Have you ever had a voice teacher tell you that if you sing _______ (insert your favorite genre of popular music here. . . Rock, Blues, R&B, Gospel, etc) you’ll ruin your voice? I’ve spoken to many singers who’ve had this experience and it’s distressing! The singer’s concern is completely justifiable. Let’s face it, you can’t very well earn a living as a singer if you can’t rely on your voice to perform consistently. It’s like the professional athlete who’s always on the injured list. It’s not too long before he’s a retired professional athlete. Bottom line, it’s hard to feel free to rock-out, if you’re worried about blowing out your voice.
So is it true? Are some styles of singing inherently damaging? If you want to preserve your vocal health do you need to give up singing these styles?
I’m happy to tell you that this does NOT have to be the case.
Certain styles of music use a vocal styling that some call “singing hard” or “belting”. Whatever you call it, the bottom line is that these styles of music call for vocals that are full, rich and natural sounding. While this style of singing may be more vigorous it CAN be done without hurting your voice. It’s not the sounds you make it’s the WAY you make them. Let’s look at this in more detail.
1) Singing “hard” works your vocal muscles more vigorously. However, it’s not this vigorous workout that creates vocal fatigue and blowout, muscle tension and manipulation are the offenders. This muscle tension can occur in various parts of your body including your lips and face, tongue, jaw and abdomen, which then creates tension in your throat. After singing with this extra effort for a period of time, the tiny muscles that create your sound become exhausted and voila! vocal fatigue or vocal blow-out. If you knew how to let your voice work free of muscle tension and manipulation, you could sing the way you want (sound and style) without hurting your voice. Eliminating these types of muscle tension will help your voice work freely and will help you to sing for long periods without fatigue or hoarseness.
2) In addition to muscle tension and manipulation there is another major cause of vocal blowout – pushing out TOO MUCH air when singing. Making vocal sound requires breath. Some sounds require more or less breath than others, but whatever sounds you’re making, your vocal instrument requires a proper balance of air to work effectively and easily. This balance is dependent upon a well-regulated (controlled and varied) air stream. If a singer forces out too much air, his vocal instrument will be thrown out of balance and consequently, the muscles react by tensing. From there, manipulation tends to be used to create the sounds that would have been so much easier if the correct balance of air had been used.
3) Most singers I talk to understand the importance of warming up their voices before singing. However, what a lot of singers don’t know is the importance of cooling down the voice AFTER singing. It seems logical enough, but is often missed.
If you think of yourself as an athlete, it makes a lot of sense. After all, would a runner, immediately after running the marathon plop himself down on the couch? He may WANT to, but the runner knows that if he doesn’t cool down his body, by stretching, walking, etc, the muscles of his body will stiffen. The same holds true for the muscles that create your sound. A good vocal cool down gets the muscles that are used to create sound back to their normal resting state.
4) Lastly, some vocal styles simply require more vocal development than others. Strong, hard hitting sounds can be created easily when the muscles are well developed through proper vocal exercise. Would that same athlete attempt to run a marathon without training for it first? A good athlete knows that he needs to exercise his body first and develop the muscles necessary. So in addition to all that I’ve mentioned above, know that correct vocal exercise is another very important step that you can take to enable yourself to sing the way you want without vocal fatigue and blowout. For that reason, the number one, most important thing you can and should do to maintain vocal health, if you don’t already have one, is to find a vocal coach! And not just any vocal coach will do. You need to find a coach who understands the style(s) of music you sing and is able to coach you to sing these styles in a healthy manner, without compromising your personal style.
As always, please feel free to write your comments below.
For more information on my specialized vocal training program and music career coaching please call 617-536-4553 or write to me at email@example.com.
“Jennifer Truesdale was recommended to me as one of the best in New England. I believe she is the best…I was convinced that every time I saw her, this woman had some sort of magical fairy dust that she sprinkled on my vocal cords. My range has increased dramatically and I am able to hit notes that for the longest time I was only able to hear in my head. My pitch and consistency, as well as my vocal durability have never been better. – Megan Bayra, Singer-Songwriter