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Voice Training

inhalation. Your larynx will lower cal theater sounds. Some singers try
By Tricia Grey MMus slightly. Place your thumb and fore- to compensate by forcing the voice
finger on the larynx. Sing an “ee” upward from the chest register, which
THE LARYNX AND THROAT vowel on the G above middle C (fe- results in a “shouting” tone which
TENSION male) or the G below middle C spreads as the singer tries to sing
(male). If the larynx lifts as you be- higher, and which eventually cracks
In vocal pedagogy terms, an “open gin to sing, this is an indication of and breaks (often at the most embar-
throat” means that the throat is free throat and/or tongue tension. rassing moments!). Other singers are
from constriction and tension. The taught (often by choral directors) to
“closed throat” is one which shows Place 2 fingers on your sing only in the “head voice” and that
constriction and tension. Tension in the chest voice is damaging. Both of
the throat (whether you notice it or
larynx. Sing an octave
these approaches are incorrect!
not) affects your voice by constrict- upward from middle
ing the pharynx, raising the larynx, Correct vocal production is a balanc-
and tightening the sides of the throat.
ing of the registers, employing both
All of these factors result in a less If your larynx rises on the chest voice (where appropriate),
than optimal sound. and the head voice, to create a “mix”
the high note, you are
which is healthy and can be used in
To achieve an open throat, think using throat and/or any style of singing including Gos-
relaxation! An effort to hold the pel, R&B, Theater, Rock, or Pop, and
throat open or to lift or drop anything
tongue tension to reach
yes, even Opera.
tenses the mechanism, resulting in the note.
poor tone. If you breathe in naturally The ideal is to have the larynx re-
through your mouth, the throat cav- Don’t make the mistake of pushing laxed and stable (not pulling up, or
ity relaxes and opens, and the larynx the larynx down too low in an effort overly low), and to maintain the ad-
lowers. Ideally, the singer should to compensate for a high larynx! duction (closure) of the vocal cords
maintain this position of the larynx When the larynx is too low, the sound throughout the entire range with no
during vocalization. If the larynx will be too dark, hooty, muffled, interference from the swallowing
raises from the position it assumed swallowed, guttural, and heavy. The muscles of the throat. To achieve this
during relaxed inhalation, you can be words will be hard to understand. ideal coordination, it is essential to
sure there is throat tension. Misguided opera singers sometimes study with a teacher who understands
employ this technique in an effort to the “bridges” of the voice.
When the larynx is too high the re- sound more mature, louder, or more
sulting sound is shrill, strident, and dramatic, resulting in “really bad A bridge can be described as a pas-
lacking the depth of color of the opera” (and more throat tension). sage from one area of the voice to
singer’s naturally produced tone. A Just maintain the relaxed, dropped another. (The Italian word is
high larynx is caused by tension in position the larynx assumes during “passagio”). Singers often experi-
the neck muscles, the back of the relaxed, low, inhalation with the ence a “break” in the voice when at-
tongue, and in the jaw. To determine mouth open. tempting to sing from a low area of
whether or not your larynx is raising the voice to a higher area. Con-
during phonation, do the following: BRIDGES versely, sopranos who sing exclu-
Most singers experience the frustra- sively in head voice often become
Using good posture, inhale in a re- tion of “voice breaks” or cracks in breathy and weak as they descend
laxed manner, allowing the tummy the vocal production, particularly due to lack of “chest” in the voice. I
to expand. Don’t gasp or force the when singing pop, gospel and musi- like to use the analogy of shifting
what has happened is that the vocal WHAT’S NEXT?
gears in an automobile. You must
cords have been blown apart due to Musicianship, diction, style develop-
shift into a lower gear when you go
lack of balance between air pressure ment and application naturally fol-
slowly, and smoothly transition into
and vocal cord resistance. Too many low when the voice is balanced. Once
higher gear when you want to go
singers mistake volume for good your voice works, we apply your
faster. You wouldn’t want to drive
singing. On the other hand, you need wonderful technique to any style you
your car 65mph in first gear! Think
enough energy and sound to create a want to sing in, from classical to
how damaging that would be. In the
vibrant tone- the secret again is bal-blues to gospel! Every style of sing-
voice, we learn to “shift” smoothly
ance. You should never feel tension ing has its own unique requirements.
as we ascend through the bridges,
in your throat, neck, or tongue. You will learn to sing “licks” and
from a more predominantly chest
position to a mix of head and chest “runs” if you sing R & B, and you
CHOICES, CHOICES….. will learn languages, interpretation,
which becomes more predominantly
Traditional Conservatory and Uni- and correct diction if your goal is
head, and finally, head voice and su-
versity training will generally de- Opera. You should develop your
per-head (really, really high).
velop only the head voice. Dire warn- songwriting skills if you are a singer
ings abound regarding any use of the who wants a record deal. Very few
The first bridge (shift in resonance)
“vulgar” chest voice sound. On the artists are signed any more unless
is the one where belters most often
other hand, singers who want a rock, they can write songs too.
tend to create tension (usually with-
gospel, or pop career usually try to
out being aware of it) in the swal-
figure it all out by themselves, and STAGE FRIGHT
lowing muscles which surround the
end up pushing chest voice as long Stage fright is a by-product of inse-
larynx, in a misguided effort to make
as they can, and end up with nodules curity about whether or not your
the vocal cords stretch (or hyper-ex-
(growths on the vocal cord) which voice will work. Vocal technique de-
tend) to reach the desired pitch. Lots
require surgery. velops confidence. The singer must
and lots of rock singers do this, and
even get away with it for learn to be totally connected to the
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible text, or the meaning of the words he
awhile…..but be aware that if you are
to train yourself correctly! Due to the is singing. The goal of vocal study is
hoarse after a night of singing, you
physics of the acoustical nature of our to allow you to forget about your
are doing something wrong! A voice
ears, we don’t hear ourselves inside voice, so you can sing with emotion!
that is properly balanced has stamina
our heads as we really sound. Any-
and resilience, and hoarseness is an
one who is even considering the pos- So, if your goal is to sing with free-
indication that you are blasting the
sibility of a career in music should dom, power and ease throughout a
cords with too much air and hyper-
do as the professionals do- they study large vocal range, with awesome vo-
extending the cords instead of mix-
voice throughout their careers. Even cal chops, sign up with Sing Like a
ing properly. As we sing higher in our
when they are successful, they rely Star! for your introductory session to-
range, we should begin to feel that
on the professional ears of a vocal day!
there is a “split”- that the voice be-
teacher to keep them healthy vocally.
gins to shift behind the soft palate. If
we don’t do this correctly, the larynx
A teacher’s main responsibility is to
will pull up and the vowel will spread
create a vocal environment where the
and “splat”.
singer can vocalize freely through-
out the range with no strain, and no
cracks or breaks, with a clear and
The two fundamental elements
powerful sound which can be applied
which must be in place are the stabi-
to any style. Exercises are used which
lized, relaxed larynx and vocal cords
develop the strength of the inner
that “adduct”, or come together. A
muscles of the larynx so that the outer
breathy voice can indicate that the
swallowing muscles are not tight-
cords are not adducting properly.
When your voice “breaks” or cracks,

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