Friday, December 30, 2016

Balancing the Vocal Vectors

They key to singing great is efficiency. If our voices are not efficient we end up having all kinds of problems from "pushing the voice" to lack of power and range. We have to understand vocal registration and the vocal vectors.

Vocal registration includes things like falsetto and chest voice. And we must develop both fully. The Vocal Vectors are the up pull, down pull, back pull and forward pull of the larynx. Registration affects the vectors directly.

Since the Vocal Vectors have 4 different directional pulls it is important to balance those pulls properly. Too much pull from one vector throws the larynx out of proper position of the larynx when we sing. Depending on which vector is out of balance determines which result we get. For example, too much up pull can give us throat closure.

The technique is was taught is based on balancing the vocal vectors which absolutely involves developing the chest and falsetto registers. This balance is what every great singer has. No great singer was unable to sing in chest or falsetto. People wonder how great singers do what they do. And this is how; the balancing of the vectors.

Many people look back at all the great singers in history and do not understand that what made them great was that their voices were not blocked by constrictive tension. The idea of "singing with an open throat" is often thrown around in the singing world to describe what a great singers do. And you can read a million different articles on how to achieve it. Or have hundreds of voice teachers who tell you different ways to get it. The best way to understand it and to have a clear way of how to do it is through the balancing of the Vocal Vectors which includes proper vocal registration.


Nasality is a quality that singers should remove from their singing. Unfortunately, the idea of "placing the sound in the mask" has caused many modern day singers to become nasal and constricted. This sound has become widely accepted today as it has been forced upon singers as being the "right sound". It isn't. For those who really want to know how to remove this nasality there is only one way to do so.
When someone sings with nasality there is quite often an excessive leakage of air coming through the nose. The sound can be "honky", squeezed, buzzy, noisy and so on. However, if a singer correctly sings "dark" it will eliminate this nasality. It is not possible to sing dark and nasally.
I say "properly dark" because there are ways that people sing darkly that is incorrect. Singing with a dark quality means that there is an elongation of the vocal tract which makes a deeper sound, but there must also be intense core/squillo in the sound. Some people equate darkness in the sound to depth in the sound. 
I often use the example of non classical singers who go between singing nasally and then darker. You can hear a stark difference between the nasal sounds - when it is not dark - and then a riddance of nasality when they sing dark/deep. I will post and example below and also some classical examples. And always try to remember that if there is any such thing as a "mask" -which there isn't - then it is in the pharynx, not in the front  part of the face.
Below we can hear in the first minute of the song it is generally nasal except on the words "rush", "love", and "stay". On all of these words she sings much more darkly. The darkness (depth) rids of the voice of nasality:

This is nasal which causes a lack of proper darkness and constriction. The constriction causes the vibrato issues:

This is a great example of singing nasally and then improperly dark. Through much of the beginning his voice is nasal in an attempt to get clarity. As he goes higher and wants to get a fuller sound it does go dark, but he loses all the core/squillo and gets depressed and woofy:

Non nasal; he is older here:

This is a depressed larynx sound. It affects the natural beauty of the voice, distorts the vowels, is thick and causes vibrato issues:

This is not with a depressed or nasal sound:

My mentor's brother at 60 years old and in poor health. Still not nasal:

My Mentor

My incredible teacher. Not only was he an amazing teacher he was one of the greatest singers in history he was one of the greatest teachers in history.

The Danger of Pulling the Abdomen In When Breathing

The correct breathing coordination for singing is absolutely essential in order to produce a free, ringing, beautiful sound. I had already explained in my other post on the breathing what the correct set up of those muscles is and how to do it properly. Now I would like to discuss one of the most destructive ideas about the breathing that I sometimes hear being taught to students; i.e., pulling in the stomach when singing.

Pulling in the abdomen when singing causes there to be a collapse of the inpiratory tension. As a consequence of the inspiratory (abdominal expansion) collapse, the singer is forced to lock the throat causing a valvular action - the Valsalva maneuver - whereby the glottis is closed too much and the singer is constricted. The singer is driving the air out against a closed throat. This happens when someone grunts, lifts something heavy, coughs etc. And you will notice when you cough that the stomach pulls in. It does this naturally so that the diaphragm is jolted by the abdominal muscles, thereby propelling the air out. We then momentarily close the glottis, building up pressure, only to release it explosively in the cough. This is how our bodies attempt to get something out of the throat.

Now, if we were to hold the abdomen out - engaging the inspratory muscles - while trying to cough we will notice that it is nearly impossible to initiate the action. This is due to the fact that the holding out does not allow the abdominal muscles to pull in too aggressively against the diaphragm - which is what is needed in a cough.

In singing we do not want the throat to close. That would only limit the vocal folds from vibrating freely. Instead, we want the vocal folds to vibrate completely unencumbered. So it is imperative to keep the abdomen expanding during singing so as to prevent the throat from closing. Thus, the holding out of the inspiratory tension (abdomen expansion) allows us to hold the throat open and vibrate the vocal folds freely.

Additionally, the balance of the inspiratory tension against the expiratory tension affects the vibrato action. Most of the singers who pull in the stomach when singing either already have a tremolo problem or soon develop it. That is due to the fact that the balance of the two tensions affects the vibrato action directly. There is a pulsing again that happens when you hold the inspiratory tension against the expiratory tension which directly affects the amplitude of the vibrato. And this is especially apparent on high notes or loud notes. Therefore, collapsing the expansion of the abdomen does not allow for this to happen naturally, how it should, but rather will cause the singer to develop a tremolo over time.

In closing, please never listen to any teacher who tells you to pull in the stomach or abdomen when singing. It will only cause constriction and/or tremolo issues with the vibrato. Proper appoggiare is the abdomen holding out.