Co-Authored blog by
Hilary Canto & Dena Murray
"Mastering & Pitching"
Part 2 of 3
The purpose of this blog series is to help singers and voice instructors pay more attention to listening ability. The ability to hit the pitches dead-on can make the difference between a good singer and a great one.
In part 1 we discussed listening in detail. We also referred to the work of Dr. Tomatis. However, we are not all Tomatis practitioners or need to train and/or receive this treatment. So how can we assist singers who are struggling with listening skills to reproduce vocal sounds on pitch?
Silence enables a person to free their mind. It allows for more receptivity to sound. Meditation can also help with this or just taking 10 minutes to shut out all noise and lie quietly, letting thoughts just come and go. Though letting go of our thoughts is not such an easy task. It does take practice, and there are lots of CD guided meditations available that can assist you with this process.
From silence - tones, overtones and humming are the best sounds we can make to clear our body's sound memory, to improve listening and accurate pitching. The voice is the ultimate instrument! The most remarkable effect of tones and hums, with constant dedication and practice, is that they can heal the voice, energize the body; build resonance in the bones particularly the cranial bones in the head, as well as release blocks in cellular memory allowing the voice to flow freer. Sound actually bypasses the mind creating the release No need to analyze.
People in workshops with longstanding voice issues suddenly find issues release when they come together in a room and tone and hum with one another. The added power of a group setting can be extremely powerful and beneficial. However for the modern vocalist, this work also has to be practiced alone daily. We cannot emphasize enough how important tones, overtones, and humming are in assisting with listening and pitching.
How you produce these tones is of critical importance for vocal care, pitch resonance, and breath control. They should be done at a level of loudness that doesn't make you force your voice out. For those who want to add more weight, strength and power, breath support and placement of the sound through the vocal tract also needs attention.
If you make a sound loudly, you will notice that the resonance is short-lasting and suddenly stops. Without using your usual force and attempting a softer approach, you will notice the resonance holds much longer. Both these techniques are used when singing. Tones should be practiced without pitching for clearing the sound memory in your body, mind, and to build more resonance in the vocal tract. This can only be done in your natural voice, your real voice. Making the breath flow with the tone and using the correct mouth shape for the tones can make all the difference in how the voice and body responds to tone.
Tones are vowel sounds. They should be practiced at least 1 hour a day to get some clearing impact. Overtones are the harmonics produced over the fundamental (basic) tone being sung. They are best heard when you make a sound from EE to OOO and back to EE. The resonance from them will alter the cellular vibration of your body and alter the listening capacity. You can hear the ascending harmonics and the descending harmonics if you are in the right tone placement.
Humming comes from the closure of the lips and sound pushing against that closure. To change what has been locked in, the tones must be able to resonate through the bone mechanism. This carries the resonance into the cells. In effect, this clears distorted vibration from the inside and frees our cellular memory to receive specific frequencies so that our voice can begin to reproduce them. (See Cymatics Dr Hans Jenny, Messages from Water Dr Masaru Emoto, Fabien Mamman The Role of Music in the 21st Century)
So how do we produce these tones properly and articulate vowels in singing?
Formation of vowel sounds begins in the oral pharynx. This is the hole between the back of the tongue and the back wall of the throat. It's part of the tube otherwise known as pharynx, the chief resonator. The pharynx is also known as the echo chamber and second mouth of the singer because of the potential power it can add to the voice with proper breath technique.
There are four known chambers of resonance: the laryngeal, oral, nasal, and upper. You will not be able to shape your vowels in the oral pharynx if you take in too much air. Taking in too much air because your mind tells you you'll need it is a lie. Heaps of air will only create too much pressure under the cords. This will prevent them from doing their job and creating proper pitch. Pitch is determined by the stretch of the cord from front to back. On every single note, the cords make a different size stretch, though this cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Pitches are not produced with the blast, or reach, of your air. The cords only need a small amount of air to stretch for the proper pitch and create sound. This being said, it's very important to learn how to sing without holding your breath or you will end up squeezing and pushing it out. Squeezing holds the tone inside your body. Pushing will have you forcing up the air get sound out because there is no sound unless air passes by the cords.
If you take in too much air, fill up the tank, what do you think might happen? The cords will have to pull further apart than needed for that particular pitch and you will end up falling flat. Remember this: the higher the note, the shorter the stretch of cord, and the smaller of an opening between them. The lower the note, the longer and looser the stretch of cord and the wider of an opening between them. Keeping that in mind, high or low, the cords must be able to control the flow of air and compress it properly for pitch. They can't do that if you are overdoing it with your air.
There is an art to learning how use your air properly. Before getting into the art of singing songs, you've got to learn how to do this so you don't risk injury to the mechanism. If you don't learn proper breath technique, you may continue to lose pitch. Managing tone and breath is the foundation for good pitching. It trains your whole body to produce sound correctly. If the listening ability is clear, the sound reproduction from the voice box with correct airflow and resonance will give you absolute pitch. There shouldn't be any more barriers to hitting the pitches.
Please bear in mind that there are no quick magic fixes here. None of us can learn how to do all of this in one lesson. It takes the knowledge and guidance of a teacher, and your continued practice.
Love Hilary & Dena
Next week Part 3 Pitching Perfectly