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Try to ensure that you are relaxed before you commence practising your vocal exercises.  Do not hunch up your shoulders, drop or raise your chin and clench your jaw.

When looking in a mirror your stance should be upright with your shoulders relaxed, hands loosely by your side, eyes looking straight ahead with your chin at a normal angle.

Many singers make the mistake of presuming they must also be facial contortionists but this is not true - a good singer is one who looks and sounds natural.  The vocal chords are horizonally aligned in a small space - it is not necessary to use anything more than good supported breathing and normal face shapes to produce a good vocal sound, in fact when singing simply, your vocal tract (the resonator) need do no more work than it would take to mouth the words without sound.

Perhaps you have seen your favourite artist move their head, neck or body in an unusual manner and you are attempting to emulate their movements and style - DON'T!!  It is important that you learn how to sing correctly and not develop bad habits that may not only hinder your progress but also damage your vocal chords.  Once you have mastered your breathing and voice THEN you can start to play around with various styles, performance techniques etc., but DO make sure you use a mirror, tape recorder or video when rehearsing, it will show you how the movements you make affect your singing and how you would look to an audience.

Having problems relaxing your throat muscles? Practice the following exercises breathing normally at all times:-

Drop your chin to your chest and slowly raise it towards the left shoulder, return to the center looking straight ahead, then move your head to your right shoulder, drop the chin slowly towards the shoulder and roll gently back to the start position - repeat in reverse (roll to right, across to left, drop slowly to centre).

Tip your head back gently and look up, slowly move your head back to its normal position then drop the head slowly down towards the chest - drop your shoulders and relax to a count of 3 then raise your head slowly back to its normal position.

HUM - practise humming with your mouth open and closed.

Chewing Technique
Practice the motions of chewing in an exaggerated manner and then gradually, over time, add random sounds, words, phrases, sentences, and conversation while slowly reducing the degree of exaggeration of the mouth movements. This exercise helps to release excess tension in the vocal tract and laryngeal area and if done correctly encourages mouth opening and reduction of tensions in the jaw.

Keep it Simple! Don't try to complicate singing - Be natural!!

Also Read
Accessing Head Voice by Steven Fraser
Insights on singers expectations and advice on the process of using the head voice.

Falsetto by Sharon Szymanski
Using falsetto as a means of accessing head voice for male voices.

Releasing Tension by Karen Mercedes
Provides helpful advice and tips for hitting the high notes.

Tension related Q & A in the Frequently Asked Questions Section

Listening back to a recording of myself singing I've noticed that I tend to sound like I'm singing through my nose, especially when going to lower notes. It makes my voice very flat and irritating to listen to, why am I doing this?.

Vocal Health Q & A

Tension Links

These are just a small example of the extensive links to online exercises and lessons we have available in the Singers Articles section, which contains complete listings of lessons, exercises or articles available on each site with direct links to the page (when not a framed site) plus answers to pretty much everything a beginner, intermediate, advanced singer or teacher needs to know! (All links open in a new window).

Audiology & Speech Pathology
(.pdf documents) on speech and singing written by Raymond H. Colton, PhD from the Department of Otolaryngology & Communication Sciences includes Voice Misuse and Abuse: Effects on Laryngeal Physiology plus a selection of other related articles by various authors available from the Journal of Voice.

Constrictor / Tongue Relaxation Exercises And Tips
Article and exercises from Vocal Focus.

Bluegrass & Dexterity
Vocal Point, advice on targeting and releasing primary tension areas including exercises by Dede Wyland at iBluegrass.com

Exercises to relieve jaw stress
Vocal Point, exercises and advice on relieving tension by Dede Wyland at iBluegrass.com

The Role of F0 in Vowel Perception
article by Stockholm University show the degree of openess and production of vocal tension using diagrams and sound samples in .AIF, .AU and .WAV formats.

Get Rid of Unwanted Tension
Vocal Point, advice on causes and exercises for relieving tension by Dede Wyland at iBluegrass.com

Intonation
Information at Wikipedia.

Releasing A Tight Jaw
Advice from Canadian teacher Joel Katz at the Voice and Opera Training Blog.

Singing on Your Speaking Level
Vocal Point, advice and exercises to aid in releasing tension in the throat by Dede Wyland at iBluegrass.com

Training the Out-of-Tune or Uncertain Singer
advice including pitch, tension, hearing impairments plus exercises aimed at teachers of young choral students.

A critical view of the yawn-sigh as a voice therapy technique
By Boone DR, McFarlane SC, Department of speech and hearing sciences, university Arizona, Tucson



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