According to a couple of websites, the best way to learn how to sing is with a vocal teacher, a recorder, and practice. But let's say I don't have the means to get a vocal teacher right now. What other resources are available to me that I can use to sound better?

I'm not shooting for opera singer mastery, but rather, just enough to not sound horrible when I sing "Blackbird" by The Beatles.

Any tips, suggestions, or suggestion that a vocal teacher is the only way to go are welcome.

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    You should scrounge up for at least one or two lessons to get guidance on breath-support and tone-quality. After that, you can be allowed to safely pursue your own course of study. :) Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 9:44
  • The answer to this question is simple... 'Get a teacher.'
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 15:33

11 Answers 11


As @luserdroog said in the comments, it would be best if you could get at least a couple lessons. Otherwise you risk learning bad habits with the physical aspects (that can't be taught well except in person) that you'll have to un-learn later.

Another approach is to join a community choir. While some choirs require auditions, others do not (particularly church choirs, but not exclusively religious). The choirs I've sung in have included work on technique, not just learning the repertoire.

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    Relax. Don't discourage him from practicing "because he's going to learn bad habits." That's like saying to a kid who wants to play basketball, "don't practice before you make the team, because you're going to teach yourself bad habits." Actually having practiced before seeing a teacher will make what the teacher says make a lot more sense/have relevance/be easier to learn.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 1:37
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    @bobobobo, I agree with you to a point. But you don't want to wait long before seeking a lesson or three from a teacher. Certainly don't begin heavy practicing in earnest without seeking a teacher's advice. I don't think it'd be good advice to NOT practice… but take it easy, so you don't harm your voice. Commented Sep 22, 2012 at 0:06

Let me offer a serious suggestion that has been a popular method of learning to sing for people for many generations: Attend church services on Sunday mornings at a Christian church and sing along with the hymns. Find a church whose congregation sings traditional church hymns from a hymnal book.

This style of church music deliberately uses simple melodies in simple rhythms, with a narrow range of pitches that are easy for non-trained singers to sing. Once you get comfortable with it, you can try learning one of the four-part harmony lines in the hymn arrangements. This will be your introduction to harmonizing.

If you feel comfortable after awhile, ask to join the church choir. Then you can start learning more demanding and challenging vocal music, and you will have an opportunity to learn, practice and rehearse with some structure and some goals in mind, every Wednesday night and Sunday morning, for free.

It doesn't really matter if you are a Christian or not, or whether you believe the message in the lyrics or not, although it helps. All sorts of musician have gotten their start this way for centuries.

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    It is a bit weird for an athiest, though. One other options that I've heard of, and been meaning to try, is a workers' choir. There's one in most large cities, I think. Of course, then you might be uncomfortable if you don't share the politics, which can be just as weird as religion, sometimes :)
    – naught101
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 13:15

A (pretty cruel) way to learn is to record your own voice. I use Audacity a lot.

First I record a base track (an existing recording, or just me going something like pfw tchk tchk tchk pfw tchk tchk tchk ....

Then I'll rewind and sing along, starting over and over until I'm confident I can record it without getting completely lost in the middle.

Then I'll do the same but with the record button pressed. Again, I keep rewinding (and erasing the recording) until I'm reasonably happy. By this time, I may still not be able to sing the song very well but I'll certainly have learnt a whole lot about how to sing it.

This will only work if you don't need anyone else to tell you how your part fits in with the prerecorded track, and if you have a tremendous amount of patience with yourself.

And it's never going to replace singing with others, so do that, too.

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    Yup, exactly. What you're saying is practice and "close the feedback loop". Another thing you can do is stick your finger in your ear while you're singing, so you can hear yourself. This is a really noob thing to do, but it kind of works to start.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 1:34
  • Another thing I do is have a recording device with you. It doesn't have to be hi fi, but I use an Edirol.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 14:29
  • A similar programme which I like is Capella Melody Trainer, which runs under MS Windows or in Wine on Linux, but it has only a German UI (as far as I can see).
    – PJTraill
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 22:19

Andrew, I don't believe anyone can teach you how to sing. You have to teach yourself - the same way that you learned how to eat and speak and walk. You have to find your singing voice and then develop it – just like you found your balance on two legs and then learned how to run. Also you cannot be shy about it - it won’t work if you are.

The best way to sing is to try and try often, in 5 to 10 minutes bursts. The shower or bathroom is a fun place to make singing sounds and listen to them because it is very resonant.

All singing is produced on vowel sounds. Consonants don't have pitch. Some consonants like M and N are produced through a pitched hum - but that is not exactly singing. You need to work on what goes on in singing vowel sounds with your body.

Take a breath, think of a word like "who", "where", or "whah", say it out aloud and don't allow the vowel sound to finish. Keep the sound going (or resonating) for as long as possible - even after the count of one second you will be singing.

Try to extend the sound. Imagine the sound stretching or streaming out into the next room. How long can you sustain the sound? Notice that your stomach starts to tighten a bit - that is your diaphragm muscle kicking in to support the sound. Aim for holding the vowel sound for as long as possible while staying relaxed. Count in seconds in your head and keep a record of your progress.

Once you get the hang of extending the vowel sound focus on listening to the qualities of it - eg. volume (can you produce loud or soft?); pitch range (can you make the sound high or low?); pitch constancy (can you hold one pitch? Can you visit other pitches in the same breath?)

In addition to noticing your diaphragm move, think about your jaw, lips, tongue, cheeks and upper palate. Are they relaxed? What size and shape is the cavity inside your mouth? What happens to the sound if you change it? Make very small changes to consider the effects. Does it please you?

Next consider your nose, eyes, eyebrows, face, head and neck. Where are these positioned? Do they move? Are they relaxed? What happens if you raise your eyebrows? Close your eyes? Imagine your head has an invisible string lifting you straight up. Does it make a difference?

Move on to thinking about the rest of your body. Where are your shoulders, back, arms, bottom, hips, legs and feet? All these body parts have an effect on your sound. Experiment by moving these body parts differently. What happens?

Pay attention to your emotions too. Do you feel happy? relaxed? tense? anxious? angry? Ultimately singing should make you feel positive - in either a happy, envigorated or relaxed kind of way. If you don't feel uplifted, keep trying different body moves.

After you get a feel for your voice on single pitches or notes apply your knowledge to any song you know. Think about the vowel sound of every word sung and aim for the loveliest version of each one that you can muster. Sing a line at a time. Consider how you attack each word – particularly at the start of a phrase. Try to hit the opening note in the middle of its sweet spot. Also explore what it is to swoop up or down to a note - not always desirable but sometimes interesting.

Practice, Practice Practice - every day.

And enjoy it.

When you feel confident, join a community choir.

Learning to read music is also helpful, as is learning to play a pitched instrument like piano or recorder.


My recommendation is to wait till you can get the time to attend a teacher's class, but at the same time, try to increase your musical knowledge, about reading.

I know an audiobook (100% free) which is called how to sing. You can get this book (text can be downloaded from Gutenberg Project), and you can get some idea and knowledge about singing. Also you might take a look at Music Notation & Terminology.

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    -1 While the text you linked is very nice linking to it would be a nice comment, this isn't good advice as an answer. Do you really think one should begin by reading a book from 1916? I browsed the text and it would make little sense to me if I hadn't already attended classes by a music instructor. There are plenty of newer books are 4.5-5 star reviewed on average, on Amazon.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 1:33
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    @bobobobo, people have been singing for a lot longer than 96 years. I don't see the book's age as a valid reason for criticism. And there's no strong reason to trust Amazon's ratings. You might be right, but you need a better argument...
    – naught101
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 13:19
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    @naught101 My criticism isn't on the contents of the book and I'm not addressing the possibility that it may be wrong, but rather on the presentation of the text (which is archaic and hard to read). Just try and read the text yourself. It's not good studying to learn from something that's hard to grok while there are much more suitable books out there written in modern English. That book is a piece of history that IMO is to be enjoyed by experienced musicians who really feel like a tour down history's past, not something a beginner should learn from.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 14:28
  • @bobobobo: I think the problem with the Lilli Lehmann (How to Sing) is not so much the age (I see English 1902, German 1900!) as that it seems to be a rather stilted translation from the German.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 21:27

I would recommend you research Speech Level Singing. Look at youtube videos of Brett Manning and Seth Riggs.

There are many good vocal coaches out there but also many bad ones. Many classically trained vocal coaches will tell you to push you diaphram, which can be harmful to your vocal chords. I had a teacher that would always tell me "Singing is an athletic exercise!". It's not, it should be very easy. You should never feel tension.

Basically, you need to record yourself and practice often. If your like me, you will hate the sound of your own voice at first. Don't worry, you will get better. Most importantly, don't hurt yourself. If you find a teacher that claims singing is "athletic", find a new teacher.


Just sing frequently, with and without your favorite songs playing :P. If you're tone deaf like I used to be then I highly recommend interval training. Once you're able to recognize when you are off-key then you can start correcting it, and you need to practice a lot to develop the musculature and control needed. Constant practice like this has changed me from terrible singing to passable, though I do wish I had time for lessons.

As an aside, Blackbird was the first song I learned on guitar and the first I sang for someone while playing as well. Good choice :P

  • "recognize when you are off-key..." - What's the meaning of 'key'? Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 9:06
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    @iamcreasy en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Off-key
    – user28
    Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 18:51
  • Would better English not be recognise when you are singing false? We need to be specific with terminology when dealing with newbies.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 15:34
  • @NeilMeyer: ‘out of tune’ seems to me best, assuming that is what is meant. The Wikipedia article is not that helpful, as it refers to a means of expression as much as to a technical deficiency.
    – PJTraill
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 23:56

Man, I've seen a lot of questions here like that and I think the best way is to get an teacher. It is my oppinion. I think we can learn by ourselves but an experient teacher can make you progress faster and in the correct way.

There's some tricks that we just learn with time and teachers can pass it to you in a better way/moment.

Consider take some lessons.


I'm going to say it's close to impossible for anyone to teach you to sing, but reasonable for someone to help you sing better. Start on your own. Second, anyone who sings period, even those not as good as you, can help you. Here are some tips, though...

Can you match pitch? If so, just try singing single notes, you don't even have to know how to play piano, just hit one random key at a time try to sing the pitch. (A good place to start is the middle of the piano and go up if you're a female or down if you're a male.) Also, sing what you like. It's a lot easier to do something that you enjoy. I don't enjoy basketball, so I don't play/practice it. That doesn't mean I don't get any exercise whatsoever, though. I just do what I find enjoyable.

And, I'm going to say "no", you don't need a vocal teacher. I'd sung since I was (5, maybe?), and in tune, but didn't get a vocal teacher until I was 11.

3 bad habits to avoid would be: (don't worry too much, though... a lot of good singers do this) Clearing your throat. It grinds your vocal folds together. (I'm guilty of that. 😞) Don't even think about it. It makes you want to. Also, don't sing way out of your comfortable range. Who isn't guilty of this? Many popular male singers (me too) sing way higher they probably should. Don't drink anything but water before, and don't eat anything sticky/sweet before. It makes it harder to sing and reduces your vocal range.

4 good habits would be: If a song is too high: Use your resonant (so-called "head") voice. It can increase your range about a half octave. (6 semitones exactly, for me) If you have no idea what I mean by head voice, look it up. It's a bit hard to explain. The other option is to sing louder (but don't yell) if it is too high. My head voice is very weak, so I sing loud instead. Also, make your consonants clear. (I'm guilty of this one, too! 😄) If you sing into a mic, probably want to use the soft spongy covers for it if you get into this habit. That way you're s's won't make everyone cringe from the high pitch. Don't freak out if you suddenly sound terrible on one note. The closer you are to being on the correct note the worse it sounds, until our ears can't hear the difference. And warm up first. Even if that's singing a scale.

A habit I have is to make my voice sound like the singer. (Or sing with someone who sounds like you.) This makes it easier to sing in tune, since the sound waves match more accurately. I sound a lot like TobyMac (you probably don't) and I have a similar vocal range (mine's a little higher), so I sing his songs a lot.

In terms of memorization, think of a song in a simple sequence. If I were trying to memorize the pre-chorus of "Beyond Me", I would think "first stars, then water, then need, then see." I learn new songs in under a week this way. (And old songs in 24 hours on the high end.)

One last point, and this is a big one. In general, if you are doing anything for your own pleasure, keep in mind you don't have to be good. (Although I know how great the "being good" feels.) The only person you'd be in competition with is yourself and yourself past, and you'll always be better than your past as long as you keep practicing, just as good as your are now. Instead of saying, "Holy cow, I'm bad at this," say, "It was[...] not bad, but there's always some room for improvement." And no one better than you would say you're bad at something. If someone says you're not good, they're not any better than you at that or something else. And anything is possible.

P.S.: I'm a believer (I guess you could call me a "Jesus Freak") and I'm not a huge fan of hymns, so that might not be a great place to start.


Try www.karaokegarage.com. It helps you sing along with the song and detects your pitch as you sing. It should be a good starting point for anyone to practice and gauge their singing level from.


People ask this question for several reasons. One is they like to sing and play instruments and become musicians. They fear that this is some kind of talent that only a few people got. I have some reasons to help those who like to be musicians and singers. These have helped me to think otherwise.

  1. Can you identify the caller on your phone? Then you can identify music notes. If you can identify notes then you can sing. If you can sing a note then you can play an instrument. Very soon you will be performing on stage and get ten out of ten or all three Yes from the judges. Let me clear you.

  2. First take this practical test which I found useful on YouTube. You will know where you stand:

  3. People say they cannot identify notes to play or sing. We are going to help them to step in to the musical family. There are many who are not quite sure if they have built up their ears to sing or play or to identify the notes. I do not think you have toned-deaf. If I can sing and play you too can.

  4. People think they cannot play or sing and cannot recognize notes. They also say they cannot enjoy a tune. I do not think like that. I am certain that you are not tone- deaf.

  5. From the time you were born you started picking little words. At that time you could not speak advance words. You could not have a conversation with someone, because you were still a baby. When you grow up gradually you picked up things little by little. You picked the right words and you started having conversations or dialog with somebody else.

  6. When you make a phone call the moment you pick up the phone, you can recognize the caller’s voice. If you can recognize a voice then you can recognize a musical tone or music note.

  7. Best thing you can do is to go to a piano play a note. For example C note and then play it for an half an hour. Then get that particular note or tone to your year. Then you are able to recognize the C note after awhile.

  8. Some say they can play but they can’t pitch the note. What is the solution for those people? Now you pick up a simple tune like happy birthday. If you can play definitely you will be able to sing it.

  9. Some say they can sing but can’t play. This is not true. If you can sing a note definitely you should be able to play that same note on the instrument.

  10. Some recognize notes and enjoy a melody, but say they can’t sing or play. I say you can sing and you can play. If you just follow the proper singing lessons and proper instrument basics, you can sing and play. It is not difficult but simple. All you have to do is to put some effort. Just to practice and that is all what matters.

Start practicing four to eight hours a day you will get there.

For good music lessons: https://www.rockatar.com


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