You’ve got the notes down, you’ve memorized all the lyrics, so it’s just too bad no one can hear you. Screaming your song only means the annihilation of your vocal chords and probably your audience, and microphones won’t always be around. Luckily, we have a few tips for you that will start you singing louder, healthier, and without an electronic in sight.
Two Reasons You’re Not Getting Enough Power
You’re Swallowing Those Notes, Not Spitting Them Out
Editor’s Note: Halt! This post was written before I had done more extensive research on the role of the larynx in singing. I didn’t remove the following section, because there’s still plenty of truth to the idea that you can hurt yourself singing with a perpetually high larynx, especially if your false vocal folds are constricted, but your larynx should be allowed to move around freely. For more updated information on the larynx, please see this more current post.
The most common cause of vocal strain is caused by larynx, or voice box, lift. If you want to know what a raised, tense larynx feels like, just put your finger gently on your Adam’s apple, swallow, and notice how it rises toward your chin. Swallowing is the only time your larynx should be in this position, and here’s why.
The larynx connects to the trachea, which leads to the lungs, which happen to really hate foreign objects like food, water, and marbles. So to swallow something, our bodies employ an ingenious safeguard, which lifts our larynx up, and closes it off with our epiglottis to avoid food, water, or marbles from going down the wrong pipe. This maneuver is awesome for survival, and horrible for singing. The more tense your larynx, the less freely your vocal folds can oscillate. You’ll sound lousy, but even more importantly, you could damage your vocal chords, because they aren’t designed to remain in that tense position for any amount of time.
You’re Wasting Your Breath
When you breathe, your vocal folds are open. When you hold your breath, your vocal folds are closed and touching each other. When you sing or speak, your vocal folds allow a limited amount of air to escape through them, while slapping together rapidly to produce sound. Breath control isn’t so much about breathing deeply as it is about controlling a very small, steady stream of air, in order to allow the vocal folds to make adequate contact. Breathing too hard means your vocal chords can’t fully touch each other with every oscillation, producing an airy sound that peters out all too quickly. Blowing too much air past your vocal folds can make them inflamed, damaging your voice. This is also why whispering makes laryngitis worse, not better.
Increase Vocal Power With These Exercises
1. Practice arpeggios on different vowel sounds while focusing on releasing only as much air as necessary. Start by humming, move on to an ‘ee’ sound, then an ‘ah’ sound, and finally, an ‘oo’ sound.
2. Put a “cry” into it. Close your eyes and whimper like a puppy dog. Focus on how this forces your core to engage, and your air supply to almost close off. Incorporating this feeling into your singing is the key to singing higher notes louder and more relaxed, because you’re allowing your larynx to stay relaxed, and limiting the escape of air through your vocal folds.
3. Arpeggiate the syllable “nay” like a brat. Don’t be afraid to sound nasally or to look dumb. In fact, go put your hair in some really high pigtails right now, head to the mirror, crinkle your nose and do this exercise. Really embrace that “I told you so” sound. Practicing this exercise will help close off errant vocal chords, and put more brightness, resonance, and volume into your tone.