Have you ever been told to relax or release whilst singing? I know have! More times than I can count. But it's not that easy to just 'relax' on cue. All sorts of things can be a factor when it comes to muscle tension whilst singing and it's highly unlikely that you just felt like being tense that day. It could be that you're nervous, or that holding tension in a certain area has become a habit due to every day stresses. It may even be that you just don't have the strength in one particular area yet, so other muscles are compensating and therefore causing some tension. So how do we work on releasing some of this tension and feeling completely free to let our voice soar?
Move the Neck
Often, the neck can be one of the main culprits of tension and can cause your voice to sound constricted. Just a stressful day or being anxious can cause the neck muscles to tighten. Have you ever lifted your chin up towards the ceiling because you think it will help you get to high notes? Yep, me too! But it doesn't work, it just causes tension. Similarly, if you hold your neck rigidly still, that will also cause tightness in the throat, so try gently turning your neck from left to right continuously whilst singing to see how it feels. By moving the neck around gently, you will prevent it from tensing because muscles cannot be held tight and moved at the same time. If you build this up as a habit, hopefully after some time, your body will be tricked into keeping those neck muscles relaxed.
This is one of my favourite exercises because it feels sooooo good! I swear there isn't enough opportunity to just swing your arms and body around and let momentum do it's thing. When you're trying a tricky part of a song, rather than locking your knees, lifting your shoulders, tightening your abs and turning into a plank of wood, try twisting your body and swinging your arms from side to side. Hopefully, you'll feel just silly enough to distract your mind from overthinking that big belt and your voice will do the work for you, left to it's own devices and not hindered by rigidity in the body.
Sigh it Out
I have the wonderful Rachel Lynes from The Sing Space to thank for this one. I do her warm ups every day and this exercise has been a huge help for me. Before singing a phrase, the aim of this exercise is to sigh down to your lowest note and then take that nice released feeling forwards into the phrase. It really helps to stop you from holding your breath before singing and releases your true voice. The video below shows how I apply this to the chorus of Into The Unknown. Trust me, when you get the hang of it, this exercise feels great.
If you have recurring tension that stops you from enjoying your voice, please make sure you seek the help of a qualified vocal coach or book yourself a trial session with me, by clicking this link