How to Project Your Voice

Singer performing on stage
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As a vocalist, you may be asked to sing out, project, sing to the back of the hall, or simply sing louder. If done wrong, then the sound is harsh or brash. With proper technique, you can both project and create a beautiful vocal tone.

Inhale Deeply

The first step to singing loudly is to inhale using the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the largest muscle in the body and runs horizontally along the entire space below the chest cavity. When the diaphragm lowers during inhalation everything below it (the viscera) moves out of the way to make room, which is why the stomach goes out. Voice teachers and coaches emphasize “singing with the diaphragm,” and it all starts with taking a low deep breath. Without that foundation, a singer cannot support a well-projected sound.

Use the Diaphragm During Exhalation

Following deep inhalation, singers increase volume ten-fold by using proper breath support. Good breath support requires muscular effort. The inhalation muscles resist the exhalation muscles as you breathe out during singing. This elongates the breath so the tone is produced with sufficient air flowing through the vocal cords to the very end of each musical phrase. The biggest muscle of inhalation is the diaphragm. Proper support while singing requires a conscious effort to keep the diaphragm low as you sing. Avoid rigidity, as the diaphragm will rise as air is released. The rib cage should stay expanded and chest high.

Understand Breath Threshold and Phonation

Understanding breath threshold requires some knowledge of how the vocal cords work. Vocal cords flap together horizontally to create sound or phonate. Air pressure flowing through the cords causes them to flap without effort. Muscular resistance to the air pressure determines how fast or slow they oscillate or how hard they slap together. The speed of oscillation determines pitch, but how aggressively the cords are pushed together effects volume. An important way to achieve a beautifully projected tone is finding the perfect balance between air pressure and muscular resistance, or breath threshold. If you sound, “breathy,” then you are not using enough muscular effort, while the opposite is true if you sound “pinched” or overly bright. Singers may be tempted to use too much force when asked to sing loudly, which can cause vocal damage in time.

Find Your Breath Threshold

Sing a note extremely breathy and then overly pinched. Find your breath threshold by finding a happy medium between the two. The goal is to sing with as little breathiness as possible without tension. The end result is a beautiful, loud voice. Another way to find breath threshold is to sing one note as quietly and breathy as possible. Take a breath and sing a bit louder, while staying as breathy as possible. Repeat until the sound is loud, but not breathy. This is your breath threshold. If you continue singing louder, then your sound becomes pinched rather than adding volume.

Open the Back of Your Throat

To open the back of the throat, imagine an egg in your throat or the feeling of a yawn as you sing. You may also pretend to smell a rose to feel the back of the throat open without singing. A larger space behind the tongue creates a resonance chamber amplifying sound, not unlike a well-designed hall. Singers may have a hard time hearing a difference in volume when they open the back of their throat, so be sure to record yourself singing to hear the difference.

Place the Voice

An easy way to create added volume is to place the voice in the mask of your face located below the eyes and along the nose, where a Mardi Gras mask is worn. Vibrations are felt in the mask when you speak or sing "ng" as in “sing.” Opening the back of the throat, while still placing the voice forward into the mask will give your sound a balanced “chiaroscuro” sound, meaning it will have both bright and warm elements making your voice intriguing, attractive, and loud enough to hear.​​