How to Eliminate Vocal Strain

If you feel vocal strain in your voice, not only will your singing suffer, but you could actually be causing damage to your vocal cords.

If you're hoarse, give your voice a rest. Talk very little, and talk quietly. Drink lots of fluids, but not alcohol or caffeine as they can dry out the vocal cords. 

Most important: if you're straining your voice, you have to stop whatever you're doing that's causing the strain, and train your body in a better technique. Now, let's learn how to eliminate vocal strain!

Watch the video below to see the exercises that will free up your voice. 

No Pushing Allowed

The most common reason that you're straining is because you're pushing. And you're pushing because you've cut off your air. Your vocal posture is out of place, meaning that your voice box (your larynx) has moved into a place where we don't want it to be.  

Let's undo all of that by retraining your body. A lot of times you are not singing well because of habits that you've developed. So we're going to undo some of those habits that have been restricting you.  

Trill as Teacher

We'll start with a simple lip trill. This will help you develop an even air pressure throughout your vocal range. Then you won't be pushing too much and straining for the high notes. 

Now, some of you might have had trouble with the lip trill. If you've been falling back in your throat, you probably can't even get it to start.

To help you make the trill, start by placing your fingers at the corners of your mouth. Press lightly. 

Trill Along with Me

Now for the trill, where we'll flutter the lips with a br-br-br sound. Follow along with the video at 1:24 to see a demonstration. 

Choose a low note for the trill. With your fingers, you can feel when you push up that you're starting from out front. You're starting from your lips, you're not back in your throat. You're getting a really easy place to start doing this exercise.

Think Down, Not Up

Then think of starting at the top of your vocal range and going down. You're coming from up high and bringing the notes down. 

What I'm getting you to do here is give yourself a relaxation that you're going to feel in your body, and you'll apply it to everything else that you're doing. Over time, as you keep training with everything that I'm giving you, you're going to see that you will eliminate vocal strain.

Putting It All Together

So, let's just do a little bit of a trill, and I'll add in some things for you to understand.

Holding your cheeks, start the trill with just one low note. Try a few arpeggios, going up a semitone each time. You can trill along with me in the video starting at 2:04. (The video below will start at the correct time)

Here's a scale you can use to sing along to. 

I find that when I start out with the lower notes, I'm pretty relaxed. As I start to go higher, that's when I might start to freak out a little bit, and want to start to push. We're going to reverse that. 

No Vocal Strain, Much Gain!

Right before the higher notes, I know when they're coming, but I'm letting go. I'm not starting to push into it, I'm letting go. I'm not pushing up, I'm bringing it down. In this way, there's no strain there.

Now of course there are other elements you will add to this. For today, just start to feel the ease of that. I want you to simply hear where you are. This is part of developing your internal hearing.

Hold your hands on your cheeks, if it helps. Start the trill with the low note. You're starting from the cheeks. Before the higher notes, let go, and rather than reaching up, think of bringing the note down. No strain! 

If this helps you, please share it with your friends, and together we will eliminate vocal strain!

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About The Author

Roger Burnley - Vocal CoachRoger Burnley - Vocal Coach

Roger Burnley is a vocal coach located in Hollywood, California. He has been teaching the voice for over 30 years and singing for even longer than that. 

Notable past and present clients include Macy Gray, Brandy, Ray J, The Beastie Boys, James Torme, Taylor Lautner, Nona Gaye, and many more.

His clients have collectively sold more than 30 million albums, with several reaching Platinum and Gold status. 

Roger has been featured on VH1, TV Guide Channel, TV One,
and MTV appearing as a vocal expert.

About The Author

Roger Burnley - Vocal CoachRoger Burnley - Vocal Coach

Roger Burnley is a vocal coach located in Hollywood, California. He has been teaching the voice for over 30 years and singing for even longer than that. 

Notable past and present clients include Macy Gray, Brandy, Ray J, The Beastie Boys, James Torme, Taylor Lautner, Nona Gaye, and many more.

His clients have collectively sold more than 30 million albums, with several reaching Platinum and Gold status. 

Roger has been featured on VH1, TV Guide Channel, TV One,
and MTV appearing as a vocal expert.

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