With many of the singers I hear, there is simply too much unnecessary vocal weight being used, unconsciously or consciously, when singing. The problem is most singers are not taught that it is possible to release that weight and be instructed gradually over time how to accomplish that consistently throughout their range when singing repertoire. The majority of teachers are unaware of the issue, don’t have the ability to discern exactly what the problem is and/or don’t have the tools to address the problem of excess weight. Because the aural indicators of extra vocal weight can sound vary from vocal fach to vocal fach, they can therefore be very easily misdiagnosed. However, excess vocal weight is a hugely important issue that needs to be addressed.
Lack of the thin edge function can easily lead a singer’s fach to be misdiagnosed. The excess weight can be perceived as real weight that is inherent to the voice. The singer then works on inappropriate repertoire that is too heavy for the real instrument, which exacerbates the problem and even encourages more unnecessary weight to be added. This is a dangerous path for singers to tread, but it occurs quite frequently.
I worked with a young woman who was using too much excess weight in her voice. On the recordings she sent me, she sounded like a young mid-weight lyric soprano with a lot of issues. A previous teacher believed that she might even develop into a dramatic soprano. In the studio, the voice sounded much smaller than in the recordings and was clearly shut down. When introduced to the thin edge function over the period of her first lesson, her voice changed radically. As the excess weight began dropping away and the thin edge function of the cords worked more consistently, her true fach of coloratura soprano became apparent – quite a distance from a lyric or dramatic soprano! The excess vocal weight had truly “weighed down” her voice completely, including her high extension. After several lessons, she had regained the natural facility and ease in her top notes that she had lost and her voice was healthier, freer and more beautiful. The thin edge function allowed her to rediscover her true fach.
Unnecessary vocal weight also keeps the voice from being able to utilize fully the all-important resonators of the vocal mechanism. Extra weight results in an unnaturally heavy sound that cannot possess as much pharyngeal resonance or correct nasal ring and thereby can never reach its full size and impact. Since maximizing the size of each instrument through the resonators is crucial for classical singing, this is clearly a major problem.
I worked with a more mature singer last week who did not exhibit any initial, apparent signs of too much vocal weight. However, since the aural indicators can vary so widely between voices, I had her work on the thin edge function anyway, as I do with all of my students. It is helpful for everyone, as it reinforces proper vocal functioning at the highest level. After just a couple of minutes, it was clear that she had been using too much vocal weight, even though it hadn’t been obvious in the least. With the thin edge function, her voice grew half again as large as before and was much easier to produce. The student was stunned and asked for an explanation for how such a dramatic change in her voice could take place so quickly. I explained how the thin edge functions works and how she could use this concept on her own in practice sessions to ensure that she was singing with the thin edge function. She was extremely grateful to have such a helpful tool in her arsenal as a guarantee she was singing healthily and with maximum resonance.
One of the huge differences I hear in today’s singers compared to singers of the past is an overall lack of vocal polish in the sound. This type of polish should be present throughout the voice, but is often most apparent at the top. Vocal polish is directly related to the thin edge function! Without it, the voice lacks this final, finished quality of sheen, spin, freedom and exquisite beauty. Again, the aural indicators can differ widely, but the lack of thin edge function in the voice can lead to high notes that range from unexciting to “squalid” and ugly. Singers can learn to accept this sound as part of their natural instrument, but it is often purely related to how the vocal cords are functioning and the use of too much excess vocal weight.
I worked consistently on the thin edge function with a mature baritone who had been pushing his voice and singing with too much unnecessary vocal weight over a long period of time, to the detriment of his career. It took him over a month of lessons and intelligent practice at home daily to reteach the vocal cords to release the excess weight and utilize the thin edge function instead. The change in his voice overall and his high notes specifically could not have been more dramatic. His voice regained a professional quality with sparkle and sheen. His top became easy and his truly gorgeous, high notes could be heard once more. His voice was working in a healthy manner, because of the thin edge function, and he was ready to get out and audition again.
The thin edge function is a necessity for every singer and is not a coordination that is regularly taught by the majority of teachers. Some students luck into finding that correct functioning and are able to maintain it, but most have to seek out help from a qualified teacher to learn how to release the unnecessary vocal weight and truly reach their full potential as singers.
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