One of the most recurring problems I notice in vocal students is over-concern with the “controllable” elements of the voice. It may seem strange, but generally the more effort we make to sing, the less we let the right exercises work in favor of our voice.
For a while (and this was for a little while, fortunately), I bothered too much to support the voice, to control the diaphragm, my breathing, and the intercostal muscles. I tensed the muscles of my face and neck trying to change the position of the soft palate, larynx, tongue and so on. He even thought as he sang, commanding each muscle of the vocal folds to try to completely master his movements. I even tried to find it logical to sing “smelling flower”, doing “inner smile”, “pee strength”, “poop strength” and other strange forces that seemed to practice pompoarismo (who does not know what it is, Google search ).
I thank the knowledge that was passed to me by all the teachers that I had on vocal technique and also respect the methodology of each one. But in my case, none of this served much in the technical development of my voice. And the problem is that for many people it does not work. Actually, for the most part, it does not work!
I cared too much for singing, as if all those commands and “controllable” elements of my voice were never natural, unless I thought about them all the time. As a result, I sang nervously, as well as devoting my attention to the melody of music, rhythm, lyrics and interpretation, I had to worry about a lot more technical elements. It was very difficult to relax on stage. But I was realizing that when I sang relaxed, focused on having fun, I sounded better than full of worries.
In my experience, I noticed that the more I thought about helping or forcing my voice, the worse my outcome was. Singing is not a question of so much physical and mental effort, but rather a matter of balance and coordination that everyone can develop.
That is why, in studying, if we think of only three “controllable” elements of the voice, everything becomes simpler and easier. After all, by properly training your voice just from these three elements thinking of developing balance and coordination, you will have far fewer things to worry about when it comes to singing.
These elements are:
- Air flow;
- Muscles (the muscular consistency that applies to the emission “e;
- Shape (I’ll explain exactly what that is).
The logic is simple and is linked with the natural production of sound. The air leaves the lungs, expelled by the diaphragm as it enters into relaxation and passes through the vocal folds. Located in the larynx, the vocal folds vibrate and turn the air into sound. It is the muscles of the larynx that determine the height and duration of the sound (therefore, they define the sung notes). The sound emanated by the vocal folds goes through the vocal tract that, determined by a shape, will filter, amplify and articulate that sound.
It’s a simple process, especially if you think you already know how to do it. You do not think of controlling your diaphragm when you breathe, you do not think about the work of each laryngeal muscle whenever you make a sound, you do not think about the position of your soft palate to speak.
And why do we have to think of so much to sing? To be honest, I do not think we have to think about much, what we have to do is find the balance of these three elements throughout our vocal extension and make this balance something more and more natural to our body.
Vocal Technique: Air Flow
Air is the fuel of our voice and the principle of good vocal emission. But have you heard that those who breathe well, sing well? I’ve already heard it, and I’ve already worried too much about breathing. But this concept is not completely right. Otherwise, every professional swimmer would automatically be an excellent singer.
Breathing is directly linked to what we call support (control of airflow), movement of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles. However, it is important to understand that the good functioning of these aspects during singing is the RESULT of a balanced emission and a good coordination between airflow and vocal folds. That is, it is easier to perceive the support, the movement of the diaphragm and the intercostals as a consequence of the good emission than as the cause.
If you think you have any airflow weaknesses, such as breathlessness to sing, or poor breathing, I suggest watching the four videos in the breath series and the video about support on our YouTube channel.
Muscles – Muscle Consistency
When we speak of muscles, let us consider the intrinsic muscles of the larynx, which make the movement of our vocal folds and thus actively participate in our phonation. It is these muscles that will determine the pitch and duration of notes during singing.
If we compare our voice with any stringed instrument, there are 3 determining factors that will determine the pitch:
- The length of the rope;
- The thickness of the string e;
- The tension of the rope.
When we are singing, however, we can not visualize in a concrete way the muscular movements that control the length, thickness and tension of the vocal folds.
Therefore, in general, one without an untrained singer will perform this movement in an unbalanced way, either by putting tensions or more or even losing the firmness necessary for the execution of these movements.
You do not need to understand muscle names or deeply study vocal physiology to be a good singer. However, training through correctly performed exercises, aiming for good muscle coordination and balance with the airflow, will make the good emission increasingly natural and easy throughout its length.
The sound emanated by the vocal folds will gain its forms through the shape (configuration, shape) of our vocal tract.
The vocal tract is a tube where the natural oscillations of sound will be enhanced by their resonances. These resonances are called formants of the voice. When we modify vowels, we are modifying the formants of the voice and therefore changing the sound.
Try to make the vowel “U” with a very silly sound and again with the sound well anasalado. You are altering your shape and can hear the direct result in the emission.
In general, shape control is easier when we think of vowel adjustment than when we relate this control to very punctual movements such as laryngeal lowering, palate elevation, and so on.
The vocal tract also acts as an acoustic filter for the harmonics produced by the vocal folds. These harmonics are very important for the characterization of our timbre. Although this is unique to each person, modifications in the vocal tract significantly affect the tone, that is, we can mismatch the sound of our voice through a mismatch in the shape.
Let’s consider, then, the example of a singer who needs excessive effort to emit sharp notes. In this case, the airflow may be very intense or very weak, because in both cases there will be decompensation in the vocal folds work.
To adjust the flow, we can use the lip vibration exercise, which is a dual resistance exercise and promotes the balance of airflow VS vocal folds. In the fit of the shape, we will use the sound of the vowel “u”, associated with the vibration, to avoid elevation of the larynx and unnecessary tensions in the extrinsic musculature.
You’ll find examples of this exercise in the Unplugged (LOW NOW) application, available for Android and iOs, in the vocal warm-up section.
Remember, practicing the correct exercises is what will result in a good emission, ie you need to train to acquire coordination and balance in your voice in the most natural and organic way possible. We all have a good voice, we just need to find it and use it in the most efficient way.