Many vocal pedagogues address vocal resonance in only an indirect manner with their students, using visualizations, imitation of the teacher and the like to get their points across. This method can be haphazard and give singers just a partial understanding and, thereby, only partial access to crucially-necessary resonance, limiting not only the beauty and health of their voices, but also future career opportunities. It is a much better approach to address the individual aspects of vocal resonance one by one and then work systematically to combine them into the overall technique.
There is a triumvirate of vocal resonance that needs to work in tandem for the optimum health and beauty of the classical voice. The concepts themselves are well-known: a lowered larynx and expanded pharynx; an expanded soft palate and oro-pharynx and nasal resonance/ring. These are the areas where it is possible to expand the pharyngeal resonance chambers and thereby alter the sound of the human voice for the better. It is imperative not only that each of these areas be taught to expand in the correct manner, which takes detailed, concentrated work, but that these concepts then be trained to work together.
This idea is impossible for some singers to grasp. “How can I maintain a high soft palate and back space while having frontal resonance?” “How can my larynx stay low when my soft palate is raised?” Both are questions I have often heard in my voice studio. I, too, was taught as a young singer that I had to make a choice between forward resonance or back space, a lowered larynx or a high soft palate, that the ability to maintain two or three of these openings simultaneously was only for the gifted few. While it is true that some singers can open all of these resonance spaces naturally, it is absolutely possible for everyone to learn open these resonators and thereby drastically improve their voices. Eventually, the very oppositional nature of the necessary expansion become a guide for singers, as they learn it is that expanded, relaxed, open space that is necessary for their optimum sound.
The exercises of the Swedish-Italian Technique that I have offered and explained in detail previously, when learned correctly and practiced with precision, are extremely effective in training the triumvirate of vocal resonance. It is important for each concept to be learned individually and then combined. An experienced, knowledgeable teacher is needed to help guide the singer in the process. Advanced singers can pick up these exercises, grasp the fundamentals from the teacher more quickly and then work on their own to effect positive changes, but beginners and intermediate singers do require more consistent, hands-on instruction and reinforcement.
Below are several exercises that work on the triumvirate of vocal resonance.
The ng exercise trains correct nasal resonance while the soft palate is raised. The pop on the held 8th should be sudden and this initial “ah” should be held as the soft palate continues to lift and widen and the back wall of the mouth expands. After achieving that openness, maintain it on the descending arpeggio. The cough off is a quick, easy expulsion of excess air through an open pharynx, initiated by an abdominal kick.
1 – 3 rest 3 – 5 rest 5 – 8 (hold)
ng cough off ng cough off ng (keep singing)
8 (hold) 5 – 3 – 1
(pop) ah – – – – – – –
This can be experienced passively by dropping the jaw, monitoring the position of the larynx with gentle fingers and very slowly closing the jaw, allowing the larynx to remain in the same position.
In singing, the larynx must be dealt with delicately, always going for the relaxed open feeling of the beginning of the yawn. The larynx should not be pushed or held, but gently encouraged. In the slow, three-note exercise below, the first note should be sung with the larynx in its normal position. On the slide up to the second note, the larynx should be encouraged to relax and drop to a lower position without manipulation. That relaxed, lower position should be maintained on the final note. This is to be done low in the range initially and taken up higher when mastered, with the understanding that the larynx will not release down as much for higher notes, since the larynx itself has to be in a slightly higher position during their execution.
1 3 1
ee – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
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