What I can do in order to release all the muscular tensions and achieve a free singing?
When we start taking singing lessons, as a student we all expect to achieve many goals and one of these is release the muscular tension and achieve a free singing .
How can we sing freely through our vocal range and without straining our voices or involve too much tension?
In the next paragraphs we will analyse many factors that could cause muscular tensions and how to avoid it/improve it.
How can we recognize if we are using too much muscular tension?
Many singers , both beginners and professionals, sometimes doesn’t realise if they are using extrinsic muscles in their singing and vocalizing.
Extrinsic muscles compensation could involve many muscles like the neck, the tongue, the jaw, the larynx ecc..
For example , if after a concert you will experience some pain in the back of the neck that could suggest you that you use too much muscle compensation in that area for taking the high notes. Or if after the concert you feel that you lost the low part of your speaking range, maybe is because you strain too much to reach the high notes (you can read also my previous blog about warm up and cooling down exercises)
The goal of a singing teacher is to let the student achieve a good free singing , released from muscular tension of any type.
This goal can’t be achieved in one lessons, or a month , or two months , but with regular daily exercises which can change your vocal habit and replace it with the new ones.
As Pavarotti said once: ” It’s easier, after 20 years of course…“.
Sometimes what could happen during the singing is that we use the neck to compensate and reach the notes.
Personally, as a student, that was one the most challenging things to avoid and took me years to released it.
Now that I improve my intrinsic muscles activity(better coordination in vocal folds and knowledge about my voice) this compensation is almost gone.
This problem could affect also professional singers. You can hear in this video the great Bryan Adams , an easy example of neck compensation especially when he hit the high notes.
You can see the differences between his high notes and Pavarotti ones, especially in the body posture.
Pavarotti doesn’t move at all whatever the note is, Bryan Adams instead need to reach the high notes with body compensation, the neck in this case.
He use that posture cause his habit was always to sing in that way and the body slightly accepted it during the years.
Jaw Tension / Facial expression
Another aspect we can consider as a muscular tension is the jaw tension.
In this case, the jaw compensate if we can’t sing , for example, a certain vowels in a natural way . Sometimes we tend to keep the jaw too close and tight and this can cause you tensions on all the muscle around it.
Sometimes we do something strange also with the facial expressions.
A good example of this compensation is David Coverdale from Whitesnake in this video:
At the minute 1.20 you hear him sing “In the still of the night” and you can see the tension in his facial expressions.
Why is important to learn how to avoid the extrinsic muscles involvement?
In order to obtain a free singing is really important, in our learning process, to understand why we use muscular compensation and how to avoid it.
Even though we will not avoid it at our 100% , at least we need to understand slightly how to control it.
For me , as a student, it was really effective, for example , vocalizing in front of a mirror (thanks to my teacher suggestion) , because I realise how much that extrinsic muscles controlled my singing. At the moment I know how to control it but I recognized that they are still there sometimes and they want to come back.
The most important thing is , as more as your learning process go further, practice at home , under the guidance of your vocal coach, everyday in order to change this habit.
The purpose of the singing teacher is to guide you to have a good posture when you sing in order to let the intrinsic muscle(vocal folds, thyroid muscles etc..) do the work for you and not the extrinsic ones.
Release the tension in the neck, avoid to impose the larynx his or low, let the tongue not to force the sound are goals that your singing teacher always need to have in mind in order to let you reach a free singing that could let you manage your voice in the best way possible and to preserve it from damage.
“Every student is unique , every voice is unique. “
Daniele Calimera is a certified singing teacher for the Institute for Vocal Advancement (IVA). He is an expert of the MIX method, use by international singing stars and grammy award winners. Lessons in Cardiff and via Skype.