PART 1

How To

Strengthen Your Singing Voice

 One of the most common questions vocal students ask me is how they can make their voice louder. The truth is that there isn’t just one right answer. There are a wide variety of ways to make your voice carry more–some ways that take years to develop (and if you love singing, I encourage you to work through these) and others that you’ll hopefully be able to begin to implement by the end of this post. If you’re ready to give your vocals that extra edge, here’s how to strengthen your singing voice (without straining).

1. Breath Control

Practically every voice teacher talks about this one, and with good reason. Whether you’re a belter or an opera singer, you’ll need fantastic breath control to help your voice carry and to keep from damaging it. What does this mean? Well, there are many ways to control your air but for the purposes of vocal strengthening, you’ll need to learn to hold back air and not exhale too quickly through a note.

Here’s How: Let the air help expand your ribcage on your inhalation. When you sing your note, don’t allow yourself to deflate. Instead, use your external intercostals (the muscles between your ribs) to keep that ribcage expanded. Your exhalation through your note should be extremely slow and controlled, almost like you’re holding your breath (but don’t hold your breath!)

Here’s Why: When you’re holding back air, the pressure inside your lungs is greater than the pressure outside your lungs. This subglottal pressure (or pressure beneath your vocal folds) is what creates the force that helps your vocal folds vibrate once a small amount of air is released. If you let too much air out, your vocal folds will simply blow open and not come back together all the way, creating a quiet, breathy sound. An alternate (and worse option) is letting a lot of air out and using the muscles in your vocal folds to bring them back together. You’ll get that loud sound you wanted, but your vocal folds will have to work extremely hard to come together against the stream of air and may experience trauma.

For more tips on breath control, check out this post on support muscles.

2. Brightness

Breath control may be the most recognized way to make your voice more powerful, but it’s not the only one! Brightening your voice is huge. Voice brightness, or ping, squillo, twang, or forward resonance is that laser-focused sound that makes a soprano’s voice cut through an orchestra and Ethel Merman’s belt carry without amplification.

Here’s How: The major component is narrowing your aryepiglottic sphincter, or AES, just above your true and false vocal folds. That may sound daunting, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. Try cackling like a witch, taunting “nya nya nya” like a bratty school kid, or quacking like a duck. Feel that piercing narrowness? That’s your AES narrowing, and it’s something you’ll want to learn to control to get a louder sound when you sing. If you do it in an isolated way (i.e. just the piercing quality without any other vocal ingredients added to sweeten the sound) you probably won’t love the sound. But if you just add that narrowing quality to your everyday singing, it’ll help your voice to carry.

Along with your AES narrowing, there are other components of brightness as well, like keeping the sides of your tongue high up near your molars and the tip of your tongue forward.

Check this post out if you want a more complete picture of how to sing with forward resonance.

3. Lifting Your Soft Palate

Most singers don’t think about their soft palate as a main ingredient for power, but it can be. Your soft palate, or velum, is the gateway between your mouth and nose. Drop your soft palate, and that gateway will be open—-leaving you with a nasal sound. Lift your soft palate, and the gateway will be closed, leaving you with more mouth resonance.

Here’s How: Try snorting like a pig, sipping from an imaginary straw, or finding that space at the top of a yawn. Do you feel how high the roof of your mouth is in back? That’s what it feels like to sing with a high soft palate, and you can learn to isolate the muscles to make that happen.

For more on soft palate manipulation, check out this post on combatting nasality.

 

Here’s Why: But wait, you say! You just told me that the bratty “nya nya nya” sound will help my voice carry! It will, but that “nya nya nya” sound isn’t nasality. It may be slightly nasalized when you learn to do it, but the piercing quality comes from your narrow AES, not from the nasal resonance.

Nasality actually sucks up your sound. Your nose is full of turbinates, ridges of tissue that act like acoustic baffles (that foam you see in recording studios) and cut off the resonance. To maximize your sound, you should lift your soft palate so that the resonance is coming from your mouth.

 

For more ways to create power, look out for Part 2 of How to Strengthen Your Singing Voice.

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