Do you lift your eyebrows or your chin or even stand on your tiptoes to try and reach high notes when you’re singing?
Do you lower your eyebrows, drop your chin, squish up your face or even bend forward and down to try and reach low notes?
Many people do. Why? These are simply reflex actions that result in a head bobbing action that can look quite amusing at times … and you may not even know you are doing it. None of this movement does anything to help you change the note or reach the desired pitch. In fact, head lifting and lowering is absolutely unnecessary and it can even be an obstacle to good singing.
So how does the pitch change when you sing? It’s the stretching and relaxing of your vocal cords, also known as vocal folds, that changes the pitch. Visualize tuning a guitar string by tightening and loosening the string, only when you’re singing you can’t see what’s happening because it’s inside your throat. To make this process visible, take a look at this video of a female singing at a low pitch and then at a high pitch: https://bit.ly/2v4ep46
You can clearly see how the cords are short (loose) for the low pitch and longer (stretched) for the high pitch. By the way, it appears that the vocal folds are vertical in your throat. They’re not! They are horizontal. It also appears that they move back and forth, opening and closing at a moderate pace. They don’t! They’re actually moving so fast that you can’t even see it: about 110 cycles per second for men at a low pitch and about 200 cycles per second for women at a medium pitch. Isn’t that amazing?
So back to head bobbing … As you lift your head when you sing, you are actually straining and stretching the front portion of your throat, as well as pressing down on the back part of your throat. This adds additional strain and activates some of the muscles in your throat, possibly tiring them out unnecessarily. When you lower your head while singing low notes, you are shortening the front of your neck and squishing the front of your throat — right where your vocal cords are. Yikes!
Some head lifting is OK for performance purposes to create a “hip” visual effect, as long as it doesn’t involve throat strain or jaw tightness.
If these occur, it means that your throat is not relaxed while you’re singing and this could hinder your ability to make your voice sound its best.
Try to keep your head level when you sing, without raising your head too high. In fact, for higher notes, think of slightly lowering your head and pulling your jaw down and in when you sing. (Counterintuitive, I know.) Your throat will be more relaxed and your vocal cords will have more room to stretch and produce the notes needed.
Practicing some vocal exercises in front of a mirror while you sing will help stop your head bobbing by enabling you to actually see your head movements while you’re singing. If you discover that you’re moving your head up and down too much (who knew?), start over with a basic scale going up and down in pitch without moving your head. Keep singing until you’re able to keep your eyes straight ahead.
Once you begin to sing songs with lyrics, there will be a lot going through your mind and you may forget to keep your head at eye level. That’s why it’s good to practice vocal exercises with proper technique to establish good habits that will carry over into singing actual songs.
Remember to spend some time looking at yourself in the mirror at eyelevel as you practice your singing and you will be on your way toward achieving a more relaxed throat and jaw for great singing …. without bobbing for notes.