Technique Tuesday: Resonance Part 2! Nasal vs Forward

Hey Everyone!  It’s Technique Tuesday and we are getting into the fun stuff of how to create colors and enhance the tone quality of the sounds we are making!  Last week we talked about how to add bass…Resonance Part 1   so this week, let’s talk about Treble!  So many of us have been told not to sing through our nose that we have often gone too far the other way and have neglected the amazing tool that our nasal cavity can be for us when we sing.  Yes, it is easy to get too nasally and for most of us that is not a pleasant sound, but a) it does have its place in certain styles, and b) using nasal or forward resonance can be a great tool and it is possible to use without sounding nasally if we know how to balance it out!

So let’s clarify, I do not want to teach you to “sing through your nose”, but I may teach you to think about singing into your nose. 🙂  The difference is this:  I don’t want air to come through your nose, rather I want you to feel the vibrations that sending the sound waves to that resonating cavity will cause.  I also feel like often it’s easier to learn how to feel and control the sensation when we aren’t worrying about how it sounds…so just experiment!  Let the sound be nasty, and then we can work to balance it out!

Here’s how forward resonance can help you:

  • Forward resonance can help you sound louder without having to push more air or strain your vocal chords. I recently attended a NATS workshop and I loved how Craig Bohmler (Composer in Residence at Arizona Opera) put it, “Forward resonance is the poor man’s volume.”
  • Forward resonance can also help you eliminate breathiness as well as hold notes/phrases longer. It can help you to focus your air so instead of extra air escaping your mouth, you are sending a more concentrated stream into a smaller area and use your air more efficiently.
  • It can help you mix your head and chest voice and bring your chesty belt up higher!! It helps to keep the powerful sound of your chest, while you are actually allowing the voice to shift.
  • It also helps to bring power and volume to your head voice!

 

So why don’t we all use this all the time!  Well, part of it is that it is easy for it to be too much and sound more nasal than we want.  If we aren’t in control of it, it can take away the warmth and depth of our voice, especially in chest voice/belt.  So it is really important to know how to use that open throat (see this blog:Resonance Part 1    ) in order to create a balanced sound.

Finding forward resonance can be a bit tricky, but is also pretty fun.  It’s a lot easier to demonstrate, so check out this video.  Forward Resonance Video

My biggest caution is this:  make sure you pay attention to the FEEL, not just the Sound!  You can make that nasal sound by squeezing your throat…but that is NOT nasal/forward resonance and can cause tension and strain on your vocal folds.  So make sure that you are focusing on feeling the “buzz” or “hum” in your nose/cheekbones/forehead, wherever.  Just make sure you think about keeping that throat relaxed instead of squeezing it 🙂  Happy Practicing!!

Technique Tuesday: Resonators and how they help you shape your sound!

Technique Tuesday!!

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!

Resonators:

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!!

 

Technique Tuesday: Making Sound 101

We’ve spent a couple weeks on Breathing…and now we get to find out why!  How does our air affect our sound?  Why is it so important that we have control over our airflow?  How does this help me sing?
Well, the answers come when we understand how our voice works.  I like to think of your voice as a string/wind instrument.  Most of us know that our vocal folds are what produce sound…that’s why we think about sound being made in our “voice box” or throat area…cuz it is.  Sound is made by our vocal folds vibrating together…kind of like when you do a lip buzz or raspberry to make car noises or just entertain a baby 🙂  You notice when you do that if you go faster the pitch raises, and what is controlling that speed?  Yep, how much air you are pushing through those lips!  The same is true of our vocal cords.
The vocal cords produce sound much like a string instrument.  Think about a guitar or violin.  The strings vibrate and produce sound.  The specific pitch is determined by how many times per second the string vibrates.  Pretty much the extent of my physics knowledge is how sound waves work in regard to pitch.  The more waves per second/vibrations…the higher the pitch.  Basically, the faster your vocal folds vibrate, the higher the pitch, and the slower they vibrate, the lower the pitch.
The thing is…when you think about a string instrument, the strings are passive!  The strings vibration is what makes the sound but there is always an outside force that causes them to vibrate, whether it’s a guitar pick or a bow sliding across a violin, something else has to make the strings vibrate.
For us, that’s our air!  That’s right…this amazing instrument called our voice is also a wind instrument.  Think about a flute or trumpet…you blow into it and it makes sound.  Often you can change the pitch or sound by how much air you use.  The same is true of our voice.  If you want to raise your pitch, you need the strings (vocal cords) to vibrate faster, so what do you do?  Blow more air through them.
Granted, this is not the ONLY thing you have to do, but it is the most basic.  We can tweek the resonators or how you say vowels or a number of other things all we want, but the truth is if you don’t use your air to make your vocal cords vibrate, it’s not going to matter.  So get used to using that breath control and making sound!  Work your way through your whole range and start to get used to how much air it takes for each note.
One more note:  while a certain amount of tension in your vocal folds can be felt and is necessary…like tuning a guitar string, if you tighten too much, the string doesn’t play and can even break!  Most of us have a tendency to tighten our throats because we are trying to use our throat muscles (constrictors) to force the vocal folds to vibrate instead of letting the air make that happen.  Try thinking about taking that tension from your throat and moving it to your abs.  Check out this video for more:
https://youtu.be/vqOJMwXDOM8