heavy metal high singing - discomfort/strain in the muscles under the chin

itsjaritsjar Member Posts: 2
edited March 2018 in SINGER/SONGWRITERS
Hi, first a bit of information of my background: I started singing with pop academies quite intensively with different singing teachers. I watched a lot of different vocal instructions videos and buy quite some different audio lessons which I train with in the car. At the moment I'm following classical singing lessons. I sing in heavy metal bands and although I have a low voice I use my high voice a lot there. The reason why I mention is that none of the teachers I had so far seems to be able to help me to improve my heavy metal style vocals (sing more healthy & get a better same sound)

Everything went ok until now, but a few days back I strained a muscle under the chin by hitting a very high note. At first, it was just some discomfort, the day after it hurted a lot and I have problems to swallow, the center of the pains seems to be the hyoid bone (2 cm up from the adams apple), yet my voice itself sounds normal.

Since I remember a video that says "you will feel a bit of discomfort in the muscles under the chin which means you are working the right muscles" I did not panic when I initially felt the discomfort. I'm still not panicking since I believe it is entirely muscular. But since it hurts that much I do have some serious questions about my singing style. What causes this?
  • Is this the result from the swallowing reflex which might have triggered while I was holding the high note?
  • Is it normal to engage the muscles under the chin for heavy metal style high singing. I do follow classical lessons but I want to keep these two thing separate. I noticed very soon that I can't apply most things I learn in classical singing to iron maiden or judas priest style singing.
  • Is the 'holding the thumb on your chin to make sure you don't tighten the muscle' exercise the solution? Most people sound dopey if they do that. The explanations on how not to sound dopey while still not straining the muscles are often very fuzzy
In short, any heavy metal singers out there who can share their experiences/thoughts?


  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    Sorry, @itsjar, but the video you posted isn't allowed here.

    Your digastric muscle can tighten up just from too much tension. Many singers put a lot of tension on the muscles of the neck when singing high, in an attempt to help the tensioning of the vocal cords. It can feel very uncomfortable, much like a cramp. Pressing the thumb gently into the digastric muscle is to try to massage the digastric and help it to relax.

    The hyoid bone is kind of what the overall suspension system for the larynx attaches to, and it can be uncomfortable if the tendons and ligaments that suspend the larynx pull tightly against the hyoid.

    You haven't mentioned the notes you were singing when you felt the pain, but that might give us a better idea how much you may have been pulling. Exercising the voice above the notes you need to be able to reach can help you to sing with less tension when it comes time to sing those higher notes. You need elasticity and resiliency to remain in the cords. You may need more hydration, as well, to keep the cords from drying out and becoming more like stiff leather thongs.

    You may need to take a few days off from singing to allow the muscles to recover from being strained to the point of pain. You'll probably be OK after that, as long as you don't apply that much tension again. If not, go see a doctor and get a medical opinion.

    Hope you're back in good shape soon.

  • itsjaritsjar Member Posts: 2
    Hey @highmtn, np for the video, thanks for responding. Easiest way to let you know which notes it is for me is a small sound sample. Horrible quality since it is just a recording in my cave (no recording experience whatsoever, I just use it to write lyrics/melodies)

    About what you explained. "Many singers put a lot of tension on those muscles to tension the vocal cords". Is it a normal thing to do or should (even in my genre) you avoid it at all cost?

    In each case, I haven't sung in a week now and things are starting to feel better.
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    Good that you're feeling better. Many untrained vocalists think that the constrictor muscles in the neck can aid them to hit higher notes. They have nothing to do with the vocal cords, which are operated by tiny muscles within the larynx. Constrictor muscles are for swallowing food and liquids only. Tensing them up only inhibits hitting higher notes.
  • AlyonaAlyona Member, Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 288
    Yes interesting - it's like a mental thing, you lift up your head, tense your jaw and feels easier to sing high notes.
    I'm trainig it now - to relaz the whole body - I look in the mirror and relax everything and I sing high sounds and try to stay relaxed as if I sing a silent low song. In 3 days of training this - my body "remembered" the feeling - so I got much more relaxed after that.
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