Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ways to mend a pesky vocal break - part 2


This is a continuation of my post series on the subject of vocal breaks. I had a great question emailed (thanks, Nav!) to me today about the jaw's function in singing. Oddly enough, incorrect jaw actions are among the things that will cause and/or exacerbate a vocal break.
Vocal register breaks, as indicated in my previous post, are caused and made worse by whatever interferes with allowing changes in length, tension and mass of the vocal cords as the singer moves through different pitches. Top 5 causes I see...
  1. Locking the jaw
  2. Tightening the base of the tongue (which goes along with locking the jaw)
  3. Freezing the spinal position
  4. Tensing shoulders
  5. Numb facial expression or eye movement
  6. Choosing to sing or talk too high or too low, causing chronic tension and strain.
Why do we do these vocally dysfunctional things? Top 4 reasons I see:
  1. To try to keep the voice FROM breaking (unaware that guarding and over-controlling to try and eliminate the problem inadvertently makes it worse)
  2. To try and hit notes that are difficult (again, a bit of a catch-22)
  3. Because of some erroneous vocal training that says to keep the jaw or any of the other body parts I just mentioned perfectly still, (Run, don't walk, from this kind of teaching)
  4. Bad habit - talking too low (constantly "hitting gravel"), trying to sing in keys that are too high or low for the current capabilities of the voice, not realizing the locking up this is causing.
What can we do to change our habits?
  1. First become aware of what you are actually doing. Watch yourself perform a song in front of a mirror. Do you see any of those actions I just listed?
  2. Record yourself talking. Do you hear tension, monotone, gravel, lack of breath? Try talking with much more animation and "life" and record it again until your body, spine, face, tongue, jaw are loose and flexible.
  3. Do corrective wall and mirror work. In front of a mirror, stand with your back against the wall... back of the head and heel against the wall. Now slowly try to loosen those areas I named on purpose - while you are watching. Notice the effects.
  4. Out of the pressure of public performance, privately practice doing things a different way. At first it may get worse before it gets better - like it would be if we were learning to walk with a different stride. Relax, relax, relax and trust the process.
  5. If you have my vocal training course, just listen over and over to the first two Cd's to let the insights sink in.
Comments are always welcome as you try my suggestions. Next post "Ways to Mend a Pesky Vocal Break - part 3", I'll give amazingly effective tips to open the throat channel at the break point. We'll talk the correct vocal "Path", and I'll give you a video of me working with a student on her break!

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