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Losing Your Voice? By Jeannie Deva
Many of you are happy with your voice and style and are busy with rehearsals and gigging. But does your voice get tired or sore by the time you’re done singing? When you’re done with your rehearsal or gig is your voice trashed? Is your voice even more hoarse a day or two after your gig?

There are several possible reasons for this reduction of voice. Since you can’t go to the store to buy a new one, handling the cause of these difficulties is important. Take a look at this article and see if there’s something in it you can apply to keep your voice happy and your career in the spotlight.

1. Can you hear yourself through the monitors? If you can't, you may find yourself shouting to hear your own voice. Shouting or yelling to hear yourself will create a great deal of force and tension in your throat. This will cause a swelling of your vocal folds and a full or partial loss of your voice. Even if you can't hear yourself through the monitors, it's important to realize that your audience, listening through the house speakers, most likely can. If you shout, your voice may sound strained to them. The straining can also cause you to sing off key. So, for the purpose of both saving your voice as well as sounding good to your audience, it's best to lay off shouting like that. Develop an agreement with your sound engineer to use certain hand signals that let him/her know any changes you need in your monitors. Beyond that, you can buy certain equipment to keep with you on stage to give you complete control over your own monitor mix. (See my upcoming article: “Taking Control of Your Monitor Mix.”)

2. Do you have a habit of pushing on your consonants? Make a recording of yourself singing a capella ? without music ? or even just Listen back and observe whether or not the consonants are being overly stressed. Pay special attention to consonants such as: P, B, Th, Sh, F, Ch, D, C, K, St, Wh, Sp, H, T. Do you hear your breath pushing as you form these or any other consonants? If so, you're forcing your air. The stress that this amount of forced air creates is another aspect of your problem. You will find it helpful to learn how to let your vowel sound ? not the air stream or consonants ? be the foca both in terms of volume and quality, not the consonants. For more on this, see the chapter “How To Sing Hard and Avoid Vocal Blow-Out.” in my book “The Contemporary Vocalist Improvement Course.”

3. Do you dance and find yourself breathless during or in between rapping? If you are breathing hard while simultaneously singing, too much air will be rushing out while making vocal sound. In order to vibrate your vocal folds for each pitch, a regulated air stream is needed, not gushes of pushed out air. Put your hands on the sides of your body, about 1/2 way between your underarm and your waist. Take a deep breath and notice the movement of your ribs. Now exhale and you should be able to observe your ribs lowering. Your ribs are part of the mechanism that pushes the air out of your lungs. When you breathe fast and hard, your vocal folds automatically open completely. In this way, your wind pipe is made into a totally open tube, allowing maximum air to rush in and out. But, when you sing or talk, your vocal folds need to do just the opposite ? close and stretch! This differ your voice. Staying physically fit through doing a lot of physical exercise, you can develop the stamina necessary so as not to become winded from dancing. But that's not enough. There are also certain rib cage muscle strengthening exercises that, when applied, can help slow down your breathing rate and control the air stream needed for vocal sound. For the first of such exercises, see the following exercise.

Rib Cage Expansion Toning Exercise #1

This is the first in a series of 4 physical exercises designed to enhance, isolate and simplify your body's natural sound-making process. Throughout this exercise keep your mouth open and your throat unlocked so that your breathing is unrestricted.

* Stand relaxed but erect, with your arms hanging by either side.

* Open your mouth slightly. Turn your palms forward.

* Begin stretching your arms out through your fingertips.

* Slowly raise them out to the sides of your body and, continuing to stretch them, bring your arms up slowly all the way until they are above your head. (As you stretch your arms out and up, air will naturally inhale through your open mouth.)

* Once your arms are over your head, put your palms flat together and stretch up from your back through your arms.

* If your stomach muscles are tense, let them relax.

* Keeping your mouth and throat open and continuing to stretch up, silently count slowly to six. (Do not breath in or out at this time.)

* Now release the stretch ? turn your palms down ? and your body.

* As your arms lower, your rib cage will fall, pushing in on your lungs, and causing your breath to naturally exhale through your open mouth.

* Let your breath easily exhale at the same time that your arms are lowering.

Repeat the above for a total of 30 repetitions, taking a few minutes rest after each 10. This can be done daily, will take about 20 minutes, and is preparatory to other exercises that are part of my method.

As I see it, there are only two reasons for vocal technique: 1) to be able to express yourself fully in all the ways you want to use your voice 2) to keep your voice healthy with good stamina that supports every sound and style you want to use for your self expression. It is possible to sound and sing the way you want while supporting the way your body works to make the sounds of your voice!

© 2003 Jeannie Deva. Jeannie Deva is the founder of Jeannie Deva® Voice Studios since 1978 and of The Deva Method® A Non-Classical Approach for Singers. While her private voice studio is located in Los Angeles, Jeannie maintains private clients across the country and in Europe. Author of the internationally published vocal home-study course: "The Contemporary Vocalist" book and CDs, she has been flown to recording studios internationally to handle album vocal production and has been endorsed by producers and engineers of the Rolling Stones, The Cars, Aerosmith, and many others. Clients include Grammy Award Winner Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin, Coppertree, Dar Williams, Moodcrush, members of the J. Geils band, cast of Fame, Jesus Christ Superstar and many more.

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