Incorporating resonance into the voice not only creates significantly better tone quality, but it makes it much, much easier to sing. This holds true for the entire range, but particularly for higher notes. The higher the note, the more resonance space is needed for the sound waves to be able to vibrate freely. Without enough space, a note is tight, muffled and uncomfortable and the singer is often confused about why. Below are a few examples of singers I have worked with on this concept and the results that resonance brought about for them.
I remember working for a while with a high soprano in her mid-20s, a soubrette. She had studied voice previously, but had taken a break and been away from serious study for about a year. She wanted to focus on her technique again and get ready to do some auditions. She had a fine instrument, but it was shut-down, a little nasal and had a fast, fluttery vibrato. I introduced a relaxed, lowered larynx, achieving the laryngeal tilt at her second lesson and an open, expanded space in the back of the mouth (back and sides) at her third. Both of these were new concepts for her and took a little time for her to accomplish and get accustomed to. When she was finally able to maintain a relaxed, lower position of the larynx and expand her resonance space at the back of her mouth, the difference in tone quality was startling. Not only did her voice have a great deal more warmth, color and presence, but her fast vibrato had disappeared completely and the vibrato became healthy and shimmering. It sounded like a different voice altogether – quite a remarkable transformation in only two lessons!
A mature mezzo came to me with problems with her high notes. They were shutting down on her and were pinched and uncomfortable, unlike the rest of her voice, which was much more open and easy. She also suffered from a lack of vibrato from time to time. Her soft palate was in a good position, but I noticed that her throat was narrowing and the larynx was rising as she went up, so I worked with her right away on the laryngeal tilt and the pre-vomit reflex to open her throat. That approach helped rectify the narrowing and her high notes were better, but they still needed more space to resonate freely. So, I explained how she should expand the back and sides of her mouth to increase the resonance space and help the soft palate out. She was able to create the expansion, which changed her voice quality right away, but she kept her vowels back in the newly-created space, causing them to be muffled. I then discussed the need to work in opposition in singing, creating back space, but still allowing the vowels to be formed in a more frontal position. After a few tries, she was able to maintain a more relaxed larynx, the expanded walls of the back of the mouth and more frontal vowel to great effect. Her high notes were much more open, significantly easier for her to sing and started matching up with the rest of her voice. Also, since her vocal cords were able to relax with the laryngeal tilt, vibrato started to come into her voice consistently. By working with these basic concepts of resonance, she experienced more freedom and evenness throughout her entire range.
I worked with a talented boy soprano with a lovely, clear, natural instrument and an innate connection to breath resistance. He didn’t have enough resonance space for his high notes (E5 and F5), so he tended to push in order to sing them. Because of this, I limited the range of the music he sang to D5 until he was ready and able to focus on resonance. I had already gradually introduced the concept of allowing the larynx to relax down upon inhalation without forcing it, an indirect method to ensure the proper amount of release. Holding down the larynx is the last thing any singer wants to do! Then I discussed the shape of the mouth with him, equating it with the Bat Cave, and explained that the walls could expand outwards and make the Bat Cave bigger. He tried that out and was able to do the expansion quite well after a few minutes of practice. When he took it into his top, the results were amazing. His high notes were very free, spacious and open, giving him more volume with no extra effort. He was very surprised himself to feel how much easier those previously difficult notes felt! I did have to remind him not to push at all through the open sound, which can be tempting for even experienced singers to do. With consistent reinforcement, this approach to his higher notes will become second nature to him. By maximizing his resonance, he will be able to keep singing in a healthy manner and save himself from possible damage to his delicate vocal instrument.
As you can see, maximizing the built-in vocal resonance spaces is key to a healthy technique and makes a dramatic difference in tone quality. Without enough resonance space, the voice has no choice but to feel shut down, become much smaller than it should be and feel uncomfortable to the singer. Opening these natural resonators allows the voice to function healthily and for the singer’s true instrument to be heard.
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