Do you ever get that feeling when it seems like your voice won’t do what you want it to do, like it has a mind of its own? We have all felt that at some point in our singing journey. Well, you have more control over the function of your talking or singing voice than you think!
1. Air flow
Whether you are doing voice warm ups, talking or singing a singer must always be aware that they are in control of their air flow (breath control). You can decide how much air you want or need in a phrase.
Try this exercise, hold up the corner of a hand tissue using your thumb and index finger, and hold the tissue half an inch away from your mouth and blow hard. Now do the same thing again and blow so softly that the tissue barely moves! This is how much control you have over your air flow.
It’s good practice to exercise your breath support skills to a stop watch in order to develop more control of the whole breathing system.
2. Vocal folds
You are also in control of the vocal cord/fold closure (fold, is the more accurate term but cord is still used).
Basically, the diaphragm naturally pushes air back up the body and this air coming up then passes through your lungs and trachea and then engages with your vocal folds. If the vocal folds do not have adequate adduction (closure or good tension or compression) the air will pass through too freely and the resulting tone will usually sound breathy.
However, when the vocal folds have adequate adduction, this creates a ripple effect or vibration of the vocal folds, which then produces a sound wave. Singers have the amazing ability to increase or decrease this vocal fold closure/compression which has a direct effect on the quality of the tone that is produced.
3. Your mouth
Basic sound is created at the vocal fold level, words are created with the mouth. Your vowels and the various shapes they can form and the way in which you use your consonants are completely in your control.
Whether a vowel is wide or narrow is something that is within your realm of choice. Choose to tune or modify your vowels wisely so that you can tap into good resonance sweet spots, where it feels like you are producing effortless and dynamic tones when you are singing songs.
Remember that the diaphragm is a semi involuntary muscle and cannot be “controlled” in the sense that it does its function naturally without you having to think about it, a little bit like how your heart works.
You do not have to tell your heart to pump blood around the body it just does it, however, if you hold your breath then yes, the diaphragm ceases to function because there is no air to facilitate.
That is why it is semi involuntary because there is somewhat a degree of ‘control’ in doing that, but if you pass out from holding your breath too long then the diaphragm will kick in and do what it does best: assist the breathing process.
If a singer is working with a voice coach or just simply going through a song, it’s important to know that you are in control of these 3 functions and that they are not in control of you!
When these three things are well coordinated, the resulting tone is usually what you want it to be:
- Well controlled
- Well performed
When even one of the 3 things is out of place, the resulting tone can usually be what you don’t want it to be – the complete opposite of what you want to achieve. Therefore, these are a few of the foundational singing tips that every singer should be aware of when doing voice warm ups and when singing.