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singing quietly, neck tension, volume

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I've been gradually learning how to sing quietly and am trying to tone down my approach as I'm a more belt it out kind of guy. Singing quieter seems to facilitate crossing registers much easier, which I like. I'm not using this in my gigs yet because I don't have full mastery. However, I can see some beneficial things and some not so beneficial things that could come out of approaching things this way.

I find that when I sing quieter, I have to kind of hold everything in and this causes tension in my neck, jaw, etc. It also means I'm going into a lighter head voice than if I just balls out go for it.  So it's a whimpier, quieter tone. However, it's not a loud, yelly, uncontrollable tone.  Did you guys have that tension when you learned to do this? I THINK it's just a coordination thing and I may be trying to "prop it up" so it doesn't fall apart.  Also, once I'm doing this with my loud band, I think it will be super hard to maintain the quieter approach (I wear in ears).

 

Any thoughts?

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So it gives u extra tension Ronws? How do you dump that?

The only time I might feel tension is trying to go really high and quiet. So, then, I don't stay so quiet. However, my voice is already light and some others have thought I was singing falsetto when it was as full a voice as I can make.

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Yeah, I'm a lazy singer. I let my voice work in it's strong points. Kind of like, I could probably work out and step my way up to 300 lb dead-lift. And why? In my life, I don't need to lift 300 lbs straight with my arms. I have tools for that kind of thing.

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Trying to sing quiet while maintaining the mass of a loud volume has caused me more tension than any other kind of singing (including basically yelling at extreme volumes). 

However, I've found that if you accept the limitations of a truly quiet place, without judging it, and grow from a comfortable amount of quietness it's helped me a lot to build from there, rather than trying to suffocate a loud voice. For me the most comfortable quiet voices are:

1. Lightly twanged bright timbre without a lot of resonance (nerdy, quacky, or witchy), bright and thin, but not bright and tight

2. Singing darker and hootier, like a narrow hoo

3. Singing just a slight bit windier (I imagine little H breathing above my tongue, which is completely a visualization, but it works for a very slight windiness for me)

So I'll start from a place like that, which doesn't have tension and is quiet, and try to build resonance, closure, toy with vowels etc, while maintaining the comfort. That way when something starts to tense up, you just go back to the comfortable place. I have found I can sing much quieter with a more control, less tension, decent resonance, closure, et, now, although I'm still more skilled at loudly and may always be.

So if you are swelling from a place without tension, then whatever tension is added is quickly detected. It's a lot of trial and error for me, but I'm ten times better at it now. I had reached a point where I literally couldn't do this. I could almost compete with a drum set with volume but if I wanted to sing just a bit louder than a conversation, it was a disaster.

Yeah, my advice is find a center point, free of tension, and lean directions with placement, support, and closure. At first I was devastated when moving to a place where I was forced to be quieter. I'm going to be moving away again soon, to a place where I may be able to go back to more volume, but I'm going to take with me both skills and keep working on basically what I call the 'medium quiet' voice which for me has been the most difficult part of my voice.

Final note, it helps to try to sing Roy Orbison songs, imo. He had a lot of control in this area and never pushed or strained.

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    Killer makes a great point......

   My question would be "How quiet?"........Quiet for a few friends to hear you in a small room without hurting their ears......or super quiet where only you can hear you?

   If going super quiet you have to NOT expect your usual tone.....Like Killer said, accept what it is instead of trying to create your usual tone.   There are certain songs that I can get my voice to go super quiet and maintain a somewhat modal sound above G4....but the voice is very small... the tone thin.....once I start to get   more cord mass or volume I lose the coordination.

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Billy, amplify, don't try to get louder. A lot of your challenges come from confusion related to basic notions of trying to get louder when you sing, instead of amplifying formants.  You still are trying to hit high notes and get louder. As long as you do that, you'll never know the joy of amplifying formants and the freedom that comes from it.

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uh oh

hahahahaha perfect response Dan

In my experience, singing quieter, like a medium volume 'mixed voice', should not increase neck or jaw tension etc. compared to louder beltier singing, otherwise it's gonna be problematic

I would recommend focusing first on decreasing and eventually removing the neck and jaw tension because the more you tame those bad habits the more you eliminate limitations in your voice (such as being unable to go quiet in full voice without holding on even tighter). When you practice outside of the gigs start focusing a lot on learning to sing with less and less of that forceful holding on with extra muscles you're not supposed to grip with (neck, jaw, whatever else). Because those habits can take years to fix. Of course at the gigs you will have to continue your old ways temporarily to get the right sound reliably but when practicing on your own you should forget about sounding polished and just work on the right coordination - over time that coordination strengthens and gets more consistently accessible and you can start bringing it into the gigs gradually.

Then the next thing is of course balancing cord closure, resonance and support...as you reduce the tensions you will find yourself going back to these fundamentals big time, re-adjusting them for more efficiency

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Killer, your #1 is what I referred to. I sang "civil war" a couple of times through on my 6h car ride and by the end I could sing the song pretty good with my full voice. It sort of smooths out the passaggio really good, and keeps the "singing in the pocket" sensation up.

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Killer and MDEWs posts more clearly explain what I was talking about. It is not that I try to go louder when higher, I just don't stifle it or sacrifice tone for volume. If the note is a little loud, oh well. I can either back away from the mic or something to balance volume.

I also don't consider that I have to do what every other singer in the world does just to be a competent singer. So, if another singer goes really soft when they go high, I don't feel like I have to do that. Nor do I assume that it is some great feat of technique, just because I may think it was technical prowess. It could very well be a limitation of that voice for that volume at that pitch.

And I could also go to falsetto at a certain point and a lot of people, even myself, may not hear it at first, since my voice is so light, already. However, it is also really loud in the upper end.

 

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I'm not singing quiet cuz I'm concerned with volume. I'm singing quiet because when I sing loudly, I can't get my voice to be so subtle that it crosses registers. Meaning, I end up belting nearly everything in full chest voice. THAT is what I'm trying to get away from. There is one particular song in the stuff that I do, and if I am subtle with it, the pitch is better because I'm not constantly squeezing and it sounds easier. However, this is why I asked the original question, it's very hard to do it and I get a lot of tension there as well. So, if I sing it balls out, and the melody is on a G mostly, it sounds very tight, cuz it is. If I sing it quietly, I ALMOST get it to sound smooth, not forced, and easy, but it's actually really hard to do because of all the tension I'm feeling.

I might not be explaining this very well...

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I think I know, Billy. It is a matter of having a controllable sound as you ascend without having to go too loud or too soft. So, engage the head voice and "welcome to the dark side."

(As I unfurl my wings and long, pointy tail and my boots peel away to reveal cloven hooves ....)

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I'd pay a lot of attention to vowels and how they affect your volume and timbre. I know back in the day, I'd gravitate towards a vowel in between oh and ah with a lowered larynx and high soft palate. It was a very open throat position with a lot of amplification in my chest voice. It was  good for operatic kinds of volumes/weight so if I put a lot of energy into it, it would be like a foghorn.

I still cannot use that position now quietly or heady without sounding hooty and dark and it's not a good vowel to curb on. It's just a loud position and when it gets loud enough it sounds cool. If I want to sing really loud and chesty, I still lean this direction, but I think each tract position will have strengths and weaknesses. I had to find different ones for various timbres and volumes.

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"Bill"... why don't you come in and let me help you... it sounds like you could use some coaching on some light mass phonations. We should have you bring in one or two of your tunes that are creating this problem and let me coach you on it. It is mostly about the physics of the formant; vowel, acoustic mass and where your glottis is positioned.  You need my ears to help you to feel and hear a different set up...

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