Vocal Freedom

Vocal Freedom

A problem that is common with many singers is that of excessive muscular activity during singing. There are muscles which are involved with things like chewing, swallowing and yawning which are commonly recruited by singers who try to manipulate their singing voice in order to achieve the sound they desire. We call these “outer” or “extrinsic” laryngeal muscles, because they are located on the outside of the larynx. When using the outer muscles to attempt to control the pitch or the quality of your voice, the freedom of the vibration of the vocal cords and the resulting resonance within the body are hindered. The outcome of using the outer muscles when singing is a forced, labored, pinched and/or unbalanced sound, as well as great discomfort which is experienced by the singer (not to mention the audience).

The first goal in training the voice is that of release. It is imperative that the larynx be trained to remain in a relaxed stable position in order for the vocal folds to make the appropriate adjustments in balance with the flow of the breath. A stable, relaxed speech-level posture of the larynx is also necessary in order to achieve the balance of resonance necessary to maintain a consistent tone from the bottom of the range (chest voice), through the middle (mixed voice) and into the top (head voice) with no flips or breaks or sudden changes in vocal quality.

A free larynx also results in the ability to sing words clearly and precisely so that the listener doesn’t hear muddled speech. Often what is thought of as “style” is simply tension that is inhibiting the vocal apparatus’ ability phonate and articulate properly. Vowels (which have been called the “soul of the word”) are impossible to form clearly and properly when the outer muscles are involved. When the vowels are not clear, the tone gets muddied which causes the singer to try to make adjustments by manipulating the outer muscles, which in turn causes more tension, meaning more loss of tone. On and on the cycle of tension goes, causing much frustration in many very talented singers.

So how do we learn to sing with release, yet still have all the power necessary to carry the voice and sound believable in our style? By training the voice properly. The voice must be trained using an approach that brings about the desired result based on cause and effect exercises which are carefully chosen and constantly modified by a well-trained teacher. As much as people want to believe that they can be self taught, in the case of good vocal training self tutelage is almost impossible especially at the beginning.

When choosing a voice teacher, ask yourself if your voice feels freer, or more tight as a result of what they are asking you to do. Do they ask you to sing loudly at the expense of freedom? Do they ask you to push your voice hard and high causing your throat to feel tight, tired or causing you hoarseness after the lesson? These types of questions seem rudimentary to some, but you would be surprised at what some so-called voice teachers ask their students to do. Much of the “training” in some of these studios is at best ineffective, and at worse damaging to the voice. There are many excellent teachers in this world, and more than one good technique; but there is a lot of bad singing technique being taught by people who really have no business teaching singing. Be sure you choose wisely. Remember: it’s your voice, and you always have the last say with your voice. The singer is the one who is always 100% responsible for what happens to their voice.

Voice Lessons

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