Few things are more frustrating than belting out a song when suddenly your voice breaks, making you not only miss the note but often throwing the rest of the performance off key.
These breaks primarily occur when singing lower or higher notes, since these place more stress on your voice than the middle range. The stress isn’t always physical, though, sometimes it’s a mental block that leads to a breaking, cracking note.
What is a voice break?
When you experience a break there is a physical reason behind it. The muscles in your throat, namely those that control swallowing, over extend around your larynx and cause it to rise. This causes your vocal chords to tighten, making them unable to sing higher or lower. Often the response is a total break, although sometimes your voice may shift uncontrollably into a more comfortable note.
A vocal break does not mean you have maxed out your range, though. All it means is that you are not using the best technique to coax a greater range and more power from your voice. Sometimes the breaks are psychological. If you feel like you are stretching your voice beyond your comfort zone, you may inadvertently tense the throat muscles and cause a break.
Controlling Vocal Breaks
Once your voice cracks, the fear that it could happen on stage provides a strong motivator for solving the problem. Fortunately with a bit of work you can prevent future voice breaks.
- Practice frequently, especially those notes that are at the current limit of your range or that have caused issues in the past. Fear and nerves can cause those psychological breaks, so make sure you practice until problem notes are second nature.
- Turn down the stress. Stress on the throat and larynx result in most breaks. Forcing more power from your voice by singing louder stresses your vocal muscles even more, resulting in more voice breaks. Power comes from breathing properly and singing from the diaphragm, not from stressing vocal chords and singing louder.
- Learn proper breathing techniques. This is a biggie. Too little air prevents your vocal chords from vibrating sufficiently, too much floods the voice box with oxygen and results in seized chords.
Lip roll and vowel slide exercises, combined with plenty of breathing technique practice, can all but eliminate the dreaded voice break. In the end it all comes down to proper muscle coordination in your throat, vocal chords and larynx. Working the muscles often through practice gives you the control so your voice is always smooth and powerful.