7 Ways To Sabotage Your Singing Voice
If you want to struggle with high notes, push to sing in key and ultimately sabotage your singing voice, these 9 tips are sure to stop you from achieving your goals as a singer. You’ve heard countless times what you have to do to sing well, but what about things you should avoid doing? This list of 9 ways to sabotage your singing voice is just as serious as it is meant in jest – are you sabotaging your vocal health and standing in your own way as a singer?
Remember, you can change a guitar string and buy a new set of drum sticks, but you only have ONE singing voice and you have to take care of it by singing properly and taking care not to strain or abuse your vocal folds. Ready to learn something cool about singing? If you’re doing anything on this list, you need to STOP now before it’s too late.
#1 – Pull Chest (Sing as high as possible in chest voice)
Sure, your high range should be full, rich and have a pleasant character, but are you trying to push your chest voice higher than it is designed to function? Your registers are actually created by a balance of vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension, and the middle section of your voice where most singers spend the majority of their time singing/have the most issues is actually a balancing point between full weight and full stretch – if you are trying to sing as high as possible with full vocal fold weight (ie: chest voice) you ARE going to strain your voice.
#2 – Singing with your speaking voice/accent
This is more common than you’d think. The rise of speech-singing programs and gurus who tell their students to “sing just like you speak” are to blame for the most part, but pop music, in general, has gone more towards a speech inflection in recent years too. Think about it, do you breathe using diaphragmatic engagement when you speak? No. Do you shape your vowels when you speak? No. Do you place your frequencies when you speak? No. Do you alter your resonant space when you speak? No. I could go on and on and on about the differences between a speaking voice and a singing voice, but I figure you guys are smart enough to work this one out for yourself. There’s a good reason why a spectacular singer doesn’t retain their speaking accent when they sing – because it’s not possible.
#3 – Push, strain and tense to sing higher/louder
Again, a surprisingly common issue. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t push and strain when you sing, so why do we still do it? Unfortunately, developing balance in your voice takes time and there is likely going to be a period of time where you voice is balance but you aren’t necessarily happy with the tone – at which point you’re going to ‘push’ to make it fuller in a vain attempt to fake a full and consistent singing voice. Don’t do it. The sooner you stop pushing, the stronger your balance will become!
#4 – Put your voice in someone else’s hands
Seriously, no one out there other than yourself holds the keys to your voice. I know, I know, there are singing gurus and YouTube singing coaches out there who claim to hold ‘the secret’ to singing and that they are ‘better’ than everyone else, but this is simply marketing 101 – create scarcity, fear of separation and ultimately make yourself seem ‘above’ mere mortals like us who aren’t necessarily blessed with a natural talent for singing. If you blindly take someone else’s word for something that doesn’t have practical application, such as the instruction to sing as high as you can in chest voice, and can’t be explained in a physical and useful way, you’re giving the keys to your voice to a marketing genius who is going to make you pay to get them back. There isn’t a ‘secret’ to singing that you don’t already know, you simply lack proper balance and coordination.
#5 – Sing with distortion (before you’re ready)
I know I know, I’m one of those frustrating guys that CAN sing with grit sustainably and access that whiskey sound with ease, but it’s taken me many years to develop an understanding with my voice and build the coordination to add just the right amount of grit and rattle while still retaining my vocal health. BUT, that doesn’t mean that singing with grit is healthy, or that it can be done without strain. Even as a voice coach myself, there have been times where I’ve over-done it, or where I wasn’t ready and it all went pear-shaped. Grit is an overtone that occurs when you sing with an imbalance of air pressure and vocal fold adduction, in essence fighting air pressure with vocal chord closure (doesn’t sound too nice, now does it?). Some call it hyper glottal compression in an effort to make it sound like an ‘advanced’ technique, but honestly, I could already sing with grit and distortion before I was actually able to sing properly – don’t believe them!
#6 – Warm up inconsistently
Believe it or not, your voice has an internal clock and it’s own circadian rhythm and likes to be warmed up and used in a similar way and at a similar time each day. If you warm up at 8am one day, then warm up a 5pm the next day you are actually building inconsistency into your routine, and by default, inconsistency in your singing voice. I get it, it’s hard to keep a routine schedule sometimes, but to the best of your ability, try to warm up and sing consistently where you can.
#7 – Sing with a Glottal Onset
Remember that glottal compression we were talking about earlier? There’s a way to do it right, and there’s a way to do it wrong. A glottal onset comes from closure of the vocal folds BEFORE you achieve resonance – and is often caused by the instruction to “hold your breath” when you sing (which is total BS by the way!). Sure, you shouldn’t be aspirating extra air when you sing, but this occurs from balancing your airflow and air pressure through proper support and chord closure, NOT from resisting your airflow. If you feel or hear a forceful or unpleasant sound when you first sing a note, you are singing with a glottal onset, even if you do it gently, and you are putting your vocal health at risk while also sabotaging the efficiency of your resonance.
As you can see, the common thread between all of these vocal saboteurs is actually lack of balance and coordination. Singing is actually a pretty easy thing to do when you understand that strength comes from balance in a central ‘push pull’ manner when you sing, not from muscular force. A great place to start with vocal coordination is the free foundations short courses available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, then when you want to take it up another notch (bam!) you can book a Skype Session and we’ll start extending your range and balancing your registers.
If you have any questions about how to sabotage your singing voice, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!