Well, actually this week it’s closer to Technique Thursday…but I got a little busy and then was distracted by the CUBS Winning the World Series!! WOOHOO! I’m not normally a baseball fan, but my dad has been a die hard Cubs fan my whole life, so it’s always been my team…growing up 40 miles away from Chicago will do that for you! So historic games that like that are actually a must watch. I do apologize for getting the blog out late!
Ok, so we have talked about breathing and how our breath passes through our vocal chords to make sound. We even covered how our vocal chords can change configuration to give us different sounds and hit higher pitches. But the truth is that while our sound is produced by our breath passing through our vocal cords and making them vibrate, it doesn’t just come out our throat exactly as the cords make it. The sound waves produced by our vocal cords pass through our “resonating cavities” – our throat/mouth and nasal cavity before coming out our mouth. What we do with those spaces as well as our articulation of the words is what creates the quality and color of our sound. So here is where the fun begins!
There are two main spaces for our sound to resonate…our throat/mouth and our nasal cavity. I like to think of it like this: I make the sound with my breath and vocal cords, but I EQ the sound by how I shape my mouth and utilize my resonators. I can create different tone qualities, colors, emotions, and sounds just be changing where and how much the sound resonates, the shape of my mouth, and even how I say words. All of that is getting a little more advanced, but I want you to see what’s possible when you learn how to control these different aspects of your voice.
So let’s start with your throat/mouth area. If you have ever taken voice lessons or even sung in a classical choral setting, you have probably heard them term “open throat.” Just like “breathe from your diaphragm” it seems to be one of those terms that we throw around a lot but don’t always explain well, or even know how to explain or teach. And honestly, I am one of those same teachers…it’s difficult to explain because the more you try to do it, the less it seems to actually work. The gist of it is this, we want our soft palate to raise and our throat to relax and open in much the same way it does at the beginning of a yawn. Now, there is a point in a yawn where often your throat tightens, but we want to hold the position before that happens. However, the key to this is that I want it relaxed, if you are trying to force your mouth open or your soft palate to raise, it’s not going to work properly. I once had a teacher say they wanted my soft palate so relaxed that the act of me inhaling caused it to raise because the air just pushed it up.
Let’s take a second and talk about inhaling…through the nose or through the mouth? There is some discussion about what’s best for singing and some are taught very strictly to do one or the other. I say, do what works for you. It may depend on the style or the song, the sound you want, etc. For me, I typically breathe through my mouth because that’s how I got the feeling of “beginning of a yawn” and could set my mouth in the right place through that breath. However, I know other people who use “smell a rose” or any number of other things where they inhale through the nose and get the same feeling. The most important thing is that you are breathing correctly and setting yourself up to sing properly. (For more on breathing see: http://msfortestudio.com/2016/09/28/technique-tuesday-breathing-101/
The best way I have found to get used to this singing with an open throat is to just start making noise while you yawn 🙂 Plus, it’s just fun. It should feel natural. Keep that large open space and just make some noise! Then try different things. The other one I like is an owl sound. Feel the sound echo in your mouth. It’s like you are creating a cavern in your mouth. The bigger the space the bigger the sound. The more you can cause those sound waves to bounce around, the bigger the sound you are going to get. This is what I use to get a bigger, fuller sound…like adding more bass to my EQ!!