A little sense about singing
- Singing and speaking tones start in the throat at the site of your vocal cords. You cannot start the tone at your diaphragm or at your gut or anywhere else but your larynx. If a teacher says, “Start the tone at your pubic bone,” grab your car keys and beat a retreat.
- Breathing for singing is like breathing for speaking, as to taking in and using air. It takes a little more vigor to breathe for singing, but the basic muscular action is IDENTICAL.
Therefore, you don’t have to think all that much about breathing except to make it rhythmic. Breathing should be in tempo with what we are singing, more or less. This enables the vocal cords to automatically come together without our trying to make them do so.
Breathing techniques will not improve your voice. Breathing techniques will not even teach you to breathe properly! As a matter of fact, you do not need to learn how to breathe. You already know. The great American tenor, Jan Peerce, said it best, “Take a breath and forget about it.”
- Resonance (richness and power of the sound) cannot be separated from the act of phonation (making sound). There is nothing you can do to improve resonance. You can’t work on resonance. It happens as a result of achieving healthy singing technique through ideal registration.
Here is a description of truly free singing:
- The sound seems to start on its own, almost before you finish taking in the breath,
or so it seems.
- You seem to handle your breath easily. You take your breath when you decide to and then just sing.
- You can sing the notes in your range easily.
- You can command a wide range of volume levels and manipulate volume while you sing.
- You can make your voice sound very “dark” or very “bright” or anything in between. We singers call this coloring the voice, which you can do at will when your voice is free.
- You can sing music from slow and sustained to very fast and every note is right on pitch and clear as a bell to your listeners.
- Your diction is excellent. Everyone tells you they can understand just about every word you sing.
- You can interpret the text and convey the emotion that is in the words with ease, so that people feel what you are singing.
- You warm up the voice easily and efficiently. You don’t have to coax your voice to sound good by endless vocalizing.
- In your throat you feel very little while you are singing. You are not aware of the pitches changing as you sing or your tongue moving around very much.
You can judge yourself or any singer by how close they come to this.
I doubt you know of anyone who has all of the above perfected. No one is perfect. But there are singers who come close to this. So, if you could have all of this (or even half of it, for that matter), sing thrilling music, drive audiences crazy, it’s worth trying to figure out how.
We all know that in learning to sing there are difficulties to be overcome, those pesky problems that are related to your speech, your psychology and your emotional self. Learning to sing is really about learning how NOT to sing, in a sense. Singing freely is about letting go and letting the voice be what nature meant it to be. Letting go can be really hard. And I predict that if you take a “letting go” approach to singing, stop trying to control the sound, your voice will begin to change, grow and become more attractive, and that will scare you. It will scare you because you will feel that the sounds you are making are not you. You will struggle with getting easier high notes by working less. As I often say, changing your voice is like looking in your mirror and seeing a different face. Whatever we would like to change about ourselves, we all have fear of change to deal with, which is why we need that supportive teacher and why we don’t need the critical person who tells us we don’t do it right and will never be any good.
Things voice teachers say to do with your tone:
Hooking the tone
Lifting the tone
Arching the tone
Getting ring in the tone
These are all descriptions designed to try to control the way your vocal tone sounds and to direct it to certain points in the body in an attempt to improve it. How would you hook a tone? With what? How would you arch a tone? Where would the arch go? How would you lift a tone? With what would you lift it? How would you put ring in a tone? I know what a ringing telephone sounds like. What would a ringing voice sound like? The fact that you have no idea about any of this should be your first clue. We don’t have to discuss this further. You can’t do any of these things. I have to say, in all honesty, that we singers and teachers talk about beautiful ringing high notes. We mean powerful.
We do not mean sounding like an old-fashioned telephone.
There are so many of these silly terms and concepts associated with singing that it would take a huge book just for them. What I sincerely hope is that before you start looking for a singing teacher, you will be sure you have digested basic information on anatomy and physiology of the vocal mechanism. Then it will be easier for you to sort out the sense from the nonsense and maybe make some decent progress in your dream of singing. So, in conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen,
- you cannot start the singing tone anywhere in your body except where nature designed it to start – in your larynx.
- you cannot aim sound anywhere at all. It goes where it goes. You cannot point it in the front of your face or behind your nose or above your head. Anyone who tells you to do this is wrong, however well meaning.
- there is no such thing as “support”. To sing well, we have to have a mechanism that works and then cooperate – again, with nature – to utilize breath.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg, an iceberg that will (not to overdo the metaphor) rip a gaping hole in your voice and send it to the bottom of the sea. Or if you don’t have an attractive voice yet, working with a teacher who says these things will absolutely, positively assure that you never will.