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Overcome Useless Singing Tension

This warm-up targets your most crucial tightness – says Mark De-Lisser

Tension is one of the most difficult areas to control for any singer.

All too often I see vocalists perform with a mic in hand and their shoulders up around their ears.

This is useless tension, a sure fire way of reducing the duration one can sing since the voice will tire quickly.

In fact, the quickest way to voice fatigue is tension that is centred within the shoulders, neck and jaw – this has a profound affect on your vocal process.

Improving your posture and alignment can help this. Remember, too, that we will never be completely free from tension as the body does require some degree of tension to function.

However, removing useless tensions will free up the vocal process enough for a sustained rehearsal session or performance.

Start With Your Shoulders, Neck and Jaw

It is important to prepare the whole body for rehearsal and performance.

So, the removal of tension from areas such as the knees, buttocks and back are important and should be included in your warming up.

But I feel the focus should start with the shoulders, neck and jaw, freeing up your vocal process.

To start building your “useless-tension-release-warm-up-program”, consider the following exercises:

Spinal Roll – Stand with you feet hip width apart and allow your body to flop over at the waist, letting your hands hang free almost touching the floor. Bending your knees will help to keep you balanced. Make sure your head is loose too. You should feel a stretching sensation in your neck and back and your shoulders should feel heavy. Whilst in that position shake out your shoulders and then slowly return to a standing position and repeat.

Lift your shoulders up to your ears and squeeze and then let them drop back into position. Try not to control the drop.

Move your shoulders around in circles, forward first and then reverse. Repeat several times.

Imagine your nose is a pencil and draw circles in the air by rotating your head to the left and then reverse.

Place your right hand on top of your head, with the tips of your fingers touching the top of your left ear. Allow the weight of your hand and arm to rest on your head pulling it down to the right side and causing a stretch in the left side of the neck. Repeat this for the other side.

Pretend you are chewing a large piece of gum in your mouth.

Flop your jaw down by saying a dull “huh”; clasp your hands together in front of you and shake you hands vigorously allowing your jaw to bounce up and down with each shake.

My Reactions To This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Sammie Libman – Mama Knows Best (Cover)

Hey Sammie – This is tough song to sing and Jessie J has such an incredible voice full of agility and edge. You have done a fairly good job here and the video is really well done. You need to be careful with your pitching throughout as this suffered at times. However you have made this your own by not copying the original completely which is always a good way to go with such an iconic song. However, I would love you to work on your vocal agility more to get your ornamentations smoother and more precise. Good job.

Evan LeJeune – Queen of California (Cover)

Hey Evan – Really liked this performance. Really enjoyed your energy. Try to support your sound more especially on the bigger notes in your upper range. The line “back of my soul” was just a little under on the word “soul”. Just a little more support – and opening the vowel shape a little more – will help you achieve this each time. All the others were so much more secure. Well done, good job.

Georgia Delves – In For The Kill (Cover)

Hi Georgia – You have a nice tone. You do need to tune your guitar however. There are some really nice tender moments in the song but you could have made this so much better by connecting more to the meaning of the song and allowing this to come through in your performance physically. What is the song about? How does it affect you? What’s your story through this song? Consider these things and you will see a great difference in your performance of this song. But you must sing it with truth at all times. Well done.

-Mark De-Lisser

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Mark De-Lisser is a vocal coach, vocal arranger, choir leader and vocal producer who has worked with some of the top vocal talent in contemporary music today including Jessie J, Olly Murs, Jamie Woon and Beverly Knight. Mark has taught at many recognized music institutions and held several high profile TV roles including Vocal Coach on BBC’s The Voice UK. Mark actively leads the renowned ACM Gospel Choir and has published “Sing Out!”, two volumes of pop songs for contemporary choirs. Find out more on Mark’s website: www.markdelisser.com

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  • Kathieb

    Georgia, You have a Natalie Merchant thing going on. Don’t hold back. Yay!

  • Hi, Mark! Have you ever heard about breathing exercises created by Alexandra Strelnikova (Russia). It helps a lot to reduce the useless tension starting from your shoulders and neck down to your hips and knees. Each movement in these series of exercises is combined with a short active inhale, whereas an exhale has to be passive and unprompted. Thus, your diagram works against resistance and your body gets used to the feeling of the air put onto the bottom of the lungs and held there. Great thing! Wish you could use it! Your recommendations have reminded me of these exercises a lot. And thank you for sharing! ))