Hi everyone, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Regardless of your level of singing experience whether you regulary perform on stage or have yet to sing in front of an audience. Singers can get tricked into falling into the trap of pushing too much air past the vocal chords when they sing or scream.
“If you want to sing higher or louder you need to push more air through the vocal chords” Right?
Actually its the opposite the higher we want to sing or scream, the more we need to find the correct technique for holding back the excessive unwanted air pressure so that the vocal chords are able to thin out and comfortably stretch to reach higher notes within our voice.
Singers that pass unwanted excessive air past the vocal chords actually dry the vocal chords out very quickly and the additional excessive air pressure robs the vocal chords of there natural flexability, resulting in a voice that cracks or breaks into fallsetto, or you end up straining your chest voice because the vocal chords are forced to sing in a higher register than usual, using the wrong vocal set up.
How do you know if your passing excess air over your vocal chords, and thereby robbing your voice of additional available vocal range and power?
Try this simple exercise using a comfortable singing note close to your speaking voice simply sing and hold the note for as long as you can, aim for 10-30 seconds. Vocalise on a simple ahh sound (just like you would make if a doctor asked you to open your mouth for an examination).
Now listen to your voice dose the note your singing sound rich and warm or can you hear a lot of excess air passing over the chords? If your voice sounds weak or overly breathy its a sure bet that your letting too much air escape between your vocal chords when you sing.
Okay so my voice is breathy why should i reduce the amount of air that escapes through my chords when i sing?
Excess air is the natural enemy of tone and prevents you from increasing your vocal range (ie singing higher requires flexible vocal chords). Excess air escaping past the chords is often the cause of crackly notes and vocal breaks, and will fatigue the voice very quickly.
Which leads me to my next point if we know its bad for us why do we continue to push excess air past the vocal chords and end up with a breathy weak tone or cracks in our vocal register?
Believe it or not your brain gets confused sometimes when we are singing, and often sends us the wrong message it dosent mean to sabatage us on purpose. Singing requires a great deal of muscular strength and correct body support and multiple vocal co-ordinations when these areas are working in harmony we produce a balanced voice. There are parts of the throat/ neck/ and upper body that we want to remain relaxed while we sing, and smaller micro muscles groups that we want to switch on to take up the strain and correctly create our singers support system.
When the wrong parts ( major muscle body groups) are used incorrectly to support your singing the excessive tension these muscles produce have a detrimental effect on our singing voice. Essentially excessive muscular force creates resistance at the vocal chords, the voice then responds by pushing back just as hard in the opposite direction. As a result the vocal chords and voice mechanisim resist and stiffen up. The laranyx is no longer able to operate freely. As singers we will feel greater levels of resistance at the vocal chords and it becomes more difficult for the vocal chords to stretch freely to reach the next note.Now suddenly, the brain gets confused and wants to help us overcome this additional vocal resistance. So the brain sends a message to the lungs that more air is needed to overcome the stiffness of the vocal chords.
But the more air we pass over the vocal chords the more the vocal chords will stiffen up and resist the barrage of unwanted air. This produces unhealthy excessive tension on the vocal chords, legaments, and cartlidges that make up our vocal anatomy. In short singing this way for sustained periods of time is a sure recipe to damage the voice.
Okay so what can i do to help me thin the air that passes between my vocal chords and develop a much healthier way of singing?
Firstly understand anytime that your brain tells you to push to sing higher or strain to get more volume… What your brain actually meant to say, is to release, let go of excessive tension on the voice, and relax the muscles in and around the throat so that your laranyx can move freely and operate smoothly.
To help you retrain your voice and resist the urge to push excess air past the chords sing at lower volumes initially to help encourage the release of unwanted muscular tension in the neck and throat. If you have to sing louder in order to sing higher then you are placing to much strain on your vocal chords and letting way to much air escape between your vocal folds.
If youve been singing at the top of your lungs for years, (belting) which means relying on the chest voice almost exclusively to reach your high notes. Or you can only reach your high notes at full volume and really strain to hit the top notes in a song. Its going to take time to retrain and balance your voice. Working with a vocal coach that really understands how to create the correct singing support system to reduce unwanted vocal tension can really help save your voice from a lifetime of over use. Learning how to thin the air when you sing will help you extend your range and improve your singing power.
Better singing everyone.