Powerful Singing: Volume Vs. Intensity
One thing that seems to cause confusion in singing is the difference between intensity and volume. Often a singer will try to get an intense tone by pulling their chest voice higher and higher through their range. This, over the short term, can cause vocal strain; and over the long term it can cause vocal damage. On the other extreme, singers will try to sound intimate or soft by using absolutely no energy at all in their voice, resulting in a dull, breathy and lifeless sound.
It is important to remember that an intense vocal sound gives the impression of being full, yet released. A vibrant, well-produced tone is rich with overtones and all the frequencies necessary to be heard over an orchestra, a band or a mix on a recording. Regardless of the amplitude (volume) which is being sung, the same ringing full sound can be heard. There is nothing similar in sound (or feeling on the part of the singer) between a “pushed voice” and a “full voice.” In fact, one of the comments that I have heard more than once when a singer discovers a released, full sound is that “it is so easy that it feels like cheating.”
The ease with which a healthy, full tone is produced has to do with the free posture of the larynx, and the balance between the different aspects of the vocal instrument. Yet freedom should not to be confused with laziness. A well produced vocal tone, is an athletic accomplishment. The entire body is involved in the production of the sound. Good singing is real work, but it is not strain.
The difference between balance and push is one that causes a common confusion. I rarely use the word “support,” because many singers have been taught to support the tone by pushing extra air against the voice. When the voice failed against this excessive air pressure, the remedy taught was usually to give it MORE support.
Thus, telling a singer to give the tone more support can often lead to the spurious assumption that what is desired is extra abdominal pushing. While it is true that the abdominal region does become involved in the workload, this abdominal resistance is a by-product of the dynamic balance of a well produced vocal tone, not the cause of it.
Only after the release of tone has been accomplished by a singer, is the next logical step for them to begin to add more intensity to the tone. The adding of intensity causes an increased resistance of air pressure by the vocal folds, but within a dynamic balance and a resting larynx. The balanced increase of breath pressure and resistance produces a stronger sound wave.
This dynamic resistance is built over time and under the direction of a well trained instructor. Vocal intensity occurs at all volumes from very soft (ppp) to very loud (fff). Vocal intensity is never the result of a pushed voice; intensity is the result of a BALANCED voice.