I received this feedback from a reader after I answered some of their questions with a recording to demonstrate what I was talking about. I thought some of what she says might be helpful to others.
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Your explanations are very clear and easy to understand, and that is very refreshing. Some teachers make singing sound like a hermetic art not easily accessible to everyone. Your view of the voice as a natural function makes it seems less scary. I think there are three concepts that sound “new”: Breath compression, Laryngeal “resistance” (or whatever you call it) and pharyngeal resonance…I think it is very very helpful that you relate breath compression with other bodily functions, like sneezing or coughing – tasks that are simple to accomplish. In traditional training, we do these breath exercises and we’re not really sure what they are meant for and, more importantly, if we’re supposed to do the same thing while singing. The sustained “s” was always a source of confusion for me, because it was the first exercise I learned, and because no one ever explained to me what was the point of the exercise, from the start I was left with the impression that singing was just having an even and constant flow of air. I suspect this might be the case with many other students too. Also, early on in my training, because of how my first teacher demonstrated this exercise, I was under the impression that we needed a huge amount of air to sing. But very soon I discovered that when we push an enormous amount of air out the sound is “forced”, the throat starts to hurt, and you’re not able to sing very well. Come to think of it, since this teacher was a tall mature man, and a bass-barytone, I assume he could withstand this “pushing” much more than a short 17 year-old, haha. So I just assumed that I was physically unable to perform the task of “using the breath” to sing…I have heard different concepts about resonance. Some teachers say the voice needs to be “forward” (“imagine a line going straight to the other wall”, things like that), but, like you explained, that is the description of a result. I have “tried” to get the voice forward, and the sound was always plain, weak, and flat, so that has never helped me, at all. One teacher also had come up with the concept of “vocal twist” (“giro voc├ílico”, it’s hard to translate that into Englih), meaning that the sound should resonate in the open spaces of the skull, and the vowels needed to be “vertical”. She also emphasized the importance of facial posture. Sure, but then she had me vocalizing in “i”, “o-i” or “i-a”, whatever, which also did not help me (like I said, the sound was either “buried” or “spread”). I was always told to “raise” the soft palate, and that was the most dangerous for me, because, if I have air coming out and raise the soft palate, the voice automatically gets breathy. If I understood what you were explaining, for the “open” pharynx to work as an effective resonator the cords (folds) need to be adducted, not leaking air…The things you’ve demonstrated, I think, could be very helpful to people in the same situation. There are questions we sometimes want to ask, but don’t, because they’re just too embarrassing. “How come she sounds so much louder than me?” or “Why does my voice sound so weak?”. These questions sound kind of childish, but it’s not just the illusion of looking for the “big sound” (which I assume leads to a different kind of vocal trap). From my experience this matter is never addressed directly. I’ve had the courage to ask similar questions, out of sheer frustration, and had a lot of different answers, things like “Oh, don’t worry, your voice will be fuller as you get older” or “Each voice is different from the other, lighter voices have different qualities, etc, etc”. Then there are the mean ones that just say “You’re sound is not going to evolve, so you should just quit”. I guess that figuring out your voice is a process that takes time, and I know that “classical” voices don’t mature until later, but I think the things the singer him/herself experiences should be taken into consideration. Like me, for instance. Doesn’t the fact that I had recorded evidence that my voice doesn’t carry in a big room, not even in a small distance, count for something? Not according to some teachers. I should just “wait” until the problem is magically solved as I get older and the so-called “spot” is just going to “pop out” in my face. Either that or this horrible flat tone is the only result I can ever have. I suspect that some students are categorized into a voice type without suspecting that they sound this or that way because of some misconception, or because they are deliberately trying to sound like “this” or “that” voice type. From your explanation, I can finally hope that there is a way around it, that I can have a “normal” voice that people can actually hear, and learn how to use it.
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Thank you to this reader. Questions are always welcome from anyone. Just comment at the end of a post and I’ll get en email automatically. If you want to keep it private, go to my web site, www.vocalwisdom.com and email me.