3 Reasons Your Singing Voice Is Broken (And How to Fix It)
You love singing, I’m sure – but why does your voice crack, or you miss the pitch every damn time you open your mouth to sing? These 3 common reasons why your singing voice is broken might just change your life, especially when I show you how to fix them!
Singing doesn’t have to be such a stressful or confusing pursuit, but it’s often over-complicated by singing gurus and the aggressive marketing of modern singing programs that promise the ‘secret’ or ‘answer’ to singing and really do little delivery on their crazy promises. Not least of all, we’re often our own worst enemy when it comes to learning how to sing, in part due to the psychological aspect of singing, and also in part due to the strong opinions and ego we humans are often known for. Never fear, let’s identify the three main reasons that your singing voice is broken, and more importantly, how to fix it!
#1 – You are imbalanced
I don’t mean your personality, I simply mean that the various elements of your voice that require coordination are currently imbalanced. If you’ve ever heard someone called a “gifted” singer, the reality is that this particular singer simply possesses a natural aptitude towards the coordination required for singing. While the learning curve for two singers might vary drastically, the end result of a coordinated, confident and well-controlled voice is possible even for those of us that think we have bad voices.
This is especially true when it comes to register release in a beginner singer. If you’re a guy with a low voice like me, no doubt you currently have a strong chest voice that travels up around an octave or two, and then you have a weak and disconnected head register that is light and flutey, right? What if I told you that there is no physical reason for the separation between your two main registers other than your lack of coordination? In reality, your chest voice is created by vocal fold weight, and your head register is created by vocal fold tension – however, you can actually coordinate these two elements of your voice together in a flowing balance of weight and tension to sing in what is often called a mix or middle coordination, or more simply, the middle register.
The most important aspect of your singing voice is that the various elements are balanced and even rather than dominant or skewed in either direction. This goes for your breathing, frequencies and resonance too – balance is key to great singing.
How to fix imbalance in your singing voice
This really depends on the kind of imbalance you’re experiencing, but the premise is the same no matter whether it’s your breathing, resonance, placement or registers. If you’re experiencing a persistent register break, this is due to imbalance between your vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension, in essence you’re locking your register coordination to the point where you flip, break or strain to release the lock you’ve placed on your chords. One of the most effective (and simple) tools for illustrating balanced register coordination is the humble lip trill – have you ever wondered why this boring little exercise manages to travel through your whole range without a vocal break? That’s right, because you are balancing your registers while you do so.
Learning to impart this balance on your vowels does take time and practice, but is easily rectified by starting out light and without to much volume, especially around the areas of your voice that are prone to breaking and flipping.
#2 – You are using pronunciation instead of articulation
I know, if we’re talking semantics then pronunciation and articulation are basically the same thing, but when it comes to singing these terms have two totally polar meanings. Pronunciation is what creates your speaking voice and is done with the teeth, lips, tongue and face (known as the articulators), and articulation is done with the back of your tongue, vocal tract and changes in your resonant space.
Singing and speaking are ultimately unrelated in the way they are performed, even if they do make use of the same mechanism and share some characteristics. For those of you who swear by speech level singing, let me ask you a few important questions:
- Do you breathe using the diaphragm when you speak?
- Do you sustain resonance when you speak?
- Do you make use of your full vocal range when you speak?
- Do you place your frequencies when you speak? (actually, sometimes this is actually helpful in speech)
- Do you form specific tongue shapes and alter the resonant space to create your vowels when you speak?
- Do you balance your onset when you speak?
I can go on and on about the differences between singing and speaking, but I’ve done this many times before in previous articles.
How to actually SING instead of speaking at pitch
The key to singing is not only in your foundation and breathing but in the way you form your vowel sounds. Forming your vowel sounds correctly using the right tongue shapes and corresponding resonant space will make use of your singing voice rather than trying to push your speech voice to pitch. Think about it, with all the different accents and inflections around the world, why don’t great singers retain their speaking accent when they sing? Exactly, singing and speaking are ultimately unrelated in their process and application.
#3 – You’re psyching yourself out
This might seem obvious, but in the world of vocal coaching, the psychological element of singing is a HUGE key to improving a student’s voice. Two thirds of the main musculature used for singing is actually involuntary and incapable of being controlled directly – namely the vocal folds and the diaphragm. Obviously, this means that your mental process DOES actually affect the manner in which you sing. There are so many ways to psych yourself out when you sing, but it usually comes out of fear, or even memories of past mistakes – this is your brain trying to protect you from the ‘pain’ of failure or humiliation, but ultimately makes you sing worse and stops you from improving your voice (ironic, I know).
How to gain confidence as a singer
Confidence comes from KNOWING your voice inside and out and having a process in place to approach absolutely everything that you could possibly throw at your voice, from vowels and consonants right through to high notes, intensity and sustained resonance. Can you truly say you’ve developed an approach to each of these important aspects of your voice? Bingo, you just identified the reason that you’re psyching yourself out.
These three common, but troublesome reasons why your singing voice is broken are easy to fix with regular practice, the right approach and a healthy dose of perseverance. If you’re struggling with these three issues, a great place to start is the free foundations short courses here at Bohemian Vocal Studio that will show you how to set up a strong foundation and get your voice back on track. Then when you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice training you can book a Skype Session and we’ll get started improving your voice and increasing your range!
If you have any questions or you’d like to ask about another issue you’re experiencing, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!