One of the most requested singing technique questions I get as a vocal coach is how to develop vocal agility.

I’ve never really enjoyed singing songs that had vocal melismas, trills, runs or riffs. In fact, I would avoid them like the plague because……I COULDN’T sing them!

I used to say, I prefer to just sing the song straight. In my #singersquad circles it was also known as – “Just sing the friggin’ song!”

While I believe that it’s a tool that can be used to develop your signature style, it can also be OVERUSED as a cover up for a LACK of control!

What’s the balance? Knowing all the options & being able to deliver them all on demand. (Kinda like Vocal Netflix!)

A huge skill you need to have when approaching melismas is vocal agility.

In this video, find out four tips to increase your vocal agility:

  • 02:16 – Foundations of Vocal Agility
  • 03:54 – Tip 1 – Siren
  • 05:30 – Tip 2 – Sing Scales
  • 08:59 – Tip 3 – Practice a Specific Riff or Trill
  • 10:37 – Tip 4 – Make Up Your Own Riffs/Trills

Here are my tips to develop vocal agility:

1. Siren

This is a stretch for your vocal folds. It’s the most simple, effective flexibility and gentile wake up/warm up exercise you can do.

Learn how to Siren here

2. Sing scales

Starting with the smaller half steps or semitones, practicing the notes in sequence forwards and backwards. Do through all the vowels and add multiple syllables or words ie: Ee-eh (as in Eee – air), through each semitone.

You can add bigger interval gaps (tone steps or an arpeggio phrase) and be as creative as you like!

Here is a great app that I use to practice singing scales.

3. Pick a specific passage or trill that you’ve heard to practice with. 

A great one that I like is the start of Beyonce’s “Countdown”. It’s a forward and backward movement.

Here it is notated and played slowly by me, so not the same tempo as sung on the original.


Listen here (opens in a new window)

An essential tip is to SLOW THE TRILL down so you can hear it, allow your vocal muscles to flex around the notes properly and THEN speed it up to the correct or desired tempo.

You can use an app like Perfect Tempo which will slow down songs without affecting the pitch drastically.

Use a keyboard to work out the notes and pitch match. You have to know the notes to be able to sing them properly.

Practice the trill over and over slowly increasing the speed. Your muscles will hold the memory of the flexibility as long as you are active with your practice (just like the splits!!) so it’s a use it or lose situation – as with most singing technique!!

In the background supporting this process, you need great singing techniques to easily and safely produce the sound!

4. Make up your own riffs & runs!

Get that signature style happening. Use riffs and runs tastefully to build your own sound to deliver the message of the song.

I’d love to hear you singing through the “Countdown” riff or one that you’ve been working on.

Let me know of any tips that you use to practice your vocal agility. I’m always looking to extend my bag of tricks!

Can’t wait to hear you riff your face off!


Leave a comment or ask me a question!

    2 replies to "How to Develop Vocal Agility"

    • Queenest

      Hello, please help me, I have a problem with my voice. It sounds like watery mouth when I sing and it’s spoiling the song for me, please help me

      • Cherie

        Hi there, I’d love to help you! Can you please give me more of an example of what you mean by “sounds like a watery mouth”? Once I have a better idea of what you mean, I’d be happy to share some ideas with you. Hope to hear you soon. Cherie

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