How to sing without straining
Learning how to sing without straining doesn’t have to be difficult – with the right approach and information, you will sing higher and with so much more POWER than you could ever have imagined. Singing is a really simple exercise in mechanics, coordination and the right thought process, and with this in mind, I’ll show you right here in this tutorial how to sing without straining!
What are the secrets of singing? I’ve been coaching singing here at Bohemian Vocal Studio since 2010, and if there’s one question I get asked WAY too much, it’s “but what is the SECRET?”. There is no secret technique, or special trick, or secret tip that is going to magically show you how to sing without straining – the ‘secret’, is simply solid vocal technique:
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Practical Vowels (proper tongue and throat shapes)
- Tuned Vowels (Vowel modification)
- Resonance, placement and release
- Middle Voice (your “mix” vocal chord coordination)
- Open and resonant consonants
- Register connection
- Support and control
These are things you’ve probably heard before, but do you REALLY have a real approach to each of these techniques in your current singing regimen? I’ll show you everything you need know about these techniques in this tutorial, but I do also suggest starting with Breathing 101 and Resonance 101, my complimentary foundations courses (they’re free to sign up to!) to learn how to breathe using the diaphragm and place your voice with the right resonance.
How to breathe using the diaphragm
Diaphragmatic breathing is the core of a healthy singing technique – it starts with healthy posture.
- Head up
- Shoulders back and down
- Sternum up
- Chin parallel with the floor
- Release your tension
Secondly, you need to ‘engage’ the diaphragm by breathing low and controlled – imagine that you are breathing through a very small straw slowly. Can you feel your lower stomach muscles ‘engage’ and the sensation of breathing as being ‘lower’ than your chest? Congratulations, that is diaphragmatic breathing.
How to sing with resonance
Singing with resonance is also part of your singing foundation and requires a healthy posture and diaphragmatic breathing to be set up first – then you simply need to ‘place’ your resonance rather than singing OUT of your mouth. Imagine that your voice is buzzing in a stationary manner behind your nose, above your mouth rather than flowing out of your mouth like when you speak. Can you feel how your voice ‘sits’ above your top teeth? This is vocal placement, and it’s the ONLY way you should be singing – no matter what style you sing or your voice type. Do you sing breathy, weak and disconnected? That’s because you’re lacking resonance – you can book a session with me today and I’ll show you how to buzz and resonate freely!
How to sing with practical vowel sounds
Your teeth, tongue, mouth and face are your articulators – they ‘articulate’ the resonance we’ve now created. Rather than ‘pronouncing’ your vowel sounds, you need to let you tongue take the right shape so that your vowels are created in an open and free way, rather than contortion and force. I recently put together this short tutorial on creating your vowel sounds in the right way:
Are you able to create your vowel sounds easier now? Using your vowel sounds in the manner will open up your sound and relieve so much strain that you’ll soon be wondering why you were even pushing in the first place!
How to tune your vowels
This one does require a little professional help, but in short, the width/narrowness of your vowels allows you to navigate your vocal breaks with ease, power and connection. In a general sense, your vowel ‘widens’ towards your first break, goes neutral towards your middle register and then fully narrows towards your second break and the head register. Now, no two voices are created equal, so it’s important that you’re modifying your vowel sounds correctly so as to ingrain the right approach rather than create bad habits and pushing. In a classical sense, this involves migrating your vowel sound (without actually using your articulators) first towards “OH” for a wide sound, then gradually towards “OO” for a neutral and finally narrow vowel sound – don’t forget to release your vocal registers like I showed you in my complimentary short course!
How to sing in middle voice
Like vowel tuning, vocal coaches have based whole singing approaches on the concept of middle voice and ‘building your mix’ – I’m here to tell you that it’s a really EASY technique, and it’s actually NATURAL to your voice, not something that needs to be created! As you ascend in range, it’s important not to create so much pressure that your vocal chords ‘lock’ in the chest voice coordination to hit the pitch you’re aiming for (pitch = chord length + pressure), so try it light, connected and gently first until you understand the delicate dance that is middle voice, in which case we would actually think of “Register = Pitch + pressure” instead so that our support can ease up while staying on pitch in the mix coordination. Clear as mud? Never fear, it’s super easy to do – I can show you in a Skype session right now, or you can try it on your own using my video tutorial below:
Are you connecting your register better by tuning your vowels and accessing your middle register properly now? The next step is how we actually put all of this intro practice with actual songs and a real singing voice:
How to sing consonant sounds
Singing consonants is kindof like the ‘glue’ that brings together all your practicing and techniques into a singing voice that is sweet, powerful, impressive and professional. Learning to sing your consonant sounds correctly may take some finesse and a little bit of tweaking depending on your accent, voice type and native tongue, but again the premise is actually pretty simple.
Try it yourself by singing a word with a “W” sound, like “Well” – does your “W” sound get stuck in your throat, or ‘pull’ your voice into your chest when you sing? Lets fix it by singing an “OO” sound instead, like “OO-ELL” instead of “W-ELL”. Can you feel all that tension dissolve? This my friends, is an open consonant sound, something so overlooked in most contemporary singing approaches that it’s almost criminal. Here’s a quick guide for a few other consonant sounds:
- Y like “Yes” = EE like “EE-YES!”
- L like “Love” = OO like “OO-LOVE”
- R like “Real” = OO like “OO-REAL”
- B like “Bear” = P (without force, so “P” instead of “PUH”) like “P-BEAR”
Can you see a pattern? We’re changing the majority of our consonant sounds into vowels so that they resonate and buzz instead of “pop” and “click” and plosive of our speech consonants. This does differ for each singer care of differences in accent, language and of course physical build of our articulators like teeth and the tongue.
How to sing with support
Support is an extension of your breathing, and involves continued extension of the diaphragm and engagement of your lower adjoining muscles so as to regular pressure and avoid the expulsion of air as you sing higher/longer. As you’re singing up into your higher range, think “down”, just like you do when you take a diaphragmatic breath. Can you feel how all that strain in your throat/neck dissipates? That’s because you’ve started to support your voice!
It’s THAT EASY!
With the right approach, and a professional coach who really knows how your voice works, singing is incredibly easy and doesn’t require hours, and hours, and hours of scales for a fantastic voice. It does, however, require the right approach, the right exercises and practice routing and continual adjustment of your technique as your voice builds, changes and develops.
Remember, you should be using the following steps:
- Set up your posture/breathing
- Build resonance
- Release your registers
- Place your voice
- Sing the right vowels
- Tune the vowels
- Negotiate and strengthen your register breaks
- Develop your consonants
- Tweak your technique as needed while your voice grows
Only then should you start working on your tone and ‘style’ specific techniques like belting, distortion, deliver etc.
Are you ready to power up your singing voice and learn how to tune your vowels, extend your vocal range, build more support and learn all about open consonants and creating a killer tone? You can book a session with me now and I’ll show you how to POWER UP your voice!
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.