If there is one vital thing that you have to protect when singing, it is your instrument: namely caring for your voice and vocal cords.
Singing songs without having done proper exercises, to strengthen your vocal cords, over the long run will injure them and may even scar your vocal chords for life.
Julie Andrews from the ‘Sound of Music’ is a perfect example of someone who can never sing her high notes again as a result of a bad vocal surgery. When the cords are strained and damaged over a long period of time, vocal nodules form on the inner edge of the vocal folds which does not allow them to connect so that they can come together to vibrate. The surgeon then must slice the protruding vocal nodule off of the cords so that they can once again connect as healthy vocal cords do. In rare cases, the surgeon may make a mistake and cut too deeply into the vocal folds causing permanent damage. The best way to avoid surgical errors is to maintain vocal health so that you do not need surgery.
Some celebrities successfully undergo throat surgery on a regular basis due to improper technique and overuse of the vocal cords. Elton John is one celebrity that openly admits that he gets these surgeries regularly. Most often surgery is successful and vocal health is restored until further damage occurs again. It is a “wash, rinse and repeat” syndrome for some singers.
Not only is surgery a scary endeavour, vocal pain is not fun to sing with when the nodules have formed and are causing strain and pain while singing.
When you do not know “how” to use the diaphragm muscles to support your vocal tones, it is a sign that you are most likely singing incorrectly. The following training tips will guide you so that you can use the voice powerfully without injuring the vocal cords when belting out a tune. That being said, there is nothing that can replace taking weekly private singing lessons to form good vocal habits with a singing teacher that really knows what they are doing.
Tip 1: Breathing exercises
No matter the genre or the type of singing you do, before you hit the stage, you need to do some breathing exercises to control your notes, and relax the diaphragm muscles to achieve optimum performance. You need to sing scales to prepare and balance the muscles so you are ready to perform at your best. One such exercise involves a 5 minute “open-eyed meditation”. Conduct these and other vocal exercises for 15-30 minutes and you will feel more confident and relaxed.
Tip 2: Do your vocal strength training: cardio and core
It’s good to have a workout plan especially when you are about sing rock as this genre especially aims to test the physical limits of your body and vocal cords. Cardio exercises expand your lung capacity while core strengthening gives you greater support. You will need this when you sing the “screaming” notes or 'belt' or sing climatic music phrases of the song. Use your diaphragm to its full extent to support these powerful tones. A good voice teacher can show you how through demonstration and mind’s eye visualisation. Knowledge and practice, practice, practice is the key.
Tip 3: Know Your Notes!
You need to know the notes of the song so that you can sing in the tune. Knowing and practicing your intervals will also help tremendously. Really knowing the spacing between notes is of utmost importance. Singing a high-note in a song will compliment your sound cohesiveness, in fact, it is as important as tuning guitar to keep your sound in sync with the other instruments and sound attractive to your audience. Knowing your notes accurately gives you more confidence because once you think the pitch (have direction and aim), you can hear it in your mind’s ear and the execution of the note will be more accurate.
Tip 4: Plan Your Set
If you know that you'll be singing a few high-pitched songs, it’s good to plan the next song to be quite an easy, lower-pitched song to “pace yourself” and your vocals. This allows you to rest as you sing. However, if your entire set is high-pitched, then, this can cause you unnecessary stress. Singing is about having fun. Sometimes it’s fun to challenge yourself and sometimes it’s fun to do a song that rolls off your tongue, so-to-speak. You’ll want to mix up your set with challenging songs and easier songs to mix it up for the audience as well.
The Bottom Line
You can try ‘vocal tips’ to help guide you, and yet there is nothing that can replace proper in-studio vocal training on a regular weekly basis. You will learn ‘good vocal habits’ that will stay with you for life!
Knowing how to sing well involves practice and learning to use muscles in a certain way that may be not activated without good technique. Very few people are born with a natural singing ability. If you’re one of those natural talents: lucky you! However, you may still need to use the above training tips to be able to use your voice powerfully; at its optimum without injuring your vocal cords. Even people with a ‘natural talent’ can learn to improve their vocal functioning with proper regular vocal training. It’s all about nurturing habits that work for us instead of against us.