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Cause of neck muscle tension/soreness?

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Wildcat
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This hasn't happened to me that much, but recently I've been having a ton of soreness in my neck muscles (it's around my sternocleidomastoid and trapezius muscles) while and after singing, often continuing for the rest of the day. I feel like it has to do with my inhalation/exhalation. I've been making minute changes to my technique and I have no idea what to trace the problem back to. Anyone have any ideas? Thanks.

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Yes, it's definitely a support or breathing issue.

1. About 14 months. I've worked with Brett Manning's stuff, Jaime Vendera's, CVT's, and a bunch of others. I've gone from capping off at a strained G4 to being able to sing reliably up to E5 from A#2, though I've vocalized up to C6.

2. It's happened a few times before, but this case happened just this last week.

3. I feel the tension the most at soft volumes, below speech level volume, when I'm trying to do the bare minimum to make a sound. I actually think that it doesn't happen at higher volumes.

4. Yes

5. Nope, my inhalation is just a mental relaxation now. It used to be forced but I am able to just mentally think relax and I will take in an adequate, but not extravagant amount of air.

6. Good question. I can, especially when I get into the song or have a very rhythmic practice scale, but I think it would be a good idea to practice with my head moving. My favorite vowel is CVT curbing's O, as in good or woman.

My chest and shoulders do not rise on an inhale, but I have been known to have tense shoulders, even if they are not raised...gotta sort that out somehow. Often I have had jaw tension, but I am aware of it and immediately correct it, but it definitely could be related to a support issue.

I've been working on using a minimal breath support, so that when I want to sing more "chilled-out" songs I don't have to sound like I'm going all the way. Perhaps I'm reducing it too much.

Also a thing that's been bothering me is an inconsistency in my singing voice and speaking voice. My speaking voice, if I am not conscious of controlling it, is expressive and has a nice upper ring to it, and I lose this while singing. I find my resonance gets really throaty and I think trying to get back to the speaking "placement" is causing extrinsic muscles to activate to compensate. Sometimes I can get it spot on and have the resonance and bite I want without having to think about it.

So there's a huge web of issues ranging from mental to support to relaxing and maintaining resonance.

Thanks for asking those questions! In the least, they've definitely helped me gain some insight on myself, though I have little idea on how to get back to a place of balance.

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Yeah, definitely, the feeling of release in the voice, especially in notes I thought I would never reach is phenomenal!

BTW, when you practice, you might want to consider vocalizing a bit with your hand around your neck so that you can feel the first instant when you start to strain. It's also a great reminder to relax when you end up feeling those more subtle areas of strain, where it's much easier to address.

Ah! Yes, I was doing this earlier today before I decided to make this thread. Along with a lengthy massage of the sides and back of my neck, I feel a ton better now, despite there being a slight lingering ache. For some reason massaging my shoulders has never crossed my mind, and I'll definitely try that.

I'm at my school dorm now, drowning in midterms, but I go home every weekend to practice medium and full voice, along with practicing for acoustic performances with a friend of mine. I love vocalizing while driving, haha, it's like I'm in my own world. Often I find if I'm distracted by streetlights or traffic and I'm doing scales along to a CD in the background, I feel no tension, and I hear a nice, free tone, even though my focus is elsewhere. It's as if I'm hearing someone else's voice because my focus on driving has shifted my awareness away from me doingthe "act of singing." I really find this interesting, and it really makes me wish I was a psychology major instead of a sociology major.

So since I don't have my recording stuff with me I don't necessarily have any of me speaking, and even if I tried to, I'd have to catch myself offguard without "trying to speak," which undermines the freedom. I do have some recordings of singing, and they are somewhat old (last fall and this January are big leaps of time considering it's only been over a year for me since I even started singing. I was scared of it at first, lol, so I didn't even try prior). They don't display the freedom that I have now, but they are more reminiscent of my speaking voice than my singing now. I've been trying to add darkness to my voice without losing the brightness.

The last two songs on the list have me singing in them, and I'm aware now of some vowels and some pulling/constriction and other things that I wasn't knowledgeable of at the time. Listen to the "Eight Days A Week" cover and in the high background vocals I do there's a "me" that sounds like it's really "covered" in classical terms. Sometimes I have to resort to that to avoid straining in higher areas, but it also prevents me from comfortably going higher at the same time.

I'm definitely learning more about my voice each day, but consistency is what's killing me. Sometimes I'll have everything just set and I could just strum away and sing some Bon Jovi or Journey (in my own style of course) and it'd feel like nothing. Other days, my voice doesn't want to get out of bed.

Edit: I have some other things

http://www.box.net/shared/y475j62q5j <- Doing things like this often can cause my muscles around my vocal tract to be sore. This was a really quiet hum, and then opened mouth, with some kind of O to Oh vowel, close to the mic

http://www.box.net/shared/90ftgry661 <- Doing some random high notes/screams on no particular scale. Too much reverb, though, and I sound really slippery at some points, teeter-tottering on a bridge.

I've been watching Singing Success TV videos since they had a 50% off sale a couple weeks ago, and there are students in some of the videos who have the same problem with me in consistency, especially in that of upper resonances. According to the SS coach, they were not "blowing enough air" through the length of the vocal range. I KNOW that I do this, as I instinctively hold back more and more air as I go higher, causing me to squeeze. I've been really working on trying in the past two weeks to get a consistent and appropriate flow of air, along with cord closure, throughout my range, so that it won't collapse on me.

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Yes, in those clips I definitely had a problem letting my jaw drop, and I've only recently realized its importance in easy singing.

I've done staccato Ah and Uh exercises and sometimes I can do them very cleanly, with a nice slight fry before each, and other times I can definitely feel that tug of war you describe combined with tongue tension, leaving the sound feeling like it's dull and stuck in the lower part of the throat. I will try to get a clip when I can, but I'd really like to thank you for all of your responses! I also checked out your site and will be browsing around it :)

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Yes, in those clips I definitely had a problem letting my jaw drop, and I've only recently realized its importance in easy singing.

I've done staccato Ah and Uh exercises and sometimes I can do them very cleanly, with a nice slight fry before each, and other times I can definitely feel that tug of war you describe combined with tongue tension, leaving the sound feeling like it's dull and stuck in the lower part of the throat. I will try to get a clip when I can, but I'd really like to thank you for all of your responses! I also checked out your site and will be browsing around it :)

excellent suggestions dante...may i offer a suggestion? again, i'm not a teacher, just a singer.

wildcat, when you do those "ah" as in "father" scales, as you go higher, depending on your voice, around the e and the f4, make sure to turn the "ah"slighty into an "oh" and when you get near b flat or so, try to modify to an "uh" as in "look"....these vowel modifiers help release your voice as you ascend.

makes the changes very subtle. see if that dosen't release your voice up in the higher notes. it takes a little practice.

and be nice and opened for "ah" i call it my base vowel (more open than you think).

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I have been working with the Y consonant, as I find it encourages jaw tension, as you said, and also a more comfortable closure of the folds.

Anyways, I know I said weekend, but I was a little busy taking care of my girlfriend who has a terrible flu.

http://www.box.net/shared/mig9i1gjm0 <- Peter Frampton's "Baby Love Your Way." I like this one the best of my clips because I was able to pull off a husky, raspy tone. There's some mic distortion, but I find it easy to make a "hoarse" sound in my midrage without feeling any pain. In fact it feels easier

http://www.box.net/shared/my5cld7ztb <- Muse's "Starlight." I tried to sing this one a little more chesty, with a heavier phonation

http://www.box.net/shared/mrt42hcb5a <- Journey's "Lights." I'm not so happy with this one. I tried to sing more lightly, as if I was speaking, so to speak. I was a little shaky and I still had some jaw tension, but I was able to release for the most part on the high B4

edit: I forgot to do the staccatos. will get to them at some point.

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Hi - I haven't got round to doing a short teaching video on shoulders yet, but in the meantime, you might want to take a look at these two for helping your neck:

ALIGNING THE NECK FOR SINGING

FREEING THE NECK

Cheers. Alexander

http://www.OxfordSingingLessons.co.uk

http://www.youtube.com/voicewisdom

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Hi - I haven't got round to doing a short teaching video on shoulders yet, but in the meantime, you might want to take a look at these two for helping your neck:

ALIGNING THE NECK FOR SINGING

FREEING THE NECK

Cheers. Alexander

http://www.OxfordSingingLessons.co.uk

http://www.youtube.com/voicewisdom

Hey Alex, I'm wildcataosw on youtube, the one who referred to to this forum haha. I've checked your videos and I really like the ones on the neck. I can relax the muscles with your exercises, but the next step for me is carrying over those exercises to maintain the condition of the muscles while singing. One idea that I found particularly helpful from you was the long, tall neck, in order to release the muscles. While I'm at my computer, driving, and so on, I try to maintain that position as much as I can without trying to force it. I guess that goes over to your idea in the other thread of carrying over singing habits to non-singing situations.

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