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Breathiness and darkening

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Ronron
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Hi all, a couple points are presently boggling my mind :

I think I get support and compression fine enough for the time being, and manage some kind of ok bridgeing, but there are those two things that irritate me a bit.

The first one is breathiness. This may very well be a volume problem (I don't know why, but I've got the feeling I'm always holding back, except in the very high parts of the voice, where I seem to not be able to reduce the volume x)), but I seem to have air in random parts of my voice without knowing. I can spot it on recordings, when I really am under the impression that it is not there. Its not as bad as it used to, but still, I'd like to be able to use it instead of being " used by it ", having it sometimes and sometimes not. Even though my favorite vocalists tend to use air, I don't want to be a slave to my air anymore ! It *seems* that bridgeing early gets it under control, but there are songs were I don't want to bridge as soon as I can. Especially songs which lie on the " I can now initiate a bridge " parts. I've never been able to get a correct cry, maybe this would fix it ? I'll keep researching :)

The other point is darkening the sound. I actually start to get some tips about it, but really, it just seems to strain me more, or disable the high parts of my voice, or both, and doesn't seem to affect tone all that much. I try to lower the larynx and have my lips stand forward a little. Also playing with the place where the sound resonates seems to affect it a bit too, but mostly in the C4 area. I don't shoot to have a very dark sound, nor really a dark sound, but I'd like to be able to darken it a bit more if I so chose.

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First off, I've seen you really step up to the plate in this forum and take some serious swings at the ball, to use a baseball metaphor. And I think you voice is coming out of its shell and I, for one, am glad for it and rejoice in your freedom. Rock on, my brother. And you've got a really nice name, though I may be prejudiced on that, for some reason that I cannot guess.

Okay. The quick way to darken a sound is use the "eh" sound. For some reason, that dipthong (I always think of the german dipthong "ae", abbreviated as a with an umlaut over it, and yes, I know you are not german, but I am part german and I sometimes think in german) has a particular characteristic to it, especially at high pitch, to sound "dark."

As for the variations in volume in your voice, I've been there. When I first got volume and upper range back in 1988, I couldn't control the volume. I'm a little better at it, now. However, I think some of the highest notes require good volume simply because they require a consistent air pressure to activate the smaller portion of vocal folds vibrating at a higher pitch. But when I first started out, my first wife said I could sing in the Cotton Bowl. Without a pa. The Cotton Bowl is a football stadium at Dallas Fair Park in Dallas, Texas that can seat, in a concert, tens of thousands. (I think the ticket total was 60,000 in 1982 when I went there to see the Who on their first Final World Tour.) Control will come, over time.

Also, what a small mic picks up for a digital recording is not always what it sounds like, live. What sounded like a meaty tone in person sounds like air on a recording because that is what the limited mic picked up.

Most cheapie desk mics are condenser types. What it is is a small, electrically charged membrane that is in parallel with a capacitor (sometimes named a condenser, hence "condenser" mic). Vibrations on this electrically sensitive membrane cause variations in the amplitude of a sine wave generated by a LFO (local frequency oscillator.) This is then translated into digital in its path to becoming data in your sound file. The integrity of the sound is determined by the sample rate of the recording software. Essentially, the software turns selected bits of the signal into 1's and 0's. The higher the sample rate (samples per second), the more data collected for the data stream. However, since the data becomes binary, it can't truly record intensity. Add to that the fact that a condenser mic membrane has a limit, because of size, of how fast it can vibrate in response to a pitch, and how much it can vascillate in its vibrations due to volume or depth of wave. A cheapie desk mic, such as mine, is about 3 mm across. As opposed to a pro mic, even a pro condenser mic, which can have a membrane that is 2 inches (51 mm) across. The bigger membrane can handle a wider range of vibration frequencies (pitch) and a bigger amplitude of vibrations (signal volume). In other cases, some mics are voice coil mics. A membrane is attached to a magnet that sits inside but does not touch a coil. The movement of the magnet causes voltage changes in the coil (a property called mutual inductance also found in transformers), which are then interpreted as signals in an amplifier. Old style live performance mics were voice coil mics. And had an incredible frequency and volume response range. And, back in the day of analog tape recordings, that is what was used.

So, you or I are handing out a blistering C6 at concert volume to a mic that is smaller across than the width of my wedding band (5 mm). It's amazing that it picks up anything remotely like us, at all. That's why I believe you when you said you were singing loud, on such songs as SCOM. But, in the recording, it sounded "soft" because the mic wasn't picking up everything. And I feel sorry for the other people here that have good mics and so they are used to having a mic that picks up what they sound like and assume that what you and I have recorded is what we really sound like.

I have an old tascam 4-track analog recording machine and it has a line-level condenser mic with a 1 inch (25.4 mm) membrane. And I sound much fuller on that mic, though I can still overload it. However, I can't convert to digital with it, so I can't use and am stuck with this chipmunk mic.

So, even though you may wish to work on breath support and adduction (always a good thing) just remember that you and I are singing into the equivalent of a soupcan on a string.

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There's a massive chance that the cry could be partly responsible for the air - if you're trying to lighten and drop mass as you go up (bridging) without initiating thyroid tilt of some kind, then your voice may well tend to abduct the vocal folds a little - which could be causing the air.

If cry is causing you to constrict (picking up on what you said on another thread), could you try whimpering instead, that's probably all you need to do to get the tilt going. Give this a go:

1) make a loud, solid, spoken sound on a medium note - try to start with a light glottal onset such as you might in the word 'uh-oh'.

2) repeat this a few times until you can easily find this thick sound with no constriction or tightness.

3) now, on a slightly higher note, make a little whimpering sound - think 'puppy wants to go out' or 'oh please! I really need your help' - it should feel light and easy and you'll be aware that the volume is less too.

4) again repeat this until you can find it easily.

5) now touch your larynx gently from the outside - you should feel two bumps - the higher, larger one (the adam's apple) is the thyroid cartilage. As you move down from the thryoid cartilage, you'll come to a ring of cartilage underneath it - with a little space in between the two - if you're an imaginative kind of guy, you can see the whole thing as looking like a Knight's helmet - the thyroid cartilage being the visor part and the ring of cartilage round the bottom (cricoid) being the bottom of the helmet.

6) once you found this, repeat your two sounds - on the louder, lower one you will probably feel the space in between the two cartilages do very little indeed - it may open a little wider, but nothing else (the whole larynx may move up or down, but that's not what interests us - just the space in between the two). In the second, whimpery sound, you'll find the space will close up a little - like the visor is being shut. This may be a sensation of the visor closing from above (thyroid comes down) or from below (cricoid goes up), or even that something pushes forwards (thyroid sliding on cricoid) - all of these are acceptable as long as you can feel the space getting a little smaller in between the two cartilages.

7) Now repeat using the same note for each 'voice type'.

8) Now remove your hands and try to feel the closing of the visor from within - you probably won't be aware of the closure, but you may feel something changing place in your throat a bit, or it may feel like the sound is coming from somewhere else, some people say it feels like the back of the throat has been lifted when they do the closed visor position, others feel work in the palate (the palate has some muscle fibers that attach to the top of the thyroid cartilage, so perhaps this is why) - as long as you feel something different, it doesn't matter what it is.

9) keep repeating until you can easily find position one (not tilted) and position two (tilted)

10) now comes the tricky bit, try to do it without making a sound. Just try to put your throat into those two different 'shapes' as it were - once you can feel this happening, touch with the hands again to check that you are getting it right. If not, start again. You'll get it in the end.

11) once you've got this, you should be able to tilt without constricting - if the notion of cry makes you constrict, this probably won't feel like crying at all, perhaps more like a gentle, slightly nonchalant or sad voice - that's ok, as long as you can feel the tilting happening (perhaps thinking 'tilt' rather than 'cry' might help too).

Now try to add the tilt gradually as you ascend the scale and focus on keeping it there in the higher notes - this should help with the air problem (unless it's pathological, in which case an ENT visit is probably the best start point). A good rule of thumb is that the tilt should not significantly affect the effort levels - it may lower them slightly but it shouldn't make them any higher and if it does lower them, it should only be by a very small amount.

If you're struggling with the notion of tilting, let me know and we can get together for a quick Skype meeting and I'll show you how to do it (no charge for this, but my schedule is so crazy that it may be a few months before I can give you an appointment).

Hope it helps!

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First, let me thank you both for your answers :)

Yes my microphone isn't any good. It could be a reason why, but I doubt it.

I'll try what you proposed as soon as I can, Allan, but it could be a few days or a week before I have enough time to setup a good session. If even with your indications, I can't find it, I will think about your kind offer, but I don't want to add to your hard work :)

Larynx tilting I can do some, but in the wrong direction, so to speak. I can tilt it so that the adam's apple can't be seen anymore, which would be tilting it up and back, when, if I understand well, I would like to tilt it the other way round. I still haven't find the right muscle(s).

I've thought about pathology a bit. I honestly don't know. Could be, but I doubt it. Or it's stuck with me for a very long time. I think it's more bad habits than physical problems.

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Laryngeal tilting isn't as cut and dried as Estill would have us think! Tom Harris has been looking at it from an ENT point of view (following on from Titze's work) and it appears that there are most certainly various versions of laryngeal tilt - the thyroid may come down, the cricoid may go up, the thyroid may come forward etc - as long as the space between the two cartilages is reduced, then that's fine - it appears that some singers can produce all these kinds of tilt (I can produce voluntarily the thryoid down and cricoid up ones, but not the forward slide one) - it doesn't matter which one you use as long as you're closing down the space a little.

If your backwards tilt is opening up the space, that's very useful for belt voice, but not so much for crying voices - but if you find the space is reducing somewhat, then that's fine.

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