Experienced singers, no matter how long they have sung, always need to be aware of their vocal technique, stay on top of any issues that might arise and get help from an experienced, qualified voice teacher with excellent ears on a regular basis. However, issues frequently occur very subtly and gradually over a long period of time. When that is the case, it is virtually impossible for singers to notice the changes themselves as they take place, making them less likely to seek a teacher’s help and advice. They only notice when the accumulated effects start taking a toll and there is decreased beauty and functionality in the voice. Unfortunately, these continuing effects can threaten a singer’s career and long-term vocal health, if nothing is done to stem the tide.
Thankfully, there are ways to help rejuvenate the voice and bring it back to a healthier, more coordinated state. They are, interestingly enough, the very same exercises that train the voices of younger singers to sing at a professional level. That is because correct vocal functioning is correct vocal functioning and in and of itself brings a vastly improved, younger sound to any voice.
Not all voice teachers understand how to rejuvenate a voice. That is because the specific coordinations of the voice that keep it in tip-top condition are not well known in the classical singing community. I write about them here in detail in my articles, but even then, the exercises need to be done in a very precise way and guided consistently by the expert ears of a teacher who can hear the subtleties between when the exercises are being done correctly or not. It is the refinement and repetition of the very specific, correct coordination that trains the voice over time to default to this new habit of better vocal functioning, leading to increased beauty, ring, resonance, etc. Whereas young singers do not normally have the experience and patience necessary to manage this extremely painstaking, technical approach to the exercises, more experienced singers do often have the capability and insight into their own technique to be able to work more independently and participate actively in the rejuvenation of their voice.
I worked with this singer recently for a series of four lessons over the period of a week, while she was in New York City for auditions. She is in her early 50s with a wonderful, naturally rich, warm instrument. After 20 years of performing, her voice had lost its vibrancy and had developed a wide vibrato. It had also lost any squillo or ring it had previously. The results were a hooty, unfocused tone that was less than half of its potential size and sounded much older than it should.
I started working with her on the thin edge exercise. As with many singers who are employing too much vocal weight, she had difficulty at first finding the thin edge function. However, with consistent feedback from me on exactly how to perform the exercise, she was able adapt her approach to get closer and closer to the correct coordination of the vocal cords. I then had her do the cuperto, also detailed in the same previous article, to reinforce the thin edge function. After that, we worked on the ng ring to bring some nasal resonance and focus back into her voice. This was a challenge for her, because she had not been employing it as part of her technique for significant period of time and the exercise is a complex one with a number of layers to it that usually requires practice to perfect. But she was able to get a good idea of how nasal resonance feels and how to start working on the exercise on her own.
By this point in the lesson, this mezzo was already singing quite differently. The thin edge function exercises had released a great deal of unnecessary weight from her voice, changing it from a hooty sound to a much clearer, healthier and younger sound. Working on the ng ring started to bring nasal resonance into her voice once again, giving it even more clarity and ease of functioning. I had her work on opening the resonance spaces and releasing the larynx, while continuing to keep the thin edge function and ng ring going as much as possible. The entire first lesson was spent on vocaleses.
At the second lesson, her voice sounded better – clearer and more aligned than before. I took the exact same approach during the second lesson, focusing on the thin edge function and ng ring. Even more clarity came into the voice, as she was able to drop more unnecessary vocal weight. It was much easier for her to find correct nasal resonance at this lesson, allowing her to begin to work on other aspects of the exercise, including raising and expanding the soft palate. It was challenging for her to combine the ng ring with a higher soft palate, but she was able to experience it a few times and understood that that was the goal. We spent half of the lesson working on repertoire and applying the thin edge function to it. She was able to take a significant amount of weight out of the repertoire she had performed for years, giving the arias more ease, clarity and beauty than before. When she was able to incorporate nasal resonance as well, it brought sheen and spin into the voice.
At the third lesson, this experienced mezzo had been able to have several days to work on the concepts on her own. Her progress was even more remarkable. Her vocal cords were rapidly learning to drop the excess weight and instead use the thin edge functioning. The ng ring was becoming more incorporated into her voice again. It sounded like a completely different instrument altogether! Her voice had ease, warmth, color and beauty and had grown to twice its previous size. I used the same approach in this lesson, reinforcing the thin edge function and ng ring before moving on to addressing resonance, the larynx, etc. This mezzo had only been using the abdominal wall for support, so in this lesson I worked with her on expanding the back and employing the appoggio at the sternum. Back expansion helped her release from larynx even more, giving her voice the wonderful, chocolatey color innate to her instrument. We worked on more repertoire, incorporating the thin edges and nasal resonance successfully into that.
At her fourth and final lesson, it was clear that her vocal instrument had been truly rejuvenated. She was able to maintain the thin edge function quite consistently throughout her range. The ng ring had been successfully incorporated into her voice, along with an expanded soft palate, bringing about the vocal protection so necessary for classical singers. By finding a more balanced combination of support through the abdominal wall, back, and sternum, she had more reliable breath resistance that freed her high notes and focused the voice even more. I used the same approach during the lesson, reinforcing allof the crucial concepts and adding the vomitare, expansion at the bottom of the throat in the pre-vomit reflex. When working on repertoire, she was able to do a remarkable job of incorporating the concepts we had worked on during our series of lessons, making subtle changes with my feedback that resulted in even more clarity, ring, color and freedom in the voice. She was naturally absolutely thrilled to be singing in a way that felt so much easier and organic for her. With her years of experience and insight into her own vocal technique, I know that she will be able to work with these extremely effective tools and continue to sing with a rejuvenated voice.
For more articles and information, visit my website, http://www.thebricelandstudio.com