1.Stay hydrated. Drink 8 glasses of water (not juice, coffee or soda) every day so that your vocal cords stay moist. They function much better that way.
2. We've all heard the expression that singers should breathe with their diaphragm. The truth is that you have no direct control over this muscle of inspiration. The best way to breathe “low” or diaphragmatically for singing is to relax two large muscle groups in the body: your abdominals and your pelvic floor muscles (we use these whenever we go to the bathroom so they get a lot of use!). Wherever you lock or continually contract these muscles in your body you will prevent the largest muscle of inspiration, the diaphragm, from doing it’s job efficiently. When it works freely it gently moves in a down and out direction as you inhale. Expansion down and out occurs wherever the body is most relaxed. Ideally there would be no motion in the shoulders. High or clavicular breathing (evidenced by movement in the shoulders when you inhale) causes too much breath pressure and tension in the voice.
3. If you can relax upper body tension such as upper back, shoulders, neck tongue and jaw areas this will help release and relax the voice as tensions in the body tend to be connected.
4. Good posture can still be achieved without contracting or tensing your abdominals. Think instead of good alignment. Without proper alignment large muscles such as the abdominals will contract and when they do, it’s impossible to take the breath we need for optimal singing.
5. When singing for an audience, try relaxing your abdominals and feel grounded and balanced over both feet. You should be able to move around freely while feeling both feet firmly attached to the floor. The feet and legs should feel like the basis for all movement and balance. This is good for singing and your nerves!
6. Never lock your knees back when singing as this will cause you to lock your abdominals. The knees should have a slight bend and bounce to them
7. Never scream or shout to be heard over background noise. This is true in bars, restaurants, weddings and other large events, on school buses, subways and even when singing in a choir (hint: don't try to hear yourself). Never push your voice in these situations. If you do abuse your voice and get hoarse you should rest your voice until it gets back to normal and...drink lots of water. Whispering is not good for the voice.
8. Chronic voice fatigue / hoarseness without an obvious reason (such as a cold/cough) could be a symptom of vocal injury or damage. If you are experiencing this I would suggest being evaluated by an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor (ENT) but only one that specializes in voice. They are usually referred to as “laryngologists”. Similarly if you are unable to inflect your speaking voice into a head voice sound easily this could indicate a vocal problem.
9. Breathe in and see if you can feel cool air hit the back of your tongue and travel gently down your throat. That space is so important to singing and is the back to front dimension of an open throat. It may feel like the beginning of a yawn.
11. Laryngeal position is the downward dimension of an open throat. When we take a “low” diaphragmatic breath (see above) the larynx goes down. The trick is to sing in this position if you are singing classically. If you speak like Julia Child or Mrs. Doubtfire you are speaking with a low larynx. We normally speak with a higher larynx than that which is perfect for pop and broadway and other contemporary styles of singing. You you are speaking with a bright sound then you are speaking with a high larynx!
12. Your larynx or voice box moves and it should be free to do so especially if you sing styles other than classical. The larynx should be free to rise up a little for high notes as long as you are not pushing. It tilts slightly for different vowels and rises and lowers for different tonal qualities such as belt (high larynx) versus classical sounds (low larynx).
13. If you are in the habit of raising your larynx and narrowing your throat a lot for high notes the root of your tongue may get involved to push it back down. This is a common scenario. To see if the root of your tongue is depressing your voice box place your thumb gently under your chin and feel the soft muscles there. Now sing one note, then two or three different ones. If you felt any hardness or “bumping” there it means your tongue root is getting involved in your singing. Voice lessons address tongue relaxation and freedom of the larynx which should function without tongue tension.
14. How does one sing loud? Never by pushing! Pushing only makes the singer tired. Sound is vibration and vibrations need a space to resonate. The more open and relaxed your throat is, the more space you have, and the more easy it is to project the voice. There are more factors than this for volume, try adding more easy ring (think bugs bunny)! Never push more air.
15. Taking in a large breath to sing is not helpful to your vocal technique. Never push air through the voice or tank up with a large inhale.