There are muscles in the body for singing which, like any muscles, can atrophy or be strengthened. We maintain them by talking, swallowing, coughing, laughing, humming, and singing a tune. If you don’t use these muscles, you will lose them as singers know only too well when injury or sickness stops them from doing what they love. Professionals keep singing for years if they know how to keep their muscles healthy.
Stretching the Muscles
The diaphragm is responsible for pushing air up so you can make sounds. The more air you push up, the louder that sound will be. You don’t always want to sing loudly; sometimes a softer sound is required. Modulating volume and the quality of a sound requires being able to use the diaphragm and other muscles effectively and skilfully. This takes practice, of course, which is the number one factor in keeping your voice strong.
Find a set of vocal exercises on the internet. Choose a variety of them, and don’t be put off if some seem silly. They often are, but those muscles need to be warm. When you run you have to stretch out quads and hamstrings without going anywhere, and that’s how it looks or sounds when you warm up your voice. (We’re putting one of those videos up, below this article, so you can try a couple for yourself.)
Scales truly get things moving. Open your mouth and sing “oh” or “ah.” Start at your highest note and take steps down the scale and back up again through an octave each time. Eventually you will reach your bottom note. If possible, jot down the top and bottom notes you sang during that part of the warm up. The open vowel sounds help you to get more volume and to sing higher or lower notes.
Now, do the same from the bottom going up but sliding through the notes instead of hitting them squarely. Next, close your mouth and push your lips out. Hum the notes while making a silly noise with your lips as they vibrate. This will sound strange, but if you laugh, that helps to open your airways anyway.
A lot of singers make the mistake of singing from the throat or, even worse, from the nose. Say the word “ha” but say it as a sigh, very light and breathy. Give it more air, as though this sound is becoming a shout, but do not go so far as that. Don’t make it musical but speak the sound. Now sing “ha” without moving the sound from your body to your nose or throat. If it is quiet at first, work on these exercises and you will become stronger.