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Tonyy
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Hello TMV members,

 

I have an issue with my voice, sometimes it just won't thin out/conduct properly. Some days the break seems fluid and I can bridge the (full) voice all the way to an B5, with various mixed shades too. On other days, my voice completely fails apart, and I can't even have the vocal cords conduct an F4. Instead I get screechy distortion and the voice seems kind of dry and harsh, almost as if it was completely stuck in chest mode. It feels like the cords just refused to vibrate where they should. The amount of frustration caused by the issue would make me shout some really angry tones if it was possible given the situation.

I wonder if there might be a condition that might cause the issue, which I am not aware of? Like irritated/inflamed vocal cords? This time around the problem was almost certainly caused by a bad cough I am having, but it isn't the first time. I would really appreciate if you guys knew any exercises or anything else that might help. Any information regarding the issue is warmly welcomed!

I had to work a lot to eliminate that screechy distortion (or poor conductance) in/above the passaggio, which I am not sure if that's normal either, perhaps some coaches here know. Shame to have the problem re-appear randomly...

 

 

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Tonyy - I can totally relate.  While total vocal consistency from day to day is ideal, there are many variables at play.    

From a technical standpoint your air flow and weight needs to be consistent from day to day - if you are accidentally pushing a little bit more it can throw everything out of whack in a hurry.

Aside from pure technique, bridging and head voice is highly dependent on the health of your Vocalis muscle - which is the muscle underneath the outer layers of your vocal folds.  You need fine control over this muscle for seamless bridging and control over the lower part of head voice (G4 - C5).  If it is slightly inflamed from Reflux, yelling the day before, excessive coughing, sleeping aids, or even singing more than usual the day before, it can goof things up.  This becomes frustrating, and it is easy to try to "make" it happen by muscling even more, which can worsen the problem for the next day.

If I use my voice normally every day I can achieve a nice consistency over bridging and head every day.  

Here is an example of what sometime happens to me:   My day job requires me to conduct factory tours from time to time.  These tours can last 1.5 hours of me talking loudly over noisy machines.  Normally a single factory tour is no problem. Two weeks ago I had two days in a row of factory tours - which is unusual.  The next day my vocalis responded by getting stronger - my speaking voice was stronger and louder and lower - that was really cool.  However, it completely screwed up my bridging and head voice.  I gave it a couple days of rest and my voice was back to normal.  I think if I gave a factory tour every day, my voice would adjust and I would have no problem with the stronger vocalis.  

Another thing that has happened to me is when I reach a technical breakthrough, like mastering a difficult Steve Perry song - everything seems to be working fantastic with a lot of control - it feels and sounds so good that I end up singing A LOT more that day.  The next day it seems that I have lost it - every thing is "tight" and I don't have subtle control over vowel shades.  I've learned not to get frustrated, not to "muscle through it", and just give the voice some rest by limiting to easy warmups - light registration bridging - and it ALWAYS comes back after a day or two (or more depending).  

 

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Tonyy - I can totally relate.  While total vocal consistency from day to day is ideal, there are many variables at play.    

From a technical standpoint your air flow and weight needs to be consistent from day to day - if you are accidentally pushing a little bit more it can throw everything out of whack in a hurry.

Aside from pure technique, bridging and head voice is highly dependent on the health of your Vocalis muscle - which is the muscle underneath the outer layers of your vocal folds.  You need fine control over this muscle for seamless bridging and control over the lower part of head voice (G4 - C5).  If it is slightly inflamed from Reflux, yelling the day before, excessive coughing, sleeping aids, or even singing more than usual the day before, it can goof things up.  This becomes frustrating, and it is easy to try to "make" it happen by muscling even more, which can worsen the problem for the next day.

If I use my voice normally every day I can achieve a nice consistency over bridging and head every day.  

Here is an example of what sometime happens to me:   My day job requires me to conduct factory tours from time to time.  These tours can last 1.5 hours of me talking loudly over noisy machines.  Normally a single factory tour is no problem. Two weeks ago I had two days in a row of factory tours - which is unusual.  The next day my vocalis responded by getting stronger - my speaking voice was stronger and louder and lower - that was really cool.  However, it completely screwed up my bridging and head voice.  I gave it a couple days of rest and my voice was back to normal.  I think if I gave a factory tour every day, my voice would adjust and I would have no problem with the stronger vocalis.  

Another thing that has happened to me is when I reach a technical breakthrough, like mastering a difficult Steve Perry song - everything seems to be working fantastic with a lot of control - it feels and sounds so good that I end up singing A LOT more that day.  The next day it seems that I have lost it - every thing is "tight" and I don't have subtle control over vowel shades.  I've learned not to get frustrated, not to "muscle through it", and just give the voice some rest by limiting to easy warmups - light registration bridging - and it ALWAYS comes back after a day or two (or more depending).  

 

Thanks, I may not be the only one who sometimes has the issue then. I will have to read up a bit more on that vocalis muscle. Funny how the better you get at singing the more you realize that there are a lot of things beyond just training the voice itself, to get consistent results. At least for me this is definitely the case.

Difficult to fathom how all the people on tour can keep their voices working so consistently, well at last relatively so. That certainly would take a lot of skill for me (and bit of luck not getting hit by colds, allergies or other things that can screw you up).

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Yep - the better you get with technique, the more consistency you can achieve from day to day.  But even the great singers suffer from over-use - there are tons of youtube examples of great singers having a "bad night" especially rock singers.   Steve Perry did a great job live - and he would do things like ride in his own tour buss, total vocal rest in between shows, no drinking, etc.  His live performances were incredibly consistent.  But you can find some later examples where he didn't sound so good - he said he was reaching vocal burn out and that's when he stopped for a while.

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Thanks, I may not be the only one who sometimes has the issue then. I will have to read up a bit more on that vocalis muscle. Funny how the better you get at singing the more you realize that there are a lot of things beyond just training the voice itself, to get consistent results. At least for me this is definitely the case.
Difficult to fathom how all the people on tour can keep their voices working so consistently, well at last relatively so. That certainly would take a lot of skill for me (and bit of luck not getting hit by colds, allergies or other things that can screw you up).

Talking about rock stars on the road? Even pop music stars? They lip synch. Let another band member sing the high parts. Let the audience sing the high part. Cut some songs completely out of the set list. And the whole band is drop-tuned 1/2 step to 1 whole step.

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Extending Geno's comments a bit... I get the same issue if I have not warmed up right..the thinning is awkward.  My best singing days start with about 30 mins of very light 2-octave sirens on oo or ee.  I do them, even if I initially crack or skip notes, until I can smooth them out.  Usually, my issue is that my muscle memory is not quite firm enough to hit the optimum registration balance for the condition of my voice that day. Of course, getting the air moving right is part of the deal.

,It does not take too long, though, until the soft siren will go smoothly right up above F5, and then I know I can increase the intensity throughout the whole range.

In my more active performing days, this kind of warmup was absolutely required as a inventory early in the day.  If things did not respond in 30 mins, I would know that multiple, slow scales would be needed, in several sessions, to get back into singing form for the evening performance.

I hope this is helpful.

 

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Extending Geno's comments a bit... I get the same issue if I have not warmed up right..the thinning is awkward.  My best singing days start with about 30 mins of very light 2-octave sirens on oo or ee.  I do them, even if I initially crack or skip notes, until I can smooth them out.  Usually, my issue is that my muscle memory is not quite firm enough to hit the optimum registration balance for the condition of my voice that day. Of course, getting the air moving right is part of the deal.

,It does not take too long, though, until the soft siren will go smoothly right up above F5, and then I know I can increase the intensity throughout the whole range.

In my more active performing days, this kind of warmup was absolutely required as a inventory early in the day.  If things did not respond in 30 mins, I would know that multiple, slow scales would be needed, in several sessions, to get back into singing form for the evening performance.

I hope this is helpful.

 

Thanks, helps a bunch, I am going to try that siren technique on the next practice session. Taking a small break definitely has helped me in the past too.

 

That said, I think that either there is something wrong with my voice or I somehow am doing things really wrong all the sudden and not noticing it. I had a terrible respiratory track infection and still am having some side effects like cough that just won't leave me, so that may be it. All high notes starting at about G4-A4 just still sound shrill, piercing... the dying cat sound. And it isn't because I am pushing too hard blowing air through the cords either. Well, at least my voice thins out a bit more now instead of being stuck in the chest mode (even worse closure), but damn it sounds awful.

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I am no expert. But inconsistent performance for me is almost always related to warming up.  When you are sufficiently warmed up singing across a big range is more effortless.  When this happens you know you are going to have a good time singing.  Passagio is a very good indicator of how well you are warmed up.  Your are sufficiently warmed up only when you can sing in the passagio without carrying too much vocal weight.  

Warm up schedule has to be intuitively worked out.  After a while your voice will tell you when you are not fully warmed up yet. 

Again speaking from personal experience and not as an expert..

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I am no expert. But inconsistent performance for me is almost always related to warming up.  When you are sufficiently warmed up singing across a big range is more effortless.  When this happens you know you are going to have a good time singing.  Passagio is a very good indicator of how well you are warmed up.  Your are sufficiently warmed up only when you can sing in the passagio without carrying too much vocal weight.  

Warm up schedule has to be intuitively worked out.  After a while your voice will tell you when you are not fully warmed up yet. 

Again speaking from personal experience and not as an expert..

Turns out you are right...

I warmed up an hour or so, and sure enough at some point my voice just completely flipped around and started to function properly. No flawless performance, but at least I was hitting the high notes like I am used to, full mixed voice all the way to the top... Also I started to sound more tenorish rather than baritonal, once more. I thought my voice had a lot more depth and could go lower than previously. That became very obvious once warmed up and I lost all the lows. That baritonal tone with depth had it's uses though... Once again I am amazed how the voice can make a complete turn around so quickly.

Anyway, I think this is something all the teachers here could bank on. Rather than making billionth tutorial or starting your session addressing how to access mixed voice, or whatever is your term of choice, start by addressing the warming up problem. To me, that is much more difficult and a mystical dark science in contrast. What seems to work for me, is singing the very high end D5-G5s, without wimping on them either. That wakes the voice right up, but it's a bit extreme, so I can't recommend it. I will definitely explore Fraser's technique more in the future and see if that works (hopefully my voice won't get this locked up for some time to come though).

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I will definitely explore Fraser's technique more in the future and see if that works (hopefully my voice won't get this locked up for some time to come though).

It's hardly mine.  I encountered this approach in an article by Dr. Ingo Titze on how to warm up the voice, and recognized its similarity to The Great Scale advocated by Lilli Lehmann in her book How to Sing.  Both are based on the foundational technique of pitch change via balanced laryngeal muscle action. We are all beficiaries of these fine pedagogues.

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Well, my range is a lot shorter ( B2-D5 ) but either way, I happen to warm up well in a similar way as you. I warm up lightly my whole range, where I don't have trouble bridging at all. But for louder singing I need to mix with energy for some minutes on my higher end which would be B4-C/D5 and then after that my first and second bridge are very smooth. And I mean, very. In some good days I'm able to sing full out not worrying at all about the passaggio, not even adjusting the vowels consciously ( I think I got a good hang of them naturally :) ) I have noticed that if I don't access that higher area of my voice, I'm unable the bridge correctly and lightly later.

On my bad days, my voice tends to hang too much to my chest voice. So I can bridge very powerfully on my first one, but when I get to the second one it's just too heavy. And I can sing like that, but it sounds a lot thinner on the higher end because my vocalis is probably not connecting as well to the high range, thus my headvoice is doing too much effort.
In these occasions my chest voice gets tired fast because it's doing too much work on the high notes of "chest", and my headvoice gets tired because of trying to add "weight" on it's own.

Now... this is just what I have felt lately on bad days, and what I think might be happening in this situation. It could be something completely different, haha.

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Turns out you are right...

That became very obvious once warmed up and I lost all the lows. That baritonal tone with depth had it's uses though... Once again I am amazed how the voice can make a complete turn around so quickly.
 

Happy that it worked for you.  This has been my experience as well.  I am actually quite confused about my voice too, coz it does have baritonal qualities when not warmed up, but when I am fully warmed up, it is a lot lighter and agile.  I am now coming to terms that I do have a higher voice than I had imagined because to me, warmed up voice actually represents your actual voice.  All of us sound a lot baritonal when we wake up, but obviously that is not our "singing" voice.. 

I find that when I am not warmed up enough, shedding weight is a big problem.  Therefore it is not a range issue as much as a vocal weight issue.  

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warmed up voice actually represents your actual voice

I think that depends on how you warm up. A lot of singers warm up incorrectly and that actually reinforces whatever bad habits they might have when instead they could be setting themselves up correctly for singing and building good habits. Also a lot of male singers I get speak nice and relaxed but as soon as they start singing they tense up and make their voice smaller (thin, squeezed tone)...

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Happy that it worked for you.  This has been my experience as well.  I am actually quite confused about my voice too, coz it does have baritonal qualities when not warmed up, but when I am fully warmed up, it is a lot lighter and agile.  I am now coming to terms that I do have a higher voice than I had imagined because to me, warmed up voice actually represents your actual voice.  All of us sound a lot baritonal when we wake up, but obviously that is not our "singing" voice.. 

I find that when I am not warmed up enough, shedding weight is a big problem.  Therefore it is not a range issue as much as a vocal weight issue.  

You're probably a half and half-a-tone like myself, it's a rare and coveted voice type that lay between the tenor and baritone vocal fach.  You are quite a lucky man because it's well known fact that this is the voice type that gets most of the ladies so welcome to the party my brother.  

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