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LizaJean

Question(s) About Head Voice & Vocal Break Smoothing

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Hi there folks! I just joined today, my name is Liza Jean (stage name, granted), and I sing for a KC-based rock band. I'm an alto/mezzo and my chest range is roughly F3 to D5, and my head voice is about Eb5 to G5. That being said, I can belt an Eb5 in chest, but it comes and goes, as that area is where my vocal break sits.

So I guess I'm here with a few questions! I take singing lessons currently, but I'm pretty certain my teacher doesn't have formal training in the sense of knowing the pieces of the vocal chords. She has her own solo project and usually teaches children, and while we've made some great progress with where my voice was last year, I'm still hitting some roadblocks that I'm not sure how to explain, and that neither of us are sure how to overcome. So I thought I would turn to y'all! So without further ado, I'll try to word these in a way that makes sense:

1. When I initially started working on strengthening my head voice, I did by using a lot of nasal-y 'nya' vocalizing. However, I've found fairly recently that this seems to create a lot of tension in the back of my mouth/back of my tongue. When I sing in head voice, it's hard to not fall into it, and if you put your thumbs under your jaw and right at the back where it curves up, that soft space always feels 'weird' when I sing head voice. The best way I can describe it is like someone's stuffed cotton into the space or similar. I'm pretty sure it's tongue tension but I'm not positive. Thoughts?

2. My chest voice is very deep-sounding in tambre, and pretty warm. Even when I belt, there's still a decent richness to the tone, but once I get into head voice, I lose it. My upper register sounds like a completely different voice: it's a little thin in tambre (but not breathy), very bright, and just generally not what I want. I'd love to bring some of the richness of my chest voice into my head voice, but I'm not sure how to.

3. The dreaded vocal break. I definitely have it, and it's very noticeable. What are some good exercises to smooth this out? It tends to sound a bit like a yodel, but there's still a patch of graveliness when I make the switch, even if I slow down the exercise I'm doing. Being able to switch seamlessly between my two registers would be absolutely ideal!

4. In general, I tend to break fairly easily in my head voice. I know this is probably a matter of strengthening my breath support, but in particular words that start with a vowel or glottal stop have a high tendency to break and/or crack, and so far my only real method is to just very slowly go through the vowels while in my head voice, but I'd love if there was a better set of exercises I could do.

 

Songs I tend to sing for practice on these things include Stone Cold (Demi Lovato), Praying (Kesha), and more recently Who You Are (Jessie J). They all have a lot of runs and switching between the registers, and I'd love to be able to sing them and have my voice sound like one seamless, well-mixed register. Any advice is appreciated! (And if I can, I'll try and get a vocal recording up one of these days if it's easier to hear what I'm talking about.)

-LJ

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sirens up thru the break are pretty standard.

but sometimes what u need to do is first off find the correct headvoice that you want. once you find that nice sounding headvoice, its then a matter of learning how to smoothly connect from the lower range up to the higher range smoothly.

 

I find it helpful to feel the resonance in different places. like when u r singing lower range its mostly down in the throat and u dont really have to think about it much. Then as you go higher you'll want to start feeling more of the vibration up higher like on the roof of the mouth. It may also feel as if the sound is going "back" sort of diagonally upwards towards the back of the head or some similar feeling.

 

As you go higher in pitch youll start to feel the resonance moving toward those "higher" areas and at the same time youll start sort of 'letting go' of the squeezing, gripping feel down in the throat. in other words when singing low pitches u can grip it strongly in the throat for nice vibes etc but as u go higher that gripping will choke u out eventually. so instead of gripping u start learning to feel the vibration move higher onto the roof of mouth and back of the ehad etc

 

Peace, JonJon

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Hi! I'm new here, but I'm a student (not a certified trainer) studying with a teacher who is mainly trained in Estill (though who also has her master's in speech pathology and vocal rehabilitation).  I have been studying with her for quite some time so I'd like to think I have a decent understanding of the Estill method (I understand not everyone agrees with everything the Estill method preaches, but I figured I would give my perspective).

From your initial post (and this is just my interpretation of what you are writing since I can't hear any clips), you wrote "Even when I belt, there's still a decent richness to the tone, but once I get into head voice, I lose it." You say that your voice is fairly deep sounding, so my guess is that you are lowering your larynx while singing and possibly tilting your cricoid (think of an Italian mobster saying 'EYY Anthony' to feel the sensation of a cricoid tilt). The tilting of the cricoid in Estill terms allows you to keep your vocal folds thicker, helping you to produce what Estill would call the 'belt.'

When you get into what you say is the head voice (Estill would most likely refer to this as a thin vocal fold body cover and possibly even stiff vocal fold body cover if your sound is breathy), your body might be habitually raising the larynx, thus losing your deep tone, while also losing the 'resonance' that you had in your thick vocal folds.  The "break" that you hear is the body switching vocal fold body covers (thick fold to stiff fold or possibly thin fold depending on the sound you are producing). An Estill teacher would most likely work on teaching you to control the aryepiglottic sphincter (AES), mainly how to narrow the sphincter. When narrowing the AES, the arytenoids and aryepiglottic folds end up moving toward each other making a 'reed-within-a-reed' to work as a megaphone. The narrowing creates a formant between 2000 and 4000 Hz (sometimes known as the Singer's Fromant) which produces "cheap" resonance as it keeps the oomph of the voice with much less effort. It is what allows many Broadway and musical theatre sings to perform 8 shows a week as well as Opera singers to produce sounds with high volume, often unamplified (in classical terminology, of which I was also a student, AES twang is most often compared with squilo). It is a bright sound, so it won't necessarily be as dark as your 'belt,' but you can play around with larynx height once you get used to using the AES to darken the sound. 

Exercises that have helped me learn to narrow and widen the AES have been: duck quacking, 'beep beep' like the road-runner, baby sound (wah-wah), witch's cackle. Once you gain control of the AES, you can practice sirens from the lower part of your range in thick fold body cover (chest voice), and work your way up, as you get to your break, you will narrow the AES (and you'll start doing this before the break so it is not obvious), to get you through the break. Once you feel you've gotten past the break and into thin fold body cover, you can start to lay back on the narrowing of the AES. What you'll want to make sure you maintain is a feeling of open throat (Estill would say retracted false vocal folds), as singers tend to constrict the throat when learning to narrow the AES. One of the Estill triggers for retracting the false vocal folds (open throat) is to pretend you are using the muscles in your ears to unclog them on an airplane - making your ears crackle a little bit - it is a similar sensation to the retraction of the false vocal folds.

Just read #1 in your post --- when you feel tension under the chin, that is almost always tongue tension - as I said earlier, I suspect you are lowering your larynx to produce some of your deep sound/tone. Lowering the larynx is not bad - it is in the recipe for the Opera sound quality -  but many singers use their tongue muscle to compress the larynx down - this will cause tongue tension and give you many problems later on. Play around with your larynx (fake yawn, etc.) to learn to control it without the use of the tongue (put your finger under your chin to make sure it stays as flexible/soft as possible while lowering the larynx).

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Liza,

Lot's of good reading and advice here for you i see. It's cool when members here can help give other members deeper insight and practical advice. What I would have given to have this resource when I first started my singing journey many years ago. I feel the same way about Robert Lunte's training course, even though I had received the most excellent vocal coaching available in the 80's (which helped immensely with progress).

When I learned of The Four Pillars of Singing, I discovered insights into the anatomy, physics, and vocal training scales, well beyond what my former training had taught me! The knowledge of these aspects produces an intuitive comprehension that channels you to all the right actions to take, which produce the results you are seeking!

If you want to feel in control of your progress just pick up the course, the cost is seven times less than I spent more than 30 years ago for the best coaching available! AND, the course is more comprehensive and visually engaging than all the lessons I paid for!

best,

k

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