About the Voice
The human voice has been used as a means of expression since the dawn of time. It is the oldest musical instrument. In all its forms, from wailing to whispering, speaking, shouting, singing, the purpose of the human voice is communication.
When we sing, we are communicating a message. Whether it is the message of a beautiful melody or a message contained in the words, the communication is ever present. It is the desire to communicate that spurs humans towards singing. The communication offered may be as simple as a happy feeling, or as complex as the meanings and symbolism contained in some poetry. Singing is a positive way of showing and venting emotions, but perhaps that is the very reason some people are apprehensive about the act of singing.
Now, for a startling truth - everyone has the ability to sing. The desire to sing resides in the human soul and spirit. If you have the desire, then yes, you can sing. Every person has a singer, a dancer, an artist inside him or her that is yearning to be granted the opportunity of expression. The goal of taking singing lessons is to uncover your singer within and allow your song to be heard.
Singing is really a simple process, a matter of speaking on pitch, and trusting that our bodies know what to do. Even while knowing this to be true, many students of singing need to go through a re-education process in order to let go of any muscular tension in their singing so that they may fully achieve this state of simplicity and trust.
In search of their best singing voice, many students and amateur singers fail to realize their full potential because they are trying to sound like a certain singer or have preconceived idea of how they should sound. They miss the point because the goal for each singer is to discover his or her own free natural singing voice. Some voices may be characteristically "small" or "light", others "big" or heavy". Trying to change an intrinsic part of one's voice will only lead to problems. A lily can't be changed into a rose, and why would anyone want it to be? Each flower has its own beauty. It is much the same when it comes to developing one's singing voice. The key is to take what we have and work to refine that.
Singers as with any artists, cannot be free to develop their own abilities to the fullest wile trying to emulate someone else. This is not to say that we can't learn from great singers, but we must realize that each person is unique, each with his or her own individual physiology and emotional makeup. These factors combine to produce a person's own exclusive sound. Of course, you won't sound just like someone else, just as you can't have the same fingerprint as someone else. You are unique and what could be better or more satisfying than finding your own natural sound? Every singing star performing today wouldn't be there if they sounded just like someone else. They had to explore and develop their own strengths, talents and individual sound, just as you will.
Voice and Speech Singing
The Larynx is the structure at the top of the trachea and is made up of muscle and tissue. The larynx is otherwise known as the voice box. The voice box contains the vocal chords, which are made up of two folds of tissue that are connected to muscle on either side of the chords. If the chords are not brought together with a balanced pressure of air and muscle pinch, you will have a strained and tense voice. Strengthen the larynx and the muscles of the voice box first. The breathing/support system works automatically and is secondary to the larynx and vocal chords.
The diaphragm is the large dome shaped muscle that is connected to the bottom of the lungs. In and of itself, it is not able to lower or rise and relies on the lungs to lower it and the abdominal muscles to raise it. The process of strengthening the breath support system (abdomen) takes years and the tiny muscles of the voice box have to work even harder to bring the chords together with the resistance of the air from the diaphragm and the pushing from the abdomen. With Speech Level Singing, this process takes a third of the time or less. The chords have to come together and find the proper balance of air and muscle strength (pinch) to form a stylized sound. You must strengthen the muscles of the voice box and initialize those muscles in the act of singing in order for the breath support system to engage automatically.
Why it is Important to Train the Larynx
The larynx is the origin of speech. If one is to have a strong voice then it goes to say that the muscles of the larynx must be strong. If a singer is prompted to strengthen the abdominal muscles and not the larynx, then the song produced will be breathy and the head voice will be weak and or a falsetto will occur which is not acceptable. When the muscles of the larynx are directly strengthened with vocal exercises, the muscles of the abdomen and diaphragm will work involuntarily so specific breathing exercises are not needed unless the student doesn not know how to breath properly in the first place.
Good Posture is essential for a singer. Quite apart from wanting to appear, and feel, poised and confident in front of an audience, there are technical reasons why good posture is the most fundamental requirement in singing.
What is Good Posture?
Good posture is optimal vertical alignment of the various parts of the body, with minimum tension. A concept used in jazz and ballet is that of having an imaginary string attached to the top of the head. The String pulls straight up, causing head, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles to become vertically aligned. We want the body to be erect, but as relaxed as possible.
For singing the sternum is also slightly lifted to expand and elevate the ribcage, and rotate the lowest ribs downward and outward.
Probably the most common student faults are a forward slump of the shoulders and sternum, which collapses the ribcage, and elevation of the cn, which pulls the larynx out of position.
Why is it Important? Three reasons:
1) Correct vertical alignment with minimum tension leaves the vocal mechanism (the larynx is suspended in web of muscles which are attached to the skull and chin above, and the sternum and collar-bones below. Any unusual tension or alteration in the position of these muscles (such as lifting the chin) affect the functioning of the larynx itself.
2)Having the ribcage lifted and expanded frees the diaphragm to contract and descend as fully as possible with a minimum of resistance. This means you get a maximum inhalation with the least possible strain, and your breathing is as swift, easy and silent as posible.
3) Having the ribcage lifted is also optimal for the contraction of the oblique abdominal muscles and internal intercostal muscles. In combination with the natural elasticity of the ribcage, these muscles exert pressure upon the contents of the torso, and give the singer control of the air pressure being applied to the vocal chords. This control of air pressure is sometimes referred to as "Support"
What is proper breathing?
Breathing must be swift ( sometimes a piece of music doesn't allow much time to take a breath) and quiet (the sound of a singer gasping for air is distracting to an audience) In addition breathing must involve minimum disturbance of a balanced relaxed posture.
The Mechanism of Breathing
To induce air to enter the lungs, the air pressure inside them must be reduced. This is done by expanding the lungs themselves, which are elastic and attached to the inside of the ribcage and to the diaphragm at its base. Any expansion of the space within the ribcage causes an increase in the space within the lungs: lifting the sternum, expanding the ribs or lowering the diaphragm all expand the lungs, and therefore decrease the air pressure within them, causing an inflow of air.
Breathing for Singing
Good posture for singing already includes a lifted sternum and expanded ribcage, therefore for singing purposes the diaphragm is the chief muscle of inhalation. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped horizontal muscle attached to the spine, the ribs and the sternum. When it contracts it descends, decreasing pressure in the lungs and causing air to flow in. Due to displacement of the liver, stomach, etc. by the descending diaphragm, the abdominal wall tends to protrude forward slightly, and maximum descent of the diaphragm is accomplished by allowing it to do so, leaving the abdominal muscles relaxed. This is called "diaphragmatic breathing" and you can satisfy yourself as to the naturalness of this way of breathing by lying on your back and simply observing how the breathing mechanism behaves when you are completely relaxed.
Exhalation can be accomplished by elasticity alone. All of the body parts described have a natural tendency to return to their original position, including the lungs themselves. However, singing demands greater levels of air pressure, and greater control of those levels, than speech. The internal intercostal muscles, in combination with the oblique abdominal muscles are able to contract progressively and, with practice, provide this fine control of air pressure in the lungs.