The bane of every singer is vocal straining. It’s uncomfortable at best, painful at worst and it ALWAYS effects the song you’re singing negatively. You also run the risk of lasting damage to your vocal chords.
Harry Nilsson famously ruined his extraordinary voice in a drunken screaming competition with John Lennon. Protect and respect your voice. We’ll show you how.
In order to sing without straining your voice, you need to relax your voice and body with good vocal exercises, posture and breath control.
This is a simple practice but it is a very essential practice. If one thing is out of place, you’ll sound like a strained Popeye the Sailor every time. Luckily, it’s rather easy to grasp.
Slowly open and close your jaw* as wide as you can. Do not tense in any way, just let the jaw drop then bring it back up. Do this a couple of times. Now, give your jaw a friendly massage with
the heel of your hands in small circles.
With your mouth open, lightly press the heel of your hands on the jaw joints and slowly rub them down until you reach your chin, then repeat several times. Always stroke from top to bottom, never upwards.
The Jaw* comprises the tempero-mandibular joint(s), the hinge joints just below the ears. These joints are governed by three strong strap muscles and are the most mobile joints in the body. The joints move up, down and sideways and they move together an estimated 22,000 times a day for eating, talking and breathing.
Because these joints are so mobile and do so much work they can easily become unbalanced and stressed. Relaxing and stretching the joints keeps them happy and ready to sing!
Breathing exercises. This might be the most important step because if you’re not breathing properly you are going to strain your voice plain and simple. Take a deep breath, then slowly exhale on a note. Feel it resonate, notice how it’s almost effortless. Singing well is always effortless; that’s how you know that you’re doing it right!
Some vocal warm-ups. Any particular warm-up will do. Scales are always good: going up and down notes. I recommend the siren wail and singing scales. This gets your chords warmed up and better at hitting the right pitch as well.
Lightly drum your chest as you hum scales. I like to call this “The Hum Drum”. This really helps with relaxing the chest and releasing tension in the chest area overall; it’s also a good vocal warm-up.
Treat singing as if you are simply talking. Literally talk the notes in key. This is related to a style known as “recitative”*. Think Jeremy Irons (and a bit of Jim Cummings) in the song “Be Prepared” from the Lion King.
* Recitative: musical declamation of the kind usual in the narrative and dialogue parts of opera and oratorio, sung in the rhythm of ordinary speech with many words on the same note.
Maintain a straight posture so that all the muscles involved in singing are able to expand and contract freely. Stand straight as though you were against a wall being measured for your height. Place your left or right foot slightly in front of you. You will see that this adjustment in your stance has the effect of stabilizing and freeing your body up a little bit more. I don’t why.