In the life of a singer, uncovering your star power often means stumbling a bit along the way. And you know what? That’s OK. Actually - unpopular opinion - the more you mess up, the better you get… because every step of the way you’re LEARNING!
Even the world’s greatest vocalists make mistakes. And learning your most common musical triggers early on can be an asset! Here are the top mistakes I see singers make (and how to help fix them!):
Taking “chest voice” and “head voice” too literally:
Nearly every singer will hear these terms at some point, if not excessively, throughout their careers. But do you actually know the starting point and basis behind your “chest voice” and “head voice?” Spoiler alert: there isn’t one, as you’ll learn from this TikTok. These aren’t the physical locations that you’re singing from, but rather a spectrum of sounds that is, by no means, black and white. In fact, you can choose which colors to assign to every note! You’ll need to watch the video to understand a bit more clearly, but the moral of this lesson? Don’t let the idea of a chest or head voice hold you back in your singing journey. You’ve got this!
Straining your voice (i.e. too much tension/squeeze):
Have you ever felt like your throat was tightening or closing up mid-song? It’s an unpleasant feeling, most likely due to overactive extrinsic muscles and your larynx reaching too high. While this could be related to factors like your water intake or sleep schedule, it’s also a sign that you have too much intensity in your neck - and I want you to focus on exercises to remain more relaxed and flexible. Luckily, a few quick fixes will have you singing again soon! First, yawn on your inhale to help lower your larynx and open your throat, as explained here.
Secondly, focus on keeping your jaw, neck, and upper body loose and flexible - we sometimes have students rock back and forth or gently move their head left and right (think like you’re shaking your head “no”) - to give those muscles something else to do other than tighten up. Lastly, think of steady, easy airflow as you sing, and see how you feel. Seriously, this trick will be a lifesaver!
Skipping vocal warm-ups:
You know the “Can we skip to the good part” TikTok trend, comprised of your favorite AJR song? Please don’t do that as a vocalist. Warming up is SO HELPFUL to keep you performing at your best, whether you’re doing siren exercises, lip trills, or anything in between! But don’t worry, warmups don’t need to take forever - even just a few Singing / Straw slides can help get your vocal instrument moving. A good warmup helps to prepare your vocal folds for the demands of singing and reduce the risk of strain or injury.
Also, don’t underestimate the “Cool Down!” Consider adding some cool-down exercises post-belt, as these will relax your treasured vocal cords and restore them to full capacity after a big number. Quality, longevity, and vocal health are all reasons to pack that Singing / Straw in your bag and squeeze in a few exercises before your next gig or recording session.
Shallow breathing and lack of airflow control
Breathing isn’t just a thing you need to stay alive, but it also helps you to sing to your full potential!
The concept of breath control for vocalists is a skill, and it can be worked on and improved - just like anything else. Whitney details the best exercises, techniques, and underrated tips for breathing in this video, which is destined to become your new vocalizing holy grail.
Not using your entire range!
Just because you consider yourself an alto or a bass, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still stretch to the highest notes in your range! And vice versa for my sopranos and tenors - you gotta warm up and workout your entire voice to keep it healthy. It’s helpful to remember that your voice is driven by the physical parts of your body - and vocalizing through your entire range is like healthy exercise for your body. With anything else in your body, you gotta use it… otherwise you lose it!
Which is why I start every day with a slide throughout my range with my Singing / Straw.
Hope this helps! Remember, the world needs your voice. So get out there and SING!