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damage. I have hesitated to write about this because it is a difficult and controversial subject. Nevertheless, I believe it is a subject that needs to be responsibly addressed. Most singers know little if anything about the voice when they begin to study singing. Nor do they know what is healthy or unhealthy vocal technique. Having suffered vocal damage myself, I can only speak from my own experience. In the following paragraphs, I will list the causes of such vocal damage. Not only have I witnessed vocal damage, I can say I have suffered vocal damage and have recovered from it through the concepts of Alan Lindquest, his students Virginia Botkin, Martha Rosacker, and Dr. Barbara Mathis, and Dr. Evelyn Reynolds, my present teacher who has studied the Italian School extensively. All of these teachers have accomplished a deep understanding of the concepts of the Italian School in great detail and they all developed diagnostic hearing plus tools to solve vocal problems. All of them have been extremely influential in my development as a teacher and they have given me an expertise that I value greatly today. This is why I encourage young teachers to find a real master teacher with whom to study. Lindquest continued his vocal research until his death at age 93. This is the sign of someone who pursues the deepest truth in vocal concepts. Singing is a lifestudy. It is exciting in the sense that one can learn at any age and the journey need never end.
The Damaging Effects of a Flat-Tongued Technique
So many teachers and singers are confused about the healthy position of the tongue in singing. I have worked directly with singers who have studied a 'flat tongued' technique and attempt to sing on this type of production. The flat-tongued technique is basically a non-productive futile attempt to find more acoustical space in the throat. I can tell you without hesitation that this is an incorrect and damaging technique. If the tongue is flat, then the mass of muscle at the back of the tongue (tongue root) is forced into the pharynx. This fills up the primary resonator (pharynx) with tongue mass which can be compared to singing with a pillow in one's throat. Trying to teach a singer with such a background can be a difficult journey at best. Healthy nasal resonance cannot be present in a flat-tongued technique. It is important to understand that healthy nasal resonance (not nasality) is the only concept that completely releases tension at the root of the tongue.
In a flat-tongued technique, the singer is primarily using a technique which does not allow for a healthy change of register as one ascends upward within any scale or arpeggio. The root of the tongue places direct pressure or stress at the vocal cords or glottis. After hearing a singer trained in this destructive technique, it becomes obvious that this incorrect vocal concept does not allow for the healthy pivoting of the vocal folds. Therefore there cannot be a healthy transition into the head voice register. Loss of high notes is typical in such an approach to singing. When the tongue is too flat, then the singer has to force the voice into the upper register with a tremendous amount of breath pressure. This breath pressure irritates the vocal cords and the result is usually hoarseness and an inability to phonate healthily. Some singers have also suffered damage such as vocal hemorrhage, bowed vocal cords, nodules,
this young singer was flattening his tongue. This constant pressure on the larynx and vocal cords created by this technique is completely unhealthy for the voice. There were two primary culprits that worked together to destroy healthy production: tremendous breath pressure and a flat-tongued technique. he was loosing his voice through hoarseness after each performance. partly from his association with Jussi Bjoerling. Because he was trying to create false color with the back of the tongue and because he thought he was a baritone (see article on Vocal Fach). this singer could quite quickly go up to the high C and even to the high D without . I decided to vocalize him higher. Case Study: Tenor Singing Baritone Recently I had the opportunity to work with a young professional baritone.or polyps from singing with the tongue depressed or flat. and (4) absence of an easy transition into the upper passaggio and high range. At 23. (3) chronic hoarseness from a flat tongue position creating direct pressure on the vocal cords. Because of Lindquest's great understanding of the tenor voice. There were four negative results (1) absence of healthy nasal resonance. After working with this singer for a period of about 10 minutes and having heard the absence of true resonance in the voice. (2) inability to achieve 'ring' in the voice through nasal resonance. I warn teachers and singers that those who pursue such a technique to get a 'bigger sound' (this kind of sound is only big in a small room and is quite small in a theatre.) can destroy their vocal health. and because his exercises invite balance in the upper passaggio.
this created false color and forced the voice to phonate lower than intended. It became more and more obvious to me that this young singer was singing in the wrong fach. he could sing in the baritone range by depressing the larynx with the root of the tongue. he described his own voice as sounding simply like a "tenor who was trying to make a baritone sound". After listening to his first lesson. probably through a major vocal hemorrhage. The flat tongue position was only one of the negative results of singing in the incorrect vocal fach. As a light skinned blond person. This is yet another case of a young singer who was on the road to vocal damage because of an insistence from his instructor that he was a baritone. (usually these singers have blood vessels right on the surface of the vocal cords. chronic hoarseness would follow each performance. I began to analyze the singer's tongue position and realized that at times it was completely flat in an attempt to manufacture a baritone color in the voice. By the third lesson. There is absolutely no denying the truth. Tongue depressors: The ultimate in vocal abuse: I have taught singers who were taught to depress the tongue with a tongue . However. that he is a high tenor. he most certainly would have suffered vocal damage.) had he continued to sing with this false and unhealthy technique. this singer was singing the tenor solos in Handel's Messiah with great beauty of tone. this was impossible. Since he was not really a baritone.major difficulty. This is criminal and there should be laws to protect singers. This is an example of a situation where a teacher's ego dominates over real concern for the singer. As I mentioned above. True.
flattening of the tongue is filling up the pharynx or back wall of the throat with tongue mass.depressor while looking into a mirror. The tongue should never be frozen in place. The integrity of the clear Italian vowel sounds is never sacrificed. Remember Lamperti's quote: "The singer's pronouncer is in the pharynx NOT the mouth. Lindquest had died. The confusion lies in the idea that what appears to be filling the mouth space can be flattened to make more space in the throat. Many singers have suffered vocal hemorrhage or nodules from this tremendous breath pressure alone." When the tongue is arched healthily as in the 'ng' position (Lindquest's home position of the tongue). I warn teachers and singers alike that this is extremely dangerous. the back of the throat (pharynx) is actually much more open. when the mouth space appears to be filled with the forward and arched tongue. On the other hand. I was searching for another teacher at the time because Mr. The technique taught this singer was extremely destructive and included an unhealthy depressed tongue approach. there is absolute and obvious confusion by the instructor. The result is a large forced ugly sound with lots of breath pressure forcing the voice to go higher. This teacher gave me a vocal hemorrhage trying to make me a high C tenor when I was actually a lyric . Those who have forced the tongue flat cannot make a clear transition from vowel to vowel. Otherwise clear pronunciation is impossible. This concept represents a basic ignorance in the physiology of the voice. Singers trained in this way often sound as though they are gargling marbles and trying to sing at the same time. This is absolute vocal abuse that most certainly results in vocal damage. I had one lesson with a New York teacher who taught this technique because he had a big name. then the singer can pronounce the vowels clearly. A singer who has suffered from this kind of instruction and suffered vocal damage should seek legal action. One famous court case in the United States awarded a singer a very large sum of money. In actuality. In this kind of circumstance.
the scar on my right vocal cord from the hemorrhage was evident. (5) Legato line is impossible because the tongue is so tense that there cannot be a healthy separation between the jaw and tongue function. I left his studio unable to speak and cancelled all of my teaching for the next 3 days. (4) The soft palate assumes a low position. often resulting in nasal or thin tone. The resulting sound was that of a small child. (2) The tongue usually goes back into the pharynx. Therefore it does not impede my singing ability. When the jaw is forward. there are several negative results: (1) the vocal cords do not approximate correctly. The voice lacked any kind of color or warmth and would fatigue very quickly. I now have a scar on my right vocal cord because of this teacher's dalliance and irresponsibility (he had a huge ego!) Luckily the scar is on the fold and not on the vocal lip. Later when I had my vocal cords videoed at the University Hospital at Groningen. extremely breathy and throaty. (6) There cannot be a healthy breath line because the breath is choked off by the root of the tongue. (3) The larynx functions in a high position allowing only a thin immature sound to be produced. Jaw Forward Technique I remember the first time I had a singer who had been taught to place or relax the jaw forward. (7) It is impossible to create a musical phrase because the singer cannot crescendo or decrescendo healthily. (8) The vowels are usually distorted because of a large of amount of tension at the .baritone. The throat was completely closed and the vocal cords would not approximate properly. filling the primary resonator with tongue mass. The Netherlands.
My personal belief is that many teachers are not taught to hear the difference between healthy ring in the voice and a 'squeeze' of the throat. there cannot be healthy resonance present in the voice. However. I understand that many teachers are afraid to allow young singers to make a big sound. I was trained as tenor even though I was actually a lyric baritone. Often college. High Larynxed Technique: Often Associated with the Boy Choir Sound I can speak from personal experience about this subject.tongue root. and balanced vocal tone which includes both higher and lower overtones. This . university. However. is of a depressed larynx technique which is truly incorrect and damaging as well. the slightly lowered larynx makes for a healthy. then the result is usually a squeezed throat which can be damaging. Their fear. it is critical that teachers understand that if they are teaching a young large-voiced singer and the singer is not allowed to use the fullness of the instrument. (9) Since the back wall of the pharynx is closed. or conservatory teachers are teaching very young singers and are afraid to address the issue of the high larynx. it is crucial that the singer learn a slightly low larynx production without overly depressing the larynx with the root of the tongue. The singer is trying desperately to 'lighten up the voice'. If taught with the nasal resonance and the 'ng' tongue position. and I understand that fear. This is extremely damaging to a young singer. warm.
I would have difficult speaking clearly after any choral rehearsal. especially when I was required by a conductor to sing a boy choir sound with a straight tone. One of the largest problems for me personally was when I was required to sing as a tenor in choirs when I was in reality a lyric baritone. A depressed larynx or a high larynx can cause irritation. this scar could have been catastrophic to my singing and I could have suffered damage that would not allow me to sing again. However. Demanding this kind of sound by voice teacher or choral director from an adult singer creates all kinds of vocal difficulties as I listed at the top of this paragraph. This was primarily due to the fact that I could not sustain the tenor tessitura with a lower larynx position.concept of lightening the voice needs to be taught with a deep body connection. This created constant hoarseness. Straight Tone Singing:The Early Music Trap . Scar tissue does not stretch as healthy tissue does. The 'boy choir' sound is not a sound that is designed for any adult to make. The only way a large voiced singer can lighten up his/her tonal quality is to connect deeper to the body. The result was a constant irritation of my vocal cords. I am fortunate that the scar on my right vocal cord is not at the vocal lip.
The vibrato is a result of the healthy function of the vocal cords. The largest problem is vocal fatigue accompanied with an imbalance of the registers. Most straight tone singers find it impossible to allow for a healthy transition into head voice. then that singer has to squeeze the vocal cords in order to stop the vocal cords from fully vibrating. I love Bach and Handel and the beauty of their music. When a healthy tone is produced. This is of course a response to trying to 'straighten out' the tone. This does not allow a healthy amount of air through the vocal folds. the straight tone sound is so thin and light with a high larynx that it disguises chest voice as head voice. This kind of singer is actually unaware that he/she is belting from the lower register upward. It is not to be confused with a wide vibrato or 'vocal wobble'. This holding of tension in the throat can create all sorts of negative results including a closed acoustical space. I certainly understand that choral directors do not want any of their singers to 'wobble' because tuning becomes impossible. It has a direct relationship to Flagstad's comparison of a 'silver sound' or 'silver thread'. Why is straight tone singing damaging? The answer to this question is simple. However. A healthy vibrato shimmers with fast vibrations. However. attempting to solve this problem with straight tone singing is futile and destructive vocally.Some of my favorite music is of the Baroque period. I . I personally sing this music with a healthy shimmering vibrato. the result is a taut and shimmering vibrato. If a singer is required to sing a straight tone for any choral director or teacher. Usually the singer with the wide vibrato gets even worse because of the holding in the throat.
The Smile Technique There is one large-scale incorrect technique that I must speak about. When I was singing as a high larynxed tenor. The smile is actually in the eyes. There was a complete absence of warmth of tone in the voice. I thought I was singing head voice when in actuality I was belting the middle voice as high as I possibly could.speak from personal experience on this issue. lifted cheeks under the eyes. and all this with an oval mouth shape. So many teachers and singers think that it is important to smile at the mouth opening while singing. sunken cheeks at the back teeth (this creates more acoustical space in the pharynx). With age. Instead brilliance of tone should be produced by bringing the tongue forward and arched out of the throat. By the time I got to Alan Lindquest. The vocal cords became extremely fatigued and beauty of tone was impossible. The smile technique is related to the . NOT the mouth. The Italian School teaches the inner smile which is actually a high and wide soft palate. This absolutely is destructive to the throat. my voice became more and more brittle in sound. the smile technique. The healthy pivoting process of the vocal folds was impossible and I had no sensation of a high soft palate. I was suffering vocal damage at age 29. So many singers are taught the smile technique in an attempt to brighten the tonal quality of the voice.
The vocal cords also do not close properly. drops the palate. invites the jaw to move forward. the tone to be bright and thin. I can name several early music singers who have large scale recording careers. This has been scientifically proven through the use of fiberoptic research. Those who use this concept in an attempt for authenticity will and do suffer the consequences. . The vocal cords could not pivot properly for the correct register changes.'boy choir' sound in an adult voice. I have never understood why their recordings sell. It was impossible for me to go into the upper passaggio and high range because the larynx position was too high. Absolutely NO body part is in the correct position for healthy singing to occur. By the time I got to Alan Lindquest in 1979. This smile of the mouth technique raises the larynx. this smile technique is quite popular amongst many in that genre of music. I was taught by a high tenor who had me smile while singing. my voice was stiff. rigid. Again this is another technique which is widely excepted as one of vocal health. and usually the singer is flat in pitch. The absolute negative result is a closed throat that causes hoarseness after singing. Although there are some excellent early music singers. something that should never be taught. The result was an extremely high larynx position and constant vocal fatigue. Do people not hear that they are singing flat? Over time the voice will deteriorate completely. yet they sing constantly flat and out of tune. The truth is that is it extremely dangerous and detrimental to true vocal health and should never be taught. It does nothing to enhance the voice and the results can be extremely damaging over time. and had a flat and unpleasant tone. There is not doubt that the smile technique is quite dangerous. Again. I am speaking from personal experience.
I actually felt sorry for the singer because of his own . It seems that men are often the singers who use this technique the most. This was a catastrophic performance. The lift brings ring into the voice and therefore carrying power. then high overtones come into the singer's production. the singer's voice does not carry properly in a concert hall or opera house. Without lift. the Swedish/Italian School attempts to create a balance between higher and lower overtones. When the facial posture is lifted. The result is usually pushed and unpleasant tone. Again. Quality of tone is directly effected by one's facial posture because of its effects on the interior posture of the throat. The production was hooty and dark and he sounded somewhat like he was imitating a moose call. The lift of the cheeks under the eyes brings the soft palate up. If the facial posture is pulled down. I remember hearing a British baritone who was flown over to sing Elijah in a concert in Connecticut.The Pulled Down Facial Posture in Singing I have witnessed many singers who pull down the cheeks and cover the teeth completely while singing. This simply makes singing very difficult and hooty. then singer must work twice as hard with breath pressure to blow the soft palate out of the way.
When I was incorrectly trained as a high larynxed tenor. Since I had a mezzo in the performance. This baritone was only about age 55 and should have been at his peak. If a person is physically healthy and exercises his/her voice properly. This was .obvious discomfort. then the result is that other aspects of the voice become unhealthy as well. It will also be a long chapter in my upcoming book. then vocal longevity is quite easy. If one element is out of alignment. then I got more of the inside story. The Belting of Breath Pressure: OverDevelopment of the Chest Register The more of this article I write the more it becomes obvious that every vocal concept is connected to another. His own unhappiness and insecurity turned him into a difficult and demanding performer. I believe that people can keep their voice as long as they can keep their health. All this was directly related to his confusion regarding correct facial posture. I will be writing an article on facial posture and the acoustical relationship to healthy tone shortly. This is also very related to exercising the voice properly. Sadly the voice was quite stiff and ugly and the high notes were completely flat in intonation. I had to use a tremendous amount of breath pressure to force the voice upward. This man was quite arrogant because of his own insecurity. The audience was shocked and disappointed at the lack of beauty of tone. It made him quite a bad colleague.
little or no vowel clarity because of the forward jaw and low palate. There is absolutely no way to belt with breath pressure and have the vocal cords survive without damage. I especially wanted to try and go higher because teachers had told me I was a tenor. Usually the singer must use a lot of breath pressure or breath compression in order to push the chest register upward further than it is designed to sing. The result was the support of tone by the tongue. and tremendous lack of resonance because of a complete lack of acoustical space. I have the scar on the right vocal fold to prove my vocal distress. This tongue problem was a direct result of the breath pressure that I had to use to try and go up into the higher range. This tenor training was extremely damaging.not a conscious or aware reflex. breath high under the chest and little or no lower body support. I was fortunate to survive with only one vocal hemorrhage. This was because it resulted in every body part being in the wrong position for healthy singing. . One thing is for sure. flat and back tongue position. I was actually a lyric baritone. It became obvious in later years that I was constantly doing a close dance with vocal damage and no one really offered me any answers until I met Alan Lindquest and the other teachers I mention at the first of the article. but in the upper range it also dipped like a spoon. It is unfortunate that pop and Broadway singers feel the necessity to belt in order to compete. but there was really no other choice. My tongue not only was flat. This includes a larynx high. hard belting is damaging to the voice. I was intelligent enough in my instincts to seek help and it took years to find a teacher who knew about vocal technique.
Again there is no possibility for head voice development. many young singers are taught a technique that tries to get only to the 'big vocal sound'. In healthy singing. the solar plexus gradually turns freely as the singer gradually fuels the small stream of breath through the larynx. The singer suffers difficulty with high notes and there is a large imbalance of registration present. I call this the over-compression of the breath. Healthy resonance is created with the help of nasal resonance that takes away the pressure at the root of the tongue. True that any singer needs a large amount of 'ring' in the voice. Remember that Caruso said he needed no more breath to sing than to have a casual conservation with a friend. I once had a French mezzo who had studied a teacher who used the 'fist in .Locked Solar Plexus Technique Tragically. Usually these singers suffer an overly-chested technique. Some teachers think that a singer must have this in order to compete in the business of classical singing. This 'big vocal sound' (which has become popular!) is manufactured by pumping a tremendous amount of breath pressure through the larynx. But this is not created by pumping a 'big sound' out of the mouth space with lots of breath pressure. With this pressurized technique it is quite impossible to achieve vocal freedom. Often in such a technique the teacher puts his or her fist in the singer's solar plexus area and then has the singer 'push out' with a great amount of pressure. The result is a loud and pushed sound with little or no healthy nasal resonance. The root of the tongue becomes locked and yet again direct pressure is placed at the vocal cords by the root of the tongue.
Her teacher used the 'fist in the stomach' technique which creates a gag reflex at the root of the tongue. During her vocal research. but also damaged her voice. she decided to have a 'vocal abuse' session using the fiberoptic camera. She was not allowed to perform her graduation recital and after a threatened law suit. She was admitted into a very exclusive conservatory and at the end of her study she could no longer sing thanks to this damaging technique. it is difficult to correct. She teaches at Lamar University in Beaumont. Once this extreme reflex is taught to the body.the stomach technique'. which not only did not serve her. After tremendously hard work at recovering from the damage taught her. Texas. She paid a large sum of money to attend a conservatory. She was indeed a victim of a damaging technique taught by someone who was ignorant of the resulting damage. The discovery was nothing less than amazing. Her research is ground breaking to say the least and she is on of the finest voice scientists and teachers in the United States. She told me that after singing with a . Breathy Technique I first learned of the damage of breathy singing from my friend and colleague Dr. It took one and one half years to rehabilitate her voice. she was allowed to study with me outside the school for credit. Barbara Mathis. this singer graduated and is now a successful voice teacher.
breathy tone. I had acquired this damage over about 15 years of incorrect instruction. It is scientifically proven that breathy singing is damaging to the voice. the vocal cords turned more and more red and the vocal lips swelled almost twice their normal thickness. My vocal cords would not come together properly because of years of using breath pressure and a high larynx. Mathis' research. The vocal cords were 'bowed' and would not come together like healthy cords. All of this occurred because of the swelling of the vocal cords due to breathy singing. Lindquest used some of Garcia's 'coup de glotte' exercises that healed a great deal my vocal damage. It is sad to say that this technique is being taught in an attempt to 'lighten the voice'. . I have had the privilege of seeing Dr. My personal experience with breathy tone was revealed when I worked with Alan Lindquest. The singer used a lot of breathy tone for dramatic effect. After only about 3 songs vocal fatigue began to develop and by the end of the performance the singer was trying desperately just to get through the performance. Recently I had the experience of hearing a Cabaret performance in New York City. This was a huge mistake. I consider her to be a great vocal technician and she has done amazing work with damaged voices. Suddenly after only about 2 days my tone became healthy again. This was indeed an eye-opening event. He offered me exercises that changed my singing life.
a singer should NEVER experience vocal fatigue. I speak and teach 7 to 8 hours per day 6 days per week and I never experience vocal fatigue in my voice studio. Hoarseness should NEVER occur after any voice lesson unless the singer is executing the instruction incorrectly. the list of causes might seem repetitive. Never should a singer feel fatigue after a lesson. I think it is crucial that I list the causes of vocal fatigue. If he/she is singing correctly. Allow me to say emphatically. (2) Belting: using too much chest voice pushed up to .The Final Analysis: Causes of Vocal Fatigue In closing. I have heard so many singers tell me that their last teacher told them that the 'muscles had to get used to the new technique'. However. the voice should not tire. Because singing is such a coordinated function. This is irresponsible for any instructor not to take vocal fatigue as a red light for future vocal damage. I feel it is important to review the causes of vocal fatigue. Causes: (1) Smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages.
(6) Singing with a forward jaw position. (10) Singing with the head posture pushed forward from the spine. dropped chest or hyperextended chest. lack of connection to the resistance of breath pressure in the lower back and abdominal muscles. (4) Singing with a high larynx. .high in the scale. (9) Incorrect posture. (8) Pushing too much breath pressure through the larynx. (11) Use of mouth vowels instead of pharyngeal vowels. (12) Unsupported singing. (3) Using a technique with a tight solar plexus during singing. (7) Singing with the vocal cords too far apart or too squeezed together. (5) Singing with a low soft palate.
Jones/2001 Please direct questions to firstname.lastname@example.org ! .(c) David L.
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