YOUR VOICE – A BRIEF GUIDE

Stuart Darling BMus DipABRSM October 2013

Before we begin a word on “natural” singers. “Natural” simply means “Habitual”. In other words people that do something “naturally” whether it's walking a tightrope, running 1 m in under 1 se!onds, playing a musi!al instrument or singing well ha"e all done one thing e#tensi"ely.... $%&'(I)*. +alking a tightrope !annot be natural from birth. Babies !an barely stand up until they are almost a year old. In order to get good at that you ha"e to train... a lot, (hose people we see who ha"e wonderful "oi!es will ha"e done a lot of singing. -ou may be aware of the 1 , hour rule, and in the book “Boun!e” by .atthew )yed he re!ounts a study of "iolinists at an a!!laimed musi!al a!ademy in Berlin. (hose who had a!hie"ed international soloist standard had all done 1 , hours pra!tise by age / . (hat e0uates to nearly 1 hours a day, e"ery day for 1 years. 'an you think of anything you ha"e done for 1 hours e"ery day for 1 years2 *#!ellen!e takes pra!tise, and pra!tise takes !ommitment and diligen!e. Howe"er, the interesting !on!lusion from that study was that nobody who did 1 , hours fo!used pra!tise had not a!hie"ed the standard they were looking for. )o this 3ust pro"es that with time and pra!tise you !an and will a!hie"e e#!ellen!e. -our “"oi!e” !omes from manipulation of 1 mus!ular systems 1) THE POWER = BREATH 2) THE SOURCE = VOCAL FOLDS/LARYNX (VOICE BOX) 3) THE FILTER = THE VOCAL TRACT THE POWER
(he breath powers the "oi!e, but it is merely that. +ithout breath we !annot speak and sing but it is also responsible for a lot of problems due to o"er use. Normal breathing in"ol"es many abdominal mus!les in!luding the 0uadratus lumborum, trans"ersus abdominis et!. (he diaphragm is one of those abdominal mus!les used but sin!e it has no sensory ner"e endings it !annot be felt dire!tly and be!ause it is an essential mus!le of respiration it !annot be !ontrolled dire!tly either. If you !ould you might stop yourself breathing in your sleep. (herefore it is rather a lost !ause trying to learn how to train it. Better to fo!us your efforts elsewhere. Breathing is as simple as in and out. -ou do it e"ery day already perfe!tly you really don't need to mess with that "ery mu!h. 'ontrary to popular opinion you also don't need to worry about taking a “high” or “low” breath. *ither are entirely "alid and make no differen!e to the resultant sound. 4ust be "ery aware of o"er5use of breath as this will undoubtably !ause !onstri!tion of the "o!al folds resulting in in3ury or strain, both physi!ally and soni!ally. (he breath .6)( be allowed to ad3ust to the resistan!e generated by the "o!al folds on the way out. (his simply means when your "o!al folds !lose, the breath must stop. (o pro"e this hold your breath with your mouth open. -our "o!al folds will !lose and the breath will stop. If you hold this position and try to s0uee7e from below, you will get no !hange. *#er!ise for breath e#ploration8 Find a comfortable note in your speaking range, move from an unvoiced “Ff” to a “Vv” sound. Practise moving between these two. Notice what happens to the breath when you go from a V back to an F. id the breath flow suddenly increase! "ry to match the

and the ?=?s are mounted slightly abo"e them in the laryn# and their 3ob is primarily that wonderful biologi!al fun!tion of !onstri!tion whi!h we want to a"oid at all !osts.id. 'ri!oid !artilage A this !an be "erti!al or tilted :spee!h or beltingCbright falsetto. )o. (he (=?s are responsible for making the sound we understand as being the "oi!e. closure of the mouth M&-nose pinch . . or anything in between. the (%6* =9'&> ?9>@) :(=?s. further narrowing of the vocal tract and lips $!-%" . within our laryn# we ha"e the following options. >aryn# height A this !an be low. closure of the nasal port THE SOURCE 9ur laryn# is a "al"e and a !onstri!tor. closure of the vocal folds %"-M& . thi!k :loud. angle :"ia laryngeal tilt. (=?s A these !an be sla!k :"o!al fry. there is progressively more and more resistance to the breath.breath flow so that you use the same amount of air and there is no audible increase when moving between the F and V. and the ?&>)* =9'&> ?9>@) :?=?s. -our "o!al folds !ome together and "ibrate mu!h like when “blowing a raspberry”. It e#ists solely to prote!t us from ob3e!ts entering our airway. (hyroid !artilage A this !an be "erti!al or tilted :spee!h B falsetto or “head” "oi!e. thin :0uiet... stiff :falsetto. Now try moving between the following sounds #h $the sound of breath% &h $as in shush% &s $as in the sound of a 'uiet hiss% (). &>> of whi!h we !an !ontrol independently.. 9ne thing to distinguish before mo"ing on is that we ha"e two sets of "o!al folds. &s a result we must treat the laryn# differently when speaking and singing in order to a"oid getting the same results as when !hoking..re stuck or need an e-planation read on. %etra!ted :open throat.. (he "o!al folds are two flaps of skin about the si7e of a <p whi!h !an !hange length :"ia laryngeal tilt. Ff $as before% Vv $as before% then *m $humming% and finally half pinch your nose while humming. "ry to note down what is causing the increase of resistance each time. 9ur instin!ti"e rea!tion to ob3e!ts entering the airway is that the larny# !onstri!ts and shuts down and we build up a lot of pressure using the abdominal mus!les in order to !ough out whate"er it is "ery suddenly and for!efully. narrowing of the vocal tract and lips Sh-Ss . upward movement of the tongue Ss-Zz closure o! the "ocal !ol#s Zz--$! . ?=?s A 'onstri!ted.. we may now understand that speaking and singing are merely laryngeal hobbies.. Notice how with each one. and thi!kness :by !ontrol o"er the "o!al fold mass. mid or high and . . Hh-Sh . +f you. +hat is not !ommonly understood by all "o!al tea!hers is that this is your instrument.6)( mo"e for the pit!h. (his is what needs !onstant attention if you are to sing su!!essfully. Notice that an unvoiced sound will use almost as much air as breathing normally but a voiced sound should use much less. )in!e this is our instin!ti"e rea!tion :and it's fairly good that we ha"e it.

Deep holding the position and now try and think of something "ery funny and see if the silent “about to laugh” position helps to make that pop out e"en more.*#er!ise for finding ?=? retra!tionCan open throat8 $ut your hands on the sides of your ne!k 3ust below your 3aw and find two little indents where it feels like your fingers are meant to go. -ou should feel something pop out towards your fingers.m to get a feeling of what normality should feel like. Now !hange from an . Deep trying to rela# and get a feeling of !omfort if you !an. .m to a =" sound and then from a =" sound go as if you were about to make a “B” :but don't a!tually release the plosi"e !onsonant. Now hum on an .. Hold this feeling and try to breath. (his may be "ery diffi!ult to sustain initially. first through your nose then your mouth.