Support Your Voice
Whether we are in the car, around a campfire, or on a stage, singing is one of the greatest ways to express our voice. I can remember the days in church listening to the mix of voices, coming from the young, the old, and everyone in between. I distinctly recall this one girl who always sat behind us. She was very loud, out of key and was usually out of time, but we loved her for those sincere heartfelt expressions. It kinda makes you wonder though, could someone like that be trained to sound better? I believe the answer is yes. We are born with a voice, just as we expect to hear a baby’s first cry, and worry when we don’t. As we grow in our speech, most of us have learned to fluctuate our pitch and change our tone when expressing our thoughts and feelings. Yet, it would seem that some have an easier time than others, perhaps possessing a more natural ability to control the parts that make up their singing voice. Well, if you are like that girl in church or you are interested in how the voice works, and want to improve, here are a few basic parts that make up our voice, and by understanding how these work, we can easily improve our singing ability through practice. Consider the physical elements we use to create sound:
- Breathing: As we all know, when we breath, we’re basically drawing air into our mouth and nostrils. That same air travels through your voice box or your larynx, down through your windpipe, and into your lungs. Like two inflatable bags, your lungs fill with air, while your rib cage expands to make room for them. As you exhale, the reverse journey takes place from your lungs, into your windpipe, through your larynx. As that air pressure reaches your vocal cords, it causes them to vibrate producing the sound better known as your voice. When we are singing, the key is control. We need to take quick, deep breathes, but let the air out slowly. We get this control by using our diaphragm. It’s the dome shaped muscle underneath your lungs, attached to your ribs and spine.
As you breath in, that dome flattens and downwards, pushing your tummy out. Once everything is out of the way, your lungs can fully inflate to capacity. As you breath out, the opposite happens, and your diaphragm returns to it’s dome shape. By learning to control this muscle, we can slow down that escape of air from the lungs, for a constant and steady flow allowing for long and even phrases. This control is also known as ‘support’, flexing that muscle(diaphragm) as needed to keep the right tension for flow control. Don’t try and force your stomach muscles and rib cage out. Allow a gentle and sustained tension, just enough for a continual slow and controlled exhalation. Try holding and resisting your breath from collapsing and escaping, while keeping the pressure away from your throat. The idea is to lessen any tension in and around your throat by controlling your air flow in order to main your sound loud, clear, and for as long as you can.
- Posture And Relaxation:
Bad posture equals bad sound. There’s no way around it! The opposite is also true. Believe it or not, the most important thing to remember when preparing to sing is to: relax. But relaxing doesn’t mean slouching, and you’ll see why in a minute. You may also want to do some stretches to loosen up your body and ‘tune’ your instrument before you begin ‘playing’. Now that you are calm, find a wall and stand with your back to it. I prefer using a wall where there’s no pictures on it. Take a deep breath, open your shoulders and roll them back to the wall. Gently press the back of your head to the wall so that your chin is parallel to the floor. Without touching the wall slowly move your spine towards the wall. If you have a mirror in font of you, it’s much better. Keep your feet shoulder width apart. Now start taking slow, deep breaths as described in the beginning. Can you feel how how easily the flow of air can travel? There’s no constriction and the only tension you should create should be in you abdominal muscles that are supporting you. This however is only the beginning of our preparation to sing. I’ll share some other singing tips and techniques in the near future, so stay tuned.