09 Jul 2014

Stop Straining! Sing with Freedom, Ease and Balance with this “Tao of Voice” Vocal Exercise

Click above video for intro to this vocal exercise…



Do you experience vocal fatigue? Strain or tension? How about vocal hoarseness after singing? 


Sometimes, despite our best intentions, as we developing our voices we can end up with an unwanted side-affect – pushing.





As we focus on… breathing deeply, expanding the lungs, engaging the back muscles, directing resonance, opening the throat, dropping the jaw, relaxing the tongue, lifting the soft palate… (the list of suggestions goes on and on…)


…tension may creep in…




Well… perhaps you are like me; my over-achiever, getter-done mentality mixed with my kinesthetic learning style and athletic penchant, plus my intense desire to really sing well AND reach the audience, all mix together and I end up muscling my way through some of the process. 


Photo By: Yasunobu Hiraoka
Photo By: Yasunobu Hiraoka


I am not alone. And I see many students and professional singers do this all the time. The result is vocal fatigue, strained notes, and physical tension that affects our singing.  


Finding Balance


In some respects, there may be a slight awkwardness as we ask new muscles to do new things, but as we layer on adjustments, entertain the idea of an inner balance –  always connecting to the feel; developing a healthy and efficient relationship between…





Support and Flexibility


Tautness and Freedom


Resistance and Surrender


In the book, the Tao of Voice, author, teacher, and singing coach, Stephen Chun-Tao Cheng, shares an exercise that I have found helpful in over-riding the “pushing” side affect.




Stephen uses the image of a circle and physical motion to balance one action with another.


I have developed a few variations of this exercise and I will share them with you in the video demo below… Experiment with the steps and see what feels the best to you.


Celine Dion Photo By: Anirudi Koul
Celine Dion Photo By: Anirudi Koul


How it helps…


Relaxes the throat

Creates a more consistent breath stream

Adds vibrant energy to the tone

Gives gentle focus and imagery to the mind



I am going to purposefully target the most vulnerable part of my voice  – my passagio – the area where my voice transitions from one register to another. My habit used to be rather than trust my technique, I would start to muscle through these notes.


With this exercise, I am overriding old muscle memory to create a new ease in my singing.


While I am using my passaggio as my example, I find this to be a wonderful exercise for any part of the voice.


Try it if in the upper register you may be pushing too much air.

Or in the lower register you may be experiencing a tense larynx.



Click video below to watch vocal exercise demonstration…



Play with these examples and see what feels best to you. 


            1. hand motion

            2. inhale/ exhale

            3. hum

            4. tiny head voice

            5. now try an uuuuuu

            6. open to an aaaaaa

            7. pattern five notes descending

            8. phrase of music   


Put On Your O2 Mask


Another element of this exercise that I love is what I like to call the oxygen mask principle –


While getting ready for airplane takeoff, the flight attendants remind us that in the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask will drop and we are instructed to put it on ourselves before we help someone else.


Let’s not wait for the emergency.


[Tweet “I stopped waiting for the world to give me what I want and I gave it to myself. Byron Katie”]


For so many of us, we want desperately to reach our audience, have them hear us, feel us, connect with us, and be moved by the music we are singing. This hunger or desperation may cause underlying tension or pushing.


So what if we used this exercise as a reminder to…


Pink Photo By: Allison on Flickr
Pink Photo By: Allison on Flickr



Feed ourselves first


Nurture ourselves as we give away our gifts


Trust that we are enough


Believe that we will be heard


Know our audience will meet us where we are


Live in the affirmation that they will be moved by the art we create






Give yourself some time to play with this exercise.


Find your own balance in it.


Feel how good it feels to be grounded in your body; relaxed, calm, and nurturing yourself as you share your beautiful voice. 



You know, I would love to hear from you. Share with me your struggles with tension and how you find balance in your singing voice in the comment section below.  


And feel free to share this post with a friend!


Happy Singing!




P.S. Would you like to take voice lessons?

Email me today for your free 30-minute singing lesson and voice assessment in-studio or via skype – my email: triciapine@rejoiceinyourvoice.com

I look forward to hearing from you! 




  1. Great information Tricia! You are so awesome! I love your information.

    1. Thank you, Cena, so much! You are so sweet! I am glad you find the post informative 🙂


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