The Voice behind the Music

Posts tagged “vocal concepts

Vowels “The Long Tube of Sound”

Words are made up of a series of sounds rather than a solid square block of sound. When singing there is all sorts of room to play with the word; movable vowels and consonants. One word (or group of sounds) moves to the next group of sounds continuously.

The longer more expressive sounds are generally vowels. I like to think of the vowels as my “long tube of sound “ which I then shape with my tongue and lips slightly to make the consonant sounds.

To practice, start your first word of a line with its vowel-sound even if the word actually starts with a consonant. This will help you to start with an open throat. Begin by thinking of and shaping your throat with the vowel sound you are about to sing while breathing in. Then sing the first vowel sound, and without stopping that sound, shape the first consonant of the word.
Your sound should be continuous from sound shape to sound shape. The only time the sound will stop is when you take a breath.

aaa-th-aaa “the” aaathaaariiiiveeeerriiisswiiiide (the river is wide)

You can practice whole melodies on one vowel sound to help smooth out all kinds of difficulties. Slide from note to note to help maintain composure and relaxation between pitches.
Next you can practice the song using only the vowel sounds of each word (leaving out the consonants altogether). This takes a bit more work mostly because it is hard to think that way. You can write out the vowel sounds and then sing them (considerably easier). Sing continuously moving from one vowel to the next, only stopping to take breaths.

Try to remember it what this feels like. Change nothing, do nothing.

Add back in the consonants trying to maintain “your tube of sound”. Try not to pinch off “the tube” when you shape the consonants. Merely move your tongue or lips slightly (as little as possible) around the tube. There is no need for facial exaggeration when making consonants.
Check yourself out in the mirror to monitor. Happy tubing!

firetruck (imitation without limitation)

You are 3 years old and you are sitting in you favorite dirt pile or sandbox. You’re face is painted with a fudge bar. There is probably drool coming out of your mouth and other pleasantries happening. You are conscious of only one thing….. GETTING TO THAT FIRE!!. Your chubby little hand firmly grasps your fire truck and you are racing at breakneck speed down the winding dirt roads of your imaginary town, round and round your adorable little body AND your siren is roaring!!


Are you there, sitting in your sandbox? Is your hand tight around your imaginary fire truck? YES….REALLY, you have to hold the fire truck. Imagine the sound of the fire truck loud and clear in your head and then make that siren sound driving your fire truck fast to the fire.

If you have successfully imitated a siren to the best of your ability your voice probably was making a high-pitched sound, it probably modulated from low to high and back again several times.

THIS IS SINGING HIGH! It probably felt easy and unconscious. You, as a small child learned by imitation without the limitations of thinking this is hard, this is up, this is impossible. All you knew was that you were a fire truck so that’s the sound you made and you got to the fire and saved all those desperate people. Your head was probably ringing like a bell with the sound you were making, but you didn’t notice. You certainly weren’t thinking “man is this hard singing high”. All you knew was that you had a job to do and that you were  probably a hero.

Many students come to me saying they can’t sing high, that they are baritones or altos and high notes are impossible. What makes singing high notes difficult is your understanding of what high notes are. High notes are not UP somewhere above your eyebrows. The vocal folds stay in the same place and move horizontally, not up and down. REACHING for a high note is counter productive because when you reach you strain and when you strain your tension makes the note unobtainable.

I think reading music on a page gives us the idea that those notes are up and of course calling them high doesn’t help either. What if we reverse the language and called high notes low instead. Would what we once called low notes, now the new high, be considered unreachable?

take a still pill (Vocal Concepts, change your thoughts, change your voice)

KEEP STILL WHILE YOU SING. This was probably one of the hardest things for me when I first started singing. I was full of energy and twitching everywhere. My voice teacher used to beg me to stop moving! It took me a long time to rein it in and calm my body down. I used to BELIEVE  “I have so much to express, I feel so much, I can’t possibly hold still.”

Try putting your expressive energy into your VOICE instead of your facial expressions or other body movements. FEEL what you are singing about instead of acting like you feel it with you face. If you feel it, the voice will express it for you. You don’t have to DO anything.

When you watch the great singers of the world you will notice that their faces are very still. STILLNESS does not mean frozen or held. Their jaw is relaxed, their brow is soft, their lips hardly move (especially the upper lip), their throat muscles and veins are not popping out. They are in a state of utter presence and relaxed stillness.

A tense body will hinder your progress in generating volume and tone. (more on that in blogs to come in)

When a performer is tense or uncomfortable, then I (the listener), am also tense and uncomfortable.

Because sound is a vibration it actually enters the body of the listener. The audience feels what you feel because the sound you generate (from a tense or relaxed body) resonates inside of their body in the same way as it resonates in yours. It is the instant unconscious recognition of the human language.

HOW TO PRACTICE: this is good for singers, speakers and anyone who talks!

Stand in front of a mirror and try to keep still. A soft face and a quiet neck.

IMAGINE your face is bigger than it is, very big like a beach ball, and soft, lips numb like you were given a shot of Novocain. Take the time to really imagine it until you FEEL it.

Let your cheeks fatten, allow the space between your ears to widen sideways.

Let your tongue fall to the floor of your mouth.

Make a sound.

Keep your attention on your BROW. Don’t let your eyebrows move up and down when you change pitch.

Check out your NECK, can you see muscles sticking out or moving up and down? If so try to stop moving them (this can take a while). Trust me, they don’t have to move and are hindering your progress.


KEEP AT IT until you can maintain stillness while singing.