Ever felt the uncomfortable feeling of squeezing in your throat as you’ve attempted to belt out one of your fave tunes?
And then been horrified as the sound of a strangled cat came hurtling out of your mouth?
Welcome to the world of every singer on the planet!
Songbird, you are not alone.
Over a decade of coaching singers at all levels has proved to me that there’s one thing that affects EVERY singer in the same way. Sadly, this one thing has left many a hopeful singer feeling defeated, frustrated and on the verge of giving up on their singing dreams.
And that one wretched thing is:
Believe me, I get this because I’ve been there, done that, got the bumper sticker and wear the t-shirt.
And because I know how debilitating this can feel and I don’t want to see you give up on your singing dreams, I want to help you learn what sadly took me a LONG time to discover on my own. It’s time you were empowered to sing with freedom.
So today I will share the top 5 reasons why you strain and of course the top 5 solutions to combating strain once and for all. The final result will be you’ll learn to sing without straining.
1. Jaw And Tongue Tension
Tense muscles will absorb sound.
This prevents you from sounding as loud or powerful than you would like, which then makes you push.
Which makes you feel squeezed, go flat and it all goes down hill from there…
And the jaw and tongue are notorious for carrying huge amounts of tension that prevent you from sounding free.
Before singing anything, including warm ups and scales, give your face and jaw a ‘kindness’ massage to get rid of the tension in the face and jaw. Next pretend to chew on a huge piece of gum to further get rid of tension in the jaw. Then stick your tongue right out, giving it a stretch to get rid of the tension lurking in the base of the tongue (the part in your throat that you can’t see). With this newly found freedom in your jaw and tongue, say a couple of ‘bla blas’ in the most lazy and sloppy way you can muster. Lastly, take that same relaxed feeling into your vocalising and singing.
I’ve got a FREE 3 part video series “The 9 Essential Steps to Transforming Your Voice” which can give you a good example of this and more, you can get hit here: www.thesongbirdtree.com/bybv-gif.
2. Lack Of Breath Support Causing The Throat Muscles To Tense
Most singers rely on the teeny tiny muscles in the throat to sing instead of using the bigger ‘anchor’ muscles in your lower torso to support the throat.
The muscles in your ribs and lower back when used properly in correct breath support, will activate the diaphragm and give you the power in your vocal tone while taking off the pressure on your poor little throat, eliminating strain.
Develop correct breath support by expanding in the ribs to inhale instead of taking a noisy gaspy breath that makes your chest and shoulders rise up. Next keep your ribs as open as possible as you exhale, to control the expelling of the air slowly and steadily instead of letting it all out and collapsing your ribs straight after you’ve taken in the air. This takes a lot of patience and practice to master, but once you do, straining will become a thing of the past!
3. A Closed Throat – Open This And Sing Without Straining
Lack of space inside the throat causes constriction of the vocal cords. When your vocal cords are constricted they aren’t able to vibrate freely which causes the squeezed feeling and sound.
Create an open ‘cathedral effect’ in your throat by opening up the vocal tract with a yawn stretch. This means creating that same openness in the throat that naturally happens when you yawn. This ensures the drop of the larynx which extends your vocal tract vertically downwards, and the lift of your soft palate which extends your vocal tract vertically upwards. This cathedral effect creates space to sing notes you’d normally strain towards giving freedom and clarity in the sound. Now I want me some more of that!
4. Lack Of Resonance
Singing on the throat instead of resonating your sound forward and high from the mask of your face is a mistake that costs singers a big bunch! Below we’ll look at why this is a real issue when learning to sing without straining, and the solution to make your voice sound better.
A natural resonance or buzz is created when the sound you make literally bounces off your teeth and facial bones. This buzz can be manipulated enabling you to project your sound without yelling, screaming and putting any pressure on your throat at all.
Practice buzzing your notes from the mask of your face (nose, underneath the eyes and the eyes) singing the song on a buzzy “Mm..”, “Ng…” or “Ming…”. Emphasising the buzz of the “M” and the “Ng” is crucial and imagining the notes are like darts flying to the ‘dartboard’ on the opposite wall can be very helpful. You will feel the pressure from the throat released and a sense that the notes are floating freely from your face. It’s a great feeling so give it try!
5. Pulling Up Chest Voice Instead Of Mixing
Most singers incorrectly believe that in order to sound powerful, the only way is to push chest voice as high as possible, even when it feels uncomfortable, causes huskiness and voice loss and let’s be honest, doesn’t sound all that great.
The truth is that NO-ONE was made to sing in chest voice forever. Our chest voice definitely has limits and pushing it beyond where it’s comfortable going is a guaranteed way not only to sing with strain but to damage your vocal cords in the long run.
This is a huge area needing a lot more explanation and ideally one-one training but below is a great starting point for you.
Learn to mix your voice, which is literally using both your chest and head voice together on one note. Start by lightening your chest voice by trying to sound a little younger and happier rather than clunking on it heavily. Next learn to LOVE your head voice and work on strengthening it. First by allowing yourself to flip where your voice naturally wants to flip into head voice, secondly by practicing the cathedral effect mentioned above and thirdly practicing lots of head voice exercises pretending to sound like an opera diva. Ok, I get that you don’t want to sound like an opera singer if you are a contemporary singer. Trust me, that’s not the point. The truth is that opera style singing naturally brings the most freedom and openness in your higher notes, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve here – full openness and freedom. You see, the only way you can have a strong mixed voice, is to have a strong head voice. If your head voice is weak, the chest voice doesn’t have much to work with to mix it with, which will circle you back to square one and cause you to pull up more chest. So the quicker you embrace your inner opera diva, the faster you will be able to develop a strong mix voice.
There you have it. The Top 5 reasons why you sing with strain and the accompanying solutions to solve these problems.
Vocal training does take a whole lot of patience and perseverance, but know that as you work on the above things slowly and steadily over time, your throat will thank you for it, as well as your audience as you stand up on that stage and ROCK it with full freedom and confidence!
Cheers to your every singing dream coming true!
For more free singing tips and to get my FREE 3 part video series “The 9 Essential Steps to Transforming Your Voice” visit www.thesongbirdtree.com/bybv-gif.