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Slight Bulging Veins On Neck And Questions On Vocal Stress / Tension

timliu92timliu92 Member Posts: 65
edited September 2015 in Vocal Health and Wellness
Dear KTVA,

I have a few queries with regards to vocal tension that I want to verify:
(i) I notice that Master Ken mentioned in one of his videos that singing is not necessarily the absence of stress or tension but rather the management of it. However, in other cases, many actually said that singing should be totally stress-free or tension-free. Which statement is true? Do different musical styles tackle this demon called vocal tension differently?

(ii) At the same time, sometimes when I sing I notice that at times there is a slight bulge on my neck (but only a little bit and not excessive) when I go for higher notes, especially those within my passaggio, although I have never felt any pain, loss of voice, or hoarseness in my vocal cords afterwards despite singing for several hours. I realized this when I watched some of my previous singing recordings once more to evaluate the progress of my vocal technique. Is this considered normal? If not, what might be the core causes and accordingly, the possible solutions to at least minimize or at best eliminate this?

Thanks everyone! And I hope you all have a great day ahead.

Timothy :)


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    highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,359

    (i) "Relatively Stress-Free" would be more accurate. There is a huge difference between using a lot of stress and being relatively stress free. It is not realistic to be "TOTALLY" stress free. If you had zero stress, you would not even be able to stand up. Boxing things into absolutes will get you into a corner that is not going to work out very well. Every vocal coach has their own way of describing how things should be. Ken's description "singing is not necessarily the absence of stress or tension but rather the management of it" is both accurate and realistic.

    (ii) It is normal to see some mild bulging when going for notes that require more effort. If you were lifting things, you would notice the same thing. Lifting heavier objects require more effort, and your heart pumps more blood and requires more oxygen to do more work. Your veins will dilate to accommodate this action. When you do less strenous lifting or other work, you will notice less of this adaptation of your body to changing workloads.

    The more you know about singing, the less you have to struggle to produce notes. On the other hand, the more you know about singing, you become able to perform more difficult and challenging notes that previously you couldn't imagine being able to accomplish. So these newer, higher, more powerful notes will again challenge your body, and you can again find yourself working to your limits, and therefore showing some signs of increased stress. You manage this stress with the various vocal techniques that help you to minimize the stress you undergo.

    Other jealous vocal coaches point at Ken when you can see a vein in his neck on an incredible note, and say "SEE! LOOK!! He's straining!" He's actually doing something he does everyday, almost all day long, and it's relatively like a walk in the park for him. The other vocal coaches can't even come close to his level of power and range. They make a giant point over a vein being visible. They can't hit those notes in their dreams...

    Have you seen champion weight lifters lift hundreds of pounds? Did you see maybe a couple of veins bulge a little bit? Do you think you could do that?

    Singing powerfully with extensive range is something that requires athletic-grade training and performance. We are humans, and we respond to changing workloads. Without the proper training, we should not attempt to do feats of strength and power. With the proper training, we learn to soar with the eagles. Even eagles have to work to gain high altitudes. They just know how to make it look easy.

    All the Best.

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    streeterstreeter Pro Posts: 679
    edited September 2015
    it's all about 'The Bulldog' neck. Every great singer from Dio to Steve Perry to Pavorotti has it. It's the inner neck muscles opening up the throat to get rid of any stricture. It's like the muscles are scaffolding to hold the throat as wide and as vertical as possible. It feels like an extreme yawn. I aim for this every time I workout. The resonance is huge and round. It's also starting to work its way into real life singing situations for me after a lot of work and co-ordination building. It's one of the key aspects of unreal singing. @highmtn would you say this is a correct assesment of so called 'strain'
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    highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,359

    I think you are correct. What many do not realize is that the neck muscles that are often tightened by singers are actually constrictor muscles and their primary purpose is to help us swallow. They serve no purpose in forming pitch in the larynx, other than to interfere with our singing when we tense them. When we open up for a yawn sensation, we are using the muscles within our neck in a way that actually does enhance our singing.

    And yes, we do have to "hold" our vocal tract in an open position, or it will close down and stricture our voice. So a scaffolding analogy is a good one, as our throat collapses if we don't hold this "scaffolding" in place.

    Keeping the throat wide open is probably the best way possible to minimize actual vocal strain, but if a vein shows up, everybody jumps on the "strain" band wagon.

    Bulldog neck... Even real bulldogs probably have a vein pop up when they are chasing the mail man, but they live for that moment. Singers live to sing, so they may get a little enthusiastic, as well.

    Yes, veins should not bulge all over the forehead, neck and eyeballs, but we are human, and we respond somewhat to excitement and powerful singing.

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