Pardon Me While I Work On My Tension
Yes, you read that right.
If you have been doing some basic research on vocal technique, watched some videos or maybe read the book Throga: 7 Dimensions of singing, you have encountered this word: Tension.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines tension as: An inner striving, unrest, or imbalance often with physiological indication of emotion.
Let’s focus in one key work here: “Imbalance”, which relates directly with vocal technique.
When singing, your vocal folds adduct (close together) as needed, depending on the vocal intention that you have in mind. This physiological coordination is unique and almost spontaneous, but it must also be independent and free of “trouble”. Changing the vowel, sounding too nasally, raising or lowering the larynx too much, not articulating properly, poor posture, poor breath control, etc.; these are just a few actions that can create tension. When this happens in your voice, we can say that it’s “out of balance”.
If any muscle or movement that is not required for speech and/or singing coordination gets in the way, it will affect and reduce your results and can create a bad vocal behavior that will only add up to your problems.
Tension may not be hard to describe in words, but how you feel it, will vary from person to person. The most common sign will be the internal struggle of trying to “reach out” with little or no success. You may even feel a choking sensation as you try to sing high notes, or you may not feel much at all, but you will hear your voice unintentionally shake, wobble, strain or change its tone. The most common sign of tension is when you have a lot of trouble matching pitches. And while this can be focused with the Dimension of Intonation, if Tension is not isolated and worked on, it can create quite a problem regardless of which Dimension you want to work on.
Don’t fret! We Certified Throga Instructors not only know how to deal with these issues, we can help you get rid of it completely! Most of us have struggled in one point or another in our lives with it. We know what it is, we know how it feels and we know the proper exercises and patterns to use to get you in the right path.
To get you started, I would recommend you focus on a Flexibility exercise, the First Dimension of Singing. Many of you will try to go for Intonation, Range or Strength, but trust me, if you are having tension, you want to get to the fundamentals. The reason behind this, is because you need to erase all the mental and vocal programming that has created this tension to begin with, and then replace it with the correct and right programming instead. If you were to work on something as advanced as Range and Strength, you would be “building” on top of a weak foundation, and that just worsens the tension.
So, explanations aside; pick the easiest warming up exercise you know. It can be Lip Trills or a hum. If you don’t know how to do those, just check the Throga channel in Youtube or contact me directly and I’ll be happy to help. Pick a 1 octave scale and make sure you “slide” through the scale with the exercise you chose. Make sure that while you do this, your volume level is the same from beginning to end, you are not pushing extra air, your voice quality is clear and you are not doing any weird faces (yeah, you may need a mirror for this, or video record yourself as you do the exercise). Once you get to the top of the octave, get back down to the original note and feel free to repeat this a couple of times, pay attention to the sound you make and sensations behind it.
“Did it hurt?”
“Did you struggle?”
“Did your voice crack?”
“Did you run out of air as you were going up or coming back down the scale?”
If you are answering yes to some (or all) of this. It’s okay. As of this moment you are still experimenting. You may want to lower the starting note of the scale, but also make sure that you are nicely singing your head voice as well as your chest voice.
For some, this may be easier said than done, but you do have to start somewhere and Flexibility, is the safest and easiest Dimension to work on.
So, don’t lose hope and don’t tell yourself that you can’t sing. Understand that there are physiological and mental obstructions that you need to work on, before being able to free your voice. If you ever feel like you are trapped or cannot go any further. Reach out to me or any other Certified Throga Instructor and we’ll be happy to help you take your voice to the next level.