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First of all, Hiya there. My name is Emo (short of Emanuil), 25, and I'm from Bulgaria in Eastern Europe :)

Second, I apologize if my English on this message board is faulty sometimes; I'm Eastern European living at home in Eastern Europe, so my knowledge of the language comes from being an English major at the local university and sometimes taking part in foreign message boards. My primary vocation and interest is creative writing, singing an ever closer second; and I have to say, the level of tutelage in both these in my country is terr-rubb-uhl. That's why I'm absolutely delighted to have come across this message board full of people so articulately aware of what they're trying to convey. (Some of you who have experience with message boards know how rare this is.) I hope my stay here will be just as stimulating as I'm given to believe reading your discussions.

I took a serious interest in singing at the start of 2009 and I started lessons in the late spring of the same year. Stopped a couple of months after because I couldn't afford it; and have been going at it alone ever since. One outstanding thing about my lessons was the guy had a vague notion of developing a student's head voice as something good. (I'll write below why it was outstanding.) He had no notion of support, however, and I always felt uneasy when he asked me to step up the volume; I knew I needed more support for that but I knew it would be pointless asking him. Anyway, it turned out I had good groundwork for developing my head voice, since it wasn’t nearly as weak as some other guys’ falsettos. It was rattley and strained, but it didn’t sound like a reed flute. When I stopped having lessons I worked a lot on that head voice, mostly thrashing about for the first year; my own body awareness, I believe, saved me from blowing my voice, because around the passaggio I still pulled chest – my natural voice is a thick baritone, kinda like Coverdale’s – and whenever I felt that I would introduce some rasp which somehow alleviated my strain, and also it turned out I learned correct tongue and soft palate posture (also safe rasp it would seem) solely by monitoring sensations.

During the next year I came across first Brett Manning’s instructional tapes/videos, then abandoned them for some Bel Canto/Classical manuals since I felt they had more heft in terms of success ratio and soundness of explanation. (Not that Manning’s weren’t sound actually, but about them there was an amount of commercial hype I found off-putting.) In a book called Securing the Bass, Bass-Baritone and Baritone Voice, published by Oxford University Press, whose author was Richard Miller, one of last century’s most celebrated classical voice teachers and scientists, I found something rather enlightening.

He delineates, simply yet appealingly, three types of voice production. Most of you might know about them and I apologize if this is old news, but it rather changed the way I practice. The first one is the speaking voice, the second – the “calling” or “shouting” voice, and the third is the voice we use when imitating our grandmothers or when we scream in hysterics. What was more interesting to me were the ranges in which these three fall.

The speaking voice is from the bottom of one’s range up to D4 if he’s a very high tenor, C#4-C4 if he’s a lower, more thick kind of tenor. For baritones the upper limit is B3, down to Ab3 for bass-baritones. (After testing, it turned out I lie on the B3-C4 line; obviously my singing voice had gone up somewhat after that first year of halting self-tuitition.)

The shouting voice occupies a major third upwards from the speaking threshold. Above that is the screaming/girl voice. Now, these visualizations, of course, pertain only to untrained voices. What I found enlightening about it is that an untrained voice **should not** try and sing above the speaking threshold without register change/vowel modification/change in breath pressure/realigning the resonator tract. In effect, Miller told me that my B3s/C4s should already be mixed with head voice.

This helped me immensely. I did regularly feel strain beginning just around these pitches before I learned about the speaking/shouting threshold. It turned out I was shouting quite a bit that first year. But since I found it difficult and irritating to start low and constantly flip and break as I tried to get into the head-space around C4, I intuitively started the top-down approach. My head voice above G4 was somewhat well established so I found it easier to scale down from there. Now Miller probably wouldn’t have agreed but I didn’t have the self-discipline then to first master the onset and support exercises in the speaking range, then with their help grow from low to high. I do have more discipline now though and have a fairly firm grip on support and onset; now I spend a lot of time strengthening my middle voice, which now encompasses A3-F4 (yes, I learned to bring the head element even lower), if still somewhat shakily in the lower end. I do both high notes (up to F#5) and low (down to F#2) but whenever I do I find that the coordination that I establish in the middle voice takes very good care of both the high and low register. In effect, If I’ve established my middle voice well for the day, Soundgardenish highs and Sinatra lows are much easier.

A key element in going from low to high, I found out, is gradually opening the mouth – not wider really, but dropping the jaw down and tucking it in instead of jutting it out. It relieves pressure in my lips and tongue as I ascend, and that helps the sound a lot.

I was wondering if anyone else has had experience with the “developing the voice from the middle” approach and with bringing the head element this low. What are your thoughts on this? 

P.S. And I’m extremely grateful to anyone who got to the end of these ramblings :)

P.P.S. Oh, yeah, I forgot about the anecdote! Just for you guys to get a taste of what vocal coaching is about in Bulgaria.

A couple of months ago I decided to go auditon for the first season of Bulgarian X-Factor. There are two off-camera auditions before they let you to big stage and the judges. I passed the first round of off-camera auditions. In the second round I got in a room with one of the producers and THE most acclaimed vocal coach in the country. She was the vocal instructor of numerous Music Idol (our version of AI) finalists and even of one winner and one second-placed contestant. She taught at the National Music Academy and at our most high-profile private University. I sang You Keep on Moving by Deep Purple, and put some D5s at the end of one phrase to spice it up. The song itself has its fair share of B4s and C5s.

After I stopped she asked me, "Now didn't your throat hurt?" I said, "No, I didn't feel a thing." She said, offhandedly, "Well, that's not your voice then, it's some sort of mix." I was sort of stupefied so I didn't say anything. They didn't let me through, but maybe it wasn't my voice, it was my unwillingness to fill out a heart-rending personal story in the Contestant Form...

So that's why it was outstanding that my first (and last) vocal coach tried to develop my head voice. It seems that this simply isn't done in Bulgaria, not for guys, at least. In TV singing competitions here guys rarely go beyond A4 at the outside.

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Actually, I tried it because I'm basically self-taught and I wanted to make a comparison. The prize-dog aspect of these shows doesn't really appeal to me and I don't know if I would've been able to "get into it" if I had gone through :)

Anyway, the anecdote is actually a confirmation of why in Bulgaria it's actually better to receive some sound advice and then try and learn with the help of communities such as this one rather than go to a vocal teacher.

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First of all, Hiya there. My name is Emo (short of Emanuil), 25, and I'm from Bulgaria in Eastern Europe :)

Second, I apologize if my English on this message board is faulty sometimes; I'm Eastern European living at home in Eastern Europe, so my knowledge of the language comes from being an English major at the local university and sometimes taking part in foreign message boards. My primary vocation and interest is creative writing, singing an ever closer second; and I have to say, the level of tutelage in both these in my country is terr-rubb-uhl. That's why I'm absolutely delighted to have come across this message board full of people so articulately aware of what they're trying to convey. (Some of you who have experience with message boards know how rare this is.) I hope my stay here will be just as stimulating as I'm given to believe reading your discussions.

I took a serious interest in singing at the start of 2009 and I started lessons in the late spring of the same year. Stopped a couple of months after because I couldn't afford it; and have been going at it alone ever since. One outstanding thing about my lessons was the guy had a vague notion of developing a student's head voice as something good. (I'll write below why it was outstanding.) He had no notion of support, however, and I always felt uneasy when he asked me to step up the volume; I knew I needed more support for that but I knew it would be pointless asking him. Anyway, it turned out I had good groundwork for developing my head voice, since it wasn’t nearly as weak as some other guys’ falsettos. It was rattley and strained, but it didn’t sound like a reed flute. When I stopped having lessons I worked a lot on that head voice, mostly thrashing about for the first year; my own body awareness, I believe, saved me from blowing my voice, because around the passaggio I still pulled chest – my natural voice is a thick baritone, kinda like Coverdale’s – and whenever I felt that I would introduce some rasp which somehow alleviated my strain, and also it turned out I learned correct tongue and soft palate posture (also safe rasp it would seem) solely by monitoring sensations.

During the next year I came across first Brett Manning’s instructional tapes/videos, then abandoned them for some Bel Canto/Classical manuals since I felt they had more heft in terms of success ratio and soundness of explanation. (Not that Manning’s weren’t sound actually, but about them there was an amount of commercial hype I found off-putting.) In a book called Securing the Bass, Bass-Baritone and Baritone Voice, published by Oxford University Press, whose author was Richard Miller, one of last century’s most celebrated classical voice teachers and scientists, I found something rather enlightening.

He delineates, simply yet appealingly, three types of voice production. Most of you might know about them and I apologize if this is old news, but it rather changed the way I practice. The first one is the speaking voice, the second – the “calling” or “shouting” voice, and the third is the voice we use when imitating our grandmothers or when we scream in hysterics. What was more interesting to me were the ranges in which these three fall.

The speaking voice is from the bottom of one’s range up to D4 if he’s a very high tenor, C#4-C4 if he’s a lower, more thick kind of tenor. For baritones the upper limit is B3, down to Ab3 for bass-baritones. (After testing, it turned out I lie on the B3-C4 line; obviously my singing voice had gone up somewhat after that first year of halting self-tuitition.)

The shouting voice occupies a major third upwards from the speaking threshold. Above that is the screaming/girl voice. Now, these visualizations, of course, pertain only to untrained voices. What I found enlightening about it is that an untrained voice **should not** try and sing above the speaking threshold without register change/vowel modification/change in breath pressure/realigning the resonator tract. In effect, Miller told me that my B3s/C4s should already be mixed with head voice.

This helped me immensely. I did regularly feel strain beginning just around these pitches before I learned about the speaking/shouting threshold. It turned out I was shouting quite a bit that first year. But since I found it difficult and irritating to start low and constantly flip and break as I tried to get into the head-space around C4, I intuitively started the top-down approach. My head voice above G4 was somewhat well established so I found it easier to scale down from there. Now Miller probably wouldn’t have agreed but I didn’t have the self-discipline then to first master the onset and support exercises in the speaking range, then with their help grow from low to high. I do have more discipline now though and have a fairly firm grip on support and onset; now I spend a lot of time strengthening my middle voice, which now encompasses A3-F4 (yes, I learned to bring the head element even lower), if still somewhat shakily in the lower end. I do both high notes (up to F#5) and low (down to F#2) but whenever I do I find that the coordination that I establish in the middle voice takes very good care of both the high and low register. In effect, If I’ve established my middle voice well for the day, Soundgardenish highs and Sinatra lows are much easier.

A key element in going from low to high, I found out, is gradually opening the mouth – not wider really, but dropping the jaw down and tucking it in instead of jutting it out. It relieves pressure in my lips and tongue as I ascend, and that helps the sound a lot.

I was wondering if anyone else has had experience with the “developing the voice from the middle” approach and with bringing the head element this low. What are your thoughts on this? 

P.S. And I’m extremely grateful to anyone who got to the end of these ramblings :)

P.P.S. Oh, yeah, I forgot about the anecdote! Just for you guys to get a taste of what vocal coaching is about in Bulgaria.

A couple of months ago I decided to go auditon for the first season of Bulgarian X-Factor. There are two off-camera auditions before they let you to big stage and the judges. I passed the first round of off-camera auditions. In the second round I got in a room with one of the producers and THE most acclaimed vocal coach in the country. She was the vocal instructor of numerous Music Idol (our version of AI) finalists and even of one winner and one second-placed contestant. She taught at the National Music Academy and at our most high-profile private University. I sang You Keep on Moving by Deep Purple, and put some D5s at the end of one phrase to spice it up. The song itself has its fair share of B4s and C5s.

After I stopped she asked me, "Now didn't your throat hurt?" I said, "No, I didn't feel a thing." She said, offhandedly, "Well, that's not your voice then, it's some sort of mix." I was sort of stupefied so I didn't say anything. They didn't let me through, but maybe it wasn't my voice, it was my unwillingness to fill out a heart-rending personal story in the Contestant Form...

So that's why it was outstanding that my first (and last) vocal coach tried to develop my head voice. It seems that this simply isn't done in Bulgaria, not for guys, at least. In TV singing competitions here guys rarely go beyond A4 at the outside.

although i'm a bit sidetracked till i resolve my vocal issues, i am a big proponent of working from falsetto (top) down (rather than up) phonation and developing a strong, resonant, head voice as low as i can go and minimizing thick fold phonation.

this is a method i have bought into having read a book by anthony frisell.

i've spent too many years singing thick-folded, reaching up, rather than involving and recuiting more head voice into my singing.

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