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Relaxing - Neck Tension

a singer with neck tension

The joint at which your skull meets your spine is known as the atlanto occipital joint, or A/O joint. When this joint has tension, the tendons going down through the neck are effected. This tension can be carried as low as the shoulders and as high as the back of the head. This tension can have a similar effect on your voice as grabbing both sides of your neck and squeezing would. It depends on how much tension you carry. The following will be methods to identify whether you do or do not carry neck tension when you sing and how to eliminate it.


How to Identify Neck Tension - There are a few ways to check because there are a few places you could carry the tension. The first is to imagine you have a small pencil on top of your head. Next imagine you are drawing a small circle on the ceiling with this pencil. This should result in a mixture or a circle and a rocking motion in your neck. Sing while doing this. If you notice your circle become a square or become choppy, boom neck tension. If you notice you neck stiffen entirely and your whole torso make the circle, LOTS of neck tension. If its easy, you're good. If the circle is too hard to figure out from a written description, try just shaking your head no. Ideally in one fluid motion without jerks.


Next, place two fingers on the side of your neck where it meets the shoulder. There should be a nerve cluster in the place where you would often get a neck massage. If you turn your head to the side its where the tendon sticks out on the opposite side of your neck. Push on this firmly with the two fingers, it should be somewhat tender, again, like a neck massage. Sing while pushing here. If singing is easier, you had neck tension. Try the other side to be certain as well.


If neither of these points effected you, great! You're done. If you DID notice neck tension, here's what to do.


How to Fix Neck Tension - As with teaching any part of your body to relax, getting your neck to release tension is a long term goal. While being methods to identify tension, both of the above methods also help train your body to release this tension. Pacing while singing can also cause your neck to relax. Simple neck massages to release the knotted muscles work as well for temporary fixes.


One more complex solution that worked for me, was to imagine yourself as a marionette. A string is tied to the back of your head directly above the spine. If someone slowly lifted this string while you were singing, your neck would release and slowly stretch. This may result in your head dipping, but its more of a slight tuck than it is looking down. The important part is the neck so ignore the chin as much as possible. Try singing phrases while slowly letting your neck stretch like this. It often helps relieve the tension.


Overall there is no fast way to eliminate tension. It will be a long term process. Keep at it and it will improve not only your singing, but also your daily life. If you need in person help, sign up for lessons here or leave a comment and I'll do my best to help.


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