You know when you’re a lead role in a high-school musical, and you feel like this is the one opportunity you have to show the school you’re more than a shy girl by playing a Viking Valkyrie – and then during the climax of your solo your voice cracks?
Tragic, I know… #scarredforlife…
Needless to say, I don’t want that to happen to you. And because I wish I’d have had more knowledge and simple tricks to prevent such a chagrin, here are a few simple tricks that are really useful for your voice when singing.
Any tension in your body will affect your voice. When warming up your voice, take time to stretch your whole body – from head to toe. Massage your face, roll your neck from side to side, roll your shoulders and shake to loosen yourself up. One exercise that helps me a lot is tensing up your whole body (from bottom to top: toes, calves, thighs, gluteus maximus, core, chest, arms, fingers, face) holding it tight for a few seconds and then releasing it.
You want to create as much space for your lungs to expand in as possible. Good posture enables this, as well as allowing the air to flow freely and the diaphragm to expand more. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, don’t lock your knees, bum in (so as not to arch your back), relax your shoulders (pull shoulders up to your ears, push them back as far as possible and release them) and imagine a string attached to the top of your head that someone is pulling up.
Relax your face and smile.
Smiling and raising your eyebrows actually makes a significant difference in the tone of your voice. It enables the tone to resonate better in the air-filled chambers in the head, so that the strain is taken from your throat.
Scrunching the face does not improve the sound of your voice. It might look impressive, and if you’re really into the song, by all means don’t stop, unless you notice it creates tension on your voice.
Mastering the jumps between the high and low notes.
When singing a song with big jumps, it is easy to fall into the trap of anticipating the high notes and worrying about whether or not you’re going to hit them. One simple thing that helped me a lot was imagining an elevator riding up and down my air tube. When you know a high note is coming up, think of the elevator descending, and in turn – when approaching a low note, think of the elevator ascending. This little mental image takes the strain off your vocal chords and instead of forcing the note, it will come more naturally.
The most efficient way to breathe is through your diaphragm (the big muscle below your ribs). Be aware of your breathing right now. You will notice that your belly is slightly moving in and out, not your shoulders. If you notice your shoulders moving up and down, that’s a sign of unnecessary tension you are creating. When breathing in, your stomach should go out, when breathing out, your belly should go in. Imagine having a balloon in your belly. It should expand when you breathe in, and should deflate when breathing out.
To consume or not to consume…
Avoid consuming dairy products and caffeinated drinks before singing. Dairy products thicken the mucous in your airway and influences the clarity of your voice. Gargling salt water can help break down the mucus in your throat. The effects of caffeine on the voice varies from person to person, but is also said to dehydrate your vocal chords.
Most importantly, drink a lot of water. Avoid drinking it too cold or too hot as this will tighten your vocal chords. It doesn’t hurt adding a slice of lemon either.
This is not the be-all-end-all golden ticket for a perfect voice. Singing requires a lot of practice and techniques, but with these guidelines, you are definitely on the right path.
Felicia Ricci, singer, author and professional voice finder, has incredibly helpful videos on many aspects of singing. Feel free to check out her videos for more advice.