Ep. 82 “How To Not Strain Your Voice (Or Your Soul)”

Ep. 82 “How To Not Strain Your Voice (Or Your Soul)”


Hi everybody! My name is Justin Stoney
and I’m the founder of New York Vocal Coaching
here in New York City. Welcome to episode 82
Voice Lessons To The World, the show where we want to help
you as singers by answering your questions
from all over. And I’ll give you a chance to
ask questions later but our question for this
week comes from Salman S. in
Dhaka, Bangladesh. Now Salman wrote this
question to us actually today, [Hits piano] and it was so good that
we just had to answer it right away. Salman writes, “Dear Justin,
I’m a new singer and I’m starting to be able to
belt high but it feels like a strain, and even pain,
when I sing. What should I do? Now Salman, it’s just
so great that you ask this because so many singers
struggle with vocal strain. Luckily, we can fix this. And that’s what we’re
going to talk about today, what is vocal strain
and how do we fix it? So let’s first talk about why
we don’t want vocal strain. It seems obvious why
we wouldn’t want vocal strain. But let’s make sure
that we know. First, it affects
tone quality negatively. A good rule of thumb
is that if it feels free it probably sounds good. Next is stamina. We’re just not going to
last very long in practice, in the recording studio,
in a live performance, if we’ve got a lot
of vocal strain. And then finally,
vocal health. You know honestly it’s
pretty rare to hurt your voice
all in one shot. It’s possible… You could yell and scream
at a football game or a party, or you could have a really
bad sickness and get hurt fast, but usually vocal
damage occurs over the long term. And if you have repetitive stress
from vocal strain that can really be one
of the reasons. Now that’s not to panic. We’re going to fix it together by
looking at what factors cause vocal strain and
what it really means to strain. So next, let’s look at it. What factors
cause vocal strain? We can break these
factors down into the S-T-R-A-I-N of strain. Setting, where are you singing? Is it a place with poor acoustics or
maybe a lot of noise going on? Are you pushing
over that noise? Are you with a band
and those other instruments you’re pushing your voice over
those instruments? Or maybe the amplification
is improper for what you’re trying to do. Make sure that your environment isn’t
the source of your strain. Now how about time duration? It’s not wrong sometimes
to sing for two, three, four,
maybe even five hours. But not every day. You have to know, what
vocal marathon am I running? Also, is your speaking voice
a part of that? If you’re talking a lot and
singing a lot you might just be doing too
long of vocal usage. How about the range? Are you singing too
high or too low? Obviously it’s not wrong
to stretch your voice and work on territories you
haven’t mastered. But you got to be in a
comfortable tessitura. That’s the spot of
the voice where your songs “live”. If you’re singing in a tessitura all
the time that’s uncomfortable it’s going to cause strain. What about the amount
of training? I know you guys are working hard
with your voice teachers at home or you’re doing our videos
or our vocal course and you’re working to
get to those more advanced levels. But you got to be honest
with yourself and not move too fast. Work at the level that
you’re at so that you don’t cause strain
trying to do things that are too hard for you
at least right now. How about the intensity? Don’t be falling in love with
a big old sound, alright. If you’re pushing volume,
pushing force, always going for the
strong sounds, never building the flexibility,
the resonance, the breath support
that you need, the intensity could be
causing the strain. And then finally your
own natural abilities. Everybody’s got a different athleticism
and a different history. If you’ve had injuries
in the past you might be
compensating more. And some people it
just takes a little bit longer. So be honest with yourself
as far as your own vocal athleticism. We’re going to keep working
to take you to the next level, no matter where
you’re starting off. So now, what does it even
mean though to strain? One complaint that you hear
too often from singers is that their
vocal training is not specific. The teacher will say
oh you’re straining. But not give specific ways
to fix that strain. So Salman,
let’s get specific. Here’s seven areas
of strain that we want to address. First, the neck. The area that we see and
probably feel the most tension
is the neck. The sternocleidomastoids are these
long head-turning muscles here. They can
get rather tight. The stylohyoids, right up here, can also
put some strain on the larynx. What about the
back of the neck? The capitus the occipitals,
and the trapezius muscles. All of these can get tight,
how do we fix it? We become aware of it
and then we aren’t afraid of holding it down
or massaging it while we sing. That’s one of the best ways
to free up a muscle, is to hold it
or massage it. Get those muscles out of
your vocal equation so that all the right ones,
the intrinsic muscles, can do their work. Next, what about breathing? We don’t think of breathing
as something that could be a strain. But it can be if we’re taking too
much air or using too much air or if muscles are misbehaving
in our breathing system. The biggest offender is
the solar plexus, the upper abdominals. We don’t want these
guys to get tight when we sing. It’s a muscle pair with the larynx
and it can cause a lot of strain. You can watch our episode
“The Shiny Solar Plexus” for a full treatment of that. Now what about the larynx? The larynx is a major concern
for us as far as vocal strain because the vocal folds are
housed inside the larynx. What we’re trying to avoid
is the larynx becoming a pitch changer. We want the vocal folds
to do that. What do I mean by this? Well we want to avoid
this kind of thing… The moment you see my
larynx moving with the pitches, rising as they go up
and falling as they go down, we want to avoid this. Now it’s ok for the
larynx to be a style changer. If I have a neutral larynx… It’s cool sound, but what if i’m looking for
a little sweeter, poppier sound? It’s ok to raise it up,
depending on the style or lower it down depending
on the style. But we don’t want it changing
those pitches for us too much. Next, what about alignment? It’s easy to forget that
our entire bodies need to be involved when we sing. So our alignment
plays a great part in this. A lot of people
hold tension in their low back. Make sure you’re not
crunched back here, also make sure you’re
not slumping in the sternum. But really you want to check
in with your whole body when you sing. Neck that’s free to move,
shoulders, spine, hips, knees,
and feet. You might consider doing
some stretching or even yoga as a part of your vocal
workout to make sure that you’re in touch
with your physical body and how that corresponds
to your sound. Now what about the
vocal folds themselves? Now we also forget about
these amazing vocal fold muscles and how they have their
own independent strain control. Check it out… Now that’s a clean sound,
but what if this is happening… And I’m getting too
much squeeze. I can always go… To fix it, I have control over
too much, just right, or even compensating
the other way with some looseness. Control over that
musculature. Now, next super important
the jaw and tongue. Let me tell you something
about the jaw and the tongue they’re located
above the larynx. Now why does that matter? Well think about it,
any muscle pulls one thing towards
another thing. So all of these muscles,
Geniohyoids, mylohyoids, digastrics, hyoglossus,
styloglossus, the list goes on. Tons of muscles above the
larynx to hike it up. What does this mean? We need to release the jaw and not
have it holding or thrusting. And the tongue, not retracting
or tightening. Back to our NG position
whenever we possibly can. And finally,
what about the soul? Now Salman, we’re really saving
the best for last here because we could talk all day
about vocal strain and still forget
what’s really important. Which is the singer’s soul. We don’t want to put
a strain on that. Why can’t I get this right? Why can’t I get these high notes? Why is this person better than me? Why is this taking so long? Why is Justin using all these
strange words like sternocleidomastoid? Whoa… Let’s remember step 1,
it is well with my soul. I love to sing,
this is fun. I’m gonna be with this
for my life! This is my craft,
this is what I do. I have a gift,
I’m going to give this gift away. If we go back to those
messages, I promise you all the technique becomes
so much easier. And you’re going to
watch the strain, in all those areas
that I mentioned, drop like flies. So Salman and all,
I hope that’s been helpful for you guys
today as singers. If you have questions
that you’d like to see us answer on the show
you can send an email to [email protected] So I just encourage you,
don’t lose that joy, don’t lose that passion,
don’t let people tell you that you can’t sing,
you and I both know, false. Get with a great voice
teacher in your area or if you’re in New York
or you want to Skype with one of our staff you
can visit us at www.NewYorkVocalCoaching.com. And I also encourage
you to download our vocal course. This is a 12-part course that
takes you on a singing journey
from beginner to master. Hundreds of vocal
exercises that you can do in the comfort
of your own home or even car. Check this out at
www.VoiceLessonsToTheWorld.com. Last, if you’re looking
for free daily vocal tips you can sign up by visiting
www.DailyVocalTips.com. I’m Justin Stoney. Until next time,
make a joyful noise.

100 comments on “Ep. 82 “How To Not Strain Your Voice (Or Your Soul)”

  1. matt10342 Post author

    😍😍😍 This is my favorite video ever🙌 Justin you are an angel and singlehandedly a vocal life-saver

    Reply
  2. Marianna Newman Post author

    you are so WELL READ!!!! your anatomy knowledge really blew me away- i have a lot of strain because I can get nervous! Thank you for your help! EMI and you are teaching me!!!!!

    Reply
  3. Ricky Sword Post author

    it's strange to see a good vocal coach online, after all these years, but Justin, let me tell you: you are ****in' good, thanks for existing! xD

    Reply
  4. Ricky Sword Post author

    9:23 AHAHAHAHAHA and than you hit the piano and i really loool xD ahahahaha man, you're great and funny teacher ahahah

    Reply
  5. Joshua Perry Post author

    Thank You so much for this video Justin. I have a tendency of over singing which is probably why I can't enter the whistle register. Hopefully your encouraging words help me fix this problem.

    Reply
  6. Patrick Carroll Post author

    Justin, you cover all the topics I want to learn more about. As a singer, your instruction and energy give me hope to be a better singer. Thanks for your work.

    Reply
  7. Padie Music Post author

    I notice straining under my jaw on higher notes. what part of me is causing that tension and is there anything I can do about it?

    Reply
  8. pius subil Post author

    fantastic explanation. thank yoiu Justin. I am sofar away from you in Borneo Malaysia. I wish I can attend your classess

    Reply
  9. Maytane Winner Post author

    Justin is so alive, that's what it looks like to live your dreams and do what you wanted to do when you were 8! Awesome man

    Reply
  10. Niecey D Post author

    How come all those body parts sound so much like dinosaurs? The visualizations I'm getting here are epic

    Reply
  11. Jon Jacoby Post author

    Point 7 hits every thing. From instrument practice to gigging our soul is in constant persecution. Our internal dialogue won't relent it's criticism so physically and emotionally we are strained and challenged with our own negative feedback.

    Reply
  12. Angela Almeida Post author

    You have a wonderful heart and that shows thru every video
    U make Justin . Thank u for this wonderful lesson

    Reply
  13. אוריה שוחט Post author

    Dear Justin, Mr. stoney, Your videos on every topic have such a wide serround of information, that builds such awareness, happiness & sweetness & a feel of triomphe. Big thank you. God bless you:))

    Reply
  14. Darla Baltazar Post author

    The soul bit hit home for me. You’re right. It is well with my soul and I ought to sing with a bigger purpose. God bless you man 🙂

    Reply
  15. LJ Madrigal Music Post author

    I swear he is the most amusing vocal coach to watch here on Youtube. I feel relaxed everytime I hear him talk.. Plus the educational side for my vocal health too!

    Reply
  16. Lisa Zi Post author

    It's magical how i just feel better while watching these videos! I feel really supported and understood by you, Justin! Thanks a lot and keep going!

    Reply
  17. Devin Mera Post author

    I spent a few weeks putting my finger on my larynx while I sing and after that I never knew a high larynx

    Reply
  18. Pinay RealiTV Post author

    I always look forward to that few seconds he'd snatch that piece of paper to read questions.You can tell he's excited to teach.

    Reply
  19. OverDrive Post author

    Hey I'm trying to learn to sing country music but my voice has a raspy voice and my throat starts to hurt after a song I want to sing a song for my crush but first I need to be able to sing country before I learn to create a country song

    Reply
  20. Stella Bandante Post author

    You are a sparkling person. Thanks for putting out these videos. I learn a lot from you, and I love that you really know what you're talking about. I love to try out your suggestions, and usually find they help me know my voice better and hear the gradual improvement that comes with steady practice.

    Reply
  21. Carmen Chi Post author

    I am having a mental breakdown because I think I am losing my voice by straining too much but I just dont know jow to stop and I want to keep singing and I really need help today when I was in headvoice it switched to something and I just lose control over my headvoice after coming down I got control again but I am really scared I dont want to stop singing

    Reply
  22. Gypsy Busjahn Post author

    Thank you! I love your videos! You are a great presenter! I enjoy watching you bc you talk with your hands!! I talk with my hands too, its just nice to see. A great teacher..Im learning so much from you…and Yes Yoga!! Hhahahahahhaha You are HILARIOUS!! Talking about mashing the soul!!! You are awesome!!!

    Reply
  23. Chris Keef Post author

    I am an untrained rock singer who has sung with too much force and fry over the years.. I now have a small granuloma on my false vocal chords.. Please can you tell me how to get passed this and sing healthily so can carry on with my passion which is performing.

    Reply
  24. Ghafar Qaheri Post author

    Excellent video Justin. You are detailed and excellent with examples ! This is my first video of you and I have now subscribed! Looking forward to seeing all your other videos. You should have a lot of more subscribers and views than these other “vocal coaches” ! Keep up the amazing work and

    Reply
  25. joj.official Post author

    Thank u so much u r more than an vocal coach u r amazing (soul talk it’s important cuz i always asking my self & being helpless) love u sm thank u so much 💙💙💙💙💙

    Reply
  26. J.J Jeon Post author

    I never knew a vocal lesson can make me cry. The last part 'Don't strain your soul' hit my heart 😭

    Reply
  27. トリレー Post author

    Thank you so much Justin and your ekip, can you tell me does a hight note especially an extreme high note cause a bit of tension? Though not thing was wrong with technique?

    Reply
  28. Lekha Chunduri Post author

    thank you so much for this video justin!
    my question is a little specific, but here it is:
    i noticed that whenever i start singing high notes (for me, it's around A4), my throat kinda constricts, and i notice the center part of my neck kinda go inwards and this sort of lump forms below my chin. Whenever I see singers live, their neck stays completely still, and only the veins on the sides of their neck pops out. and it doesn't happen for me, and it's annoying me tbh lol
    would you say this is a sign of tension? how do i sing so that my neck stays completely still, the way i see professional singers do it?!

    Reply
  29. Kyla Gonzales Post author

    I recently found out that I have vocal nodes. I am a new teacher and I lose my voice at least 2 days in a week. I am currently taking medicines but still struggling to improve my vocal health. I teach 4-5 math classes a day.

    Reply
  30. Alexis Rene Post author

    This really really helped me. I got sick in November and my teacher thinks dormant strain from last April came up again and caused it to hurt when I sing for almost two months, until I reluctantly got on prednisone. I have been singing fine and then just yesterday I did some speech (not singing) vocal exercises here on YouTube. The video was four min long but right after, I felt strain. I'm so upset because I thought I was finally going to be in the clear. It has been the hardest thing ever for me to endure…I got on a second dosage of prednisone and will be done tomorrow. It just seems like something prednisone can't fix and I need to see a speech therapist but sadly none take my insurance. I'm trying to see if any speech pathologists help with this or clinics and hospitals but it is just a lot of work and it makes me even more frustrated people asking me about my music, singing and when I will be performing again. I've felt so held back and prevented from opportunities and doing what I love most. It's the worst 😔😔

    Reply
  31. Gene Zhao Post author

    4:50 what is vocal strain
    6:05 don’t want upper abs to get tight when singing, it’s a muscle pair to the larynx

    6:25 vocal folds are house in larynx, don’t want larynx to be the pitch changer only a stylistic sound modifier

    8:30 jaw and tongue

    Reply
  32. Daryl Kenny Post author

    Hello. I've been doing your YouTube lessons now for about 3 months. I'm ready to buy the complete course but I have a question. I am on the road a lot and do the vocal lessons then but videos are extremely data intensive. If I buy the course can the lessons be downloaded so I can take it with me on the road?

    Reply
  33. Njoki K Post author

    Note to Self:
    -Stop the yelling culture when leading praise in church🙄
    -Mix & BELT
    -Breath Support
    -Be content with your tessitura even as you work to improve your technique

    Reply
  34. nadia grazielle oliveira vieira Post author

    Justin. What if the singer is also a rapper? Rappers talks too much in theirs songs . Might this cause some damage to the singer/rapper voice ? How to deal with this ?

    Reply

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