The top exercises to strengthen vocal chords
Strengthening your vocal chords takes time, perseverance and the right vocal approach. When you first start singing, it’s important not to over-reach your vocal chords until you have built the strength and coordination to ensure that you strengthen vocal chords while extending your range – but keep your voice safe and healthy at the same time. These top 5 exercises to strengthen vocal chords will ensure that you build the right foundation and stretch your vocal range in the right way without causing vocal cord strain.
Since launching in 2010, Bohemian Vocal Studio has steadily grown into the premier studio for online singing lessons, and become synonymous with GREAT singing and building a POWERFUL voice. Kegan has coached professional touring musicians and beginners alike, and helped students work towards appearing on talent shows such as The Voice and also star in music theatre productions of Rock of Ages, Shrek, Fiddler on the roof and The Producers.
Lets strengthen your voice when the top 5 exercises that strengthen vocal chords!
#1 – Vocal Placement
As I always say, a voice is only as strong as the foundation it is built upon, and a vocal exercise is only as good as the INTENTION behind it. You can practice scales and drills all day long, but without understanding WHY and HOW the exercise is designed to help strengthen your voice.
One of the most important elements of a good singing warmup, and a strong singing approach is vocal placement. Now, it’s not possible to physically MOVE your voice, but it IS possible to encourage a specific band of frequencies to resonate in the most efficient manner, seemingly ‘placing’ your vibrations in a specific area of the vocal tract. The BEST way of training your voice to sing with vocal placement is using a simple “N” exercise, with the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth. When you sing up a scale, any scale, the intent behind this exercise is to LIMIT the excess frequencies which are being created below your top teeth. Now, I’m now talking about singing in head voice, or singing in mask, or singing nasal, I’m simply talking about LIMITING all the extra frequencies which don’t buzz in an easy and free manner. If you practice this exercise in a consistent way, this vocal placement will also start to take place in your vowel sounds, words and when you are singing actual songs – vocal placement will strengthen your voice and allows you to make the BEST use of your resonance while using very little effort.
Vocal placement is one of the BEST vocal strengthening exercises!
#2 – Release your registers
Learning to release your registers is one of best ways to strengthen your voice, with a released resonance, you will build coordination between your registers so that you can connect chest and head voice, while building an extensive and powerful middle register.
Most beginner singers are taught to release their registers by practising a simple lip trill exercise, but as they progress in their ability to sing, they start to overlook this important skill – in part because the exercise wasn’t explained to them, and because they weren’t able to practice the lip trill with the right INTENTION. You can actually practice register release using the same “N” exercise we just talked about, but the lip trill is the most efficient and powerful way to strengthen vocal cords – while also moderating your air flow and training control over your soft palate.
Lip trills are the best way to strengthen your singing voice, just make sure you’re trying to RELEASE rather than drag up your lower register.
#3 – Middle Voice aka MIX
Building a powerful MIX coordination is the key to training your voice how to sing higher and with more power – if you’re simply flipping from chest voice into head voice, or trying to sing higher in chest voice, the musculature responsible for your two main registers will never coordinate in a balanced way to create what is known as “Middle Voice” or “Singing in Mix“.
When the muscles responsible for your chest voice notes balances in the centre with the muscles responsible fo stretching your vocal chords into the head voice coordination, you get a ‘mix’ of both registers with the strength and power of chest, but the ease, release and high range of head voice.
Middle voice singing is often overlooked by other voice coaches and even the best singing courses, but building your mix voice is incredibly important for EVERY singer, especially those that want to sing with power. I’ve developed my own approach to coaching my students how to access and build their middle registers, and by way of projection, or ‘classroom voice’, find that middle voice releases most of the strain associated with singing higher chest voice notes and allows you to sing songs in a pleasant tone rather than having to push in chest, or flip into head.
Build your mix will strengthen your singing voice and strengthen vocal cords like no other singing technique, so make sure your vocal approach helps you build your MIDDLE register rather than getting you to pull up your chest voice or pull down your head – the middle register sits in the centre AND overlaps with these two other registers in a very important and powerful way when you learn how to sing in mix.
#4 – Major 5th and quarter octaves
One of my favourite exercises to strengthen your singing voice is a Major 5th and Quarter Octave progression that I personally use and often teach to my students. This exercise will allow you to release into the middle register while also maintaining the strength and control required for a “chesty” mix. It’s probably easier for me to just show you this one:
Now, belting itself isn’t a problem for your voice, but some singing approaches and self serve vocal courses out there leave their students with an unintentional belt that is a very hard habit to break. Belting is a great TOOL to have access to, and be able to sing in and out of at the drop of a hat, but if you’re STUCK in a belt, or you have to belt to hit a certain part of your range, then you aren’t strengthening your singing voice, you’re simply straining and causing tension – likely due to improper (too much!) support, and an overly widened vowel. If you’re having trouble getting out of Belt mode, and you want to sing in a more balanced way without pushing, make sure you book a Skype session with me today and I’ll show you how to fix it.
#5 – Five in, Five out
One of the best ways to strengthen your singing voice and strengthen vocal cords is my Five in, Five out breathing exercise that you’ll find in my free foundations short course Breathing 101. In short, toggling your breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth in an incremental way (hence, five in/five out), as it encourages diaphragmatic engagement, control of the soft palate and also builds the musculature required for very delicate and accurate breath control while singing.
I first encourage my singing students to start out slow with this powerful exercise by start at five in, five out – but the exercise can be fine tuned right through to ten, twenty or more inhalations and exhalations to truly empower your diaphragm in it’s main role of breath support. Take care where and when you practice this exercise, as the change in breathing may initially make you feel light headed, so practising this exercise in the car probably isn’t the safest pursuit.
Training your voice to sing with power involves precise coordination between the different elements of your voice, from strengthening vocal chords through to your breathing, vowels and vocal placement, so make sure you set up a strong foundation with proper posture, diaphragmatic breathing and resonance placement before trying to strengthen your singing voice with voice strengthening exercises like the ones I’ve shown you above.
Good posture for singing – Healthy posture for singing starts with holding your head up high, keeping your chin parallel with the floor, releasing your shoulders back and down and also expanding your rib cage to ensure that your diaphragm is doing all the work instead of contraction of your ribs. This wide rib position is often called appoggio singing technique – if you need help setting up your posture correctly, make sure to book a Skype session with me today.
Diaphragmatic breathing – While the Five in/Five out breathing exercise I showed you above will help enagement of the diaphragm and proper breath control, another fantastic way to engage your diaphragm is to figuratively imagine that you are breathing sharp and low as though you are inhaling through a small drinking straw – if you are breathing from the diaphragm, it will feel as though your breathing occurs in your stomach rather than in your chest.
Resonance Placement – Remember, vocal placement is all about LIMITING your frequencies rather than creating extra frequencies. Your voice works via air pressure rather than air flow, and the result is resonance – make sure you’re not PUSHING your voice out with airflow instead of vibration and resonance.
Are you ready to take your singing to the next level and strengthen your voice with the world’s premier ROCK SINGING LESSONS? Book a Skype session with me today and I’ll show you how to strengthen your voice, increase your range and sing with POWER!
Feel free to leave any questions or feedback 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.