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Singing whole songs in very light head voice

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jonpall
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Hi guys,

I did an interesting experiment (to me, at least), yesterday. I had realized that I struggle with singing songs with vocals that lie in the passagio (and a bit above and a bit below) the ENTIRE time - not just for the chorus. A good example would be Bruno Mars songs. Almost all notes are high notes!

Now, I had only really tried to sing them in mixed voice or in mixed voice with rasp. Very few times, if ever, did I try to simply sing those song in as light a head voice as I could, throughout the song. That means I'll not really sound as powerful as the original singer (although Bruno sometimes sings for quite a while with a very soft voice, especially in his ballads).

What I found interesting was that I STRUGGLED even with the light head voice! I did all right for the first 2 verses and choruses - but after that, it started to get really tiring to be constantly singing in the passagio and higher.

So perhaps my problem for the past couple of years hasn't been so much that I lacked control of power or rasp for high notes, but rather that I lack FLEXIBILITY and/or ENDURANCE for high notes. And I might even be making a minor technical error or two that takes away from this endurance and flexibility.

My obvious solution was to practice singing various songs from start to finish with a very light head voice and not go into any sort of volume, power, mix or rasp at ALL. Hopefully doing this for a few weeks will increase my flexibility and stretch the muscles in my throat that control pitch and give me more endurance. I'm going to stay away from a lot of volume for the most part and see how it goes. I know Mark Baxter recommends something similar.

I also did this with lifted cheeks, a slight yawn and a light sound colour, hoping this would increase my endurance, although I'm not sure if will have a big impact. I didn't conciously focus a lot on support since I'm singing with so low volume but I relaxed between breaths and I guess the support effort increased as I got further into the song and started to lose endurance.

I don't really have a question yet here, except - does this make sense to you? Any comments on this? Haven't you guys noticed that many of the great pop tenors seem to be able to sing almost without effort with an extremely light head voice. Bruno Mars and Steve Perry come to mind.

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I just tried singing "Locked out of heaven" by Bruno Mars in a pretty light head voice (and a bit of mixed voice) and it seemed that I may have been tensing and locking up my abs too much during sung phrases, which probably affect my stamina. What about you guys - can you sing high pitch song after song after song if you just use light head voice? Some people seem to have natural falsettos and can just hover there for days. I guess I have never been one of those guys but need to become one.

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jon, i totally relate to where you're coming from. the way i feel, not saying i'm right, some voices just have a very light weight, vs. a heavier voice that has more to move.

i personally am working towards shedding weight which i'm finding a real challenge.

but singing light and high song after song i don't think is the way to go. exercising that way, great, but singing that way....?

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Could it be that singing an entire song in the passagio area requires a whole lot of strength and flexibility in ones throat muscles to be able to maintain that specific throat configuration for the entire song? F.ex. you have to have your soft palate raised and throat open the entire time. Should that take so much effort that most people find it hard to keep that setup/configuration for an entire song? Perhaps I'm raising my soft palate and opening my throat TOO HARD (or not hard enough)?

Thoughts?

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Not sure exactly what you mean Jon, with head, mix and natural falsetto, care to send a sample of what you are doing on the songs?

Besides that, head voice, low dynamics and taking away a bit of the compression is awesome to define it and remove tensions. Thats what allows use of power and agressiveness with comfort.

Its comfortable but its intense, so dont neglect support. To do it I remember I had to not build so much pressure. Placement and resonance must work, if you lock it or let it fall, you dont finish the song.

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to me, it all depends on the song, and the sound you are after. if you're gonna sing strong in the passaggio, sitting there, powerfully, singing the big, kick ass sound....yes...you are gonna find that physically demanding.

but as time goes on it's gets somewhat easier as your strength and stamina build up. ken tamplin once told me that if you neglect your chest voice musculature, it can be very hard to get it back.

i'm currently working hard to remove my grip and grab, but i'm not working to remove the power or ring.

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Felipe, I mean, I feel tired in my throat muscles if I try to sing a song like "Locked out of heaven" by Bruno Mars (a song has Bb4s and A4s in almost every scentence) - no matter which type of volume I use, light, medium or heavy. Shouldn't I be able to sing it with little problem if I use extreme low volume? Yet, it STILL tires my throat muscles to last through the entire song. What could I be doing wrong? Or do I just need more practise in that area? Maybe I've just been lazy, lol.

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I know exactly where you're coming from. I've been working at the light head voice stuff for over a year now, because, like you, my default is to sing heavier. It's getting better. If I sing "Dont stop believin" (which lies almost entirely in the passagio or higher) very light, I can do it, but it seems to tire me out pretty fast. I find it's hard to do it on songs I've sung before. It's hard to let go of old habits - I gravitate toward my "style" of singing, which probably means I'm forming the vowels in a way that almost forces me to sing it heavier. But if I sing a new song, it seems to be easier. I sing this Puccini Aria which has a Bb4 starting heavy and going very soft. I have no problem with that. And today I tried "Bring Him Home" from Les Mis and at the end it has a super light A4 very long and sustain in a head that's like falsetto (but not falsetto). I have no problem with it. It doesn't take a ton of support or anything.

I believe it is a combination of muscle building and coordination - with an emphasis on muscle building. That's why we tire out fast. And the balance of air pressure - to give the folds just enough - not too much and not too little. The CVT neutral exercises have helped. I can sing those really high forever now without getting tired.

Guys that sing this way normally have an easier time with it because that's what they're used to. But I truly believe guys like you and I can acheive it.

I bought Per Bristow's program, and he's acheived it. He can do distortion really high. He claims that the secret is to master the light singing, and add distortion to the light singing to make it sound heavier.

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jonpall Yeah, it should not tire you, neither low or at a strong sound pressure for that matter.

But when you go low, you actually get much more exposed to the issue that is causing it, and thats why its such a great thing to work at low dynamics and really nail the placement. It actually gets harder to work this when you drop the dynamics. Not really harder, lets say you have less options to get around issues.

There are many possibilities. I dont know how you are working it, but Id take the song, phrase by phrase, go in front of a mirror and take a look to try to understand. Repeating each phrase as many times as needed to understand what is happening and where.

An idea that may help to work like this, instead of worrying with the places that are very hard, take all the easier phrases, and compare all of them, probably there will be a few that have exactly the same notes, but because of the words they cause more or less difficulty, although they are still easy when compared to the spots on the song when you feel that it demands more. Within the easy phrases, the ones that cause a bit more of difficulty probably hit the problem that slowly builds up and tires you. So what is different about these phrases?

In my case it was closed vowels going down into chest voice and then back, killed me. Could be the opposite, you have to search. Whatever you find, aim to bring the posture of the problematic thing closer to the things that work well.

Another thing that my teacher always insisted/insists with me in this area, be something that is working or not, is to reduce all movements as much as possible, the more you change placement, or if you chew the phrases too much, the more the larynx will have to reajust into ballance and the more you will get tired and lose quality.

Dunno, wild guesses and suggestions. Im sure you will figure it out, so record it when you are done and send it over :).

Anyways its an awesome line of work, surely can and must be done.

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The thing is here.. You can be in falsetto but if you are in what I like to call the "" wrong falsetto"" you will tire out and it doesn't help with achieving full voice too much. I know I know what's the right one . The only thing I can say is it has depth and also a very sharp edgy sound. Like speaking some singers achieve it naturally, that's what makes some good speakers good singers. This falsetto sound is not the be all end all answer but it is a tool like crying or dumb and dopey or quacking or any other crutch to help your singing be the best it can be but too much will put you off balance..

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geno said

"I bought Per Bristow's program, and he's acheived it. He can do distortion really high. He claims that the secret is to master the light singing, and add distortion to the light singing to make it sound heavier."

@geno Distortion,rasp are definitely easier in the higher range. try it on a high d5 and then try it on a f#4. much easier up there. You can learn to distort and stuff up there easier to do ac/dc type shit and fool your friends :D

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There have been two singers since Steve Perry left Journey. The first replacement, his name escapes me, just now. But the current singer is Arnel Pineda.

I am not sure if that backs up Justin's statement or if it's a case of like the movie "Rockstar" where Wahlberg's character just gets tired of being fitted into a mold of someone else and eventually has to branch out on his own.

Real life, Ripper Owens was kind of happy when Rob Halford decided to rejoin Judas Priest. Even Tim said, Rob should be and always will be the singer of Judas Priest. And Tim has gone to do his own thing, singing whatever he wants to sing, not just the JP catalog.

I don't know if that is what is happening with Journey singers.

I know that Steve Perry is getting back into singing, even though he is mainly producing other bands and artists. I don't know so much what he is singing but I think it is quite unlike Journey.

Along about the time that Steve Perry did his solo album, he was ready for a change, and even mentioned in interviews, he was looking to go for a lower, darker sound.

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geno, what prompted you to try bristow's program? just curious...is there anything "unique" to his method?

Bob - What drew me to Bristows program was the kind of learner he is. He is able to "master" different things very quickly. Like becoming a Virtuso Violin Player, a nationally recognized Soccer player and then singing and acting, appearing in the original "Cats" show. He claims these acheivements were possible not because of natural talent or physical ability, but the strategy of how to learn things the fastest way possible - getting the greatest impact with the least amount of energy. An analogy is in Golf, you can hit the ball really far and straight with very little physical effort, if your swing is perfect.

He claims to have had a very restricted singing range when he first started singin. He can now sing very low and very high.

His program is nothing I've seen before. It is very interesting. He stresses muscle independence - "de-coupling" muscles that tend to get in the way and cause tension.

His approach is very relaxed. I'm already singing lower than ever - with more control. And I'm singing high very light and controlled - bridging chest to head with not much effort. I'm actually very happy with my progress so far.

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I kinda like the golf analogy. A few tricks I learned. Knees together, if you have a slice, create a hook with second knuckle on the left hand visible, swing with the torso. I could send a ball 150 yards on a 5 iron.

Beat the tar of just swinging wildly.

However, in my first real game of golf, I shot a 130. And the par for the whole course was 74. Oops ....

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Justin - that guy is impressive. He has tremendous technique. I have never warmed up to that kind of style before. I don't mean to be critical, but what bugs me about this style is it seems to be an un-connected voice. If you listen at 0:56 - the descending run - at about 0:58 he finally breaks from a falsetto type configuration to more of a chest voice. Normally when he sings lower, it is very soft like trying to sing falsetto low. But in that passage he broke into a chest voice half way through. The overtone balance is clearly different - it is very obvious. Again, the guy is fantastic. It's just seems like a fully developed falsetto that is not connected. That's what I don't like. Some people may like it and that's fine with me.

I prefer a fully connected voice where the overtone structure is very consistent. Like it is a huge "chest voice" range. There are operatic tenors that sing up to F5 in a fully connected configuration.

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for singing in a light voice in the upper register the countertenor is an ideal role model.

Not necessarily. Check out Daniel's comments above and some of the other comments as well. I would also say the same thing: That guy is using a very "hooty" voice, i.e. it lacks sharpness. However, it probably fits well in countertenor-ish opera. But most people on this forum (and this planet) are looking for a bit sharper sound. I hope that didn't come across as arrogant or something, but I think that if you were to train with this hooty sound too much you wouldn't be able to progress too much in the pop/rock genre. That's just my opinion on this.

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The mentioning of countertenor in pop and rock reminds me of something I read. In his memoirs, "Shut Up and Give Me the Mic," Dee Snider was classically trained in high school as a countertenor.

Then he graduated and took the twisted road.

I have the Twisted Sister album "Twisted Christmas." And he starts a Christmas carol in a legit voice. That was kind of neat.

Then they descend into the twisted debauchery we all know. I just remembered, it was "Twelve Days of Christmas." Though it involved leather jackets, tattoos, and whiskey.

Anyway, that's one countertenor I know of in the rock genre.

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