Episode 7 – How To Build Strength In Head Voice | Recovering From Strain

By January 22, 2014

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Todays show incorporates advice on strengthening the head voice and helping to reduce strain after a heavy schedule.

 

Before we get into the meat we have some brief news…. The Naked Vocalist have been enlisted to write an article on technique for an upcoming singing publication which we will announce officially in the next podcast. Very exciting!

 

Also, we are almost decided on attending the VocalizeU Winter Retreat in California this February. This event is amazing and if you can make it we highly recommend it. Check it out at http://vocalizeuevents.com/events/19. It will be a worthwhile and amazing investment as an artist or teacher.

 

In to question number 1:

This question essentially is asking how to build into head voice to make it sound chesty and strong.

We talk about how it’s highly relevant to ensure the head voice is healthy first, keeping it light and low intensity. We recommend sounds like WEE and WOOF to develop that initially.

Moving on past discovering a comfortable head voice, it’s important to then be able to connect from the bottom of the voice to the top through sirens using vowels like EE and OOH (as in ‘who’).

Now to strengthen, firstly you need some nerve. Some fearlessness and being prepared to make a mistake. Going beyond that, we can first look at stabilizing the larynx and making sure it’s relaxed and not moving unnaturally and uncontrollably out of position. You can adjust this with a teacher who understands how to balance tone through larynx manipulation.

More extreme exercises to get this feeling start with the nasty or twangy sounds where the singer raises the larynx selectively. This can have the effect of energising the voice and enhancing the vocal cord adduction. It is so important to remember to relax during this exercise as it can also make a tense singer even more tense, and eventually abuse the vocal cords.

It is widely known in the teaching circles that more open vowels, ie vowels that open the mouth and/or sit the tongue back like A (as in ‘cat’), AH (as in ‘father’) or EH (as in ‘met’), can encourage a more chesty sound. For singers that need that extra boost and have a tendency to be too heady, sounds like NA, GA, MA, NEH and NAH can help with sounding more chesty.

Moving on from vowels, the onset is another important factor in sounding stronger when high up. Consonants are a useful tool in helping to bring the vocal cords together at the start of a line or exercise and creating a stronger onset. Plosive consonants like G, D and B are very useful in the this situation as they are known to close the cords prior to the airflow starting. Something a little more aggressive to feel good cord adduction is using a staccato approach with vowels like A-A-A-A-A, but being sure you are relaxed and quickly trying to progress onto a legato approach with the vowel but trying to maintain the cord closure.

 

Question 2:

This question was requesting some advice how to treat strain after having overdone the singing.

This singer has mentioned that they are trying to develop their voice with sounds and exercises for an hour per day, and that could be a little too much if strain is present. Rest is a must before you recoup and try again.

He is also 14 years of age, and this could have a massive impact on the ability to sing without tension because of the hormonal and physical changes happening at that age.

If you are concerned about your voice or whether you have strained it to the point of damage, it’s time to get to get checked out by the ENT department. www.bapam.org.uk is a great free website where you can find a doctor near to you that can help you specifically with your music related problem.

The singer has also been using the vowel GOOG to develop their break but hasn’t felt any change. Although that vowel is commonly used to help singers with their transitions, it is occasionally the case (and more common than you think!) where the obvious choice should work but doesn’t. This is why we aren’t necessarily the biggest fans of online or structured courses as they can really leave people stumped. Don’t get us wrong, there is value in it to a degree, but the journey would be quicker and safer with a tailored approach through lessons.

Ultimately, to get past having to deal with strain there needs to be a wholesale change in vocal behaviours, as after the rest period you will still be left with tension in singing. This means it will only be a matter of time before you have to rest again.

 

To finish up, we have our very funny YouTube pick of the week:

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To send us a question please do contact us at tnvquestions@gmail.com. We will happily help with anything at all.

 

Happy new year and see you next time!!

Chris Johnson

Founder at The Naked Vocalist
Writer for iSing Magazine, co founder of The Naked Vocalist Singers’ podcast and Vocal science and technique strand leader at VocalizeU teacher training events. Specialises in advanced vocal technique, including belting.

- West End clients: Natalie Andreou (Elphaba in Wicked, Sherrie in Rock Of Ages), Nikki Butcher (Mama Mia, Evita), Jay Perry (Ben E King, Beautiful)
- Popular music clients: Andy Brown (Lawson), Jessica Staveley (The Staves), James Veck-Gilodi - Deaf Havana

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