Bigger and Louder Is Not Always Better
I have always been a huge fan of the ‘powerhouse singer’. The playlist in my home was Donna Summer, Whitney, Mariah, Celine and Italian singers with huge voices and incredible ranges. The vocal bar was set high and I probably spent most of my adolescence with a hairbrush/microphone in hand trying to emulate these big voices. Unfortunately though, doing so consistently at such a young age saw me develop some bad vocal habits. This required guidance from professionals including a singing teacher that took the utmost care, guiding my voice safely into adulthood.
A lesson I learned very early on is that practice and performance are two very different things. Practice involves warming up the voice using technique-based exercises to condition in preparation for a song. And like an athlete that needs to stretch before a big race, it’s important for a singer to limber up before attempting to rock the vocals of a big song. Without the proper preparation, a disappointing first attempt could lead to an abandonment of the rehearsal altogether!
If you are singing a song over and over again at the same volume with the same intensity and getting the same sound that you are not exactly happy with or that’s causing you to overexert, then you need to consider what vocal exercises you are working on to prepare you for the song. Strongly consider taking the song down a notch dynamically so that you can hear exactly what is going on with the vocals. Be critical and self-diagnose or have someone else do it. What part of your vocal development do you need to work a little harder on? Is it breathing or intonation? Could you do with a little bit more strength training or do you need to work on targeted range exercises to create a smoother transition between the registers?
Now don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly understand your desire to let go and sing a song at your full range (that’s why we enjoy singing!) but practicing at a high intensity with a voice that is underprepared can lead to adverse vocal responses. This can include vocal fatigue and/or ultimately loss of confidence, which for singers, can be debilitating.
So go forth, sing your favourite song, sing it loud and proud but make sure you do it ‘safely’ with the appropriate amount of preparation.