The illusion of power

Too many times I hear over-compressed cords from students who think  they are singing with power. Unfortunately this sound is dull and to be quite blunt … ugly. Over-compressing the cords will only cause students trouble as they try to sing higher, because  they can’t release this sensation without flipping into falcetto. The answer is; mixing with head voice and allowing the cords to thin and stretch as you sing higher.

Men, you can find your head voice by singing a G above middle C in a connected, stable and controlled sound. This isn’t falcetto. This is head voice. If you feel your throat “choking” you then your larynx is probably too high. This coordination is not going to help you sing in optimum head voice mix, so work on getting that larynx down first.

Women, you can find your true head voice by singing a high C. Again, make sure this isn’t breathy or you are probably in falcetto (which means the cords have come apart).

Working this area of your voice is very important for mixing. Learn to love your head voice. It may seem weak and foreign to you, and that is all-the-more reason to figure out this area of your voice from this approach. Keep the volume at a medium to low level.

There are other elements that will help build a powerful and strong mixed voice too. Once your head voice is easy to control and identify, then you can work on pharyngeal sounds and exercises to bring out the illusion of power. Yes, the illusion of power. The illusion of a super-human sound that is actually just your head voice in a mix!

Pharyngeal sounds

For those of you familiar with speech level singing exercises, the nasty “nay” sound is probably all-too-familiar. This is a sound that many singers do wrong. The goal here is to feel the resonance behind the cheek bone and nasal area, not in the mouth or at the back of the throat.

In Estill Voice Technique this sound is the schoolyard sing-song taunt. Again, it can be done incorrectly if you are using the wrong coordination.

The challenge is making this sound above the first passagio.

I suggest starting with a puppy dog whimper in your head voice. This will get your cords thinned out. Close your mouth and work this whimper in a hum. Raise your cheeks and think a “cry-like” sound.  If you are having trouble, take your volume down to a level where you can manage a simple light coordination of a whimper sound in your head voice. Keep your mouth closed……now you have thin cords.  Your larynx may want to rise, and certainly the ideal condition is for it to remain neutral. Take note of this. To counter the raising of the larynx, consider what is going on inside your mouth at the back of your throat. Lift your soft palate as best you can.

I suggest making this your home base. Men, this will be around F or F# above middle C, and ladies, this will be around high C or C#.

Once you can master the puppy dog whimper in your head voice, then you need to work the whimper through the first passagio. For men, you need to master the whimper from F# below middle C to F# above middle C.  Ladies, middle C# to high C#. If you feel a “catch” in your voice, then you simply need to do it over and over and over every day until that “catch” evens out. (If you practise everyday, it will eventually even out).

Consider taking the volume down to the point where you can master this.  Do the whimper both ascending and descending. You can turn this into a continuous whimper siren if you like. Notice your head voice is clearly present. Try to coordinate a balance that works for you. In other words, the lowest notes are predominantly chest voice and your head voice needs to allow this transition. The high whimper is mostly head voice, so again you need to allow this transition. If you find this challenging, then consider your volume again. There will definitely be a level where you can coordinate this transition. You might not be happy with the sound…..but that doesn’t matter. It’s not about the sound! It’s about the coordination. This is your starting point. Do not increase your volume until you can master this transition of puppy dog whimper through your first passagio.

So, now that you have good cord closure and you are mixing well through your first passagio, you can actually begin to work on your pharyngeal sounds like the nasty “nay” or “meow” sounds.