As a vocal coach, I hear it all the time. I love to sing but when I do, I get hoarse and need to shout to be heard after only a few hours. Some days I just want to give up. What am I doing wrong? What can I do about it?
Sadly, this is an all too common problem for many singers. The good news is that it is not your fault. Many people sing from a place of passion without having the control to protect their voice. We are encouraged to do so from other musicians, choir leaders, friends, our audience etc. Oh yes, and because we love to belt out our favorite tunes. It is no wonder we forget that the voice is "our" instrument and that it is to be treated with care and respect.
Some singers are born with a gift to sing but most need to understand how the voice functions naturally and take considerable care not to sing in a way that will limit their ability.
What are you doing wrong you ask? While you are probably doing many things right, I suspect you have developed one or two bad habits throwing everything off track. Let me explain. The throat does only two things. One, it produces the tone that differentiates one sound from another. This is what makes you sound the way you do and me sound the way I do. Second, the vocal cords vibrate creating a pitch. Slower vibrations occur for lower tones with faster vibrations for the higher tones. If we push too much air through the vocal cords to reach up to high notes or sing louder then we are able to control, the vocal cords slam together cutting off the sound. If done for an extended period, the voice will get tired and sore. If done on an ongoing basis, it will cause damage decreasing your ability to sing. Many people who sing well in their 20's lose their voice early in life because of this lack of information. Sounds simple doesn't it? That's because it is.
What can you do about it? Singers have an enormous amount of fear when it comes to singing. They worry about what people think so they inevitably put far too much emphasis on the throat. This must stop. What you need to realize is that only 25% of your voice comes from the gift you have been given. 75% comes from understanding how the voice works and how to bring out the best in your voice. Taking the emphasis off the throat will eliminate the tension that cuts off the sound we produce. Use proper breathing techniques to support your singing, taking in only as much air needed to sing a phrase. Remember, the voice has the ability to get stronger and better as it matures rather then deteriorate.
From time to time, we all push our voices beyond their limits, become ill, or need a little something to sooth the throat. Please consider products without sugar or alcohol. They will only dry the vocal cords. Herbal teas such as mint is very soothing. Choose natural products and not products that only have artificial flavors. They will not take the edge of an already overused and tired throat. Drink lots of water 48 hours before singing and more if you are ill. Avoid anything that will coat or dry the vocal cords the day of singing such as dairy products, greasy food, decaffeinated drinks, alcohol, high-carbohydrate foods and smoking.
To wrap things up?.what I am saying is please stop putting emphasis on the throat when the throat has very little to do with your singing ability. One last thing?.relax, relax, relax. Singing was meant to be enjoyed by you and your audience, so don't take things too seriously. In time, with a little practice, it will all fall into place. Trust that you are on the right path and that you will reach your goals. It's really that simple!
All the best, Donna
After moving to Toronto from Montreal 22 years ago, Donna began a journey of vocal training that connected her with coaches in Nashville, Los Angeles, San Francisco, as well as the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.
Although she found the techniques to be practical and was taught scales designed to improve the voice, she soon realized that no one was able to offer a method that allowed her to sing the many different styles of music she enjoyed singing.
It was clear that the only way she would find training that would bring out ALL the qualities that are UNIQUE to her voice, would be to develop it herself. So she did???..
Over the years, Donna has developed a complete mind / body / spirit / voice method designed to access the energy from the body to eliminate any pressure that may prohibit us from singing our best. She combines yoga and tai chi breathing along with specific exercises designed to building proper breath support while gently working the entire vocal range, top to bottom.