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Controlling the Soft Pallet and Nasality

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I was looking at the VocalPower website and tried one of Tony's links to "VocalProcess". They have an instructional DVD on how to control the soft pallet. It sounds really interesting and makes me wonder if I'm "doing it right". Anybody have any experience with this? Are there general guidelines on the web about how to control and use the soft pallet?

Here is the website:

http://www.vocalprocess.co.uk/nasalityandthesoftpalate.htm

Here are some of the things they get into:

what causes nasality

why you sometimes need nasality, and when you don't

the 3-second, foolproof test for nasality

finding the doorway into the nose

whether the door should be open, closed or ajar

how to monitor your practice from the outside

why your soft palate is so important

how to find and control your soft palate

why what you feel isn't necessarily what is happening

the difference between singing with "a cold in your nose", and singing "down your nose"

whether you should feel anything in your nose when you sing or speak

how to check if you're doing it right

when sounding nasal is a good thing

finding and controlling more resonance

how to maximise the resonating cavity of the mouth

why the soft palate can affect your tuning

when doing it "wrong" can be right

how to isolate your soft palate from your tongue and your jaw

which exercises to do - and the most common mistake that people make

why controlling the soft palate can help with good diction

the three special sounds in the English language

why not all accents and dialects are the same

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Some of that seemed like a straw boss to knock down with this DVD. I had not heard that there was more resonating space above the soft palate than in the mouth. In fact, I think it is the opposite. But reason for the head resonance is because the passages are smaller.

Once again, pulling out my trusty hammer, a high note is a small note as far as wavelength goes and needs a smaller space to allow the note to reflect back on itself and create a signal with twice the amplitude it had coming off the folds. This doubling of amplitude creates a decibel or non-linear increase in volume. Non-linear means that the volume is hugely increased for the amount of effort given.

There's some really hairy math that could explain it but it would not help many people not familiar with advanced math.

To over simplify drastically, finding the pocket, as Bob might say, causes a doubling of the amplitude, height of the wave. The increase in volume is not twice the original. It is more like freq(original volume) ^ 1.5 or ^ 2. ^ means "raised to the power of." Logarithmic functions are nominally the operator raised to a power. Such as 2 ^ 2 = 4. 3 ^ 2 = 9. So, if your original volume value was 3, the properly resonated volume is 9, more than twice the original.

And that is still general. What is believed to actually be happening is that the sound is causing air molecules in these spaces to excite and vibrate, literally like an amplifier. Now, amplifiers can be linear. But the apparent effect in decibels is non-linear.

That probably confused the issue. Oops.

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ronws: Responses interspersed

Some of that seemed like a straw boss to knock down with this DVD. I had not heard that there was more resonating space above the soft palate than in the mouth. In fact, I think it is the opposite. But reason for the head resonance is because the passages are smaller.

Reply: The comment about the resonating space as larger than the mouth space was in the section on commonly held myths, so I think your understanding of that is correct.

However, the sensation of head resonance is due to higher frequencies interacting with the bony and sinus spaces of the head... that is an effect, not a cause, of the intensity of high frequencies in the voice when singing with the Velopharyngeal port closed. I will write more about this after your next section.

Once again, pulling out my trusty hammer, a high note is a small note as far as wavelength goes and needs a smaller space to allow the note to reflect back on itself and create a signal with twice the amplitude it had coming off the folds. This doubling of amplitude creates a decibel or non-linear increase in volume. Non-linear means that the volume is hugely increased for the amount of effort given.

Reply: While its true that a small space will resonate at a high frequency, the small spaces are not required to be present for high frequencies to resonate strongly in the voice. Considered as a tube of varying cross-section from glottis to lips, without any nose or sinuses at all, the mathematically modeled vocal tract displays prominent formants of amplified harmonics due to the resonance structure of the entire vocal tract. As the singer ascends the scale, not only do the harmonics of the phonated tone become increasingly intense pre-resonance, but when a harmonic aligns with one of the vocal tract resonances, it is greatly intensified.

If you are interested in such things, for a tube closed at 1 end and open at the other, of equal cross section for its entire length, the frequencies of the resonances follow the 'odd quarters' series.

Added to this general characteristic of the 1-channel model of the vocal tract, a great deal of high frequency content is added to the voice via narrowing of the epilaryngeal space, immediately above the vocal bands. Described variously as 'twang' or 'singers-formant', these strong high frequencies are very often accompanied by strong sensations in various places in the head.

There's some really hairy math that could explain it but it would not help many people not familiar with advanced math.

The math is only hairy when considering the implications of the continuously varying cross-section of the vocal tract from the glottis to the lips. The math helps describe why the resonances are positioned where they are, based on the particular dimensions of the vocal tract.

To over simplify drastically, finding the pocket, as Bob might say, causes a doubling of the amplitude, height of the wave. The increase in volume is not twice the original. It is more like freq(original volume) ^ 1.5 or ^ 2. ^ means "raised to the power of." Logarithmic functions are nominally the operator raised to a power. Such as 2 ^ 2 = 4. 3 ^ 2 = 9. So, if your original volume value was 3, the properly resonated volume is 9, more than twice the original.

And that is still general. What is believed to actually be happening is that the sound is causing air molecules in these spaces to excite and vibrate, literally like an amplifier. Now, amplifiers can be linear. But the apparent effect in decibels is non-linear.

Reply: While this is a strongly-held belief amongst singers and teachers of singing, and also used very often in vocal pedagogy as imagery, I am unaware that any voice scientists since the 1950's think this is happening as you describe. Vennard cites his own and prior research into the topic in 'Singing, the Mechanism and the Technic', Revised, 1967. See the discussions beginning at page 94, para 339, and continuing on pg 95 and 96 for some citations:

http://books.google.com/books?id=nfgmgjqDwuMC&pg=PA94&lpg=PA94&dq=%22In+1954,+Wooldridge+attempted%22&source=bl&ots=15CM-esls8&sig=0NmdUELopSPPJT-A9Znmih5yoCM&hl=en&ei=Bbo9TrCNGcShsQKB9pj8Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22In%201954%2C%20Wooldridge%20attempted%22&f=false

Vennard concludes that the resonances attributable to the pharyngeal and buccal spaces, with the addition of 'vocal twang', are sufficient to account for all the measurable (and audible) harmonic content of a voice which results during a particular kind of phonation.

I hope this helps,

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I was looking at the VocalPower website and tried one of Tony's links to "VocalProcess". They have an instructional DVD on how to control the soft pallet. It sounds really interesting and makes me wonder if I'm "doing it right". Anybody have any experience with this? Are there general guidelines on the web about how to control and use the soft pallet?

Here is the website:

http://www.vocalprocess.co.uk/nasalityandthesoftpalate.htm

Here are some of the things they get into:

what causes nasality

why you sometimes need nasality, and when you don't

the 3-second, foolproof test for nasality

finding the doorway into the nose

whether the door should be open, closed or ajar

how to monitor your practice from the outside

why your soft palate is so important

how to find and control your soft palate

why what you feel isn't necessarily what is happening

the difference between singing with "a cold in your nose", and singing "down your nose"

whether you should feel anything in your nose when you sing or speak

how to check if you're doing it right

when sounding nasal is a good thing

finding and controlling more resonance

how to maximise the resonating cavity of the mouth

why the soft palate can affect your tuning

when doing it "wrong" can be right

how to isolate your soft palate from your tongue and your jaw

which exercises to do - and the most common mistake that people make

why controlling the soft palate can help with good diction

the three special sounds in the English language

why not all accents and dialects are the same

pricey dvd...is it worth it? i'm not sure.

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Bob - yeah - it is very pricey. Almost too pricey. I was hoping that someone could point out some basic guidelines about the soft pallet. I didn't check my CVT book, but maybe some info is in there.

Steven- woah! Some huge information there. You lost me a few times. Incredible - I think you know all about this subject.

I did kind of have a revelation today. I'm working on this adam lambert song which has an "ah" in the passagio on a particular note. I've been trying everything to get the formants tuned like Adam but for the life of me I couldn't get it to sound like how lambert sings it. Mine was too "swallowed" or too "modified". But today, after reading this website on soft pallets, I tried raising my soft pallet, and I came very close. I really don't think much about the soft pallet, but I guess I've been missing something. I really need to work on controlling it. Should I keep it elevated on every vowel? What are the principles?

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Steven- woah! Some huge information there. You lost me a few times. Incredible - I think you know all about this subject.

guitartrek: I had a head-start on this. My parents gave me Vennard for my birthday in 1973, when I was a sophomore in college. He was one of my early scientific influences.

I did kind of have a revelation today. I'm working on this adam lambert song which has an "ah" in the passagio on a particular note. I've been trying everything to get the formants tuned like Adam but for the life of me I couldn't get it to sound like how lambert sings it. Mine was too "swallowed" or too "modified". But today, after reading this website on soft palates, I tried raising my soft palate, and I came very close. I really don't think much about the soft palate, but I guess I've been missing something. I really need to work on controlling it. Should I keep it elevated on every vowel? What are the principles?

guitartrek: It depends on the sound you want. The position of the palate affects the shape of the vocal tract at the upper-back of the mouth, in the area that joins the pharynx to the nasopharynx. By making the pharyngeal part of the pharynx longer (by making it 'taller' at the top), it lowers the first resonance, and if the tongue position is not changed, creates a larger space at that point where the pharyngeal section of the vocal tract joins the buccal (mouth) section. This changes the absolute and relative positions of the resonances so that they may align better with the harmonics. This effect is especially noticable when the 'ah' is sung with the tongue hump just up a bit, midway between an English aw and an Italian ah.

As a strategy, singing with a consistently high palate not only lengthens the pharyngeal section of the vocal tract, but also puts makes control of the vowel more directly the result of tongue positioning. For example, with a high palate, to sing an /i/ (ee) vowel, the hump of the tongue has to be higher with respect to the jaw than previously. Its a subtle difference. If the compensation is not done, the vowel which results is 'ih'.

I hope this helps.

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Steven - When I was first working on the passagio and high singing with KTVA, he wants the soft pallet to be high with the tongue flattened, or concave on an "ah". But I couldn't do it. My tongue was high in the back and my soft pallet was lower. I couldn't change it. The CVT book says it's ok to do this (in "curbing") so I was releived. But now, after a year of doing this, I'm able to control and flatten the tongue, and my solf pallet isn't coming down. I should probably work on keeping my soft pallet raised. Sounds like a good strategy.

How about Nasality? Does the high soft pallet get rid of unwanted nasal sound? Are there any vowels that need a lower soft pallet?

Interesting about Vennard. Seems he took bel canto into the 20th century with modern scientific research. Does his work still hold true with advances in the last 40 years since his death?

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How about Nasality? Does the high soft pallet get rid of unwanted nasal sound? Are there any vowels that need a lower soft pallet?

guitartrek: The high soft palate, even if it does not completely close the Velopharyngeal port (i.e., less than 12 sq mm of opening), removes nasality. Whether nasality is desired, or not desired, is a singer's choice

.

Interesting about Vennard. Seems he took bel canto into the 20th century with modern scientific research. Does his work still hold true with advances in the last 40 years since his death?

Vennard was a scientifically-oriented voice teacher, at the Vanguard of the application of good vocal science to the art of singing. He taught singers of bel canto at the university level and beyond.

A very great deal of what he wrote is still considered valid, and every voice scientist since him has used his direct research and mention of other's research as references. if you read the whole book at the URL I listed (and I recommend that), you will get the sense of the scope of his work, and almost all of the things you hear from voice teachers today will be referenced in one manner or another. He includes excellent diagrams, eg., the section describing medial compression in the context of adduction. Some things that he mentioned as possible, for example, the effect of narrowing of the epilaryngeal collar to produce 'vocal twang' (aka 'Singers Formant'), have been incorporated as part of the standard model used by voice scientists.

One thing that Vennard does not include in his section on Resonance is the nonlinear considerations which have been raised in the last 15 years by Titze and others.

I hope this helps.

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I am reading the book - the pages that are free anyway - it is very well written. I signed up for google books - The "Get this Book" option is blacked out so I'm not sure how to buy it from Google Books. Any way to download this book? Or is it the physical copy only? (funny how I don't even buy CD's any more. everything is a download)

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Hey Guys,

While we are on the Soft Palate topic, does anyone know why some of the bel canto teachers (Frisell and some others) say a low Soft Palate is needed for a correct classical sound?

Cheers,

Vlad

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Hey Guys,

While we are on the Soft Palate topic, does anyone know why some of the bel canto teachers (Frisell and some others) say a low Soft Palate is needed for a correct classical sound?

Vlad: To help with this discussion, pleas cite a particular source in context.

Also, we will try to keep in mind that the term 'correct' is subjective... its about preference. I know very many teachers that prefer the tone quality produced with a partially-lowered soft palate for some notes in some voice types.

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Steven, thank you for your question.

Some of the sources I am refering to are:

Anthony Frisell (The Tenor Voice): "The soft palate should be lowered, not raised, as is generally believed, and moved downward and forward, in the direction of the mouth cavity"

Alan Greene (The New Voice): "The uvula, the pillars of the fauces and the soft palate have a direct and immediate influence upon each other...If the uvula and soft palate rise, the pillars of the fauces come closer together and the nasal pharynx becomes either partially or completely blocked, thus reducing the resonance of the sound ether partuially or completely"

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Steven, thank you for your question.

Some of the sources I am refering to are:

Anthony Frisell (The Tenor Voice): "The soft palate should be lowered, not raised, as is generally believed, and moved downward and forward, in the direction of the mouth cavity"

Alan Greene (The New Voice): "The uvula, the pillars of the fauces and the soft palate have a direct and immediate influence upon each other...If the uvula and soft palate rise, the pillars of the fauces come closer together and the nasal pharynx becomes either partially or completely blocked, thus reducing the resonance of the sound ether partially or completely"

PopVlad: I am going to have to get my hands on a copy of 'The Tenor Voice', just so I can get the paragraphs immediately above and below the comment. As it stands, that described motion guarantees that the singer will be singing nasal vowels. Perhaps that is what Frisell is discussing.

As to Mr. Greene... I have no argument with most of what you quote. Raising the soft palate and uvula does stretch the pillars of the fauces, and they do come closer together when that motion is made... how much depends on the dimension of the particular person's throat tissues. Its also true that the nasal pharynx becomes partially or completely blocked.... that is a description of the shutting of the velopharyngeal port. However, the comment about this motion 'reducing the resonance of the sound either partially or completely' cannot be taken literally, or out of context. What resonance? All resonance? Certainly not the resonance due to pharyngeal and buccal spaces. Likewise for singer's formant or 'twang'.

I conclude from the unequivocal nature of the quote that the scope of what is being described to as 'the resonance' had already been set by Greene in a previous section, and I am guessing that the context is about 'head' or 'nasal' resonance, or perhaps even certain sorts of resonance sensations. I will have to wait and see what those are before I comment further.

Even with that analysis, I still think that these authors have certain kinds of vocal tone quality in mind as 'appropriate' for certain kinds of singing. They are certainly entitled to do that. However, once the soft palate lowers to the point that the velopharyngeal port is open about 50 sq mm, (that is the area of an opening 10 mm by 5 mm, for example) the tone quality will become partially nasal, and progressively more so as the soft palate is further lowered.

I hope this helps,

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Hey Guys,

While we are on the Soft Palate topic, does anyone know why some of the bel canto teachers (Frisell and some others) say a low Soft Palate is needed for a correct classical sound?

Cheers,

Vlad

vlad, he (frisell) explains it more in his blog....i see why he says that, but hard to explain....i'm moving over to his method...that book was made for me.

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