Some of us are born with a nice singing voice, but regardless of natural ability there are things we can do that will improve our ability. Whether you’re singing on a stage or around a campfire, don’t be shy about practicing and leveling up.
Firstly, whether you’re new or not you should always rehearse with scales. Warming up is important but the reason why singers doing scales is a cliche is that you’re looking to push into the edges of your ability. Just as an athlete works out their muscles to exhaustion so they can get stronger, you want to sing to just beyond your comfort in your high and low notes. This will expand your range and strengthen your ability. Don’t expect your very high and very low notes to sound good when you’re practicing. You’re not looking for beauty here, only expansion.
While you’re practicing, move around sometimes. It’s important to keep moving and flowing while you’re singing. This helps solidify your technique and will force you to stop thinking about what you sound like. When I was stuck in my head I had a coach make me do rolls across the stage while we were working on an aria. You don’t have to get that wacky with it but squats and even some dancing can be helpful to release areas of tension.
Visualizing helps me and I find this one particularly helpful:
The power line is the breathing on the vowel, which never stops releasing a steady stream of air. The birds are the consonants of the word, which blocks the vowel but does not stop the flow of air or sound. The exception to this is a staccato sound but most of the time we’re expected to create a bel canto sustained and smooth tone. The power line is the air always creating a tone, the birds don’t stop the sound, they merely touch down on the power line of constant sound, they don’t stop it completely.
It’s also important to learn your own range and voice type. Once you know yours then a lot of your song choices will fall into place. Note that your voice type is probably not the one you’re attracted to listening to most of the time. It’s almost a perverse truism that we prefer to listen to the voices of people who do not sound like ourselves. For example, my partner kills at karaoke but had a tendency to choose higher-pitched pieces suitable for a tenor. I had to tell him he’s actually a baritone and should be choosing to croon along to Tom Jones.
I’m trash at karaoke despite having a large set of pipes. Reason being that most pop music for women is written for the alto / mezzo voice and not my high-pitched insanity. Try not to beat yourself up if that’s also the case for you.
So you can be good at one type of music and suck in another. I’m terrific on Verdi and terrible at pop music. Which can also be a bit of a gut punch when you’re dying on the karaoke stage.