Dear vocal coach,
I would like to ask a few questions about singing:
1) How to get into the mix and know you’re there without straining or yelling?
2) How to know you’re not forcing your belly and ribcage to expand while trying to breathe diaphragmatically? Also, how to control the air.
3)How to get into the head voice that is not pulled up or shrill head voice or falsetto?
4)How to keep the throat open on higher notes when you can’t see it?
The main reason behind these three questions is that sometimes forced voice and mix/belt and forced breathing and natural breathing sound the same to the untrained ear. As a vocal student in training, how can I spot where I am going wrong and correct it? Sometimes this wrong way of doing exercises becomes a habit and the teacher doesn’t sit on your head twenty four hours a week to supervise you so while practicing during the week so, there is a chance of doing things wrong. Anything that feels like ‘strain’ is wrong but some people unintentionally involve some outer muscles without realizing so feeling doesn’t help in identifying correct and wrong sounds. Can you provide any sample vocals, advice or exercises to help me stay on right track.
Thank you very much for your time and patience.
I see your struggle. I kind of went through the same thing, honestly. I was one of those, “I don’t want to practice because I could be doing it wrong and I don’t want to establish bad habits,” kind of a guy.
But here’s the thing, sometimes you simply have to be comfortable playing around with your voice and trust that you’re not going to break it. It sounds as though you have weekly guidance, so just pay attention and keep working on what you’re doing there. Are you going to be perfect, no. But will you continue to get better over time, yes.
First off check out this article on How to Sing Well, it’ll give you great beginning tips. Then get comfortable with the fact that you can experiment with your voice. As long as you don’t feel vocally tired or horse, then you’re probably okay. If you do, stop and regroup. You can also record the warm ups from your lesson so that you have continual guidance on what direction to move your voice for the following week.
Given the level that you seem to be, that’s about the best advice I can give you without working with you personally since I don’t know your voice.
That being said, here are my more generic answers to your 3 questions. Perhaps it’ll help, perhaps it’s more of the same advice you’re already getting…. but hopefully it’ll trigger something for you.
(for future readers, I no longer answer multiple answer from the same person in efforts to continue to serve as many people as possible)
- First off, check out this article to help establish your mix. You’ll know you’re there because you won’t feel like you’re straining or yelling. However, typically when people first get into a mix, it feels very unstable because they’re not used to it, so that may also be something you experience.
- I’d assume your “forcing the expansion of the breath” is bad because it results in taking in so much air that it causes too much pressure underneath your vocal folds. If you experience discomfort in your throat, then I’d say you’ve taken it too far. Use less air. With good cord closure, you don’t need that much air.
- Head voice that’s not falsetto or pulled – Without you here, it’s hard to guide you through it because I don’t know your vocal tendencies. But try this… mimic a female opera singer. As long as it’s not breathy (and you’re singing pretty high), then it’s probably head voice. All you have to do is lean more into the sound and you’ll be able to create more volume.
- Keeping the throat open on high notes when you can’t see it – It’s not about seeing your throat. The whole purpose for creating openness is to create space for the sound to resonate. Don’t focus on “opening the throat,” focus on making space. And it’s not just in your throat… the space you use for singing can be found in the chest, head, neck, mouth… it’s all about creating space so that the sound naturally and effortlessly resonates.
Hope this helps!
Vocal Coach Ken Taylor