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How to Sing Louder Without Straining

You listen with awe and wonder, hoping someday that you'll have that force in your voice. You may even look at howling puppies with that sort of envy because they can be heard for miles and sing with their heads back, proud. 

I get it. If singing loud isn't the pinnacle of the singer's craft, it's close. Not to worry—I'll give you a few tips to improve and internalize your vocal range so you can get to those power notes without losing breath, straining your vocal cords, or screeching like a cat on fire.

You may not think it's possible. Professionals have years of expensive training to do what they do, but it's all about practice, practice, and more practice.

It isn't the expensive vocal training that helps the world's greatest singers float their high notes to the cheap seats—though that doesn't hurt. It's that they use their voices every day, which builds their vocal physiology so they can handle it.

The Struggles of Attempting to Sing Loudly

It’s essential to think of your vocal cords as a muscle, and part of a system that includes other muscles—your lungs, your diaphragm.

Multiple facets of vocal chord control comes into play when singing falsetto

Picture showcasing normal open and closed vocal chords during singing.

If you haven’t yet, I will encourage you to look at all of the biological structures that combine to make a voice, and how that works in practice. When you try to sing loudly without thinking about the proper techniques, all sorts of terrible things can happen to both your voice and your listeners. 

If you’ve researched singing already, you’ll have heard about the difference between head voice and chest voice

Much of the time, when we try to sing loud, we end up singing with our head voice meaning we’re demanding our vocal cords do all the work with less air.

When you haven’t exercised them enough, it creates strain and your voice cracks without being able to hold the note!

this girl hurt her voice by singing incorrectly!

Another problem is your breathing. When you haven’t trained properly, you may end up losing it quickly, which means you’ll get to the end of your breath before the note ends leaving you with a shrill breathy wheeze at the end like the dying drone of a bagpipe.

I have another article dedicated to giving you great breathing exercises for singers... check it out for some great tips to work on key techniques. 

When this happens, you often don’t have enough time to fill your lungs before starting on the next note. 

If you’ve tried singing loudly for a while, you might have experienced another sad side effect of lack of training or practice. The normal tendency for many people trying to project their voice is to tilt their heads back, rather like a puppy howling. 

The problem is, this can easily damage the vocal cords which are tighter and more strained in that position. 

If you keep trying to sing with your head back like that, you may suffer permanent damage to your vocal cords in exchange for a little additional power. It’s probably not worth the trade. In all likelihood, you’ve already had moments where you try your hardest to sustain a note, and those poor, strained, vocal cords give way leaving you with a warbling note that sounds like a rooster getting throttled. 

Think about it, physiologically. When you use your voice in its standard register, you’re using muscles to pull your vocal folds into alignment to make certain sounds. This closes off the airway, channeling it into certain patterns, and creating specific sounds. 

It seems logical to tilt your head back to give a free passage to air so that it’s less obstructed. You open your throat and sing. It works, but it isn’t the best way to get the most out of your voice. 

When you do this, you pull the chords tighter, like stretching a rubber band to its limit. It works to open the air passage, allowing more air to come through and thus increasing the volume, but it also strains your vocal folds and reduces the range you’re capable of, which is why it frequently cracks on high notes. 

Another problem that comes with trying to sing louder is nerves. You may have found your voice gets weaker when you’re nervous, and it becomes much harder to project. Nervousness, too, has a physiological component that affects your singing voice. 

Nervous reactions constrict the muscles through your chest. Your shoulders tighten, and you feel a terrible pit in your stomach like you swallowed something cold and hard. You might have felt that if you’ve ever been on a stage or have done any public speaking. 

Christina Aguilera goes in-depth into performance anxiety and overcoming it in her online masterclass

This nervous reaction constricts the airflow throughout your chest, literally reducing the air available to you as you try to project your voice. Counteracting that with regular practice, in-depth vocal preparation, breathing exercises, and effective calming techniques is essential if you want the ability to project.

Singing loudly is one of the most sought-after talents of any budding vocalist. You want to ensure that the guests in the back row can hear you clearly without any mistakes. 

Now that you understand what can go wrong, let’s cover methods and practices that will help you counteract your nerves and the worst habits you might have already learned. You can learn to sing loudly. You can also learn to sing without straining, but it will take practice.

Tips to Sing Louder Like the Pros

Let's dive into some key tips which will help you sing louder and clearer - and become a better singer due to the practice!

1. Practice your set until you know it by heart

If you’ve ever performed on stage before, you’ve felt the power of your nervousness steal your brain and stuff it somewhere near your stomach.

You suddenly forget what comes next in a song or a speech, when you were moderately confident of it just minutes ago. 

Practice your set until you're so comfortable with it that it becomes muscle memory. Committing to your set thoroughly will help you take momentary lapses in brainpower, which come with anxiety, out of the mixture.

2. Know your vocal range and stick to it

When we mess up, it’s usually at the extremes of our vocal range. We shoot too high, or we sink too low, and we lose the note into incoherent screeching or barely audible rumbles. 

Find your comfortable vocal range and stick within it. Think about your normal speaking voice and then hum or sing vowel scales in that range. The more you work at it, the more your range will expand as you stretch it. 

Knowing your voice type is critical to perfecting your craft, do you know yours?

3. Breathing exercises

Practice your breathing exercises often. Studies have shown that deep breathing improves lung capacity and calms nerves in people who suffer from anxiety. Practice breathing exercises every day and set aside time before the venue to go through your breathing to help you calm down. 

Draw in your breath for five seconds, hold it for four seconds, and then let it out slowly for seven seconds. Studies have shown that the act of concentrating on your breath helps reduce fear and anxiety. 

4. Focus on doing the thing, not the results

Take the audience out of it if you can. This is not to say the audience isn’t there and you should ignore them, but think of it like building a house. You make it to live in it, not for the neighbors down the street to look at. 

You sing to sing well, not for others watching you sing. Remember that an audience’s enjoyment of a performance hinges on how well you perform, not how much you’re able to entertain them. 

Proper Techniques

1. Sing from the diaphragm

If you’ve done any research on singing before, you’ve probably seen this advice, but might not know what it means. The diaphragm is a muscle underneath your lungs that contracts when you inhale and expands when you exhale.

Think of it like the muscle that works the bellows of your lungs. 

The best way to feel the power of the diaphragm in breathing is by lying on your back and putting your hands on the area just below your sternum (your stomach, basically).

You should feel your stomach rise and fall when breathing correctly. Breathing with your chest actually constricts your airflow, and robs you of much-needed air. 

2. Air is your superpower

Producing sound with your voice depends enormously on air moving past and vibrating your vocal folds which are formed into specific patterns by your vocal cords. Singing with power and control, then, is a matter of controlling the air as much as it is controlling your voice.

Focus on breathing techniques to get the most out of your air supply. Proper methods, such as breathing from your diaphragm, are the best way to sustain the long notes in a passage without losing breath. Breathing correctly will help you have air to spare for the most challenging phrases.

3. Pay attention to your posture

good posture practice from the 1950s for singing and other art forms.

Singing well effects your entire body, and conversely, your whole body affects your singing. Changes in posture cause change in airflow and affect the way it vibrates your vocal folds.

If you want to know how to sing louder, start by standing up straight. You want to get the most air into your lungs as you can, and slouching will not help you do that.

4. Think down when you go up

You see performers arch their necks often when they hit the high notes

That’s perfectly natural and is likely going to happen when you get to a point where you can reach them, but while you’re still building your vocal strength, work on keeping your chin down and a little bit out to project power. 

Thinking down helps to keep your vocal cords relaxed, whereas putting your chin up stretches them. It can be a good way to get power, but it causes strain and increases the chance of damaging your voice.

5. Use your tongue to help with the high notes

Before you start straining your vocal cords and risking damage to the vocal folds, try raising the back of your tongue to help control your head voice.

Lowering the back of your tongue creates a breathy sound because it allows more airflow. Raising it constricts that area without straining your muscles as much. 

Experiment with using your tongue to adjust the sound with various vowel sounds. You’ll instantly see how it can affect the pitch and power.

You do this regularly in speech without being conscious of it.

Exercise

1. Do arpeggios daily

If you don’t yet know what an arpeggio is, there are many great examples of them online for your reference.

Find your favorites within your register and practice them. It’s very much like doing scales—only you’ll use different vowel sounds regularly. 

Doing Arpeggios helps expand your breath control as well as the muscles of your vocal cords, which enable better range and power. 

2. Work on your chest voice first

You know where you want to go with your voice, but you don’t want to injure your voice before you get there. Think of it like swimming a mile. If you try it without first conditioning yourself, you could drown. 

Your chest voice is your lower and middle register. It’s where you’re most comfortable speaking.

Try projecting your chest voice and strengthening that before working on the higher notes that are usually in your head voice. 

3. Don’t expect instant results

Remember that analogy about swimming a mile? You don’t suddenly acquire the ability to swim a mile simply because you jumped in the pool.

It takes time to get better, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t suddenly have the vocal power of an opera star. 

Professional singers work on proper techniques for years, just like professional athletes work out every day. If you’re starting from nothing, with terrible methods, it will take time to develop proper habits and strength. 

4. Don’t push it

The object of practice is to build the muscles involved in projection and explore the relationship between breath control and vocal harmonics.

You can strain yourself a little bit, but the moment you start feeling pain in your throat, stop. You could do severe damage to your vocal cords if you continue. 

You want to learn how to project your singing voice, not break it entirely. Set time limits to your practice so that you’re comfortable without putting too much strain on your voice. Many singers practice for an hour or so before taking a break. 

5. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated should be more or less obvious as water is one of the batteries of life.

Physiologically speaking, though, the vocal cords require lubrication to function correctly, which is why your voice gets raspy when you’re extremely thirsty.

This is one of the reasons you always see bottled water on the stage of professional performers and speakers. 

It might sound disgusting, but mucus protects the vocal folds (those things that the vocal cords pull into place and which vibrate to create sound).

Water is the instrument that your body uses to produce the mucus that protects those folds. You should drink 8-10 ounces a day and keep drinking throughout the performance.

Above all, remember, learning how to sing is not an overnight process. You can learn all the tips and tricks, but your body is still going to be limited. Take it slow and steady and you'll see massive improvements over time!

You Must Practice for Improvement!

By now, the word 'practice' is probably akin to a four-letter word to you. You've heard it repeatedly throughout this post, and possibly hundreds of times outside of it if this isn't your first stop on your journey to a louder voice—but it's the truth. 

If you work at it and follow proper techniques, you will learn how to project your voice. You'll sing without straining over the higher notes.

Make no mistake, practicing these techniques isn't going to make you into the next 'anybody.' It will, however, make you into a better singer and get you singing naturally and more like yourself.

Practice is exercise. It's the same thing professional athletes do; only you're using a different set of muscles to achieve a vastly different result.

The advantage of exercising your vocal cords is that it doesn't require a room full of expensive equipment to do. You can do it just as effectively in your car as your basement or garage or anywhere. You should, however, take care to use proper techniques, so you don't risk injury.

If you're committed to getting better and achieving a louder voice, practice scales every day. Go up and down the scales within your most comfortable vocal range, using different vowel sounds each time. This helps you learn the relationship between your breath and the sounds it's helping you make. 

Practice control of your breathing, too. Air is the engine behind all vocal sounds, and you need to pay attention to how you breathe to get the most out of it. Learn precise breath control to make every singing breath as efficient as possible.

Finally, hum along to music whenever the mood strikes you. Humming is a fantastic way to build up your vocal muscles.

You can always seek some inexpensive programs to help with your singing overall. Check out some of these top online singing lessons next to find the perfect program to improve your singing!

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