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Getting full voice in my higher range.

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Robert Lunte
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Ah yes, the old debate... well, first you have to learn to bridge into the head voice, then you have to learn to capture a 2000-4000 Khz frequency by twanging. This isnt the only way to get full voice, but it sure as heck is a great solution. Let me know if you have any questions and I can explain more.

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Hey Robert & Hilary,

Great to find you both again.

I have a question that you may be able to answer; the last few months I've started using a sort of pressed (small, tight sounding) voice in my upper range. It doesn't sound great (very little resonance at all) it just makes hitting the notes above my "break" easier. I think I'm clamping my throat (extrinsic muscles) to reduce the pressure on the folds.

I got into using it when I was doing a long series of 4 hour gigs, after 2 or 3 weeks it just started seeming easier to do it this way. Now I'm trying to get rid of it by going back to basics. I've managed to do this for most gigs but as the demand increases, usually by the 3rd or 4th gig of the week, I tend to fall back into it.

I'll record it and put a link up soon but any advice in the meantime would be appreciated.

Cheers, dave.

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Dave,

If I understand your post, you'd like to get away from the pressed sound. Both Robert and Hilary are right: Its about getting into proper head voice.

Just as an FYI, for many years as a younger singer, I had this same situation: small, tight sound up top, pressed. I also had quite a bit of extrinsic tension, and bigtime tension in the tongue. Few teachers knew what to do with my particular situation, so my progress was slow. I did, however, get some clues here and there that I was able to assemble into a coherent approach that worked for me, and which I have subsequently learned is generally effective for those in a similar situation.

It starts with understanding that free, powerful, resonant, sustainable (for both a gig and a career) singing is based on a balance between breath energy (that is, the forces that tend to push air out of you) and breath resistance that occurs during phonation. The key point is this: for reasons of survival, your ability to exhale is very powerful, but the muscles in the larynx which are involved in phonation are very small and not powerful. If the breath energy is too strong, and allowed to be full-force on the muscles of the larynx, the muscles in the larynx overreact, act stiffly, and they cannot coordinate freely.

With that principle in mind, the approach that worked for me, and which I recommend to you, is to practice singing with less breath pressure. Examine your singing technique for things that cause air to get pumped out: falling chest, collapsing ribs & strong abdominal muscle contraction are the first places I would look, especially at the beginning of a note.

As an exercise, try to keep your chest fairly high, ribs expanded and, resisting the temptation to 'press up' from below, start a note clearly and softly in your middle range, on whatever vowel you choose. FYI, this is called an onset exercise in the lingo of singing teachers. Onset means 'starting', in other words, an exercise about starting the notes. The overall exhalation effort should feel like you are trying to fog eyeglasses as if you were going to clean them.

I think if you play around with this a bit, you will find that you can make a vocal tone with very little effort, though not quite at performance volumes at the moment. Once you have internalized what this level of phonation feels like, you can sing multi-note phrases sustaining the approach.

When you do this, I believe you will notice some new things happening in your voice as you approach your upper middle voice, whatever notes those may be: Your voice will make a subtle adjustment that allows the notes to be fairly firm, but slightly different, not forced. I find that this is particularly noticable in my own voice when I do a siren or slide... I can feel the sensations change as I approach and go over the 'Bridge' Robert mentions. On the top side of it, while the voice is still quite powerful, the sensations of the head voice are unique to that area.

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All,

Though I have not quite determined the best place to put these things yet (I am open to suggestions), I have posted a very short video (all of 6 seconds) which can be found on the site by searching for a video with the keyword 'Spectragraph'. If I'd had the option, I would have posted this picture as a JPG. Robert, perhaps you can give me a clue about the best way to do this.

Once it starts to play ( it is not animated) just pause it so you can examine it.

What I did to create this was to do an audio capture of Robert's demo of the hum and the buzz with my audio studio software, then, I put the 'hum' in the left track, and the 'buzz' on the right, and fed them simultaneously to my spectragraphic software. It plotted the harmonics of the hum in blue, and the buzz in white. Harmonics in this picture are the upward spikes.

On this picture, left=low frequencies, right=high. Up= greater intensity, down=lesser intensity. The frequency spectrum (left to right) is 0 to 5000 cycles per second.

What this image shows is the profound difference in the intensity of the overtones in the two sounds. The intensity of the hum is only greater on the very lowest harmonic, the fundamental, and one other in the middle. Everywhere else, the buzz harmonics are more intense.

Enjoy!

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I'm blessed with great breathing technique and strength being a tubist. I find that when I lay on the ground and warm-up my body is extremely relaxed and I can hear that twanging frequency better above my fundamental pitch. All those things Robert talks about have always just happened for me when I lay on the ground and sing. I used to struggle year after year. Recently I started this laying down trick and everything just came together. Turns out I had a much more gifted instrument than I thought. It seems we all try to get the same things to happen, but we all stumble upon it different ways...

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Well Steve I think that is a great explanation for Dave and Tubagod has a point too in the body being relaxed. You don't need to lie down though....just sit in a comfortable chair. You can't really expand your breath lying on the floor. Back to Steve...yes I would agree breath may be an issue here and relaxation for Dave. If we revert to tones again for a minute.....if you breathe fully in, belly out and don't let the breath rise right up into the high chest area then make a tone that feels like it's coming from inside your body as deep as you can.....breathe out as you make the tone...you should notice your throat feeling very easy and relaxed with this. The higher tone you go as you alter the tone for the higher range you should still feel an "easyness". Constricting your throat will damage it long term. Breath, relaxation & resonance is what I think you need more of Dave. Try what Steve suggests and try my way too. Let us know how you get on? love Hilary

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I like to use the good old 4 step plan

1. Work on Twang, and finding different degrees of it

2. Work on Chest [made easier by 1]

3. Work on Head

4. Start practising a blend of the 2 :>

Most people have trouble to get higher because either they sing unaproximated, their chest voice can't go high enough, their headvoice is weak, maybe falsetto, ...

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I like to use the good old 4 step plan

1. Work on Twang, and finding different degrees of it

2. Work on Chest [made easier by 1]

3. Work on Head

4. Start practising a blend of the 2 :>

Most people have trouble to get higher because either they sing unaproximated, their chest voice can't go high enough, their headvoice is weak, maybe falsetto, ...

Ever wonder why working on Twang [1] helps the others [2 & 3], or what causes the Twang sound? :-)

Sometime next weekend I'd like to write a blog entry on twang. Perhaps you'd send me a little MP3 with a note sung 'non-twang', and 'with twang', on which I could do acoustic analysis?. The reason I ask... 'twang' is not a term much used in classical voice (bel canto or otherwise). There are, however, two terms that are very much used: 'Squillo' (Italian word: pronounced sqwee-lo) and 'Singers Formant'. This latter term was coined by J. Sundberg, a voice researcher in Scandanavia, to describe a set of high-frequency sounds, present in trained voices, that are perceived as aspects of vocal quality, but do not affect the perception of the vowel. The frequency range of these varies by voice type, and is especially important in male voices, less so in female.

If I have some 'twang' examples to work with (perhaps from you and others), to contrast with non-twang, then we can discuss this in terms of sound and not just terminology.

Let me know what you think.

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Oh I know what causes it and what effects it :>

I would explain it myself, but the genious called Ben once explained it so good to me that I just had to save it, and just give his :>

'When you tilt the epiglottis you change the shape of the vocal tract and it can also help the compression of the vocal cords'

That explanation you have given is pretty basic and doesn't explain the phenomenon adequately. I will explain for the benefit of all. I'll try and keep it simple but it's a pretty advanced physiological process. I would advise you to look at the following diagram:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Gray955.png Shows aryepiglottic sphincter/fold.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_arytenoid Shows the position of the oblique arytenoid muscles.

First of all the epiglottis is made up of cartilage and therefore something else must happen for any form of 'tilting' to occur.

Twang itself occurs due to narrowing the epilarynx (area above the vocal folds) via constriction of the aryepiglottic sphincter, or fold as it is referred to on the diagram. This occurs due to part of the oblique arytenoid muscles contracting (sometimes described as the separate muscle aryepiglotticus). Epiglottal tilting along with increased adduction of the vocal folds (oblique arytenoid muscles are part of the interarytenoid muscle group which adduct the vocal folds) results.

This narrowing creates an extra resonator leading to clustering of the third, fourth, and fifth formants and a higher amplitude of the vowel spectra at around 3.0 kHz and this is the characteristic 'singer's formant' or squillo that has been described here. Some people describe this as a bright brassy sound.

Using twang leads to the volume being perceived as louder for 2 reasons. Firstly, the increased vocal fold adduction, when coupled with increased breath pressure, leads to an increased amplitude of the sound an therefore an increase in the volume percieved by the individual. Secondly, the extra spectral boost corresponds with the resonant frequency of the external auditory meatus (the bit between the external and middle ear) making the perveived volume louder.

Not everyone is necesarily going to follow that. Don't worry if you don't. It's a reasonably advanced concept to get your head around. It's late too and I'm about to go to bed so perhaps I wasn't as articulate as I would normally be. I wanted to be thorough but if people want a much more simplified version let me know.

spectra is basically the different frequencies which make up sound

there is a boost at the 3kh range that occurs due to the change in the vocal tract

changes the resonation pocket, hence the boost, the ear conducts sound at the 3 kh frequency best,

so there is an increased perception of volume.

interarytenoid=a muscle group (they help with adduction)

one of the muscles that make up the group=obliqique arytenoid

and its the oblique arytenoid muscle that is affected in twang

As for the sound examples, I'll make them very soon for you, I just don't want my dad to nag right now :>

I'd like to note aswell that Singers Formant or Squillo are not equal to Twang, allthough the concept of twanging is an important element in finding Squillo.

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Getting full voice in the higher range comes from establishing good technique in the mid-range and learning how to sing through the passiagio effectively. Over time, this foundation will lead to beautiful, clear, solid and easily sung high notes (just listen to Joan Sutherland).

PS - oops, I thought this was a general discussion, not about a particular method. Sorry if I overstepped.

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Dave,

If I understand your post, you'd like to get away from the pressed sound. Both Robert and Hilary are right: Its about getting into proper head voice.

<...snip>.

Hey Steve (and Hilary),

Thanks for the answers. I'm working on your suggestions and will let you know how it goes.

You're correct about the breath pressure and extrinsic muscle-tension. For most of my career I've performed as a rock and soul shouter who worked exclusively in either loud chest voice or falsetto. I never really understood correct head-voice but do now. These days I'm enjoying the freedom to experiment vocally and am continuing to learn new things.

My vocal career spans 40+ years and I still work professionally 3 or 4 nights a week and am still setting and achieving goals as a vocalist. I'm what you might call; a modern vocalist in a pre-modern body.

I have much to be thankful for. :)

Cheers, Dave

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Elrathion,

I followed your description entirely, as I am well-versed in the anatomy and physiology of the larynx. I am conversant with the epilaryngeal tube narrowing you describe, and how that makes it a resonator when the lower pharynx is of sufficient diameter. I am familiar with the muscles of adduction, and how medial pressure can be varied in combination with breath energy to affect the closed quotient, subglottal pressure, etc.

In fact, you might find it interesting that I have my own hardcopy of Grays Anatomy, and use the online site quite often. I am also familiar with the drawings of Dr. Nester.

However, I do not yet get the exact distinction between twang and the resonances associated with the singer's formant based on the descriptions so far.

I look forward to your post a 'with twang' and 'without twang' example. When you do it, it would be especially useful if the voice did not go through a PA, since I want to avoid any EQ boost or attenuation in my acoustic analysis.

Thanks so much for your responses so far. :-) I think we are making progress.

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Elrathion,

I found your posts on exercises and examples of twang in the Resonance list. Thanks for posting those. Here are the audio spectrum analyses of your example:

First Image: with Twang. 2nd Image, without Twang.

Here is what I see, and some impressions about what I heard:

In terms of harmonic content of the sounds, a tone with 'Twang' contains strong harmonics above the range of the resonances which influence vowel perception. In the two samples above, the real differences become apparent at about 2KHz, or 2000 cycles per second, and continue up to 5Khz, and likely beyond that. (For those wanting to know how to know that, see the faint numbers on the very bottom of the images.. The scale starts at 0 on the left, and goes up to 5 on this display.

To my ear, the tone with 'Twang' has a much firmer adduction. Acoustically, though, Twang does not mean a strong singer's formant, but there is a mild one in this example 3 to 4 KHz range (it looks like a bit of boost has been applied in this area).

If your demonstration is characteristic of Twang as it occurs in other voices, then I think I am well on the way to knowing generally what 'Twang' is, and how it is produced by the singer. I can make 'Twang' and 'non-twang' sounds myself :-), and already incorporate both the tones in my own singing.

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Wow Steve I allready know I'm gonna enjoy each bit of writing from you.

That's exactly what twang accomplishes in the voice, better adduction and higher volume. If a classical voice teacher says "project" the sound, he often means twang more, cse a twanged sound carries beter. Ofcourse you can make twang and non twanged sounds yourself, everyone can. You can vary in degrees depending the type of sound you want aswell. It's an important principle to master in each singer's voice, and I think it's a really easy to learn w these sounds :P

And like I said Twang is an essential component of singers formant, but is not EQUAL to it. I'm not quite sure what you mean by saying that "it looks like a bit of boost has been applied in this area :>"

Anyway ask away if there's more you need, though it's quite obvious you're way more advanced then me, I'll try to answer though :>

Edit :

Since I misplaced the files for twang into the other topic, here they are :

"Ok Steve, here is some stuff for you

http://www.box.net/shared/hc22ejuizn Sounds you can make to train twang, and a little explanation

http://www.box.net/shared/r8nlny5sln A note with twang and a note lacking necc. twang

I'm not sure if this is what you wanted, but I hope it helps somewhat."

[Otherwise it's gonna be hard to understand what Steve was replying to :>]

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I'll try to record some of them tomorrow, so you can make more analysis, just tell me whatever you need.

I got some interesting stuff in a book I have too, with some pics, but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to scan and put in on the forum for copyright reasons :P

Some more interesting additions :

A)

Twang is generated by the shaping of the epiglottis to form the laryngeo-pharynx. The laryngeo-pharynx sits directly above the vocal folds, almost as far down the vocal tract as you can get...certainly miles (so I exaggerate) away from the nasal cavity, which for so many years has borne the brunt of all things vocally evil. Yes, Country and Western singers such as 'Tammy Wynnette' have perfected 'nasalised twang' but that does not mean that twang is soley a nasalised sound. In fact the culprit is often the 'soft palate'.

Australians, typically, have very lazy soft palates. Consequently much of our sound is directed through our nasal cavity. Thus, if a student is sounding nasally (notice I did not refer to the nasality as 'twangy') then I dare say his or her soft palate is in need of some instruction...a slow and arduous road for many students of voice.

Secondly, we do know that the fundamental of sung pitch is first tonally enhanced at the back of the throat, the pharynx. When the pharynx is tight and the soft palate is not lifting, the tone of any given note will appear 'thin and detoned'. To gain 'warmth and roundness' of tone, a student needs to access more space at the back of the throat through a widening of the pharyngeal wall and a lifting of the soft palate.

Finally, it is worth stating that it is fully possible to have a warm and rounded sound that is also employing active twang. Remember, twang is engaged before the tonal shaping of the subsequent vocal tract shapes.

Long live the Twang! :cool:

B)

As for a more detailed study

A Novel Treatment for Hypophonic Voice: Twang Therapy

Journal of Voice, Volume 21, Issue 3, Pages 294-299

L. Lombard, K. Steinhauer

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Elrathion,

Thanks for the explanations. I think our conversation on this topic is going to be very fruitful, at least as far as my learning of what seems to be some fairly common lingo around here :-)

You also mentioned

Thus, if a student is sounding nasally (notice I did not refer to the nasality as 'twangy') then I dare say his or her soft palate is in need of some instruction...a slow and arduous road for many students of voice.

I have some specific exercises, some of which are original, others gleaned from great voice teachers, on how to train the soft palate in a non-arduous way. Look for some of that over the next couple weeks.

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Checked myself on 4 vocal function exercises laying down opposed to standing up today, and my results were better laying down on all 4. Laying down times were 50 seconds, and standing ups around 40 ish...

Hey, tubagod: This difference likely means that you are letting your rib cage and/or sternum collapse during the note, and that extra air pressure (being driven by gravity :-) ) is putting your phonation just slightly favoring breathiness. I recommend trying the same exercise standing, but bent at the waist so that your torso is horizontal to the floor, face down. Put the clock to it and see whether it is closer to your prone, or erect time.

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I have some specific exercises, some of which are original, others gleaned from great voice teachers, on how to train the soft palate in a non-arduous way. Look for some of that over the next couple weeks.

I would be very interested in any tips you have on training the soft palate. i don't really get it. when i try to lift mine, i feel this weird cramping feeling in my throat - which i'm pretty sure is incorrect.

thanks!

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OK, I will spend some time this week-end pulling some of my materials together. Just as an indicator of the kind of approach I take, All of the exercises raise the soft palate without you trying consciously to do so. :-) They are all based on reflexes, and easily-accessible language sounds.

More later!

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You likely have excessive tension in your vocal tract, and when you lift the soft pallet, you may be pulling on the tensed vocal tract muscles, which causes the discomfort. If I recall correctly, Al Greene's book, The New Voice, has all kinds of physical hand-mouth-manipulation exercises to deal with this. My project ZenSing.org (eventually to launch) also deal with this.

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Interesting. one of my biggest problems has been excessive muscle movement and tension in my throat muscles when i sing (it's not there when i speak). it has been getting better, especially as i learn better breath control and to sing less breathy, but it's definitely still there.

Looking forward to the info from all of you! :D

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