Vocal Ease Method Voice Lessons

Vocal placement and resonance through voice lessonsHave you ever heard these kinds of instructions? “Bring your voice forward into the mask,” OR “Place it back,” OR “Put it in the pocket.” Let me give you an excellent alternative to this approach. Rather than thinking or talking about placement of the voice, the alternative is to use a more closed vowel as you ascend into your mixes. (See the posts on mix for more.)

I began to study this balanced, scientific method five years ago, and my voice is balanced and coordinated as never before. This approach will help you achieve more balance, coordination, and vocal ease in your chest registers and head registers. In the process, your larynx will remain stable.

Finally!  I  found just how unnecessary the placement messages were. In fact, they created an imbalance in my voice–it was much less coordinated. The previous teachers did not encourage me to sing in chest resonance in my low notes, so I did not develop a chest resonance at all.

The way to experience vocal control is not through such an emphasis on placement, but by producing vowel adjustments. This is a less forced approach. Since I made this transition, my students have been benefitting as well. When they arrive, I can hear the imbalances in their voices. After some training, they have balance and much easier vocal control.

The way to experience vocal control is not through talking Placement, but by experiencing vowel adjustments.  Wider vowels such as “Ou” or “Ai” should be sung more narrowly or closed as you go up into in the head voice. Narrow vowels  like “Eh” or “Oo” will help you sing in the head voice with vocal ease.

So rather than talk placement, I demonstrate vowel adjustments.  The student experiences the necessary subtle shades of vowels. This gives the singer more control, vocal power, and beautiful resonance. Control the vowels, and you produce placement and resonance. This is a much more effortless method that is best for the long-term health of your voice.

Do you know how to sing from your diaphragm or know what a diaphragm for singing is?

You already can breathe properly while using the diaphragm. You wake up each morning and you are alive because your diaphragm works by itself. Notice when lying down in bed, your rib cage looks as if it’s moving up and down. Up to take in breath; down to sing, speak or release air. You need just the right amount of support or air pressure for singing. All you have to do is just think about air while singing. Instead of training your breathing muscles, let’s apply to singing what is really important. Instead of spending lots of time teaching people to train there rib cage muscles what to do, I train singers to use the inner muscles of the larynx (to find your larynx, place your fingers or a hand on the bump in the throat area and say words or sing something). These inner muscles are the ones that control your vocal cords (also called folds) which make your sound. I teach you to strengthen these inner muscles so they can keep your vocal cords coming together rapidly ( for instance, singing A above middle C, your cords or folds vibrate 440 times per second). Once mastered, you can progressively sing over a large vocal range with Ease.

Once you train these muscles to hold together or come together your breathing will become more regulated automatically. The thing to remember is that correct breathing is actually the effect of holding your vocal cords together. I give you lots of tools to help you do experience this effect; tools tailored to meet your needs for your vocal type. These exercises ‘Cause’ you to experience it. The ‘Effect’ is your correctly breathing. You will
practice these in order to train your inner larynx muscles. See my earlier blog regarding breathing where i quote an article by John Henny, studio city california voice instructor and coach.

If you are getting started singing in a contemporary style, then you can really go wrong when you try to sing from the diaphragm (at first).

Let me explain.  Of course you should use your diaphragm and abdomen while singing.  However, the notion of singing with “more support” is well-intentioned because it is supposed to create vocal power and balance in the vocal cords. The idea came from classically trained singers.  It is much needed by an opera singer who sings demanding arias.  That’s okay for skilled singers.

But when inexperienced singers apply the same intensity there is a problem. The rush of air against the vocal cords causes the new contemporary singer ‘s vocal cords to break apart or come apart, OR the cords jam together in order as they try to resist the air pressure. Vocal imbalance is the result.

Vocal cords can’t handle the large amounts of air early in training; they have to build up over a good period of time.  Remember this:  Power comes from how much air the vocal cords can skillfully resist, not how much air you send to them.  It takes time and patience to make progress in lessons week after week, keeping in mind the goal is a balanced consistent sound in both low and top notes, and it really pays off.

I’m back with more reasons your lessons may not work so well for you.

Here are some things that can hold the voice student back.  One could be not understanding what you are supposed to practice or how to practice. Another could be that the goals and objectives of the lessons weren’t defined.  I make sure the student and I are both happy with the plan, and that it makes sense to the student. I call this Solution Focused voice lessons.
Another obstacle is taking voice lessons with a teacher who has been trained classically, but not in contemporary or rock music. This can be a disaster. As John Henny writes in Backstage.com, sept. 2011 issue, “The Seven Deadly Singing Sins”, the belief is not as prevalent today as in past years, but it still exists that classically trained teachers can successfully teach musical theatre students or pop or rock singers.
You can hear the results of this on Saturday Night Live skits on TV.  The problem, as John Henny states, is greatest for women.  I know this how?  Because all I could find were classically trained teachers who said they could teach me any type singing.  I sang jazz and blues.
What happened?  I was never taught to sing in my chest voice.  And from high to low chest notes I still sang in my head voice.  Breathy is a way to describe it.
I believe as John does, that a singer should study voice lessons with someone who can teach what she or he is going to be singing.  Find a teacher who works in contemporary styles and who can show you how to blend your head and chest voice together and eliminate vocal strain.
I’ll offer even more reasons voice lessons can fall short in my next blog.
Thank you, Jane Jenkins

Here are some things that can hold the voice student back. One could be not understanding what you are supposed to practice or how to practice. Another could be that the goals and objectives of the lessons weren’t defined.  I make sure the student and I are both happy with the plan, and that it makes sense to the student. I call this Solution Focused voice lessons.

Another obstacle is taking voice lessons with a teacher who has been trained classically, but not in contemporary or rock music. This can be a disaster. As John Henny writes in Backstage.com, sept. 2011 issue, “The Seven Deadly Singing Sins”, the belief is not as prevalent today as in past years, but it still exists that classically trained teachers can successfully teach musical theatre students or pop or rock singers.

You can hear the results of this on Saturday Night Live skits on TV.  The problem, as John Henny states, is greatest for women.  I know this how?  Because all I could find were classically trained teachers who said they could teach me any type singing.  I sang jazz and blues.  What happened?  I was never taught to sing in my chest voice.  And from high to low chest notes I still sang in my head voice.  Breathy is a way to describe it.

I believe as John does, that a singer should study voice lessons with someone who can teach what she or he is going to be singing.  Find a teacher who works in contemporary styles and who can show you how to blend your head and chest voice together and eliminate vocal strain.

I’ll offer even more reasons voice lessons can fall short in my next blog.

Thank you, Jane Jenkins

Earlier, I wrote about the Female Chest Voice, but I didn’t tell you what to do about it. With Cause and Effect exercises, you can create the chest voice feeling. You will create a feeling your muscles memorize (muscle memory).

This works for people of all ages:

In an almost talking voice, sing Naaaa (the “a” is pronounced like BAT). Sing this Naaa on a do re mi fa so fa mi re do. Or imagine your fingers being like a glove and from the thumb to the little finger, you can sing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Good. Now sing Naaa in a whiny, ugly, nasty sound. If you do this just right, you will feel the resonance or echoing type of feeling in your chest. Do this for awhile and you can get a feeling for your chest voice.

Of course, you don’t want to sing this way in songs. This is just a vocal exercise to get your muscles to memorize how to sing in your chest. Do this before you go to the higher notes. If you have any trouble with it and just can’t get it on your own, you can make an appointment with me to work on this in a lesson or online using the webcam with Skype. I’ll help you learn exactly how to do it.

A common problem with many singers is that of excessive muscular activity during the singing process. The outcome of using outer muscles (those involved in things like yawning, swallowing or chewing) is a forced, pinched or even a harder, labored singing, if only in a few notes of the song. It is an unbalanced sound that the audience may notice.

However, in my years of teaching I have noticed that not all singers notice they are unbalanced or inconsistent in their sound making.

What is the very first goal in training the voice?

RELEASE: The larynx (which houses the vocal cords or folds as they are called) needs to remain stable. It is this posture that is necessary to achieve the balance of resonation.

RESONATION is also called resonance. Many kids think of it as the echo sound. It is the balance of the resonance that is necessary to maintain a consistent tone from the bottom (chest resonation) through the middle (mixed voice) and into the top (head voice or head resonation) with no breaks or “yodels” or flipping into falsetto. This allows a consistent voice up and down with easy release. If the singer tries to sound like some of their favorite singers they will, most likely, use excessive muscle activity during singing in order to achieve what they perceive is the sound of their favorite singer. Thus they lose sight of what we so naturally have in childhood, which is our own voice. Children don’t have to find their own voice or wonder what their own voice would sound like. The children who come in to see me already have their own voices. As we age and have more freedoms and listen to what we want to we generally develop this desire to sound as good as the others we hear or copy them.

CAUSE AND EFFECT EXERCISES are used in the Vocal Ease Training Method. I know as a teacher that if i want more of a balanced tone from chest to top, but the student has no chest or light chest voice, then there is an exercises i need to do with them (cause) to produce the exact effect (singing in chest voice). With practice it doesn’t take long for the singer to have the registers needed to sing; Chest, Middle (or Mix) and Head. As the singing student catches on then the exercises are modified and tailored to what the student is doing and also more Cause/Effect exercises are introduced. This is what helps the voice sing from chest to top and back to chest with release and resonation, thus Vocal Freedom.

First of all what does that mean to sing or even speak in the chest voice? It simply means to sing with the vocal cords connected or coming together from the low chest notes on up to the middle notes (like middle C, D, E, F and G for men), and above middle C to (A,B,C,D for women).

When you sing connected versus singing breathy or airy, your vocal cords connect in the chest register and all the way up through the middle notes and then the head voice or head registers. When singing non-connected or breathy or airy, your vocal cords are not connecting to the best of their ability so that when you go up the scale to higher notes you could be singing falsetto instead.

It is valued among kids, preteens and even teens to sing more breathy in the chest area, since that’s the sound some of their favorite recording artists are making, especially pop artists. Michael Jackson made a good living off of singing and speaking breathy, even though it is proven that he did not have to sing that way, but did so for style and effect.

There are voice teachers whose students are encouraged to take their voices as low on a descending scale (from high notes to low notes) as possible in head voice and ignore the chest voice entirely. Others inform their students that the chest voice will come naturally in time when the voice is ready. It’s important for all you singers and future singers to know it really is not magical.

There are exercises that I know how to teach to encourage the vocal cords to touch, connect and stay connected so that your voice can beautifully mix the chest to the head voice. And people will think you are still singing higher notes in your chest voice merely because your vocal cords connected so well and consistently from the chest on up that your voice still conveys strength.

Some students catch on to these exercises very quickly and it hardly takes any time for them to change, and some students take longer. But it’s important to teach children through adults and not act like it doesn’t exist. The chest voice is the root of the voice and of singing. It is said that the difference between being a singer and those who sing is that the singer is able to sing from chest on up and down again with the vocal chords connected so as to produce a consistent sound.

Next blog will be a continuation of the Female Chest Voice subject.

Thanks, for reading.

Jane Jenkins, A Vibrant Voice

I knew after writing my blog on Practicing, that this needed to be the next subject.  A dissertation could be written on this subject, but we don’t have time in this small blog, so i’ll touch on a few important principles.

The term vocal CORDS is often referred to as “vocal FOLDS”.  So here you may read cords and folds interchangeably.

LARYNX: Your larynx, like any other organ of your body, is composed of living tissue.  It is possible to abuse your voice without even realizing you are doing so.  Think of the radio foodshow host, Rachel Ray who spent all summer after having had surgery from a cyst on a vocal fold recovering; learning that what had contributed to the cyst growing was that she had poor posture, she talked incorrectly and not in her “speech level” voice.  She talked too high, with- out air support and raised her larynx intermittently.  She often talked and laughed with excessive volume, smiling and going up so high, she talked with tension.  A muscular “battle” took place between her vocal muscles (in the larynx) and the outer muscles.  It led to so much straining and hoarseness that a cyst formed on one vocal fold.

OTHER FACTORS: Many people (myself included through way too many years) imitate the voice or style of a recording artist they admire, and they try to sing in that person’s key, which may be all wrong for them. Their voice and development may not be able to handle what that recording artist is doing. Rock singers and oldies singers  think there audience will know if the key is lowered a half or a whole note and not enjoy the performance. I would be amazed if the audience payed that much attention and had the perfect pitch they’d need to tell the difference.

CORD SHOCK: Excessive coughing, sneezing, throat-clearing and starting your song or statement with a sudden burst of air can strain or even damage the delicate muscle tissue of your cords.

EMOTIONAL STRESS AND FATIGUE: When you are tired, your body is under emotional stress and your neuro-muscular system cannot function properly.  You run the risk of using the wrong singing muscles to assist you through your practicing.

VOCAL VACATION: This merely means to take a vocal rest, eliminating any talking or singing or humming.  Just vacate and yes, this means carrying around a notebook around your neck like Celine Dion and other singers do to communicate with her husband and others during these crucial times.

SOME CAUSES OF VOCAL ABUSE: Talking in a restaurant or bar that is too noisy or has bad acoustics. The “in” thing in some new places is to not install ceiling tiles.  Looks very SOHO but sounds like a very bad choir warming up with a mixture of sounds that you try to overcome by talking more loudly.

Whispering is just as abusive as yelling and can lead to vocal damage, also.  Also talking breathy and singing breathy is not good for your voice.

TAKING CARE OF YOUR VOICE:

* Good Posture, including not shaking your head to the beat of the music while you sing. You may need to have someone check out your posture while you speak or sing to see if your spine seems aligned.
* Drink water, keep your folds hydrated, especially with water.
* Reduce or eliminate caffeine, alcohol, and smoking intake. All of these dry you out, irritating the cords.
* Increase amount of sleep if appropriate.
* Warm up your vocal cords before you lecture or present, or before you sing songs.
* Restrict use of loud voice in windy, cold, or outdoor areas.  In windy, colder conditions, place a scarf around your neck.
* Hormone changes will affect the voice; take care of yourself when these are occurring.
* The environment affects the voice.  Dust, fumes, smog, smoke and other allergens should be kept to a minimum.

REMEDIES THAT DON’T WORK:

Sprays, lozenges, hot tea, honey/lemon preparations. they don’t help you sing better.  Citrus is acidic and drying so orange or tomato juice is not recommended, nor is lemonade.

Whew, this is a long, long blog.  I hope you have found it helpful.  If I left anything out, let me know so I can include it in another piece somewhere.  I can imagine I didn’t cover everything here.  If you take issue with anything or find it offensive, check it out with a vocal doctor or a vocal institute. There is a wonderful institute in Denver, Colorado and another in New York.

Jane

Less is More!

Less is more! What does this idea have to do with singing? Is this true? Is more air on high notes necessary? Answer: NO.

The Key is this: The higher you sing the less air you should use. When you reduce the amount of air that you send up from the lungs to your cords you make it possible for the muscles outside of the vocal cords to NOT do anything for the singing; to stay relaxed and uninvolved. The condition that makes you engage the outer muscles is use of too much air. Therefore, only use the amount of air you need for your vocal cords to handle the vocal exercises and songs.

Now, how does this apply to rock singers who need to sing raspy, growly, or screamy? Raspy & growly are a style, but if you scream you Will engage the outer muscles. So if you are a consistent performer, over a period of time, who knows when, your voice will most likely be damaged. Because you are singing consistently with the outer muscles and you are lifting your larynx rather regularly.

Voice Lessons are a process, referred to as similar to an athletic endeavor. You take the time to go through the steps to learn about your voice and listen to your self, feeling the way it is different when singing correctly and what is different when singing incorrectly. Even with rock singers, Less is More, while practicing and building excellent technique so you can add the style and genre you want later in combination with your good technique.

Thanks again for reading my blog, and look for more info on good singing technique next time.

Jane

What to expect in a first lesson with me:

It’s always good to know what to expect for your money before those well earned and valued dollars are spent. In the first lesson with me I will conduct a voice evaluation.  I will ask you a few questions and then see what is going on with your voice.  The evaluation isn’t a big challenge, but it tells me a lot about any vocal issues you may have going on.

After the evaluation, I will ask you how it felt to get through the vocal transitions and tell you what I’m noticing.  Then I’ll let you know what we need to do to fix these issues, and proceed to do just that.  I am not saying everyone’s vocal issue gets fixed the very 1st lesson, but there are some people where that does happen.

Expect to learn a lot about your voice and why it does what it does in making adjustments to get to the higher notes and sometimes the adjustments you make to get to lower notes.  I involve you every step of the way to understand what’s  going  on in your body so that you will be able to sing correctly.   Voice anatomy is interesting and it’s good for me as the instructor to know what’s going on at all times so I can use a tailored Vocal Ease Training tool for you so you can adjust and fix the problems.

Typical vocal issues encountered in the 1st lesson:

The Flip: some singers sing fine in chest voice and as they move on up the range they “flip” into a falsetto. You can feel and hear when that happens.  The voice cracks and you widen the vowel as you feel the awkwardness of this bridge or transition and then it flips and an inconsistent sound is made while singing higher notes, much lighter without depth.

Pull Chest: Some singers sing fine in the chest and as they move up the range they feel that “bridge or break” or transition beginning to occur, don’t want to feel it or let it happen, so sing louder and put more pressure on the note while widening the mouth a lot.

They will feel the voice getting stuck and not be able to go further without singing forced and loud and then the voice just stops.

No Chest: Some singers sing so breathy in the chest register that there is no basis for which to go up the range without just staying breathy.  Unless the teacher knows the correct exercises to fix this problem, they will remain breathy or airy in the bottom notes while going up and also when coming back down in a song or when singing scales.

Mixed: Some singers find it easy to mix. When you sing in the chest and you let yourself go into the head voice easily with no cracks , no pull chest, no flips and no breathyness, you are Mixing. You mix when your chest resonation easily gives way into the head voice (very limited definition provided here).

These conditions must exist for singing to be called Mixed:  The larynx needs to be stable (at speech level), as it is when conversing in a moderate tone.  The vocal cords or folds, as they are sometimes called, need to be closing/vibrating. And you need to sing in a relaxed posture without trying to help the note in any way.

Seth Riggs, who started Speech Level Singing International, says that we should, “absolutely refuse to help the pitch in any way” (going higher or on low notes).

When we try to help the note we the note we either raise the larynx and thus stress the voice or try to lower the notes too hard and then slam into the chest voice and again stress the voice. As your instructor, I will watch for this habit that most of you have developed and point it out so you can redirect your singing in the correct way and sing your notes with ease.

In Summary, the purpose of VEM training for all students is to induce and maintain a healthy, naturally produced and relaxed vocal production through the use of “Tools” which create:

* Balanced registration and connection between chest, mid and upper registers,
* Seamless negotiation of the bridges of the voice,
* Appropriate vocal cord closure (not over compressed or under-compressed), and
* A relaxed, low and stable larynx.

The VEM instructor goes through years of specialized learning and long hours studying so we can teach other singers how to sing the best without wasting time making mistakes.

Meanwhile, email me for a lesson so you can get your vocal evaluation.

Thanks for reading my blogs, Jane.

sidebar_spectrum_orig.php