Use Your Voice to Overcome Personal Challenges

Woman on stage getting ready to sing
Singers work with sound every time they sing; this can be used to release powerful emotions -says Simone Niles

I was working with a singer who suffered from severe depression and was grieving the loss of her family dog. When she came into the lesson she was sad, had low energy and found it difficult to focus and get the most out of the lesson.

Despite what she was going through personally though, she showed up to the lesson and so that was half the battle won! Was there a way to harness the power of the voice and possibly have her use it to move through her feelings in a liberating way?

We decided to take a different approach at the beginning of the lesson to honour her feelings and connect it with singing. This approach involves vocalising our emotions – and has the benefits of helping us move through difficult times and reconnecting us with our body and our love of singing.

I am going to lay out the ideas behind this approach and then give you an exercise to try.

Feelings and Tonality

When we feel emotional about something, good or bad, it can affect our tonality, our breathing and there is often some kind of kinaesthetic sensation in our body.

For example, when we are angry, we may raise the volume and/or pitch of our voice, our breathing may become erratic and we may experience more tension in our body. Similarly, if we feel excited about something we may notice our breathing rate increase, notice our pitch get higher and get butterflies in our stomach.

So, what if each emotion has its own unique sound? What would sadness sound like? Or frustration? Perhaps we would express sadness through sobbing or frustration through growling (which as singers we use as vocal effects). What would happiness or relaxation sound like?

I suspect that each of us will have our own unique interpretations of these emotions.

Releasing Emotion – 3 Steps

For my client, sad and depressed sounds were lower in range and volume, with breathy offsets in her phrasing. The key was to help her release her emotion, shift through the stuck energy and replace with something positive and empowering.

Use three steps to help you overcome your personal challenges:

Step 1 – Release your emotions through sound

emotional singer

When releasing emotions through sound, it’s more about SOUNDING rather than SINGING. By this I mean you don’t need to think technically or perform, instead allow (without judgement) whatever sounds wish to come out. The sounds that you make are all ‘right’.

It might be a grunt, a moan, a hiss or even a howl, so just acknowledge and honour the sounds that want to come forward. Start by acknowledging the emotion you are feeling at present and then sound it out (literally).


Keep in mind the emotion you want to release and sound out the unique sound/s of your emotion or stress. Do this for as long as you need.

Step 2 – Sing dissonant sounds

To make sure that you have released everything you can use dissonance to complete the release process. In sound therapy, dissonant sounds can be used to shift stuck energy and emotions. Do you notice how your body (or ear) reacts when hearing something dissonant or out of key? The reason this happens is because intervals can have a vibratory impact.

Intervals prove to be useful and effective in many ways. Each Interval expresses itself as a ratio of the frequency of the root note and as such creates a different response or feeling through its unique expression. For example, unison (notes C-C) is known for creating a feeling of unity and being rooted. Further examples demonstrate that a second interval (notes C-D) creates tension and movement. As such intervals create shifts, movement and changes in vibration, making music and sound in general an effective tool for creating emotional and energy shifts within a person.


Keep in mind the emotion or energy you want to shift and sing chromatic scales (5 times or more) both ascending and descending on an AH vowel sound to create a bit of tension (E.g. C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F#-G-G#-A-A#-B-C). If you notice certain notes are more impactful for you (this is something you sense) then you can stick to that interval and repeat a few times. E.g. – a minor second.

Step 3 – Sing harmonious sounds

Just like dissonance can have an effect on you so can harmony. In sound therapy, harmonious sounds are used to create harmony in the body, mind and emotions.
For example, the interval of a major 3rd (notes C-E) is known for creating a feeling of hope and sweetness which is often used in church music and the perfect 5th (notes C-G) of creating a feeling of completeness and balance. Notice how your body (or ear) reacts when hearing something harmonious or in key? There is usually a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment when we listen to something harmonious. Although sometimes it’s even sweeter when we go from dissonance to harmony because it creates tension and release.


At this point you no longer want to keep in mind the emotion you have released, and the point now is to replace with something more empowering and harmonious. Sing ascending and descending arpeggios (E.g. C-E-G-C-G-E-C) on an AH vowel sound to create harmonious sounds (5 times or more).

While sound can create massive shifts in a person, sometimes it’s just the little nudges and adjustments that a person needs. In today’s music industry filled with hustle and competition, sometimes we just need a space where they can let go and surrender. Not everyone has a practice of meditation or mindfulness, but as singers we all have our voices to help us get back into balance and release stress. Personal challenges will come up (such is life), and we have a choice in how we handle them. Use your voice to overcome your personal challenges!

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