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Descreasing Tension at The Onset

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Hey all, how do you decrease bad tension at the onset of a note? As in how do you help ensure that your voice is operating in a gentle but effective manner (not onsetting too hard). I sometimes feel tension when practising onsets, are there any ways to "ease" the pressure and relax tension in the throat?

Hope you can help!

-JayMC

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My guess it constricting/blowing too hard. My voice naturally float high but the pressure seems a lot to deal with.

The quack and release works really well only after I do some real semi-occluded work before hand.

haaaaa-mmm-eee kind of reduces a lot of tension for my onsets, at any part of the range. But again its no staccato exercise, that seems to cause more pressure/tension.

I can do ha-ha-ha or hee-hee-hee somewhat fine but it gets much more difficult in the higher registers. Ha-ha-ha then feels too heavy/strained and a straigt ah-ah-ah feels very forced. What would be a good approach to help ease this up?

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Usually, most people use tension as they try to keep their cords closed. Playing around with head voice is really your friend in this. Keep working with head voice resonance everyday. And when you sing, put your hand on your neck over the largest area you can, and try to make your neck feel completely relaxed against your hand.

If you feel tension on your hand and your neck, then you are pushing too much. Pushing/projecting, actually makes it harder to sing, even if it doesn't sound that way. Your voice is already tight enough as it is, so you have to focus on 'opening up' the voice, lifting the tension, blending the head voice, lightening phonation. Whatever you want to call it.

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Thanks DoverOs, that advice is golden. Opening up the voice will often lead to a resonant "falsetto" but I feel way less tension now.

Putting hand on my neck and literally feeling for soft relaxation is a wonderful tip and helped decrease some tension. The hhh- onset also worked well in combination with this! Thanks guys.

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For constricting/blowing too hard, the "h" onset, mesa di voce onset (gradually modify from falsetto to twang), or a really light fry onset, would probably be the best choices. Start with just the "h" onset though, it is super effective. Both that and the fry onset can be done in staccato.

If "ha" and "ah" both don't feel right, maybe you need a balance between them. Try "ma". Any semi occluded onset should help you find a comfortable balance. You could also consider "(h)a" - the silent h. The silent h is tricky. It's like you think an h but you don't actually make the sound of it. The resulting sound should be neither a glottal attack nor a windy onset. It will be like a smoothed out glottal attack, you won't hear any click or wind.

By the way, don't practice high notes if you seem to be straining on them on all onsets no matter what. In that case it's not the onset that's the problem. It's usually a lack of strength in some area (which the body will want to compensate for by constricting) or the wrong throat configuration. In many cases it's something that needs time to develop, so be patient.

A general guide I go by personally to know if I am singing too high for my capability is if I look in the mirror and I can see neck muscles contracting outside the larynx (it will look not like one smooth larynx, but a bunch of vertical ridges around it) I shouldn't be singing that note. I am not sure if that applies to everybody. I just know that for me, the existence of that muscular look in the neck is directly correlated with when I feel strain, provided I am not mentally ignoring it (thus the mirror check).

Never go more than one note past your highest comfortable note when practicing. Nothing wrong with a slight push, but anything more could do more harm than good.

What about a vein coming out on one side? I never have anything in the larynx area but I have been going by the vein and perhaps that is too cautious. What are your thoughts on that?

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I'm not the one to ask, I'm not a vocal teacher. But I have seen a lot of great (albeit untrained) singers with the vein thing, so I think that can pass as normal.

I also think going by the digastric muscle is way too cautious.

Can it be acceptable for the digastric muscle to tighten? I feel like for a lot of singers, a bit part of their tone is due to technical "flaws" like this, and you may not be able to find a similar tone without adopting similar "bad" habits. Personally I think my voice sounds the most beautiful when I am the most free of strain, but then you see singer after singer selling records with strained (yet appealing) voices; great sound on the record and radio, but they can't do it on the road.

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Can it be acceptable for the digastric muscle to tighten? I feel like for a lot of singers, a bit part of their tone is due to technical "flaws" like this, and you may not be able to find a similar tone without adopting similar "bad" habits. Personally I think my voice sounds the most beautiful when I am the most free of strain, but then you see singer after singer selling records with strained (yet appealing) voices; great sound on the record and radio, but they can't do it on the road.

Excellent post.

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Er...yes they can. Most of them. There's a certain level of strain a voice can handle. Some people have really strong voices and can strain like there's no tomorrow.

I think it's totally acceptable for the digastric muscle to tighten. It causes no audible signs of constriction...so, it's safe to say it is not really doing anything other than perhaps raising the larynx, controlling pitch, stuff like that. Standard necessary vocal functions.

I would bet money that nearly all of the singers we look up to have some tension there. People performing on national television, touring the world, and being played 5 times a day on the radio...most of them didn't have much formal training so we can assume their digastric muscle is going full force...so what?

And I'm convinced that powerful high notes simply do not exist without it. Same with the whole neutral larynx myth, if you do that you will lose range, period. These ridiculous tactics are precisely why SLS singers can't even get their voices to project at an acceptable performance volume most of the time, let alone belt. They're putting limits on themselves that have nothing to do with the real reasons people get vocal damage; they're handicapping their own ability.

What are those real causes of vocal damage? How bout: smoking, alcohol, overuse, dehydration, overuse, lack of warm up/warm down, etc. etc... pulling chest too high is just one out of those big list. And some people have successfully done multiple of those things with no damage. Dave Grohl comes to mind. So it also depends on the strength of the singer.

I see what you're saying. If there isn't constriction, then it's probably okay to have the digastric muscle do its thing.

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