Think of this article like a short checklist of vocal essentials. Each of the following five points is a fundamental aspect of vocal technique. Practice them properly, and you’ll be on your way to excellent singing. On the other hand, if you’re having any vocal problems, you just might find that one of these tips sets you back on the right path.
DO sing on the breath. Singing happens on a long extended exhale. This means that by practicing a slow release of air, you can actually train your muscles to better support your singing, without actually having to sing. Try taking in a normal breath and then release the air slowly on a tsss syllable. Take another breath and see if you can extend the length of your exhale even more.
DON’T overly lift or drop the larynx. If you put your hand on your neck just under your chin you will feel hard cartilage. This is your larynx. Talk for a second and feel it vibrate. Then swallow and feel the larynx go up. Take in a breath and see if it drops downward. The cartilage of the larynx houses the vocal folds. Unnecessary tension in the neck and jaw muscles literally squishes the larynx upward or downward, locking it in an unnatural position. Let go of the tension in your neck and jaw, and the larynx returns to its natural position, which is optimal for good singing.
DO think down when you sing up. While higher notes do require greater breath support, we must ensure that higher frequency notes do not translate to the physical lifting of various parts of the body. Some singers will raise their chins, stretch their necks, or tense up their shoulders as the notes go higher. This can be avoided by thinking down when you sing up. This is a mental game, but it has real physical benefits for your singing. As your voice goes higher, imagine that your body is sinking downward. This concept applies when you sing low notes, too. There is no need to point your chin downwards when you sing low notes. Think up when you sing down – there’s no need to make a double chin!
DON’T tighten the tongue. Instead keep it relaxed! The root of the tongue often holds a lot of tension and can lead to a frog-like vocal quality. With this way of singing, the tongue is very tight and it is falling back into the throat. Try the following exercise to reduce tongue tension. Put your thumb underneath your chin (like “The Thinker”) and gently press upward while you sing. If you feel the muscles of your tongue push back against your thumb, try to consciously soften those muscles. Don’t be fooled, though; the tongue should actually remain quite active when you sing. After all, the back of the tongue is what creates vowel shapes, and the tip of the tongue is essential for consonants.
DO think horizontally when it comes to the jaw. Some people barely open their mouths when they sing, others will force their force their jaw straight downwards and out of its socket. Neither of these options is desirable. Instead, allow the jaw to swivel open and take the space it needs. Imagine a cackling Halloween skeleton. The skeleton’s jaw swivels open and creates plenty of space, while still remaining connected to the rest of the skull. This swiveling action is good! To help maintain this swiveling action as you ascend higher in your range, imagine that your tongue and back molars are moving horizontally outward. As you sing higher and higher, continue to imagine more and more of this horizontal stretch.
Do you have any more tips to add to this list? Please share your tips in the comments to help your fellow singers out!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!