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Help! Singing across breaks in voice

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Nick 16 Feb 09 - 08:23 PM
the lemonade lady 16 Feb 09 - 08:43 PM
GUEST,giles earle 17 Feb 09 - 03:15 AM
Nick 17 Feb 09 - 07:17 AM
Ron Davies 17 Feb 09 - 07:31 AM
GUEST,giles earle 17 Feb 09 - 08:08 AM
Nick 17 Feb 09 - 09:55 AM
Marje 17 Feb 09 - 11:38 AM
Don Firth 17 Feb 09 - 12:52 PM
Nick 17 Feb 09 - 12:56 PM
Don Firth 17 Feb 09 - 12:58 PM
Nick 17 Feb 09 - 01:03 PM
Seamus Kennedy 17 Feb 09 - 04:18 PM
Ron Davies 19 Feb 09 - 08:42 PM
Seamus Kennedy 19 Feb 09 - 10:18 PM
Ron Davies 20 Feb 09 - 09:21 PM
Joybell 20 Feb 09 - 11:45 PM
Seamus Kennedy 21 Feb 09 - 02:42 AM
Joybell 21 Feb 09 - 06:49 AM
Ron Davies 21 Feb 09 - 11:58 AM
Stringsinger 21 Feb 09 - 01:41 PM
GUEST,Calum 21 Feb 09 - 02:03 PM
JohnB 21 Feb 09 - 03:08 PM
Ron Davies 21 Feb 09 - 05:11 PM
Alice 21 Feb 09 - 05:38 PM
Joybell 21 Feb 09 - 05:57 PM
Ron Davies 21 Feb 09 - 07:13 PM
Joybell 21 Feb 09 - 07:42 PM
Stringsinger 22 Feb 09 - 03:58 PM
Ron Davies 22 Feb 09 - 06:05 PM
Ron Davies 22 Feb 09 - 06:09 PM
Don Firth 22 Feb 09 - 06:11 PM
Nick 22 Feb 09 - 06:52 PM
Ron Davies 22 Feb 09 - 10:14 PM
GUEST,giles earle 23 Feb 09 - 03:54 AM
Ron Davies 23 Feb 09 - 10:01 AM
Ron Davies 24 Feb 09 - 12:24 AM
Don Firth 24 Feb 09 - 12:37 PM
GUEST,giles earle 06 Jun 09 - 07:40 AM
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Subject: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Nick
Date: 16 Feb 09 - 08:23 PM

How does one learn to smooth out the breaks between parts of ones voice? I'm trying to improve how my voice sounds and to try and make it sounds like it belongs to the same person rather than having two or three different parts of it!

I have got past the bit where I wouldn't sing in public and realise that people don't run for the exit doors as soon as I start and now enjoy it but am still very wary of the sounds I make and would like to improve.

I've posted an example of me singing across the range of my voice from D to A. There are bits that sound grim (eg the notes at the extremes are not clever and the A is pushing things particularly though it is easier now than when I recorded this since I have been practicing in the car on the way to work!) and there are bits that are ok and I can live with and there are some odd bits. In the second octave the A and the B are iffy and I feel that there is a transition in my voice there - I can sing above and below those notes but it's like two different people each side! I rarely use much above an E or F when I sing and so most of the notes above the E are in real terms probably rarely used.

Do others find the same?

Where I find it frustrating is in a song like "What's the Use of Wings" which I sing in D. The first part of the song sits in an octave from A to A; the second half sits mostly between B and E. I can sing all the notes but I find it hard to make it sound 'nice'. I realise I could sing it in A or Bb but like the feel of singing it in D if I could successfully bridge that leap and make all the song 'one' if that makes any sense.

Is it just practice and if so how does one smooth that transition?


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: the lemonade lady
Date: 16 Feb 09 - 08:43 PM

Sounds to me as tho you should stand on top of a hill and sing your heart out. Don't take it so seriously! Relax.
Try yodling because that'll teach you where your voice does it and how to use it in a song. Good luck,
Sal


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: GUEST,giles earle
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 03:15 AM

Your bottom notes are absolutely fine. Rough doesn't equal bad!

At the top you're backing away from the notes. DON'T think of them as high notes that you have to strain upwards for, as that will just close your throat. See if you can find a way of 'thinking' the octave below and letting the upper octave sound instead. Look for songs where phrases with high notes are really comfortable and open, and use those phrases to practice your upper range.

Most important of all: transpose songs into the key that's right for you. (There may be two or three close keys that work for you at different times.) It's far better to sing with your own voice than to imitate.

Breaks aren't bad in themselves. We all have them, and it's a matter of learning to use the voice properly, NOT of trying to deny that there are differences between top and bottom. With the right technique, abrupt breaks can become into 'bridges', so you can mix-and-match your head and chest voices over a few notes, to smooth over the differences between registers.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Nick
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 07:17 AM

Thanks Giles. There are some songs which are much easier to sing than others even though the highest note of the song may be similar. I think some sounds and some leaps in the tune I find easier than others.

Sal, I am very relaxed, but I don't see any conflict with at the same time taking things seriously and wishing to improve. I take my guitar playing and bass playing seriously and have practiced a lot over time. It seems sensible at this juncture to treat singing (which is relatively new to me) similarly :)


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 07:31 AM

Just practice--and time--is what it's all about. Don't be afraid to sing in falsetto.   With time you can make the transition--and so smoothly most listeners won't be able to tell where the break is.

Of course, then if you ever want to yodel--perhaps not a likely scenario-- putting the break back in is not easy, to say the least.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: GUEST,giles earle
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 08:08 AM

Hope my previous remarks help, Nick. I quite agree some songs can work fine, whilst others are a struggle: it's still the same for me, after I-dread-admit-how-many years of singing! If you want to know a bit more singing, without getting too bogged down in theory and technique, a singing teacher friend swears by

How to Sing
by Graham Hewitt

(Not to be confused with the many other books called 'How to Sing'!) I think it's currently out of print, but Amazon list several second-hand & market-place copies


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Nick
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 09:55 AM

Ron - I'm not sure I can do falsetto knowingly. I used to have a voice that went up to about a C or D and it's only more recently that I have found that I can sing higher than that. The more I do it the easier it becomes and the notes (hopefully) strengthen a bit. If you listened to the link that I put in the first post, is any of that falsetto? If not I don't think I know how to do it! My voice just stops at some point and goes no higher. I think I once produced a very strained C above the range I posted but I'm not really sure how!!

Giles - I bought the book you recommended for 2p which is not too much of an investment. I have been pondering finding a voice teacher to help.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Marje
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 11:38 AM

You've got a pretty impressive range! And a lovely sound at both ends of the range, to my ears.I see what you mean about the slight break in the middle but it's not very significant, at least when singing scales.

Although it doesn't pay to be too analytical and over-concerned, I think it's good that you're giving your singing as much attention as your guitar playing - I wish all guitar-players would do the same!

I suppose you could just try to pitch each song so that you don't have to stay for very long in the slightly wobbly middle-range where the break is. But as you say, this may rule out some songs.

It's not just male voices that experience this. Many women's voices have quite a prominent "break" too. Joni Mitchell and Janet Russell are examples of singers who have made the break a distinctive feature of their singing, but then they're such good singers that they can get away with this when the rest of us might not.

I think a few lessons with a singing teacher might just help you sort this out. More control of the diaphragm when breathing - it sounds very dull, but it really does help. It won't make you sound like an opera singer, it'll just put you more in control of the sound you make. I'm sure it's all in books too, but it's more helpful to have someone listen to you and give constructive feedback.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 12:52 PM

I second what Marje just said.

This is perfectly normal, Nick. Every voice has what voice teachers refer to as "registers." The trick is to smooth the transition between registers.

First things first:   Never force your voice. And if anything feels uncomfortable, back off.

I have a range pretty similar to yours, with the transition from chest to head voice taking place at around Bb or B just below middle C. My falsetto range is not very good, nor is it reliable. Without using falsetto, I can vocalize from around low D (off the edge of the fingerboard up to the E or F just above middle C. By "vocalize," I mean I can sing these notes, but my best sounding range (or "tessitura") is between low F and about middle C. Too limited for opera without a lot more lessons, but good for just about everything I want to sing.

I could write pages and pages about this subject, but it's already been done, and much better and more knowledgably than I could do it. One very good book is Singing Professionally, Revised Edition: Studying Singing for Singers and Actors, by Arabella Hong-Young. Another, geared particularly for the lower male voice (like yours and mine), is Securing Baritone, Bass-Baritone, and Bass Voices, by Richard Miller (the late, great American baritone Leonard Warren as the ill-fated court jester "Rigoletto" on the cover). I'm currently in the middle of reading this last one. Both books are full of good information.

The best advice I could give you is to get to a good voice teacher. But in any case, get the books and read them carefully.

Good luck!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Nick
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 12:56 PM

Joni Mitchell - big favourite of mine.

I really like Janet's singing too and she did me a huge favour once. I first heard on the Isle of Arran years ago when she was singing with Christine Kydd - wonderful together. I was at a loss what to buy my wife for a birthday present some years ago and I got in touch with Janet and asked if she did singing lessons which she doesn't on a one:one basis. But she was kind enough to give my wife an hours singing help at her home and it made for one of the nicest presents I have ever given her, so I have very warm feelings towards Janet as well as enjoying her voice.

I'm not overconcerned I'd just like to make nicer sounds and there is no reason why it will just arrive without a bit of work.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Don Firth
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 12:58 PM

Quicky tip:    When going for a high note, don't think "UP," or try to "reach upward" for the note. Think "trombone." When a trombonist plays a high note, he draws the slide toward himself. Think of drawing the note in.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Nick
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 01:03 PM

Thanks Don - I've heard you sing and it is pleasant to listen to.

I used to sing everything in chest voice and the lighter, higher part of my voice sounded weird to me so I rarely went there. It has only been relatively recently that I have explored the bits above C and find it interesting to see what I can do with my voice. It's like when I picked up a mandolin it was new and interesting - it's fun to find a new bit of your voice and see what it can and can't do. But knowing I can make some ok sounds there makes me want to more integrate it into the rest of my voice and make the whole thing work together if I can. At the moment I'm just exploring to see what comes of it.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 17 Feb 09 - 04:18 PM

Nick - do what I do: start yodeling.
Anybody can yodel; it's controlling it that takes a bit of practice.

Seriously, warm up your voice with vocal exercises first.
I like to chew a little candied ginger to get the phlegm off my vocal cords, and then vocalize.

Occasionally I'll have a little break in the voice, and I'll get a laugh by saying "Puberty! At last!"

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 19 Feb 09 - 08:42 PM

Nick--

You're right, the more you sing higher notes, the easier it becomes.   


I must respectfully disagree with Seamus on yodeling.   I believe that since you are trying to extend range with a smooth transition, yodeling is not the best approach, since it emphasizes the break.   At least I believe this. Maybe Seamus will tell us how he gets around this problem.

My personal evidence, as I noted earlier, is that when I have recently tried to yodel, I find it impossible to put the break back in.   So as of now, I can't yodel. When a yodel is called for, I whistle instead.

I have a lousy range--1 1/2 octaves.   But falsetto doubles it.   I've been able to smooth over the break so that it is virtually not noticeable. With all the singing I do, I've developed a quite strong and precise falsetto.   And I've been singing all kinds of music for decades in all sorts of groups: classical, doo-wop, country, bluegrass, sea chanteys, jazz, Carter Family, Irish, etc. And in all sorts of groups::   1 on a part, 2 on a part, 18-20 in the group, 40-45 in the group, 180 in the group.   In a church choir in which I was the paid bass section leader, I was also called on from time to time to sing tenor or even alto. I was recently asked to sing tenor for a gig in a small group in which I was formerly the main bass.

This is all just by way of asserting that falsetto is very useful.

Without falsetto, I would never have been accepted into any group.

If I were asked for advice in extending range, I'd just say: sing as much as you possibly can--all the time ( but not loud in the higher ranges).   I figure I owe my range to the Beach Boys, since I've been singing in the car with them for, again, decades. Don't ever push for notes, but try to sing with the higher voices--higher than you're used to singing.   (Franki Valli is taboo, however--they must have done something to his voice in the studio.--don't try it.)

It helps, of course, that I really like the Beach Boys. Maybe you'd rather pick some other group with some high voices. And don't try to sing as loud as the part you're following, just try to hit the same notes--unless it seems too much of a strain--then back off.

But it really is liberating to be able to switch into falsetto unnoticed--and very worthwhile.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 19 Feb 09 - 10:18 PM

Ron - I was being facetious about yodeling.

Your respectful disagreement is accepted as such.

I yodel in my act, and have been doing so for over 35 years without it affecting my normal singing voice, but it takes warming up.

And my falsetto transitions into the yodeling are pretty darn smooth if I do say so myelf.

I recommend listening to Roy Rogers, Ranger Doug Green of Riders In The Sky, Elton Britt, Kenny Roberts and Frank Ifield for really smooth yodel transitions.

Some yodelers are staccato, and some are smooth.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 20 Feb 09 - 09:21 PM

Hi Seamus,

I'd certainly agree about Ranger Doug and Elton Britt being good role models for yodeling--Elton Britt must be close to the ultimate yodeling virtuoso. But having listened to them quite a bit I'm really impressed--but no closer to doing it myself. When I yodel, it sounds like falsetto--which it is. Smooth but--ain't nothin' like the real thing. And as I said, I don't want to put a break back into my voice--unless I could turn it off and on.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Joybell
Date: 20 Feb 09 - 11:45 PM

This is an interesting thread and well put. I think you sound fine. Not sure if my experience will help but anyway --
In my case my voice is so different in different ranges that if I record myself and sing harmony with myself -- we don't blend at all. Sounds like we've never met and should never sing together. I can blend with other singers just fine.
I choose my keys carefully so as not to meet that stranger within during a performance.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 02:42 AM

Ron - I don't wish to hijack Nick's thread, and I really don't know what to tell him about singing over the breaks other than to warm up well beforehand. And really concentrate on what you're doing?

Too many modern country singers have that little falsetto break (one note) in their voices at the beginning or the end of a line, and I hate it.

Hank Williams also did it. And Hank was not a yodeler, Lovesick Blues notwithstanding. (This ought to start a pissing match!)
This is not to say that Hank wasn't a damn fine country singer-songwriter. He just wasn't a great yodeler.

I like Joybell's last line:
I choose my keys carefully so as not to meet that stranger within during a performance.

As do I.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Joybell
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 06:49 AM

Seamus, Thank you. I was rather proud of that line.
I agree about that falsetto break. I dislike it too, in most singers. Somehow, for me, it doesn't matter with Hank Williams maybe because there was more to him than vocal tricks.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 11:58 AM

Wow, Seamus, you listen to Hank Williams more carefully than I do. I never even noticed the falsetto.

And you're right, we shouldn't hijack Nick's thread. Maybe another falsetto thread.

Hope Nick's doing well. Maybe he'll come back and comment.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 01:41 PM

Lots of air. Support. Go gently. Don't push or try to belt doing this. The smoothness in the passagio comes about by respecting your voice and not abusing it. Don't try for volume but at the same time keep the facial muscles relaxed and the breath support free.

Head tones come out of falsetto but


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: GUEST,Calum
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 02:03 PM

While I can appreciate from a technical standpoint it must be frustrating to not have consistency across voices, I also would counsel against being overly concerned about it - there's a great Martin Carthy track on (I think) Shearwater where the song has quite a wide range and he uses three very distinct voices, without a hint of an attempt to worry about consistency. Feel and drama are infinitely more important in your singing than a technical discolouration few will notice and even fewer will understand.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: JohnB
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 03:08 PM

Join a Choir.
Sing Tenor, you will learn all sorts of material that you would NEVER EVER use again (unless you like really wierd stuff). It will however MAKE you sing notes that you would never ever dream of singing.
Choral arrangers really like to push the limits of all of the vocal ranges.
I really don't like quite a large percentage of what I sing with my choir, it does however make me sing notes like High A's that I normally would never sing in anything "Folkie"
You can also sing along quietly with the bass section to improve your downward range too.
If you are a real masochist you can try the Alto and Soprano lines too, just sing them an octave lower when you run out of steam.
JohnB


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 05:11 PM

John is right.   I've sung in choruses for decades--used to call myself a choral gypsy but I've found a choral home--now almost 20 years. And choral writing sure does make you stretch your range. And perform all sorts of acrobatics with your voice--especially as a bass, it seems.   (Which is made immeasurably easier with a smattering of music theory--not much theory, but some.   Enough to be able to tell what what key a composer is in at a given point--especially somebody like Bach, who modulates at the drop of a hat).

I would think that if you sing in a chorus you don't need vocal instruction. You can learn an awful lot just by singing.

You'll probably extend your lower range just with the passage of time--I think most voice ranges tend to drop with age--but would be curious to know if others agree.   I've found recently that low D's and sometimes C's (2 leger lines below the bass clef) are much easier than ever before.

But extending your upper range is most easily done through falsetto--at least I've found that to be so. Again, curious as to others' experiences.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Alice
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 05:38 PM

Nick, what you are talking about is called the "passagio".

Your vocal cords (folds) vibrate at different rates as the sound changes.

Wikipedia explains it rather well, so I will just quote here:

"As the notes get higher, the vocal cords move faster and faster. At a certain point, the cords have to change their shape in order to reach the desired high note. About half of their length closes against each other, and the cords only vibrate with the remaining open half. By shortening themselves, they allow the voice to sing to a higher note as they vibrate. The cords will continue to shorten themselves more and more with each successive passagio. Typically, female singers have five passagios and male singers have four.

Inexperienced music teachers will call this a "break" and suggest that underneath the first passaggio is the chest voice, and above the passaggio is the head voice. This is an incorrect usage of the vocal instrument. The real factor behind a strident "chest voice" is often an oversupported or uncontrolled contraction of the expiratory muscles; a breathy or forced "head voice" is generally due to inadequate glottal closure or an elevated larynx.

Although it may seem difficult to navigate smoothly through the passaggio at first, physical maturation and proper voice technique will contribute greatly to the process. A voice will sing most ideally when one's body, breath support, resonance chambers, and relaxed throat all work together. Training can be used to help facilitate this balance of the body, which helps singers go through the passagios well."


Good singing technique taught by a voice teacher who understands the larynx, breath exercises, healthy use of the voice, etc. will help you smooth out the passagio. You don't have to sound like an opera singer or lose your folk style to learn how to better control your voice.

A bad voice teacher is worse than no teacher, so be careful who you choose if you decide to take some lessons. Some people call themselves a voice coach and just teach "styles" and songs. If you take lessons, find someone who is expert in how the singing voice physically works and can work with your individual situation.

It took practice and a good teacher for me to learn how to smoothly transition my passagio so I didn't sound like two different voices across my full range.

Sometimes flooding more air into the voice as you relax through singing the passagio will help. You have to exercise the breath support muscles on a regular basis to have the strength to control the air and have enough air in reserve. It's a physical muscle action, just like being an athlete, so you need to know what to use and when, and exercise them so they are strong.

This is advice about singing to your fullest potential, but if you don't want to take it that far, just have fun and sing.

Good luck.

Alice


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Joybell
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 05:57 PM

That's a yes from me Ron, I'm gaining more low notes with age. Happily I'm not losing the top notes though. Last week I sang "Sad Movies" in the same high teenage voice I had 50 years ago. Followed it with grown-up songs in a grown-up voice from high and low.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 07:13 PM

"Sad Movies"--that's a really wonderful one.   As a DJ around here used to say, speaking of bluegrass tear-jerkers, "a pathetic song, pathetically sung". But folks seem to really like that kind."   And that definitely includes me.   I love that sort of song--"In the middle of the color cartoon I started to cry"--isn't that the one?   Sue Thompson or somebody like that.

It's great fun to be able to play different roles. And that's another thing having a wide singing range does for you.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Joybell
Date: 21 Feb 09 - 07:42 PM

That's the one, Ron and yes it was Sue Thompson, I believe. And that's the line I really like too. Also that other great line
...so to keep from telling her a lie, (Mamma) I just said, "Sad movies make me cry."
It's a well-crafted song with a wonderful soaring chorus. I often ask an audience, "Haven't we all been in just that situation?"
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Stringsinger
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 03:58 PM

I would caution you to sing in choirs until you have acquired vocal technique. You can actually ruin your voice in some choirs.

Alice covered it the best.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 06:05 PM

You should not ever have to ruin your voice in any choir--except Sacred Harp.   But that's like religious sea chanteys.

Particularly as a bass, a choir is no danger.   Just don't let them make you a tenor unless you have a quite high range.

If anybody thinks a choir could ever present a danger, I'd like to hear about this. I'm sure there are common sense ideas which negate any problem.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 06:09 PM

And you're right, Joybell--Sad Movies is delightful---and since I have no self-discipline in matters of music--instant gratification all the way---I had to buy it on i-Tunes. And found there's even a good place for a bass.

If this be thread creep, make the most of it.

Wonder where Nick is.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Don Firth
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 06:11 PM

It depends a lot on the choir director.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Nick
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 06:52 PM

Nick's been out singing for the weekend and reading his new book that he got from Amazon for 2p!

Thank you all for the help and comments. I've been practicing for the last week with some exercises so I will probably record me singing across the same range tomorrow and see how it sounds. I'll let you know.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 10:14 PM

If the choir director is pushing you to do something you feel is unhealthy for your voice, decline to do so--or just leave.   There are likely to be groups more to your needs.

And the more desirable you are as a singer, the more likely you can get into the group you want.   That's why a bit of music theory is useful, as well as extending your range--to make you more saleable.

But if anybody has any real stories of how choir directors have endangered a voice, I'd like to hear them. Most of the stories I've heard are from the opposite perspective--of the problems of choir directors.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: GUEST,giles earle
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 03:54 AM

I used to sing with a choir whose then-director favoured Voicecraft. In his version, however:

- sopranos had to sing breathily, with no attack at all. The result was little-girl noises, very flat and generally behind the beat. Many of the soprani seemed to struggle to to reach anything much above the stave... apart from those deputed to beef out the altos.

- altos also had to be breathy, and were left to sing quite staggeringly flat, without correction. For the alto line to be heard at all, the genuinely low voices were fleshed out with a handful of sopranos, who were instructed to bellow with a lot of edge (the director's version of 'singing with a twang'. Singing like this, and out of their natural range, the translocated soprani tended to force their sound by digging out notes. Not pleasant, not in tune, and not remotely with the beat.

- tenors and basses, mercifully, got off rather more lightly. On the whole, they found it easier to sing with an edge without being flat or getting behind the beat... although, to my ear, their notes were as often shouted as sung, and tended to the nasal.

I went to one of their concerts some time after leaving the choir, and I have to say that, as a choral sound, the effect was truly horrible.

Not the best of advertisements for Voicecraft. Somewhere between unhelpful and downright damaging for the singers, to be forced into such bad habits (and many of them did not know enough to know that forcing, breathiness, etc WERE bad habits).


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 10:01 AM

I've never heard of Voicecraft.   But there are certainly fad approaches in music, which I don't think are helpful.   I'm also not smitten by Suzuki for piano--it seems to emphasize technical brilliance, leaving the soul behind.

But the sopranos who were forced to sing alto and instructed badly how to do it should have left the group.   However, the story we've heard is just one perspective--it would be worthwhile to hear what one of the sopranos in question had to say----not that that's likely.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Ron Davies
Date: 24 Feb 09 - 12:24 AM

There's also a question as to the makeup of the choir or chorus. If the group is not by audition only, the director has a tough row to hoe in putting a good-sounding group together from whoever signs up.

Actually I can't imagine that being successful--you need to have auditions to get a good group--and it needs to be balanced.

In other words, any church choir made up only of volunteers, since there are often no auditions, is hard put to sound good. And I'm sure it's difficult--if not impossible--to turn down a member of the congregation who wants to be in the choir but has serious musical problems.

But this threatens to be rather egregious thread creep.


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: Don Firth
Date: 24 Feb 09 - 12:37 PM

I think that's true in general, but I know of one church that operates with a mostly volunteer choir and they sound great. They're fortunate in that they have three or four really strong singers, paid a nominal amount as "lead singers." And they are especially fortunate in their choir director, Jim Peterson.

It's Jim who really makes the difference. He's a semi-professional singer himself (tenor), along with being an excellent all-around musician—keyboards, piano and organ. Every Thursday evening he holds free singing classes at the church, and he coaches choir members—and anyone else in the congregation who wishes to attend—in such things as breath support, voice placement, singing without tension. And he manages to give a fair amount of individual attention to each singer.

I don't sing in the choir, but I have done "special music" for the church (me and my guitar doing something like "I Wonder as I Wander" at a Christmas Eve candlelight service), and a few times I've dropped in on these classes for a 'tune-up." Jim really knows what he's doing.

Another factor is the church itself. It's not huge, it seats about 200. And the acoustics are really excellent. Twelve to eighteen people can sometimes sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Bob Nelson and I sang a concert there in October of 2007, and it's a great venue.

But the person who really makes it work is Jim. He's taken a bunch of people who are mostly in-the-shower singers and turned them into a really good choir.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Help! Singing across breaks in voice
From: GUEST,giles earle
Date: 06 Jun 09 - 07:40 AM

Nick,

Seeing your name on another thread reminds me to ask... how is your singing getting on, three months or so down the line?


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