Finesse, not muscle.

There are a lot of muscles around the larynx. These muscles fall into two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic. Understanding what each of these muscles do are crucial to becoming a good singer. 

Just kidding.  

While yes, there are plenty of muscles in your throat around your vocal cords. However, you do not need to be able to name or understand them to sing better. There's nothing wrong with learning the anatomy of the voice, but don't let that distract you from singing. Some people enjoy learning every single detail in what makes something work. And that's awesome, but this is not the blog for those types of people. This is a blog for singers, who just want to sing better. 

Basically, stop thinking about your larynx, your diaphragm, power, and most importantly your "range."

There are several things to think about to make singing easier, and very little of it is anatomy. 

  1. Relax
  2. Breathe in
  3. Breathe out
  4. Open your mouth
  5. Tongue forward*
  6. Enunciate
  7. Repeat

I promise every single singer in the world, and my students know, if you focus on these steps, you WILL sing better.

*Keeping the tongue forward can be tough for beginners. It's very easy to pull back. Let the tongue rest touching the back of your bottom teeth on vowels and most consonants.Using a mirror to practice will quickly dissolve that problem if you haven't already figured it out.  

Where does the finesse come in? Well, that's easy and it should be easy. Ironically, singing "easy" is uncomfortable to many learning singers. I used to feel if I wasn't pushing, or really flexing for high notes I wasn't giving it my all. And that didn't feel right. But let's think about that ... what instrument involves pushing, squeezing and strength, over finesse and experience? I can't think of any. Sports are a bit different, pushing yourself is what a good sport should do. And it feels great when you accomplish something with the right mindset to go big or go home.  But singing isn't a sport, it's a musical art form. Art, while sometimes forced, doesn't need to be. Especially when learning. Stylistically in the moment is another story, but that also comes AFTER the finesse. 

Finesse is like watching an accomplished pianist play Rachmaninoff, Chopin, or Gershwin in a beautiful flowing and "easy" way. It's like watching Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix make the guitar look and sound like it's an extension of their body and soul. They aren't muscling through those notes, they are elegantly playing them. When played on a Steinway Model D concert grand piano or a hand-wired Marshall full stack turned up to 10, that's where the "muscle" comes from. Just like singing through a powerful PA system with a microphone in your hands or a fancy recording studio, the finesse comes from you as the artist, let the hardware in the performance and practice be the muscle. 

The more you pull back the pushing, the straining, the compressed air, the flexing, the muscle, you'll find your voice very susceptible, very fragile, and that's a good thing. That's your real voice. That's the voice that wants to be on a microphone. That's the voice that wants to tell a story. That's the voice that can hit all your high and low notes easily. That's the voice that needs to be worked on, get experienced, and get confident with. That's the voice that will grow into the "powerful" voice you didn't realize could come so easily. It just takes finesse. Finesse takes time. Not musicle. See... that's where this was going... 

So, let the air in, let the air out, sing quietly, don't be afraid to flip, sing easily, focus on the simple easy things, the logical things a preschooler would understand. Open your mouth, enunciate, relax. Speak the words on the pitch. Do it again. The more you do it, the more you build experience, the more you build finesse out of your true unique stylistic voice. That finesse, turns into music. 

Once again, if you just skimmed and missed it... finesse takes time, not muscle. 

Get to singing!

- Chris Keller