Vocal Tension and Decreased Vocal Range

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Anonymous, Eng, Lynn and 6 others

Singing gets frustrating when you cannot attain the tone quality of your voice because of vocal tension. It becomes even painful when your vocal range is restricted. You feel your encumbered singing self is at risk. Where could the problem rise? How can you correct that? You need a tune-up and here's how to beat vocal tension and improve your vocal range.

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How do you know you have vocal tension?

  • When you are struggling to reach high notes or having shortness of breath quickly, it is likely a singing tension related problem.
  • When all the muscles in your neck, throat, jaw, tongue, lips face, abdomen and torso tighten up when you sing a very high note.
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Causes of Vocal Tension

Vocal Posture

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  • Vocal tension arises mainly from undisciplined vocal technique.
  • People sing with their swallowing muscles engaged; that is, the sound they emit becomes strained and unpleasant.
  • The outer larynx (swallowing muscles) engages when too much or not enough air pressure is used to keep the cords together.
  • Since the vocal cords are unable to hold in sync for that certain range in one's voice, the larynx outer muscles take over and try to keep them.
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As a singer you must realize that the outer muscles of your larynx are incompetent in sustaining the cords together; that is why they are outer muscles. The larynx's outer muscles are the proper muscles that you have to use for a tension-free singing.

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If you are singing with tension, your vocal range is decreased. Eliminating this almost doubles your range.

Two ways to help you eliminate vocal tension

  1. 1
    Warm up your voice.
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    It is simple-sounding and regurgitated, and because it seems too simple, you may not be doing it. You merely stand up there and sing away. Spend a 15-minute warm-up on easy scales. This improves your circulation and increases the effectiveness of the inner muscles of your larynx.
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  2. 2
    Use the right singing technique.
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    The right singing technique involves the larynx's outer muscles being relaxed, while the inner muscles are for adjusting the vocal cords when necessary.

    So how do you control the outer muscle and use the inner muscle to get the desired singing voice? The answer to this is to sing high and learn the proper singing techniques, so that you may sing tension free.

    Singers also experience difficulty in singing when a decreased or limit in vocal range happens. Even beginner or amateur singers can learn from these steps to build a strong voice range.
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  3. 3
    A good exercise.
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    If you really desire to sing high with that powerful shrill or low range, incorporate some basic exercises to get the high and low notes.

    For a good high range, learn to go through your chest voice to your head voice without breaking or switching to falsetto. You are capable of doing this. Give it some time.

    It feels easier as you go up. There is no pushing, tight abs or strain in the throat. Just work on being relaxed.
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  4. 4
    Do some exercises to improve circulation and you can also improve the quality of your singing.
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  5. 5
    Be persistence.
    Do not give up on your practice.
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    Doing it regularly keeps you in-tune with your throat muscles.
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Negative effects of singing with tension

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  • It prevents you from reaching your true potential.
  • It's a high note killer.
  • It will affect your breathing.
  • Your tone will suffer.
  • It can lead to vocal disorder.

How to release tension

  1. 1
    To release tension in the neck.
    Gently move head from side to side and back and forth. Get used with the feeling of relaxation. Sing your phrase while doing the head movements. Doing this prevents the muscles in your neck to tense in one position. Another neck exercise is to bend over to allow your head to drop and sway. This is very helpful for the relief of tension in the back of your neck.
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  2. 2
    To release tension in your throat.
    Do the following: Humming, lip rolls, and vocal sighs. These exercises make your throat relaxed and your larynx low. It allows the muscles that manage your vocal cords to synchronize in the right and most efficient manner.
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  3. 3
    To release jaw tension.
    Chewing stretches the muscles that control your jaw, thus allowing for more flexibility.
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  4. 4
    To release tongue tension.
    Put out your tongue as far as you can and hold it out for five seconds. Repeat three times. This is to stretch the roof of your tongue, which is responsible for most tongue tension.

    Hold the tip of your tongue with your fingers and try to sing your phrase with as much clarity as possible. It stops your tongue from pulling back into your throat and adds clarity to your tone.
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  5. 5
    To release lip tension.
    Do lip rolls. Do the "Brrrr" sound that makes your lips vibrate. This is not possible with tense lips, so when your lips vibrate, it means you have released the tension.
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  6. 6
    To release your abdomen tension.
    Stretch down on the floor and put an object on top of your stomach. The goal here is to make the object jump up and down as you breathe in and out. Achieving this means your diaphragm is descending. It is important to do an exercise like this to improve one's breathing. Do not tense your abs to make your breathing possible. Try panting like a dog. Your stomach heaves up and down as you pant.
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Try to include these exercises in your everyday vocal routine to get the most out of your voice.

Vocal range

  • This is the gauge of the extent of pitches that a human voice can phonate.
  • It is used as one of the major elements involved in determining a person's voice type.
  • Voice types for females are the soprano, mezzo-soprano and contralto, while for males, they are the countertenor and tenor, baritone and bass.
  • Vocal range is simply the extent to which a voice can produce, from the lowest to the highest note.

Problems are encountered when singers thought they are experiencing a decrease in their voice range, be it high or low voice type classification.

  • A decrease in a singer's vocal range can be a result of voice setting and maturing.
  • Singing high or low notes. The main reasons why you cannot sing high or low notes:
    • Wrong technique
    • Too much weight in your voice
    • Lack of air
    • Fear of singing high or low
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Here are ways to help improve your voice range

  • Work closely with a voice teacher who can listen to your voice and can offer tips to help you expand your vocal range.
  • To hit the highest notes if you are a soprano, you need to sing in either your mixed voice or head voice. Most singers sing in chest voice throughout their entire vocal range. This prevents them from reaching their highest notes. If you do this, you automatically cut your vocal range in half, and that can result in a big decrease in upper vocal range.
  • Do the "lip roll" exercise, which is one of the most effective exercises ever designed.
  • Always warm up always before starting the actual exercise. Vocalize.
  • Practice all types of scales that go through your entire vocal range. This can gradually strengthen both your current vocal range and its boundaries.
  • Hum while practicing the scale mentioned. This has been found to be an effective exercise, especially for high pitched notes.
  • Challenge your voice range. Push a little more on the boundaries of your pitch once in a while, but not too much. Overdoing may give you a hoarse voice at the end of the practice time.
  • Sing it right. Proper breathing with the diaphragm supports your singing.

You have a God-given talent and a gift of voice, but you also have to learn to take care of it. Always take into account your physical limitations.

Questions and Answers

Excessive vocal tension (kind of dysphonic)?

Hi,I have been suffering from excessive vocal tension for the last three years which has mainly formed due to incorporating bad techniques in singing. No organic damage (been through all sorts of tests) but the vocal therapists can't help. Its unilateral and with deep breaths I find release a bit as my right nasal pathway (parallel to my right side vocal tension) doesn't seem to take in air freely as compared to left nasal cavity.. I have tried: Plethora of exercises, voice assessments and also visited to a boatload of vocal therapists but of no help since I lack any kind of physical damage. I think it was caused by: Incorporating bad singing techniques and pushing my voice to hit the high notes.

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How to stop decreasing of vocal range?

Last week I can sing a high note but not too high, but now this week I can't!!!. I have tried: I tried and tried but I can't sing high notes. I think it was caused by: I don't know

You will need to prepare your vocal cords for singing. Choose food and drinks recommended by artists and determine the factors that might have affected you voice. Eliminate any of the factors and give your vocal folds some time to recover: do not speak loudly or do not even speak at all until it is required. From drinks, choose only warm water with a tablespoon of honey or prepare licorice root tea. Practice daily at the same time, preferably 2 hours after you wake up. Wear scarf all of the time and hire a vocal teacher of your music genre at least for a couple of exercises to observe your techniques of singing high notes: maybe the technique is overstraining the vocal cords.

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Why am I staining my neck?

My neck area is always stiff and under my jaw hurts after I sing

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HOW do I reduce throat tension on the outer muscle?

I try to stop tensing, but I cannot do so. This takes away my chord closure and makes me break fall apart into falsetto as I try to sing somewhat high

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It has been determined that stuttering is caused by tension in the vocal chords?

Any ideas on how to permanently remove that tension?

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How come some days its easier to hit my higher range, and the other days I just suck?

I smoke cigarettes 1 pack in 2 days. I know I should quit but I just hope I don't have nodes.. I have tried: Vocal exercises, warm tea, and other things.. I think it was caused by: Smoking or improper singing? I'm not 100%

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My daughter is a dancer. She has tension and shallow breathing. What can she do to relax and breathe deeper?

When she sings there is so much tension in her throat and neck. She has lost her confidence. Stopped practicing and of course the result is her voice is getting more tense when she does sing.. I have tried: Relaxing exercises, voice lessons, and warm ups. I think it was caused by: Lack of confidence in vocal ability, training as a dancer - i.e. holding her breathe in, now afraid she will have a voice crack. She has had stage fright a couple of times in auditions, so more tense fearing that may occur again.

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Was intrigued with the reference to tension in inner or outer larynx muscles?

My throat started regularly tightening up whilst singing, speaking and occasionally whilst doing nothing at all. Tube down the throat took photos, all healthy there. Was treated for silent reflux to rule it out. I still seem to be getting what I call a throat cramp. I do have a type of dystonia which affects my eyes and face and was worried its gone south to the larynx. Perhaps if I get a better gauge of which muscles I am engaging (along with correct breath control of course) I could improve? Have had to cancel all gigs. Very frustrated. Does the humming for example focus on engagement of the outer larynx muscles the article suggests we should be using? I have tried: Treated for silent reflux which has stopped me needing to clear my throat in the mornings, humming instead of singing. Cancelling singing work. Avoiding speaking at length. No speaking over background noise. Plenty of sleep and hydration which I was getting anyway. Making sound through a drinking straw. Camera down the throat ruled out anything sinister. I think it was caused by: I can't point at one thing but my throat did start to feel dryer than usual whilst doing my singing work preceeding this issue (as if I could never sip enough water) but I was perfectly hydrated. One venue has an air conditioning vent aimed right at the stage!!. Since then, a customer told me she saw a lot of mould on the ceiling in an upper level of the club. Also I had a very tense month beforehand in the lead up to losing the family dog of 15 years. If it is the dystonia then I would require Botox injections which I would only do as a very last resort.

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Recent edits by: Doug Collins, VisiHow, dham504

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