We’ve all been there.
It’s time to sing that beautiful high note when all of a sudden, your voice squeaks and pops like a 12-year-old boy.
And your confidence pops along with it.
But don’t take it too hard. The truth is that vocal breaks are incredibly common.
And they can happen to anyone; whether you’re a professional singer or just starting out.
Check out the following video. Even the biggest singers on earth suffer voice breaks from time to time.
Trust me, if Ariana Grande and Mariah Carey can have a vocal break, so can you.
And you may think that you’ll always have that break in your voice but here’s the truth: you can fix your vocal break.
And having taught more than 500 students, I promise that it just takes some practice and the right singing techniques to overcome your vocal break and sing stronger than ever.
So today, let’s talk about what causes that nasty vocal crack and give you 5 great exercises for getting rid of your vocal break for good.
Ready to get started?
What Causes Your Vocal Break?
Here’s the sad truth: vocal cracks are very common in singers.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been singing, everyone has had their voice break at some point. In some cases, it can even lead to much more serious problems.
And before you can work on expand your vocal range or hit high notes, you need to overcome your vocal break.
But what causes the vocal break?
And more importantly, how can you fix it?
Let’s start with the basics.
Most vocal cracks happen when you’re singing from low to high, or from high to low.
There are lots of things that can lead to a vocal crack, but most of the time, vocal breaks happen for one of two reasons.
- You’re singing too heavily or…
- You’re singing too lightly
Here’s what I mean.
If you’re singing too heavy, it’s easy for your voice to fatigue and crack.
Think of what happens when you lift a weight that’s too heavy for you.
You may be able to hold that weight for a minute or two, but when your muscles get tired, they drop the weight.
In singing, if you’re you’re pushing too hard on a note, your voice may simply crack into a breathy falsetto.
You can also crack if you’re singing too lightly.
If you’re singing too lightly, then it’s easier for your notes to get weaker and breathier as you sing higher.
In other words, if you’re not using enough muscle to lift the weight in the first place, then you definitely won’t be able to lift a heavier one.
Now that you understand why your voice breaks, let’s take a look at where it happens.
Where Do Vocal Breaks Happen?
As I mentioned earlier, vocal breaks tend to happen when you’re singing from low to high or from high to low.
But let’s get specific.
Your voice is most likely to break when you change between vocal registers.
What does that mean?
Well, in singing, we have two main vocal registers: chest voice and head voice.
The chest voice is the vocal register at the bottom part of your voice
The lowest notes in your voice are considered chest voice.
Head voice is the vocal register at the top part of your voice.
That means that your highest notes are a part of your head voice.
Where Do You Change Between Vocal Registers?
If you’re most likely to break where you change from chest voice to head voice, it pays to know exactly where this happens.
Here’s the deal.
Most men change between chest voice and head voice around an E4.
Most women change from their chest voice to their head voice around an A4.
Those are the notes that you’re most likely to break on.
But before you swear off singing those notes ever again, let me say this: the best way to overcome your vocal break is by singing through it.
There are lots of great vocal warm ups for overcoming your vocal break. Here are 10 of my favorite singing warm ups.
And as you get more comfortable singing those notes, you’ll see that your whole voice opens up.
So now that you know where and why your vocal break happens, here are five exercises to get rid of your vocal crack for good.
5 Exercises to Eliminate Your Vocal Break
As we mentioned before, your vocal break usually happens for one of two reasons.
Either you’re singing too heavy or too lightly.
For example, if you’re singing too heavy, then you’re probably using too much chest voice and you may strain on high notes.
Or if you’re singing too lightly, you may be using too much head voice and you’ll just get weaker as you sing higher.
But no matter what your issue is, the goal is to find balance in your vocal registers.
So, these five exercises will help you find vocal balance no matter if you’re singing too light or too heavy.
Ready to get started?
Here they are…
Exercise #1: The Lip Trill
The lip trill is one of the best exercises to help you sing through your vocal break.
And just about anyone can do it!
The reason lip trills work so well is that the lip trill reduces the strain on your heaviest notes, and boosts the volume of your weakest notes.
That makes it much easier to sing through your whole range more smoothly.
Here’s how you do the lip trill:
- Take your two fingers and put them in the middle of your cheeks. Then blow out some air to make your lips flop together.
- Now, with the lips vibrating together, add an “uh” vowel behind the lips like you’re saying “other”. You should hear a clear vocal tone when you add the “uh” behind the lips.
- Next find a note at the bottom of your voice (if you have a piano, try C3 for guys and G3 for girls) and sing the “uh” vowel on that note behind your flopping lips.
- Now, sing from the low note up through your vocal break and back down (remember, men’s vocal breaks are around an E4 and women’s vocal breaks are around an A4).
- Repeat the exercise, singing the lip trill from the bottom note through your vocal break and back down as smoothly as possible.
By the way, if you don’t have a piano handy, here’s a video that shows you how to sing through your vocal break with the lip trill.
Exercise #2: The “Gee”
Now that you’re singing through your vocal break with the lip trill, let’s start to open our mouths as we sing.
After all, the lip trill is a pretty silly-sounding exercise.
So unless you want to go on stage bubbling your lips together, we need to work with exercises where your mouth is more open.
One of my favorite exercises for eliminating your vocal break is the “Gee” exercise.
That’s because the “Gee” exercise balances your vocal registers so well.
And if your voice is in balance, you’ll be able to sing stronger across your whole range.
Here’s how you do the “Gee”:
- Say the word “Gee” out loud like you’re saying the word “Geese”.
- Next find a comfortable note at the bottom of your voice and say the word “Gee” on that note (again if you have a piano, try C3 for guys and G3 for girls)
- Now, sing from the low note up through your vocal break and back down ( remember that men’s vocal breaks are around an E4 and women’s vocal breaks are around an A4).
- As you’re singing through the exercise, try to keep an equal emphasis on the “G” consonant as well as the “ee” vowel.
You should notice that the “Gee” helps you find a really strong sound on each of those notes in your voice.
By the way, if you don’t have a piano handy, here’s a video where I walk you through how to do the exercise.
Exercise #3: The Bratty “Nay”
Now that you’ve worked through the “Gee” exercise, you should be singing through your vocal break much more easily.
So let’s build even more power into those high notes.
The bratty “Nay” is one of my all-time favorite exercises for expanding your vocal range.
That’s because the “Nay” exercise is so good at balancing your vocal registers together.
With your vocal registers in balance, it’s going to be even easier to sing without breaking.
Here’s how to do the Bratty “Nay”
- Say the word “Nay” with a bratty sound, like you’re a little brat or the wicked witch. Go for a buzzy and nasal tone. It should be very ugly!
- Next find a comfortable note at the bottom of your voice and sing the bratty “Nay” on that note (again, try C3 for guys or G3 for girls)
- Now, sing from the low note up through your vocal break and back down on the bratty “Nay” (remember that men’s vocal breaks are around an E4 and women’s vocal breaks are around an A4).
- As you’re singing through the exercise, try to keep the “Nay” very bratty sounding.
You should notice that the bratty “Nay” gives you a ton of power on those high notes.
If you’re not sure how to do this exercise, feel free to check out this video where I walk you through it.
Exercise #4: Check for Tension in Your Larynx
Now that you’ve eliminated your vocal break with exercises, let’s look at some techniques you can use in songs.
Unlike the vocal exercises we just used, you can try these techniques in songs you’re singing.
Before we get into the exercise, let me say this.
One of the biggest causes of vocal breaks is tension in the voice.
And you’d be surprised how many singers have some tension in their voices.
The funny thing is most of them don’t even realize it!
One of the most common places that singers have tension is their larynx, or “voice box”.
The larynx houses your vocal cords and is surrounded by muscles that raise or lower it when you swallow or yawn.
Unfortunately, many singers raise their larynx as they sing higher.
But if your larynx is too high, you may squeeze your throat and your voice will break.
So here’s how to sing without the larynx rising:
- Take your thumb and first finger and gently wrap them around your voice box. You should feel the ridge of your larynx, or Adam’s apple, between your fingers.
- Now swallow while feeling your voice box. You should notice that the larynx rises as you swallow. Your fingers should look something like the following photo, but remember, we don’t want the larynx to rise as we sing!
- So feeling your voice box between your fingers, sing a phrase that’s been difficult for you.
- If you feel the larynx rise as you sing, try to sing the phrase again with a bit of a “yawny” feeling, as if you’re really sleepy. This “yawny” feeling should relax the muscles in your throat and lower your larynx as you sing.
You should notice that as your larynx relaxes more on those high notes, your vocal break will totally disappear.
By the way, if you want to make sure that you’re doing this exercise correctly, here’s a video where I walk you through it.
Exercise #5: Smooth out Your Vocal Break
By now, you should be able to sing through your vocal break much more easily.
But you may still feel a “switch” between your chest and head voice when you sing from low to high.
That’s totally fine!
Because here’s the truth.
Everyone switches from chest to head at some point. The trick is not letting the audience hear the switch.
It’s similar to driving a car.
When you’re driving, you can feel the gears in the engine switch as you accelerate.
But if you were standing on the street watching a car go by, you wouldn’t be able to see the car switch gears.
You can only tell that the car is switching gears when you’re in the car.
It’s similar in singing. You can feel the switch because you’re in your body.
But the goal is to not let anyone hear this change.
One of the tell-tale signs of a vocal break is a change in volume when singing from low to high or high to low.
Most of the time, the low notes sound strong and the high notes sound a bit quieter.
So while you’re working with these exercises, try to keep the volume of all the notes as even as possible.
That means that as you’re singing from low to high, back off the volume a little bit as you approach your break.
This will make your low notes sound even with your high notes.
And when you’re coming from high to low, you may need to back off a bit to avoid “slamming” back into your low notes.
This will make your high notes sound even with your low notes.
By now, you should be able to sing from the bottom to the top of your voice with incredible power.
And singing through you vocal break just gets easier the more you do it.
So if you practice these exercises daily, your audience won’t believe how powerful your voice sounds!
About The Author
Matt Ramsey is the head voice teacher and founder of Ramsey Voice Studio, the highest rated vocal studio in Texas.
Having taught over 500 students, Matt feels that the right vocal technique can help anyone become a better singer.
Matt’s complete vocal course is Master Your Voice.