This is probably the longest and most important chapter. Because all the issues and bad habits mentioned so far … come from tension, from not being relaxed. (Only a small subset of vocal issues aren’t the result of tension, but rather a completely wrong approach or weak muscles.)
If you do one thing every day to improve your voice, make it these simple relaxation exercises.
Do them before singing, and you’ll notice the singing magically goes more smoothly. At least, for the first 10 minutes or so.
Do them regularly, and this relaxed state (of speaking / singing) becomes your new normal.
Testing your progress
How do you know you’re doing it right? Here are some telltale signs.
- Suddenly, singing feels easier. Like it’s less effort and more like speaking.
- You sing louder and don’t know why.
- You can move your neck / head / body while singing, and it won’t interfere. (Tense muscles will prevent this, or at least change the sound considerably.)
- You don’t need to “build up” to notes, but can instantly hit the one you want.
This has been proven to be effective—and I can subscribe to that. However, it’s not the magical bullet that some claim it is. For me, this just gives me some relaxation.
I’ve heard it called “bubbling” as well as LaxVox.
You can find any number of video tutorials showing you how to do it.
The gist of it is …
- You blow into a glass of water, using a small tube.
- By moving the tube further into the water, you can add more pressure.
- Find the sweet spot. Breathing is easy and your cheeks start to “shake”.
- Continue as long as you want. The shaking cheeks means they are relaxing, shaking off their stress.
Due to the pressure difference between the water and your mouth, this automatically resets the tension and relaxes your muscles.
Here are some tips:
- Place the tube between your teeth, not in front of it.
- Don’t bite down on it, though, or move it too far. It should stay relaxed.
- Use a glass, rather than a cup, so you can see through it.
- When in doubt, go for less water in your glass, and a tube that barely pushes into it.
- Try the exercise both standing and sitting down. In both cases, don’t be tempted to lift your shoulders or lift your glass all the way to your lips. This adds harmful tension to your shoulders.
Many experts recommended doing this for just a minute or so, multiple times a day. (Rather than doing it for a long time, but only infrequently.)
Funny story. The first time I tried this … nothing happened. It was a hilarious experience, as both me and my vocal coach just looked at the glass like “what? no bubbles?”
I was blowing all the air out through my nose. Bad idea, don’t do that. Merely the introduction of LaxVox completely changed how I used my voice and revealed a clear issue.
This one is simple to explain: make a “brrrr” sound (like a motorboat). Your mouth is closed, but your lips are buzzing.
It’s harder to execute. Many can’t sustain this sound or control it. They do a short “brr”, then completely lose it. Or the “brr” changes intensity all the time.
The usual progression applies:
- First, just try to do the motion.
- Then try to keep a consistent intensity
- Then vary it, but controlled (soft to loud, loud to soft)
- And finally, you can actually sing melodies this way.
There’s a slight risk of breathing through your nose with this exercise. (Because your mouth is closed, many tend to let the air escape that way.) This is not good.
The whole idea is that your lips trill automatically due to the air released through them. This can only happen if your lips are relaxed enough to let this happen.
That’s why this is a great, but somewhat tough, exercise. You need that balance between a relaxed face and one where you’re in control.
The blubbing fish
Make any sound, or sing a melody. But replace everything with the word “blub”.
This simple word …
- Helps drop your jaw (the “bl”-sound)
- While keeping the sound in the right place (the “ub”-sound) => more on that later
When doing this, remember that relaxation is more important than articulation. You don’t need to sound clear or even in tune. You just need to be able to make these sounds as relaxed as possible, your jaw set free.
Sometimes, tension comes from the neck and shoulder area. These muscles are visible and can be relaxed through general relaxation techniques.
- Roll your neck to both sides
- Pull your shoulders up, then let them drop down
- Strengthen your upper body, so it’s stronger and can support your voice better
As always, general fitness will help with everything.
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