Find Your Voice Session Four : Tone and Resonance part 1

Session four is going to help you extend your understanding of what affects your tone and how to develop it. One aspect of tone that we’ve already discussed is how your vocal cords connect. If they slam together forcefully, that will result in a squeezed sound in your tone. If they can’t connect properly, air will leak through and the sound will be under-powered. Any time you can hear air in your sound, it’s because your vocal cords are not connected. A ‘G’ sound is useful to help them stay connected if you notice that this is an issue for you – (typically, you may notice air coming in at higher notes – use a ‘G’ sound to train your cords to stay connected).
In addition to what’s happen with the cords, the sound is affected by free release of air, and by the places where the sound vibrates.
The full potential of your sound can be accessed and released when the air is being transformed into sound vibration as efficiently as possible. The places where the sound vibrates are your resonators. There are several, the primary resonators are the mouth, chest and larynx, and the nose/pharynx is another resonator. All the work you’ve done with sliding on ‘ng’ and lip rolls has helped train you to be able to focus the vibration in different places, and now we’re going to add another dimension to that.
One of the biggest resonance-killers is the tongue, as it is prone to pulling back and cutting off the vibration in the larynx. Release tension in the tongue by blowing a raspberry before you get into your warm ups. (Really! It’s effective). The position of the soft palate also really changes the resonance. Awareness of where the soft palate is and what it’s doing helps you regulate how much nasality you add to your sound. If it’s really really high (think hot egg) you get a Kermit the frog type of sound (try this now!) and if it’s too low, you get a really nasal sound. You want a balance between the two. Make an NG sound and plug your nose. You will probably find that as the NG is a 100% nasal sound, plugging your nose will stop all the sound. Now make an ‘ah’ sound through the mouth. If the sound is coming through the mouth, plugging your nose won’t really change it. Now make a ‘hung-ah’ sound and feel the vibration moving from nasal to mouth. Now do this again, but try to keep your tongue totally relaxed so that it doesn’t move up to meet the soft palate.
If your sound has an overabundance of nasality, it’ll sound a bit …nasal. If it doesn’t have enough nasal resonance, it might sound a little dull. Nasal resonance adds brightness and treble and it helps create a perception of volume without using force. Dolly Parton has a lot of nasal resonance in her sound – when she sings with other vocalists even if the mics are at the same volume, she tends to be the most audible because the twang from the nasal resonance cuts through. Play around with moving the resonance between mouth and nose at different pitches.


Backing Tracks For Session Four

So this week, you should still be doing your foundational warm ups (Ng slide, lip roll slide, Mum mum mum, Octave ooh or Ahh oooh aaah, Eee Eee Hey Hey) and you’re going to add to that the Nair, Nair, Nair, Hanger, Trumpet sound, Octave jump, Red Rid, Way Wee, Air-Ear.

NG Slide

Lip roll slide

Aaah oooh aaah slide

Slide backing only for any exercise (including chin hold)

Use Nair instead of Nay now. Like a ‘gnair’

Mum Mum Mum

Eee Eee Hey Hey

 Way Wee Air Ear Red Rid

O Octave jump. You can also do this with your tongue stuck right out to get even more resonance.


How to work on a song

This is a method for approaching songs you’d love to sing and actually get them to a point where you know them inside out, have put your own spin on them and can confidently sing them.

  1. Ordinary listening – listen through and get an overview of the song.
  2. Detailed listening to get the structure of the song. Count your way through it to identify when the vocals come in for the first section, whether there are gaps, how long the gaps last, when the other sections of the songs come in and out. Get really confident on this and on the lyrics.
  3. Detailed listening – listen through to see if you can notice some key features. You may need to listen several times to see if and when:m-the singer changes register-the singer varies the intensity or goes louder or softer-the singer changes the quality of their tone from connected to breathy or vice versa-the singer uses ornaments.
  4. Work out if there are any challenges. Does the song have a big leap between notes or go high or low? Sometimes it’s necessary to change the key of a song, but often we can overcome these challenges by working out how best to practice a small section of a song. If necessary, ask for support or get a second opinion on how to approach these challenges, although as time goes on you’ll get better at working out how to do this yourself.
  5. Work on these more challenging sections individually during your practice time. After a few days, ask yourself if they are becoming easier.
  6. Go through the lyrics and decide where you want to increase the intensity of your performance. Try each line out in a few different styles, using a looping software, so you craft each part of your performance.

What NOT to do:

  • Beware of straining during your practice. If something is causing you to strain, pause, and work out why that is and decide how to reduce the strain. Maybe you’re straining from a chest voice coordination when you need to transition to head voice. Maybe you’re backing off a note each time you sing it because you’re not quite certain what the note is.
  • Don’t just sing the song from beginning to end along to the original track, or don’t JUST/ONLY sing it this way. What happens when you do this is that you simply rehearse any mistakes or areas of weakness without ever fixing them., and you can do this fifty times over and still find once you remove the original singer you’re not entirely sure where to come in and what the structure of the song is. It’s not the best way to improve. It’s not that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself singing along to your favourite repertoire, it’s that you shouldn’t only (or mainly) do this.