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A Question about the 'loudness' of passagio training

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RedOx
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Hello Forum,

I have a question concerning the 'loudness' of vocal training and wether one should first concentrate more on the proper sound quality or rather on mastering the passagio and then work on putting a 'ring' to it.

I've been singing for over twenty years now, mostly writing my own songs. I think I'm a halfway decent singer (at least a lot of other people tell me so), so I don't consider myself an absolute beginner in every aspect of singing. But I have only recently (a few months ago) discovered that I can actually use my head-voice in a different way than falsetto mode. Call me stupid, but I always thought that I just didn't have the kind of 'magical' voice all those other guys I loved to listen to had been given by nature and so I never really bothered to do any kind of research into how exactly they were doing it, until I stumbled upon this seemingly infinite amount of youtube videos and websites like this one telling me that it was actually a matter of technique rather than genetics. So ever since then I started experimenting a lot, trying to connect my headvoice and amazingly I found out that I could actually do so.

Per classical definition (not as an operatic 'Fach', of course!), I think I would propably qualify as some kind of a deep baritone and after warming up for half an hour I could usually sing from a somewhat stable C2 up to a comfortable E4 in my chest voice without straining or shouting too much. I also always liked recording my own backing vocals and doing harmonics in a kind of 'controlled falsetto' higher up on the scale. That's also what I used to do, when I was listening to songs that I liked and singing along - flipping into falsetto once the notes got too high for my chest voice. So, while I had never trained to bridge my passagio area and sing in connected headvoice, I had already developed quite a range for a guy with a rather deep speaking and singing (chest-) voice. Since I already knew how to use my headvoice in falsetto quite proficiently It didn't take too long to find out how to 'connect' in the upper region. Now I can produce tones up to a G5 (not really pretty and only on a really good day though!) and sustain them for much longer than I ever could in falsetto and I have a lot of control over modulating them and shaping their resonaces, so that I can actually sing along with a lot of female singers without hurting myself. Don't worry, I usually stay away from those super-high notes and only use them for effects in my own stuff.

Unfortunately, once I started recording myself singing in the lower head tones right above my vocal 'break', I realized that it still sounded like a more 'controlled falsetto', though with much more volume but lacking those high-mid overtones that make the voice really stand out. I don't think this is because I fail to get my vocal folds adducted properly since I can really sustain the upper head notes quite effortlessly and play with pitch and modulation almost to my heart's content. So, since Robert Lunte was kind enough to offer a holiday discount I got myself a copy of the 'Four Pillars of Singing', hoping that he could explain to me how to engage this magical 'twang' mode everybody is talking about.

I know I am doing it all wrong from a vocal teacher's point of view, having started on the high notes and not on the passagio. Plus, I can't for the life of me stick to only doing scales and sirens using only certain vowels. Though I don't doubt it's an efficient way to train the voice, it's just too boring and I constantly fail to accept myself as an absolute beginner - though concerning headvoice and bridging I most propably am. Because once I start singing, my voice gets a life of its own and immediately wants to produce real melodies with actual lyrics. And to be honest, I don't really aim to become a virtuoso or vocal 'athlete'. I just want to be able to put more variety into my own songs and not feel restricted by insufficient technique.

Now, as you might have guessed, that doesn't help me bridge the passagio area. Since I've been flipping between registers all my life and even doing so on purpose for effect, I have propably developed a bad habit of 'not bridging' and consquently I am having a hard time making a smooth transition from chest to head resonance. I don't however have too much of a problem lowering my larynx and finding what the experts would call a 'singers formant' in my upper headvoice, once I start modifying vowels and opening my mouth in the right way. That came somehow naturally, propably because of my previous experience dabbling with singing harmonics and choir-like arrangements in falsetto and trying to put some 'ring' to them, or even trying to make them sound like a female background combo.

Now what I've been doing for the past few weeks is making playlists of songs whose melodies concentrate around my passagio- area (pretty much betwen D4 and G4), singing along with them and trying to reduce volume once I reach the tricky region in order to make a smooth transition. Though I consider it a lot less fun, I have also tried to do some sirens and scales. What I absolutely fail at and find increasingly frustrating, is doing it at a volume that even remotely resembles what Robert is producing in his video lectures. I can only bridge into headvoice if I do it very quietly. Now I know that someone who's been training himself and others for the last twenty years will always sound a lot more 'voluminous' than some amateur like me who has been recording a few songs just for fun. I also know that 'volume' may not be the right term here, because a lot of that perception derives from resonance and would propably be better described as 'Loudness'.

My understanding is that, if I do a siren from the lower end to the top, by using what robert calls 'twang' mode while still on the 'chestier' level and gradually lowering the larynx through the passagio-area, the vocal folds should stay connected. My problem is that I lose that twang configuration once I start transitioning into head voice if I try to sound beefy from the start. And if I put less 'beef' into chest voice to begin with, it doesn't really have that 'twang' sound and propably lacks compression as well, also leading to a quite falsetto-ish lower head voice.

What I can do instead is start quite low in what I call 'gospel mode', since to me it somehow resembles what a gospel singer does or what can be heard from those soul divas if they sing really low in their alto range. It actually feels a lot like head voice but resonates deeply in the chest, while having a certain 'dopeyness' to it and still feeling connected. From there I can bridge into head voice more easily, since my larynx is already lowered from the beginning and I don't have to consciously 'engage' the lowering. Of course that doesn't sound as sharp as the rather metallic stuff that Robert is doing and which reminds me of some of those grunge-heroes from my youth.

I still have to do it rather quietly and it's not really usable for the actual singing of real songs - except maybe for some really sad ballads - since it lacks the proper punch, especially if I try to sing more rythmically demanding stuff that requires exact timing of the lyrics to the beat.

I know, I know, I will propably just have to do a lot more training. The question is if that does me any good if I keep doing it at a low volume or if I should rather try to do it 'louder' even if that means that I will not be able to connect all the way through the passagio at first? I know it's hard to tell what I'm doing by just reading a ridiculously long forum post, but how did/do you guys do it?

TL;DR: What's more important? Sounding 'loud' and giving those tiny muscles a demanding workout in order to train them, or would you consider it more efficient to get the bridging done properly and only then start on making it sound louder?

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I've been singing for over twenty years now, mostly writing my own songs. I think I'm a halfway decent singer (at least a lot of other people tell me so), so I don't consider myself an absolute beginner in every aspect of singing. But I have only recently (a few months ago) discovered that I can actually use my head-voice in a different way than falsetto mode. Call me stupid, but I always thought that I just didn't have the kind of 'magical' voice all those other guys I loved to listen to had been given by nature and so I never really bothered to do any kind of research into how exactly they were doing it, until I stumbled upon this seemingly infinite amount of youtube videos and websites like this one telling me that it was actually a matter of technique rather than genetics. So ever since then I started experimenting a lot, trying to connect my headvoice and amazingly I found out that I could actually do so.

In my opinion, I have always said, producing those notes is basically using falsetto, but using throat techniques, so that it doesn't sound like falsetto. One doesn't need to be louder to produce these notes, however pushing more air to reach them results in being louder. That's why when most people sing live, they hold the mic further away from their mouths.

In recording, higher parts are recorded on separate tracks than lower parts to make volume blending easier. That's what I did when recording my CD. My bro, ronws, can vouch for the balance in sonic blending I did on it, as he bought a copy from me.

Just like any other technique, keep practicing, as you need to teach your body the MECHANICS of it until is stays in muscle memory, and you do it without thinking about it. When it becomes habit, then you will have mastered it.

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"Get to a teacher before you train more habits on top of it."

Yeah. I was afraid you'd say that. I would like to do that.

I don't know what that would cost in Brazil but where I live, seeing a vocal coach every week would cost me about the same as the rent on my appartment. Which would mean I'd have to stop eating or start stealing food.

And the websites of these teachers here really suck.

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I'd say good coordination before power. Also all the notes you can do in falsetto you can learn how to do them in full voice ;)

Nick

PS: I'm so jealous of those baritones with incredible 4+ octave ranges where I barely have 3…

Believe it nor not, most people, including many professionals, have a range of 1 to 1 1/2 octaves.

So don't feel bad.

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PS: I'm so jealous of those baritones with incredible 4+ octave ranges where I barely have 3…

Don't be in my case. Half of it isn't really usable anyway. I'd gladly shave some of it of in exchange for a stable passagio.

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redox, another suggestion..... have you ever tried exercises which produce an intentional cry in the voice?

one of the best ways to carve your way through the passaggio is to learn to cry through it with support.

an exercise i like to do is a siren on the word "meow"...sing it slowly and with good effort. start strong and end strong.

this particular word contains several voice building benefits:

the "m" helps with adduction. the "e" helps with focus, the "ow" (a 2-part vowel) sends you up the voice with some chest resonance (it's "ah" portion) while the tail end vowel sound "oo" narrows you to enable you to go through your passaggio without splatting.

just be sure to support, sing the word "meow" exactly, and legato, (not me, ow) get the soft palate up and keep it from dropping through the exercise. the design of this word will keep you from plopping into falsetto.

try them in ascending and descending sirens.. let me know.

also, you might feel a little initial discomfort because you are stretching out the palate and the back of the pharynx. this will subside in a few days.

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redox, another suggestion..... have you ever tried exercises which produce an intentional cry in the voice?

one of the best ways to carve your way through the passaggio is to learn to cry through it with support.

Thanks for your advice. I think I figured out what my problem is. It was just not enough vocal fold closure.

Since I've kind of 'trained' my voice over the years, through untrained singing, to be a little airy and get into this kind of bluesy chest voice mode, I didn't really know how to stay connected properly. That's not so much of a problem in the higher head voice range since I had to start 'crying' to remove the falsetto in the first place. But I didn't realize I was still letting too much air come out in the upper chest range, so that it was hard to maintain a 'chesty' feel to the lower head tones.

I had a rather long email- exchange with Phil, who was kind enough to listen to some samples I recorded. He pointed out that it seemed like I wasn't applying enough compression to make it sound louder.

So yesterday I spent more or less the whole day trying to eliminate the airyness from my chest voice up through the passagio - quietly 'crying' along with some songs and trying to keep up better breath support. Which was pretty hard at first but I made some astonishing progress and in the end I could bridge rather seemlessly in a lot 'stronger' fashion than before.

Of course it's still not very loud and I need to train a lot more to be able to maintain that seamlessness at a higher volume. But at least now I think I'm on the right track and I have a feeling that it's possible to 'lean into' this more connected voice without straining.

The most important lesson I learned from this is that it's really hard to recognize mistakes like that, if I'm only singing to myself and that it's kind of crucial to get an opinion from someone who knows what they're talking about .

So, I guess Felipe was right suggesting that I go see a vocal teacher.

I just need to find the budget for that.

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