How come I can't sing


Clear your throat, whisper, sing Seven mistakes about the voice

April 23, 2019 by Felicitas Balzer and Henrik Oerding

Clear your throat is healthy. Anyone who cannot sing is unmusical. Opera sopranos have to be fat to sound good? - There are many myths, half-truths and falsehoods about the voice. We have the facts.

Image source: © Nadja Pfeiffer / Colourbox

Misconception 1: clearing your throat before speaking is good

Everyone knows the uncomfortably oppressive feeling of the "frog" in the throat. The reaction is often: clearing your throat before singing or speaking to remove anything disturbing. Not a good idea, say the voice experts. Because clearing your throat irritates the vocal folds, which leads to an even greater production of mucus - if you continue to clear your throat, you end up in a vicious circle that damages your voice. "Therefore: Just let the frog sing along or speak," says singing teacher Susanne Eisch. From the outside you would hardly hear the "frog" anyway. And if nothing helps: "Cough right once, get rid of the dirt, and then go on."

Misconception 2: Whispering is easy on the voice

Source: wikimedia When a cold hits and your throat scratches, it seems logical: Just whisper, it sounds gentle and careful - so it has to be easy on the voice. "Whispering is great when you want to tell secrets, but you shouldn't use it to protect your voice," says speech therapist Holger Hettinger. In fact, the vocal folds would be under a lot of tension when whispering. Instead, he recommends: If speaking is necessary, then in a low voice - but with a voice. Otherwise you should be as quiet as possible and go to the doctor.

Misconception 3: You can only speak aloud with pressure

Many think: "If you blow in a lot, you get a lot out", as with the trumpet or the recorder. In the first moment this is also true: At first the voice gets louder, everyone knows that from screaming, for example. Teachers standing in front of a noisy class can have voice problems if they apply too much pressure. Susanne Eisch says: "Instead of exerting more pressure when speaking, you should stand upright and breathe in well. This stimulates the vocal folds and leads to a more efficient way of producing volume." Good training strengthens the vocal folds, i.e. the area in our throat where the voice is generated through vibration. If these are well trained, a loud, stable sound is created - even without pressure.

Misconception 4: To sing you need a strong body tension and a so-called "support"

The experts say "yes and no": Many understand "support" to be tensing the abdomen. Supposedly this is supposed to support the voice. However, increased tension leads to a closure of the vocal tract - i.e. exactly where the sound is amplified. "For me, support suggests rigidity. What you need, however, is flexible body tension," says Holger Hettinger. Susanne Eisch adds that one can support the voice much better with a flexible, erect body and relaxed and deep inhalation.

Misconception 5: The best breathing is "abdominal breathing"

Inhaling deeply is often associated with the idea of ​​breathing "into the belly", both in singing and in yoga. A mistake, says Susanne Eisch, who sees the basis for this in the past: It was often the case that singers were very restricted in their breathing due to fashion. When changes in lifestyle and fashion began, the singers noticed that it felt good when the stomach moved with the singing - "belly breathing" was the magic word from then on. That is an exaggeration, however: "The stomach can move with it, but the lungs are still in the chest," says Holger Hettinger. Because of this, the deep breath always goes into the lungs and expands the chest, but other areas such as the abdomen are also involved.

Misconception 6: The thicker the person, the fuller the voice

Source: picture alliance / Mary Evans Picture Library According to the cliché, opera singers are always fat. Logical, because that way they have more mass that can sound - right? "This is total nonsense," says Susanne Eisch. "Fat doesn't vibrate, fat doesn't sound, fat is fat." The voice is created somewhere else: "It really depends on how vocal folds and larynx look, but also on how well trained someone is," says Holger Hettinger. Then where does the image of the obese tenor come from? One possible explanation: Singers need muscles to sing, and people with a muscular build are more likely to put on fat. The corpulence of some singers could also be related to the pizza after the opera.

Misconception 7: People who cannot sing are unmusical

Some are told in childhood that they are unmusical because they don't hit all the notes. "Big wounds are inflicted there," says Susanne Eisch. Such people would then no longer dare to sing even in adulthood. But: "Our vocal machines do not differ." But what distinguishes people is how well they can translate the idea of ​​a tone into a vocal way. "Anyone who receives instructions and sings a lot can learn to sing and enjoy the music in the process."


Good singing and speaking begins even before you breathe in. And doesn't stop with the last note: "Relaxed speaking and singing lead to a positive self-awareness", Susanne Eisch is sure of that. So take a deep breath, don't let the fun of singing spoil you and above all: be nice to your voice.

Broadcast: "Leporello" on April 16, 2019 from 4:05 p.m. on BR-KLASSIK