In the first four parts of Expanding Vocal Range and in Parts 1 and 2 of Belting or Singing with Power, we covered four of the five principal reasons for throat muscle tension and resulting vocal problems. To refresh your memory, here are the:
Five Primary Causes of Throat Muscle Tension
- Lack of adequate vocal warm-up and/or cool-down
- Air over-blow (pushing out too much air as you sing)
- Over articulation (emphasizing tongue, mouth, lip movements when singing)
- Using force rather than resonance for volume and power
- Compensating for under-developed vocal muscles
In this month’s vocal tip we’ll look at the final and extremely common barrier to confident and expressive singing:
5. Compensating for under-developed vocal muscles
Your voice is generated by a series of small coordinated muscle movements inside your throat and mouth. These muscle movements occur automatically as you sing if you don’t interfere with their natural actions. While remaining ignorant of how their voice works, many singers expect to simply open their mouths and have wonderful sounds emerge. When this doesn’t happen, they think there is something wrong with them; that they weren’t born to sing or some such faulty conclusion.
Here’s an analogy. Most of us can walk without an understanding of physiology or the need to exercise our muscles. BUT, if you decided to be a dancer or runner, you would need more understanding of anatomy and you would train your muscles to perform the desired routine with enough stamina to finish the dance or marathon.
Now, if you decided to run a marathon without any preparatory conditioning, how long would you last? You might do alright for the first mile, but what about the second, fifth or tenth? You probably wouldn’t make it that far, but even if you did, your muscles would ache and you would be straining and panting for breath. Singers do this with their voices all the time.
Unprepared and under-developed, the muscles can’t perform the needed functions so the singer strains and pushes. You may think your tone is poor or a certain pitch is too high and out of your range; that it takes a lot of effort to get it and it doesn’t sound as good as you’d like. This may seem true - apparently. But more accurately, it’s probably just that you have not properly developed the muscle actions of your voice - ones that are designed to work automatically for you and just need to be awakened!
Songs are not the way to develop the functionality of your voice. There is too much going on in a song. Songs involve melody, words, range and communicating meaning and emotion to the audience. A full-out vocal performance is the singer’s marathon for which preparation is simply practical. Your vocal muscles have to be in good shape before you sing. Songs are always much easier to perform when using a voice brought to life by exercises that stimulate its natural functionality.
Expanded Vocal Range Solution
The solution is to gain some understanding of vocal anatomy and then use exercises to develop your voice. With this goal in mind, I created The Deva Method. The information and exercises you need to achieve natural vocal function are contained in The Contemporary Vocalist Volume One and Volume Two. I recommend that you buy and use the Vocal warm-up CD with Contemporary Vocalist Vol. 1.
May you become the singer you always dreamed of being.
All the best,