Improve your vocal abilities quickly by making these easy adjustments
Singing is easy. At least, it should be. There are so many contradicting philosophies and training methods available today that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Many people who take voice lessons think that singing with freedom and power involves some magical process, and are shocked to learn that it only takes a few quick adjustments to improve their vocal abilities drastically. Today I’ll share with you three quick ways to make singing easier for you.
Voice up, head down
When we raise our voices in volume or pitch, the natural tendency is to tilt our heads back and sing/speak toward the sky. This activation of the muscles in the neck can lead to vocal tension over time. To relieve this tension, keep your head in a neutral position by tilting your head down instead of up when trying to reach loud volumes or high pitches. This downward tilting of the head tends to automatically shift the energy focus from your throat into your face, therefore reducing strain on your voice.
Spare your air
A common misconception among vocalists is that the louder or higher you sing, the more air has to be released. In reality, the opposite is true; the less air you expel, the easier it is to sing loud or high. If you’ve ever called out to a friend who was a few meters away from you or held a conversation in a noisy room, you’ve probably used a clear, non-breathy voice without giving it much thought. It’s when we try to sing or speak with a powerful but breathy voice that we run into problems.
The reason for this is simple: the more air that passes over the vocal folds during vocal activity, the harder the muscles associated with sound production have to work. Stronger muscle contractions are produced to get the vocal folds to come together, creating a type of friction in the voice. This friction is recognizable through a raspy, scratchy vocal sound, coupled with discomfort in the throat.
This where voice teachers and speech therapists talk about the concept of breath support, to produce a healthy, connected vocal tone. The most straightforward definition of breath support is “the ability to regulate the amount of air used to produce sound;” in other words, putting on the brakes.
Fortunately, you have a built-in control mechanism for guarding against singing or speaking with an overly breathy voice: your ears. If you have not yet developed the necessary body awareness to know how to support your vocal tone correctly, listen to the sound of your voice as intently as you can when singing or speaking, and create clear, solid vocal sounds as often as possible, particularly at loud volumes.
You do it all the time
One thing that has always irritated me as a vocal coach is how most vocal students are taught that singing and speaking are somehow two completely different activities. They are not. The only real difference between singing and speaking is the melody. Classical singing styles do require certain physical adjustments to create a particular sound, but in a physiological sense, there is no difference in how we sing and how we speak.
It’s important to understand this concept because it applies to another fundamental realization regarding the human voice: you already possess the techniques you need to sing or speak with freedom and power.
Earlier, I mentioned calling out to a friend and holding a conversation in a noisy room. More than likely, you’ve used breath support in these situations without realizing it. When you speak softly, you instinctively allow more air to pass over your vocal cords than when speaking loudly. When you yell at someone or laugh heartily, you automatically use the muscles of your core, which is the basis of breath support (not the diaphragm, as many vocal teachers and speech therapists incorrectly teach their students). You’ve done these things your entire life, and these are the exact things you should be doing when singing or giving presentations.
Once you understand these three fundamental principles, singing and public speaking become a lot easier to master.
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