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Huge problem sustaining a clean straight note...please help?!!

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Riverboy
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I had a problem with my vocal cords that I endured for years, but an wonderful voice doc finally found and solved the problem and now my singing is moving forward. BUT...I cannot sing clean, straight notes and my notes with vibrato are extremely shaky. The problem is far worse in my chest voice than head voice. I know we are all after good cord closure, but I think I close my cords TOO tightly. I do not have finesse. They slam shut reather than easing closed gently and smoothly.

I have a pretty strong head voice and seem to be doing well with connecting registers. I have worked quite a bit with various pharyngeal and edge closure exercises and feel pretty good about where my voice is going....BUT...I have developed this big problem. I believe that my speaking voice may be more of the problem than my singing, but I cannot say for sure. I have noticed that when I speak, in addition to being loud, I tend to hold my breath quite a bit and over-compress like crazy. I believe I developed this habit over several years because of the problem I had. I would go hoarse very quickly and I believe I compensated by speaking louder and louder to get my cords to stay closed. Now that my cords are healthy, these bad habits have stuck. I cannot say absolutely this is the cause, but maybe?

Anyway, I am going to a SLS voice coach locally and I think she is very good. She has been around for many years and is making good progress with helping me to relax and sing more easily. But, she doesn't seem to have a lot of experience with my problem. Online, Per Bristow is the only teacher I have found that mentions my problem and actually states that it is very common...which I am glad to hear. He suggests that it mostly occurs in males (we probably blast too hard) and that usually singing breathy is difficult. Sure enough, I have a very difficult time singing breathy. So, I have tried to do breathy sirens and starting breathy and gradually adding more bite (closure) and while I feel I am making a little progress it is very slow. When I do staccato exercises (creaky door etc), they make everything worse...I get more and more scratchiness. But, I am having a little success by modifying all my exercises by starting them airy and easing into the consonant or vowel, even those that are supposed to be staccato. The worst vowel of all...BY FAR...is aay. Nay nay nays are ridiculous. They are shaky as heck and the more I do them, the scratchier I get...even when doing them at low volume. A naked aay vowel in chest voice is the worst. My vibrato on aay sounds like a machine gun.

I am hoping someone has had success in helping with this sort of problem and might have some techniques or exercises that may help accelerate improvement. I am working to calm down my speaking voice and am sure this will help, but it is brutal to try to change how one talks. When I finally lick this problem I really think I will soar! So please...HELP ME???

Thanks so much,

Nick

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nick, i'm no expert, but i suffer from a similar affliction. unless i'm wrong, i don't think stacatto exercises are the way to go, (nays, gugs, gugs, all that) is to improve adduction strength and coordination.) seems like you've got enough of that going.

since fold closure isn't your issue, perhaps hard, glottal onsets are along with breath support..

you are probably banging them and squeezing them together too hard, which can lead to nodules and polyps. have you tried gentle onset exercises? adding the "h" to get more of an aspirate onset going? working on lightening up the onsets. also, i learned recently that breath suppost plays a big role in preventing squeezing too hard.

then it becomes a matter of retraining. i'd say work on onset exercises, gentle onsets (steve fraser mentioned this once ) on the "eh" vowel. the good old "ng" or "hung" sirens will prevent sqeezing too much too.

i'm sure a lot of other guys have more ideas too.

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Thank you very much...this is exactly the sort of thing I am looking for and if more would respond with other things to try it would be fantastic. I have definitely tried to add h's to everything and to modify hard g's and such into much gentler versions and while those things help some, I am just not making much progress. It may simply be that years worth of hard squeezing may take a long time to modify. But, you know how it goes, sometimes there is that one tip...that one exercise...that one approach that makes the difference, so your input is very appreciated. I will definitely try a lot of soft ng's and see if that helps. I am not familiar with the 'hung' siren. Do you is it simply an ng siren but with the hu at the beginning for an airy start?

Other ideas are totally appreciated :)

Nick

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I have the same problem. If I had to guess from my training on other instruments, I'd say that it might be a muscle thing: various muscles aren't strong and/or trained enough to hold a steady note over any length of time. I can hold out a note decently when singing with distortion, but perhaps the distortion is just masking the pitch shifting and unintentional vowel modification that I'm doing.

What I do is to sing plugging one ear (to hear myself better) and work on holding a note (any note) with no vibrato. Sometimes I start to clench up, like brakes getting locked when they're slammed on, but I do seem to be making progress.

I'm still thinking about why this happens, and maybe part of it is not providing steady support. This is just a guess, though. Good luck to all of us struggling with holding out notes.

:D

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At first I thought it must have to do with support, but I have no conclusively ruled it out. If I blow and F (totally airy/no sound)...it is completely consistent. If I blow a Z (very airy/slight cord closure)...almost completely consistent. A F/W mix...same thing. True falsetto (no cord closure)...completely consistent. Head voice (cords are closed but more delicately than in chest)...relatively consistent. Easier vowels like uhh and ahh...not totally bad, but not great. Aays and Aaas...totally suck. I have the exact same intermittent slamming on of the brakes and it is clear to me that it is simply the vocal cords grabbing. They catch and release, catch and release in a random and unfortunately, very unpleasing amateurish sort of way. Clenching up is another very good description. I have done a lot of exercises from low to high larynx and my voice coach says I am doing things generally quite correctly, in her opinion. I really think it is 'simply' a matter of retraining and softening the onset of the cord closure, but that is much easier said than done. These catchy, grabby cords are a tough one to make progress on. The ideas so far are good, though, and will work them all!

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