Unlocking Vocal Strength
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Do you listen to artists and recognise them singing in low notes and high notes? Perhaps you're familiar with the terms 'chest voice' and 'head voice' or 'low vocal registers' and 'high vocal registers'? You might also know of the terminology 'thick' and 'thin' vocal folds (cords). Sometimes when we sing low notes they resonate from our chest area, hence the name 'chest voice'. A 'head voice' note generally feels like it's coming from the head area, or from the neck up.
Have you been told that only weak singers use their 'head voice'? Or maybe you've determined that for yourself and come to this conclusion from listening to the radio and hearing artists belt out high notes without singing in a 'high' voice.
Whether you've decided it for yourself or been told this by someone else, there is nothing wrong with using your high vocal range in head voice. It sounds beautiful, it sounds powerful, and it gives you that dynamic edge, that 'they are an amazing singer' reputation! The idea that only weak singers use their head voice is incorrect. Think about artists like Justin Timberlake, Katie Noonan, Adele, Jeff Buckley, Kate Miller-Heidke, and Joni Mitchell. They have powerful and controlled voices and they sing from low to high notes, utilising both 'chest' and 'head' voice, in one phrase. You might even say they have a strong voice and are strong singers.
Your high voice may sound weak, or others you've heard may sound weak, because they are singing with a breathy tone. You've simply got to practice unlocking your solid tone and strengthening your voice. I say simply, it does take a lot of work, but it's fun work!
When we're talking about solid sounds and breathy sounds we're describing how your vocal cords are touching. When someone is singing breathy what you're hearing are the vocal cords not touching fully. A solid singing voice sounds controlled because it is. It's a hard skill to master and if you naturally sing like this my hat goes off to you! Some great examples of breathy singing are singers like Billie Eilish, Shawn Mendes, and Angus & Julia Stone.
To get a clear idea of what a solid tone is listen to songs like 'The story of tonight' from Hamilton and 'You can't stop the beat' from Hairspray. In popular music, artists like Lady Gaga and Michael Bublé are quite solid in their tone.
You can practice unlocking your solid sound by starting on very small sirens on a single note where you have an existing solid sound. Perhaps your speaking voice is solid, this would be a great starting place. Simply say the word 'yea' but once you pronounce the 'ea' sound sustain the pitch. It might sound a bit like a drawl, but once you have this elongated vowel bend your voice upwards or downwards doing your best to maintain the control of the solid sound. You might notice your voice swapping into a breathy tone as you bend your voice upwards. If this happens return to the starting 'yea' and move up slower, focusing on maintaining that solid tone. It will be a mental challenge because you will be exercising restraint and control in an area of your body you cannot physically see.
If you consistently have a dry throat after speaking for more than a few minutes you may have a naturally breathy timbre, so this may not work for you. If you identify with this, it might be beneficial for you to work on strengthening your speaking voice to avoid having a dry throat.
Enjoy the process of strengthening your voice. It takes time so be patient with yourself and be kind to yourself.