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Am I singing correctly?

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Logenkeller
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I am pretty sure that I'm breathing correctly already.

But about the support and the placement, I'm always doubting myself.

When I sing, I used to think that the more support I give (push my abdomen harder, like going to the toilet), the higher the notes I can get.

However, just now I saw the post called "push from your stomach question", a guy said it was wrong.

And I can't actuallly get what he was talking about...

When I push my abdomen very hard, I can achieve tenor notes (I think I'm a baritone), but they never sound good.

It's like yelling, even if I can feel the "buzzing" in the back of my head. The sounds are not "round".

So I know now, that that was wrong.

But I can only achieve high notes by doing so!

Is there something wrong with my singing?

Or there's some skills that can help me?

Or I'm just... lack of practice? (I must say, I practice a lot. I think...)

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Hi Logenkeller !

A recording of your voice doing so would be helpful here.

Based on what I read, though I'm no expert, I'd say you probably don't allow your voice to lighten enough (" it's like yelling ", so you increase your volume by a lot, you push a lot of air, I think you're just basically taking your speaking voice higher than you should), so you just compensate by forcing and pushing.

You talk about practice, what kind of exercise do you use ?

As far as suggestions, breathing exercises and gugs/googs, as often spotlighted by Videohere, should have a very positive impact on your voice. Try not to get louder on the top (otherwise you'll be doing exactly what you are already doing), and allow your voice to change, even if it sounds awful, light, small, funny, etc... Exercises are not meant to be especially beautiful after all :p

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The tricky, common misconception of breathing is blasting out a powerful stream of air from the stomach muscles is the correct method. Its the opposite of the correct way. The correct way is to use the stomach muscles to RESIST the air streaming out, like holding your breath by using your abdomen muscles, almost all of it, apart from a small, controlled amount.

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The tricky, common misconception of breathing is blasting out a powerful stream of air from the stomach muscles is the correct method. Its the opposite of the correct way. The correct way is to use the stomach muscles to RESIST the air streaming out, like holding your breath by using your abdomen muscles, almost all of it, apart from a small, controlled amount.

This can't be emphasized enough times. Support seems to be one of the most misunderstood concepts in singing. It's almost universally misinterpreted as being more pressure and force of air when it is just the opposite, as Matt pointed out.

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When I took classical/bel canto lessons, I asked the teacher if I'd ever be able to expand my range, and I was told only by a few notes. To do so, I would have to learn to support those higher notes. To do so, I was told to push like hell, basically. This was so wrong for me, and really set me back. Nothing was taught about head voice or proper support. I'm really thankful for places like this. We all need to work to set people like me, who were trained "correctly", on the right path.

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When I took classical/bel canto lessons, I asked the teacher if I'd ever be able to expand my range, and I was told only by a few notes.

This is wrong. Just by getting the basics of the mode neutral down and twang can make anyone hit an F5 and I'm sure that's ought to give you more than a few notes :)

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Exactly, Snorth. Head voice was never even touched on. I took voice in college, too. It was just more Bel Canto. We did all of these diaphragmatic breathing exercises and were told to basically push for higher notes, ie, pulling chest.

I'm really sad that I wasted so much time with that. Now I have no problem hitting a solid A5.

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Thanks guys, that's really useful.

I now know that I'm having a very wrong misunderstanding in singing, thanks guys!

But how can I actually correct it?

Matt mentioned about resisting the air streaming out.

So is singing high notes actually has nothing to do with support?

If so, how do I sing higher notes?

Snorth mentioned about mode neutral down and twang.

What are they?

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Thanks guys, that's really useful.

I now know that I'm having a very wrong misunderstanding in singing, thanks guys!

Matt mentioned about resisting the air streaming out.

So is singing high notes actually has nothing to do with support?

Logenkeller: The issue is with the variously-used definitions of 'support'. Support, correctly understood and done, is beneficial for all ranges. However, support is not just about pushing air out, its about providing the 'right amount' of air pressure to the voice, and how that air pressure is produced by the interaction of the exhalation force and the laryngeal muscle adjustment.

For many singers, especially males, the tendency is to use too much exhalation force, and to overpressure. In proper support, this exhalation force is managed so that the amount of air pressure is achieved.

What follows is an article I wrote a number of months ago about breathing generally, and some approaches to creating 'support' in simple ways.

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Very generally, inhalation happens any time you make your chest cavity bigger, expanding it. There are a number of motions that can do this, more or less effectively. Some work very well for athletic endeavors, and some work well for singing. Setting aside any notion of voice for a moment, here are the motions that cause air to go in the lungs, beginning with the one that almost always happens:

1) The diaphragm, which forms the floor of the chest cavity, flexes, and flattens downward and a little forward. from its relaxed, arched position. This motion makes the chest cavity bigger, creating a lower pressure in the lungs, and outside air gets pushed in (by the higher outside air pressure) through your mouth and/or nose. As the diaphragm descends during this motion, it presses downward and forward on your abdominal organs, pushing them downward somewhat. This is the motion you see when the diaphragm lowers... the belly expanding. Sometime, watch a sleeping baby breathe. The motion you can see is the abdomen moving as a result of the diapragm flexing, and then relaxing.

2) You expand your ribs side-to-side, and lift them. This expands the chest cavity circumference. Its very likely that the diaphragm is also flexing, too, but it is less obvious.

3) You raise your sternum (breastbone). This expands the chest cavity height. Its very likely that the ribs expanded, and the diaphragm flexed at the same time.

4) You raise your shoulders, lifting the clavicles. This raises the chest a bit by the connections to the breast bone.

Exhaling happens when the effort used for any one of these motions is relaxed. The reason is that the motions store energy in the body. 1) by expanding the belly, abdominal muscles are streteched, as are the elastic lung tissues. When the inhalation stops, the tissues which were stretched want to spring back to where they were. In a sleeping child, its these forces that power the exhalation. When conscious, a person can add even more power to this exhalation by contracting the abdominal muscles, resulting in an inward motion.

2) by letting the ribs come back in, somewhat helped by gravity, air is forced out.

3) by letting the sternum down. This one is also helped a lot by gravity. Again, forces air out.

Ok, that is how basic body-breathing happens in normal life. Most of the time, we use breath motion #1, and for a sigh, maybe add #2. If we are running for our lives, or playing strenuous sport, we do everything we can to move the air rapidly... to stay alive or win. We may do all 3 under those circumstances.

I explained all this for a reason: breathing for singing is not about moving air rapidly for life... its about supplying just the 'right' amount of air for the vocal sounds you want to make. In singing, we train the enormously powerful #1 action of breathing to be more subtle, and we lessen (or eliminate) the motions of #2 and #3 so that they do not overpower the very small laryngeal muscles.

In singing, the way that #2 and #3 are lessened is to make them part of the posture. If you don't move them much as you breathe in and out, they don't add unwanted, or uncontrolled exalation force. Its very hard to do either thing subtly. Keeping the sternum in one place prevents gravity from powering air out of the body. It does not necessarily have to be high... just not moving up & down when you breathe in and out. FYI, classical singers very often adopt a 'high sternum' chest position... and leave it there all the time. It looks a bit better on stage. :-)

When #2 and #3 motions are stilled, breathing happens entirely by #1, the diaphragmatic action in coordination with the abdominal muscles. This is very often called 'belly breathing', 'low breathing', 'breathing from the diaphragm', etc. All those terms mean that only motions of the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles are involved in moving the air. This takes us back to the kind of breathing your body does when you are asleep. Same thing as a baby does. You have breathed this way your whole life.

Now, what is 'support'? Support is 2 things: A) maintaining some of the flex of the diaphragm during the exhale. In a normal, easy breath, the diaphragm relaxes at the end of the inhale, and the stored energy in the abdominals presses the air out by pushing the diaphragm up. Check out that sentence again. The diaphragm is just along for the ride on the non-singing exhale... It is not powering the exhale. It moves up because the abs are making the abdomen smaller, and the guts are pushing up the diaphragm. Also, because the stretchy lungs are collapsing a little, which helps to pull the diaphragm up.

Keeping the diaphragm active during SLOWS DOWN the exhale, and reduces its force. You likely can do this almost without thinking about it deliberately. If you take in an easy, #1-style breath, and then just exhale as slowly as you can... your desire to exhale slowly will cause the diaphragm to stay active. You can even STOP the exhale momentarily, just by wanting to. You have even more control than that... You can take in a 3/4 breath, and then limit your inhale/exhale motion to be from 3/4 to 1/4 full. Piece of cake. The diaphragm responds very readily to your will in this matter. This kind of outward breath is slow, warm and moist.

I said support is 2 things. The 2nd is B) providing extra exhalation energy after the abdominals have released their stretch-energy. Without doing this, you cannot sing on the last half of tidal lung capacity. As an exhalation proceeds, the stored energy lessens, and the exhale force decreases. To keep the breath energy going continuously, the abdominals must also contract.

In summary, 'support' is the term we use to describe the bodily actions which provide long, consistent, appropriately-powered breath energy to the voice.

Here is a very important, useful clue. One of the most common problems for singers is too-much exhalation force. Remember, the body is capable of moving lots of air, very rapidly. The abdominal muscles are HUGE compared to the laryngeal muscles. IMO, the sensation of breath balance you get when you do the slow exhale is the right sensation for starting a sung note. If you do that, the desire to make the vocal sound upsets the balance just in favor of exhaling, and the voice gets the air it needs to make the sound you are wanting. If you think a loud sound, a bit more air is supplied.

A way to practice this is to take a 1/2 breath inhale, and breathe outward slowly, with your jaw dropped about 1" (check between your front teeth in a mirror) and just start some short notes in the middle of your range. See if you can keep the sense that you are still breathing out slowly, even when you are making the sound. When you are doing it right, there is little if any sense that you are exhaling. I think you'll experience something cool: that you can make a very clear, easy, relaxed sound with little or no throat tension or pain. The more you practice it, the better you will get at it.

Thought of and practiced this way, this kind of breathing technique immediately reduces vocal strain and unnecessary throat tension.

I hope this fuller explanation is of some use to you.

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Yeah, I thought so, too. All those Messa Di Voce exercises he had me doing and all the "tiny voice" stuff. But when it came to high notes, I was told to push.

How wrong I was...

it depends on what the teacher meant by push....i am finding that some singing teachers while skilled and knowledgeable (respectfully) aren't always the best articulators.

you most definitely have to support a full voiced, powerful high note simply because you have a smaller space between the vocal folds. you need pressurized air to be placed (rather than pushed) through those virtually closed folds. like matt said, it's resisting pushing that's the skill and the secret.

if you tense the lower abs (now here's what i mean when i say tense..not forcefully) it can help at times and for certain applications/song requirements.

the biggest thing i've come to realize is the trick or secret to high notes is to have the control, and development so that the pitch is almost exclusively made by the vocal folds..period. the throat and surrounding musculature (i.e., swallowing muscles) are intentionally and purposefully uninvolved. this is a discovery and when you find it...it all starts coming together.

i'll write more on this when i bring in this fantastic book i read tomorrow.

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