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Learning to Sing Better: Relaxation

When people think about getting better at singing, they rarely think about relaxation as a means of doing it. Yet, if you watch great singers on stage, they appear relaxed and confident. This is on purpose.

The voice is controlled by a lot of little muscles in the throat. Proper breathing is controlled by muscles in the chest and the diaphragm. The words that are being sung are formed by using muscles in the face, mouth, and tongue. You get the idea. If any of these muscles are tense, the singing, breathing, and clear pronunciation of the words will suffer. It also makes it much harder to control the transition from a chest voice to a head voice and back again.

You could find yourself running out of breath and needing to take a breath where it was never intended. This can make the song sound choppy. The voice can also break, even if you are singing in the middle of your range. The words you are singing can lack clarity and could even be a little slurred. And it becomes increasingly difficult to sing with confidence. I don’t know about anyone else, but a lack of confidence is something I constantly struggle with. Of course, a lack of confidence just makes matters worse and the muscles tenser.

So how do you relax everything? This can be done through a series of ‘stretching’ exercises. I’ve already written about practicing the scale, and this relaxes the muscles of the vocal cords. The same sort of thing is done with all the other muscles I’ve mentioned. Moving your head from side to side, as if you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder and turning your head first one way and then the other, relaxes the muscles of the neck.

Rotating your shoulders in exaggerated circles, first one way, then the other way relaxes the shoulders and upper back. As silly as it sounds, making faces relaxes the muscles of the face. This includes opening your mouth wide, closing it, moving your jaw from side to side, and so forth.

For the chest, practice taking deep breaths, breathing with your diaphragm and breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose. This also gradually increases your lung capacity.

You might think that all of this would make you look crazy. But you don’t need to do any of this in front of anyone. Performers often do it backstage or in their dressing rooms. By the time they get in front of people, they are already relaxed, confident, and warmed up. This has a huge impact on the singing. Most good vocal coaches teach these and similar techniques for relaxation.

None of this should be surprising, either. Before a jogger goes for a run or a marathoner starts a competition, they stretch. This is exactly for the same purpose we’ve just been talking about, it is simply stretching different muscles.

If you have any doubt about how much this helps, try singing a simple song that you know, without stretching. Then do the stretching exercises above and try singing the song again. You might be amazed at the difference and it is practically guaranteed that people who hear you will be able to tell the difference.

  • Have you ever tried stretching your neck, chest, shoulders, and face muscles before singing?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’ve never even thought about it

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Written by Rex Trulove

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