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Finding the Singing Voice: An Introduction to Vocal Control
7, 6, 8, 9, 5, 4, 11, 12, 2, 3, 10
By Jess Buice
After 5 weeks of 50 min. intensive, energetic, theory lessons, it was time to put the theory into practice. Before asking the students to turn the pitches into sound, it seemed only natural to show them how to produce this sound, as a choir, a team, an “expected sound.” This “introduction to vocal control” is by no means total, nor comprehensive, however, it does fill a need not included in most curriculums.
The lesson is written as it occurred…
The importance of sitting up:
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING WE NEED TO MAKE A VOICE? (breath)
Everyone bend over and rest your elbows on your knees, like this.
Now take a deep breath.
You can’t do it. Your pipes are bent.
It’s like kinking the water hose, nothing can get out, or in.
You’re pushing your belly into your chest, so the lungs are trapped.
Now sit up and take that breath again.
See now, wasn’t that easy?
The better the breath, the better the sound!
FIRST RULE? Sit up!
Making room for sound:
Everyone close your mouth and let your tongue rest on the top of your mouth.
Close your teeth too.
Now hum. Let’s do that again and this time try to feel where the sound is vibrating.
STOP. How many of you could feel your nose vibrate.
That’s because the air is coming up, vibrating your vocal cords, then this vibration is being CUT OFF by your tongue.
We need to get the tongue out of the way.
Let your tongue lay flat and do it again.
Well listen to that.
Now what is vibrating?
Do it again, tongue down, teeth together, now hummmm.
Did you feel your teeth vibrate?
That’s because the air is now moving past your tongue and, hitting the back of your teeth.
Let’s get the teeth out of the way too.
DO NOT DO THIS (teacher demonstrates stretching mouth wide with lips closed.
Just relax your jaw and your teeth will separate.
Keep your tongue down, relax your jaw, teeth apart, now hmmm.
Now what is vibrating? (lips)
That’s because the only thing between the sound being made is your lips.
That is the correct way to hum.
Tongue flat, relax jaw, teeth apart, lips barely touching.
If your lips tickle, you’re doing it right!
SECOND RULE: Tongue flat!
THIRD RULE: Relax Jaw!
FOURTH RULE: Teeth apart!
Focusing the hum! HEAD VOICE
I’m going to hum, and while I hum, you will hear the hum start in my chest,
move up to my neck, around my nose, and come out the front of my forehead.
(teacher demonstrates a hum from a VERY LOW pitch, sliding slowly upward to a high pitch, coming out the head)
Did you hear the vibrations move?
Now you do it, and concentrate on the vibrations as they move to your forehead.
Remember to keep your tongue flat and your teeth apart.
Did you feel the vibrations?
That’s what we call a HEAD VOICE, it sounds like the vibrations are coming out your head.
RULE NUMBER FIVE: vibrations should be focused in your head!
Now we need to find the same pitch.
I’m going to humm again, to find the head vibrations as I go up, this time I will stop on a specific pitch.
Listen and do the same thing after me, stopping on the pitch I stop on.
Now you do it with me.
(Time to match everyone is not needed. As pitch drills are introduced and practice is increased, most students will learn to match pitches, without the stigma of everyone knowing they can’t. Reminders to sing higher, are fine! Some will sing too high, reminders not to go too high are fine too. When most are on pitch, so that the pitch can be distinguished above the others, move to next step)
Turning the hum into a voice. THE EXPECTED SOUND
I have my tongue flat,
my teeth apart,
the vibrations are focused in my head,
What is the only thing I need to do to make a voice?
(open my mouth) RIGHT
This will make the hum become the sound ah.
(Demonstrate with the matched pitch.)
Now you do it, just open your mouth.
Wasn’t that a nice sound? No stress, no straining, just a nice pleasant sound!
Let’s do it again!
That is the voice we want to use as a chorus.
When ever we are singing as a group, that is the voice we use.
Now let’s learn another vowel sound.
This time I will humm,
turn the humm into an ah,
then I will turn the ah into an “oo.”
To do this I will only move my lips! Watch!
Now you do it! Don’t pucker! Keep it relaxed.
Now, do it again and notice the sound seems to sound like ONE VOICE.
Did you hear it?
The ah was coming out of your mouth and spreading all around the room.
When we made the oo it focused the air flow to a smaller opening and the sound wasn’t able to spread, it became a straight air flow so we sound like one voice. Do it again.
That was wonderful!
We have now added the vowel ee – and learned to raise our soft pallet and keep the tongue flat. This makes the ee sound “darker” (another neat concept, colors to describe sound) and keeps the ee from sounding nasal! All of which is learning to produce quality sound – or voice timbre. We used the song. “A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea” to practice the ee’s.
Your thoughts are appreciated. JBuice – email@example.com
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