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Singing From The Throat

Hello all,

Any tips on decreasing throat tension? I can't seem to break the habit of 'singing from my throat'. Any specialized exercises not covered in the program would be very helpful. Other diaphragm strengthening exercises would be awesome as well. Thanks in advance!


  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,665Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    Being more mindful of pushing down on the diaphragm when singing high notes, and in general, to some degree all the time is what helped me to shift my attention away from the throat and towards the gut.

  • PuggulsPugguls Posts: 8Member
    Whenever I attempt to 'push down on the diaphragm', my throat seems to tense up as well. Are there any particular exercises similar to the sit-up one which ken goes over in Vol. 1 to help me isolate the diaphragm? Thanks.
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,665Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    I just envision pushing down on my insides, as if there were a piston inside my body. I inhale and the piston goes down. As I sing and release air, the piston is coming up on its own, to release the air pressure.

    To take the load off my throat, I bear down on my insides. That helps to slow the rise of the "piston" and that makes the air pressure on my cords reduce. That reduction of pressure on my cords helps to reduce tension in my throat. I'm no longer overloading my cords with excess air pressure. It's similar to inhaling. If you want to know what it feels like for your diaphragm to go down, then Inhale and pay attention to what it feels like inside your body. You cannot inhale without your diaphragm going down. You must learn to feel what is happening inside your own body. Focus. Pay attention. Inhale slowly and pay attention to what is happening inside your body cavity as you do so.

    Visualize the diaphragm going up as you exhale, and going down as you inhale. That is what is happening, every moment you are alive. Now, as a singer, you are needing to pay more attention to it so that you can have a little bit of control over it instead of it happening completely automatically. Now try to hold it in one place. Try to resist the outflow of air as you are exhaling. If you can do that, then you are doing so by accessing the muscles that you use to inhale WHILE you are actually exhaling. Doing so slows down the rate at which you exhale, which is essentially what support is, except that you get better at it as you teach yourself how to get in touch with your own breathing process and controlling that action.

    "Pushing Down on the Diaphragm" is the simplest way to explain what it feels like. It's a little like what you do inside when you "go to the bathroom". You push down on your insides then, right? It's similar. When you hold your breath, you are holding your diaphragm still.

    What works really well for me is to think of it as "I take the load off of my throat and put it on my diaphragm". That's what it feels like. When I'm powering my voice by properly working my diaphragm and pushing down on my insides when I should, my high notes are much easier, my tone is richer and not as airy, my breath is stable and steady, and my throat can relax more, because I am not battering it with too much air. That allows me to relax and enjoy singing more. The lessening of tension, simply from having good diaphragmatic support, allows me to sing in a much more relaxed way. If I feel like I'm putting a lot of force or tension on my voice, I simply take note, and increase my support. The more I support, the easier it is for me to sing.

  • stanstan Posts: 67Pro
    What if you were to inhale from the belly down with ribs expanded, and just hold that position without pushing down or anything? I mean, just inhale with the belly and hold that feeling? Is that what Ken wants?
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,665Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    If you listen to what Ken is saying in the audio exercises, you will hear him talk about keeping your support all the way down the scales and not releasing support as soon as you get past the high notes.

    That support is pushing down on the diaphragm.

    He talks about increasing support as we increase in pitch. Then he talks about not releasing that support until we are nearly down to the bottom of the scale.
  • bentkbentk Posts: 477Pro
    edited April 10
    Very good post here. I am going to try and apply support like you mentioned about the piston. My singing has improved massively, but on certain areas in songs I still get a little choked up so to speak. I modify the vowels and keep the sound bright and open, using the mask in the face etc. Therefore I think I need to apply even more support than I thought was necessary. Sometimes I seem to over-support lower range singing, but perhaps I need to make a bigger distinction between these ranges when talking about support.

    So after this post I will start trying to add even more support, see where that gets me this time.

    Thanks again
  • bentkbentk Posts: 477Pro
    edited April 10
    Already been messing around with the support again. But i have a question. Sorry for the double-post.

    I read your post about the piston etc. you describe. So simply put: when you need more support (higher notes etc.) do you push your tummy more outwards like an inhale? So trying to force the diaphragm to stay down. Or do you DO contract inward whilst holding this ballooned belly. I know that sounds a little weird, but i think you know what i mean.


  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,665Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    edited April 10
    When you need more support, the abdomen remains the same, extended to inhale and drawing inward as you exhale. When you need to apply more support you press DOWN on the diaphragm.

    That is independent of of the abdominal expansion and contraction. You contract inward as you release air, but you press DOWN (you know, "Down") on your diaphragm AS your abdomen continues to draw inward. See the floor, beneath your feet? That's "Down".

    Your diaphragm is attached at the bottom of your ribcage. So you press down on your guts. That's the "piston". That's above your extended belly. You push down on the whole thing, while the "Other piston" of the extended belly continues to draw inward.

    Two independent, but coordinated actions. Holding the diaphragm down resists releasing the air. As a result of holding down the diaphragm, your inward motion of the abdomen should correspondingly slow down, because that is an indication of how fast or slow you are releasing the air. But without the risistance AT the DIAPHRAGM, you don't have that additional control over the rise of the diaphragm. If the diaphragm rises you exhale. You Can't directly control the diaphragm, except when you inhale.

    You have to mitigate the urge to exhale, willy-nilly, like you do autonomically when you breathe every minute of every day. Now you're singing, and you need to do it more deliberately and with greater control. That is why you push down, vertically. Your abdominal/belly breaths are happening in a lateral plane. Your pressing down is happening in a vertical plane.
  • bentkbentk Posts: 477Pro
    edited April 12
    Makes a lot of sense to me for the most part.
    Let me describe to you what I am mostly doing now.

    I inhale, tummy inflates etc.
    Then I sing a phrase, or note, or scale etc using glottal compression (holding the breath).
    If i go into my mid-high or high register, I kind of force out the inhalation feeling in my tummy. So I contract more. Exhaling like I'm inhaling. It does feel like I'm trying to push out my tummy a bit more, and it seems to help a lot too.

    When you say you push DOWN, do you mean like using your upper abdonimal muscles to push down? because I can't get the analogy of pushing downwards (like to the ground) with the lower abdominal muscles.

    To clarify further, i do notice i kind of use the 'going to the bathroom' muscles like you describe and so does Ken. However, I'm also kind of using those inhale muscles at the same time. Does this make sense to you? It feels as if that works the best, relieving pressure.

    And now that i'm into it. One more thing. When i do this type of singing, mostly in chest, i kind of create a relaxed state between my abdomen and throat, where i feel the sound coming from the base of the throat going upwards. There is where i start to feel the sensation, plus in my soft pallet. Is this about right?


  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,665Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    To clarify further, i do notice i kind of use the 'going to the bathroom' muscles like you describe and so does Ken. However, I'm also kind of using those inhale muscles at the same time. Does this make sense to you? It feels as if that works the best, relieving pressure.This is correct.

    And now that i'm into it. One more thing. When i do this type of singing, mostly in chest, i kind of create a relaxed state between my abdomen and throat, where i feel the sound coming from the base of the throat going upwards. There is where i start to feel the sensation, plus in my soft pallet. Is this about right? You will notice that when you are doing it correctly, it takes part of the load off of the throat, and the work is transferred to the diaphragm, which creates a sensation of actually "singing from" the diaphragm. There is a direct correlation between the feeling of pushing down on the diaphragm and relieving pressure at the throat, and also HEARING an improvement in overall tone quality.
  • bentkbentk Posts: 477Pro
    edited April 12
    It seems like i'm heading in the right direction then. Great to hear too.
    One of the big differences i notice, is that it has become easier to sing in my higher register. Now i'm not necessarily talking about my 4-5 highest notes, but high. I can grab pitch easier, sustain a bit better and sing with MUCH less tension.

    Now sustain is still difficult for me regularly. It seems that sustaining higher notes takes much more effort, also from the diaphragm. Would this be correct?

    I still wonder, like i said, do you also feel like the sound is coming from deep in your throat, and glides through (also feeling the pallet) the throat and out the mouth? I really feel the sensation coming from deep in the throat, also in my higher register. When i do the scales really bright, i also feel it there, and it feels correct too. Like Ken says, he doesn't want us to do anything unnatural.

    It also seems that when i want to focus on pushing down, like 'leaning' i kind of use my upper abdominal muscles a bit more to push inwards/downwards?

    I do definitely notice that using your support well takes away the stress from the throat. I can feel a major difference when i try and do a scale with and without the extra support and proper breathing. However, at higher notes it seems to take much more strength in the abdominal area. Is it normal that you can tire your abdominal muscles with this kind of singing? Let's say high chest singing.

    Sorry for the barrage of questions. Feel free to join the discussion to anyone else out there
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,665Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    edited April 14
    You will feel some sensation from the throat, because that's where the sound originates from, and that's where you vary the pitch. It's also where you close the cords together, and that creates more tone and also causes you to use less breath to sustain notes. If your cords are closed, your notes can last a lot longer, high or low. High notes actually use less air, because the air passes through a smaller aperture in the cords.

    It also seems that when i want to focus on pushing down, like 'leaning' i kind of use my upper abdominal muscles a bit more to push inwards/downwards?
    This is correct, but we all "feel" it or describe the feeling a little differently. Since I know where my diaphragm is located, and I know when I'm pushing down on it, to me, it feels like I'm "pushing down on my diapragm". Another way I describe it is just pushing down on my guts, or innards. If I expand my abdomen as this happens, I simply create more room in the chamber where my lungs reside. Because I'm doing that, the air pressure in my lungs decreases, and my rate of air pressure and release of air, drops.

    It really doesn't have to be overcomplicated. I'm simply lowering the pressure in my lungs so that the air comes out slower and at a lower pressure. When my diaphragm goes down, it's the same as when I inhale. I can't inhale unless my diaphragm goes down.

    The higher you sing, the more you need to apply the brakes to the air hitting your cord, so yes, you use more resistive strength to push down for your highest notes. You run out of strength at some point, and can sing no higher. Then you run the risk of putting unregulated air (no brakes or insufficient brakes) against the cords. That's too much pressure to apply to your cords.
  • bentkbentk Posts: 477Pro
    Thanks bob. I can totally relate to your post.
    It isn't that complicated indeed. Taking a breath, holding that space as much and long as possible (glottal compression also) and relieving pressure from the throat by contracting.

    Sometimes it is frustrating to still fall into some pitfalls, even when you already made very good habits. For example, the vowel modifications come pretty naturally now when i practice my scales. So less focus is needed with changing the shape. But on the contrary, i was so busy with thinking about 'the sound coming from deep in the throat' that i started to drag way too much weight up into my throat. It needs to stay bright and as open as possible. Thinning out the sound if needed when going into the higher register.
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,665Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    The more you can practice doing it correctly, the less you will have to worry about it. We're in a process of changing what is "natural" for us. Blowing out our vocal cords used to be "singing naturally" until we realized how we were wrecking our voices by not knowing any better.

    Unfortunatlely, "naturally-gifted singers" don't always have "naturally-gifted support" and so they may lose their voices in mid-career.

    Before you burned your hand, you didn't realize that it is "natural" for you to want to keep your hand off of the hot stove. After you burned your hand, there is no way you will put your hand on the hot stove.

    Eventually, we reprogram ourselves to know what's right about proper breath control for singing... For singing. We all know how to breathe just to breathe. For Singing, it's a different set of requirements and we have to re-learn how to use our breath for that purpose. We're not just doing it to stay alive, all of a sudden. We're doing it to achieve some pretty awesome things with one of the most amazing instruments ever created.

    It's super-natural.
  • bentkbentk Posts: 477Pro
    You see that with a lot of singers actually, they start to lose their voice pretty soon in their career. Some can't even perform consistent live. I can understand some singing is very demanding, and not every night will be perfect. I just think there has to be somewhat of a consistent line which is as closest as your best as it gets.

    I notice that my support is ridiculously important. I will blow out my vocals very soon if i don't support right, or choke already on the second sentence. Know what i mean?

    Is it also normal that it takes a lot of abdominal strength to sustain my high singing?
    I ask this because after experimenting, having a strong downwards/inwards push (however one may describe it) during glottal compression (belly OUT trying to keep it OUT) is the only thing that enables me to keep on singing well in my higher register. Any thoughts?

    Of course stuff like the bright vowels etc. are super important. but without the base they will not make up for the lack of the former. It almost feels as if the support 'pull's away' tension from the throat. Do some of you experience the same? I really use quite some ab-strength to keep up with the high air pressure. Let's say it could tire me after a while (so therefore you take the small rests etc.). Do some of you experience fatigued ab-muscles? is it normal?

    I feel as if my abs can take it, because it kind of protects my throat. They take the heat instead of my throat. Throat singing will kill your vocals not only during singing itself, but more so over a longer period.

    I think it is good that many analogies are used on this forum. Because some have really helped me out. Describing how certain things should sort of feel, together with what feels right for you and following Ken's instructions, can give a lot of assurance.
    I just notice it also takes a little experimenting. When you do something completely wrong, or blow out your voice on a few sentences, then you quickly know something is off. However, certain things are a little more subtle, and they come lurking around the corner after maybe 1 or 2 songs, depending on the songs.

    Long text, lots of thoughts.
  • highmtnhighmtn Posts: 11,665Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro
    Exactly. I experience it as transferring the workload from my throat to my abdominal area. My abdomen is much stronger than my throat and can take the load off my throat. For really high notes I have to really work the abdomen. If I don't, I'll regret it.
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