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Top down phonation question

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ThePowerOfOne
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Hi everybody,

I've seen this term "top down phonation" mentioned several times and didn't quite grasp what it meant. I think I may have stumbled across it today. Tell me what you think.

I was singing a song in comfortable chest voice and noticed when I was going for a higher mixed note that it sounded a bit strained. I was hitting the note but it just felt like I really had to push on it, and I didn't like the way it sounded.

I stopped and thought for a minute "I know I have this note, it's an easy note and shouldn't sound strained" so I sang a different, higher melody in which that same note was a lower note sitting in mix voice and as expected it sounded crisp, clean and resonant.

So I decided to try the first melody again and this time when I got to that note I approached it from above like I did in my experiment instead of pushing up for it like I did the first time.

Bingo.

It sounded awesome.

I then went ahead and did several experiments approaching some higher phrases and notes from above with a higher placement and everything came out sounding so nice and full.

So do I have it figured out, going by my description? Is this the concept? approaching the notes from up to down instead of down and up?

I really like the way it sounds, but of course it feels confusing and a little unnatural and messes with my flow a little, because I have to think about it.

But I guess it's like everything I learned, Practice, practice and it will be in muscle memory in no time.

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Jaime Vendera in the Raise Your Voice series says to imagine descending on the note from above. Anthony Frisell starts students very light. The idea being to have the head voice controls in charge and then you let the volume and fold closure of "chest" in to give it some gas, so to speak.

The advantage if top down is that it forces you to phonate differently than you do when you speak. I think most people have a problem with higher notes because they are still approaching those notes from the perspective of the comfortable speaking voice in, perhaps, a phone conversation. You cannot sing like you speak.

Also, by going top down, it nearly automatically triggers you to control the exhale, i.e., breath support comes into play immediately. I think. I could be wrong.

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A nice trainning tool that has its uses WHEN used correctly. If you are using it and it simply solved all your problems, its probably all wrong.

Top down has many uses and can be done in many ways, Including by using falsetto to train a resonance setup.

On some voices, you actually have to bring it down and yes it causes strain if its too high for the situation, sounds quite annoying too.

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A nice training tool that has its uses WHEN used correctly. If you are using it and it simply solved all your problems, its probably all wrong.

Can you explain that?

I am already aware of Frisell's thoughts. I just wondered how you came to that conclusion.

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Sounds like you're on the right track. However, approaching from below is an essential capability. What you probably experienced is what is sometimes called "pulling chest". And that occurs when you aren't modifying your vowels and not thinning the folds as you go up. In which case you hit a "road block". The top down phonation gave you the thin folds that you needed to hit the notes. You'll need to learn to traverse from bottom to top AND top down. The correct vowel formations and the thinning of the folds is the key. It's not easy and it does take a lot of practice to get this down. A teacher can be of big help for most singers.

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Also, by going top down, it nearly automatically triggers you to control the exhale, i.e., breath support comes into play immediately. I think. I could be wrong.

You're right about this. I've noticed with more and more experimenting, that when using "TopDown", quick breaths between phrases as well as support is automatic and instinctive. It's kinda like you tell your brain the sound you're going for, then the quick split second breath and support happen all by themselves to facilitate your request. Cool stuff.

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Sounds like you're on the right track. However, approaching from below is an essential capability. What you probably experienced is what is sometimes called "pulling chest". And that occurs when you aren't modifying your vowels and not thinning the folds as you go up. In which case you hit a "road block". The top down phonation gave you the thin folds that you needed to hit the notes. You'll need to learn to traverse from bottom to top AND top down. The correct vowel formations and the thinning of the folds is the key. It's not easy and it does take a lot of practice to get this down. A teacher can be of big help for most singers.

Thanks for your input Geno.

I'm not sure that it's pulling chest necessarily, because I can feel/hear the same effect when singing in head as well. It's just when comparing side by side, to my ears, the "TopDown" high notes sound fuller, rounder and more resonant, whereas when using "BottomUp" while I still hit the notes with no problems and no pain,they don't sound as good as I'd like, they sound and feel "pushed", it's a nice dirty-Rock sound, but not exactly what I'm going for.

I'm working on mastering this as we speak, I always put in the time needed and luckily I'm a quick learner.

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Exactly. Too many times, in bottom up phonation, we don't put enough controls on the breath. By doing this, you almost instinctively do so. Later, you can go back to bottom up, as long as you approach it from the same sense of breath control.

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I've learned the hard way not to question the judgement of Felipe, I just wanted to understand his thinking.

I was expecting another browbeating and there you are, jumping in front, ready to take a bullet for me, like the Secret Service.

You are the ultimate wingman and it brings a tear to my eye.

"I love you, man."

"You're not getting my Bud Light."

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Yeah, we get it, the 2, 4, 10, 15 years of training and practicing. The ironing out of the middle. The search to get all of the usable voice comfortable.

And if someone has been taught a valuable thing in that journey, how is their voice "ruined" by doing something that actually makes getting that beautiful, comfortable voice easier?

And the original poster also stated that he understands that only practice will make this a repeatable and usable perspective.

I'm not disputing that it takes to time to learn the craft. And that one learns from those who are wiser, more experienced. And when someone picks up an idea from someone who is wiser it can often lead to easier or more managable production of sound.

I also understand that you feel that no one can become a good singer unless they are currently under the direct instruction of a coach in the same room. And there are times when that is certainly extremely important. Especially if the instructor can physically see you locking up somewhere that you shouldn't be.

It was nice to revisit that thread. Especially when you decided that lift up pull back only elevates crap if the voice is crap to begin with. I would prefer to state that you can lift up pull back anything. And yes, an instructor is going to listen for a solidity of tone at any note.

I'm just not understanding how learning intuitively about breath support through top down phonation is going to ruin the voice.

In that other thread, you mentioned that no one should expect beginner singers or even students in progress to be pro at it, yet. Nor do I think the op was considering himself to be pro, yet.

Really, it was a matter of accomplishment of putting one more piece of the puzzle into place. We use to have a thread for accomplishments great or small, no critique. Just a chance to boost each others' efforts. I miss that. You could celebrate your first C5 that didn't wear you out. Bob celebrated adding 1/2 step to his dependable range.

There's plenty of time for cracking the whip, elsewhere. Plenty of time to stop someone's good time roll before they get too much of an ego. But I digress.

I'm just not understanding how learning a valuable thing that teaches you how to conserve the voice and engage breath support (something I thought we all agreed upon) is going to ruination if it solves a lot of problems. And I will go ahead and stick my neck out on a limb, as an amateur, and state that learning breath support does solve a lot of problems.

Then, again, I'm not a voice teacher or a pro singer, though I have performed in public. I'm certainly not an expert. Many is the time, in life and in this forum, where I have been proven wrong. And admit that I was wrong. And the world keeps spinning, in spite of the end of the mayan calendar. Just recently, Rachsing and Steven Fraser corrected me, tag-team style. :D

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Sounds like you're a lot further than I originally thought. Probably just holding on to a little more TA when coming from below. Either way, "top down" is a method that is used and sounds like it is working for you.

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This was a case of top down voice:

http://themodernvocalist.punbb-hosting.com/viewtopic.php?pid=46716#p46716

It must be used properly and yes, I am saying that neither of you have the competence to determine the when and the how. Until you can teach others, its impossible to teach yourself. Teaching others is much easier.

But wanna use it, sure thing, enjoy. Not my voice, not my time, what do I have to lose? ;)

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i include descending head voice slides in every workout. it had strengthened my head voice musculature and is a great warmup and warm down exercise.

it's also great for a big voice because it keeps you from digging up too much from below in chest, because big voiced singers have strong chest voice musculature so you can regard it as a taming strategy.

felipe, it has helped me immensely to get away from gripping.

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This was a case of top down voice:

http://themodernvocalist.punbb-hosting.com/viewtopic.php?pid=46716#p46716

It must be used properly and yes, I am saying that neither of you have the competence to determine the when and the how. Until you can teach others, its impossible to teach yourself. Teaching others is much easier.

But wanna use it, sure thing, enjoy. Not my voice, not my time, what do I have to lose? ;)

So, am I incompetent? You said neither of you. Which "you" are you calling incompetent?

I'm not disagreeing with the need for instruction. I'm just wanting a clarification as to who it is you are calling incompetent (means the same thing as "you are not competent").

And if I am not a teacher and admit that I am not a teacher, that means I am incompetent? Or that only teachers or those who identify themselves as teachers may discuss this?

I know this sounds snotty but it's not. I just want to know the rules of the game. If I cannot discuss this because I am not a teacher or because you may think I am incompetent (which you still have not clarified), then I need to know so that I can quit discussing it.

In the TOS for this forum, I did not see any restriction that someone who is not a teacher may not discuss or try the concepts discussed in here.

However, I thought there was a rule against personal insults, although calling someone incompetent may not be an insult, it might be a statement of fact, I suppose. I suppose that technical definition of incompetence might skirt the issue of insulting people. I don't know. I'm not a mod or administrator, either.

However, we do have an admin in this discussion.

So, Bob, is it now the rule that only teachers can discuss this or understand it? And, is it okay to publically state that someone else is incompetent in the matter because said person admits to not being a teacher of singing?

Don't get me wrong. Credentials can be important. I have an electrician's license. It is meant to show that I have some competence in my field. But I can tell you from practical experience that some others who have a license are not actually competent at the work involved. A card is just a card.

Can the same be said of teaching singing? Where one can have a fine pedigree of singing creds but not be competent?

I would also wonder how it is determined that I, or any other person is not competent to discuss top-down phonation.

It seems every time I get an answer, it is never to the question I asked and it raises other questions.

Peace out, brethren.

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I don't like word games, either. I just need to know the rules I am to follow. "Game" was rhetorical.

No, top down phonation is not the entire solution to singing. And I don't think it was implied by anyone here that it was. And I still have not received an answer as to why learning of this results in ruination.

And now, I fear, I will never get that answer.

Back to the original poster on his use of top down phonation and the solutions that it did provide, whatever they may be;

PowerofOne - good job.

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On the OP, again.

A nice trainning tool that has its uses WHEN used correctly. If you are using it and it simply solved all your problems, its probably all wrong.

And to use it correctly, you must know the situation where it applies, what it achieves and what must be working before it can be used. Also you need to know the student voice, the problem being addressed and you must be able to picture the correct production on your mind. Its nice that you can also reproduce the problem on your own voice.

Doing that you can teach someone else, doing that and learning to understand your voice solely on resonance tracking and ignoring the audible result, you will have better chance to instruct yourself.

I dont risk the later when trainning. I see no reason to tell others to go in this direction.

If the problem is being treated as a simple matter of reaching notes, comfortably or not, its an oversimplification and its wrong. This mental image will not result in a sudden bingo of awesomeness, its a small step that requires a lot of refinement to even begin to sound decent. Done correctly, when its the direction taken, and Bob knows that very well, results in a very ugly annoying sound, useless to sing with right away, but it allows other works to coordinate proper covering and definition of the fundamental vowels to work.

So orientation and teacher. This forum is hosted by a trainning program and the teacher/coach is Robert Lunte, buy it, book sessions and learn to sing instead of seeking magic.

All big improvements will come from small ajustments, basic and small things like ajusting the lips posture a small bit more close or open, jaw positioning, even the body posture.

But this is just my experience talking, a guy that sings and teach the very thing you are asking about, when appropriate to the case. If you know better awesome, I look forward to hear you singing something with quality in the near figure, really do.

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So orientation and teacher. This forum is hosted by a trainning program and the teacher/coach is Robert Lunte, buy it, book sessions and learn to sing instead of seeking magic.

I have the program, the book, the gargantuan set of files. And I still refer to them. There's just something neurotic about me, I will admit. I don't hitch my name to a brand or hold forth a program as my badge of honor or my "license" to sing. But I have absolutely no problem stating that when I learned something, it was from Robert. Or a fellow member and former moderator of this forum who trained personally with Robert and I have met this guy, personally. We scared his mother (that's another story.) Or, whomever I have learned it from. But no, I have not had a direct lesson with Robert, skype, in person, over the phone, or be ESP.

I have not had a "singing" lesson except for what my step-grandfather would tell me and show me. But he was a basso-baritone and I thought I would grow up to be one, too. It took me a while but I have learned to accept my limitations. :o

I've never had a guitar lesson, either.

And while I have been to college to pursue an engineering degree, I never went to trade school to learn electrical work. I learned it on the job, taking to it like a duck to water. And so, I passed the license exams all on my own, studying at home, in the evenings, or at work during breaks.

The first time I went for the master exam, I used a respected study guide all summer, pounding the heck out of that book and my brain. And failed. So, I signed up again, which would be another test about 1.5 months after the first one. In that time, I just did word search puzzles. Once in a while, I would ask myself a question and look it up in the code book (which is really what the test is about, how well you can use the code book.) 2nd time, I passed. The object of both are the same. The answer is right in front of your eyes, you just have to allow them to see it.

And my fellow workers who could not pass it, I let them know by marking on my word search puzzle book "master electrician study guide." They didn't get the humor.

Having a master license and, as of March of 2013, 30 years in the electrical trade is not what makes me competent. Doing my job well, every day, that is my sign of competence. And it is not a guarantee of employment.

I was one of the best. I could do more things than most people, including my job foreman. I certainly knew more than he did, I had a bigger license than he has. All of which he freely admitted. And I was not in a position of importance, within the company. "politics." So, as nicely as he could, I was laid off when the economy went bad.

See, I know all about being one of the few most competent in my field. And being of a mindset of not caring about other's perception or feelings. Always telling it like it is or telling a joke with deadpan humor and having someone else take it seriously. Well, the assurance of my own ability and competence is of little comfort and justification while trying to file for unemployment and being turned down at interviews because I am over-qualified. And old. They want to hire apprentices in their early 20's. it looks better on payroll balance sheets.

But this is just my experience talking, a guy that sings and teach the very thing you are asking about, when appropriate to the case. If you know better awesome, I look forward to hear you singing something with quality in the near figure, really do.

I did not know you were a teacher of singing, so this something new that I have learned. Bless you for sharing your skill with others.

As for the latter, you have already decided that my singing is of poor quality on a recent submission and even retracted the good review you gave me for "Ramble On" because I asked you to explain one thing on the critique of the recent song, which you have not answered. So, you give a good review and then take it away. So, I don't know when the good review is valid or not and whether it is based on you thinking I'm an uppity snot, or not.

I'm not trying to pick a fight, really. I just don't know anymore when the good review is valid, or not. And by the converse, if a poor review is legit or just more recriminations because I have upset you.

I suppose I would look for, in a teacher, some consistency of standard, devoid of personal feelings that day. Which means we must define what is good singing. Is it singing like opera? Or singing rock? There are some basics, yes, but there are some stylistic things in each to be considered, as well.

Anyway, good luck and much success in your future as a singing teacher.

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I see the point in what you are saying there, and its really something to think about. Although I dont consider myself to be one of the best in the field. Far from it. But I can do the job and so far the only complaints were from the guys who I politely refused to continue working with, either because they wanted to do karaoke sessions instead of trainning or would not study at home.

And then Ramble On and that review again. Look. What I wrote on Ramble On, was specific to that song, and unless my mind is failling me big time, I said in there that I could not say it was good, and I told you the reasons. Same reasons that I listed on the next song, but this song was broken because of it. On Ramble On, the brakes into and from falsetto, on some spots reminded of Robert Plant, and I still think that if you did that live, it would be decent enough to work.

I also said that it was better than the previous song, because this time you knew the lyrics and the melody.

I dont know what is so difficult in all this. I dont review anything as a teacher, I dont even go in this direction around here, just when I think a sample situation would be good. There are better teachers here, Dante, Rob, Chris, Daniel, etc.

Its my opinion, as a listenner, not working and yes I am certain that its because of the emission ajustment, could and should be much better. If to give you an opinion I will have to present you a laryngoscopy and prove it to you using physics modelling things will get a bit complicated, quickly.

So just disregard it. Dont trust me, fine too. Its your right to do so. If you want I can even change what I wrote there, send me the text, or delete it, it doesnt matter to me. I have no desire to impersonate the cocky bastard that keeps bugging people to "orientation and teacher". And really although you do bug me with certain things you say, I do listen, I do think talking with you is worthwhile and I will never give that you are not capable of MUCH more.

But yeah, you are probably right on this, posture change is due. So be it.

So really sorry if you are offended in anyway. I am not, and I also am not trying to pick fights.

Peace.

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And really although you do bug me with certain things you say, I do listen, I do think talking with you is worthwhile and I will never give that you are not capable of MUCH more.

And you often bring in sparkling bits of wisdom that are astonishing in clarity and accessibility. And when you say something that I, as an amateur, agree with, I do so, regardless of whether we are at odds, or not.

And it's possible that this language barrier or even phrasing barrier is causing the misunderstanding. On the song "This Life" your review stated that I went into falsetto on that song.

I know when I am doing falsetto, have no problems using it, don't consider it a bad thing to use, at times. And I simply do not think that I used falsetto, especially on the 3rd file of the song. And wanted to know, by means of which word in the lyric, you thought I went into falsetto. Something you did not answer in spite of more than one request for that clarification. Maybe it was a perception problem I could clear up. And maybe you were referring to Ramble On when you mentioned flipping into falsetto but in the phrasing of your text, it seemed linked with "This Life."

And the singing I did for "This Life - 3" is not how I normally sing. Others were asking me to go lower, lower than I can actually go. The lowest notes are more like me woofing like a dog. And I used high larynx and constriction to get a particular strained sound I was going for. Others seemed to like the take, though one friend thought I should scoop from an even lower place, a place I simply do not have. My plan was to make my voice sound ugly and mean. I guess I succeeded. :D

And it is not a way that I would sing all the time, though you may have thought I do. It was recorded in one take, the only take. Habit is habit and I don't want that being the habit. And if I was to put that song in my regular rotation, you can bet good lots of money that I would re-key the song 1 to 1.5 steps higher. Which would put me back in the middle of the 4th octave and take away from others think the song should be like.

And your review teaches me another valid thing that I should honestly thank you for. And that is, no matter how much I like the song or want to do it, even as a novelty or one-off, perception is king. And I should stay away from sounds and songs for which my voice is not suited. As you might say, always seek the beautiful singing.

In the first version, I sang that song where I am comfortable and it was too high by others' estimation. So, I was altering what I did by the review of others. The third version was based on range ideas from others. I am not blaming them. It was an exercise of sorts and something is always learned, even if it is what NOT to do.

Not everyone is a fan. That's okay, too. And if I was the music director of that tv show, I would pick the Curtis Stiger version over mine. It has the right sound and feel for the show. I just liked the song and wanted to do it and could convince no one else, even those with voices perfectly suited for it, to do that song. So many are interested in getting to the 5th octave and stay away from the low end. Where as I will go low, even lower than is good for me. Sometimes, being fearless has disadvantages.:)

I just don't know where I flipped into falsetto on that song, unless you were referring to another song and the phrasing of your comment read like you were referring to This Life. A bit of communication that could be cleared up easily.

Sorry to commandeer this thread but sometimes, things need to be cleared up and I beg everyone's forebearance and appreciate the patience.

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Also, Felipe, I don't expect you to hand out good jobs to me just to show a change of posture on your part. I expect you to be as demanding as you have always been. If I can count on a consistency of review from you, then a good job from you really means something.

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