Sound attachment

Singer jumps during tone onset

The intro sounds, the cue for the voice comes ... now! Not only for people with Stage fright it's a difficult moment. The first note opens the song, it has to sit. Beginners in singing in particular find this difficult, and no wonder. The tone at the very beginning of the sung word requires vocal coordination. The singer has to bring his breath flow together with the closing of the vocal cords, and at exactly the right moment. In popular music, there are different ways of doing this. 

With a hard or "glottal" tone approach you build up air pressure from below before you start the sound. Your vocal cords are tightly compressed and when you let the air flow, a hard sound is produced, often with a kind of plop sound. 

  • Think here of the famous "O-oh" of the Rainman from the film of the same name. It's the sound that comes after a moment of shock: this is not going well. Another example is the "ewww!" that comes out when you feel disgusted. Singers choose a glottal approach when, for example, they want to emphasise the first word: "I want ...".

In ballads we often hear a breathed or airy clay approach. You start with an audible breath of air before you close your vocal cords. On the air stream, let the sound swell gently. Your audience hears the following vowel, e.g. an "a", like a "ha". 

  • Try sounding like an owl: "hu-huu". Another example is the sarcastically drawn-out "ha, ha, ha". Hold a hand in front of your mouth and feel the air flow before the sound begins. Then replace the vowel "u" or "a" with other vowels.

The most common is the Balanced or simultaneous tone approachwhich also protects the voice best and should be your approach of choice for voice exercises: Tone and air flow start simultaneously. The tone starts softly and swells together with the air flow - without a breath, but also without hard or cracking noises. 

  • Think here, for example, of a "oh" that swells in joyful surprise. To practise, inhale with a short pulse, like before the above-mentioned "o-oh", but keep the vocal chords open and intonate a "yes". Then leave out the "y" (in German the "j") and start the sound with "i". Do the same with all vowels.

If you slide your tone from the middle position all the way down until you can't get any lower, you will eventually only hear a toneless creak or crackle. This is the "vocal fry"familiar to many from the film "The Shining" (1980), where the child repeats the word "redrum" over and over again. The vocal fry is used as a "scream" technique in death metal singing. It is important to know that the impression of "screaming" is created by extreme electronic amplification - the vocal fry is not loud. In the rock and pop genre, the vocal fry is commonly used as a tone approach when looping in tones. This is what Britney Spears does here in her song "Baby One More Time":

In addition to the vocal fry, there is another sound approach that is often used as an effect: the distorted, "rough" sound approach, which is mainly heard in rock, gospel and soul singing. Probably the most prominent example of this is Joe Cocker. How singers produce a raspy or growling sound can vary greatly from a vocal physiological point of view - a clacking of the uvula or a constriction of the larynx during the intonation play a role. There is evidence that vocal students with larger tonsils in the pharynx can produce harsh sounds more easily than people who have had their tonsils removed. 

You see, there are different ways to approach the tone. Whether hard, breathy, with vocal fry or rough: none of these tonal approaches is "wrong". They expand your choices, depending on what suits you and what emotion you want to express in your song. Our tip is to try them out, but keep in mind that hard, punchy tonal approaches as well as breathy tones can tire the voice more quickly and harsh approaches can make it hoarse. To improve your Build and strengthen the voiceOrientate yourself above all on the balanced approach to the tone. If air and tone come together at the same time and your throat remains open, your tone will also sound open and free. And don't forget: A prerequisite for any stable tone is good support.

If you're looking for good exercises to improve your breathing and singing technique, check out my online singing courses: Click here for the online courses

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