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Vocal Phonation (the process by which we make vocal sound) is a secondary, function of the vocal folds. The primary function of the vocal folds is two-fold:
- To help us to do physical labor
- To keep foreign matter out of the windpipe (trachea)
The Myoelastic Theory
asserts that the air below the closed vocal folds builds to point that the vocal folds are forced apart and then, as the pressure is reduced, there is enough muscular tension to draw the chords back together again and then the process repeats itself.
The Aerodynamic principle (based on the Bernoulli effect)
says that the air pressure below the vocal folds forces them apart while the arytenoid cartilages are being pulled together by the action of the interarytenoid muscles. The breath passing through the vocal folds causes them to be sucked into vibration together (due to a drop in pressure). When the arytenoids have been completely pulled back together, the same air flow sucks the vocal folds back together and the process starts all over again.
Good vocal habits will result in a sound which has the following elements:
- Vocal tone is freely produced
- The voice is loud enough to be easily heard
- Energy flows smoothly (evenly, consistently) from note to note
- The tone is vibrant, dynamic, alive, awake (Not forced!)
- The voice has flexibility and is expressive
- The tone is “rich”, ringing and resonant (a subjective pre-supposition)
- Pleasant to listen to (another subjective pre-supposition)
“You are what you listen to” therefore, singers are encouraged to listen to a large number of performers who exhibit good vocal habits.
We cannot reproduce an idea, but we can develop a good overall understanding of what good vocal technique looks and sounds like by listening to and watching vocalists:
- Whose voices are not damaged after years of performing
- Who exhibit the good vocal habits listed above
- Who have experienced longevity, not based on tricks and underuse of the voice.
Be careful to listen to a number of good singers and do not try to imitate one singer in particular because:
- The world doesn’t need two of the same person
- Each voice is wonderfully unique
- Your physical make-up is different and what is natural vocal characteristic and signature for one voice is not the same for another.
Take lessons and developing habits based on repetition and trial and error.
- What the teacher says is correct or incorrect.
- Experiencing what it feels like to make free and resonant tones.
Don’t rely on recordings as your primary and/or sole source of learning your music, they are meant as a supplemental help, so do your musical homework as!
- Get in the practice room and make sure the notes and rhythms are correct.
- You should be able to learn a piece of music and how to apply good vocal technique without using having to use a recording
- Implement the technique you are being taught in lessons verses pure imitation.
Recordings are sometimes inaccurate in terms of pitches and rhythms, along with sometimes being stylistically and historically inaccurate.
Even the best singers make musical mistakes, vocal mistakes and bad musical and vocal choices.
A well-trained singer who is very comfortable with their voice and their abilities may approach a vocal line differently from what you should do, based on their voice and their approach to vocal technique. Remember, the best vocalists are creative artists and not simply mimics.
According to Mckinney, support is “The dynamic relationship between the breathing in and the breathing out muscles”
There is great controversy in the singing world as to what support really means or should mean. However, most voice teachers would agree with that there are three basic types phonation as they relate to support:
Breathy, forced, flow phonation
Breathy Phonation is
the description of an unsupported (hypo-supported) tone is one that is breathy and/or frequently under pitch.
Forced Phonation is
an over (hyper-supported) tone is one that is forced, grabbed or pushed and results in a tone that is harsh and strained.
Flow Phonation is
a well-supported tone which results in what is referred to as “singing on the breath”; a symbiotic relationship or perfect union/joining of tone and breath. In other words, a clear, non-forced, focused (non-breathy) and in tune sound.
IV Personal Beliefs and Observations, With Regard to the Term, “Support”
Support is just that, support.Support
- is never a matter of tensing the instrument, either just before, simultaneously with or immediately after initiating the tone. “Support”
- that kicks in prior to singing is not support, it’s tension. Support should kick in naturally as the tone begins (in conjunction with the attack) and is based on how much energy is required at any given moment.
I contend that maintaining a sense of openness around the upper abdominals, verses tensing or bearing down on the abdominals, is an important and dynamic part of support.
Chord compression (“Holding the breath” Squeezing the voice” “Leaning into the voice”) is an important part of support as well as breath control.
I also contend that singers do not take the time to work on technique and that is never truer than when it comes to breathing correctly, which is a very grave mistake because poor breathing and a poor understanding or phonation are at the heart of so many vocal problems.