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. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Balancing strength in vocal muscle sets

If you, like so many popular genre singers, have trouble straining in your upper chest voice, you may find the following insight helpful.

I know a young artist friend who studied with a $400 dollar an hour voice teacher out in LA (I don't remember his name. She had problems with pitch, control and range. She has developed a very natural, controlled voice and to get a major pop recording contract. I asked what her vocal teacher did to help her.

He told her that there are two different sets of muscles controlling head voice or "falsetto" voice (falsetto differs from head voice in that just the edges, instead of more area, of the vocal cords vibrate), and the chest, or lower vocal register. She was told the head voice is controlled by crycothyroid muscles and the chest by the arytenoid muscles. I think in the following website illustration, she must mean the head voice is controlled by the cricoarytenoid muscles and the chest voice by the interarytenoid muscles. The vocal cords themselves are really the two thyroarytenoid muscles. http://www.evmsent.org/larynx.asp

He told her that her problems lay in the uneven strength she had present between these two controlling sets of muscles. His training centered on strengthening the weak set (that controlled her head voice) to match the strength in the strong set (her chest voice).

Muscle naming aside... This makes all the sense in the world to me. I have been working with people instinctively this way, (using exercises to strengthen head voice especially with people who strain in chest voice) without knowing the specific anatomical reasons, and now have even more reason to use this insight with my students. And big plus... this balance will also help you with your PITCH accuracy!

Here's my suggestion to you:

  • If you tend to strain at the upper end of your chest voice:
.... practice singing in your head voice. Do exercises that take you up far higher that you'd sing songs, but be sure you're not leaning or pushing to do so. (You can even push in head voice!) Just go as high as you are able to without strain. Keep doing this on a regular basis and you will strengthen the muscles that control your upper register. I believe you'll find that your head voice will begin to influence your chest voice and you will be able to reach notes that were previously difficult to sing without pushing.

  • If you have been classically trained and find it hard to keep from bringing your head voice too low when doing contemporary (non-classical) songs,

.... practice singing in your chest voice. Sing songs and do exercises that take you up into middle voice, but keep it "talking" voice. Important... while using this voice, DON'T PUSH. This should help, over time, strengthen the lower voice muscle set. If you're not sure what voice you're in, find a good voice teacher who can help you.

If you are a student of my "Power, Path & Performance" method, and have the cds, check out the exercises I call "Blending Steps". If you know what voice you are singing in, and can change the voice, you should find great benefit from doing this. Also remember the difference between what I call "pushing" and "pulling" words. One of the best things you can do for your voice is to learn to pull it out of your resonation spaces instead of push it in any way, with any muscles you want to name!



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