If you’re anything like me, there are songs that are simple for you to sing, but then there are some songs that are seemingly impossible to get through. And it’s not always a factor of pitch… a song can be perfectly within your range, but for some reason, there’s just something about where it sits that makes it difficult to sing.
Well, there are a handful of different reasons why you may be struggling, but odds are it’s a lack of vocal balance.
If your voice lacks balance, it forces you to sing too hard and use more musculature than necessary. Common causes of vocal imbalance include
excessive tension, getting tied up singing tricky consonants or vowels, or pulling up too much weight to the upper part of your range.
Now that we’ve identified some common culprits of vocal imbalance, let’s take a minute to chat about how we can eliminate them.
If your utilizing excessive musculature while singing, you’re abilities are going to be dramatically limited. This can include external muscles of the throat (think muscles than engage when you swallow) as well as your tongue. The first step to letting go of this tension is learning to identify when it’s happening. Check out this article on Releasing Vocal Tension for more details.
Tricky Consonants and Vowels
There are certain consonants that get in the way of easy singing, typically because they engage the tongue. The two main consonants I want to focus on today are Ls and Rs. These consonants are more difficult to sing, especially when they come at the end of a sustained word, because they cause the tongue to tense up and pull backward in the mouth.
You can fix this a couple of different ways. First, avoid speaking the consonant at all until the end of the note you hold. It may even help to think of adding that consonant to the beginning of the next word. The second way you can get past it is not to sing the L or R at all. Sometimes this can work really well. Instead of singing the word “All,” simple sing “aw” then flick the L at the beginning of the next word. Ending Rs you can avoid singing all together and the listener will hear them (this however doesn’t work stylistically in country music… they like hearing the Rs there 🙂 ). Regardless as to what happens, keep the tongue released forward and you’ll have less issues.
When it comes to tricky vowels, singers tend to struggle with wider vowels in the upper parts of their range (wider vowels are any vowel that makes you want to widen the mouth more horizontally like ay, a as in apple, or eh). The reason singers struggle with these vowels in the upper part of their range is wider vowels tend to direct more resonance toward the mouth, trapping the sound in chest voice and causing the singer to pull up more and more pressure. Excessively widening the vowel can also cause the vocal cords to pull apart, as well as the larynx to hike up. Doing that makes easy singing impossible… but now I’m getting way too scientific.
Good news is all you have to do to sing those commonly wider vowels in the upper part of your range with ease is modify the vowel by narrowing it. This will make it much easier for you to hit high notes.
Taking Up Too Much Weight
My good ole’ mentor Brett Manning had a saying:
“I’d rather you sing light and right, than strong and wrong.”
Now, this isn’t the right solution for everyone, but if you find you’re running out of gas when singing higher because the sound just keeps getting heavier and heavier, then odds are this principle will serve you.
Truth is, in order to own a part of your range, you should be able to singer it light as well as heavy. If you can only sing a note loud, you do not yet own that part of your range.
So, if you find that you’re singing is too heavy, I want to challenge you to try and take your sound back to a speech level. Attempt singing with less pressure. Speak the words on pitch, keeping the sound much more effortless than you would have otherwise, and once you balance this, you may discover your only issues was you were simply trying too hard.
I hope this guidance helps. And of course, if you’d like some assistance getting past a stubborn vocal issue, I’d be more than happy to assist you in a one-on-one lesson. You can visit this page for more details.
Also, if you found this article helpful, feel free to pass it along to any other singers you may know. Facebook and Twitter are great for that!
Thanks for reading, and best of luck along your vocal journey!
~ Vocal Coach Ken Taylor