Finding My Voice
I fell in love with singing at a young age. I was four years old when I began my singing journey and remember learning how to read through Vietnamese karaoke. Upstairs, in our East Oakland apartment, I vividly recall connecting the words I knew to letter sounds. Every time I sang, I felt an essential piece of me becoming better.
It’s been nearly 30 years now since I began singing, and despite how much I’ve sung, I struggled with straining, pushing too hard and hitting high notes. I’ve worked with vocal coaches since 2012 and have gone through several vocal programs to undo vocal habits that don’t serve me.
Slowly, but surely, I improved, but my breakthrough finally came to me on Sunday, 5/22/22 as I practiced for this weekend’s recording session. I am declaring it my new personal holiday. This is a lifetime feat. As an artist, songwriter and new female vocal band lead, this major breakthrough, which I have shared down below, allows me to enjoy my lifetime music endeavors more effortlessly and gives me the tools I need to fully express myself.
I am still perfecting my technique, but I wanted to encapsulate the breakdown of what I’m doing at this time. I really hope it helps you to sing more freely on stage, during karaoke or in the shower. Note: I am not a vocal coach and these are simply techniques that are currently working for me.
1) Sing a song in your head voice, add a little nasal and a little chest. This will help you find your mixed voice. It should feel effortless like your head voice and miraculously still sound like your chest… 🤯
2) To really perfect it sounding like your chest voice, record and listen, record and listen, record and listen!!! You’ll continuously improve how you sing it. Usually, I have to drop my jaw (especially on higher notes), circle my lips and don’t hesitate to “take it to the head.”
3) When you sing, feel the sensation of yawning for vowels and swallowing for consonants. Keep your larynx, tongue, and the back roof of your mouth down. Your tongue should be relaxed, flat and generally touching the inside of your bottom teeth at all times. This all keeps your vocal chords in a good position and together.
4) Breathe in with your nose between words so you don’t dry out your throat, make too loud of a breathing noise, or use your mouth for breathing when you need to be singing.
5) Try to keep all your throat movements steady in the middle of the throat. Regardless of the note, try to keep it focused in a central and fixed location. This helps define a baseline, helping you to not pull your chest voice up and focus downwards as you reach higher notes. Slight throat movements will have a greater effect without throwing your voice off balance.
6) Fill your chest and stomach with air when you sing, but not uncomfortably too much. When you sing, lift your chest up and your abs should be flexed with a little bit of outward pressure RATHER than pulling your belly button inward. Recently, I received a breathing tip that was very helpful: inflate the bottom of your belly like a balloon, and breathe slowly out (especially at the attack of words), straight forward and towards the back of the room, trying to conserve air so that you don't lose air too quickly.
7) I have small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), so these are also a few things I can't neglect: get rest, sip water (don't chug), not too hot or cold of a beverage either, no fried foods, spicy food, dairy, or stress. No eating late, always have cough drops in the bag and do your vocal warm ups every day.
I hope this helps solve the mystery of your singing voice and clear some of the confusion. One visual tip I received recently was thinking of your voice like an hourglass. There's a downstairs and an upstairs, but one staircase. When you need to switch from one to the other, bring the volume down and really engage your pharyngeal to get upstairs smoothly!
Lmk if this helps in the comments below!
Have fun singing!