The Air/Muscle Equation

One of the issues related to singing comfortably throughout your range is the balance between air and muscle. 

In order to make sound, the air from your lungs hits your vocal cords, and then muscles in your throat work to make that air vibrate.  If you have too much air coming through your vocal cords, the sound will be breathy (or in the extreme you will literally just hear air being exhaled) – if this happens too much, the vocal cords can dry out and strain can occur. If there is too much muscular work going on this can also cause strain.   So you need to have a balance between the amount of air flow and the amount of muscular activity.

In the image below, the air flow is too much for the muscles to cope with and your voice will sound breathy.

This sound can be used a style aid (think Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday), but you want to be able to control it so that you’re not damaging your voice. 

If your voice tends to sound a bit Marilyn Monroe, try this:

First of all say ‘nah nah nah’ the way children say it when teasing each other – this sound reduces the amount of air flow.  Then sing Happy Birthday using the same sound, really make it nasty!

Your voice should no longer sound breathy.

The next image shows that the amount of muscle activity is too much compared to the air flow:

In this case your throat may feel constricted, especially when singing higher notes, and you may feel you need to shout to reach the desired pitches.  In this case try:

First, say ‘woo, woo, woo’ while punching the air as if in celebration.

Then sing Happy Birthday using the same woo sound – more air will be coming through and it should feel easier and more relaxed than normal.

The next image shows a perfect balance between air and muscle – the optimum position.  Hopefully if you normally experience either one of the imbalances above, and you tried the exercises, you felt your voice moving more toward this position.

Please add comments to this blog and let me know how your voice feels in relation to this– I’d like to be able to help you get closer to the right balance for a healthy voice.

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