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D.Starr
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When singing my neck goes in. I can't stop it.

I inhale on a yawn to relax everything and keep open but when I sing no matter how much I relax it still goes in.

Any way to stop this? I'm choking in my passaggio.

I've tried to dump the larynx, has no effect on my neck muscles.

[EDITED CHECK LATEST POST #31]

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D. Starr, has this been a problem from the start or has it happened recently from technique experimentation?

If you've always had this problem, Passaggio is hard for most anyone who hasn't trained a fair amount and navigating it comfortably is pretty advanced stuff. If the problem is only there, it isn't an immediately worrisome problem because people usually have to do 'something' there (falsetto, louder, curbing, twangy, whatever) and you need very good breath support all working together perfectly to bridge into there comfortably.

If this problem is new, then we need to look at what you've been doing with your voice and see if you can undo any bad habits you might have picked up. This is one of those situations I wish I was more experienced so I could help better. Any sort of tension sucks and I know this all too well. What I've had people say to me is the more people focus on tension, it's possible to have a negative feedback loop, where worrying about it can make it worse (stress brings tension, tension brings stress, etc). Since I can't completely stop mine, I'll often try to just 'not think about it.' It doesn't 'fix' it per say, but I'd say it helps some.

That said, I'm wondering if you could record something, or specify where the tension is happening (high, low, center, sides). In general, this is why I kind of like the 'out of sight, out of mind' kind of approach classical takes to the neck and throat. While there are cool tricks people can do to increase their range and improve their tone, when you have people messing around with this stuff, they become aware of things that for most people are completely subconscious. Without the right teacher and the right practice, sometimes ignorance can be bliss. I'm at a point now where I'm basically obligated to study my voice, but only because I hope it might help me one day understand or fix my voice problems.

If you can get a really, really good teacher I'm sure it helps this process so much. I know the sound you want, and it could be tricky getting there. It sounds very relaxed, smooth and almost as easy as talking, but in reality it's extremely difficult to do because you need to support your breath perfectly and hold in the cry at the softest possible volume while not constricting a non operatic throat! Singing with this tone quietly is actually much harder for many people than singing relatively loudly in passaggio.

If you're feeling stressed out or worried, maybe just take a day off from singing and give your voice some rest and your mind some rest. Take it from someone who's been through a whole lot of tension and pain. If you want to get where you want to go, you've gotta take care of yourself and part of that is going to be taking a step back from whatever it is you want to achieve now and then, and asking yourself 'how can I best get here?' That desire to 'fix it quick' or like you'll find the right nail to hammer down whatever singing problem you're having, could be your downfall.

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I've pretty much had it from the start. It's as I approach F4, it all just tightens up.

I can comfortably scale and siren on lip bubbles, trills NG, V, TH whatever. But when it comes to singing it, it all falls apart.

My neck sucks right in and I can't seem to relax it, whatever. Twanging, moaning, crying. Nothing.

I have a teacher and he's trying to get me to lighten up as I go up. I'm doing this, but then I totally let go and end up loosing the production of tone. I kinda only get to see him for 30 mins a week. I try my best at home with Pillars, SLS, Mastering the mix, CVT. I can't grasp nothing. I wanna get all this neck tension and straining out the way before I get serious into a program etc. I'm sick of bashing my head against a wall trying to twang, trying to moan/cry.

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What's your lowest note D Starr? It might help a bit to think of your natural range because it might explain some of the additional trouble keeping your voice up there without strain.

For me at my best, healthily and comfortably no matter what: A2 through G4 fuller voiced (under two octaves)

I'd hit the low G in the morning and could hit up to an A above that by pushing chest on a hit or miss basis. The A# above that was a murderously hard note. I remember a David bowie song, "Life on Mars" that I would try to hit that damned note and crash and burn hundreds of times. Anything above that I'd have decent head voice I could use, but that note, ugh!

What I'm getting at, is if your F#4 is more like my G#4 for you (larger voice, etc), it could be totally natural and absolutely something you'll just have to work hard on if you tend to pull chest voice up a lot when singing the bridge. When you do the singing exercises, you might not be pulling chest and doing your lighter singing naturally, so this might be why it doesn't show up there. Actually, I just looked at your 'mum' exercises, it sounds like you are in a relaxed voice (possibly even neutral), but I think people would have to hear you singing a song to know what you do differently, as I can't know.

Anyway, I believe you'll get there, but don't force your progress. I think pacing yourself could be pretty wise. There's a load of difference between singing a song, managing all of the vowels and emotions properly without constriction and doing some controlled siren exercises. You might simply need more practice singing songs.

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Edit:

Oh, I think it might be 'more' helpful to say this not just to you D Starr, but to anyone, especially beginners, when I first started singing a D4 was high pitched for me and I drop C tuned my guitar. So that meant I had a usable range of like one octave and five notes in my chest voice. I gained at least five more from comfortable practice. People have to work hard for their notes. They might find an advanced technique or training that helps, but even that can be tricky, especially by yourself.

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My lowest note is possibly about a D2/E2 and my highest before pulling and straining is about E4/F4.

It's weird, sometimes I can really lighten up at F4 and then come to do it again and it sounds terrible. When I lighten it though it kinda sounds terrible, other times it doesn't.

The thing is, I swear I hit an A4 on this recording. https://www.box.com/s/c9pp8movymqgakxi9yfo

It felt effortless and really bright,I kinda entered my nasal cavities when I sang it. Weird experience.

Never hit it since.

This was hard at first https://www.box.com/shared/ben5td6fkq

But then turned into this https://www.box.com/shared/fzr22ntmk0

TBH it's hard to kinda get that feeling again.

I do find the exercises on scales and sirens to be a lot easier on some things.

Doing them several times does ease things up. Then I go into singing and it all falls apart, strained neck, pulling chest, breathy head voice.

The thing is, because singing is my passion I continue to sing and possibly with extremely bad technique which could end up messing me up for good.

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You see that would explain things. You're naturally lower, so you've gotta use some tricks to get up there comfortably and pushing chest like I did doesn't work as well. You sound like you're curbing in that clip, by the way (ih syllable, cry, etc). Keep in mind, when singing up there you want to feel like the air is shooting 'up' and resonating real good up there.

I doubt your technique is irreparably screwed up or you're in big danger if you take this slow. You have a teacher guiding you right? But you'll have to make a choice between pushing chest more and singing louder vowels (eh sound as in hey), or singing more medium volume like in curbing with the (ih sound) kind of sound like you did there. If you pull the breathy sound out of the mum exercises you had on your scale and add the hold, you'll be closer to this sound.

If your teacher really, truly understands curbing and how to teach it reliably that would help you so much in your goals since that is basically what you want and obviously what your heart is set on. You just need to get that safely and reliably in your sound. It's a tricky thing to manage. I wish I was more qualified, it's a great sound.

Edit:

Ooh, I just caught your problem region. I think you were opening up too wide there in your vowel with a full 'ahhhhh' vowel like you're at the doctor for a checkup. Have you tried modifying your vowels towards a curbing vowel? My memory is foggy, but they are the more mid range vowels, like 'ih and uh.' As you go up in your range, you'll have to change the sound of your vowel more and more away from the extremes to keep the hold.

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Kinda awesome to think I'm curbing. It was so awesome when I sang it, tried it recently and just couldn't do anything of the sort.

No neck tension at all when I did it, no strain.

Yeah I', really breathy on some scales, but if I try and add the hold I end up tensing too much, guess I should play with it really.

Never actually asked my teacher if he knows about curbing, should ask him next time I see him.

Ooh, I just caught your problem region. I think you were opening up too wide there in your vowel with a full 'ahhhhh' vowel like you're at the doctor for a checkup. Have you tried modifying your vowels towards a curbing vowel? My memory is foggy, but they are the more mid range vowels, like 'ih and uh.' As you go up in your range, you'll have to change the sound of your vowel more and more away from the extremes to keep the hold.

So I have to work toward more closed vowels than open vowels?

I've read CVT book loads of times and it's just totally confusing. I like to have a teacher run me through workouts likes Rob, SLS etc.

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Well you want to modify your Eee towards an 'ih' kind of sound. And 'ahhh' towards an uh. Basically, it's kind of like avoiding any of the extremes on either side. You'll narrow the widest, and widen the thinnest as you go up. When you get into the very highest part of your range you'll probably not have that much room to move!

I agree, with the right teacher that's absolutely best. Doing so will likely avoid the big problems. I didn't have a teacher, was completely self taught, and then ran into Speech Level Singing material and online 'advice' from people who hadn't done their research. That's likely why I've got problems.

But you were definitely curbing there in those clips, so that's good, you just need to figure out how to control it and make it comfortable.

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D, whenever you feel stuck, revert back to basics...posture, support, relax the jaw and neck. are you thoroughly warmed up?

are you configuring to a yawn thereby helping to lower the larynx and open the throat?

if you tend to squeeze as you go up in pitch, you have most likely kicked in the consrictor muscles when they need to be relaxed. this raises the larynx and closes off the throat.

you have to get to a point where you have learned to relax in the throat thereby enabling the vocal folds to adjust the pitch unencumbered by tension.

this ability takes time to develop. your box file didn't open. can you send us a song part where it's tough?

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Yeah I warm up enough. I've been playing with vowel modifications and trying to curb etc.

I also yawn as well, helps a lot.

Hmm there's a list of songs I find difficult.

Here's a small list:

(0:18 onwards. If you look at his neck, it doesn't shoot in like mine does. Nice and relaxed)

I know there's a lot of auto-tune in this, but it's still hard.

(0:33-.38 I tend to shout that bit. The chorus is a little high for me too.)

(0:45- I know it's not THAT high, but I always flip to falsetto to compensate for a shit head voice. In a way.

3:35, I can high the cry/moan that I should really try and master.)

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I posted the time marks I find hard in the previous posts with the videos.

i'll take this one...@45 seconds?

"i should have kissed you" the kissed?

not that easy..but you need to know some of the reasons why...

several reasons make it challenging.....the interval leap, and the phrase "i should of" before the "kissed" tends to empty you out of air fast. also, the "k" can stop breath flow and instigate constriction and that's another issue.

for example, if the lyrics were..."i should have loved you" instead of "kissed you" your level of difficulty would drop.

you need a solid low breath before you sing that phrase, and you need to manage the air from expiring too fast on "i should of."

support, support, support..... i'm a firm believer in support.

taking the strain with the lower core muscles diverting tension away from the throat. you need to have your support engaged before you even get to the "kissed" which needs a little more support because it lands right above the break. notes like f sharp (kissed), are those notes where your voice needs to blend chest and head musculatures together. it may be you haven't developed the conditioning yet, or you haven't learned to support the voice well enough.

if you keep up with your vocal exercises you eventually will develop breath management and strength in the break area.

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Hmm I see what you mean.

Describe to me how you support and what you engage. I feel this would help me in this area.

I know I'm asking a lot but what exercises would benefit?

I do lip rolls, NG rolls, sss hiss, top down sirens on OO, EE, OH in head voice

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D Starr, breath support is something I can probably help a bit with. I'll tweak some instructions I gave another poster:

Something you might try as a visualization for breath support, is imagine the sensations you get while inhaling except in actuality you're exhaling freely.

One thing that helped me with the inhale was to take a straw, suck in on the straw very deeply. Get that feeling in the upper abdomen/lower chest (diaphragm) like it's engaging. You should feel your ribs are expanding and you shouldn't feel the need to raise your shoulders as the breath should feel 'low' like it's sinking. Now when you exhale try to keep a similar feeling like you're metering out the air from below like you're still 'engaged.'

Another thing that works for many people, is once you've gotten the inhale right, try a voiceless hissing sound exhale. Sssssssssssssss, metering this out slowly until you run out of air. Keep in mind, no voice on either exercise, these are just breathing exercises.

For me, the combination of both of these exercises gave me 'body awareness' and the ability to do diaphragm breathing on command. Before I found these, I stumbled about in the dark for sometime in confusion because people would make vague statements like 'sing from your tummy' and I'd be sitting there trying to mess with my belly or something like 'what, that's where my stomach is!' The diaphragm is at the bottom of the ribcage. Kind of dome shaped upward.

I agree, it's very hard to just 'do correctly' without some kind of help in getting the body awareness down. Once you get a feel for it, it's demystified quite a bit!

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i just starting reading a great new book from mark bosnian, and the way he describes the feeling of support is this:

try to lift up your left hand (palm up) while you press down with your right hand (palm down). that locking where one hand resists the movement of the other can really feel like support.

d, you gotta take advantage of youtube, there's tons of informative videos, like these

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lllcmHwY9GY&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

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Youtube is great and that video is very good, Bob, but I'd advise to be careful with the source and practice anything in moderation. I recall some of the sound effect exercises, particularly the 'creaky door' exercise (it would be some kind of glottal fry) in particular made me very uncomfortable and was near my voice injury making me feel more strained. I got this exercise I believe from a SLS video.

Anyone can put up a youtube video, and some of the sounds they are making should not be made on a prolonged basis and should be done under careful supervision. The other sound effect exercise, I got from a singing book, a 'gug' which would be a glottal stop was very very near my voice problem. I later read in a review of the book I got the exercise from, that overdoing this exercise can lead to permanent injury. This may or may not be true, but since I now have semi permanent injury, I would be very cautious with sound effect exercises in general.

All I know is I did this exercise like an hour at a time thinking it was the 'best vocal warmup' ever like the author said it was and at one point during singing afterward it felt my throat almost 'gave out' in a painful way from air pressure. This is very hard to explain the sensation, but I immediately knew I did something wrong and abandoned the gug exercise completely afterward. Thing is, it might have been too late as I've been in constant pain since that month or so. This was also the month where I got the tongue stretch exercise, where I felt the popping sensation (same thing, you know you did something wrong when you feel that). These kinds of exercises can be found you know, online, from 'random people' who could be posting youtube videos too.

I think having some professionals and educated people to check in with, and not getting too deep into youtube exercises without verifying first their safety, how long you should be doing them, and having some people around to make sure you're doing them right is very wise to your voice health. Some of the basics, breath support, etc, are good, but in particular I'd be wary of 'weird sound effect scales' if you are an ignorant singer. I'd personally say I believe 'mum mum' is likely fine. Ng, is trickier though I never had any problems, but seriously don't run around trying every weird sound effect thing you hear. If I hadn't done this, I might still have my voice. If you have a very good teacher, who will sit you down and explain exactly how to healthily produce a sound effect (overtwanging, etc) then you can follow that teacher carefully, but my honest belief is some teachers are not really voice experts either. I don't want to drag anyone through the mud, but my theory is the Speech Level Singing branch of pedagogy was implemented without much scientific evidence at all and a lot of what they do can be very 'risky' to singers if misapplied, overused, or used carelessly without adequate instruction and supervision.

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I think it's safe to say I hate any vocal sound effects like the scream, distortion and the likes.

Never liked them at all, yeah they can sound pretty awesome at times, but never floated my boat at all.

I've used Youtube plenty of times, but like I said I'd find a good 10 different videos giving different advice, so I went with each one pretty blind, felt no effect of support and gave up.

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Give that straw idea a try, D Starr. Once you can feel your diaphragm engaging, that's progress. I've taught my friend online this kind of breathing over webcam.

Something about sucking in a controlled, small amount of air in that posture, really helped for me. You said you're the kind of guy that learn best from doing, part of the sensation is like an almost 'suctioning' feeling. Like it 'sucks in deep.'

A lot of the extraneous stuff, maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, it might just be in people's heads, or maybe when they do the 'pretend to be on the toilet' (ala Jamie Vendera) they subconsciously engage something else. I don't know, but getting the diaphragm more engaged will be a great first step since you know, scientifically it's tied pretty squarely into your breathing.

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killer, i apprecaite what you're saying. please don't think i just try everything and anything haphazardly.

i'm agreeing with everything you say.

this polyp experience has taught me how precious the voice is, and i'm not going to find myself in the same place i was 3 long months ago.

i just love learning in general and getting different perspectives. there are a lot (a lot) of you tube videos with no credibility at all, and i stay clear from them.

the whole studying and exercising the voice process i find very enjoyable, interesting and fascinating.

i have learned so much, and i love to learn.

when a credible source like ken tamplin or others post a free video i'm deeply grateful and will watch it even if it's just a tiny new piece to the puzzle or just hearing it explained a certain way that clicks.

i'm back to exercising the voice, no surgery, and believe me i'm going at it nice and slow, nice and easy....lol!!!

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D.Starr,

The neck tension you describe would create all kinds of interfering constrictions. And trying to power your way through them will only make it worse. A couple of things I would suggest are taking some time off. I don’t know if you are practicing everyday a lot or what, but you can wear out your stamina and practicing on weakened muscles can make you strain even more.

The second thing I would try is practicing these difficult parts in CVT neutral without air. Really take the volume down and try not having any leakage. Don’t worry about the sound being good and having to make everything perfect, just focus on keeping your throat opened and relaxed for all the syllables… no airiness. Go slower if it helps, but pay attention to every syllable and focus on fixing anything that feels like it is trying to constrict. Aim for that open throat feeling with the folds in balance with the air (breath support). If it goes off pitch or airy, just go back at it in a relaxed open approach and work out each detail slowly. Getting in a hurry to get to the finish line can really short circuit the process. It helps not to put pressure on yourself and cut yourself slack. Paradoxically, you often progress faster not trying so hard.

If you can get where you do the passage in Neutral in a coordinated way, you can then find the room to lean into the right syllables with curbing or whatever other mode you want to use.

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