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Paule

The number one myth and misunderstanding about singing

Hi everyone, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Regardless of your level of singing experience whether you regulary perform on stage or have yet to sing in front of an audience. Singers can get tricked into falling into the trap of pushing too much air past the vocal chords when they sing or scream.

“If you want to sing higher or louder you need to push more air through the vocal chords” Right?

Wrong !

Actually its the opposite the higher we want to sing or scream, the more we need to find the correct technique for holding back the excessive unwanted air pressure so that the vocal chords are able to thin out and comfortably stretch to reach higher notes within our voice. 

Singers that pass unwanted excessive air past the vocal chords actually dry the vocal chords out very quickly and the additional excessive air pressure robs the vocal chords of there natural flexability, resulting in a voice that cracks or breaks into fallsetto, or you end up straining your chest voice because the vocal chords are forced to sing in a higher register than usual, using the wrong vocal set up.

How do you know if your passing excess air over your vocal chords, and thereby robbing your voice of additional available vocal range and power? 

Try this simple exercise using a comfortable singing note close to your speaking voice simply sing and hold the note for as long as you can, aim for 10-30 seconds.  Vocalise on a simple ahh sound (just like you would make if a doctor asked you to open your mouth for an examination).

Now listen to your voice dose the note your singing sound rich and warm or can you hear a lot of excess air passing over the chords? If your voice sounds weak or overly breathy its a sure bet that your letting too much air escape between your vocal chords when you sing.

Okay so my voice is breathy why should i reduce the amount of air that escapes through my chords when i sing? 

Excess air is the natural enemy of tone and prevents you from increasing your vocal range (ie singing higher requires flexible vocal chords). Excess air escaping past the chords is often the cause of crackly notes and vocal breaks, and will fatigue the voice very quickly.

Which leads me to my next point if we know its bad for us why do we continue to push excess air past the vocal chords and end up with a breathy weak tone or cracks in our vocal register?

Believe it or not your brain gets confused sometimes when we are singing, and often sends us the wrong message it dosent mean to sabatage us on purpose. Singing requires a great deal of muscular strength and correct body support and multiple vocal co-ordinations when these areas are working in harmony we produce a balanced voice. There are parts of the throat/ neck/ and upper body that we want to remain relaxed while we sing, and smaller micro muscles groups that we want to switch on to take up the strain and correctly create our singers support system. 

When the wrong parts ( major muscle body groups) are used incorrectly to support your singing the excessive tension these muscles produce have a detrimental effect on our singing voice. Essentially excessive muscular force creates resistance at the vocal chords, the voice then responds by pushing back just as hard in the opposite direction. As a result the vocal chords and voice mechanisim resist and stiffen up. The laranyx is no longer able to operate freely. As  singers we will feel greater levels of resistance at the vocal chords and it becomes more difficult for the vocal chords to stretch freely to reach the next note.Now suddenly, the brain gets confused and wants to help us overcome this additional vocal resistance. So the brain sends a message to the lungs that more air is needed to overcome the stiffness of the vocal chords. 

But the more air we pass over the vocal chords the more the vocal chords will stiffen up and resist the barrage of unwanted air. This produces unhealthy excessive tension on the vocal chords, legaments, and cartlidges that make up our vocal anatomy. In short singing this way for sustained periods of time is a sure recipe to damage the voice.

Okay so what can i do to help me thin the air that passes between my vocal chords and develop a much healthier way of singing?

Firstly understand anytime that your brain tells you to push to sing higher or strain to get more volume… What your brain actually meant to say, is  to release, let go of excessive tension on the voice, and relax the muscles in and around the throat so that your laranyx can move freely and operate smoothly.

To help you retrain your voice and resist the urge to push excess air past the chords sing at lower volumes initially to help encourage the release of unwanted muscular tension in the neck and throat. If you have to sing louder in order to sing higher then you are placing to much strain on your vocal chords and letting way to much air escape between your vocal folds.

If youve been singing at the top of your lungs for years, (belting) which means relying on the chest voice almost exclusively to reach your high notes. Or you can only reach your high notes at full volume and really strain to hit the top notes in a song. Its going to take time to retrain and balance your voice. Working with a vocal coach that really understands how to create the correct singing support system to reduce unwanted vocal tension can really help save your voice from a lifetime of over use. Learning how to thin the air when you sing will help you extend your range and improve your singing power.

Better singing everyone.

Why should I sing scales?

Hello everyone. Singers often roll there eyes at me when i give them scale exercises to sing for home work. In fact most singers regardless of whether they are a beginner or advanced or anywhere in between seem to have an aversion to spending their practise time singing scales, usually they prefer to sing songs by there favourite artists or there own original material.

Singing scales is boring they say or its just not very sexy! Without exception when i explain to my students the mutiple benefits they gain vocally from singing their scales, suddenly scales become a staple part of their vocal practise routine.

Let me explain singing is a highly muscular activity it requires a great deal of physical coordination, and strength, and vocal flexability to be able to sing higher or lower than your comfortable speaking voice.

Regualry Vocalising scale exercises, is the equivilant of taking your vocal chords and the micro muscle groups that are really responsible, for creating your, pitch and volume, and tone to the gym, and giving them a well balanced workout (hence forth we will refer to these types of vocal exercises as your Vocal Gym).

Scales are a great way to work the full length of the vocal chord, gradually increasing the chords flexability to safely stretch and conditioning the chord to hold higher amounts of exertion ( desired tension) on the vocal chord to sing higher notes. Most singers start vocal training to learn how to extend their range to sing higher.  The higher you sing the stronger your low notes need to be to anchor your voice. Its important to build equal strength in your lower register to provide the voice with the strength and support it needs to thin down at the chords and reach your high notes.

Scales should allways start on a pitch that is closest to your comfortable speaking voice, and gradually raise (ascend) the scale each note will be higher than the last. Advanced scales can cover anywhere from 1 to 3 octaves per pattern. Typically I introduce my singers to a graduated programme where they might start on a five note scale ascending and descending exercise and as their voice develops the scales become more challenging and include multiple registers within the voice.

As you sing higher in effect you are increasing the resistance on the vocal chords (Very much like adding more weight to the bar on the bench press) Hence our Vocal Gym analogy!

Just like you do in any other form of resistance training as you get stronger you add more weight to create more resistance against the muscle to encourage it to grow stronger. Put simply the voice is a muscle (actually made up of smaller micro muscle groups, including vocal cords, tendons, legaments and cartlidges) that are responsible for creating, pitch, volume, tone etc. These micro muscle groups are tricky to work out vocalising on scales helps us to cover every note within our range and provides us with an ability to target challenge areas ie breaks or cracks in the voice, or helps you to strengthen up the bridges in our voice ( the areas where our voice transitions in tone and moves between chest voice into head voice and in higher registers into mixed voice or reinforced fallsetto for screaming. Scales are the most effective way to strengthen the inbetween notes (the bridge areas and rapidly improve your vocal strength and range overall).

Summarised heres the list of benefits you get from regualry vocalising over scales. let me know if ive missed anything?

1. Ear training

2. Strengthening and resistance training for the vocal chords

3. Increased Flexability for vocal chords

4. Strengthening diaphragmatic muscles for correct breathing support

5. Vocal muscle growth -through gradually increasing the resistance applied to our vocal chords and micro muscles the chords will grow bigger and be able to handle increased volumes of vibration and higher pitches.

6. Improves our ability as singers to create and improvise vocal runs etc.

7.Improves our rythym and our ability to take quick breaths in between tricky vocal lines.

I could go on but i think youve got the idea…. so how do you feel about including scales as part of your vocal routine now?

In a future blog, we will spend time talking about how to create a balanced vocal exercise routine… but for now a good rule of thumb is to warm up and spend half your session vocalising on scales and spend the other half of the session singing along to backing tracks or to the radio etc. Always remember not to sing higher than you can safely and comfortably. If you feel pain or discomfort in the throat often a tickle in the throat stop and lower your pitch and your volume.

Can anybody learn to sing?

Hi everyone welcome to the Rapid Vocal Results blog page. Here you will find great ideas and tips to both improve your understanding of how the voice really works and of course how to reduce the time it takes to develop your performing voice.

Now I have to warn you in advance this is a no BS zone. So i will be telling you like it really is in an effort to cut through all the myths and misunderstandings out there about what good singing is, and what you can do to reduce the time it takes to grow your singing voice.

As this is the very first blog. I thought we should start at the very beginning and address the first question that people have about singing. Which is …. can anyone really learn to sing. 

The answer is yes everyone can learn to improve there vocal abilities but not every voice is capable of matching their favourite artists high notes or power notes. 

Confused?

Let me explain. Your maximum vocal potential is decided at birth through the combination of your Mum and Dads DNA I.E (the genetic traits that are responsible for deciding hair colour, body shape) etc. 

Often singers are performing far below their own genetic potential but thats another blog.

How dose my families DNA affect my voice?

Famous singers, Beyonce, Whitney Houston , James Brown, Alex Rose, Steven Tyler etc all have one thing in common they have vocal chords that are naturally thicker and longer than the average person. This would have made their vocal progress and development a lot easier! In fact when you see your favourite star hitting their higher notes the reason they make it look so easy comes down to the enormous strength they have developed in their singing muscles.

Heres a quick lesson on vocal anatomy and the mechanics of how the voice works.

A singers range and the strength of there voice is determined by the vocal chords ability to stretch out and to thin down. Put simply the higher you want to sing the more the vocal chords need to be able stretch and thin down to make the desired pitch. Singers that are born with thicker vocal chords than the average person have an immediate advantage in been able to sing higher and stronger. Because the vocal chords have more to work with as they thin down and retain quality sound.

We will cover the mechanics of singing in more detail in latter posts and this will also include the role of  the various tendons and ligaments and cartilages that work together to anchor the voice , which the vocal chords rely on to remain stable as they thin down to reach higher notes. 

But back to the topic at hand. The first step in learning to sing is to have a vocal coach diagnose your voice and determine the size and the thickness, and the length of your vocal chords. They can do this with special singing exercises and immediately they should be able to tell you whether your vocal chords are smaller or larger than average and whether the chords them selves are thicker or thinner than average. The thinner your vocal chords are the more you will have to work to develop the muscular strength, conditioning and flexibility to sing higher or lower than your comfortable speaking voice.

The diagnostic session is invaluable to the student and the coach because every bodies voice is different there are no two vocal chords and vocal anatomies that are exactly the same. In this instance a coaches job is to understand and diagnose the voice of their students and design a custom made programme to help them balance the various areas of there voice and gradually condition and strengthen the vocal chords to be able to operate under greater levels of healthy exertion at the chords. Everyone can learn to sing and improve there vocal abilities, the coaches job is to help each singer understand their genetic vocal potential and design a customised programme to help each singer reach their full genetic potential. This programme should also include exercises to discover their own unique singing voice. After all it would be a boring world if everybody sounded the same as there favourite singer wouldn’t it?