It's every singers worst nightmare.
Can you imagine performing in front of a crowd and right at the climax of the song you know that money-note in the Chorus and your voice cracks?
Ok, let's not go there.
But the truth is, this is a very common source of frustration for singers. The dreaded Vocal Break. Or the part of your voice that cracks/flips/changes gears into a horribly weak and thin sound. The part of the voice where you lose connection.
What many singers don't realize is that there are common technical mistakes that almost every singer is making that causes this sudden break/flip in the voice. When these mistakes are understood, it is the first very important step towards fixing the problem.
Do you want to have the confidence to know that every time you get up to perform that you're going to nail those money-notes and wow your audience?
This confidence comes from knowing what mistakes you're making and then employing the correct tactics to fix them.
Below are what I've found in my experience as a Singer trying to overcome my vocal break and as a Vocal Coach helping countless others overcome theirs, the Top 4 mistakes that cause singers to crack and some simple tactics to overcome them.
Mistake #1: Pulling chest voice up
Most singers, especially those without formal singing training, approach high notes trying to push their chest voice further and further up in their range. This only causes a thickening of the vocal cords which adds pressure continually. Once the pressure is too much, the voice explodes or breaks causing the cords to thin out and therefore the resulting weaker sound.
Tip: Whenever you start to feel yourself straining up for higher notes, STOP. Instead let your voice go where it wants to go naturally even if it initially sounds a little weak in your ears. Doing this will allow what you perceive as the weaker part of the voice to strengthen without adding constriction and closure to your throat. Remember that straining and tension will never help you sing as tense muscles absorbs your sound
Mistake #2: Singing on the throat
The second mistake pertains to resonance. Most singers will break dramatically because they are not placing their voice higher in the mask (behind the nose). As a result their sound does not travel forward as it should but stays stuck in the throat. This causes a dramatic crack in the voice because once again tension builds, causing constriction and limiting the voice to move freely through the vocal break
Tip: Rather than rely on the small muscles in your throat and put pressure on them train your larger abdominal and diaphragmatic muscles and sing with support. Practice low breathing that sees the abdomen fill up like a balloon and the expansion of the ribs when inhaling. This will adequate breath support will free up your throat and allow your voice to freely move between registers
(Check out my video on how to employ correct breathing technique to help you further)
Mistake #3: Singing too heavily in their low-mid range
A common habit that singers have is that in order to compensate for what they perceive as a weak high voice, they tend to belt out their low notes with gusto all the time! This means that they are unknowingly creating a greater chasm between their low chest voice notes and their high head voice notes, accentuating and reinforcing the vocal break
Tip: Singing lighter in the chest range so that you can even out the sound between the two vocal registers. Practice descending arpeggio scales that start from your head voice range and come down into your chest range. As you come down try to keep the sound as even as possible
(Here's another video with a specific exercise to help you further with this one)
Mistake #4: Singing too lightly and breathy in their high range
The opposite problem to the above mistake is that singers sing way too lightly and breathy in their higher range. Rather than singing with a forward sounding, bell-like tone, it becomes an unsupported and somewhat weak falsetto. This of course accentuates the vocal break more because there is too much difference in the sound compared to your solid chest notes
Tip: Strengthen your head voice and aim to develop a fully resonating bell-like sound in your upper ranges.
(And here's a video with some exercises to help you further)
Understanding the mistakes we make is the first step towards improvement and progress. Next time you sing and you find yourself breaking drastically ask yourself Which of these 4 mistakes am I making? then apply the Tip to overcome it. If you fail the first time, keep trying.
The key is to diagnose your problem (i.e. understand the mistake you're making) and then remedy it by using the correct tactic to overcome it.
What tips do you have to share with the singing community about avoiding cracks in your voice? Please share them in the comments below.
For more helpful tips and video tutorials or to enquire about Skype/In-Person Singing Lessons with me, drop by at www.thesongbirdtree.com