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Humans have the vocal cords (vocal folds or voice reeds) that consist of folds of tissues located in the throat. These folds of tissues are responsible for creating sounds via vocalization. The vocal folds’ size affects the voice pitch. The health of the vocal cords also affects the voice. Moreover, these folds of tissues are under constant strain and pressure.
When you speak, for example, you make your vocal cords vibrate to produce your speaking voice. You cause them to vibrate by applying air pressure. Thus, the location of the vocal cords in your throat makes it a target of constant tension.
Once you strain your throat and tighten it, you may unwittingly squeeze these folds of tissues, which makes it hard for the vocal cords to vibrate well and create those high notes. To produce the high notes, you need to lessen your control of these cords and allow these folds of tissues to work on their own.
Another thing that may cause throat tightness is inadequate breath support when one is singing. With inadequate air support, one tends to use the related muscles to support one’s voice. This leads to the onset of throat muscles’ strain.
Causes of Throat Muscles’ Constriction For Singers
Many singers usually experience performance anxiety whenever they would perform. Even the most experienced artists do experience sometimes this type of anxiety. Beset with performance anxiety, the throat muscles referred to as “constrictors” usually tighten and constrict. This makes it difficult for you to sing and reach the high notes.
You have either two courses of action when you experience something like this. You either go on or cancel your performance. Another cause of throat muscles’ tightening is the lack of vocal techniques as well as poor speech habits.
As a rock band vocalist, I often experience performance anxiety before every performance. This is because I do not know when my voice will fail me. Rock songs require intensity and so much pressure on my throat. Hence, there were instances when my throat fails me. Yet, I need to stagger the use of my voice, especially if we have a series of gigs in line.
Performance anxiety is very strong before every performance. Yet, once you get onto the stage and overcome the initial anxiety that besets most singers, then, it immediately goes away.
Sometimes you need to psyche up yourself, telling yourself that you are there on stage to enjoy. It is also good to tell yourself that you have done this before. Hence, you can do it again. You should remember that feeling anxious before a major performance is okay. It may be natural, but you should not let fear stop you from enjoying your performance.
When experiencing throat tightness, you can avoid injury by singing using your diaphragm. Let your diaphragm do the work for you. You should also engage in some preparatory actions to set the vocal cords for the incoming tension.
The throat, of course, is not the sole organ for producing a good voice and reaching notes. There are other organs like the teeth, lips, tongue, and the lungs and diaphragm. You can use the lungs and diaphragm to get to the precise notes while singing.
Important Techniques for Relaxing Your Throat
To assuage the impact of a tensed throat and prevent the throat from constricting, here are some simple tips that you can engage in:
Avoid Singing From the Throat
As mentioned above, different parts of the body contribute together to the production of voice. You need a clear understanding of the voice production process and know where to position your vocal source. This vocal placement is critical to your effective singing.
Experts would advise you not to sing from your throat. They know well that the power behind your voice emanates from your breathing, supported by your diaphragm. They call the process of singing from your diaphragm, “singing from your core.” This lets your vocal cords relax, allowing your voice to resonate well from your chest towards your pharynx and face.
Keep Your Throat Relaxed
Throat constriction is like the feeling that you have when you are eating and trying to swallow what you are eating. When you are attempting to swallow, for example, your throat slightly tightens and constricts. So, when singing, this constricting feeling is the very thing that you would like to prevent from happening.
On the other hand, you would like your throat muscles to feel relaxed. Just try to imagine when you yawn. When yawning, your throat allows more air to your throat. Your throat’s muscles, of course, are at their most relaxed state.
So, this is the feeling that you would like to achieve when you sing. Aspire for this state of relaxation of the throat’s muscles. Soon after, you will find that you can reach high notes if your throat is in its most relaxed state.
Learn Proper Breathing
Breathing is a major factor in proper singing. Hence, at the onset of any voice lesson, proper breathing is inculcated in the minds of students. Breathing from the diaphragm is the most recommended type of breathing. It helps release the vocal cords’ tension and helps relax the vocal cords. You can do this by breathing in with your stomach to enable the vocal cords to correctly open.
As a breathing exercise, it would be good to practice in front of the mirror. Fill up your diaphragm with air when you inhale. You can also practice by putting your hands on your tummy. If you are breathing from your stomach, you will feel that your hands will rise and fall with every breath. As you practice this regularly, it will become second nature to you when you sing. Once this becomes a habit, you will then give constant support for your breath when you sing. It will also help you avoid throat constriction while singing.
Engage in Vocal Warmups Before Singing
To achieve the most relaxed state of your throat, you should engage in vocal warmup exercises. You can do your vocal warmups in front of a mirror to be aware of the movement of your throat’s muscles. As you try to belt the higher notes, you should remind yourself to relax your vocal cords.
Vocal warmups prepare your throat muscles for singing. Just like what athletes do when they warm up their muscles before every game, you should also warm up your throat muscles every time you would have a singing session.
Use Full and Open Singing Voice by Dropping your Larynx
The neck muscles are so constituted for keeping the larynx aloft, and as such, they can prevent you from opening your throat fully. Hence, you should learn how to keep your larynx a bit low and figure out the neutral position of the larynx when you are singing.
Dropping your larynx is not an easy task. It requires practice. You can do it, however, by starting with a yawn. Do not push down your tongue as many would usually do because your larynx will also appear to be pushed down, producing a feeling of muscle tightening underneath your chin. You do not want something like that to happen.
Pushing down is different from dropping down. When you drop, you feel that your tongue is moving forward and not backward. This widens the space between your tongue and larynx. This leads to the dropping down of the bottom part of your larynx.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
Another problem that may lead to throat constriction is dehydration of your throat. So, you must keep your vocal cords hydrated. Water is the best liquid to drink when you feel that your vocal cords are not hydrated. You can also try herbal teas, but you should not drink them too hot, or they may damage or irritate further the vocal cords.
You should drink water not just once but throughout the day. Hydration is not only once. It should be done long before your singing gig. Moreover, it should be done daily. You should also bring with you a bottle of water during your singing sessions and rehearsals.
You should remember that your vocal cords function well when they are properly lubricated. But it is not only your vocal cords that you should keep hydrated. You should also keep your whole body hydrated so that you can stay fit to sing perfectly.
Do Not Forget to Humidify the Studio Where You are Going to Sing or Record
Your lungs are an essential aspect of voice production. So, it is not only a question of hydrating yourself. It is also a question of what type of air you breathe when singing. It is a fact that you cannot directly hydrate your vocal cords because they are not directly in the path of the water that you drink.
However, you can hydrate it by humidifying the air you breathe. Hence, you can boost the power of your voice if you can breathe humidified air. Dry air is not good for your throat and breathing. So, if you are going to practice or sing or engage in recording in a studio, you should then try to humidify the air that you breathe inside the studio. You can use a humidifier to improve and support your lungs.
Knowing the techniques that you can use in singing well will help you minimize some singing problems. So, you need to be cognizant of the abovementioned vocal techniques. You can also prevent throat constriction by learning how to support your breath when singing. Throat constriction may also be caused by performance anxiety, which usually beset singers before and during a performance. Hence, by learning the different ways to relax your throat when singing, you can prevent the onset of performance anxiety.