How to Avoid Vocal Strain
We’ve all been there. As the music swells, you feel yourself getting swept up in a wave together with the congregation. An electrifying need arises within you to declare God’s majesty & glory with your whole being. You throw the entire weight of your voice into your words. 20 minutes later, as you exit the stage, you notice the dull pain throbbing in your throat accompanied by a familiar rasp. You’ve lost your voice again.
Our vocal cords are remarkable instruments capable of producing a rich range of tones & textures with varying volume & intensity. Like all parts of our body, there are limits to how much usage they can withstand, so caring for your voice is important for it to serve you well throughout your lifetime.
When I sing on stage, sometimes I am unable to hear myself clearly due to a variety of reasons. With no way of gauging how loudly I am actually singing, I usually end up pushing my voice too much. Essentially this results in one’s vocal cords being used beyond what it is capable of doing comfortably. So I’ve learnt how to rely on physical sensations that are produced when singing correctly instead.
#1 Rely on SENSATION, rather than VOLUME.
In your practice, try to develop an awareness of the vibrations you experience in your upper body & face as you sing. Everyone will be different but most people will feel them primarily in the nasal, mouth, throat or upper chest cavities. These are your physical cues which will aid you in producing a balanced & controlled tone in situations where you may not be able to hear yourself singing.
#2 Develop TECHNIQUE
Vocalists often equate practice with simply learning songs but one also needs to be deliberate about technique development. It is only with thoughtful & focused practice that you improve your singing in areas such as tone, range, control & even musicianship.
#3 Be INTENTIONAL & AWARE
You want to reach a point of skill where your instrument submits to your intention, not your emotion. The more you understand how your voice works & how to nurture its potential, the more you will discover the freedom to truly express what’s in your heart. That is another question to ask – what is it that you are trying to convey?
The next time you are singing on stage, try recalling the physical vibrations you felt when practicing & use that to guide you. Your vocal cords will thank you for it!
August is a resident vocal mentor here at Awaken Generation. He has completed grade 8 in ABRSM vocal training & has conducted numerous choirs at many different levels. August's passion is to help each of his students find & appreciate their own sound, & to use that very sound to worship our King.