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Contemporary Vocal Technique
New Mexico Jazz Workshop
NMJW https://www.nmjazz.org

 Thursdays  March 28 - May 9 ( no class April 18)   6:00-8:00 PM (MT)

$120 general | $110 NMJW members

Register: https://nmjazz.org/general-member/

Any questions? Email jazzpac@yahoo.com

Week 1
Contemporary Vocal Technique
Awareness

 
  • Your style informs your technique.
  • Your technique enriches your style.
  • Aural and Kinesthetic awareness
  • Hearing and Feeling
 
     Aural/Auditory                       Kinesthetic
  • Listening

  • Hearing

  • Learning

  • Air pressure
  • Vibratory
  • Respiratory

Vocal Health

 

General Causes of Vocal Health Problems

 

   A functional disorder is a problem with the physical function of the vocal folds; the vocal apparatus does not do what it is supposed to do. For example, if the ENT looks at your throat and does not see any lesions or identify any disease process, but the voice is still abnormal, then a functional voice disorder is usually the cause.

 

   Vocal fold swelling. The consequences of congestion and thickened secretions are excessive coughing and throat clearing, which typically result in vocal fold swelling, and possibly even lesions on the vocal fold tissues, which can alter your voice quality. 

 

   Vocal fold nodules. Nodules are raised bumps on one or both vocal folds, often caused by the vocal folds slamming into each other, but can also develop due to gastroesophageal reflux. They tend to occur at specific places on the vocal folds. 

   As a general rule, increased hydration can immediately help the vocal folds. When the vocal folds lack moisture, they become stiff, which may cause more friction as they open and close against each other. 

   Vocal fold cysts or polyps look like fluid-filled blisters. Symptoms may include:

  • complaints of breathiness, particularly in the middle register;

  • trouble with smooth transitions at event areas or when you change registers;

  • a feeling of instability in any given part of your voice;

  • loss of upper notes or difficulty reaching the upper register;

  • voice tires after comparatively short periods of singing, with lingering residual hoarseness.

   Vocal fold hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel on the surface of the vocal fold bursts and releases blood into the surrounding area—usually caused by a one-time trauma. The immediate course of action is absolute voice rest.

    Vocal fold tears. Vocal fold scarring is a dreaded diagnosis. The mucosal layer covering the vocal fold should move freely in the breeze during phonation. When vocal fold scarring occurs, this tissue adheres to the underlying muscle and no longer floats freely. It occurs when a spot on the vocal folds has been injured too often. 

Warming up your Body
Three-Way Stretch:  Back, Chest, Ribs
Tuning up your Voic
e

Beginning on a comfortably high note, do simple, quiet glides across your range, up and down.

 

2. Begin in the middle of your range, sing a staccato (short) "ha-ha-ha" on 1-3-5 of a scale.  

    Transpose chromatically ascending/descending to the most comfortable highest and lowest note. 

 

3. Glide on lip trills and/or tongue trills. Reduces tension in the lips, and vocal folds. Vibrate your lips by putting them together and exhaling.

 

4. Open-mouth Hum. Place your tongue tip behind your bottom teeth and raise the arch of your tongue to touch your teeth bridge. Your tongue seals off the front of your mouth, causing air to flow through your nose.

The Singing Range

Your singing voice is a result of the following vocal variables:


Range – the notes your body can produce

Tessitura – part of the range which is most comfortable  to sing

Transition points – points where you change from chest, to middle, to head register

Vocal registers – how extended each register is*
 

Weight – light voices, bright and agile; heavy voices, powerful, rich, and darker

Timbre – unique voice quality and texture

Speech level – speaking range

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Homework
Building your repertoire

Choose a song and print out the lyrics on a separate piece of paper.

Using your natural speech level voice, read each phrase out loud.

Articulate and remain aware of the vowels in each word.

Repeat until you are able to do so comfortably.

Next week: Beginning the Process

Week 2
Contemporary Vocal Technique

The Vocal Mechanism
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Three subsystems of the voice mechanism

1.  Air pressure system: diaphragm, chest           muscles, ribs, abdominal muscles, lungs

2.  Vibratory system: Larynx: vocal

     folds/vocal cords

3.  Resonating system: vocal tract, throat

     (pharynx), oral cavities and nasal cavities

The Air Pressure System

Managing your breath is an important facet of your singing voice. Coordination between the chest muscles, the ribcage muscles, and the muscles of the side walls of the abdomen slows down the ascent of the diaphragm. The descent and ascent of the diaphragm are not directly controllable. The diaphragm is passive during singing.

Screenshot 2023-04-17 at 6.39.29 PM.png

The Diaphragm

 

The diaphragm is a flat muscle, curved in a double-dome shape, separating the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. It connects to the bottom of your ribs and is the floor of your rib cage.

 

The general location of your diaphragm: feel along the bottom of your rib cage and imagine that it is inside your body, under your ribs.

Breathing for Singing

Inhalation: The vocal cords open. The posterior cricoarytenoid muscle is responsible for opening the vocal folds for inhalation. The external intercostals expand  your rib cage during a full, elevating the chest, creating a partial vacuum causing the air to flow into the lungs. The diaphragm contracts and descends, pushing the contents of the abdomen downward and the belly slightly outward. 

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Suspension: External intercostals work to maintain an open rib cage. Suspend the air, keeping your throat open as if at the top of a yawn or a feeling of expectation. 

 

Exhalation: The internal intercostal internal intercostals force air out during exhalation. For singing, however, it is important to keep the ribs, lower abdominals, and back expanded.  

Understanding the Voice at Multiple Levels

• The body: the vocal instrument

• The air inside the body

• The vocal sounds: the interplay of the body and air.

Without breath there can be no sung tone. The singing breath is typically prolonged on the exhale and goes out predominantly through the mouth. The beginning of each phrase starts with the breath. Your vocal cords are regulators of your breath flow. Let the vibration of the vocal tract tell you when best resonance has been found.

 

All singing is repeated sound (frequency) and resonation. The vibrations of the vocal cords are reinforced by resonant vibrations in the oral and nasal passages, effectively forming the voice by vibration and resonation. Your sense of vibrations will tell you much more about your registers and define your voice by vowel colors heard and felt.

 

There are interruptions, intensity variations (range, volume, density, tone quality, phrasing, emotional) and overtone variations of those sounds which form vowels and consonants in singing. Vowels have pitch; sung tone has pitch. As singers, our task is to bring sung pitch and the resonance of vowels into the best relationship, coloring and Intensifying the sound of our exhalation.

Homework
Building your repertoire

                     Be prepared to present your second song choice. 

Prepare an introduction: name of the song; composer; what it expresses; etc.

Start the process of memorizing your lyrics.

Be sure to read through the information. Come with questions.

There will be a quiz!

.

Week 3
Contemporary Vocal Technique

“Breathing: the essence of singing; if you cannot breathe correctly, 
you cannot sing correctly.” --Richard W Harpster

The goal is balanced voice production.

 - Good posture is the foundation of controlled breathing, and controlled breathing is the foundation of singing.

 

 -  It is not the job of the singer to see how large a volume of air can be inhaled and expelled during the singing of a phrase.

-  Breath management is not improved by attempting to hold the breath for long periods of time, nor by sustaining isolated long notes and phrases. There is no way in which a singer can consciously exercise direct mechanical control over the diaphragm. 

​ -  Control over the muscles of the side abdominal walls can be learned. This is breath support.

​ -  Keep the inhalation posture of the sternum and ribcage which, in turn, does not allow the diaphragm to ascend so rapidly. 

Common breathing errors: 

 

Tenseness: result of faulty posture. A stiff neck, a tight jaw, eventually becomes a tense throat. If the rib cage is not elevated, it inhibits your singing breath and may in turn create throat tenseness.

 

Faulty respiration technique:  shoulder breathing; lack of body connection; rigid belly. Driven tone resulting from rigid belly. Stiffness, rigidity noticeable in the neck and throat. Gasping or constricted throat, dryness in throat.

 

Poor breath management: explosion of air on initial attack.

 

Coup de glotte: using the throat to substitute for the abdominal and costal muscles in breath control which strains the throat; causes swelling, nodes, and paralysis.

The Voice Box (Larynx) Muscles

The muscles of the larynx are named for the cartilages to which they attach: 

Thyroid, Cricoid, Arytenoid

The one with which singers are primarily concerned is the thyroarytenoid muscle, The medial portion of this muscle is also called “vocalis muscle.” The vocalis forms the body of each vocal fold.  When it contracts the vocal folds shorten and thicken, thus lowering pitch. In addition to shortening the vocal folds, contraction of the vocalis can also keep the glottis closed longer and increases loudness.

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Patience and Practice

The ultimate goal:

  •  a beautifully balanced tone

  •  shape uniquely expressive phrasing

  •  enhance artistic expression

So:

  •  Be patient and practice.

  •  Train your voice on what it can do, not on what your voice cannot do.

  •  Become familiar with the sensations (colors) of the singing breath,            frequencies/vibration/resonance.

  •  Explore the rhythm, the flow, and the unwanted sense of carrying              the weight of body tension with each breath in the throat, nose, chest,      face, etc.

  •  eliminate unnecessary muscle activity; 

Let your phrasing shape your inhalation and exhalation.

Homework
Building your repertoire

         Be prepared to present two songs from your repertoire.

Prepare an introduction: name of the song; composer; what it expresses; 

Lyrics should be memorized.

If you have scores, lead sheets, or chord charts, please bring them with you.

Be sure to read through the information. Come with questions.

There will be a quiz!

Week 4
Contemporary Vocal Technique

Question: What is a register? 

Answer: Where, in your range, your voice needs to change.

The Singing Range

Your singing voice is a result of the following vocal variables:

Range – the notes your body can produce

Tessitura – part of the range which is most comfortable  to sing

Transition points – points where you change from chest to middle, to head register

Vocal registers – how extended each register is*

 

Weight – light voices, bright and agile; heavy voices, powerful, rich, and darker

Timbre – unique voice quality and texture

Speech level – speaking range

We cannot adjust these vocal system parts consciously. We need to adjust the parts indirectly, through our kinesthetic and aural sensations, our imaginations, and our emotions.

Timbre

 - tone quality

 - texture

- color

Characteristics

- Bright

    - clear

    - brilliant

    - speech-like

    - open

- Dark

    - warm

    - mellow

    - robust

    - covered

Phonation

- Breathy

    - airy

    - loose

    - whispery

- Balanced

    - flow

    - free tone

    - flexible

- Pressed

    - tight

    - squeezed

    - harsh

Registration

 - Transitions

    - smooth

    - uneven

 - Breaks

    - abrupt

    - glaring

    - disruptive

THE RESONATING SYSTEM

Between the time your tone leaves your vocal cords and the time it exits your mouth, it goes through a process of transformation. This process is called resonance. 

Vocal Tract:

 - Pharynx (throat)

 - Oral Cavity

 - Nasal Cavity

Screenshot 2023-05-04 at 2.09.39 PM.png
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Vocal cord vibration: Exhalation from your lungs works with your vocal cords to create pitch and intensity of your initial tone.

 

Resonance: The initial tone is modified and amplified as it travels through the spaces above your vocal cords: pharynx, oral and nasal cavities.

Once you understand the flexibility of your vocal system, you can better coordinate the parts that control your singing voice.  A tiny change in one voice control can often make a big difference in your sound.

Homework

Building your repertoire

Tonight's the night! 

Dress rehearsal!

         Be prepared to present yourself and your songs

Lyrics should be memorized; but, if they aren't, use the music stand discreetly.

Be sure to read through the information. Come with questions.

There will be a quiz!

(You may think I'm kidding, but, I'm not!!)

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