A SINGER'S GUIDE TO THE WELL-TRAINED AND POWERFUL VOICE



Author: Cheryl Hodge
Illustrators: Beth Ingraham, Cheryl Hodge
Copyright: August, 1992; U.S.A.



About the Author...


Cheryl Hodge graduated with honors from Berklee College of Music, in Boston (with a B.M. in Composition). She then joined the voice faculty at Berklee where she taught for many years; specializing in vocal technique, composition, sight reading and Business of Music. She has extensive recording experience (regional, national and international), many C.D. releases ("Indigo", "Original Article", "Live & Alive", "Strings, Necks & C(h)ords" and "Tonight I'm Wearing Basic Black"); principally in the United States & Canada, where she has performed/arranged on projects for C.B.S., Atco Records, Dick Clark Productions (a movie soundtrack), and numerous commercials (Coleco, Suburu, Cullinet, etc.) She is a published vocal arranger and songwriter.

Presently Ms. Hodge is heading up the vocal department at the Professional Music Department of Selkirk College, located in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.



Special THANKS go to:

    Brian O'Connell, Kate Murphy, Beth Ingraham, Sue Hill; my son, Dylan




Table of Contents:


PART I THE HELPFULNESS OF VOCAL TECHNIQUE

Chapter 1 Why Study Voice? (... 3)
Chapter 2 The Methods (... 11)

PART II THE TECHNIQUE

Chapter 3 Posture (... 14)
Chapter 4 Breathing (... 20)
Chapter 5 Relaxation (...24)
Chapter 6 The Sighing Exercises (... 29)
Chapter 7 The Singing Exercises (... 33)

PART III TROUBLE-SHOOTING

Chapter 8 Developing Your Upper Range (...39)
Chapter 9 Expanding Your Lower Range;
Improving Your Middle Range (... 43)
Chapter 10 "Break" Work (... 46)
Chapter 11 The Consonants (... 50)
Chapter 12 Opening Up the Voice:
The Vowels; the Diphthongs (... 54)

PART IV THE SONG

Chapter 13 Song Analysis (... 58)
Chapter 14 Stylization (... 62)
Chapter 15 Sight-Reading and the Serious Vocalist (... 68)


PART V THE ACOUSTICS OF VOICE

(Chapter 16)
(...71
)


PART VI MORE FAVORITE EXERCISES

(Chapter l7)
(... 77)

Structures of Phonation ... (... 81)

Recommended Reading... (... 82)





Preface


A few years ago I set out to find a book on the voice that was all inclusive. I was in desperate need of locating a book which could cover proper vocal technique, vocal maintenance; even the acoustics of voice. I needed a manual to give to my students that would provide them with a good solid beginning in classical, pop, jazz, and rock vocal technique. I wanted a book that would bridge "the gap" (i.e., the present lack of understanding between different styles of music), and make vocalists realize that each of these types of music require the same solid base of vocal training. I searched for books that would offer a brief description of various styles (while at the same time offering clues to defining and re-defining one's individual style). I needed a book that would teach vocalists how to avoid the pitfalls of losing their voice. I also wanted a series of vocal exercises.

Until recently I have been referring students to a variety of different vocal books. The list of books which cover various fields is extensive. There are fabulous books about vocal therapy, technique, and stylization. There are acoustical books which include passages about the acoustics of voice.

The problem the student encounters is that, often, there doesn't seem to be enough money in their budget to acquire all of these books. While it is true that most libraries contain books on the subject of voice, it is also true that these books are frequently unavailable or are constantly being checked out.

I continue to refer other vocal books to my students. One can never read enough on a particular field of study. However, with the completion of this book I have finally been able to provide my students with a more inclusive look at the voice (while enabling them to keep book costs at a minimum).

It is my hope that the reader of this book will come away with a good solid basic understanding of how the voice works, as well as a thirst for more knowledge and a desire to continue to perfect the vocal instrument for many years to come.





CHAPTER ONE: WHY STUDY VOICE?



The reasons for vocal training are numerous. One does not only need training to be a vocalist, but to be a speaker as well. Control of one's breathing and diaphragm can increase projection by as much as 60%. I am one such case. Who takes voice then? Public speakers, actors, Broadway vocalists, rock singers, choral singers, pop singers, jazz vocalists, and just about anybody who uses their voice in their profession. Occasionally, people who simply think their voice is small and uncommanding elect to take voice lessons. Vocal training has been known to make a difference in the careers of successful politicians.

What can you expect to receive as a result of vocal technique? Here are just a few areas that can be improved with proper training:

  1. Prevention of damage to vocal cords, such as nodes (nodules) and polyps.
  2. The power to project and focus (through proper breathing and development of the diaphragm muscles).
  3. .Expansion of one's vocal range. (I, myself, increased my range by an octave.)
  4. Controlling one's break (the ability to make the change in registers inaudible to the listener).
  5. Developing a richer tone ("placement").
  6. Maintaining the voice (giving oneself capabilities to perform later on in life, if so desired).
  7. Controlling, and differentiating between vibrato and straight tones.


Now let's review these points, one by one.



PREVENTION OF DAMAGE TO THE VOCAL CORDS


There are certain factors that are major contributors to damage of the vocal cords which are somewhat obvious. One of these is a smoke-filled performance area. It is now an established fact that it is not the smoker, but the people inhaling the smoker's fumes who suffer the greater physical damage. Many great night club singers have found it necessary to stall or even end their careers, merely because they have inhaled so much of other peoples' smoke that it has inflicted serious damage to their vocal cords. The obvious solution to this problem is to temper the amount of time a singer spends on stage under these circumstances (some singers even use fans behind them to blow the smoke away.)

Another great problem in damaging the vocal cords is oversinging. This can happen in different ways. There are some wonderful vocalists (even well-trained) that have lost their voices permanently by singing five hours a night, six or even seven nights a week. The rigours of the road can, at times, be too demanding. Another form of oversinging is one that most commonly inflicts the rock singer. He (or she) finds that it is impossible to hear themself over the screaming guitars and crashing drums, and finds it necessary to yell to be heard. A good sound man is the obvious solution to this dilemma. At least one of the monitors must be pointed in the direction of the lead singer. The guitarist must often be told to turn down a bit. At no time should the vocalist forget how important it is to stay relaxed and in control. Yelling is out of the question. A good test is to find out if all of the members of the band can actually understand the words you are singing!!!

It is sometimes the case that the person who loses their voice by oversinging does not lose it for any of the aforementioned reasons. Sometimes it is simply due to stress. A person under a great deal of stress can find it almost impossible to eliminate tension in the larynx and surrounding muscles. Such a person should make it a high priority to find twenty minutes, twice in their day for relaxation and/or meditation. Sometimes even that is not sufficient, and the person should seek counseling and/or a voice therapist.


Listed below; "Do's and Don'ts" in caring for the voice:


"Dos" "Don'ts"

  1. Smoke (Don't do it.)
  2. Drink herb tea with/lemon & honey & a bit of cayenne pepper, when there's a sore throat.
  3. Stay away from too many dairy products. They create mucous.
  4. A glass of wine before singing when under stress is not a bad idea, but not more than one.
  5. Eating before singing is not a good idea. Try not to eat within an hour of singing.
  6. Warm-ups: always a necessity before any performance.
  7. Any kind of drugs, including coffee are not recommended (especially before singing)
  8. Record your singing (including performances), whenever possible.
  9. Don't go without sleep.
  10. Drink a lot of water (Hydration is essential.)
  11. Don't become a slave to stress; stress tightens the vocal cords.
  12. Do get a solid night's sleep (at least 8 or 9 hours) and eat regularly.


These are just a few recommendations for voice maintenance. Add to these your own discoveries. Each person may have different areas to concentrate on, but every singer needs to keep their throat protected and lubricated. The necessity of hydration cannot be overemphasized. Carry a thermos of water around, when possible. Prevention of a dry throat can be aided with usage of a humidifier or vaporizer. This vaporizer should be washed carefully once a day (in order to prevent health problems, such as Legionnaire's Disease); and should be replaced annually!

Under the "Dos" category I would like to add something that will only make sense to you later in this book. It is something that a growing number of vocalists are finding essential to the maintenance of the voice; the concept of "warm downs." The theory behind warm downs is that any set of tissue and muscles in the body that has been used extensively has been stretched out and "stressed." Therefore, in order to restore the body to normal elasticity it is necessary to slowly ease the muscles back into shape. A marathon runner needs to trot for a while after passing the finish line. A person who has just completed a series of aerobic exercises needs to do stretching and some movement in order to prevent cramping, muscle tension, or a possible heart attack. The singer needs to do some easy vocal stretching exercises, void of any throat tension, after any performing or vocalizing has been done. This will restore a healthy elasticity to your vocal cords.



THE POWER TO PROJECT


This is developed through a series of factors. For now, let's just talk about breathing and control of the diaphragm.

Briefly, the untrained singer tends to sing from the throat. That person is operating on the theory that since the chest and throat is what an untrained vocalist feels the most, the tendency is to think that in order to obtain good projection one must push harder in the throat area.

WRONG! That person could not be further from the truth. It is for that exact reason that countless performers and speakers have lost their voice... many permanently.

Have you ever noticed how loud a baby can cry? That is because they are crying from the diaphragm. Watch the baby's stomach. Is it raising and lowering when the baby breathes? That is because when we are born we are breathing naturally from the correct place. What a trained vocalist must endeavor to do is to relearn and maintain usage of the diaphragm, while breathing, singing and, yes, even speaking. This opens up a person's lung cavities tremendously. The improvement can be quite dramatic (a 60% in lung capacity is not uncommon).

The irony of diaphragmatic breathing is that once it is learned (or "relearned" if you are counting the time you were born), it actually requires a great deal less energy expansion on the part of the vocalist. The person who thought that they were a great singer because they were able to push harder on their throat may suddenly realize that, in fact, they have been wasting valuable energy on their throat that could have been used for more creative purposes. Upon that realization, the vocalist is immediately "freed" and has the feeling of a new found power that will enable them to transmit their feelings to the audience in a more confident, relaxed way.

Listed below are the comparative differences between the body areas used by an untrained vocalist and a trained one:

Untrained vocalist: Tends to breathe into upper chest cavity, only. Sound eminating is 40% potential capacity in volume.
Trained vocalist: Breathes all the way into the lower lungs, in an easy, effortless way; eventually filling upper lungs (both front & back areas of lungs), as well.
Vocalist gets near 100% sound capacity.

Untrained vocalist: Will feel lots of pressure in front of throat; particularly when singing at the top of the chest range. Sound eminating is harsh and constricted.
Trained vocalist: Will use diaphragm in order to get power, instead of throat, feeling essentially nothing in the front of the throat, since the sound is projected upward, via the back of the body (hence, although the vocal folds are being utilized, they arer relaxed and "flappy"). Sound eminating is open, full, relaxed.

Untrained vocalist: Tends to think up & down throat, respectively to high & low notes. Posture is poor; head moves up to get upper pitches; down to get lower pitches. Both intonation & tone suffer, under these circumstances. High notes can take on a "pinched sound", as due to the rubbing of the vocal folds. Pitch tends to be UNDER, on high notes. Low notes take on a "forced" & also "pinched". Low pitches tend to be ABOVE actual desired pitch.
Trained vocalist: Tends to think from "behind" the body, using diaphramatic area projecting sound from behind, combined with relaxed throat & facial areas. Head will not move in any way (staying in line with the base of spine, and erect on shoulders).
Vocalist thinks of "landing upon" pre-imagined upper pitches; instead of physically reaching up to them. This takes the guess work out of the pitches, while creating a more relaxing, pleasing tone. Lower pitches are sung "up to", by pre-imagining the low pitch in the chest area, and then singing "up" to it from the diaphragm area. Resulting pitches are "open" (not "pinched"), and will seldom be sharp, or unsupported sounding. Throat remains relaxed and open on lower pitches.
There seems to be an endless variety of schools of thought as to which areas of muscle should be developed first in the process of increasing one's projectional capabilities. One such school says that concentrating on strengthening the abdominal cavity should come first. Another says that squeezing the buttocks is a good way to increase projection. There are even more varied viewpoints on this, which need not be considered at this time, since none relate to my concept.

In the particular method I have learned, the diaphragm muscles will receive the most intense amount of concentration during the first few weeks of training. These muscles have usually gone "dormant" (or virtually unused - for the most part) in untrained vocalists. Extreme efforts must be made to open up one's breathing and connect it to the diaphragm area.

Simultaneous concentration on other areas of vocal technique in the very beginning could lead to unnecessary confusion; resulting in an even longer period before there is any noticeable improvement in the voice. And so we come to another rule: Take it one area of concentration at a time! (Don't try to do everything at once - or nothing will get done!)

You must realize that for the first three or four weeks of vocal training you will need to concentrate continually on posture, breathing, and relaxation. After that, providing you have been faithful in daily practice, you will begin to experience the wonderful realization that you are finally breathing correctly; the way you were meant to (as in infancy). When that moment arrives you will be free to sing and experiment with other possibilities in developing your voice.



EXPANSION OF THE VOCAL RANGE


Once you have followed all the steps I will lay out for you in the following chapters, you will begin to experience a new phenomenon: expansion of your vocal range. This occurs when the muscles associated with your vocal cords (facial & throat areas) begin to really relax, and when you learn how to properly maneuver your vocal projection around the larynx in such a way that your various registers are easily traversed.



CONTROLLING ONE'S BREAK


This is a "tall order" for most vocalists. It can be developed quickly, or it can take years. One thing is certain; control over one's break(s) is an area which must be concentrated on a great deal in order to achieve a master's level. A classically-trained vocalist might say we are "eliminating" the break(s).

When we speak of "the break," we are usually speaking of that area which falls exactly between the loudest possible chest notes and the softest head tones, for women; and between the top chest notes and bottom falsetto notes, for men. There are, however, other breaks for each sex. It is possible for a woman to discover three (or even four) breaks in her voice. That is; uncontrolled areas that represent extreme differences in tone. Some women have even been able to develop "whistle tones," which are tones created in a very small area above the nose, sounding very much like harmonics. Besides having the usual breaks between their chest voice, head voice and falsettos, these women have a break between the falsetto and "whistle tone" voice. In males, the chest voice simply becomes falsetto at some point, although many male vocalists have experienced, in their opinion, two falsettos. Therefore, in order to make this simpler to comprehend, I am labeling "the breaks" as any specific areas of difficulty in blending the various parts of one's range.

"The break" in one's voice can also be used in such a way that it purposefully produces sounds associated with certain types of singing, i.e. yodeling, country singing, and various other types of singing. Yodeling is an art, and can only be done properly when one's larynx is completely relaxed. The vocalist then sings straight up and down the throat. There is no reason that a singer can't "have one's cake and eat it, too." In other words, singing over the break(s) by doing something such as yodeling does not go against the idea of safe technique... but, beware! This type of singing must be executed correctly! Yodeling can be dangerous to a vocalist if the there is any tightness, whatsoever, in the throat.

Because of the extenuating circumstances involved with learning to master the breaks in one's voice, we will look into this further in a later chapter.



DEVELOPING A RICHER TONE


Through concentration in the area of "placement" one may develop a richer sound. This is directly related to the area of the vocal mechanism the sound is being projected from and directed to. It also has to do with the amount the larynx and throat can be relaxed; as well as how strong the diaphragm is (and how it is being used). In other words, developing a rich tone means effective use of all of the various vocal mechanisms.


MAINTAINING THE VOICE


I have already spent some time explaining this, but because of the extent of importance on this subject, it bears constant reiteration. Whether or not your voice is the voice you want it to be, you will most likely want to have a wonderfully preserved voice at the tender age of sixty, seventy, and possibly even eighty. Careful maintenance of the vocal cords will give you the satisfying feeling that you will be experiencing the pleasure of singing for a lifetime, not just for the duration of the prime of your life.

Your voice will reach full maturity around the age of thirty-five. After that, it may require careful observation to make sure you keep it in good shape. Many singers believe that because vocalists take in a great deal more air than most people, we are more susceptible to various viruses that may be in the air. While I cannot offer proof of this, I can reassure you that you should wear scarves during the winter. Berets, hats or any head covering is highly recommended, since most of your body heat is lost through your head. Stay bundled up on cold winter days. Take vitamins. Beware of constant cold drafts. In conditions where you appear to be doing everything right, but you do not yet feel your vocal range widening (or even feel it getting smaller) it would be wise to review your work on voice so far and ask yourself these questions:


  1. Am I getting enough sleep?

  2. Am I eating regularly?

  3. Am I eating too many dairy products?

  4. Am I drinking too much coffee?

  5. Is it possible that I have allergies I am not aware of? One can be allergic to such subtle elements as air conditioning units found in clubs and entertainment areas, as well as various food groups, plants, dust or pollen.

  6. Am I singing too hard while performing, because I can't hear myself? Do I need to hear more of myself in the monitors?


If people accuse you of being paranoid about these things, let them. You are simply doing what you know feels good: taking care of yourself. There is nothing wrong with loving your instrument. Vocalists are a special breed of musician; we carry our instrument around with us wherever we go. Taking care of your voice can become a joyful thing.




WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PERSON GETS NODES
(NODULES) OR POLYPS


When a person fails to take the steps necessary in vocal maintenance it is possible that the person will contract nodes (nodules) or polyps. Once this happens a person can lose effective use of their voice forever. It is possible, however, for a person to gain their voice back through careful surveillance and therapy. In more extreme cases an operation may be required. Revolutionary techniques in laser operations make it possible to obtain an operation on the incredibly sensitive tissues of the vocal cords with relative safety. Previously, this could not be done without a great risk of losing the voice permanently.

Before continuing, let me explain that nodes, polyps, and other vocal cord afflictions, such as cord thickening, can also be caused by chronic infection of the vocal folds. Other afflictions which can present themselves are: chronic edema, hyperplasia, hypertrophy, fibroid tumors, ulcers, throat cancer, and many more obscure afflictions. The most frequent of these occurrences are nodules and polyps.

What exactly happens, physically, when one contracts nodes (or nodules)? Nodes are callouses which form on the vocal folds. In contracting nodes, the edges of the vocal folds (or arytenoids) become granular and slightly rounded, with some blood vessels visible on the uppermost surfaces. The nodules develop at the midpoint of the vibrations on the vocal fold, and where the maximum amount of contact occurs. When contact between the vocal folds is increaed to an abusive level there is a "chaffing". As this action continues, fibrotic callouses form. In time these turn into bigger callouses, or "nodes". Think of a guitar player who has played long enough to develope callouses on their fingers. Now imagine such a thing on your vocal folds!

But fear not! It is possible for a person who has nodules to eliminate them altogether through proper use of the very techniques you are learning in this book. This is because one's nodules slowly begin to disappear when the affected area is no longer being used. The whole key is to maintain relaxation of the vocal folds while singing, so that there is no chaffing going on between the two folds. Project your voice from the diaphragm to the back of the throat (behind the folds); and stay away from singing in the front of the throat.

Polyps differ from nodes in that they are vascular and hollow. Vocal therapists often describe them as blood blisters. Polyps are much more dangerous to the throat and generally entail severe vocal damage. An operation can be quite risky; often causing as much as a 40% loss of vocal capacity.

When a person contracts nodes or polyps, they may notice the quality of their voice change dramatically. The voice usually lowers significantly because the singer is no longer able to reach the higher notes. There is also a "crackiness" which develops. The voice tends to "get caught" on certain phrases that were formerly easily accessible. Many times there is a noticeable amount of pain upon trying to sing.

In most cities there are respected ear, nose and throat doctors (otolaryngolists). These doctors are especially trained to spot your exact vocal problem. It is especially important to see a doctor immediately if you feel that any of these problems are occurring.

In the event that damage to the vocal cords does occur, the logical paths to follow are: therapy, or surgery followed by therapy; practicing effective control of allergies, and cessation of smoking (often a major contributor to vocal problems).

Once a person has begun vocal therapy to change destructive vocal habits it is important to keep up the practice. Incorrect singing is a problem which can easily return, without a vocalist even being aware of the problem. Nodes and polyps can happen to a vocalist again and again, if a person does not put the effort into learning proper technique.

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