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jrintaha
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Hello all,

I've been lurking this forum for some time, but registered just now. I bought the Four Pillars system a bit over a year ago, but due to time constraints (day job + starting my own company + 2 young kids etc.) haven't really gotten to properly singing until very recently. Read the book, watched the lectures, did some exercises every now and then, but no proper routine. I actually found Four Pillars via Youtube, Robert's videos just made more sense and were more scientifically sound than so many others, so that was how I made my buying decision.

Super quick background: played guitar for almost 15 years, keyboards on and off for even longer (with a break of 10 years or so in between), saxophone for 2½ years, trumpet for 1½ years. I've read a lot of theory and studied every aspect of all the instruments I'm playing, so far as to usually take them apart and put 'em back together again.

A lot of these things like breath support, keeping the throat open, tongue positions, controlling the larynx, and other tricks I'm already pretty familiar with from playing wind instruments as they're quite essential there too.

But this very essential thing of bridging from M1 to M2, that's very new to me, and that finally brings me to my question: how low could a good spot to bridge be, since I have a bass voice?

The suggested pitch of "around E4" for men is out of the question, as I seriously can't reach higher than D4 or Eb4 in M1, and even B3-C4 feel like I'm really pushing. I can go up to G5-A5 or so in M2, so that's not a problem, just the transition.

Following the "resonant track" with the semi-occluded "humm", that is, trying to keep the sensation of resonation as strong as possible, not concentrating on what note I'm currently singing, just going up and down a major scale, trying to be as relaxed as possible and keep the phonation as effective as possible (that is, finding the "place" where the faintest airstream produces a stable note), I find I'm bridging at F3 or so.

With an open mouth, "eh" vowel, slowly modifying to "ah", the bridging seems to happen around Bb3, which is pretty close to the highest note I can belt (D4-Eb4). And the transition is often not very clean, especially when descending.

Anyone with similar problems and perhaps solutions? Has someone here coached someone with a very low voice, or better yet, knows a voice coach with a similar voice who does online lessons? I do intend to take a few with Robert too, timetables and time difference permitting, as there are a few other things I want to ask him, and I believe they can only be worked out in a private lesson.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/y99ldg6g5oyfnaf/avalanche.mp3?dl=0 here's a sample of me playing & singing three verses of Leonard Cohen's Avalanche. There aren't actually any really low notes there, F2 is the lowest I think, but I wanted to show that this is the most "natural" range for me.

Cheers,

Jori

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So, having a bass voice myself, a few notes on that:

1. Really like the timbre of your voice, not 100% sure if its bass, but quite likely, definitely not tenor.

2. The range you show there is the most "natural" range for most men, doesn't neccessarily mean that you are placed very low, however from the timbre it sounds like you are indeed low.

3. The typical "bridging" points as Rob defines it, is around D4 for basses, E4 for baritones, F4 for tenors. However the voice has to start being slightly more covered and "thinned out" around A3 for basses. In the state of training you are it sounds reasonabe to begin by training to sing the notes between B3 and D4 without shouting. This involves proper support and "thinning out" the vocal mechanism. Try to use the TVS onsets on those specific notes and go into a light "mixed" voice without shouting them. At around E4 though, a bass has to either bridge into head resonance or start shouting (belting). As a trained bass, your M1 ("chest voice") will be at its limit at around A4.

4. As for vocal coaches I think Steven Fraser is a bass (he is on this forum as well) and I think he does skype lessons (not 100% sure, though). But you can also stick with the TVS program and Rob. Its a very good program for low voices because it is focused around a quite light phonation mode in the beginning (early bridging) which addresses the area where basses tend to have the most problems (making the voice "light").

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1. Really like the timbre of your voice, not 100% sure if its bass, but quite likely, definitely not tenor.

2. The range you show there is the most "natural" range for most men, doesn't neccessarily mean that you are placed very low, however from the timbre it sounds like you are indeed low.

Thanks for the kind words! I can go effortlessly down to D2, with effort but still keeping it clean to C2, then a bit lower than that, B1 or Bb1 with adding a bit of fry and even more effort. Doesn't feel very healthy though, so I don't do it much.

3. The typical "bridging" points as Rob defines it, is around D4 for basses, E4 for baritones, F4 for tenors. However the voice has to start being slightly more covered and "thinned out" around A3 for basses. In the state of training you are it sounds reasonabe to begin by training to sing the notes between B3 and D4 without shouting. This involves proper support and "thinning out" the vocal mechanism. Try to use the TVS onsets on those specific notes and go into a light "mixed" voice without shouting them. At around E4 though, a bass has to either bridge into head resonance or start shouting (belting). As a trained bass, your M1 ("chest voice") will be at its limit at around A4.

4. As for vocal coaches I think Steven Fraser is a bass (he is on this forum as well) and I think he does skype lessons (not 100% sure, though). But you can also stick with the TVS program and Rob. Its a very good program for low voices because it is focused around a quite light phonation mode in the beginning (early bridging) which addresses the area where basses tend to have the most problems (making the voice "light").

Thanks, this is exactly what I was looking for and had not found so far. I guess the bass voice is somewhat less common than I had thought, because I couldn't find much information on where to start lightening the mass and modifying the vowel etc. I believe the air support part I've got down pretty well, as that's really one of the core things any saxophone (or any other wind instrument) teacher worth their salt will make sure you get right; I've taken a few saxophone lessons with a capable teacher every now and then, schedule permitting.

I wonder if it's asking too much, but if you're got the technique down, could you perhaps record a siren where you bridge across the registers? Might give me a clue as to how exactly it should sound, as far as the vowel modifications and thinning of the voice goes.

Where ya from, Jori?

Just updated my profile; I live in the capital city area, have been here for 9 years or so. I actually lived my first 19 years in the same city as you do now, according to your profile.

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Thanks for the kind words! I can go effortlessly down to D2, with effort but still keeping it clean to C2, then a bit lower than that, B1 or Bb1 with adding a bit of fry and even more effort. Doesn't feel very healthy though, so I don't do it much.

Yep. As said above, I would guess that you are indeed a bass. Easiness below the D#2 is a further sign for that. Below the C2 even basses have to switch registers into fry usually.

Thanks, this is exactly what I was looking for and had not found so far. I guess the bass voice is somewhat less common than I had thought, because I couldn't find much information on where to start lightening the mass and modifying the vowel etc. I believe the air support part I've got down pretty well, as that's really one of the core things any saxophone (or any other wind instrument) teacher worth their salt will make sure you get right; I've taken a few saxophone lessons with a capable teacher every now and then, schedule permitting.

I wonder if it's asking too much, but if you're got the technique down, could you perhaps record a siren where you bridge across the registers? Might give me a clue as to how exactly it should sound, as far as the vowel modifications and thinning of the voice goes.

Basses are indeed rare. If I remember correctly only around 5% of male singers are said to be real basses. Even in opera you often find bass-baritones singing bass roles because of how rare the real basses are. Actually the vast majority of male singers have quite similar voice types within the light baritone/heavy tenor area. In contemporary singing, even standard baritones are often considered "low" voices if they sing on low placed pitches.

For the siren, here you go, its a bit older but it is pretty much in line with what is taught in the four pillars:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/69231116/m1tom2.mp3

For reference, here is also a very interesting post by Steven Fraser on that (post #7 in the thread):

http://themodernvocalist.punbb-hosting.com/viewtopic.php?id=8496

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Forget about voice type at this stage in the game, it will only hold you back from figuring out the full extent of what your voice can really develop. Your starting range is probably not even close to what your full range will end up being if you train correctly.

Over the course of a few years:

My reliable full voice range has changed from Eb2-Eb4 to F2-Ab4 from training a lot of high range, my head voice range grew nearly a full octave from the Bb4 to Ab5, I used to favor head mix and now I'm mixing chestier due to new training which has in turn fixed my old bridging problems, meanwhile this weird girly scream falsetto I used to be able to do up to the D6+, is withering away as I'm choosing not to use it (would blow out my voice), I also used to have whistle voice at some point and that has disappeared from choosing not to waste my time practicing it, my vocal tone has gotten noticeably brighter as a matter of artistic preference and training that - you get the point, the voice is ridiculously maleable.

Whatever coordination you pamper in your voice will strengthen and whatever coordination you neglect will weaken, it's that simple. So prematurely guessing you're a bass, and avoiding training the high range as a result, is just like choosing to arrest yourself for doing no crime LOL. Because even if you misclassified yourself and tried so hard to become a tenor, if you don't get all the way there, you'll just became a bass with an exceptional high range for a bass...nothing wrong with that. As long as you study with a great vocal teacher you won't damage your voice for being misclassified, and as for performing, just don't push so far out of comfort zone that it becomes hell and you start cracking etc., and that alone will guide you.

That being said I would recommend you try to work on two things to start climbing out of this self-classified bass voice trap and training for your true ability (whatever voice type it may be you can definitely train this):

1. pulling your M1 up to at least the E4. And by that I mean E4 in a way you can sing reliably, so you will probably need to be able to stay in M1 up a couple notes higher in exercises to have the headroom to belt the E4's consistently. I recommend this simply because your repertoire will be horrifically limited if you don't have the E4 solid in M1 (i've been there, I never had a worse point in my singing journey). And to be honest I'm going to make a very confident guess that your voice will be able to stay in M1 up to the G4 someday. You never know, could be higher, I don't want you to limit this process, keep working on it, just remember to not literally shout and belt forward - cover those belts - feel a large vertical opening in the back of the throat, the soft palate lifting and the larynx lowering, and place your sound there.

The key is the resonant shifting, the covering. That's really what bridging is. In my personal opinion, most of the time in any singing that isn't falsetto, you will never want to flip to M1, you just bridge inside M1 (btw this happens again a few times as you ascend higher and higher, thus "bridges"). You may have to flip to M2 at first in your training in order to discover the resonance shifts and the feeling of release but eventually what you do is you access that feeling earlier, and then you get it so released that you don't have to let go of M1 at all, you pull it up through the released resonance-shifted placement. And you will eventually just kinda go into M2 whenever your M1 range runs out. THEN you can learn how to smoothly bridge M1 to M2 at a lower pitch than your range ceiling, and sing reliable in medium volumes like that, but that is difficult and comes later.

This all being said, if you are making horrific gritty noisy mess sounds over and over again, you have probably reached your current limit and there's no need to try to get higher. But a little bit of the bad sounds is part of the discovery process as you build more range, don't fear it. But just take note of your last solid note and just aim to get it consistently, aim to get the notes immediately below it very comfortable, then as your support and resonance improves your range will grow.

2. mixing M1 to M2 smoothly at a lower volume and letting it be airy, like a lift up pull back kind of thing. bridging somewhere around, well for me it's about the D4 on average and I'm a high bari so for you maybe aim for bridging at the B3? this is to just rebalance your voice if the practicing pulling M1 too much throws it off and makes you start shouting out the mouth and missing the resonant shifts which will be evident in that you hit a range ceiling where you can't shift from M1 to M2, it's just M1 then chaos. A little M1 to M2 bridging practice will bring the release mechanism of the voice back and encourage it to bridge correctly at a louder volume.

the higher you pull up M1 the more you need your fundamentals (twang, support, vowel modifications, lack of excess tension, etc.) in place, that's why it's so important to train. It's so controversial only because it will damage your voice if you do it wrong but if you work with a well-informed coach regularly (and likely the same if you follow a great program like pillars carefully) that won't happen, but that's why lessons are so important, it removes the need to fear voice damage and short change yourself because of that.

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To more simply answer your main question, if B3-C4 feels like pushing, bridge at B3 for now but DO NOT STAY THERE.

Your goal is to stop pushing up to the Eb4 in M1 and then bridge at the Eb4. And THEN over months and months ofd training raise that bridging point up to, honestly, around the C5 preferably. If you are a bass you may not get there, it may be more around the G4 or A4, that is fine. But the E4 will never sound good if sung with full intensity in M2, ever. It will just sound comical and weird. More likely, you just won't be able to access the full intensity of that note if you are stuck in M2.

What is actually supposed to happen around the E4 (for most male voice types) is just an important vowel modification/covering shift that gets you past a roadblock in your range and lets off some excess tension and weight, it also needs strong support behind it to keep it in M1. This point may indeed be lower for a bass, it could be around the A3 and if you are missing that it could be causing your B3-C4 to be pushy already.

One other thing to note, the louder you sing the higher the bridging point will seem to go. So when training to raise your bridging up higher to be more comparable to medium male voice (and trust me this IS what you want, you won't be able to sing well much at all bridging below F4), do not limit your volume - go loud. However I would say the better word is go for power/intensity - and not in a pushy way but just INTEND on a belty sound and that should help kick in your full voice better.

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do not limit your volume - go loud. However I would say the better word is go for power/intensity - and not in a pushy way but just INTEND on a belty sound and that should help kick in your full voice better.

This just might be the best tip anyone's ever given to a "belter in training." Owen's probably got it from Phil, and Phil's "sing into a pillow" vid inspired me to start just going wild with the brighter, louder exercises. The result was that I can sing stuff I never ever thought I'd be able to (Aces High, Rain when I die, Heaven and Hell), with mostly chest-weighted coordination. I don't "yell," I just strive to keep the tone as bright as possible, using as little air as possible to achieve as much volume as possible. This has really helped to strengthen my voice. I suggest you, and everyone else who hasn't tried it, give it a whirl. :) Also, what's crazy, is that this will probably save your voice from going hoarse.

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This just might be the best tip anyone's ever given to a "belter in training."

Train like you will sing. The problem with just doing scales on vowels is that they only okay in warming you for a Darius Rucker sound, king of the open vowel.

Other songs have a need for articulation, which is where a lot of guys trip up. I still catch myself going into movements of pronunciation that are okay for simply speaking and disastrous for singing.

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As a bass I have to say I'm not really a big fan of the "going loud" approach. Being not loud enough is usually the smallest problem I have with my voice, and, as Steven Fraser pointed out in the thread I linked, as a bass the biggest danger is usually the tendency to oversing.

For the "going loud" approach the very bright timbre is really a requirement, because it limits the "mass" you can put into the coordination. If your timbre is very bright you can't use CVT Overdrive for example in the high area of the voice (which is the "heaviest" possible phonation) because the Overdrive vowels have a decent amount of darkening. This is also why you use the vowel space of AH/UH for "going loud" (which puts you into Curbing = medium intensity = not belting).

While belting can be done as a bass in the high area of the voice I would not recommend it. The area that allows for real belting is usually E4-C5 almost regardless of voice type. As a bass however, you are almost killing yourself support-wise if you use real belting from G4 on up.

Imo the best basis is really "staying connected" while not going louder, and thats exactly what TVS teaches you at first. The "going loud" thing or "adding mass" thing is really more advanced, especially for a low voice.

But thats just my personal experience.

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Benny do not confuse being loud with singing with your full voice (M1) and in a centered way. It's not about yelling. Pulling up M1 is not yelling, it is just strong vocal technique that will work for 95% of contemporary male singing. It's what "staying connected" IS. Transitioning to M2 is a much more rare technique for modern styles. It will work for soft R&B, indie, light pop, maybe some prog, that's about it. Every other genre, it's a bit of an unwritten expectation that you stay in M1 all the way to the C5 and bridge resonances only, and then only use falsetto for effect.

Being not-loud is fine as long as you don't leave the coordination that allows you to go loud. If you forget about M1 and neglect practicing stretching that up high, whenever you need it in the future, it will sound underdeveloped because it is, and will frankly be a pain in the ass to do. It will actually BE louder because you're not training the control to take that loud coordination and back off from it.

Neither M1 or M2 is easier to coordinate than the other, it just depends on how you sing more, so if you train both and stretch the full ranges (both pitch and dynamic) of both you will stay in balance and bridging between the two will be easier as well. High M1 is certainly more physical on the body, but if you aren't willing to handle intense physical work, you might as well say goodbye to singing high with power because it lives entirely in M1 until very high pitches. And even then powerful high M2 is physical too.

Limiting the amount of mass you can put on by staying bright is just mixing. Perfectly fine for singing. You will not train your fullest voice (grow its strength the fastest) that way, but to be real, it's not something you should try without the direction of a teacher who knows how to do it. I'm just starting with it now (after something like 9 months training with my new teacher - had to less intense stuff first to make sure I would do it correctly), the idea of really darkening the sound so that I can train to access the full body of my voice and stretch it higher. It sounds kinda ugly and you won't sing like that but it pays off, it develops strength in the voice so that things like belting A4 in a chesty mix won't slip around like butter and be inconsistent anymore. And to be clear I don't mean letting go of brightness like losing necessary twang. You keep the bright ping and just add the darkness so that you can add mass.

Killing yourself support wise can happen first of all if the resonance shifting, twang, other fundamentals etc. aren't right because that all adds up the difficulty and then you have to support harder to compensate. But even so if you want to sing the best you can like I said you have to be willing to train physical strength as well. It's a cop out to say "well it's too physically difficult so we shouldn't train it". If it were damaging technique we'd avoid it, but it's not - you just need to develop that support strength that's all and even more importantly the fundamentals to make the whole phonation more efficient so you can reduce the support.

Of course you could easily chose to just live with the fact that you will never sing powerful above the Eb4 because of your voice type, all for the sake of singing remaining physically easy, but it will likely put you out of work as 95% of contemporary male pieces are going to go higher and tonally require that it be done in M1. Unless you chose to be an M2 singer kinda guy like Bon Iver or, in a different way, the Bee Gees. That's cool but you have to be really solid and that, and that's not bridging that's just developing a strong M2. And it will be quirky and signature but STILL limited. For instance Bon Iver still has to go back to chest pulling for some songs. And when he does, he's really really yelling. He's not able to back off because he spends too much time in M2. That's AN approach, but it's unique and like anything else, you better get good at it...if it isn't sounding good to your audience after years of training, you gotta try something else. I know from the exact experience of doing that, that staying in M1 and bridging late, the ordinary way of pop singing - sounds a lot better for my voice.

It must be really tough being a bass, makes my glad I'm a baritone, but regardless, for pop singing, there are clear standards (can't just shift keys way down or always sing quiet) and you either chose fight (train for it) or flight (not be as successful, try your luck at being "unique", etc.)

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Well for me singing loud is just that: singing loud. And pulling up M1 can also be done on medium volume, for the lighter voices even on low volume.

Singing loud to me is measured in terms of volume, not in terms of connection or vibration mode. It means that you really make the walls shake in the room you are in, even on the notes well below the passaggio.

And the deal here is: A bass can sing really loud starting as low as the beginning of the 3rd octave. But if you take the coordination, you are using for that, higher as a beginner, you are pretty much done and have no chance of ever connecting into head voice. It can be done of course, and especially for opera singers it is absolutely neccessary to learn that kind of volume in the 3rd octave, but it is definitely a hindrance for bridging when you start out.

As for vibration modes. For the lower voice types M2 actually becomes viable and powerful from around G4 on. It is just the higher baritones and tenors that have to drag it up to the C5. Here is a cool demonstration, watch out how he switches to M2 at G4 (maybe even on F4). This is pretty much what a low bass voice wants to do naturally at that point. He is not even singing loud but still staying in M1 up to that point. On C5 you can even hear the thing activating that CVT calls "flageolet", at which point, from my experience, it becomes almost impossible to keep M1 up.

My personal experience is that this "natural" switching point is between G4 and C5 for most singers depending on voice type. The "killing from support" thing happens when you drag the voice beyond that point. When I sing a C5 in M1 on a loud volume its "dragging" M1 like half an octave beyond the "natural" switching point. It is easier to do with "tricks" like limiting the volume by going for a very bright timbre, but this again limits you to a bright timbre on the high notes.

As a baritone it would be similar if you try something like E5/F5 within M1. For a bass its just EXTREMELY hard to sing forte/fortissimo on an M1 note above the G4. My personal switching point is a bit higher (I'm not a "profound" bass). I often find myself singing G4 and G#4 in M1, sometimes even A4, but there is definitely some pulling involved already (unless I go for the bright timbre thing).

On a very bright timbre it can be done quite consistently, but on a very bright timbre you can't go anywhere near forte/fortissimo volume.

I would not say it is per se "tough" to be a bass. Its just different. And a good M2 sound by a bass on lets say an A4 does not sound so much different compared to an M1 sound by let's say Bruno Mars on the same note.

The biggest problem is really that there are almost no basses nowadays in popular music so you don't have something to stick to timbre-wise in the beginnig. In many cases (like mine) this will result in over-brightening your timbre most of the time to match that of the higher voices. It even happens in everday speech.

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Hello, All!

I'm sorry that I could not chime in a week ago, when this topic first came up.

Jori, from your description, you have a voice similar to the one I had when I was 18-25, mostly lower and heavier, with challenges in transition to a top voice that was connected/consistent. I, too, played brass... French Horn, and forced. My frustrations with these situations lead me to read everything I could get my hands on related to voice technique, from the sublime to the ridiculous! Yes, I was singing in choirs, and as a soloist in Opera during University, but technique was holding me back from the sense of ease that I wanted.

For the sake of brevity, I'll flash forward to today, and the comments/advice I would give my 18-year-old self if he came to my studio today:

1) The way you support during singing is not identical to the way you support when you play the French Horn. Specifically, the muscles of exhalation used extensively during brass playing (and breathing for athletics) must be tamed, so that they do not overblow the voice. If too much exhalation force is used, the muscles of the larynx, pharynx and even the tongue will increase their activity in a manner that shields them from damage.

The remedy for this is to learn and practice slow exhalation, and to then combine it with light-and-medium intensity phonation. As soon as you begin to do this, the voice will respond with less constriction, lighter registration, and an overall 'free-er' production.

2) For the habitual oversinger (like I was), once the breath balance of #1 is provoked, its necessary to re-learn the mental approach to the note range that was previously forced, that is, how to 'not clench or get heavy' in the range where it was previously the habit. IMO, your best friends in this endeavor are the slow siren on low first-formant vowels, and on the sustained, semi-occluded, voiced consonants. The low first-formant vowels are ee and oo, and the consonants mentioned are Z as in Zebra, V as in Victory, Th as in 'Thee', and the lip buzz made when you phonate with your lips lightly shut. For the heaviest voices, I would begin with the last of these.

Using slow-exhale support, onset a medium-soft note with whatever of the mentioned consonants you prefer, on D2, and slide slowly up the octave to D3, noticing the change in sensations, and maintaining the sense of the slow exhale. If you find a place that you feel provoked to push a little, repeat the siren and slow down at the note range when you feel the urge to push, and focus your attention on your approach to that region until you can sustain the siren without pushing it.

When you can do that (and maybe you can already), transpose the octave siren up 1 semitone, and repeat. Yes, the sensations will be different, but as long as you are not pushing, and letting the siren be easy, the lightening of registration will occur quite naturally, just by you thinking the siren shape.

For most heavier-voice persons I know, the challenge notes will come beginning with the sirens from G2 to G3, and readily apparent by Bb2 to Bb3. When you get to the point that you are sirening easily from Eb3 to Eb4, you can begin to use the other consonant sounds, and the low-first formant vowels in the sirens.

I hope this is helpful. Let us know how things progress.

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