|Originally published: April 28, 2020|
Updated: January 01, 2021
Feel Your Face?
When you feel vibrations in the front of your face when singing, you know your vocal folds are coming together in the most optimal way. Singers want this optimal pattern of vibration because it makes for a bigger sound and causes less wear and tear. Many singers don’t realize that the sound from the actual vocal folds is akin to an annoying buzzing sound. The huge variety of beautiful vocal tone you hear from singers of rock to show tunes to Italian arias, is actually achieved “above” the vocal folds in the vocal tract (the spaces in your throat and mouth), which can be shaped to create the sounds that make those genres unique. When it comes to the actual vocal folds, however, this “optimal” way of vibrating is separate from the shape of your vocal tract, and therefore applies to any genre.
That buzzing sensation (aka “resonance” or “placing the sound”) means there is more sound, more presence and more power with less work and tension. That’s right: less IS more! Voice therapists, such our instructor Alysia Jeske, use semi-occluded vocal tract exercises to “teach” the vocal folds to vibrate in this optimal way. Singing through a straw is one of these exercises. It may sound pretty funny (because it is lengthening and narrowing your vocal tract), but it actually has an effect on your vocal folds. It strongly encourages them to close and open efficiently, with less wear and tear.
The effect of singing through a straw (or other semi-occluded exercises) happens not just while you are doing it, but immediately afterwards as well. The more you sing through a straw, the more you can transfer those healthy vocal fold behaviors to your singing and speaking, ensuring that your voice will not become tense and tired.
Illusive Journey frontman Steve Perry sings a moving Quarantine rendition of “In My Room.” This legendary singer still has a voice that moves us and clearly a heart for what the world is going through right now.
Not Allowed to Breathe?
“You can’t just breathe any time you fancy a bit of air!” This statement, uttered by the passionate director of Ireland’s Barony Choir, will go down in history as the most indignant yet charming way to insist on staggered breathing!
Singing in the Pandemic
Can singers rehearse or jam with choir-mates or band-mates over video chat? The answer is “yes” and “no.” Because of latency (a small delay), it’s impossible to stay perfectly in time with others. However, there are still ways to enjoy making music on a video chat. Find out how by reading Three Tips On How To Rehearse Music on Zoom.
Kathy Alexander is VP of Curriculum for Singdaptive. She was a staff writer for 6 years at VoiceCouncil Magazine and works for the University of Victoria as a practicum supervisor. Kathy is also a singer, vocal coach and choir director. Career highlights include guest appearances in Europe with Quannah Parker jazz fusion band in Norway, and back on the West Coast with Vision TV’s Let’s Sing Again, The Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra and the Victoria International Jazz Festival.