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Big Voice Needs Help

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RMG
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Hey everyone, I've been singing for a number of years, and am struggling a lot with my technique. I have a pretty big voice, and I just can't find a secure technique for my high notes. Anything below middle C is easy, ringy, loud, and feels good, but notes above middle C are fairly useless for me. I can sing some bass and baritone material, but obviously having nothing usable above middle C makes just about any tenor pieces or any sort of popular music difficult. I had at one point experimented with essentially yelling above the passaggio, which was quite unpleasant and I'm certain isn't correct. I also have a head voice that I can use throughout much of the range, but it's very quiet. It's clear and sounds good, and I'd imagine it would sound great if it were louder, but I can't achieve any sort of volume with it above maybe a ppp dymanic. I've been doing a lot of sirens and onset exercises that I read about from Steven Fraser, and I can do sirens without any breaks or roughness, but as soon as I start to transition into a head voice sort of coordination, it's impossible for me to sing loudly at all. So I guess my problem is I can't get more volume out of my head voice. This has been very frustrating for me and any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

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i'm just a singer, but i would say if you are having trouble getting power in your headvoice i would ask?

are you supporting well? i.e., generating the air pressure needed?

are you adducting well and getting requisite vocal fold compression?

then are you balancing the two?....

generating just enough pressure with the right amount of compression?

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Hey everyone, I've been singing for a number of years, and am struggling a lot with my technique. I have a pretty big voice, and I just can't find a secure technique for my high notes. Anything below middle C is easy, ringy, loud, and feels good, but notes above middle C are fairly useless for me. I can sing some bass and baritone material, but obviously having nothing usable above middle C makes just about any tenor pieces or any sort of popular music difficult. I had at one point experimented with essentially yelling above the passaggio, which was quite unpleasant and I'm certain isn't correct. I also have a head voice that I can use throughout much of the range, but it's very quiet. It's clear and sounds good, and I'd imagine it would sound great if it were louder, but I can't achieve any sort of volume with it above maybe a ppp dymanic. I've been doing a lot of sirens and onset exercises that I read about from Steven Fraser, and I can do sirens without any breaks or roughness, but as soon as I start to transition into a head voice sort of coordination, it's impossible for me to sing loudly at all. So I guess my problem is I can't get more volume out of my head voice. This has been very frustrating for me and any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

Im sorry man, but what bass and baritone material you sing that does not use notes above middle C?

If your voice is really that deep, struggling to sing above your tessitura with full voice without even having a solid head voice working is dangerous, very dangerous.

Still, Im curious now since even if your voice isnt trainned, nothing above middle C is a VERY deep voice :D, do you have any recorded material?

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Until somewhat recently, I definitely felt like I had to push above middle C and I'm not a bass... just a beginner. Now it's more like above E I start getting into some trouble depending on how the notes are arranged, but in my non-expert opinion, it's not unreasonable to me that even a middle C would be hard to sing... it was for me not so long ago and I don't have a super deep voice

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Until somewhat recently, I definitely felt like I had to push above middle C and I'm not a bass... just a beginner. Now it's more like above E I start getting into some trouble depending on how the notes are arranged, but in my non-expert opinion, it's not unreasonable to me that even a middle C would be hard to sing... it was for me not so long ago and I don't have a super deep voice

And thats why some audio would be great :P.

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If your voice is really that deep, struggling to sing above your tessitura with full voice without even having a solid head voice working is dangerous, very dangerous.

Still, Im curious now since even if your voice isnt trainned, nothing above middle C is a VERY deep voice :D, do you have any recorded material?

Sorry if I was unclear...I can fairly easily get up to F above middle C, but at around C, sometimes lower (as low as maybe around Ab) or higher depending on the vowel, it feels like I should be going into head voice. When I go above C it generally feels less easy and a little strained/shouted, unless I go into head voice. The problem is my head voice is rather weak, especially compared to my lower notes. So if I had a strong head voice, I would just go into it somewhere around C and continue on up, however my head voice is pretty quiet and not very usable, and I'm trying to figure out a way to fix that. It's ringy and bright, but I can't seem to get much more volume out of it.

I don't have any recordings currently, but I might try to get my hands on a mic and see if I can make one.

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Don't go into headvoice per se, but it is possible that you are using too much of your voice up there which will wear you out. Place it high and bright, don't do anything to darken the sound aside from keeping your mouth vertical, use ample support, but sing at a medium volume. Around G3 for basses is where the prima passaggio lies. I didn't believe that it was a real thing until recently, as I have been taking classical lessons at school. But you can't really sing the same way above G3 that you can below it if you are a bass or bass baritone. The brightness tends to drop out a bit and the adduction can get abrasive with too much air.

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Yeah, I'd like to know what you mean by "weak" in the headvoice. Without hearing what you are talking, I'm totally being a bad boy and thinking you might mean one thing by weak and it's actually another. I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way. Everyone seems to have different definitions for what they think is weak or not and it could be that your head voice is fine it just seems weak to you because you cannot hear outside of yourself. Not that we're specifically experts but all this verbage does nothing to describe what you are doing with your voice and trying to diagnose it without that is foolish.

Not that the audio recordings here are necessarily spot on and accurate in capturing the voice we can hear. But, hey, at least we might be able to tell if you are on pitch and what kind of tonality you have. Ancient chinese secret. You can pitch accurate but if you have a different tonality than the original singer of song, others may think you are pitchy and they do think of themselves as experts, whether they are or not.

Bad ron, bad ron.

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Don't feel alone. This is a common problem for a lot of singers. Excuse me for getting technical here - Head voice is typically a much thinner vocal fold configuration using mostly the CT muscle for pitch control, and much less TA muscle.

TA muscle is used in Chest, and it basically "thickens" your vocal folds so they vibrate deeper and create stronger overtones.

In head, you relax TA a bit and let CT take over, which stretches your folds, thinning them out, and tightens them for faster vibration, (higher pitch).

What you are experiencing is normal

What you want and most people want is to carry the same tone from chest upward. That requires that you maintain the same "depth of vibration" as in chest. That means that your TA needs to be much more engaged, as you let CT take over. You are relaxing it too fast. This is tricky and takes A LOT of work.

To do this you need to MODIFY your vowels. Yelling while you go higher is not modifying your vowels. This is another tricky thing and usually takes some training from a teacher or at least working with an instructional DVD.

To give you a quick primer - try this: Yawn, and vocalize while yawning. Should sound like "uh". Hold that yawn position and siren up and down. You should be able to go way above middle C without losing volume. This yawning sensation is the first step toward vowel modification.

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Sorry if I was unclear...I can fairly easily get up to F above middle C, but at around C, sometimes lower (as low as maybe around Ab) or higher depending on the vowel, it feels like I should be going into head voice. When I go above C it generally feels less easy and a little strained/shouted, unless I go into head voice. The problem is my head voice is rather weak, especially compared to my lower notes. So if I had a strong head voice, I would just go into it somewhere around C and continue on up, however my head voice is pretty quiet and not very usable, and I'm trying to figure out a way to fix that. It's ringy and bright, but I can't seem to get much more volume out of it.

I don't have any recordings currently, but I might try to get my hands on a mic and see if I can make one.

Ok, that changes everything. You say that you can easily go up to F above middle C (maybe E?), and that sounds like shouting, is that correct?

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Ok, that changes everything. You say that you can easily go up to F above middle C (maybe E?), and that sounds like shouting, is that correct?

Yes. It's significantly less easy than the lower notes, and it sounds shouty and feels a bit forced. It's not painful, but it does feel like I'm taking more weight up than I should be. That's why I'm interested in developing the more head-voice oriented coordination I have in that area, because it sounds better and feels much easier in that range. I can use my head voice all throughout my range, even up beyond high C. The problem is that it isn't strong enough, and it just sounds like a mezza voce sort of tone. I'm not sure how to bring it up to a more full voice sort of sound. I'm not sure whether I should strengthen it through the coordination itself (ie a messa di voce in head voice) or bring more power into it from below (ie sirens/arpeggios up from my chest voice etc), or if there's a better way, or through some combination of these, etc.

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Well, that shows a few things, first is that your voice probably is not THAT low. Mine reacts just the same, and Im not baritone. This region requires breath support and forward placement to work properly, and the feeling is indeed more intense. It is confortable but there is more energy, both from the support muscles as well from your voice.

Try sending an audio of a song where you use those notes, something confortable for you, no need to try to go higher. It will help know where we stand right now. This way the information can be more precise.

How is your support working? Could you describe it?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can go up into the passaggio and use a lot of support and sort of yell out those notes, but it doesn't sound great and it feels a little uncomfortable. It sounds fine I suppose, but I'm looking for more of a classical sound, and not the yelly sort of rock singer sound.

I do have a thinner, better sounding voice that I can use all throughout my range, which I do modify my vowels for when I go up. I admit that my voice might not actually be that big, I might just have been using a coordination with too much weight/breath pressure in my low range, but this other voice I have, the head voice, is too weak. I think I'm using a thin fold configuration when I'm in this head voice thing, but it doesn't really have a lot of depth to it. It is connected and it's not just a breathy falsetto, but it's not strong enough, particularly for classical singing.

I can siren up and down throughout the range without a loss of volume, but only if I start in my thin head-voice-sounding coordination...I can't take my loud bass/baritone sound and siren that throughout the range without a loss of volume or cracking.

It feels like I'm supporting a lot when I'm using the head-voice type of coordination...it feels like I'm sort of holding my breath, but not clamping down in my throat like I would if I was actually holding my breath. The weakness in my head voice might be a support issue, I'm not sure.

I haven't been able to get my hands on a mic yet, but I'll try to do that as soon as I can.

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Man, supporting is not yelling at all, if you support you simply cant yell. That alone would never allow you to go higher, and probably is getting in your way on lower notes also.

There is much more to this than just adding support, but its absolutely impossible to go after this heavier posture you seek without it.

"Holding the breath" is part of the coordination, yes. But a great deal to achieve what you are looking for is done by creating pressure on the support, its like creating potential energy and controlling its release. The most efficient way is to use lateral expansion of the intercostal muscles, abdomen and rib cage. Speacilly intercostal muscles, It takes a great deal of strenght to open them, and when they come back to their rest posture they can deliver a lot power. If you combine this with the feeling of suspension, you have source of energy that you can release and use to sing instead of pushing air out and yelling.

First you will need to develop coordination on those muscles and feel them, then you will need to do exercises to maximize their effiency and build resistance, connect the movement with your voice and finally work on the passaggio as you intend.

This can be dangerous to do on your own, you need to work on your own pace. This part of the trainning is much more like power building exercises than music. What you need is not create tensions on the back, but to create a movement of expansion and release. Its much similar to expanding a rigid elastic material.

Do a simple experience:

Sit on a chair, near its edge. Cross your arms in front of your chest and reclinate your torso to the front. Your arms should be touching your legs, do not force it down, just rest confortably over them. Take a breath and feel how the muscles on your lower back react. It will be subtle so pay close attention. When you find it, try to create a larger movement on them, should feel like your are inhaling from the bottom to the top. If you do it correctly you will notice that to open them just a little bit more takes a great deal of effort. When you do it, just relax and let the air flow out in a S, notice how there is pressure even though you are not pushing it out.

You must train to be able to do this standing up, everytime you want, with a LOT more pressure than this and it must react fast. If you repeat it a few times, you will also notice that they will quickly get tired and will stop reacting to your command, so resistance is also needed.

This is the first step, afterwards you will have to coordinate your whole voice to work around this. Knowing when and how much pressure you need depending on what the next phrase requires, and controlling the release according to the dynamics. Which is considerably easier, but you will need to train it.

A clear sign that the supporting is working well, is that it takes more effort to lower the dynamics of notes instead of simply relaxing. This happens because now you have to work against the potential pressure instead of pushing air out and creating pressure on the fly.

Man find a good coach, I have a very good experience with the classical method and I recomend it. If in doubt, ask for a demonstration, the coach should be able to do what you want for you You will get power, and you will get this kind of sound that you want in a very confortable way. Actually you will probably need to hold back a lot when singing with a band. But be prepared to work hard and do not expect any sensible result before 6 months of trainning.

Good Luck!

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it's very hard to explain support with just words. and there are so many levels of it.

it can range from light to extreme. it often results in tired muscles the day after, if you've never done it before.

but the best way to explain it is the way franco tenelli explains it...."dynamic opposition of the diaphragm throughout one's range."

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assuming you've got the support right (remember to never PUSH out the diaphragm, it's should be natural) have a look at resonance which is basically another word for vibrations. When singing in your head voice you should feel the sound resonating (or vibrating) around the front of your face (not to far forward) but perhaps just behind your nose. True volume come from resonating and not trying to force of with your diaphragm.

Hope this helps :)

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it's very hard to explain support with just words. and there are so many levels of it.

it can range from light to extreme. it often results in tired muscles the day after, if you've never done it before.

but the best way to explain it is the way franco tenelli explains it...."dynamic opposition of the diaphragm throughout one's range."

This is exactly right. Not everyone wants to sing Opera, myself included, but Franco Tenelli knows what he is talking about when it comes to support!

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