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jonpall
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Hi,

My new vocal coach tells the students, me included, to smile much more than we're currently doing. She says that it helps the twang and just makes singing easier. Now, I'm not used to overdoing the smile, so first when I tried it, I felt constriction in my throat. I'm used to "yawning" more when I sing, to open my throat a bit and smiling makes it slightly difficult. But after experimenting with it a bit, it suddenly made singing much easier and I could sing tough Sam Cooke songs like "Bring it on home" (lots of A4s) with less support effort than before.

So what's your take/experience with smiling when singing?

I know that it makes the sound colour lighter and some vocal coaches like it and others don't. Comments?

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I guess what I'm curious about is - is it really NECESSARY to smile on those tenor notes? I mean, it lightens the sound colour, but so does twang. I just wonder if it lightens the sound colour TOO much for my taste. But then again, perhaps it makes some of those high tenor notes slightly easier? Not sure. Hmmmm...

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Hi,

My new vocal coach tells the students, me included, to smile much more than we're currently doing. She says that it helps the twang and just makes singing easier. Now, I'm not used to overdoing the smile, so first when I tried it, I felt constriction in my throat. I'm used to "yawning" more when I sing, to open my throat a bit and smiling makes it slightly difficult. But after experimenting with it a bit, it suddenly made singing much easier and I could sing tough Sam Cooke songs like "Bring it on home" (lots of A4s) with less support effort than before.

So what's your take/experience with smiling when singing?

I know that it makes the sound colour lighter and some vocal coaches like it and others don't. Comments?

Acoustically, smiling shortens the vocal tract, raising all the resonances (especially R1 and R2), which is what you have expressed as 'lightening'. Its is way of doing a vowel-tuning, or vowel-modification, without raising the larynx. Its used by _very_ many higher voiced singers in their upper ranges, especially when combined with jaw drop, which raises the first resonance (R1) an additional amount. When you do them both and use something like a schwa or Uh, the notes above High C will take on a particularly satisfying and easy quality... and you will look pretty good too!

You'll have to experiment to find exactly the right amount of both motions to do. I think, smile first, drop jaw second for the very high range.

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Look back at any post of mine for suggestions on resonating higher notes and you will find I recommended smiling. Something I learned from Graham Hewitt. That muscles that are used in smiling also lift the soft palate. I have been doing it so long I find it easier than the yawn thingy.

There is a variation of it that I like to call the Lilli Lift, which involves lifting the cheek muscles, which also results in a kind of smile. I have seen Ronnie Jame Dio do this.

Please, watch his face closely as he sings. His cheekbones and his nose lift up.

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Yeah, that's a cool clip, Ron. And yes, slightly raising the cheek bones is probably a better idea than a full blow smile. In any case I'm going to experiment more with this.

But Steven, would you say that smiling takes away lower frequencies? Or can you use it to have both a satisfying twang sound, plus some low overtones and thickness so it doesn't become TOO bright and ducky sounding? If so, how would you do it? My guess is raising the soft palate, but what do you think?

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One thing I'd like to interject here is that I've found smiling/lifting the cheek bones applies better to notes across or over the passaggio - sort of unifies the voice.

However, notes below the passaggio , when sung with the manic clown grin (as I call it), make the sound unnatural - twangy and open in a bad way.

I guess the amount of cheek raising or smiling is the key here.

Tim "Ripper" Owens is a fine example... the guy has it even when he speaks, it's a natural position for him and it's not too pronounced,

he just has naturally "raised cheek bones".

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Yeah, that's a cool clip, Ron. And yes, slightly raising the cheek bones is probably a better idea than a full blow smile. In any case I'm going to experiment more with this.

But Steven, would you say that smiling takes away lower frequencies? Or can you use it to have both a satisfying twang sound, plus some low overtones and thickness so it doesn't become TOO bright and ducky sounding? If so, how would you do it? My guess is raising the soft palate, but what do you think?

Ron, jonpall: Just a side comment first. The cheek bones cannot be raised at all, unless the head is tilted back :) I think what you mean is that the muscular structure of the face is raised, That motion changes the internal space of the mouth and upper throat, which re-configures the vocal tract resonances... they move. When they have moved to better alignment with the harmonics, the tone quality changes, getting better.

Or, in the terminology of this thread, 'lifting the cheekbones' causes a beneficial vowel modification!

jonpall: The exact amount of resonance frequency motion depends on the position of the jaw. For example, when the jaw is nearly shut, F1 is its lowest for any vowel. If the smile is added without changing jaw position, All the resonances rise as the vocal tract is shortened by the smile. This can, if the resonances were too low, raise them so that they match harmonics, in which case the voice will become more resonant. In this case, the smile improves the vowel, making it more resonant for the particular note.

However, if the resonances were aligned pretty well, further smiling will raise them higher, lessenening the effect of the alignment of harmonics with the resonances, and reducing vocal power.

That all happens without moving the jaw. However, we can move the jaw, to create a larger mouth opening. We will be discussing this in greater detail later, but its relevent for your question that at the mouth, the vocal tract displays what is called the 'end effect' of the resonance tube... like the flair on the end of a brass instrument, sax or clarinet. The presence of this wider end opening affects the way the power of the voice radiates into the open air, and enlarging the opening also raises the 1st vowel resonance much more than it raises the 2nd.

This means that the spacing between the R1( first resonance) and the R2 (2nd resonance) will change as the jaw is dropped, moving R1 up while R2 stays pretty constant. This is a very effective technique to use in the rising scale to keep R1 well-aligned with a lower harmonic, so that F1 is stong.

The combination of the smile, and the drop of the jaw in the rising scale is a popular technique for maintaining a strong F1. Of course, both motions have limits, but for a significant part of the range, the combination works quite well as a resonance-tuning technique.

I hope this was helpful. Great question.

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Yes, Steve, I meant to say cheek muscles, not cheek bones.

And Thanos, I agree, the degree of smile would depend on the place in the range. Down low, I let the larynx ride low, the jaw drops a little, I take my foot off the gas, so to speak, don't have to smile so much.

Up high, I smile just a little, keep some dropped jaw, let the larynx do what it's going to do, unless I want the certain effect of holding the larynx down on a note which, to me, sounds like I am covered and muffled.

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You say it's a popular technique, which makes it sound that it's not the ONLY good technique to achieve the same thing. Are there other methods that do the same thing, then?

jonpall: Yes, Raising the larynx shortens the vocal tract and raises R1 (and R2), pretty much the same as the smiling move does. Like the smile, it moves all the other resonances too, to higher frequencies.

What raising the larynx does not do is to narrow the space between R1 and R2 like dropping the jaw does. For that reason, more or less smile, or more or less raising/lowering the larynx can also combined with repositioning of the jaw (more or less open, as needed,) to fine-tune the resonances to the exact places that give the tone quality desired by the artist. Each combination of positionings results in a different resonance result.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm noticing that one of my favorite singers, Steven Tyler, lifts his cheek muscles all the times for high notes. He also allows his jaw to drop down more for Ehs and Ohs and less for Is and Os (i.e. the more open the vowel, the more dropped the jaw) - which also means that he doesn't have a uniformed volume - i.e. in cvt speak, some words are in curbing and some in overdrive. Here's an example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-h2JoBj_d_Q

The song is "Monkey on my back" and Aerosmith is playing unplugged. Pretty cool as you can hear and see the details in Steven's voice pretty well here. I'm going to experiment with these techniques and see what happens. Here are other interesting articles about raised cheeks:

http://www.singwise.com/cgi-bin/main.pl?section=articles&doc=VocalTractShaping

http://www.voiceteacher.com/repertoire.html

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jon, another singer that tends to do this is the guy that replaced lou gramm, kelly hansen.

it's very apparant here throughout the whole song. boy, to do this song sitting down, had to be tougher than standing i would think.

he has a very similar facial shape too, long, narrow face, large mouth, like tyler.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycXPv3LYHLA&feature=feedf

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Another example of a guy who DOESN'T use the cheek lift that much - Michael Bolton, live:

...actually, both Michael and Arnel DO use it SOMETIMES, but they seem to use it more as an occasional effect, depending on the feel of the song, rather than all the time. Steven Tyler, however, seems to use it pretty much all the time once he's past his passagio (or close by).

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you know this brings up a good point...maybe certain face shapes show it less?

also, i'm beginning to notice some singers have like a built-in deep underlying "uh" tone to their vocals...ever notice that?

bolton has it, gramm had it bigtime in his earlier years, that gave them a rich, thick, operatic sounding timbre.

do you folks know what i mean? it's hard to explain...

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Interesting. "Inward smile" was the first thing my very first singing teacher told me to do (and pretty much the only thing), basically smile inside your mouth behind your top lip. I always thought 'the bite' in CVT was kind of similar to this, though engaging the cheek muscles does seem to add a bit more brightness and I feel like it helps me transition to head voice better.

My problem is that adding more smile also seems to tighten up my larynx, I'm guessing because it's being drawn upwards? I get worn out a lot faster I find. Maybe I'm just bad at smiling without tension or something.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I read this thread a while ago and I just realized why smiling and a slight widening of the muscles around the mouth has helped my tone and high note access (For pop and rock styles anyways). Smiling in conjunction with lowering the jaw helps me maintain the bright and light (for me, desirable) sound that I like to use around the passagio. If I don't smile and also drop the jaw, I end up with a mushy, woofy sound which I was using for a while because I was afraid that I would be splatting the vowel if I spread too much.

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