“Projecting” is bad, M’kay?
A singer came to me seeking help this week who had recently started singing with an established band. Starting with the first rehearsal, his band mates persistently asked him to “project” his voice more. And the more he pushed the more difficult it got. He told me he became frustrated to the point of questioning his own talent. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Now, let’s get our facts straight. When a singer “projects,” he tries to send the sound forward only; however, it is scientifically proven that it is impossible to send the sound in one direction. Sound is omni-directional and when “projected” it expands into every direction. Thus, efforts to project will not achieve the goal of singing more forward.
Here’s why projecting doesn’t work: when singers project, they try to push the sound forward. What they actually push forward is the air. When singers have any tendency to push the sound forward, they accelerate the air flow going through their vocal cords, ultimately overwhelming their vocal cords. This is called overblowing. Naturally the vocal cords tense up in order to keep up with the extra load. Consequently, if you attempt to sing by overblowing, you will either sound airy or throaty; neither of which will help your sound fill up a room. Overblowing is your airflow fighting the muscle tension and the muscle tension always wins.
What actually makes a sound louder is the resonator. The bigger the resonator, the bigger the sound it can potentially produce. When we sing, our bones function as our resonators. The more bones that resonate when you sing, the louder your sound will be. If you want the bones to resonate you have to relax the muscles around them allowing the voice to form in your chest. When you sing correctly 70% of your voice is coming from your chest. 20% from your head and only 10% from your throat.
So how do you access this resonant sound?
Probably by just being yourself. As you are reading this post you are probably in the perfect singing position in your body.
Your throat is neutral.
Your air pressure in your chest is balanced.
Your abdominal muscles are relaxed.
And you are probably breathing low and easy.
You just have to learn the muscle memory behind your neutral state -and appreciate it. Then you can apply this wonderfully relaxed feeling to your singing.
This helped my student greatly and he no longer felt the need to question his talent. Instead, he felt confident in his voice again.
Next time your band mates tell you to project, please send them my way so I can nerd out on them about why trying to project is just a bad idea.