How to Get Your Voice to Work for You

Training your voice, as you may have guessed, means learning to coordinate and strengthen the muscles in your larynx so you can sing with speech-level posture over a wide pitch and dynamic range. Coordination and strength an? most easily developed by doing special exercises. You don't control your voice directly by working on or thinking about breath support, vocal cord adjustments, or resonance. These things are all by-products of speech-level singing. They happen automatically when you condition your larynx not to move, by relaxing your outer muscles and by allowing your vocal cords to thin and then shorten for higher notes to insure that your outer muscles stay relaxed.

As you do the exercises in the training program following this section, you will memorize the physical sensations you experience in your voice as you do each exercise correctly. Everything else will take care of itself.

Developing coordination – the first step

Coordination of your voice at your speech level must be developed before you can begin to build strength in your voice. As you do the exercises, don't feel you have to sing them loudly. That's not important. If you try to sing too loudly (using too much air) too soon, your outer muscles will never give up their pulling and tightening reflexes. Have patience.

You must first eliminate any outer muscle activity that interferes with your tone. This will free your tone and, consequently, free your ability to produce words easily and clearly.

Your body's neuromus­cular system, however, has been programmed by years of poor singing habits to activate every muscle it can to help you control your voice. It will attempt to resist any changes in muscular coordination you try to make. For a while you may feel tension in the muscles under your jaw, in your neck, in the back of your mouth, and in your soft palate. These tensions are caused when the „wrong“ muscles (your outer muscles) are reluctant to give up control to the „right“ muscles (the muscles of your larynx) in producing tone.

Never work around these tensions by doing things like changing the position of your tongue and jaw, raising your soft palate, making more space in your throat, or changing the pronunciation of your words. You will only create other tensions. Just follow the instructions in the training program and do the exercises. Once you have successfully reprogrammed your neuromuscular system to accept your voice's functioning at your speech level, these tensions will disappear. You will then be able to sing with release, a condition in which your voice works without your having to think about it, or do anything to it.

Building strength – all in good time

Don't be concerned about building a strong voice right away. The ability to increase the loudness of your tone will come by itself, after the coordination of your vocal muscles has been established. Once the „crutch“ of depending on your outer muscles to help keep your vocal cords balanced with your breath flow is gone, your vocal cords will develop their own independent strength.

Litde by little, your vocal cords will be able to hold back more and more air in the vibration process, eventually providing you all the dynamic (loudness) flexibility you'll need. In the meantime – or at any time, for that matter – you should sing only as loudly as you are able to stay on your speech level, with a clear, connected, and easily produced tone throughout your entire range.

Voice training:

  1. Develops coordination. The first step in training your voice how to function at your speech level, is to condition your vocal cords to adjust with your breath flow without interference from your outer muscles. This frees your tone and, consequently, your ability to produce words easily and clearly.
  2. Builds strength. Once you have conditioned your outer muscles not to participate in the production of your tone, your vocal cords gradually develop their own independent strength. This allows you to sing louder without your vocal cords needing any „outside“ muscular assistance.