Have you ever noticed how some people have sweeter-sounding voices than others and wondered how to sweeten your singing voice? Listen to these two examples:
Do you hear how the first one sounds fairly harsh and horizontal, while the second one has a more rounded quality that you’d probably describe as more sing-y than the first one? It’s not just something that I was born being able to do. That sweeter sound is a physiological manipulation that practically everyone can learn how to do, even if you currently can’t stand the sound of your voice.
How to Sweeten Your Singing
Luckily, there are some easy ways to achieve this sound. I want you to say, “bi bi bi” (pronounced “be”) in your normal speaking voice. It should sound something like this:
Next, put a slight puppy-dog whimper into your “bi bi bi.” It should sound something like this:
Put it Into a Vocal Exercise
Let’s take that same “bi” sound and add some pitches. First try it with no affect, the way you’d talk it:
Next, let’s take that little puppy-dog whimper and put it into the exercise:
Put it into a Song
Let’s again take that “bi” and put it into a song. I’ll use “My Funny Valentine,” but you should use whatever song you’re working on and want to sweeten the sound of.
First, do it the normal speech-y way:
Next, do it with the puppy-dog whimper we worked on before:
Let’s go back to lyrics now. Again, use whatever song you’re working on, but I’ll use “My Funny Valentine” as an example.
First, do it in the normal speech-sing way:
Next, do it with lyrics, but use a similar tone to the one you were using on the whimpered “bi.” It should feel less horizontal, like you’re tilting onto the notes:
Since there are so many other elements to vocal tone, especially once you put words in, you may not have the tone you’re hoping for on your first try. But don’t give up! Play around with this more open, tilted sound, and I bet over time you’ll start to like your tone better.
What’s Happening Anatomically?
Our larynx, or voice box, is a very complex mechanism that can move in a wide variety of ways. One of the cartilages in the larynx is called the thyroid cartilage, and is labeled below:
When the thyroid cartilage tilts, it gently thins out your vocal folds, lightening up your voice–even when in a belt–and helping to facilitate vibrato if all the other pieces are in place (i.e. solid breath support and freedom from too much vocal tension).
You can tilt your thyroid at will using that puppy-dog whimper and the “bi” exercise described above.
Keep Style in Mind
Like basically everything in singing, the thyroid tilt is on a spectrum. If you’re singing opera, there’s a good shot you’ll want it very tilted; if you’re singing punk rock, you probably don’t really want it tilted much at all; if you’re singing belt pop, you’ll probably want to be somewhere in between, or maybe pick and choose which notes you want to tilt and which you’d like to be a little more horizontal and brassy on.