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Clenching in the throat

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Fred
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Backstory: I have yet to figure out how to get resonance in my head. I either smoothly transition into falsetto (it flips over the “break” on the way down) but there is one thing I can do with my throat that could be best described as a “clench”. I’m not pushing or straining anywhere but reducing airflow with a soft “clench” or clamp in the throat. This way I can reach up to currently around D5. It feels like it can go a lot higher if I keep at it. I can also do this if I start in low vocal fry, try to hold it, and gently slide the voice higher.

The problem is the volume is mosquito low and at higher pitch it sounds extremely strained (not odd since I’m basically holding my breath). I’ve been experimenting for a week or two and added a little volume to it. More a bee than mosquito now.

Here’s the thing. In the throat it feels like the air is pushed out evenly across the cords instead of the “zipping up” I should be practicing on. Of course there’s no way to verify but that’s the feeling I get.

I was wondering about the implications of doing this? And really what type of voice this is. I’m still looking for head voice so I’m always hoping I’ve stumbled across the yellow brick road.

Thanks and regards,

Fred

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It sounds like you're getting the vocal folds together and getting used to that feeling. If you could post a clip, that would be very useful.

Btw, although some schools of thought such as Singing Success use the term "zipping up," I've heard on here that this term is actually not anatomically correct. I think this term was meant to mean the folds seeming to get closer, smaller and let through less air, not literally acting like a zipper, but who knows! :D

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If you're trying to feel resonance in your head and soft palate to help you with your singing, there are several things you can try.

As Mr Bounce pointed out, the vocal folds don't actually zip up at all - so you're probably best leaving that image aside unless it's helping your meet your goals.

To try to free your voice, try the following exercise :

1) do a loud moany, irritating sound on the word 'oh!'

2) try to talk in this moany, irritating voice - it may feel slightly cried, or a bit nasal - all of this is fine. You shouldn't feel it in your throat (definitely keep it moany, rather than cry-y)

3) Now that you've got that feeling, try speaking some text from a song with this voice. Just talk it in an irritating, moany, 'it's not fair' kind of voice.

4) now do it at a different pitch - but keep talking.

5) now try to sing it in exactly the same way - often, the irritating voice that sounds hideous when speaking, transforms into a lovely sung sound with a free, easy feel.

Hope it helps a bit !

Allan

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Backstory: I have yet to figure out how to get resonance in my head. I either smoothly transition into falsetto (it flips over the “break” on the way down) but there is one thing I can do with my throat that could be best described as a “clench”. I’m not pushing or straining anywhere but reducing airflow with a soft “clench” or clamp in the throat. This way I can reach up to currently around D5. It feels like it can go a lot higher if I keep at it. I can also do this if I start in low vocal fry, try to hold it, and gently slide the voice higher.

...

I was wondering about the implications of doing this? And really what type of voice this is. I’m still looking for head voice so I’m always hoping I’ve stumbled across the yellow brick road.

Fred: Where is this 'clench'? Reducing airflow with effort, even mild, at the level of the throat, may not be what you should be doing. Can you put up a recording of what this sounds like, so we can hear the resulting sound? It could be just fine, but that particular word brings with it some concern.

To your original question, its highly likely that you have resonance in your head already, just are not aware of it. One way you can experiment with this is to sustain one of the voiced semi-occluded consonants, for example, Z or V, with one hand cupped on the top of your head. I think you'll feel vibration just about on all of the bones of the head.

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What Steve said. And, in my opinion, you are not hitting a D5 unless you are using at least some "head" resonance. It sounds more like your clench is a sharp twang, bordering on distortion. But I could be wrong and am easily so, very often.

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Thanks for the answers everyone! Just coming out of a bad cold so I've had trouble doing "the sound" for a couple of days. Should be up and back in practice later today. Will record it then.

Steven: Yes it's inside the throat. I completely relax the throat and muscles around the adams apple (incl. jaw and face). The effort level is mild to medium but inside the throat. It's very similar to holding your breath then letting a tiny amount of air escape like through a balloon 'nozzle' (sounds about the same too haha), I guess all the 'push' is coming from the stomach area (effort level medium-high).

The problem with resonance is that in 'chest register' I get loads of resonance and when I get past the break (bump or not) there is no resonance in head what so ever. My whole mouth vibrates but my head is still as a cushion. Will try to force some resonance into my practicy (without muscle tension of course).

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Ok, here we go. To spare your ears from general suckiness I made them fade -in, -out and normalized to -3 or -6 db.

Haven't done it in a while so couldn't get very high.

Clench over an Ah ppp http://www.box.net/shared/0an58y1ati

Here I try to hold it over a tone, fairly unsuccessfully as you can hear. It sounds strained but I'm not using any muscle at all except that clenching feeling inside the throat. Also mosquito quiet.

Clench over an ee C2 to C3 ppp http://www.box.net/shared/xoyv0pc9t0

To compare with a regular Ah C2 to C3 a little bit louder pehaps p or little less than speaking level.

Ah C2 to C3 p http://www.box.net/shared/npbc88vfid

I'm currently trying to start in chest resonance with as much support I can muster, soft palate, stance and everything as proper and tiny as I can get it -and slide slowly up an octave around the break to see if I can enter what people seem to refer to as headvoice instead of my falsetto. So far I've gone nowhere but it's only been a week.

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I'm not sure what you are doing for breath support but it seems absent in the first two examples. But is present in the 3rd sample.

Also, you need to twang more. This will brighten the tone, yes, but it will allow easier phonation and help match whatever breath support you do have. Second, you can darken the tone by changing the vowel sound. Ah is a bright vowel. Eh is a dark vowel. So, you could use eh or ay for a compromise of bright and dark.

It sounds like your note is placed properly, as in, it is on the soft palate, through out the slide. But, if you could sharpen the twang just a smidge, it would help resonate what notes you do hit. Also, in the first two samples, it's as if you have a loose adduction, which works fine at low pitches when the folds are thick. With higher notes, the folds thin out and you need fuller adduction (closer proximity of the folds to each other, the current mental image is zipping up the folds. But it doesn't actually work as a zipper. The folds, however, are thinned out yet very close together.) With that fuller adduction, you need breath support just a little more solid than speaking. Most people who are not public speakers do not have the right breath support for more than a few phrases at a time because that is how they speak. You don't have to push hard enough to lift a Volkswagen, but you do want a consistent light pressure. I think of it as the stomach muscles compressing slightly. You can see actor William Shatner do it in his t.v. shows, such as Star Trek and T.J. Hooker. Turn the sound down and watch him speak dialogue. His abdominals compress slightly, due to his experience in the theater, where you have to project your voice and the way to do that is breath support and resonance.

Also, certain vowels resonate better in certain ranges because of how we form our mouths and throats and sinus to make those vowel sounds. So, you might find that your slide works better with a vowel sound different than ah. Experiment and see what works.

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Also, I think the clench you are feeling is because you are trying to sing a high note without twang or "head resonance." For fear of sound "nasal." Well the sinus is part of our resonance. But we are singing behind the sinus, not through it. Some country singers sing through the nose and that really is a nasal sound.

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I haven't listened (the conditions are not favorable right now, sorry) yet, but do intend on doing it soon. Looked up at the meaning of to clench too, because I wasn't sure. I take ronws word when he says that your adduction is a bit loose.

You seem to be doing what I did. Are you feeling it is easier to ascend the scale this way (as opposed to what you could do another way) ? Are you adding more and more of this clenching as you go up ? Does your voice disconnects more and more ? You don't know how to transition into head voice without going into some kind of horrible foreign voice ?

If you are moskito level, then I don't think going softer will be any help. It might exacerbate the loss of adduction, because, well, we human tend to add air to make our voices less powerfull. However, I'd like you to record this falsetto of yours and let us listen to it. It may very well be what you're looking for already, or not too far, and you might only need to accept this voice and learn how to connect it to the rest of your vocal identity.

Speaking from personal experience, I've been, thanks to the community here, looking for the cry sound (it's more or less what allan suggested, as I think there are quite a few ways to achieve it). Sometimes I am able(I think) to do a fair job at it, and have okay adduction, volume, and it's absolutely easier than most of what I've done. I still can shift to whatever in a split second, and tend to fall back on chest over time. I've also been practising sirens, trying to lighten as I ascend without reproducing the clenching nor the sound I did (I actually thought at first I was bringing the folds closer together).

While I personnally think it's fine as long as you don't overuse vocal modes with air as it can dry the folds faster (trust me on that), I don't quite think that it is all you want to know about what your voice can do :)

But once again, I'll have to listen, as I may be well off. Until then I wish you good luck :)

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Ok, here we go. To spare your ears from general suckiness I made them fade -in, -out and normalized to -3 or -6 db.

Haven't done it in a while so couldn't get very high.

Clench over an Ah ppp http://www.box.net/shared/0an58y1ati

Here I try to hold it over a tone, fairly unsuccessfully as you can hear. It sounds strained but I'm not using any muscle at all except that clenching feeling inside the throat. Also mosquito quiet.

Clench over an ee C2 to C3 ppp http://www.box.net/shared/xoyv0pc9t0

To compare with a regular Ah C2 to C3 a little bit louder pehaps p or little less than speaking level.

Ah C2 to C3 p http://www.box.net/shared/npbc88vfid

I'm currently trying to start in chest resonance with as much support I can muster, soft palate, stance and everything as proper and tiny as I can get it -and slide slowly up an octave around the break to see if I can enter what people seem to refer to as headvoice instead of my falsetto. So far I've gone nowhere but it's only been a week.

Fred: Thanks for posting these. Based on what I hear in them, what you are calling 'clench' is probably just your perception of normal adduction, which is just fine.

The first two exercises are fine to do, and IMO you should continue to do them, and take them into the next octave as well, so that the slide/siren is at least 2 octaves. The challenge in them is to maintain the consistency of phonation by the consistency of the adduction. At the moment, the phonation ceases in a certain region of the slide. That means that you are not (yet) making the subtle adjustments in that frequency range to make that possible. I think it would be beneficial to slow down your slide as you reach that part. I mean really slow it down.

What is missing in the first two exercises, and which I think is limiting the consistency of the phonation, is the continued connection to the lower voice. To get into full head voice, you do not let go of it, you just lessen its dominance so that the stretching of the vocal bands can occur. At the moment, those first two exercises let too much of the lower voice drop off. This release diminishes the top-to-bottom depth of the vocal band which is involved in the phonation, in this case, so much that the phonation stops.

With this in mind, I think its useful to slightly increase the volume of what you are doing, by 1 dynamic level. Second, as you do your slide, its ok to let it get slightly louder as you proceed, but not ok to do it by pushing air pressure. Rather, when you begin to feel the urge to push it, reduce the speed of the slide as mentioned, and just think the frequency higher.

This will bring you to a slide approach which is quite like your third example. If you do it on an /u/ (oo) or /i/ (ee) vowel, the passaggio change will be felt to begin about A or Bb below middle C. If you let the larynx stay low, the sensation will likely move up out of the chest, but will not immediately be felt strongly in the head. That will not happen until you are singing with stronger high harmonics.

As others have said, this transition, your overall tone quality, and the strong, high frequency harmonics which are responsible for the distinctive sensations of head voice, all benefit from the use of 'twang', or if with a neutral or low larynx, "singer's" formant.

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I'm not entirely convinced by the clenching in the first two, it sounds very much like you're holding back the air by tensing the chords (it's a sound I hear a lot when working with disphonic singers).

The third one is better.

to get that light sound on the top, in addition to the excellent advice you've already been given, try the loud moaning exercises - once you've got a good loud moan going on, try consciously holding back the volume a bit (this sould be an abdominal event).

If you're stuck, we can skype quickly and I'll try to help you out - I'm on holiday at the moment so have a bit of free time. :)

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Thank you so much your kind replies. I understand how tedious it is to get these question all the time so I'm digesting them slowly denting out my voice troubles (search button going hot), it is greatly appreciated!

To your original question, its highly likely that you have resonance in your head already, just are not aware of it.

I can get resonance on C, Z and the hum when I breath through my nose, and my head rattles like crazy but as soon as I shift the airflow to my mouth it disappears and I can watch my throat getting tensed up, without me actually feeling it.

I have been practicing in front of a mirror for a week now and I noticed the back of the throat gets smaller and smaller the higher I go. It starts to happen after the "break area". 5-6 half notes higher after that I start to feel the tensing around the larynx, like it's being held in place. It is the "sides" at the back of the throat that closes in actaully, like an automatic door closing. About a centimeter on each side compared to "open".

The clench has nothing of this "tight" feeling around the larynx but I'm starting to think this is no way to sing. As soon as I add just a tiny bit of air-pressure the note goes down and the tensing begins, until they meet and I get my regular voice/high voice sound. It -could- be what I'm already doing inside the throat at high notes but without any airflow and minus the tightening. To demonstrate you can say an understanding "a-ha" on a yawn (high pitched ending -ha). With breath pressure I get tensed muscle/high voice, without air I get the "clench".

I went back to following my vocal program now but is just using it as a warmup, then I go work the break area to just try to get this sorted out. It feels like the right thing to do. I just hit Eb5 the other day, but there's no point if it don't sound or feel good, right?

I've been thinking, since my questions are only getting longer and growing in number I think instead of turning this thread to a guideline for only me I'll try to divide them up, do research and post more defined ones in separate posts. I think that way it would be a lot easier to find answers. And you won't have to type your fingers off :)

Oh and I would love to get a quick demonstration if you have some minutes to spare chanteurmoderne. I'll send you an email.

Cheers

Fred

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After Allan helped me out he was able to spot some very fundamental errors, pointing them out and helping me correct them (I am forever grateful), I think I have the answer!

I've had my tongue incorrectly all the time, it was pushed hard down and flattened all the way to open room in the mouth. This I think was blocking the airflow from the throat when I went upwards. Now instead when I do the exact same thing but with the tongue in the -ng position, open the airflow from my belly button, and if I get it right, still some way to go to get it reliable and steady, I feel my tone just flies upwards and stays floating way beyond where I previously had trouble. I almost have to push down the notes to hit the pitch whereas I previously reached up for them, this has so far greatly improved my pitch too. The irritated moaning is also slowly giving me the head resonance from time to time (have some more practice to go haha).

So now that I know better the first two is the exact feeling of abduction, but it's lacking air as the tongue was in the way. If I do it with -ng and moaning slightly I fly up in headvoice like there is no tomorrow. The third example is correct as I have the sound in the palate, but tongue is pressed down so if I had continued the slide another few notes I'd feel some strain and eventually I had to reach up for the last few notes to high c with a massive amount of air (leaving my throat thick and sore).

/Offtopic

I wonder why I haven't thought about the tongue before, or that none of the books I have point it out as beeing so important. I had some spare time and asked a lady at the national opera house (I work extra there) if she noticed anything different with her tongue position during singing and she had no idea what I was talking about, other than relaxing it. So I guess if you got it right in the first place you don't really have to think about it leaving us who got it wrong in the dark. For me it feels alien almost as I am trying to swallow my own tongue, but the strain is gone and the tone is, if not quite there yet, improving greatly.

As a sidenote I am back at square one, so I have to relearn all scale work and vibrato and what have at you. But it's fun now that I can sing along to my favorite songs an octave higher :)

/Offtopic

Thanks everyone. Turns out you were all kind of right all along, I just had the fundamentals messed up.

Cheers

Fred

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As a sidenote I am back at square one, so I have to relearn all scale work and vibrato and what have at you. But it's fun now that I can sing along to my favorite songs an octave higher :)

Thanks everyone. Turns out you were all kind of right all along, I just had the fundamentals messed up.

Cheers

Fred

It happens to any number of us, including myself. Nearly, every day, sometimes. Mike essentially had to start all over again after his tonsilectomy. Thanos (akawrd) has started himself over from the beginning, singing through colds and allergies, etc. Every day, I go back to basics, too, even though it doesn't sound like I have accomplished much. I have stumbled on something for myself, too. For example, I found that I could finally do lip bubbles in spite of my germanic and celtic heritage. And they really help me place the note in the soft palate and balance my air. But the new trick I devised for myself is to bubbles between recording takes or even patches of the same recording. That is, people often talk about warming up before and warming down after. I think it's helpful to me to keep warming throughout the process.

Anyway, welcome to the "square one" club.

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I had time to listen, and you're definitely not doing what I did. It actually reminded me of Brett Mannings demonstrating vocal folds adduction :)

(the video link lies somewhere on this very forum, but I can't remember where exactly)

I'll edit if I come across it.

Also, I'm very glad for you :)

About lipbubbles, I've found they are great for letting go tension and pressure, so that one can place her/his voice well back where it's better for it to be :)

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