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[Beginner] How much air?

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Fred
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I seem to still get the sound "stuck in my throat" quite often. I was at an audition for the philharmonic choir today and the conductor repeatadly said this to me. I am aware of it but seems to have run into a problem how to fix it. I thought I was on the right track, but here I am.

To get the sound out of my throat I push a little more from my stomach and add a little moaning/droaning as per chanteurmodernes excellent advice. This however causes a lot more air to pass through. The tone is louder but gets a little breathy, especially in my lower range.

My uneducated guess is that when I sing in a way that sounds good in my head I constrain the throat with air-pressure letting very little air out in a squeky way, causing the in your throat sound. When I add the moan and push from the belly the throat is opened and a lot more air is gushed out and my weak beginners vocal folds let the tone sound breathy, the vibrations alien to my inner ears, and much more open to everyone else.

It is not enough air to cause a candle to flicker but conciderably more than when not moaning. And definately an exhale rather than a feeling of "holding ones' breath".

So how much air is really supposed to be exhaled on a sung note? As a general guideline I mean.

PS. I won't tell how the audition went yet. I'm still recovering :)

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fred, i can only tell you this...you don't push the air and you don't push the breath. you "compress" the air and you place the air at the folds.

but to help on the question, ideally very little air is needed to make a solid note. yes, if you held a candle about 4 inches from your mouth the candle would hardly flicker. hope i helped.

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From what you're saying, less air. This is confusing, but you need less air than you think. Probably even less than I think. Pushing air is a path I've walked, it's strenous, fatiguing, and doesn't sound all that cool. Once you realize that YES you CAN make sounds while refraining from pushing more air, quite the contrary actually, it all becomes easier.

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So how much air is really supposed to be exhaled on a sung note? As a general guideline I mean.

About as much flow as you would have if you were deliberately fogging eyeglasses to clean them. Bob said no candle flicker at 4". I think its more like 2", and the breath is hot and moist. Just breathe out as slowly as you can, with your throat open, and you'll get an idea about how much comes out while singing.

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Just as I thought, thanks. I use too much air or use the glottis to constrict the flow slightly. I'll make an experiment and try to get the hot foggy breath on the moan for a few days and see if I can get some sound out of it. It is currently very quiet and breathy.

A metaphor for my quest for singing is like walking around naked in the woods then once in a while come across a mysterious cabin, this forum or the occasional vocal teacher session, where there is warmth, clothes and food. And the kind people inside point you in the direction of the yellow brick road. The next day you are out wandering around again and soon stray from the path.

I think read and know my body well enough to know when I am astray and doing something wrong but I can't be sure until I get here and ask. Thank you.

Cheers

Fred

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I don't really mean "push" but rather "tighten" the stomach area inwards. "Add support" would be another classification. "Pulling the belly around the navel". Ribs are nice and expanded all around as much I can without straining during the whole exhale. Its just that when I add more of "support" and raise the volume plus add the moan/drone to resonate loudly there seems to be a lot more air gushing out uncontrollably. It was giving me the sensation of air against the soft palate but it's so much air I began to suspect something was awry.

Cheers

Fred

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I don't really mean "push" but rather "tighten" the stomach area inwards. "Add support" would be another classification. "Pulling the belly around the navel". Ribs are nice and expanded all around as much I can without straining during the whole exhale. Its just that when I add more of "support" and raise the volume plus add the moan/drone to resonate loudly there seems to be a lot more air gushing out uncontrollably. It was giving me the sensation of air against the soft palate but it's so much air I began to suspect something was awry.

Fred: In my experience, the sense of air moving in the vocal tract is very, very slight. I really have to pay attention to to be aware of it. Even if I shut my mouth all the way down to a very-puckered oo, there is no appreciable airflow sensation inside, and the amount right in front of the lips is very small, though not as warm as when singing vowels with a dropped jaw. Your mileage may vary.

Also, if you are using breath-balance support, beginning a tone will cause just the right amount of ab contraction to supply the air. IMO, there is no need to contract the abs any more than what happens by reflex.

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Good thread- I think I do this as well sometimes (the original poster's problem).

I notice that when I do shows, my air and "pressure valve" (for lack of a better term) seems to work ok. When I'm vocalizing or practicing new stuff at home, my voice works differently and I end up using the throat as the valve. I think I tighten it to hold air back sometimes. Not what I want to be doing, but it's hard not to do this when learning new stuff that might be difficult.

I notice, IF I THINK ABOUT what I'm doing to produce tone and air... I'm screwed. If I relax and DON'T think about things, it comes naturally and there's not that whole "tighten it", "squeeze it" kind of thing going on. Maybe this is off-topic a bit.

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Just as I thought, thanks. I use too much air or use the glottis to constrict the flow slightly. I'll make an experiment and try to get the hot foggy breath on the moan for a few days and see if I can get some sound out of it. It is currently very quiet and breathy.

A metaphor for my quest for singing is like walking around naked in the woods then once in a while come across a mysterious cabin, this forum or the occasional vocal teacher session, where there is warmth, clothes and food. And the kind people inside point you in the direction of the yellow brick road. The next day you are out wandering around again and soon stray from the path.

I think read and know my body well enough to know when I am astray and doing something wrong but I can't be sure until I get here and ask. Thank you.

Cheers

Fred

fred, believe me, it takes time to learn this seemingly easy stuff. then you have the consonants which really set you back because they love to interfere with the air.

but in time the whole support thing becomes an ingrained auto response type of thing. you will support and meter air subconsiously.

what helped me was learning to maintain a yawning setup every time i exercise. now everytime i vocalize i open to a yawn. it works for me because i tend not too open my mouth up enough.

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Yes I am dreading the consonants. About the yawning, I have trouble relaxing my tongue on a yawn. It's either raised palate and lowered larynx plus the muscles stiffening or lowered palate and soft spot under tongue. Soft palate does lift slightly though when I sing vowels. But it is beyond my control and not enough to get the sound out of my throat obviously. Back the the drawing table...

I have always yawned very far back in my throat, pushing the back of the tongue down and stiffened my yaw, so it could be that. If it is possible to yawn in different ways. Singing vowel with the tongue out helps a bit but I haven't done it enough to transfer the feeling onto singing.

Cheers

Fred

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I learned that yawn thing from Jamie Vendera and Mark Baxter and then I read in the CVT book that this can be bad for rock singing because it tends to lower your larynx and raise your soft palate. I'm still experimenting with this but guys like Robert Lunte advocate a freely moving larynx and often a raised one so just be aware of that this yawning thing MIGHT be holding you guys back.

Then there's also the fact that if you raise your larynx TOO high, you'll choke on the high pitches, which is actually very common with beginners. Just don't constrict the throat, which might be what is meant by keeping your throat open.

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yawning never worked for me... My larynx always go far too low.... I prefer to think like Jonpal, just don't constrict the throat. Stay as relaxed as possible. and i got to say for the moment it works well. The only thing to know is to be patient and practice... relax throat and good support is the foundations of singing for me.

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I learned that yawn thing from Jamie Vendera and Mark Baxter and then I read in the CVT book that this can be bad for rock singing because it tends to lower your larynx and raise your soft palate. I'm still experimenting with this but guys like Robert Lunte advocate a freely moving larynx and often a raised one so just be aware of that this yawning thing MIGHT be holding you guys back.

Then there's also the fact that if you raise your larynx TOO high, you'll choke on the high pitches, which is actually very common with beginners. Just don't constrict the throat, which might be what is meant by keeping your throat open.

i agree, but i've gotten to a point where the yawn becomes more a standard shape or staple mouth configuration and the larynx can be controlled. a raised or lowered larynx becomes the equivalent of a tone control or eq boost like steve fraser says. you raise it for getting twang, lower it for singer's formant or passagio transitioning.

this mouth shape leaves me open, relaxed, and very resonant!...

initially you think you're kinda nasal, you have to get over that like steve said, because if you pinch your nose shut, you see that your not. but i swear by this now... maybe not for all...for me.

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Interesting discussion. I've heard over the past 10 years (prior to that hadn't heard it) that the low larynx was a key component to singing and also vocal stamina. Not that I've been able to do it, but that's what the Mannings, Riggs, Love approach seems to be all about. Can't tell you how much tension I created in my throat trying to do that stuff.

So you guys are saying that's NOT the case?

Jonpall- raising your soft palette should be a GOOD thing for any singing. Your tone is greatly improved by doing so. I'm surprised to hear that (from what you say above) that the CVT program advises against it. Maybe I've misunderstood.

As for yawning, I can't really seem to sustain that, but taking a tiny breath in and expanding the back of my throat (thus raising the soft palette) seems to help make things easier, but it's difficult for me to maintain, especially with too much air. The notes tend to fall back into my throat.

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Billy, it's explained more clearly in the book but basically, CVT does not advice against a raised soft palate - in most cases. It's entirely up to you, i.e. the style and sound you want in your voice.

Raising the soft palate is one of the many possible ways there is to "darken" your sound color. Lowering your larynx is another way, even though it probably sounds ever so slightly different.

And lowering your soft palate is one of many ways to "lighten" your sound color. Raising your larynx is another way.

The more "edgy" you want to sing, i.e. the sharper the sound you want, up to the point of creating distortion you can hear in rock, soul, pop, etc., the more you want to avoid having your soft palate high, though. VIDEOHERE is right that it's one of the many "tone controls" we have in our throats.

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Billy, it's explained more clearly in the book but basically, CVT does not advice against a raised soft palate - in most cases. It's entirely up to you, i.e. the style and sound you want in your voice.

Raising the soft palate is one of the many possible ways there is to "darken" your sound color. Lowering your larynx is another way, even though it probably sounds ever so slightly different.

And lowering your soft palate is one of many ways to "lighten" your sound color. Raising your larynx is another way.

The more "edgy" you want to sing, i.e. the sharper the sound you want, up to the point of creating distortion you can hear in rock, soul, pop, etc., the more you want to avoid having your soft palate high, though. VIDEOHERE is right that it's one of the many "tone controls" we have in our throats.

folks, i should also point out that i have worked on some tongue strengthening exercises from joy sikorski. if you strengthen the tongue it becomes easier to relax it when appropriate. i was in need getting it out of my way....lol!!! that sucker was bunching up and clogging up the tone. the tongue is huge and extends all the way down to the esaphogus (spelt that word wrong i'm sure....lol).

when the tongue is out of your way the air is unrestricted which then assists with resonance. plus i needed to develop the habit of keeping the tip behind the front lower teeth which really helps with vowel resonance.

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Interesting discussion. I've heard over the past 10 years (prior to that hadn't heard it) that the low larynx was a key component to singing and also vocal stamina. Not that I've been able to do it, but that's what the Mannings, Riggs, Love approach seems to be all about. Can't tell you how much tension I created in my throat trying to do that stuff.

So you guys are saying that's NOT the case?

Billy Budapest: Sorry that you've had a bad experience with it. Here's how I think about it. Pardon me if you already are familar with these ideas, but they bear repeating for the others who are reading this:

Tone quality of the voice is determined by resonance filtering the pulse wave produced by phonation. Part of the resonance character results from the length and diameter of the sections of the vocal tract. Generally, longer or wider=lower resonances, shorter or narrower=higher resonances.

IMO, one of the most challenging things for any singer to learn to do is to produce a strongly phonated tone without any of the laryngeal elevator muscles (the muscles from which it hangs in the throat, and which pull it up during swallowing and crying at birth) being strongly activated.

Certain contemporary tone qualities can only be achieved by letting the larynx rise. I have in mind the 'belt' or 'overdrive' kinds of sounds made in the upper range. Some pedagogies, including the ones you mentioned, place a value on avoiding the laryngeal rise as a way of maintaining tone quality in the ascending voice, so that the top does not result in a belt or overdrive style tone.

Therein is the rub. Unless the singer learns to decouple the act of phonating from the elevation of the larynx, there will be a fight between the muscles... the tension which you unfortunately experienced. The higher the singer goes, the worse the battle gets.

As mentioned, there are some vocal benefits from singing with a low larynx, but mostly its an artistic choice about the desired tone quality. If a singer values a more 'classical' style, then it very important to learn how to sing with a relaxed, low larynx. It can be learned, by dealing with the way that the breath and laryngeal muscles interact at the moment of the onset, and re-building the coordination. Sometimes this takes time, but done well, does not introduce a new set of annoying and constraining tensions.

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Today I was vocalizing and my throat started to hurt. I stopped for a few minutes and then tried to think what I did wrong and tried again. Quickly I realized that I was raising my larynx TOO high when going up in pitch. The larynx should go up slowly as you ascend in pitch but mine was simply going too fast today. Doing just a SLIGHT yawn fixed it. But if I yawned to much I had the opposite problem of my tone getting so "dopy" that it hurt again to reach the high notes. Thought I'd share in case anyone was interested.

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Hey jonpall, interesting experience, and one that is familiar to me. I used to be confused when told to lower the larynx as pitch increases, yet I read good sources that told me that the larynx should rise. I eventually figured out what was going on: what I needed was to have a lower larynx *relative to what I was already habitually doing*. i.e. raise it but by less than what I was doing, which has the sensation of lowering it, to me.

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May be unrelated, but I often get the tone stuck in the throat because I have a bad habit of influencing its color to try to sound more masculine, or beefy, by getting woofy in the throat, instead of daring to let the sound be formed sort of in the middle of my palate and behind my upper teeth. Its a sound I prefer when I hear myself recorded, but when Im singing, I often dont dare to be there for fear of sounding thin.

Example:

http://www.speedyshare.com/files/26631963/woofiness.wav

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I've seen a related exercise called the bullfrog. When you yawn, the larynx lowers to allow maximum air in. After a while, you can "yawn" with your mouth closed, stretching the muscles to make the larynx, which can be a good stretch before onsetting a note.

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Don't know if this belongs to topic any more but about the bullfrog - I just realised I have been "yawning" too much. As per these instructions:

One helpful technique for ensuring that the resonating spaces are open is using the neutral vowel ‘uh’ in the larynx and pharynx – that is, assuming this shape within the throat - before bringing focus into the tone and singing the desired vowel. This technique allows the open pharynx to be established first. The brilliance of the tone can then follow while the open feeling in the throat is retained. For training purposes, it often helps to actually sing the ‘uh’ sound, then position the tongue appropriately for the desired vowel. Sing ‘uh –[e]-uh--uh-[o]-uh-’ repeatedly on a single breath, aiming to maintain the openness of the ‘uh’ while singing the other pure Italian vowels.

I experimented by just very slightly almost-begin a yawn then inhale a "deep breath" (but without much air, but still chilling the back of my throat) on an imaginary Italian "uh" and it seems to work much better for me. My voice becomes deep and hollow and I can feel the soft palate resonate. The sound is definitely coming from above the throat somewhere. From there I tried the woofiness (excellent example Matt!) or "moany" and I feel I am on to something. I still exhale way too much air I believe but VIDEOHERE (Bob?) posted a step by step explanation somewhere (boy am I distraught today) that helped. I can pretend to hold my breath from below the ribs and I feel some kind of pressure, if I add a note in that position there is much less air coming out of my mouth. Add yet another great tip from Steven by not constricting abs more than what happens naturally and I almost believe I am singing correctly. Now if I just could do them all at once is a different matter :)

So much to learn.. so much.. I am beginning to understand why it is so tough to start learning when you are older. It's not the physical vocal instrument that is different but all the wrongs that much relearned and corrected and made into habits. It's a complete metamorphosis of my being.

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I just noticed something else too. When I hit the sound in the soft palate I get a pretty big volume boost. I can't hear any difference other than an extra "ring/ping" in my head but my voice recorder clips out and I see the waveform hit the roof. Could be my mic but I notice it happens just after one of those swigs of air I mentioned above.

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