly and think to the very back of that space. Throw your voice to the wall. This helps you modulate your voice to suit the venue. Even if you’re singing softly, do this and you’ll project your voice further.
9. Practice with speaking
It can help to practice projection with speaking to the back wall. Then move onto singing. Again, watch that you don’t feel any strain on your throat and that you’re supporting the voice properly with the breath. If you want to sing in musical theatre or opera, you’ll need to get very good at this. You will often have to sing without a mic and will certainly audition without any amplification.
Voice projection techniques
The next exercise is similar and simple, in that it uses the power of thought and can help you overcome any confidence issues that prevent projection.
10. Use your mind
To increase in vocal strength, it helps to add emotion and intention to your song and to imagine the power in your voice – your mind is an effective tool in manipulating your voice.
11. Work on vocal diction
Diction is the crisp pronunciation of your words. Whether you’re singing or speaking, it’s very an important technique to help an audience understand you more clearly. Some letters when pronounced clearly, assist in the process of projection, this again, is a trick that actors use to their advantage. So if you’re lowering your volume but still want to project to the back of the room, hit those consonants clearly.
Learning your lyrics is important but so is your breathing technique and tongue position. To really help improve diction, practice scales with the different singing vowels combined with consonants, such as mah, meh, me, mo, moo. You should also include tongue twisters in your daily routine. This skill will also be helpful if you have to give interviews, especially on the radio where your voice is everything.
What if I can’t project my voice?
Another way to improve your projection is to work with an experienced vocal coach. They will be able to build and develop your singing power and help you to eradicate any bad singing habits you may have picked up along the way. You may find it hard to identify where you’re going wrong by yourself.
Somebody experienced, standing beside you while you sing, will troubleshoot and point you toward ways to fix any issues. A vocal coach will be able to help you with specific techniques that will be able to help your voice, so if you want to sing professionally and long term, then this is the way to go.
These exercises must become a routine part of your day rather than doing it a couple of times and hoping it’ll work. Do all the exercises and techniques we’ve listed for 20 minutes every day and you’ll soon begin to hear and feel the changes in your vocal.
And it’s not just your projection that’ll improve. So will your tone and your musicality. The improved projection you’ll develop will mean more songs are opened up to you. Power ballads and belts are tough if you can’t muster the strength needed. But the good news is that everyone can project.
- Why does my singing voice feel trapped?
It could be you just need to open your mouth wider. If it’s too far closed the sound can’t get out and reach the audience. You may also need to use more breath to support the larger sound you want to create. Or it could be you lack confidence and need to work on techniques to overcome this.
- How can I make my voice louder?
It’s important to project so you aren’t shouting when you sing loudly. Project from your diaphragm so you don’t strain your vocal cords – shouting and singing loudly without it will. It’s especially important for stage disciplines such as musical theatre where you can’t always rely on microphones.
- Why is projection important in singing?
To have longevity in your singing career, or even as a hobby singer, you must be able to consistently project your voice without causing any damage. Singing in this way is also easier and will feel like it’s taking less effort. You’ll be able to achieve more and belt out tunes for long periods.
How have you improved your voice projection in singing? Do you have any more vocal projection exercises that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.