By Cari Cole
There’s lots of people out there that believe that you have to be born with a great voice to have one, or you’re simply stuck with what you’ve got.
However, while some people may have a greater innate instinct for music, the truth is, great voices, just like great musicians or athletes, are made. They are developed, worked on, improved, built and created. Singers like athletes may be born with certain attributes and instincts, but they still have to train hard to win.
Take my student Nora for example. Nora came to me wanting to hit better high notes. She’d been singing for several years but had never taken voice lessons. She had a good voice, but struggled with her break and her high notes were too thin and harsh. She wanted a richer, fuller voice that could belt higher and with more power.
The first thing she needed was to establish a daily regimen of vocal exercises. But she needed something more than just warm-ups. She needed a set of exercises that would build her voice. So I taught her the Master Vocal Exercises. It’s a series of 38 exercises that builds the voice, strength, endurance, and range. It’s a system that comes from Bel Canto, that I build my voice on and built tens of thousands of voices on. It’s an incredible system (currently only available through our Vocal Freedom Circle or in our Vocal Mastery Program. Once we got her going on that, it became her daily practice, 5 days a week.
Next, I had to show her how to use her body and alignment to support her sound instead of singing from her throat. She struggled with the typical alignment issues that voices that don’t have enough support have. When she sang, she jutted her chin forward and as she held a phrase, she subsequently dropped her chest. The louder she sang, the more she magnified these movements. This meant that she dropped her chest and over used the back of her neck to give her strength (but the neck is not a reliable source as it only ends up constricting the voice and burning it out overtime.) Instead of using the power of the muscles in her torso, mainly the pectorals, lats and abdominals, she was basically singing from the neck up, which is why her voice sounded so thin and she had no power.
There is a phrase I say often to my students who are looking for a richer, fuller sound: “If you want more body in your sound, you need to put more body into it.”
There are many techniques involved in re-aligning someone’s voice and getting them to use their body. The first thing is to establish a strong solid vocal technique that helps you build your voice. You will know if it’s right because you will see progress right away. You don’t have to wait to feel results. If you are, your technique is not the right one. Get your daily regimen and practice down to 5x per week for a minimum of 30 minutes. That will give you great results if you’ve got the right instruction.
Then work on your alignment and building the right support (they go together.) It’s important that your voice be as free of tension as possible, and that your body is aligned with good posture as this affects the singing voice quite a bit. The first goal is to stop relying on your neck muscles and start using your pectorals, lats and abdomen for support. It all starts with improving your posture. A high chest posture (without arching your back) will give more support to the voice as the pectorals will help anchor the laryngeal muscles giving it more resistance against pressure. With a high chest alignment you will also breathe more deeply into the abdomen, ribs and back as long as you focus on expanding in those places. Poor alignment, as well as muscles tensions and contractions in the muscles surrounding and making up the voice, will pull the voice out of alignment and cause stress and tension on the vocal cords resulting in a constricted and unsupported instrument.
I always recommend that singers get deep tissue massage to release muscles that are pulling you out of alignment. Massage, bodywork, rolfing and yoga are not luxuries for a singer. They are essential tools to unlocking and strengthening your instrument. Use it wrong and it won’t deliver.
Start here: Download our free Vocal Road Warrior 3-part series on how to stop shredding your vocal cords, improve your technique and develop a powerful daily regimen.
If you want a set of exercises to open and free your voice, click here.
If you want the fast track to freeing your voice, click here.