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Ave Verum Corpus - how's my head voice?

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Carol M
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I never thought I'd post this song first but I happened to get hold of the first decent karaoke track I've found, a simple piano accompaniment, so I don't have to back myself. I still have trouble accompanying myself on piano or guitar and the key drifts downward without it. :(

http://tinyurl.com/43f9yxz

Basically I'm a chest voice singer trying to build up my head voice-curbing sound to sing jazz vocals. I sing country and rock with a band and other than resonance, I'm having trouble incorporating the upper register into the songs I do.

Any advice & observations greatly appreciated. You probably hear all you need in the first :58.

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If you are working towards jazz, I don't neessarily think this is the way to get there. I sing jazz, and my training has never involved pure head voice and operatic style. Your placement sounds quite open throated and operatic in style, where as jazz, like country, like pop and rock, and musical theatre is a closed throat style. You need to develop a mix, which basically means that as you move towards your head voice range, you start to incorporate a bit of both head and chest voice, changing the balance as you move up the scale. Develop twang, not in your pronunciation, but in the way that you shape you vocal tract. Twang can be achieved by making a sound like a duck, or like a sheep, or the child hood taunt nygeh nygeh nygeh nygeh nygeh. Move twang into speach - try to sing on a comfortably low note (perhaps G3) "sing" and hold the ng. There is the twang. Notice that your tounge is wide, with edges of your tongue touching the upper back molars. Maintain this tongue position and move through your vowels. Sing - ah (as in father), sing ay (as in aid), sing ee (as in seam), sing oo (as in moon), sing oh (as in show), sing aw (as in oar). Pay attention to keeping the sound resonating in the front of your face. If you feel the placement shift, try putting your index finger in between your front teeth, across ways and think to make the sound come out above the finger. You should do these excercies on the same tone, an easy tone.

Lip bubles, stretching your whole range, help to eliminate the first vocal break. Lip bubbles are one of the best and easiest excercises for contemporary technique. By keeping your twang, your forward placement and keeping the air load on the vocal chords light (good support means not allowing too much air to pass through the cords), you can start to stretch your chest voice higher by mixing head and chest voice.

Jazz is a very spoken genre, and head voice is not used for anything much other than decoration. I do use head voice, but I've only recently acquired a powerfully controlled head voice, after a year of working on mix. Start with the mix. It is much more useful and contemporary than head voice. The big jazz notes are usually belted, which is not head voice.

This seems like a lot to cover, and it is, but with the right teacher, much of this can be done in one lesson (assuming no big difficulties). Good luck.

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Yes thanks I have been working on all that, but was unable to get a recording. When I'm playing jazz I can't sing it and vice versa.

I've heard Sarah Vaughan sing in head voice, like in "Motherless Child," though that was a folk tune, but I didn't think it was too much of a stretch to apply some of the technique to other genres.

I may switch teachers this year..

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Fair enough, Jazz is a very wide genre, really. And I guess you need to consider what sort of jazz you would like to pursue. There is a lot more knowledge today about contemporary voice technique than there was in Sarah Vaughn's day. Most people would consider jazz to be a contemporary rather than a classical style, and I still think that pursuing the mix rather than head voice would be appropriate for someone trying to move into jazz.

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Fair enough, Jazz is a very wide genre, really. And I guess you need to consider what sort of jazz you would like to pursue. There is a lot more knowledge today about contemporary voice technique than there was in Sarah Vaughn's day. Most people would consider jazz to be a contemporary rather than a classical style, and I still think that pursuing the mix rather than head voice would be appropriate for someone trying to move into jazz.

I realize Mozart is not jazz, but was hoping someone would speak to my support & pitch which have been a struggle for me. I'm taking twice as many breaths in this piece as I should but aiyiyiyi I really get tapped out above my break and feel like still too much air is escaping.

I cite Vaughan because I believe she had some training, at least in piano, and sang in her father's church before being discovered. As opposed to Ella just coming in off the streets so to speak. Vaughan does have an operatic sound with heavy vibrato which put me off at first but I have learned to appreciate her style and learned a lot of her material. I've listened to newer artists but their work seems campy? unserious? and not nearly as beautiful as these old Gershwin, Cole Porter, or Tad Dameron songs.

Now that I've gotten the first track out of the way, I will try to record at least part of a standard.

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If you want to sound bit more jazzy, try adding a slight "cry" to your voice. A cry sounds like you would speak if you had a tummy ache. But I actually liked that clip. Pretty voice!

No not planning to jazz it up, saving it for my Latin repertoire... :P

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Ok, it should probably have been written "if you want it to have a non-classical sound, or have a slightly more 'punch' to it, you could add cry". But like I said, I thought it was pretty and well controlled. :)

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I realize Mozart is not jazz, but was hoping someone would speak to my support & pitch which have been a struggle for me. I'm taking twice as many breaths in this piece as I should but aiyiyiyi I really get tapped out above my break and feel like still too much air is escaping.

Hi, Carol M: I have known this piece for 40 years, and its simplicity of structure and vocal line belies the fact that it is tremendously challenging to sing. For a first go, I think this is a fine start, and the things that need to be done are easily mentioned, and can be worked on separately from each other:

1) For Mozart, onsets need to be right on pitch. Even slight scooping is not in the style.

2) Latin diction, especially the vowel pronunciations, can be improved. They are close. Some rules of the 'Italian' pronunciation system (different from 'classical' Latin and the 'Germanic' Church latin):

Only 5 vowel sounds: i = EE, e = EH, a = Ah, o = hollow, like the first sound in 'awful', u = OO, as in pool. To my ear, the two that need the most work are the i, (it sounds too much like IH right now) and u, which should be performed with the lips pursed a bit forward, and darkly. These two pronunciation changes will make your voice 'headier' right away.

When it comes to consonants, Latin has some different sounds than English: the R is always flipped. L is performed by the tip of the tongue flicking down from the front of the hard palate.

3) The piece works, or does not, on the strength of the smoothness of the legato line. Within that line, the syllabic stress (pronunced accent and de-accented syllables of the poetry) should be maintained, even if Mozart wrote an unaccented syllable on a higher note.

For example, all the words in the first phrase

Ave Verum Corpus

Have the first syllable in the word stronger, and the 2nd syllable weaker. In the following line, each Capitalized syllable is slightly stronger than the lower-case syllable that follows.

AH-veh, AH-veh VEH-room CO-rpus

4) In classical singing, no note has the same dynamic level for its entire length. Longer notes must grow louder toward the focal point of the phrase, and once that is reached, the longer notes must smoothly decrescendo.

5) When pronouncing a voiced consonant, like V, put the V on the pitch of the next vowel to be sung, in this case, the higher note. Go through the piece, and find each voiced consonant, and pitch it.

6) let your vibrato be there all the time, in all notes. Ride it, as if it were part of your tone quality.

An excellent way to rehearse legato is to sing an entire phrase on 1 vowel, to create the absolutely smoothest line you can, shaped dynamically the way you want it. When you have done that a few times to your satisfaction, sing just the vowels in the words of the text... as if you had left out all the consonants.

I look forward to hearing this little jewel again, soon.

I hope this helps,

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Thanks Stephen. You caught more than my teacher did (I think his piano's too loud during the lesson). Definitely having trouble multitasking (pronunciation, support, phonation), and I felt I was making faces esp on Mar EEEE a VEEERgeeeneh etc. My breathing is still terrible and it's all I can do to get through this thing on double the breaths..

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Thanks Stephen. You caught more than my teacher did (I think his piano's too loud during the lesson). Definitely having trouble multitasking (pronunciation, support, phonation), and I felt I was making faces esp on Mar EEEE a VEEERgeeeneh etc. My breathing is still terrible and it's all I can do to get through this thing on double the breaths..

Carol M: You are right... a lot to do! Be patient with yourself. The vocal and musical aesthetic of this piece incorporates many details, and it takes a while to get them all working individually, and coordinated simultaneously.

IMO, don't worry too much about how many breaths you take for the time being. The piece is for choir, originally for unchanged boy voices singing this part. Their conductor would have taught them to stagger their breathing so that the line was extended seamlessly.

Here is an approach to help you get to the 'head voice' EE vowel: Drop your jaw about 1/2 inch, and sing an OO with your lips pursed forward, but not tightly puckered. Without moving your lips, glide from the OO to the EE. Only the tongue moves to make the transition. It feels a bit like singing an EE through an OO shape. It will likely seem funny to sing this vowel this way, but I think you will like it, and it will work in the piece. Once you get the sense of it, you will be able to let go of a bit of the lip pursing, and still get the headier sound.

I hope this helps.

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