5 Damaging Vocal Techniques to Avoid While Singing
When you break it down into the most basic elements, singing itself really is a fairly simple process.
airflow + vibration + resonance = singing
So why is learning HOW to do it such a shitfight?
You might be surprised to learn that there is a LOT of damaging vocal techniques out there shared liberally by YouTube gurus who would sooner take your money than actually show you how to sing.
Now, I’m not saying that people are withholding the truth from you, or deliberately showing you absolute crap – but it can certainly feel like that after you’ve just bought your 5th vocal course and taken your 100th vocal lessons and you’re STILL struggling and straining like a one legged mule dragging a frozen corpse up Mt Everest.
You’ve probably even seen some of these damaging vocal techniques before – or even been shown these exact tips by your own vocal teacher.
It stops here.
#1 – Yawning before you sing
To be a great singer with an incredible range and effortless power, you need to sing your vowels with the soft palate raised so that your vowel overtone can ring within the pharynx.
And yawning helps you raise the soft palate.
Ergo, you should yawn before you sing, right?
For starters, actually yawning engages laryngeal musculature that has absolutely nothing to do with singing, and secondly, it doesn’t actually show you HOW to sing an ‘open’ vowel the soft palate raised. Forcing it up and then trying to sing speech sounds is like cutting your nose off to spite your face – you’re gonna be stuck in strain city pretty quickly.
The key here is to put a caveat in front of this one; yawning helps you identify the sensation of raising the soft palate.
So, you shouldn’t ACTUALLY yawn before you sing, and you shouldn’t sing with the sensation of a yawn either – you absolutely must learn to modify your vowels properly so that they sit within your pharyngeal space in an appropriate way.
#2 – Smile wide!!
To traverse your first break period with ease and without flipping, you need to learn to raise and spread the soft palate a touch. Smiling into the sound somewhat helps you get a wider setup within your soft palate – so, we should smile like the joker when we sing, right?
Spreading your soft palate in this ham fisted way will splat your vowel and effect the vocal overtone in more way than one.
If you’re singing with a wide smile currently – let me guess, you feel like a GOD singing up to about F4, maybe G4; but then everything goes to shit, right?
That’s because you’re too wide within the vocal tract and haven’t actually learned to modify your vowels properly – you’re simply forcing the palate as wide as possible.
The key here is really to employ the INTERNAL smile.
Yes, this is a real classical technique that absolutely WORKS.
But it’s called INTERNAL for a reason.
Imagine making eye contact with someone at a bar – you’re not going to grin at them like the Cheshire Cat, right? They’ll run screaming or call the cops on the psycho, which in this case, would be you.
Instead, you’ll make subtle eye contact with bright eyes and the cheeks slightly raised without actually smiling.
Now, if you actually inhale through your mouth from this position – you’ll notice that the palate naturally raises and spreads a touch; you’ll feel cold air in the area where your uvula hangs down, and when you sing in this way you’ll notice your vowels naturally tend to open up as ascend; AY becomes EH and AY becomes AW.
Congratulations, you just modified your vowel correctly by using the internal smile.
Stop grinning like a psycho, it’s spreading your vowel and making you yell.
#3 – Glottal onset
I once had a teacher tell me to hold my breath before I sang.
This creates a glottal onset where your vocal folds are actually closed before you start singing.
It creates a hard THUD at the onset of your tone and can be immediately identified in sounds like GUH and KID.
This glottal onset will kill your voice <- I’m not even kidding.
Imagine how many times you sing a different word throughout a song, and throughout a full set of songs.
And every time you sing a different word, you’re using a glottal onset in this way.
Your vocal folds will touch and rub, touch and rub, touch and rub every single time you sing – not to mention the crazy amount of pressure this requires you to muster to push your closed vocal folds apart.
It’s a surprisingly common instruction, and it’s one that should be used with care.
Perhaps if you’re naturally an aspirate singer who loses a lot of air and has a breathy delivery – then this can help you identify how to adduct your folds more effectively, and perhaps even how to discover medial compression.
But the truth is, it’s an awful sound and it’s awful for your vocal health.
I’m looking at you fellow rockers – glottal onsets are NOT the key to singing with power beyond the superficial push that they cause.
Learn to sing with a balanced onset and improve the quality of your resonance and that powerful sound you’re currently pushing and grunting to get out will start happening freely and with ease.
#4 – Flash over substance
Can you connect chest and head voice in FULL voice on every single open vowel while always singing with freedom, power and resonance?
Well, you shouldn’t be trying to sing with grit or any funky style choices.
You’re not ready yet, and your vocal health and tone will suffer in the long run because you’re trying to sing with flash over substance.
#5 – Belting
Don’t get me wrong, belting is fun – and when done correctly it’s easy, healthy and sustainable.
But, it’s definitely NOT a means to an end for singing high notes.
It’s also NOT a means to an end for improving your tone.
Belting occurs when you sing with an intentional drag of TA muscle contraction, creating extra weight and depth in your tone – and also physically.
It’s a more physical way of delivery, and yes, you absolutely CAN learn to belt in an effortless and healthy way.
But, you’ve gotta question WHY you’re belting.
If it’s because you sound weak, or you don’t like your tone, or because you think that’s what your favourite singer is doing; these aren’t the right reasons to belt.
I suggest you actually learn to SING first before you start belting the crap out of absolutely everything; you’ll thank me in the long run when you’re a much more accomplished, intentional and finely tuned singer.
Now, if you want to know how I went from making EVERY single one of the mistakes on this list, and you want to hear my “before and after” as a singer that had absolutely no range, watch the video below and add your details under to get my free training manual and special vowel modification training videos: