You can return your voice back to home base, or a state of balance, after a stressful situation –says Ron Browning.
At one time or another, every singer has had to deal with the ramifications of a tired throat.
Singing at loud volumes, over-breathing, shallow breathing and an approaching illness can all create tension.
Nothing affects the throat more than a poor emotional state of being! It triggers the intrinsic and extrinsic larynx muscles to lock up, making singing only possible by brute force.
This can be exhausting.
Pumping New Life In
I have had to pump new life into many singers who were out on tour just minutes before show time and have done it repeatedly.
The list includes Wynonna, Alison Krauss, Keb Mo, Patti LaBelle, RaeLynn, Allen Stone, Langhorne Slim and the Law, Alyna Segarra and Hurray for the Riff Raff, Meghan Linsey (The Voice), to name a few.
There are so many tried-and-true remedies for this condition but listed are a few that I recommend to get quick results.
I do not guarantee that these will work for you. Avoid over doing them. If any of them seem to be painful, I would avoid it and only work on it in the presence of your voice teacher or coach.
Doing vocal exercises should never cause pain!
Also, these are not meant as remedies for singers who sing with unhealthy technique.
If done correctly, they will return a good voice back to home base, or a state of balance, after a stressful situation that puts pressure on the voice and throat.
1. Deep Tissue Massage
There is nothing better for a tired throat than a wonderful deep tissue massage, one that targets the back, shoulders, neck, face, scalp, arms, torso and abdomen.
While you’re at it, why not opt for a full body massage! Be sure the massage includes the eye sockets, the cheekbones, and all around the mouth, especially going deep across the chin and the bottom jaw line, under the bottom ribs, from the front of the body to the back, so that the diaphragm gets a good stretch.
After the massage, the singer should try to keep the jaw loose and somewhat stretched vertically as if saying “blah-h-h-h.” I call it the “drool position.” It should feel as though you are ready to slobber down the front of your shirt or blouse. Keep the lips closed, breathe through the nose, but feel the jaw in the “drool position.” This will keep the voice from folding up and getting stuck in the back of the throat, which can wear a singer out completely.
Watch a YouTube video on how to massage the larynx and learn how to do it to yourself. With a good massage, easy breathing and natural support will return, as well as incredible and effortless resonance. Once the singer realizes the voice is fine, they will have more energy and feel confidence return quickly.
2. Free Moaning and Singing Nonsense Syllables
Throats can easily become tired from over interpreting song material, adding too many special effects and singing at volumes beyond moderately loud (lively conversational volume).
When uninspired or approaching an illness, or being forced to perform while ill, the singer sometimes resorts to overdoing their techniques trying to compensate for a lack of energy. This can be taxing on all the muscles involved in the singing process. There can be much tension stored in the jaw, chin, tongue, and face in general, and also the entire breathing structure.
Learning to do long sighs and moans at a good, moderately loud volume can be freeing for all those muscles. Roll around on the bed or sofa and moan loudly to your heart’s content. Moan until you feel the tension leave your body. Surrender to the moan! Monitor the body for tension and moan to set it free. Shaking while moaning will also help. The singer can also drop all consonants and sing only on the vowels to free the voice. Think of it as musical moaning. You might notice more crooner tone than you’ve ever had before (good ol’ classical tone). This will give the articulators a rest and reconnect the voice to the hard palate where projection is easy.
Another useful technique is to sing nonsense syllables instead of the lyrics. It does not need to make sense and does not need to rhyme. You can use 2 or 3 syllables over and over as long as the sound is produced easily. Jazz scatting will work as well, as long as the rhythms are happy and playful and the syllables take place in the front of the mouth where good conversation takes place.
3. Act Like a Silly, Bratty Child
A throat can easily become tired from worry and stress unrelated to the process of singing – bad news, bills, PMS, bad weather, or just a bad day in general. During these times, the singer will attempt to doctor up the performance with interpretations that are overly emotional in nature. This pseudo emotion causes the singer to use too many special effects and to sing at volumes that do not serve the lyric. All becomes too much for the throat to handle.
This causes a breakdown in honest communication between the singer and the listener, and so the singer tries even harder, which causes all the muscles surrounding the larynx to really get out of control. There is simply too much action or focus in the back of the throat at that point. The overly emotional voice folds up like a paper wad and is jammed onto the soft palate, which does not project well unless the volume is forced.
The voice must be returned to Mother Nature’s sounding board, the hard palate (think “sounding board” of a grand piano). Therefore the singer has to find a way to return the voice to the hard palate as soon as possible.
Once the voice resonates from the hard palate, energy is restored to the voice and personality of the singer as well. Being silly is a good way to remedy this. Sing like a funny cartoon character, like Bugs Bunny, or very young bratty child. The key here is to make obnoxious sounds. The sillier and the more obnoxious it is, the better it will be.
This will move the voice up and out of the throat to the front of the face. Resorting to this type of voice will allow excellent and full resonance to return immediately. The voice will not feel tired once it moves to the front with a moderately loud volume. Stay on the kid’s playground and the voice will stay in the “sweet spot” where rhythm, pitch, and projection are easy. Consonants will be alive and percussive. The personality will be true and present when the voice is up front. Also, only a small amount of air is needed to make great sound there, so the breathing will suddenly be calm and normalized. The upper register will then be easier to access from this frontal placement.
My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry
Julien Sardon - Only the Very Best
You have a nice wide range to work with and some wonderful tone and vibrato. A very excellent vocal instrument indeed! I would work on smoothing out the vocal registers more. I feel this would be easy for you by doing a few things: Go easier on the breath and support. Keep the torso, abs and back more relaxed. Avoid reaching or scooping down into the low notes. Try not to prepare for them so much. As you approach the upper register keep the body relaxed and use less and less air the higher you go. Avoid opening the mouth more in an attempt to accommodate high notes. Also, think of “being beamed up” into the high notes, rather than being so insistent that they be there when you want them. Be “lifted up.” And over all, you can be much less emotional while singing. Be more conversational, as if you are really talking to someone. Try singing the same melody to an improvised grocery list to get the feel of connecting to the “word” with a more intimate “real life” approach. Excellent voice though! Keep it up!
Ron Browning is internationally known as the “Voice Coach to the Stars.” His clients include all levels of singers from beginners to Grammy-winning celebrities in all genres of music. Ron works with the major record labels producing vocals and preparing artists for radio, concert tours, and special television appearances. He is a voting member of the Grammy Foundation and the CMA Awards. Ron has been seen and heard on Entertainment Tonight, The Voice, Oprah Network, and BBC’s Simply Classics, to name a few. He is a successful songwriter, jazz pianist, painter, and is currently writing a series of voice and performance manuals, which will include interviews with many of his students and celebrated clientele. His solo jazz piano CD, In a Sentimental Mood, is available on iTunes and CD Baby.