Working on the whimper

The ability to make certain sounds can have great benefit on your overall vocal ability. The trick is being able to make these sounds correctly without constriction (pushing).  It’s always a good idea to have a coach work with you on these sounds to make sure you are going about it the right way.

A great exercise is making the sound of a whimpery puppy dog. The trick is finding the correct pitch to start in your vocal range to engage the effort. Once you get connected to this coordination, you can take it up and down in pitch.

For women I would suggest starting about B flat (above middle C). This is just above your first passagio. Working through the passagio is a challenge in itself. It shouldn’t be loud. It is simply a sound…no singing. If the top note is breathy, try the thought of holding your breath while making the sound. If you feel pull on the high note (as if you are trying to talk higher but can’t reach it) then relax and let the note simply be soft and lighter. You may flip into falcetto at this point. If this is the case, then try it again at a quieter volume but with increase effort. Do not let it flip. What you are trying to do is engage the cricothyroid muscle to tilt the thyroid cartilage. Other sounds to try are meowing like a cat, or talking like a small child. Other muscles become involved as well when making different sounds, but they are all beneficial. You will likely find one that is easiest.

I wouldn’t lower the starting pitch too much. It’s most ideal to work in the middle area of the voice with the descending 5-note scale. Then take it higher as you gain success. You will notice the first note is the one that needs the most effort. If you are connecting on the first note with ease, then that’s when you can increase the volume. It should be brassy and bright. If breath is getting through then take the volume back down and keep working it. Remember, you do not need a lot of air to do this.

Men, this can be challenging for those of you with big voices. This exercise requires you to allow yourself to go to a smaller place first to make sure you are getting the edgy sound correctly with very little air. I suggest starting at about F# above middle C and using a five-note descending scale. It might feel vunerable. It might feel weak. You should feel no throat strain, but you will likely feel a tremendous effort in the body and back of the head as you attempt to hold back air and make a whimpery noise on a note above your first passagio. It might be breathy, but not so much to actually call your falcetto…just keep working at this. If you do flip to definite falcetto, then start at a lower pitch. The idea is to stay connect to your chest voice (speech-like sound), but allow it to switch to this unique coordination on your higher notes.

Give it a try and let me know how it went. Please leave a comment below. Thanks.