In this Blog you'll learn how to sing without strain and avoid damage caused by poor vocal technique.
More and more these days I’m hearing songs that use strained singing, screaming and very guttural sounds to try and achieve a contemporary sound – AKA Jimmy Barnes, who has made a lot of money from this style of ‘unhealthy’ singing. There are also a lot of reports of professional singers who are causeing a lot of damage to their vocal chords through inproper vocal technique. This damage will result in a sore throat, loss of vocal power and can cause other problems like nodules, swelling and bleeding. If you find that the veins in your kneck are popping out and you feel vocally exhausted after singing, it’s likely that you’re singing with ‘constriction’ Think of what a Boa Constrictor snake does to kill its prey it tightens and squeezes all the air out of its victim. Well a similar thing happens to a lot of singers, when they get up in front of a crowded room to speak or sing. The adrenaline kicks in together with a serving of nerves and you find yourself tightening up in the throat and its difficult to make clean, clear notes and you end up cracking or missing those top notes.
To understand what’s going on in your voice box, you need to understand a little about how your larynx makes those beautiful sounds and helps you produce great music. Most singers will know that it is the vocal cords which create the sounds we hear when we sing or talk, as air passes over the chords, they vibrate in waves to produce the tones we hear. In fact there are two types of ‘vocal folds’ and it’s a lucky thing there are, because one set creates the sounds of voice and speech (the True Vocal Folds, TVF’s) and the others spring into action when we cough, swallow and push. to protect the airways that lead to the lungs (the False vocal folds, FVF’s)
This is a little demo I do with my choir to help my singers visualize just what’s happening in their throats when they sing, you can easily have a go at this yourself. First clench your fists with your thumbs on the top like your going to play a game of thumb wars but make sure your fingers are not bent at the first knuckle. Then bring your pointer fingers together to meet each other. It’s a lot less gross that shoving a camera down your throat and showing you pictures of the real thing. So your thumbs represent the FVF’s (Thicker and just above the TVF’s) and your pointer fingers represent the TVF’S. There are three positions the FVFs can take:
So you can see in the first picture the FVF’s are in a neutral or mid position which is probably where most untrained people sing most of the time. The second picture is that “Boa Constrictor” voice I was talking about. The false vocal folds have closed over as if they’re protecting the airway. You can imagine that it’s going to be really difficult for air to move past the TVF’s in this configuration. This is a strained, uncomfortable and unhealthy way to sing that we can all fall into if we’re not careful, especially when nervous and tense. The third position is retracted FVF’s and this results in a clean, clear tone and is the most healthy way to sing.
I hope I’ve convinced you how important singing with retracted FVF’s is, it will save you a lot of pain – literally!
In the next blog I'm going to give you three easy to use techniques to retract your FVF's so you’ll be able to control them and move to a healthier singing voice and produce better tone that you ever imagined possible.
Melbourne Contemporary Choir
Jason or (Jase) as he likes to be called is Founder & Creative Director of Melbourne Contemporary Choir (MCCHOIR) and is a passionate musician who wants to bring his love for music to a broader audience.
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