Fix Voice Cracking When Singing [5 Hacks]
We’ve all been there – you’re singing great, the crowd is roaring, you prepare for the high note and… CRACK, your voice breaks. How to fix voice cracking when singing is one of the top questions I get here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, and is something that I address early on with my students to ensure they build on a healthy foundation and don’t suffer the frustrating and dreaded vocal break when singing. Surprisingly, there’s actually a number of different reasons for voice cracking when singing, from physical breaks and shifts in the mechanism through to misuse of the soft palate and more commonly, a resonance break between chest and head voice.
Are you ready to fix voice cracks for good and do away with your vocal break forever? Lets get started with 5 vocal hacks for 5 vocal cracks!
What are voice cracks while singing?
The main reason for voice cracks while singing is a disconnection between chest and head voice. Learning how to connect chest and head voice should be your number one priority as a beginner singer, and maintaining this connection is the priority for you seasoned Pros out there. Chest and head voice are referred to in MANY different ways and used to describe MANY different things in abstract ways in singing – this is where much of the confusion and disagreement between different vocal methods comes from – people are literally speaking a different language when they refer to common terms like chest and head voice in different ways. No wonder all those generic instructions like “paddle like a duck” and “hold a beachball under your arms” don’t work for everyone, in fact, they really don’t work for anyone unless you understand the true meaning behind these abstract metaphors – so lets do away with them and approach voice cracking from a practical sense.
There are two main reasons for your voice cracking while singing, either physical or resonant. Lets look at the physical break first and then we’ll tackle that tricky blend in the centre known as middle voice or mix voice singing.
Physical voice cracks while singing
Guys, you’re probably more familiar with this break than the ladies. A physical break occurs for many reasons, but most commonly due to incorrect coordination between the TA and CT muscles, you’re LITERALLY pulling your chest voice muscles up past the point where they can function without strain. Many beginner singers don’t like the seemingly weak and breathy tone that comes with an undeveloped head voice, but instead of strengthening their high range, instead they avoid the sensation all together and try to sing as high as possible in chest voice – causing a physical voice crack while singing.
Your vocal range is ultimately a balance of vocal fold weight and vocal fold tension. At the low end of the scale, the TA muscles contract the vocal folds to make them thicker and shorter so that they can vibrate at the slow speed required for low notes. At the top end of the scale you make use of the CT muscles which stretch and tense the vocal folds, in essence making them thinner and longer like a rubber band so that they can vibrate at the fast frequencies required for your high range. As you can imagine, learning how to coordinate the two in the centre of your voice might take a little while as you learn to alternate between these mechanisms – but realistically, your voice is already designed to function in this way, so a physical voice crack is generally due to your perception rather than any physical inability to connect. A great way to test this theory is to spend a couple of days JUST singing lip trills. That’s right, don’t sing anything but trills for a couple of days, and no doubt you’ll start to discover a bridge between your low and high range that is strain free and really very easy to do. Bingo, you just changed your perception of your voice, and you’ll notice that now when you practice singing a vowel sound instead of the trill – something just isn’t right. The truth is, you don’t need to ‘build’ your voice, you simply need to facilitate it’s function in the way it was designed. For the time being while you are trying to fix voice cracks in singing, sing a little quieter, start with lip trills and stop trying to force your voice to sound a certain way or attempt vocal tones that you’re really not ready for. Your voice already has the capability of connecting through chest and head voice – you simply need to let this happen and facilitate consistency every time you manage this area of your voice.
My voice keeps cracking
If you’ve ironed out your physical break and you’ve drilled those lip trills long and often, but you’re still unable to stop voice cracking, it’s likely that you’re experiencing a second form of break – resonance. Aside from the physical aspects of chest and head voice, the TA and CT muscles respectively, many singers experience a break or shift in the resonance that occurs in either range. You can test this yourself by singing a low note, stopping, and then singing a high note in head voice. Can you feel two different areas of resonance when you sing in these registers? Bingo. This is where your voice crack stems from. While there is a physical handoff between chest and head voice in the mechanism itself between weight and tension, there is no such hand-off between the RESONANCE created in either register – it’s actually a blend of both types of resonance that allows you to connect without voice cracking while singing. In essence, you don’t switch from chest and head voice as you ascend through your middle range, you actually sing with BOTH registers at the same time.
Is your mind blown? Now, lets try it with those lip trills you’ve been practising – as you ascend through the middle of your voice, instead of focusing on the change between chest and head, try to access both areas of resonance at the same time so that they can swell like a gradient or a graphic EQ between either side, or between black and white (grey in the centre). Learning how to blend your resonance effectively is one of the most important keys to developing a powerful and consistent singing range.
Why is my voice cracking on high notes?
The high range is especially prone to voice cracks while singing, so it’s important that you develop a fluid connection between chest and head voice to facilitate an efficient blend of resonance up into your high range so that your head voice is full, pleasant and powerful instead of breathy and weak. This is where the concept of Mix Voice Singing or Middle Voice is very handy.
The idea that there is a third ‘honorary’ register through the centre of your voice is very useful in connecting chest and head voice because the focus changes from the extremes of the voice (chest and head) and allows you to sing with both types of resonance while connecting the physical aspects of the vocal mechanism. Lets discover your middle voice, or “mix” as it’s commonly known:
Prevent voice cracking with Middle Voice
Middle voice occurs when you achieve a blend of resonance between chest and head voice and learn to elongate this mixed blend higher and lower in your range than just a central ‘exchange’. That powerful and pleasant tone you hear your favourite singers achieving with ease is actually their mix, which can easily be identified by the fact is sounds like full voice, or chest voice, but occurs in a high range. Many singers make the mistake of pulling their chest voice (and contracting the TA muscles fully) while attempting to connect chest and head voice instead of allowing the weight of their folds to naturally taper off so that the next phase of the mechanism can take hold so you can stretch up into head voice with ease instead of dragging up overly thick vocal folds. Learning how to sing in middle voice is easy, here’s a few cool ways you can attempt to find your mix:
The Projection Method
The projection method is one of my favourite ways to illustrate mix voice to my students. Instead of projecting your voice ‘away’ from yourself, imagine that your voice is actually being projected BACK to you from a far away place, like the corner of a room or the back of a hall. This shift in focus through the centre of the voice often results in a release of vocal fold weight and tension that facilitates a connection between chest and head voice. Over time, you’ll no longer need to figuratively ‘project’ you voice, and you’ll be able to sing in this range with a confident and powerful tone as your strength and coordination builds over time.
Classroom voice is another concept I often share with my students to help them achieve a blend of resonance. Think about the voice you would use as a teacher in a classroom full of kids trying to get the attention of the back row of children. You don’t want to just shout and yell at them (the front row will cry!), but you don’t want to be weak and delicate or they will eat you alive. Instead, you need to balance in a pleasant but assertive tone that is neither yelling, nor speaking lightly. Over time you can practice shifting from this tone “Okay everyone, over here!” into an open vowel like OH or AH and learning how to access this portion of your voice in a tonal sense when you sing this range.
A third type of break
A third break often occurs in singers who aren’t yet adept at allowing resonant space when they sing. Instead of raising the soft palate to facilitate more space for your higher frequencies to resonance, the soft palate opens so that airflow then escapes through your nose. This is both a physical and resonant break in one motion as the resonance will no longer occur in the pharynx (it will occur in your nose), and the physical shift between opening and closing the soft palate in this manner creates a pronounced physical shift in the mechanism to.
Learning how to control and manage the soft palate while singing is easy to do, but it’s often overlooked because of vague instructions like “yawn before you sing” with little more explanation as to how this is intended to help you sing better. The soft palate is the soft fleshy flap located at the back/top of your mouth, and serves the function of directing airflow between either your nose and mouth, and also has the added ability to raise up high into the pharynx to allow resonant space while singing – THIS is the reason why some coaches tell you to ‘yawn’ before you sing. If you yawn gently through your mouth ONLY so that there is no airflow through the nose, you’ll start to get a feel for the sensation that should occur in your high range instead of the flip and release of air through the nose you are currently experiencing.
How To Sing without your voice cracking
Voice cracking is a sign of imbalance in your vocal technique, whether it’s a shift in resonance, or a physical break between the two halves or your vocal mechanism, the TA and CT muscles – or potentially the soft palate too. Learning how to sing without your voice cracking is the holy grail of vocal technique, and can be achieved with time, practice and perseverance. Remember, your singing voice is only ever going to be as strong as the foundation you have built it upon, so make sure you are setting up a strong foundation and supporting your voice so that you’re not lacking adduction and power in your high range.
These hacks will not only help you connect chest and head voice, they will also train consistency and control into your voice so that you are in charge of your voice every time you sing, and nothing is left up to chance! A great place to start is the free foundations 101 singing course available at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a rock solid vocal foundation so that you are strong, prepared and consistent every time you sing. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional voice coaching you’re welcome to book a Skype Lesson with me and we’ll get started extending your range and fixing those annoying voice cracks in singing once and for all!
If you have any questions about fixing voice cracks in singing, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.