HIDDEN VOICE KILLERS
Excessive Muscle Tension
Imagine you are running. Would it be easier for you to run down or uphill? Would it be easier for you to run with weights tied to your back or completely unencumbered by any extra weight or tension at all? The obvious answer would be to run downhill without any extra weight or tension holding you back.
The same is true for singing.
The voice can get so weighted down by undue muscle tension that singing can become tiresome, and even frustrating. The human vocal cords are two bands of muscle tissue located behind the larynx that produce sound when their edges vibrate in the airstream to create speaking or singing. The outer muscles of the larynx, or the swallowing muscles, mainly the digastric muscle, the hyoid muscles and the masseter can become rigid, inhibiting freedom while singing.
To feel what I mean, place your thumbs under your chin and swallow. Feel all of those muscles clench and then relax? Those are muscles used for swallowing, not singing! For the most part these muscles should be disengaged while singing and the larynx should ideally be in a relaxed, neutral, buoyant state.
How to Deal:
There are several things and exercises you can do to combat unnecessary muscle tension. Some great options include:
- Gently massage the back of your neck, your shoulders and your place your hand on your larynx and move it around in a relaxed circular clockwise and counterclockwise motion to promote freedom.
- While singing or doing technical exercises place your thumb under your chin and gently press on the digastric muscle to help it relax. It may gently tap for articulation of certain consonant sounds, but generally it should be relaxed and not engaged.
- Visualize when you are singing that you are running downhill. Place all of your mental energy towards the floor and turn high notes in “low notes,” as in notes that can only be reached by relaxing into the ground
If you have tried all of these tips, yet are still suffering from excessive vocal fatigue and strain it may be time to see a professional. Here is a short list of people you may contact who can help further:
- A vocal coach. Highly trained vocal coaches are skilled in the art of diagnosing a singer’s issue and can shed light on what may be going on in your voice and how to retrain your singing musculature
- An ENT. They can perform a laryngoscopy that can uncover whether your issue is due to vocal cord injury or muscle tension. In either case they may prescribe voice lessons and/or vocal therapy from a speech pathologist.
- A masseuse. One that especially that focuses on myofascial massage that can help diagnose and treat excess muscle tension in the muscles involved with singing.