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Oren Brown in Discover you voice:
DISCOVER YOUR VOICE (HOW TO DEVELOP HEALTHY VOICE HABITS) – Oren L. Brown
Some of the great singers of the past must have sensed this relationship between thinking and vocalizing. Nellie Melba (1922), said : « Simply think the note and allow it to come » (p.26). I’m sure that Melba and others did not know why this worked, but their approach produced some marvelous results. With what we know today, it is our responsibility to guide students so that they, too, can simply « think the note and allow it to come out. »
If you accidentally pounded your fingers with a hammer, you would probably say, « Ouch ! » and make all manner of grimaces. A pain in one part of the body can cause tension in the trhoat. Therefore, attention should be given to any bodily discomfort to help eliminate potentially unfavorable reactions in the phonating system.
Check your jaw for looseness. See if you can drop your jaw open and then move it gently up and down and side to side with your hands. If you can’t do it immediately, slowly move your jaw up and down and side to side with your jaw muscles, hands following, your thumbs under your chin and fingers above. Then move your hands faster to see if your can catch your jaw muscles off guard. It may take more than one try to do this. A loose jaw helps to induce o loose larynx.
Your jaw should hang so loosely that your teeth would click if you flapped your jaw shut in a hurry.
This originates from the Froeschels hypothesis that humans invented language by combining the various sounds they made while eating (Weiss & Beebe, 1951, p. 11).
It is important to have your hand easily poised with your larynx resting in a relaxed, relatively low position, because the muscles for pitch adjustment work below the Adam’s apple. Muscles above are used primarily in chewing and swallowing and should not be active in phonation. Avoid pulling your larynx down.
Often, something as simple as trying too hard can be the difficulty. The harder you try, the less well your voice responds.
The crura, the longest fibers of the diaphragm, are attached to the innermost portion of the first three lumbar vertebrae. If the curvature of the spine is too great, the crura would be elongated and not able to exert their optimal contraction. In the same area, the psoas major and psoas minor attach to the sides of all the lumbar vertebrae and extend to the pelvis and thigh.
For a long time I didn’t know there was such a thing, but it has a name : proprioception. A proprioceptor is a sensory receptor (nerve ending) that responds to stimuli from muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.
Keep your throat open and breathe easily during the exercice.
Breathing exercises are designed to bring reflexive action under cortical control so that it will be ready and responsive to the demands of singing.
Take a breath and release the air through this resistance on count « 1 ». Try to feel what is happening inside your body during the expiration. At first, you might think you are pushing air out. On further investigation, however, you will become aware of a pressure or compression taking place inside the thoracic cage. It is this pressure that many people refer to as « breath support ». Learn to think in terms of breath pressure or compression rather than « support ».
There are two opposing energies in producing sound – the activator and the vibrator. They must act in coordination, so that neither one puts undue stress on the other. In vocal production, less is more.
If you feel that your larynx is in a low, relaxed position just before your finish taking a breath, then it is ready to initiate the tone. If you wait until you have finished taking a breath, hold it, and then start the tone, you will lose the feeling of keeping the ribs expanded with a low, open larynx, which is important for the correct balance of glottal resistance to air flow. The sentation should be that you almost start to sing before you finish taking a breath.
As you listen to a pitch, the vocal folds automatically adjust to that pitch (Wyke, 1979).
The only difference is adding thought of pitch, and we now know that a thought will bring about an automatic adjustment of the vocal folds.
Start with the unvoice [p] for the lips or [t] for the tongue (« ppppp » or « trrrr »). Your throat muscles should be loose enough to allow a flow of air to keep the tip of the tongue or the lips vibrating. If your throat tightens, the vibration at the lips or tongue will stop. This exercice should be done as gently as possible, lips or tongue loose, with no forced air.
Another exercise is to blow gently on the edge of a piece of paper held vertically against the lips, while sounding an « oo » vowel [u]. The paper should make a buzzing sound. If the paper stops buzzing, it is because the larynx is too tignt to let an easy flow of air through. This exercise was shown to me by Bruce Foote, who headed the Voice Department at the University of Illinois for many years.
As your voice goes down the scale and up again, feel that the tone bounces on the lower note and then floats lightly back through the tone it started on.
Thinking about it this way helps to keep a free, open feeling in the pharyngeal area and thus contributes to a balance of resonance from vowel to vowel.
If the voice begins to wobble around on longer notes, especially on the final one, the production is not correct. Phonation should result from just a thought of pitch and a flow of air with a feeling that everything is loose and open in the throat.
I place much emphasis on the downward motion in vocalizing. Vocalizing from low to high is encountered almost universally, yet it can be very damaging. The danger lies in a tendency to raise the frequency by increasing the breath pressure.
Here are some of the reasons why it is desirable to move from high to low in exercising a voice in early study and in most corrective stages. (This also applies to daily warm-ups).
The glottis tends to be more relaxed when the respiratory musculature is in an inspiratory rather than an expiratory posture (Minoru Hirano, personal communication, May 15, 1993).
Also, higher pitches should be started lightly because they have more intensity than lower pitches at the same pressure level (see Chapter XV).
This has been called the « vocal fry ». Tone has a natural tendency to move downward as we run out of breath.
The important thing is to let the air flow do the work.
In the Exercises, try to get an inner sense of what your voice can do without listening to it.
It takes a great deal of training to trust what comes out if you just let it.
I recommend two books : one is Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel ; the other is The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey.
There have been exceptional singers who exceeded three octaves in performance – Yma Sumac and Ivan Rebroff, for example. What does this mean to you as a student ? It means that you should explore your potential before you accept a label.
For ex-ample, the high notes of the clarinet do not sound like the low. This is also true of the French horn, violin, oboe – in fact, all musical instruments.
Each has the same fundamental anatomy and physiology as all other voice. Yet each has characteristics that make it unique. As students and teachers of singing, we must learn what adjustments are possible and how they can be coordinated.
After puberty, the untrained Restister 2 voice – the part of the range used in every day conversation by both males and females – has, on average, a natural upward extension to about middle C for the male voice, and an octave higher, third space C for the female voice.
One hundred years ago, Holbrook Curtis (1896) wrote that if a singer has lost the use of the cricothyroid muscles, he is no longer able to produce high tones.
If the thyroarytenoids are activated at the same time, as they are elongated by the cricothyroids, they tend to thicken and therefore fill the gap. It is by learning how to keep the cricothyroids active at the same time that the thyroarytenoids are added that you start to exercise the mixed voice (or the Voix-mixte as the French call it).
It is impossible later lo develp the operatic or classical tone if the larynx is raised.
Some students find it easier to blow gently with rouded lips, like cooling a hot drink and then release a soft « Hoo » [hu]. This vowel helps because rounded lips induce the reflex action of sucking, which tends to lower the larynx.
Letting the voice become lighter and almost breathy as it slides up is possible and desirable later on.
Male singers may be hesitant to use Register 3 at first because it is so unfamiliar to them. Many female singers do not recognize this area in their voices because their voices change so little at puberty. They have been accustomed to the light, high quality all their lives. Others, however, have to discover this part of the voice, especially those who have been singing popular music, using only the lower range.
At that point, feel a sense of yawning space at the back of your throat and let the tones be even lighter and more breathy.
If you try to find these highest pitches by straining to raise Register 3 higher, you are doomed to failure.
Birgit Nilsson used the Queen of the Night aria’s to vocalize. Also, listen to the old time bass, Pol Plancon, for light, upper voice use. The better we can sensitize and exercise all the fine muscle fibers that lie within the vocal folds, the better control we have for high notes, soft notes, full notes, flexibility, and all the gradations in between.
Exercises starting from the bottom can be practiced with a light staccato.
Pitch problems often arise from improper muscular adjustments rather than wrong hearing.
A rule of thumb : if it is not comfortable, it is probably harmful. At this point of development, an aesthetically beautiful sound is not necessarily the criterion.
Remember the basic rule for singing, that it is better to do too little than to do too much.
A singer is a vocal athlete who must keep his or her laryngeal muscles in condition through regular exercise.
As Maria Callas said, « If you start right, you are right for life. But if you start wrong, it’s hard later to correct bad habits » (Ardoin, 1987, p.3).
By the process of thinking of what you have to work with and why it works that way, you can commence the routine of letting it happen. Then trust the result.
To acquire technique is to learn what to do and how to do it in the easiest possible manner.
In my own experience, there is no damage done to the young male’s voice if he is allowed to sing lightly during the voice change at puberty.
Martha Graham (1991) has said that « it takes about ten years to make a mature dancer » (p.4). And yet I have known young students of singing who thought they could audition for opera before they had learned to sing fast runs and skips, a skill that is known as agility.
To enable a voice to respond automatically and freely, the same principles of letting notes be light and loose for higher pitches must be observed.
Again, quoting Martha Graham, « technique is a language that makes strain impossible ! » (p. 249). Athletes prepare their muscles for performance by going through stages of stretch and light movement that are gradually increased to bring about stimulation of a maximum number of muscle fibers.
Eliminate pressure from the breath and the surrounding extrinsic muscles of the larynx. Keep your mouth, jaw, and tongue free and mobile. You will soon find that good tone release leads to good resonance, which enhances the carrying power of the voice.
The physiological process is too complex for the well-trained singer to think about while performing. The mind of the artist must be free to think of what needs to be expressed musically and poetically. Technique is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
This is because good coloratura is based on the principle that each and every note has its own adjustment and color.
It is a skill that has to be practiced very slowly over a long period of time before it can be executed with a distinct identity of two separate pitches.
The secret of a successful trill is to develop the sensation that the notes are being suspended from the upper pitch like loops from a rod. To that end, exercises are given that regularly stress the upper note and lossely release the lower, almost as if you were boucing between the two notes. This is what is meant by the instruction to do the trill from above.
The sensation that the notes are springing back and forth by themselves.
Thing what you want to sing and remove all interference so that you can let it happen. You then must learn to trust the result.
It was only when she was nearly 40 that the fullness of her voice materialized.
Our ears are constructed to protect us from the intensity of our own sound (see chapter XVIII), which is why others do not hear us as we hear ourselves.
Also, tape-record your voice to prove the point to yourself.
You must be guided by proprioception, the « sixth sense of singing ».
Increase the mass of the resonator and the amount of resonance will increase.
The chief resonators are the pharynx (the throat above the larynx) and the mouth. Moveable or adjustable parts of these resonators include the pharynx itself, the tongue, the jaw, the soft palate, and the lips. The pyriform sinuses, trachea, chest, and the whole body also act to some degree as resonators.
Physical differences in these resonators have much to do with the qualities that distinguish one voice from another.
A relaxed laryngeal position is not only beneficial in ways already mentioned but also provides a longer resonating column in the pharynx.
As you tend to widen your throat in commencing a yawn, the larynx lowers and the pyriform sinuses, which lie on either side of the larynx, expand. The resonance of these sinuses has been measured by Winckel (1971) at between 2800 and 3000 Hz, the characteristic « ring » of the voice !
A moderne symphony orchestra has a peak of around 450 Hz.
By removing the high overtones from a recording of a voice singing with an orchestra, the voice is not heard. When the overtones are restored, the voice « rides over the orchestra ». Of course, if the orchestra plays too loudly, especially the brasses, it is more difficult for the voice.
I am definitely not of the school that seeks to « place the voice in the mask » or any other place. Such and endeavor would be putting the cart before the horse.
A sense that your start the tone almost before you finish taking your breath.
What a teacher hears as potential and what it takes to develop it are two different things. The following story is a good illustration.
Many accomplished mezzos demonstrate these same qualities. Keep tessitura in mind when dealing with a potentially big voice.
The quality you feel as nasal resonance is very desirable. It is associated with the ring in the voice and is created when (a) full use is made of the resonators, (b) your throat is free from thensions, and (c) you have a good glottal adjustment.
Nasal resonance and nasality are two different things. Nasality results when the soft palate lowers when vowel sounds are sung , and is not a desirable quality other than in certain French vowels.
Violonists have also discovered that their instruments produce bigger tones when undue pressure is removed. Remember that perfecting technique means finding a manner of execution which produces the best results with the least effort.
With proper exercise over a period of time, your vocal folds develop a better tonus of firmness.
What especially impressed me was that the folds of the untrained singer would separate quite widely in each cycle of vibration, whereas the folds of the trained singer hardly parted at all.
Let your voice lead you to discover its new strength.
If a voice has size and power, one does not have to make it. If a voice is naturally not big, it can develop concentration of tone and carrying quality, but it can never be a dramatic voice, as most people think of power. Think in terms of concentrated tone, not power.
The convention attendees were divided into several groups, each assigned a different topic for exploration.
In loud or « forced » singing, facial contortions and straining neck muscles are often observed.
One of the most valuable elements, often overlooked, is that the voice needs rest as well as exercise.
Perhaps it would read, « in regard to vowel formation, it is desirable to maintain as much of the vowel’s identity as possible as the power is increased ».
How often, though, strength is put to the test too soon, and strain introduced, forcing the student to go back and start from the beginning.
Good laryngeal tonus and coordination are the objective. A firm tonus is not possible in young, untrained voices, and should not be expected until a voice has reached an advanced stage of technical development.
Although there can be a child prodigy in piano or violin, you can’t expect the same for voice because the larynx grows and changes the voice over time.
Each produces a pitch by thinking it and allowing the vocal folds to adjust automatically.
Men start when they are older because their voices change so dramatically at puberty.
Some have argued that a « natural » voice needs nothing more than appropriate music. On the contrary, I observe that a natural voice needs training based on the physical laws of vocal production to blossom into a healthy singing instrument.
In an interview with Will Crutchfield (1991), Marylin Horne had this to say about voice training : « Most of the young singers I hear simply have not been taught properly. They have no idea of breath control and all they can do is push. I would say that this goes for 90 % of Americans, and now I hear it all over Europe, too. »
In contrast to an excessive vibrato, a good vibrato will contain intensity as well as pitch variation.
« Researches are finding that moderate exercise can not only retard the effects of aging but can actually reverse them » (p. C14). She went on to say that « proper exercise, even into the 80s and beyond, has been shown to significantly deter the deterioration of bodily functions that traditionally accompany aging » (p. C1). Safe levels of exercise are cautioned.
You know the saying : « Use it or lose it ». Singers with long carreers keep their voices in condition by vocalizing regularly. This is especially important with respect to the upper half af the voice, which is not used in ordinary conversation. A daily routine of light exercises is a must. Brody’s article on aging states in closing. « It takes many weeks to reach a peak level of conditioning, but it can be lost in a week or two of inactivity » (p. C14).
The biggest threat to the healthy growth and maturation of your voice is trying to do too much too soon. You must discover what nature intended for you, not try to make your voice into something that it isn’t.
Think. Keep your mind and thoughts clear about what you can expect of your voice. If you do that and learn to let your voice grow at its own pace, you can trust the result.
As a child, you learned to speak by imitation. No one taught you how to breathe or how to shape the words. What you need to learn now is how to speak professionally.
Language is shape. Words are made of a series of different shapes. Your are already aware of how a flow af air can give you sound.
The jaw, tongue, lips, soft palate, and pharynx mold the vowels and the consonants.
Others incorporate a simultaneous sound from your larynx, (e.g. m or v) and may be sustained. This group is classified as voiced consonants.
Beginning with [i] (as in eve), they are shaped principally by your tongue and from the other end [u] (as in ooze) by your lips. The one vowel that does not fit into this series is  (as in word), which is a combination of both tongue and lip formation.
In singing, for all pratical purposes there are ten pure vowels and six diphthongs.
Most people find the lip vowels easier, so I start with [u].
1. [u] (boot, shoe, food)
While you prolong the schwa [ ], round your lips, much as you would if cooling a hot drink or dish of soup. You will hear the color oo being formed. Whisper it, [hu]. Avoid raising the back of your tongue, which would tend to decrease the resonance and produce a bottled vowel color. Let your jaw drop freely as you round your lips. Sound [ hu ] like a sight.
2.  (book, hook, look)
Start by sustaining the sound you just learned, [hu]. As you prolong this sound, very slightly drop your jaw while you keep your lips rounded. It is a though you were slowly saying the word wool. Whisper it, [ ] ; then sound it.
Float an boat are considered pure by some speech scientists, as distinguished from home and go. Starting again with [hu] let your jaw drop a tiny bit further than for [ ]. It is like saying « whoa » to a horse, only in slow motion. Note that although I am treating this phoneme as a pure vowel, I feel Americans sound it as a diphthong [ ] almost exlusively. Whisper [ho], then sound it like a sigh.
4. [ ] (hall, hawk, horn)
Begin again with [hu]. Keep your lips lightly activated but not protruded excessively. Slowly open to the word wall. Whisper [ ], then sound it.
5. [ ]hum, huff, hut
You are now back at the starting point, jaw and lips relaxed, [ ].
6. [i] he, heap, beat
Sustain [ ], jaw dropped passively open, tip of your tongue resting in contact with the inside of your lower front teeth. While sustainging [ ], loosely move the middle of your tongue as though saying, [ ], ending on [i]. The middle of your tongue will touch your upper teeth on each side. Avoid moving any face muscles, especially pulling back the corners of your mouth. Think of this as an isolation exercise of freely moving (wiggling) only your tongue.
French and « ö » in German. Repeat [hoeoeoe], keeping lips rounded with only the tongue moving. The word coerce uses this combination of sustaining a vowel while adding another. Whisper [ ] ; then sustain it.
One reason you must study and work on consonants in particular is because they have less energy in them than the vowel sounds. Every actor and public speaker learns to exaggerate or he or she will not be understood.
Think of all consonants as having pitch, and sing through them to conceal the changes as much as possible. Let the consonant articulation be firm and crisp, dropping in and out as if the flow of the vowel continued right though.
Vowel sounds fall on the beat. Initial consonants, therefore, must be sounded before the beat. If this is not done, it gives the effect of a word being late and out of sync with the accompaniment.
Exercises XXXIV a, b, and c in the appendix are designed to bring mobility and flexiblility to your articulation. If you experience difficulty with any of the consonants, get assistance from someone who can watch and hear what you are doing.
Practice the exercises slowly at first to establish coordination. Later, you can speed up.
The vowels change their modal formants according to the effects of both frequency and intensity shifts. As a basic rule, the louder of higher, softer of lower a vowel is sung, the more it will migrate in color. The loudest, the highest, and lowest tones tend to be more open.
A larger resonating cavity is needed to accommodate the higher frequencies and intensities in the sound waves of higher and louder tones. If this is not done, the resulting feedback can actually be a strain on the larynx.
For example, Coffin’s charts indicate at what pitch a voice should shift from a closed [i] to a more open [I] and further in an ascending scale to [e] and [ ].
My own experience with this problem has been that if you will keep thinking the vowel you want to sing, but allow the articulation positions to relax into more space for higher tones we hear the vowel you are thinking. The larger resonating spaces needed to accommodate the higher frequencies and intensities are not necessarily produced by opening your mouth wider. In fact, stretching your mouth and bringing tension into your face and jaw can produce a countereffect and make it more difficult to sing the pitch because of the tension reflected back into the larynx. Keep back of your mouth and throat open with face muscles relaxed. A firm, low connection with the breath is essential. It’s impossible for you to hear the result the way others do. Don’t try. Depend on finding an easy adjustment for the pitch. Develop your propioception.
Exercises VI and VII should be done with a steady flow of tone. Try not to jerk from note to note. Let the sixteenth notes float lightly.
See chapter V for the following exercises.
To discover the # 3 (falsetto) register, start with a light sound at no definite pitch but somewhere above the staff. With the larynx resting low, use a light, breathy sound on either hoo [hu], huh [ ], or hum [hm] and let it slide downwards, like a sigh.
If there is a « break », let the sound be more breathy, softer, and feel the sense of beginning the yawn. This helps the larynx rest in a low position at all times. Refer to the discussion of this problem in the text.
Listen to the audio illustration.
To discover the # 1 (vocal fry, pulse) register, let your voice descend in a light, breathy quality. No pushing down ! The larynx should rest low and feel very loose.
For the # 4 (flute, whistle) register, again just think the pitch and let a light flow of air start the sound. The larynx should still rest in a low, relaxed position. No reaching up ! With a relaxed jaw, round your lips freely for oo (u) and let a flow of air be like cooling your coffee or hot soup.
When you have discovered the sound, try exercises XIIa, XIII, and XIV in this range. If the [hu] sound does not work, try a light humming sound, [hm].
Exercises XVII and Exercise XVIIa will help to blend the # 2 and # 3 registers. This also helps the # 4 register as the highest notes are reached.
Notice the light accents on every other note, which avoid an accent on the top note. The top note should be the lightest. Only try this exercise as high as the notes come easily. Your mouth, jaw, and tongue should always be passive. Stretching your mouth open for the top notes or pulling back the corners of your lips will bring tension in your throat. Your larynx will automatically adjust to a throught of pitch if your throat is sufficiently relaxed. The notes should just « pop » out – it will seem to your that you have no control.
Also try repeating pup with a very light sound and loose lips.
Rounding your lips for [u] can help top notes.
See Chapter VII for the following exercises. I suggest using the primary Italian vowels in vocalizing : I, e, a, o, u. Elicit light, automatic pitches which adjust to a thought of pitch and a steady flow of air. Use the vowels that are the easiest. Let the speed gradually increase until the notes move so fast they seem out of control. If the pitches are correct, this is control because the notes respond to thought and airflow, with no muscular set. Feel a bounce and release from the accented notes.
Gradually increase the speed, repeating a number of times as you feel a free bounce.
Exercise XXc may be repeated with accents shifted as in XXa and XXb.
Let the 16th notes in Exercises XXIII be very light.
Exercise XXVI is for extending the breath. Only go as far as can be done on one breath. Gradually the breath will carry you further as the vocal folds become more efficient in their use of air. Do not expect to carry this throught on one breath the first time.
Drills for the trills. Use a fresh breath for each four measures.
Starting with Exercise XXVII, the same patterns may be used for the whole note trill.
Exercise XXIX is also to be done on one breath. In this exercise, avoid crescendo or diminuendo. Exaggerate the legato line, virtually sliding from note to note, like sighing. This exercise is also for blending # 3 and #2 registers.
Using the same pattern of vowels, this scale may be expanded by using five whole note intervals ; five minor thirds ; five major thirds ; five perferct fourths.
See chapter VIII for Exercises XXX.
It will take time to master these new exercises before you can do them on every note in your range. Never let a crescendo grow beyond the point where you can keep a mix of # 3 with the # 2 register.
These exercises are to be done on one breath.
Standing tall, keep your ribs comfortably expanded, especially toward the end of phrases. Feel a sensation like putting your foot on ice as you start the tone. Let each vowel gradually brend into the next vowel, thus avoiding abrupt changes. Repeat the exercise moving higher or lower by half steps. (Listen to the audio illustration).
Before you sing the beginning note, in your mind be thinking the pitch of the upper note just « popping » out of the same place that the lower one is being produced. Let the upper note be lighter. In time, repeat this rhythmic pattern on wider intervals : a fourth ; an augmented fourth ; a fifth ; a minor sixth ; a major sixth, etc.
In exercise XXXII, feel a bounce from the lower note to an unaccented note above. This exercise may also be tried on wider intervals.
In exercise XXXIII, feel that the lowest note is the strongest.
Exercise XXXIV is designed to help form consonants firmly bus crisply. A combination of any two consonants with any vowel may be used. For contral, try the variation in exercise XXXIVb, which provides a combination of two sounds in a pattern of triplets musically.