Precise neural sequences are associated with the production of well-learned skilled behaviors. Yet, how neural sequences arise in the brain remains unclear. In songbirds, premotor projection neurons in the cortical song nucleus HVC are necessary for producing learned song and exhibit precise sequential activity during singing. Using cell-type specific calcium imaging we identify populations of HVC premotor neurons associated with the beginning and ending of singing-related neural sequences. We characterize neurons that bookend singing-related sequences and neuronal populations that transition from sparse preparatory activity prior to song to precise neural sequences during singing. Recordings from downstream premotor neurons or the respiratory system suggest that pre-song activity may be involved in motor preparation to sing. These findings reveal population mechanisms associated with moving from non-vocal to vocal behavioral states and suggest that precise neural sequences begin and end as part of orchestrated activity across functionally diverse populations of cortical premotor neurons.