How to Do Vocal Runs

Isn’t it impressive when an artist like Mariah Carey or Ariana Grande hits a quick series of notes to show off their range? If you’re a singer and want a little more variety in your performance, adding a vocal run makes a song more fun and exciting. While they take a bit of practice to master, you can easily incorporate them into your music. Keep reading to find out about some of the best vocal exercises and techniques so you can add a run to any song!


[Edit]Practicing Runs in Songs

  1. Find descending runs by other artists to sing along with. If you haven’t sung vocal runs before, it’s going to be a bit easier to copy another singer so you can get the hang of it. Look for songs that are in your vocal range so you can comfortably sing along with them.[1] Choose a section that starts on a higher note and ends on a lower note so it’s a little easier on your vocal cords. Some good examples of songs with vocal runs include:[2]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 7.jpg
    • “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
    • “All of Me” by John Legend
    • “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
    • “Somebody to Love” by Queen
    • “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
    • “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
    • “Without You” by Mariah Carey
  2. Slow down the music so you can hear the notes in the run. While you may get tempted to start practicing at full speed, you’ll put a lot more strain on your voice. Download an app like The Amazing Slow Downer or put the song into music-editing software to slow down the tempo. Play the run at the reduced speed and listen to each individual note they sing.[3]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 8.jpg
    • If you have a piano, try playing each of the notes as you hear them to help you find the right pitch.
  3. Try singing a 3-note section of the run. Take the last 3 notes of the run so the lowest pitch is the one you end on. Play the slowed down notes and try your best to sing along to the pitches. Maintain the same tone and volume for each note so your voice stays consistent. Keep repeating the run over and over again until you can confidently hit each note.[4]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 9.jpg
    • Do your best not to sing higher notes louder than lower notes. Since singing louder puts more strain on your voice, it makes it harder to switch between notes.
  4. Increase the tempo by 3–5 beats per minute to build your agility. Turn up the speed of the song in your app or editing software and re-listen to the run. Try singing along with the 3-note section again at the faster tempo, maintaining the same tone and volume as did before. As you start feeling more comfortable at the increased tempo, turn it up by another 3–5 BPM and practice again.[5]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 10.jpg
    • Work your way up until you can comfortably perform the section of the run at full speed.
    • As another exercise, sing the section at your slowest tempo first. Then, repeat the notes 5 more times so each time is slightly faster.
  5. Add the remaining notes to the run one at a time. Start back on the slowest tempo and begin the run from the next highest note. Practice singing the section slowly at first so you get used to the pitch changes. Then, build up your speed until you can comfortably perform it at the song’s original tempo. Keep incorporating more notes into the run until you can sing the entire part.[6]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 11.jpg
    • Try practicing the run without the song playing in the background. Use a metronome to keep track of the tempo if you do.

[Edit]Performing Original Runs

  1. Work on performing the song’s original melody. Even though you’re eager to add runs to a song, master singing it without any vocal embellishments first. Keep practicing the original song until you have good tone and pitch throughout the entire performance. Really focus on hitting all of the notes as they’re written until you feel comfortable with them.[7]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 12.jpg
    • This will help you find the baseline for the song so you’re less likely to go off pitch while you’re doing a run.
  2. Choose notes from a pentatonic scale in the song’s key. A pentatonic scale is made up of the same notes as the regular scale, except without the 4th and 7th notes. [8] Find the key of the song that you’re working on and write down all of the notes in the pentatonic scale. When you’re developing your run, try to pick from these notes since they’ll mesh well with the melody.[9]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 13.jpg
    • For example, in a C-major scale, the pentatonic scale is made up of the notches C, D, E, G, A, and high C.
    • On a minor scale, the pentatonic drops the 2nd and 6th notes instead.
  3. Jump between notes on the scale to incorporate more variety to the song. Play around with different combinations of notes going up and down the pentatonic scale. You can go through the notes in order or pattern so your run sounds more interesting. Practice singing each combination slowly to see what you’re happy with.[10]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 14.jpg
    • Even small variations can add a lot to the run. For example, instead of playing the notes down the scale in order, bring one note a step back up, such as the pattern C-A-G-A-G-E-D.
  4. Vary the lengths of the notes to add more rhythm. Your runs will start to sound monotonous if you sing each note for the same amount of time. Instead, hold some of your notes out longer and quickly change between others so there’s more variety to the rhythm. Try out different rhythmic patterns and practice singing each one to see how it fits with the song.[11]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 15.jpg
    • Always start practicing at a slower tempo so your notes don’t blend together when you’re singing.
  5. Rehearse your runs so you can nail your pitch. It might feel fun trying to throw an improvised run into your performance, but you’re more likely to go out of tune. Instead, practice singing it until you can comfortably perform the run without a second thought. That way, you can choose when you want to incorporate one into your song while still sounding like you came up with it off the cuff.[12]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 16.jpg

[Edit]Exercising Your Voice

  1. Breathe from your diaphragm for better breath control. During regular activities, you usually breathe from your chest, but that makes your singing voice less powerful since you don’t get as much air. Instead, stand up straight and take a deep breath in through your mouth until the count of 5. Rather than puffing out your chest or lifting your shoulders, try to push your belly outward. Make a hissing sound as you slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 9.[13]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 1.jpg
    • Controlling your breath makes it a lot easier to maintain your tone and hit longer runs.
    • Once you feel comfortable with this exercise, try inhaling for 7 seconds and exhaling for 12 seconds to increase your lung capacity even more.
  2. Hum scales to loosen up your vocal cords. Start with your mouth closed and the tip of your tongue right behind your bottom teeth. Choose any major scale and hum the lowest note so you make an “mm” or “ng” sound. Keep your mouth closed and go up each step of the scale until you reach the highest note. Then, work your way back down to the note you started on. Go through each of your scales until you feel warmed up.[14]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 2.jpg
    • Humming doesn’t put as much strain on your vocal cords as singing, so it’s perfect for loosening up.
  3. Practice singing your scales to develop your range. Stick with using vowel sounds, such as “oo,” “ee,” or “ah,” so you maintain the best tone.[15] Start on the lowest note of a major scale and sing at a comfortable volume. Do your best to maintain the pitch for a count before going up to the next note. Work up to the 5th note in the scale before going back down.[16]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 3.jpg
    • For example, on a C-major scale, you would sing C, D, E, F, G, F, E, D, and finally C.
    • Go through multiple scales, starting on a different note each time. That way, you can work up to singing in different octaves.
    • Try running through your scales at gradually slower and faster speeds so you develop better control over your pitch.
  4. Do your scales in every key. Start on a low C and sing all of the notes of the scale ascending to the highest pitch. Then go back down the scale until you reach the note you started on. For your next scale, start on a C-sharp and sing all the way up to a high C-sharp. Begin each of your scales on the next key on a piano until you go through 11 different scales.[17]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 4.jpg
    • This will help develop your range and help you quickly change between notes when you perform a run.
  5. Sing along to notes on a piano to improve your pitch. If you have a hard time hitting the right notes, don’t get discouraged. Instead, play the first note of the scale on a piano. Do your best to sing the note so it’s at the same pitch. Once you feel comfortable and confident hitting the first note, play the next note in the scale before singing it. Slowly work your way up and down your scales as you try to match the pitch and tone.[18]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 5.jpg
    • As you get more confident, transition to only playing the first note on the piano before singing the entire scale without any accompaniment. Eventually, you’ll be able to sing the notes without using the piano as a guide.
  6. Perform the scale in 3-note chunks. Start on the base note of the scale and perform the first 3 notes, such as “do-re-mi.” Without taking a break, start on the second note of the scale and sing another 3 notes, which would be “re-me-fa.” Repeat this stepped pattern until you reach the highest note of the octave. Then, work down the scale so you sing “do-ti-la, ti-la-sol” all the way back to the base note you began on.[19]
    Do Vocal Runs Step 6.jpg
    • This exercise helps you transition up and down between notes quickly so you’re able to perform vocal runs faster and more accurately.


  • Stay well hydrated and avoid smoking to keep your singing voice healthy and make runs easier to hit.[20]
  • Listen to a lot of pop and R&B songs so you can hear runs that may influence your own performance.[21]


  • Stop singing immediately if you feel any pain or discomfort so you don’t damage your vocal cords.[22]
  • Be wary of adding too many vocal runs while you’re singing since you might lose the song’s original melody.


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