Saturday, June 16, 2012

Training tenor voices

--> I have two tenors who came to me recently for lessons. They share a similar problem: no approach to the passaggio area. Instead of rounding the voice, they blast their way up to the top. This means that neither of them have high notes.

The first tenor sings as a baritone; the second finesses everything above a “g” in a light head tone. Tenor 1 works as hard as he can to keep his larynx down, to no avail; inevitably, it goes higher as he ascends the scale. Tenor two “puts it forward” as a method: of course, his larynx is up around his eyeballs.

Is there any middle ground between trying to force the larynx down (don’t even try it, it  never works) and just letting it the larynx do what it wants, which is to lift as you ascend the scale? Mercifully, there is a natural function which releases the throat; it is called yawning. Unfortunately, no one ever taught us how to yawn and sing clearly at the same time.

If we examine the feeling of a yawn very carefully, we find that it consist of several aspects. The most obvious one is releasing the jaw; next to that, a feeling of width across the neck in front, around the collar bone. Finally comes the least obvious part; an internal tilt behind the tongue, at the level of the arytenoid cartilages. The throat seems to tilt back, and the root of the tongue releases around the hyoid bone. It is this backward tilt of the larynx which seems to release the whole apparatus into a yawn.

With a comfortable yawn as you phonate, make sure the voice is well forward, at the point of clear pronunciation. Do not let the voice fall back or be swallowed. Do not let the onset become glottal or airy. It is extremely useful to practice this forte, then piano, without taking a breath in between. Piano then becomes a matter of leaving the spaciousness in the throat as it is , but using gentle air instead of compressed breath to sing.

Singing higher becomes a matter of rounding the palate and using increased abdominal compression (support), while not tightening the throat below. It is imperative to keep the voice forward at the point of pronunciation as you sing.

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