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high & low imagery can mess up the voice

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GUEST,kingbrill 10 Jun 03 - 09:29 AM
KJ 10 Jun 03 - 09:51 AM
Dave Bryant 10 Jun 03 - 10:09 AM
GUEST,Kris 10 Jun 03 - 10:28 AM
radriano 10 Jun 03 - 11:39 AM
Schantieman 10 Jun 03 - 11:46 AM
Allan C. 10 Jun 03 - 11:52 AM
GUEST,Kris 10 Jun 03 - 12:11 PM
Don Firth 10 Jun 03 - 02:17 PM
GUEST,emily b 10 Jun 03 - 05:36 PM
PoppaGator 10 Jun 03 - 06:42 PM
Trevor 11 Jun 03 - 05:39 AM
GUEST,Kingbrill 11 Jun 03 - 05:49 AM
Bagpuss 11 Jun 03 - 05:54 AM
GUEST,KingBrill 11 Jun 03 - 06:35 AM
CapriUni 11 Jun 03 - 02:11 PM
Alice 19 Jun 03 - 12:47 PM
CapriUni 19 Jun 03 - 05:49 PM
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Subject: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: GUEST,kingbrill
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 09:29 AM

Hi all

Singing lessons are really weird - it seems like everything I thought I knew has been a bit flawed.

Latest revelation is that thinking of notes as "high" and "low" can really mess things up. Thinking of a "high" note can make you tense up your throat & put your larynx in the wrong place & all sorts.....

So - my teacher has me thinking "down" when the note pitch goes up & vice versa. After a bit it really does disassociate that up down thing & makes a vast difference to the quality. BUT - its a bit freaky then because you start getting confused as to which way is up & what is where.

Anyone else taking lessons & finding they have to re-jig their perceptions of sound?

cheers'm'dears

Kris


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: KJ
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 09:51 AM

How does your teacher get you to do that?


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 10:09 AM

One useful tip if you're going for a top note is - smile. It might make you relax slightly, but it also tends to slightly sharpen the note.


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: GUEST,Kris
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 10:28 AM

oooooh Dave - definitely not smile!!! North-south movements are good - East-west are bad..... - but perhaps that only applies when you're learning classical style singign - which of course isn't folk & certainly isn't the only way to sing.

KJ - You can do it by putting your hand low down for the high notes & just fooling yourself into thinking you're sliding down to the note. It really does make a huge difference to the quality. But its only one of the very surprising things you can do with imagery to get the tones you want.

The weird thing is that I end up confused because I dissasociate that up and down thing - which is surely just an arbitrary convention given that "high" tones are just faster frequencies? So it makes me wonder why we are conventionally so fixated with the "high" and "low" ness of pitch, when it actually seems to be detrimental to our ability to sing. Most bemusing.


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: radriano
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 11:39 AM

I use the technique of thinking of "coming down" to a high note rather than "reaching up" or "forcing out" the note. It works. It's just a little mental trick that helps to avoid tensing up when approaching a high note. If you tense up when approaching a high note you tend to constrict your throat and that's what you want to avoid. The technique won't work, however, to reach notes that are out of your range.


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: Schantieman
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 11:46 AM

...but then again, what will??

Steve


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: Allan C.
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 11:52 AM

I suppose I was taught something along those lines. The main lesson was that whenever the notes went upwards, I was to remember to drop my jaw downwards (relaxing it, that is) enabling me to hit the notes without sounding forced. It works.


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: GUEST,Kris
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 12:11 PM

But WHY do we think faster frequencies of pitch are "high" and
slower frequencies are "low". Why have we come to associate frequencies with spacial height?


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: Don Firth
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 02:17 PM

I don't remember if I heard this from voice teacher or thought it up on my own, but rather than thinking high for "high notes" and low for "low notes," I sometimes think of my voice as like a trombone. The slide goes out for the low notes and comes in for the high notes. Works for me.

Pitch—and any subtleties and nuances of tone—is a matter of mental image and being able to hear the notes you want to sing in your "mind's ear." Tension or any other attempts to control your voice with voluntary muscles actually interfere with it.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: GUEST,emily b
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 05:36 PM

Hi all,
I finally officially joined mudcat today! After years of lurking. But now I'm at work and so still a guest.
My teacher has me do what she calls an "inner smile." There is no visible exterior sign of a smile but the inner smile lifts the soft palette on the sides more to give more space in the mouth. She also scolds me when I move my hand up as I go higher. She says I need to counter the higher notes with a downward hand motion. Just like Kingbrill is doing. Although my teacher would love it if I didn't move my hand at all. I find the biggest help though is to give more air on the lower note BEFORE I head for the higher note. That way the note can sort of coast out rather than be pushed out. The downward approach is also helpful.
Keeping a similar placement also helps but that's a concept I can't begin to describe.
When I sing classical music, high A's and G's can feel low to me because I can sing higher than that and vocalize usually to the D above the staff. But with folk music, I never want to sing in a key that would take me above the D on the staff. So even between genres the high and low thing takes on different meanings.
As to why we talk about the high notes and the low notes, could it be as simple as the higher notes have higher frequencies and the low notes lower ones? We have to be able to describe things and this makes sense. Although from a physical standpoint, the lower notes tend to have a low resonation in the chest maybe while the higher notes tend to resonate more in the head.
It's fun to see how others are tackling this age old problem.
emily b


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: PoppaGator
Date: 10 Jun 03 - 06:42 PM

I've never taken voice lessons (or even discussed them with a voice student), and found the above discussion interesting indeed.

When I got an opportunity to sing regularly with a school-sponsored parent/teacher band a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my range increased considerably (in the "upward" or treble direction) as I became louder (and less inhibited). I had always heard certain singers referred to as "blues shouters," but only when I began to do it myself did I realize that such "shouting" is a whole different approach to singing, almost in the way that falsetto differs from normal voice, and afforded me a great increase in vocal range.

What I'm talking about definitely does NOT involve straining or forcing, but it definitely -- for me at least-- had something to do with conceiving of my chest/throat/mouth as a *horn*. Standing in front of a trombone, two trumpets and a tenor sax had a lot to do with it. Not only could I develop a kind of empathy with the horns, imitating them while "becoming" part of the horn section, but once I had permission to be as loud as possible (without infringing upon those other more mechanical voices), I found a way to create some pretty high notes with little or no strain, using a technique that would be impossible if I were trying to stifle my volume at all.

Whatever breakthrough I made came while rehearsing James Brown's "I Feel Good." (I know y'all folkies wouldn't necessarily ever have tried singing this number, but if you wre alive in the English-speaking world in the late 60s, you might know the reference.) I got through the verses easily enough, and the band had to break things down and repeat various passages quite a few times before we finally got to the bridge. I was sure I wouldn't be able to reach the high notes ("When I ho-o-old you / IN MY ARMS!!...), and would have to fake it by dropping an octave, but amazed myself by actually singing it straight. I'm not sure how to explain or describe the technique, except that those high notes were coming out of the lower portion of my throat, not up in the head where I had always strained for high notes previously.

We had a very large group, by the way, including a half-dozen vocalists. Each of us had two or three featured numbers, usually as lead singers rather than soloists, so there was a lot of harmonizing and background singing going on. I was able to put my newly increased vocal range to use in the background as well, emulating the Supremes and the Marvelettes among others. Man, was that ever fun...

I had to keep in practice to continue being able to do it, though. Now that I no longer have kids in that school, and the music-teacher/bass-player who organized the band and wrote all the arrangements left town with one of the soccer moms from the soprano section, I'm no longer a happy amateur band singer. Given the opportuinty, I could work up the ability to do it again, but it would take a week or two or three of repetition before I could make it really work once again.


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: Trevor
Date: 11 Jun 03 - 05:39 AM

What works for me is to think of the high notes in the top of my skull and the low notes down at the botom of my stomach. The only problem with this is that I've noticed my eyebrows shoot skyward on the high bits and my chin drops on the low notes. As far as volume is concerned, I'm rehearsing a piece with the chamber choir at the moment which, unusually, requires a diminuendo on an upward scale - it's difficult without concentrating, but good training.


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: GUEST,Kingbrill
Date: 11 Jun 03 - 05:49 AM

Hi again.

The trombone slide approach makes a lot of sense - especially as you need to shift gear & put less effort in for the higher notes than the lower.

The terminology of high & low being because of where they resonate makes a lot of sense emily.

Its really interesting reading everyones take on this - especially PoppaGator's story. Hope you find another group to sing with soon!

cheers all

Kris


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: Bagpuss
Date: 11 Jun 03 - 05:54 AM

My music teacher at school used to tell us to lift up our eyebrows when approaching a note we thought might be a bit high. If you raise your eyebrows, it makes it very difficult to tense up your throat.

More recently in my singing group the teacher has been getting us to practice imagining coming down to the note.

There seem to be a lot of counter-intuitive techniques in singing - like with projection of the voice where you imagine drawing the sound towards you rather than projecting it out to where you want it to reach.

Does anyone have any tips for reaching low notes? I usually am fine with high notes (as long as they are not super high), but often struggle with the lower notes in a piece that others never seem to have bother with.

Bagpuss


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: GUEST,KingBrill
Date: 11 Jun 03 - 06:35 AM

Emily - that "inner smile" sounds a lot like the "laughter behind the eyes" that my teacher keeps telling me to do. It is THE hardest instruction, because for some reason I can't connect with it at all! I'll try to think of it as "inner smile" instead & see if that gets the desired result. - so cheers for that.

Bagpuss - sorry, I have no tips for the low notes - my problems are all with the high ones! Although Tanya often has to remind me to "speak" the lower notes rather than "sing" them. By which she means ground them a bit more rather than singing them prettily. that might help. Also - the lower notes in the exercises have to be delivered as if telling someone off, or being extremely assertive about something. That again might be useful. She also says things like "imagine you are a Russian bass-baritone". Also it helps to be a bit like a hammy male actor projecting the voice on stage. (so I did have more tips than I thought, didn't I?)

Raising the eyebrows is an interesting one - and I can see where that would come in - possibly related to the "breath of surprise" which lifts the pallette.

Tanya's other strategy with high notes is to say that they are all "below you" - she even makes people stand on chairs to prove the point. Apart from all the wonderful things that lessons do for the voice, there is ENDLESS amusement in these counter-intuitive things & bizarre imagery. And what's more amazing is that they all actually achieve the desired ends. Fascinating!

Kris


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: CapriUni
Date: 11 Jun 03 - 02:11 PM

Welcome, Emilyb!

I like the idea of the "inner smile" to relax the voice... My mother once told me that when we smile, even if we don't feel like it right away, the very act of smiling triggers pleasant memories in the brain, and after a while the smile is sincere.

I imagine that that is another reason the smile helps relax the voice is that when we are smiling, and triggering happy thoughts, we tend to let go of subconscious tensions.

The only problem for me would be that the idea of an inner smile is so jolly that I would have a hard time not releasing it into an outer smile. :-)

As for reaching the low notes, I once heard a tip that to relax the voice so you can project it well while speaking (but I imagine the technique would work with singing, too), you should imagine yourself on the verge of a great big yawn just as you form the words... I suppose this would be an "inner yawn". I think I heard it in a radio interview with a speach therapist, but it was several years ago, and I can't give any names at the moment.

And I image we speak of low and high notes in the same for the same reasons we speak of "Up north" and "down south" -- the "higher" notes are written higher on the musical staff... Though that may be a case of chicken and egg...


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: Alice
Date: 19 Jun 03 - 12:47 PM

Here is what my voice teacher told me to help get me over that "reaching up" feeling that I had in the high part of my range. She said to pull down on the muscles of the floor of my abdomen. If you think pulling down, that also helps your breath support and if you are concentrated down there, then you are less likely to tense up in your throat. One bad habit I had was to go on my tip toes sometimes on high notes, which made it even worse than just thinking "high". I agree it is a bit counter-intuitive, but if you practice singing without thinking high or low but instead engage techniques, like relaxing, supporting, lifting the soft palate, etc., then you eventually stop stretching "up there". I assumed that I thought high because I read music and the notes go up on the staff. I tense even more if I am sight reading music and see a note "up there".

For the brighter sound, you engage the muscles in your cheeks either side of your nose and lift them. Those "snout muscles" can be hard to isolate and learn to control, but with practice, you can lift them and add brightness. Don't tense your throat while doing it, though.

Alice Flynn


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Subject: RE: high & low imagery can mess up the voice
From: CapriUni
Date: 19 Jun 03 - 05:49 PM

From Alice Flynn:

For the brighter sound, you engage the muscles in your cheeks either side of your nose and lift them. Those "snout muscles" can be hard to isolate and learn to control, but with practice, you can lift them and add brightness. Don't tense your throat while doing it, though.

Sounds to me like that exercise of visualizing an "inner smile" can help with that. As soon as I read "snout muscles," I thought of how a cat grins (and yes, they do -- Chesire or not!) They lift their snout muscles, too, and it causes their whiskers to lie flat against their cheeks. ... the same thing would happen with us when we grin, if we had whiskers...


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