How To Practice Your Vocals Without Straining
Donna Mauer February 28, 2019
When you are taking voice lessons and working to improve your tone, range, or flexibility, it’s important to remember to keep your voice exercised, even outside of your lessons. This means that you continue to sing, and frequently. Most singers strive to achieve a sound that with a lot of practice becomes effortless and easy to attain without pushing too hard. If you are straining while singing you will notice a big difference in your pitch and tone because muscles tighten, the sound turns shrill, and your voice can also even crack in the middle of a note. Your vocal folds don’t vibrate freely, and it creates tension.
So, how difficult is it to practice without straining? There are certain things you should keep in mind to take care of while you work on your voice outside of your regular lessons.
As you do when you are taking voice lessons, you want to make sure that you set aside some time to warm up your voice before practicing a song or piece of music. Strain will happen easily if you do not exercise your vocal cords and get them ready to work, because you haven’t stretched your voice out. Just like you would take time to stretch before running a race, you want to take the same care with your voice.
Think of your warm-ups as conditioning for your voice, to prepare you to tackle a song with ease. It’s a necessary step that keeps your voice from being pushed to the point of strain. The exercises are made to help increase your vocal strength, giving your voice the ability to be more expressive in the way that you want it to, and help you to reach higher or lower ranges. If you’re not sure what good warm-ups are to help you on your own, watch this video that demonstrates a couple of helpful exercises you can try.
When you exercise the right breath control while singing, it gives you better overall sound. If you’re pushing too much air out you will strain your voice. If you pull too much air in you can also strain your voice that way, so you have to make sure you are breathing correctly to get a good amount of air (but not too much!). It will give you the confidence to sing on pitch with enough air to carry you through your notes. When you have too little or too much air behind a note it can affect the pitch, making it sound either too breathy or too pressed. Please note that different types of singing require different types of airflow. There isn’t just one correct way, so you’ll need to find what’s right for your specific needs.
Your breath can also assist with your vocal timbre, which is the unique sound you produce. If you’re exercising your voice and utilizing correct breathing techniques you will be on the path to an amazing, one-of-a-kind sound that is all yours, with zero strain, and a timbre and expression in your voice that you desire.
Another technique that can assist you with practice is relaxing the right muscles, particularly in your face/mouth. The relaxing will help so that you don’t tense up your muscles or voice and create a shrill sound. Especially when reaching for higher notes, instead of pushing or straining your face/neck upwards, you should work to keep unnecessary tension out of the picture. Take a few seconds and use your fingertips to massage your jaw, or slightly tilt your head from side to side and gently stretch your neck, or try a big yawn – these are some helpful little exercises that can help to stretch and relax all those muscles around your face and mouth to keep you from straining.
It’s extremely important that when you practice, you are in a place where you don’t have any anxiety or stress. This will help with relaxing the muscles as well. So make sure you pick a place where you feel comfortable and can sing without fear or nervousness because those are all feelings that can put strain in your voice. If you are uncomfortable or nervous, one of the first instincts you will experience is to tense up your throat, which will affect your voice.
Usually, this means practicing alone and not in front of people, because ‘stage fright’ kicks in with people around, and this way you can avoid the worry of the fear of being judged. Even if the shower is truly where you feel most comfortable singing – use it to your advantage, and go ahead and practice while you wash! Of course, as you begin to feel more comfortable, you may want to ease into singing in front of people until you’re comfortable doing that without too much tension.
Water is your best friend. Try to avoid diuretic drinks like soda, coffee or alcohol and stick to just plain water. Make sure you drink water before, during AND after singing. This helps the voice stay lubricated and become more flexible while you use it. Especially make sure to drink while doing warmups because if you’re working to increase your range you want to feel lubricated to slide easily from note to note.
Straining your voice is easiest to avoid when you have patience and take your time with some basic self-care. Make sure to warm-up in a comfortable setting, with water in hand and utilize some relaxation techniques to help you feel more at ease. Most importantly, remember that with practice and hard work you can get the sound or range you desire, so don’t think that voice lessons alone are going to help you. Continue to practice all the time, not just during your lessons, and exercise your voice to help your voice stay warmed up and in its best shape.
Donna has had a love for music since elementary school when she took her first piano lesson. Having tried her hand at numerous instruments, she now spends her time writing about music, the music industry, and teaching lessons. She is a contributor on multiple music blogs and loves creating helpful articles for her fellow musicians and music lovers.
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