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The Case of the Tight Throated Singer

Probe with Rachel Bennett
When I first met Luke, he was keen to increase range below his falsetto register but his throat looked very tight when he sang.

Luke had been exploring a mixed timbre to access higher tones but without much success and his feelings of frustration were causing him further tension.

He had been taught to hold his stomach in by his schoolboy choirmaster and so he needed an exercise to reduce tightness in his abdomen.

The abdomen and throat are best friends and they ‘do the same’.

It was time to isolate this tension and let go everywhere else!

It was time to isolate this tension and let go everywhere else!

Luke learned to play with the ‘Puppet Man’.

Puppet Man is an exercise where you raise up stiff arms above the head as you inhale and let go the rest of your body, loosening the knees and the abdomen.

The ‘Puppet Man’ is a way of being pulled rather than pushing – at first someone can do it for you or you can hang on a beam, but it’s absolutely possible to simply ‘pull up’ as opposed to ‘push up’ the arms – from the shoulder.

As he ‘pulled up’ during scales and then progressed onto song sections, Luke could feel his breath being supported on longer and higher tones and he gradually gained more natural strength in his abdomen.

Nine months on, Luke has added two tones to his range and is now a baritone/light tenor… and he looks a lot more chilled!

– Raie

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Rachel Bennett is a London-based vocal coach and singer songwriter. She is the lead singer / songwriter of RAIE and a Musical Director for theatre, television & recording studios across London. She has associations at WAC Performing Arts and Media College and Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. You can learn more about Rachel on her Website or Facebook. You can see more of Rachel’s writing here.

  • Great advice – thanks!

  • This “puppet” idea may be helpful. But releasing tensing in singing is more involved then that. There are reasons why tension is entering into the singing voice. Real reasons that are due to physiological and acoustic imbalances in the singing voice. If a voice coach doesn’t understand the physiology of the singing voice or doesn’t understand the acoustics of singing, namely, how formants work, what they are, what they do, how to align them and how they influence the tension and constriction in the singing voice, then singers will never get past the problem.

    Tension in the singing voice may be the #1 thing that all singers are dealing with and it most certainly is the #1 thing that good voice coaches should be able to address. With all due respect, the suggestion above may be helpful, but it isn’t getting to the source or root of the problem.

    The source of most tension in the voice is caused not by physiological issues… but acoustic imbalance. The body follows the acoustics, not the other way around and when teachers and singers finally begin to “get” that, amazing changes can start happening.

    To explain what is happening and what needs to be done is complicated honestly. It can’t be explained in a blog comment post. Although, I have produced a video on YouTube that does a good job of explaining this. It is not the total story, because it does not address the training routines that need to be done, but it at least explains a bit about how acoustics influences tension and constriction in the voice.


    To learn more about how to stop constriction in your singing by really learning what is involved in this problem and then have a training routine and program that shows you how to fix the problem, contact me personally on the chat system at http://www.TheFourPillarsofSinging.com.


    Robert Lunte

  • Kirk Leavesley

    Thanks Robert, that was very helpful information.

  • Kathy Coneys Alexander

    Thanks! I just tried this and it worked. I have been trying to release tension in my abdomen on inhalation for a while, so I just went to a door frame to try this. I stood in the open doorway and hooked my finger tips onto the moulding above the door (I am the right height for this – others may not be). In this position, I tried a breath and then a note. I could fee the freedom in my body and voice instantly. Wow!!