OK, so I haven’t literally “been on the road” with a band. Most nights I was actually able to crawl into my own bed around 3 or 4 am. I had worked tirelessly for years at three and four-night weekend gigs, most of them requiring significant travelling before and after…anywhere from 1/2 hour to two hours each way. When I was younger I didn’t think about how taxing this lifestyle was on my body. I was having fun….doing what I love. I had the best job in the world.
However, as the years went by I began to notice the effects these gigs were having on my voice. I was growing more aware of the trouble I was having singing my “big” songs at the end of the night, and I noticed my throat was often sore. When I had a cold I would sing anyway, and almost welcome the hoarseness because it gave me a husky sound that I couldn’t otherwise accomplish. I would wake up in the morning with severe broken-up sound quality due to “pushing” through the hoarseness the previous night.
It took almost ten years to realize that my voice had gone downhill. Songs that once came easy with “big” notes were now a constant concern as to whether I could “push” them out.
My life changed when I started studying my voice…..and got a nice “little” house gig in a lounge. These two changes complimented each other nicely. My voice has since grown “bigger” than it ever was.
There is no more ideal way to learn how to sing better than to simply know about your instrument…how it works, how to take care of it, and how to exercise it so it will last you a lifetime!
Do you automatically sing louder as you sing higher? If you do, then you are likely a “chest-puller”. The vocal cords will keep stretching and stretching as you sing higher and higher, and you end up just blowing a lot of breath through a very wide space. This is not a good thing. Not only will it cause damage but it causes your voice to lack luster, crispness and presence.
The vocal cords need to thin as you go higher. It’s the same for EVERYBODY! You must allow this to happen. You may not like the sound at first, and this probably means the vocal cords are not adducting (closing) the way they need to. Test yourself, can you do a quiet whine or cry in your head voice. Does it have an edge and crispness, or is it flat and dull?
Here is how I learned to stop pulling so much chest. First of all, you need to know I started playing music and singing as a teenager in rock and country bands, like so many kids do. Gig after gig I would sing hard and continually lose my voice. This all stopped the day I got a solo gig in a very small but quaint bar in a restaurant. I was basically “live” elevator music, if you know what I mean. I was able to really practise the skill of leaning into my notes, because I had to create dynamics, variations and presence at a low volume. My voice was amplified and I used a crisp reverb effect for ballads, and a short delay and slight reverb for fast songs. When I did need to pull chest, I would always work the “lean” as well. They work very well together.
Hope this post is helpful. All you singers out there, let me know what you think. Susan