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A discussion on the existence of modes...

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Jeran
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Hi, All.

In my vocal studies, I, like all of you, I'm sure, have read many contrasting ideas on what's going on when singing. Sometimes helpful, sometimes misleading, and sometimes just plain wrong, we all know that learning to sing technically well while keeping our own personal emotional expression can be quite frustrating. This leads me to always question every facet of vocal production, and perhaps overly so.

After having worked on my head voice, which I define as the strong, non airy area above my break, I feel almost no difference in the sensations between that and chest voice. When I sing a tenor high C and above, it feels the same in my body as it does to sing a middle C. I've really come to embrace the "one voice" theory.

I own and have read the CVT book, and while it contains a ton of vital and helpful material, I'm still not convinced of the whole "vocal mode" thing.

When I sing, it's all one thing. Loud or soft, rock, pop, country, it all feels the same to me, with only minor sensations between different "effects" I choose to use at different points.

Is the vocal mode theory more of a mental imagery thing, rather than a real sensationary thing? When I sing in curbing mode, for instance, it feels just like everything else does, only with a slightly lowered larynx. Sure it sounds different, but it's not different enough to constitute a whole new thing I'd call a mode, in my opinion.

When I sing in "neutral," and suddenly kick it into "overdrive," the sensation is simply that of singing louder rather than a noticable shift in anything.

So my question is this: Am I overthinking the mode thing? Am I taking it too literally, or is it supposed to be tangible? What do you guys think?

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Personally I think that the "modes" of which we classify are simple areas that we have come to define as a certain sensation and sound.

It really is just a certain area that we define as being curbing, overdrive, neutral etc.

It sounds like you have developed your voice and sensations to feel like there is no shift.

Something I wish to develop.

To be honest I do believe that the one voice theory could be correct, yes there may be many modes but it's all contained within one voice.

You vocal folds just simply vibrate differently and our tongue, vocal tract etc simply shifts or moves to help the tone resonate in a way.

I duno I kinda understand what I meant.

Could I ask how you developed your "One voice"? the exercises you used to train or any helpful information please?

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Describing the voice with modes is a method. It's not the only method out there.

It's a way of describing the voice. Asking if the modes are real or not doesn't really say anything. "Do they work as a method?" is a better one.

Many singers have of course sang great without them.

I personally think it's the easiest way to describe what a singer is doing, and to realise what I need to do to get a similiar sound. It also supplies a very easy guideline on what vowels to modify towards.

"Head voice", "Chest Voice" is way too vague in my book.

If your curbing, neutral, overdrive and edge feels the same I REALLY wonder what range you are singing in. :) Curbing feels like everything else but with a lowered larynx? This sounds waaaay off. Give me some samples.

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Well lately, I've been using Robert's program in conjuntion with James Lugo's exercises.

I really grasped the theory about a year ago when I was on a cross country drive.

"Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden came on the radio, and I just did my best to mimic Cornell's opening lines. I found the sound pretty naturally, and after about an hour of trying different approaches to it, I realised that it was simply head voice. In imitating the sound, I found twang. That was all I needed to figure out that head voice was all it was. Not some mystical "mix voice" area that one had to be lucky enough to find. I was, at the time, using Singing Success and Mastering Mix, and it was so vague and misleading to me. I'd been struggling with this mixed voice thing, and it really set me back.

So from then on, I started recognizing other singers with a similar sound to what Cornell had, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that pretty much every singer I aspire to sing with has a similar approach. Steven Tyler, especially.

I found Robert's program, bought it, used it, and it helped so much. I recently bought James Lugo's program and furthered my progress.

I find Robert's "Octave Registrations and AES Contractions" really helpful, and James Lugo's Ee-YAH exercises equally helpful. These two exercises brought my voice into one, and helped me to add about an octave of usable range, something that I never got with anything else.

I used Robert's above mentioned exercise because I found I had more problems bridging on the way down than up, and that one really forces you to keep connected.

Lugo's EE-Yah exercise helped me keep a lighter, thinner sound going up, then exploding into a full head voice on the way down.

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Well, Snorth, I realised in singing that at times I was too nasal, so I simply lowered my larynx very slightly for a more "operatic" sound. It was such a slight modification that made all the difference. It didn't feel like what I'd assume a mode change would feel like. The sensations weren't very different at all. I simply lowered the larynx.

For me personally, modes just confuse me. If it sounds good to me and doesn't hurt after a while, then that's all I need. I don't worry about being centered, or what mode I'm in, or anything other than the feeling. I sing for the emotional release and the joy of it. Having to worry about being centered seems more limiting to me.

I completely understand that the mode thing works for a lot of people, and I'm not disounting the theory by any means. If it works for you, then more power to you. Whatever makes singing more enjoyable for people is a good thing. But I found the most improvement when I just let go of a lot of theory and went by feel. I don't like getting caught up in the terminology and science.

We're animals. Singing is emotional and physical, and comes from the soul. Not a text book. I just feel like people worry too much about what mode, what register, what formant, and all that. It takes the fun out of singing for me. Pain exists to tell me something's wrong. If there's no pain, then I continue singing.

But at the same time, I can't discount the science. So that's where the questioning comes in. Are the modes a lot more simple than the way I grasp them, or will they really make the difference?

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funny you bring this up. i often wondered if it's this unique theory and technique or just slick marketing. i myself, tend to live in curbing...lol!!!

addendum: i'm finding more and more of this pro-level of singing we all aspire to or try to hold on to, has so much to do with breath support and relaxation of the throat so the vocal folds are free to do it's thing, which is pitch and notes.

like steve fraser says, a balance has to exist.

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Videohere -

I think part of what you said may have something to do with what I'm experiencing. But I credit just letting go of a lot of theory with the more tension free singing I'm doing lately. I'm worrying about how it sounds and feels and not anything else.

I used to stress over finding my mix, and for a while recently, about the mode. It was only after going "You know what? I'm just going to sing" that I found a lot more freedom. I just went for it. If it felt right and sounded right, it WAS right. Singing is so much more joyful now.

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As I said modes is definitely not the "only possible" way to sing good. Not at all. I find them very good though, because I as a vocal nerd can explore an incredible spectrum of sounds in an efficient fashion, always having some very strong guidelines that can help me get back on track when I'm lost.

About the worrying of modes, registers and formants I agree with you to a certain extent. The really interesting artists are those that have this 1 unique thing with their voice that they do really good; Not the ones that can sing really good karaoke.

But as I said I am a vocal nerd, this is my hobby. And learning stuff about the voice is awesome in my world. Tried the growl effect(See louis armstrong etc) for the first time with my teacher today and actually managed to get it down after some experimentation, the voicebox is such a fascinating instrument. <3

If I seriously wanted to persue being a really great artist I doubt this would be the best place to be. Probebly would be better to aim most of the time to developing song writing skills and learn about that part.

In my careless dreams I hope I can bring my knowledge of the voice into a field like sounds for Movies or Video Games. Being lead director of voice acting would be freaking awesome. Making soundtracks aswell though.

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When I sing in classical choir it's certainly helpful to know beforehand you are going to sing a tenor part. But I could just as easily sing a bass too. I try to think the piece that is tenor "mode" rather than my voice. I have the last weeks also had this "one voice" sensation although I very recently discovered my upper register (or rather the passage to it). When I sing along with music I can gently just sing like I do it "chest" only a little lighter and much higher. Not much change in anything except pitch. It's when I hear my own voice when I sing a song myself I try to add volume, curbing and hang on to the bassy resonance it becomes strained and "something else" than one voice.

I think there are more qualities to "modes" than just pitch, but we forget them for the majority of modern music, pop and rock, there are so many different voices doing the same thing over and over again.

/edit

On a second read I seem to have got the subjects mixed up. Well don't listen to me, carry on. :)

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Guys, looks like a great discussion!

As I understand them, the CVT modes are names given to certain qualities of sound, and those qualities arise from various resonance and phonation characteristics. In the CVT library, many, many examples of the different sounds are given, much as you'd find with the paint section of the hardware store when looking for a color. Having the same set of examples for all to hear is very valuable.

Some modes don't work well for certain vowels in certain ranges, because the alignment of harmonics and resonances which is characteristic of the mode is not possible there.

In the case cited where overdrive was achieved by lowering the larynx a little... that maneuver lengthens the vocal tract, and _that_ lowers the two main vowel formants, F1 and F2. Since overdrive in the mid-high range is produced using an alignment of F1 with the 2nd harmonic (H2), before the larynx was lowered F1 was just a bit too high to get a good alignment with H2. IMO, what you did was exactly the right way to transition into a centered overdrive from an off-centered overdrive, or even from somthing like a curb.

Though I have not read very much of the source documents related to the CVT modes, from conversations here I've gotten the impression that the mode names were chosen to escape the multiple-meaning baggage of many of the older vocal terms. Part of that, too, IMO, is that the mode names can be applied to many, many kinds of vocalism that one would hear in nonclassical music. Previously, not so many names were needed, and a teacher/student working together could arrive at an understanding over time.

For the classical singer, modes are not too complex to understand, because only a few of them are used. The classical term 'passaggio' is a mode change in CVT. An operatic tenor singing the scale from A in the staff to A above the staff, with ring (CVT 'metal') and power, is beginning in Overdrive, and transitioning to Curbing to maintain the vowel tone quality. Well-done, the transition between the modes is smoothed so that the sense of vocal expression is maintained.

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Videohere -

I think part of what you said may have something to do with what I'm experiencing. But I credit just letting go of a lot of theory with the more tension free singing I'm doing lately. I'm worrying about how it sounds and feels and not anything else.

I used to stress over finding my mix, and for a while recently, about the mode. It was only after going "You know what? I'm just going to sing" that I found a lot more freedom. I just went for it. If it felt right and sounded right, it WAS right. Singing is so much more joyful now.

i totally relate to what you're saying.....

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Well lately, I've been using Robert's program in conjuntion with James Lugo's exercises.

I really grasped the theory about a year ago when I was on a cross country drive.

"Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden came on the radio, and I just did my best to mimic Cornell's opening lines. I found the sound pretty naturally, and after about an hour of trying different approaches to it, I realised that it was simply head voice. In imitating the sound, I found twang. That was all I needed to figure out that head voice was all it was. Not some mystical "mix voice" area that one had to be lucky enough to find. I was, at the time, using Singing Success and Mastering Mix, and it was so vague and misleading to me. I'd been struggling with this mixed voice thing, and it really set me back.

So from then on, I started recognizing other singers with a similar sound to what Cornell had, and it really opened my eyes to the fact that pretty much every singer I aspire to sing with has a similar approach. Steven Tyler, especially.

I found Robert's program, bought it, used it, and it helped so much. I recently bought James Lugo's program and furthered my progress.

I find Robert's "Octave Registrations and AES Contractions" really helpful, and James Lugo's Ee-YAH exercises equally helpful. These two exercises brought my voice into one, and helped me to add about an octave of usable range, something that I never got with anything else.

I used Robert's above mentioned exercise because I found I had more problems bridging on the way down than up, and that one really forces you to keep connected.

Lugo's EE-Yah exercise helped me keep a lighter, thinner sound going up, then exploding into a full head voice on the way down.

i also use james lugo's program and i like the tongue out stuff, because you get a nice tongue workout at the same time. kill 2 birds with one stone.

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