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Newbie to forum - Passaggio questions

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sws1
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Hi Everyone

First post, but I've been hanging out here for awhile, reading a lot. Not it's time to ask my question(s).

I've been a background singer in a band, but have decided to get more serious about my own skills so that I can take on lead duties. Mastery is far beyond reach. I just want to a) sound adequate, and B) not lose my voice after 15 mins of singing. Proper breathing has REALLY helped with the 2nd part.

After I'm warmed up, I can sing from roughly G2 up to D5 in fully connected mode. HOWEVER, when I sing F4, F#4, or G4 (thereabouts), I hear what sounds like 2 voices. I'm pretty sure it's a form of vocal fry, because when it happens, I can let my support go and what I'm left with is the sample vocal fry we all understand.

I don't have the problem of breaking into falsetto. That's never been my problem. It's almost as if the handoff from one part of the voice to the other is sloppy. And unfortunately, those 3 notes are in probably every song I want to sing. (Pout).

My vocal instructor said it's from a lack of support. And if I do support much harder, I can often get through it cleanly, but it seems at that point, I might be trying too hard as I wouldn't think brute force is the answer.

A previous vocal instructor used to tell me that I carried too much as I went higher, but given that I could get up to A5 and beyond, that argument didn't seem to make sense to me.

One other piece of info (and I may not have the terminology correct)…If I carry my pure chest register as high as it will go (i.e., like I'm yelling higher and higher notes), it absolutely won't go past C4. BOOM, falsetto. I don't sing / vocalize this way however. I can feel my voice box shift to a higher gear about 1/2 an octave before that C4. (In my mind, I always considered this bridging early the way Robert Lunte describes it.)

SO, if I'm switching to a different vibratory pattern around G3/A4, what exactly is happening when I get to the F4-G4? Is that where "something" ends and something new begins?

For all you singers who have trained in that area, is that noise/fry/roughness what you experienced? Or did you experience a different issue when training? Exercises that may help me on those notes?

Thanks

BONUS question…why is that part of the voice so tiring? One would think singing higher would be harder, but I frequently can't last very long if singing a lot of stuff in that particular range.

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We need to hear it. Chances are it's just some beginning struggles with the passaggio. It's very difficult at first.

Also, double check the octave numbers of the notes you are referring to so we can better understand you, some of it doesn't seem right.

Anyways, nothing should change much in the 3rd octave except maintaining good technique. The struggles you are having at F4/F#4/G4 represent the main passaggio and that is where you should bridge.

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BONUS question…why is that part of the voice so tiring? One would think singing higher would be harder, but I frequently can't last very long if singing a lot of stuff in that particular range.

A combination of factors, its a point where stress starts to rise quickly, the resonantal adjustment is critical and at the same time, "weak", the laryngeal musculature must quickly raballance and we need to go against the usuall coordinations of breathing and speaking in some senses. Add to that the psichological factor, and its a lot of fun to have for sure.

On the good side, if you do everything correctly, it ceases being an issue.

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BONUS question…why is that part of the voice so tiring? One would think singing higher would be harder, but I frequently can't last very long if singing a lot of stuff in that particular range.

sws1: Felipe gave a great answer. I'd add to it, that research has suspected that subglottic resonances (in the trachea) in that note-range may interfere with vocal band function some... enough to make the notes somewhat unstable unless other techinques are used. Instability at this level creates extra work... which is experienced as fatigue.

There are some adaptive approaches to this. Both raising, and _lowering_ the larynx on scale ascent move the passaggio, and also have the effect of changing the length of the trachea. When raising the larynx, tracheal length increases, lowering the tracheal resonances, shifting their frequencies 'out of the way' of that region, and moving them to a fundamental level that may be easier for the singer to deal with. Also, the passaggio itself moves upward (aka, a higher bridge). Both these effects allow the singer to make these notes in a way that is consistent with the notes immediately below.

The contrary approach, of lowering the larynx, (aka, 'covering') can also be used. In it, the trachea is shortened, raising its resonances, shifting the interference to notes higher in the range. At the same time, the lowered larynx moves the vocal formants downward, and induces a lower note level for the passaggio, aka, a 'lower bridge', and result in a tone quality on the notes that is more consistent with the quality of the upper notes.

Worthy of note (!) is that the presence of epilaryngeal twang helps a great deal in this area, whichever adaptive techinque is used by the singer.

The choice is open to the singer, based on the tonal and artistic goals they have. Both will work, but have different resulting tone qualities. The singer is free to choose.

I hope this is helpful.

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I don't mean to derail the topic, but question for Steve - how does tilting the head back or forward affect the trachea?

Rob Lunte would always tell me in our lessons to keep the head straight so you don't "bend the trachea"...is that actually want happens if your head posture isn't aligned? And how would an alternate neck posture like tilting the head up or forward...serve the application of singing, positively or negatively?

I was also curious at how often vocal teachers tell students to keep their head straight, yet, a fair amount of successful singers have head posture that completely breaks the rules, and they almost seem reliant on it, so I wonder if it actually helps them.

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Tilting your head back will help keep some tension and closure. It's like a little help from a spotter in weightlifting. I always tell my students to "practice" everything with the least amout of extrinsic help like lying on the floor with a book on the stomach, keeping the head straight etc. but when you go "sing and perform" use everything you got.;)

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sws1: Felipe gave a great answer. I'd add to it, that research has suspected that subglottic resonances (in the trachea) in that note-range may interfere with vocal band function some... enough to make the notes somewhat unstable unless other techinques are used. Instability at this level creates extra work... which is experienced as fatigue.

Steven,

Yes, they have speculated about such a theory. However, when they tested the hypothesis they concluded that:

"Subglottal resonance was not found to have a significant influence on register transition as originally hypothesized."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12269630

:)

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^ That kind of reminds me of the previous discussion we had on how much other parts of the body may either affect resonance, or singer feedback, maybe both.

Anyway, sws, what you are experiencing is passaggio. As Felipe said, it's a matter of learning to balance things. Namely, breath pressure, resonance. As for breath support, please do not confuse breath support with extra push. That is, "more" breath support does not mean higher pressure and faster air. Really, it should be called breath management. But getting people to change religions and hygiene habits would be easier than getting them to drop the word "support."

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I'll try to record a clip and post it later today, when I do my exercises.

And to clarify, I'm using C4 as middle C. aka 2nd string, first fret on a guitar. So F4-G4 is 5-7 half steps higher. C5 is high C.

C4 is where, if I try to carry a full SHOUT as high as it will go, I flip to falsetto. When I'm trying to be smooth, I will transition to a different "feeling" before I get to the C4, and carry that all the way up. When I get to F4, that's where the noise sometimes appears. Above that, there is no "ratting", or "fry". Using the passaggio ranges I see on Singwise.com, this would categorize me roughly as a "Baritone-tenor", or "robust-tenor":

------ (From Singwise.com)

C4 and F4

These passaggi locations reflect those of either the baritone-tenor or the robust tenor (tenore robusto). These tenor voices are the heaviest and lowest of all tenor voices. Singers who change registers as these locations may eventually have to choose between training as either a baritone or a tenor.

-------

Also note that I am making a distinction between chest VOICE and chest REGISTER or MECHANISM. Yes- I know there are schools of thought about whether it's 2 registers or 1 long smooth register, and clearly between all the books I have, there is disagreement, but for sake of discussion, I can feel a definite shift before I get to c4, which allows me to go all the way up to D5. When I am singing an A5, I am trying to mix in chest VOICE / resonance to make it sound fuller, but it is still a different 'mechanism' than when I am singing in my speaking voice.

Also note that if I've been working on a lot of higher / highest notes, I am MUCH more likely to hear that creaky/fry sound on F4 than if I haven't been trying to hit those high notes. This would suggest that as my voice gets tired (or maybe the CT muscles), I create instability around F4 that I struggle to get past, at least until the next day.

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Passagi change a little, sometimes, depending on what vowel is used. Flipping at C4 is a fairly low voice. Standard tenor passagio is usually around E4 - F4. The other way to define a fach is to take the lowest possible note and add 2.5 to 3 octaves to it. But yeah, really, it will be easier to diagnose by hearing something. And if you could get someone to hear you in person, a coach or teacher, even for one visit, that might also provide some illumination.

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Passagi change a little, sometimes, depending on what vowel is used. Flipping at C4 is a fairly low voice. Standard tenor passagio is usually around E4 - F4. The other way to define a fach is to take the lowest possible note and add 2.5 to 3 octaves to it. But yeah, really, it will be easier to diagnose by hearing something. And if you could get someone to hear you in person, a coach or teacher, even for one visit, that might also provide some illumination.

When you say E4/F4, are you referring to the Primo Passaggio or Secondo Passagio? They are about a fourth apart, which to me, explains that my 2 "key" notes are C4 and F4. C4 where I can't "shout" higher, and F4, where I have this fry-type noise (sometimes).

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I am not all that expert but for a tenor, E4/F4 is first passagio, in old descriptions. I think, in the M terminology, it would be the stage of less involvement of M1. Fry is normally associated with glottal pulse, which would be M0 is normally associated with the lowest notes your body can make. Step away from the "fry."

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Martin H: I'll read the entire paper, but the complete text of that sentence is 'Therefore, in this experiment subglottal resonance was not found to have a significant influence on register transition as originally hypothesized.' (Emphases mine)

This is researcher-speak to say that their experiment did not confirm the hyphothesis. Earlier in the abstract, they say that of the 4 subjects in the study, 1 of them did have a rising break, but that was not 'statistically significant'.

I will open up a thread over in the Vocal Science for those that want to proceed with this thread.

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I don't mean to derail the topic, but question for Steve - how does tilting the head back or forward affect the trachea?

Rob Lunte would always tell me in our lessons to keep the head straight so you don't "bend the trachea"...is that actually want happens if your head posture isn't aligned? And how would an alternate neck posture like tilting the head up or forward...serve the application of singing, positively or negatively?

I was also curious at how often vocal teachers tell students to keep their head straight, yet, a fair amount of successful singers have head posture that completely breaks the rules, and they almost seem reliant on it, so I wonder if it actually helps them.

1) I'm in total agreement with Robert.

and

2) Yes, I've noticed the same thing with regards to the "successful singers" that you mentioned.

In my particular case, I MUST lift my chin at least one inch due to my several cervical spinal surgeries along with all the instrumentation from C-2 through T-1. Yeah ---- a LOT of levels. But without lifting the chin, I'd be unable to sing a single note if my life depended on it. :mad:

Just my personal necessities as it were.....

Now I'm curious to see if anyone else suffers from these "oddities" ???

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sws1, don't worry about the primo passaggio. Unless you are singing classical you won't really notice it and/or you will probably be required by the stylistic standards of some genres like rock, pop, and musical theater, to shout up to your secondo passaggio. You can bridge anywhere before the point where you can't shout any higher, but I guarantee you, that point is not as low as C4. If you are having troubles there, it's likely not a problem of physical inability, but of unrefined technique.

If you can send a file of your singing it would help a lot though, so we can hear what you're trying to describe in words

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