Archive for July, 2010

Repetively practicing instead of good posture

July 26, 2010

from themodernvocalist discussion forum:  “In my opinion many singers use disproportionately much time on correcting the posture. I very seldom find that singing problems are caused by incorrect posture but are more often due to incorrect technique. My experience tells me that you achieve much faster results by working directly with the technical aspects than correcting the posture.”

John Wooden, possibly the greatest sports coach, did not believe in his players’ repetitively practicing.   He said (?) if a flaw exists in the technique, all that repetitively practicing does is reinforce the flaw.

In singing, the entire vocal apparatus can adjust for flaws in its parts, but at a cost, and the adjusted will never be as good as singing without the flaw.  

Taking basketball analogy further, if one has an knee flaw, it is possible to shoot well without jumping and be a good basketball player.  But, if the knee is healed, one can do jump shots and be a great basketball player.

Likewise, one can be a high pitched singer and sing well for all his life by practicing.  He may be high pitched because his flawed “tense back spine” consciously or unconsciously prevents him from using his diaphragm properly to gain more power for bass.   Imagine the new singing “jump shots” and “new heights” he would achieve if he fixed his tense back spine, so that his diaphragm gives him the full bass.

Taking the analogy further, supposing that shooting energetically’s natural form is a jump shot–that is, adding the leg force into the shooting.   The non-jumping shooter can also shoot energetically using primarily his arms, its cost are it would be harder and awkward.

By analogy, the tenor with the back tension problem– he can also learn to “shoot” energetically using his high notes skills, but always awkwardly and requiring more effort.

What John Wooden taught were fundamentals.   Instead of teaching skyhooks, he first taught top-rated, skillful basketball players how to tie their shoe laces.  Why, because blisters would stop even the best players.  Yes, a tiny, annoyance in the foot can handicap a master basketball player’s shooting arms.

Same in singing,  your posture even to your foot basically will determine your singing potential.  The foot imbalance imbalances your spine that imbalances your head; all of which imbalances the vocal tract.

Yes you can sing and shoot with bad posture.  And just as the esteemed teacher’s quote above says, you’ll sing and shoot better faster by working on areas other than your posture (which takes time to fix).   If the tenor had a posture problem all his life, yes, he can make quick changes to his technique to make incremental improvements. 

Solving the cause takes more time.  The back-tension has to be “detensed”.   The entire head and spine are now differently aligned, and the singer has to adjust the sounds.   His voice then has new range of motions and reach new soaring highs (heights).

So how do you know if you have good or bad posture affecting the vocal tract?   Vocalposture is saying that bad posture automatically affect the vocal tract, and its sounds effects, though at times distinctive, are always less than optimal.  So anyone with a slouch is such a candidate.   Anyone whose head is not balanced on his neck and throat properly, similar to Alexander Technique concepts.  These are the vast majority of people.

You can achieve your potential with good posture.  Your high jumps will soar and your range of accuracy will increase.

Please don’t mistake what VocalPosture is saying with with the idea of “Change the posture results in better singing”.   What VocalPosture is saying are change the body’s tension patterns and its structural alignments will result in better posture which further reduces tension patterns.  These tension pattern reduction will in themselves significantly improve singing.   The better posture further stretches and detenses the tension and better aligns the vocal tract.  When the vocal tract is aligned and its surrounding muscles in tone, better singing naturally results.



July 25, 2010


[quote=Steven Fraser]

While all this makes sense as far as it goes, this definition does not include the interaction of the breath energy and the laryngeal muscles which combine to produce phonation.  The singer’s body can be well-aligned, muscles toned, etc… but until the body is in motion in particular ways,  there is no voice produced.

In its traditional usages, a ‘well supported’ voice is characterized by its power and consistency throughout the gamut of pitches, vowels and dynamic levels.   Today, we know this results from a balanced interaction between the breath energy, the laryngeal muscle action, and resonance.  While posture plays an important role in establishing this balance interaction, it is not sufficient, in and of itself, to cause a supported tone.[/quote]

There are two definitions occurring here:  one as supported aural phenomenon (traditional) and the physiology of how to support the vocal apparatus (my view).  Steve, I appreciate your explaining for me what traditional support means.   “Support” as physiology should be accepted too, as Pavarotti uses support thus: .

In regard to laryngeal and breath energy, what I’m saying is that the laryngeal muscles may not be in tone due in a great part to bad posture and that the amount and control of breath energy are also caused and powered by muscle tone.  Good muscle tone and good posture are highly correlated.

Not saying one can’t hit a note in bad posture.  Am saying that whatever note one is hitting, with good posture, the note will be richer.  Additionally one’s range will be greater.

Why is it a richer sound?   The note produced by the vocal cord may be same, but all the vocal tract muscles, connective tissue, bones, myofascia, etc., are now in tone, enabling them to vibrate better.   If any of these are taut (tension), then we know from physics, that tensions cause less resonance.  

Why does it sound more emotive?   When muscles are in tone, the desired emotional expression of the note is not repressed by prior tensions.   So, yes, one can be in awkward positions and postures to create good notes.  If one wants his best notes, get the posture to tone up the resonance system’s muscles and tissues.   This is a long-term process because bad posture has already caused near-permanent tension and bad tone.

Why is the range greater?   Because sounds are best resonanted by in tone, relaxed vocal systems, not by taut, less vibrating, less reonanting vocal systems.   Again, posture and muscular tonicity are directly correlated. 

Your lows will be richer and louder, the highs richer and higher, more emotive, etc.–due to posture-and-muscle-tonicity.

The production of the note itself, its pitches, vowels, consonants, I’m suggesting are inherent in the vast majority of individuals and generally don’t need to be worked on.  I’m suggesting it is the resonance distortions to these caused by bad muscle tone in the lengthy vocal tract that causes bad tones. 

If we take this view, then learning singing becomes predominantly exercises in getting rid of bad postures (this is difficult by the way), instead of aural training. 

Breath energy is an effect; the affects are muscles power and its obstructions and pathways.  Muscle tonicity is affected primarily by posture and the pathways are genetically and posture created.    

Larygneal muscles are also one set of affect muscles.   And it also has support– the bones and muscles posture below.   Hence, both breath powers and larygneal muscles are supported.   It is this entire vocal apparatus support (starting at the diaphragm and extending up to the upper end of the throat) that I believe Cause great resonance effects and tone.   And even these are further “supported” by the body parts underneath the diaphragm.

By the way, you read very well Steve–I don’t think many would have read my prior mumbled posting and got the meaning correctly.

More on the chest

July 24, 2010

A different philosophy:

In good singing, the sound is an expression of the entire body’s emotions.  In learning how to sing, it may be useful to keep certain parts of the body still in order to learn how to gain control, as moving body parts are difficult to learn how to control.   However, after learning some control (through posture alignments), the entire body should become emotionally expressive.   This means that the chest should move according to the desired emotional expression.

Sad singing–drop the chest to express sorrow.
Angry sing–raise and tense the chest.
Happy singing– raise and elate the chest.

Without the proper body posture, the emotion is very difficult to express properly because the muscles are in conflict.   If the emotions drive the body posture, the singing will be emotionally expressive.

Similar idea as in most sports.  In these, there is usually a starting neutral position that enables one to be able to quickly go into other positions.   But the other positions are where the execution take place most of the time.   Chest, same way.   Begin with a neutral position, but execute (change) according to the emotion desired.

should the chest be up or down

July 20, 2010

from  [quote=VIDEOHERE]hiya folks,
i’ve heard two schools of thought on these two subjects, can you let me know the better way to go?

1. when singing on stage, is it better to breathe from the nose or the mouth?…some say the mouth is better, but tends to dry the throat.

2. when inhaling should the chest be pushed up or left to itself? i know you want to expand the ribs and leave the shoulders down, but i thought it’s better to keep the chest unlifted.

thanks in advance, bob[/quote]
The nose is built for breathing, but when extra air is needed, the mouth can add.  Thereby, the answer to your question is how fast one needs to replenish the lungs.   If slowly, nose is better; if not (e.g. need air to sing next note), both.

Most people have posture problems, in particular, slouches.   Therefore, the correct position for most people is the chest pushed up, which is its natural state.  Unfortunately, most people have so much body tension that they slouch.   In slouching, the myofascia tissue, muscles, and spinal alignment actually adjust to a near-permanent tension state.   So, if the chest is then pushed up to its natural state, there is greater tension still.

So, the correct solution is to straighten the spine, which is a lengthy process.    The incorrect process is to minimize tension, which is to go into the most relaxed slouch state; which is the better short-term solution.

In short, the chest should be naturally pushed up and left to itself.

Gravely voice

July 20, 2010



I’d like to know how singers add a gravelly/growl effect to their voice.  I love it. It sounds so emotive, so passionate.  I’d like to be able to do it sometimes, to add as an effect when I sing blues songs etc, preferably in a way that’s not too bad for the voice.
…Here are some examples, first male:

Joe Cocker – … re=related

then female:

Bonnie Tyler – … re=related


>>>>I have a gravelly voice that I try to get rid of, so perhaps can answer this one.

It has a lot to do with how the upper part of the inner mouth (upper pallet?) is tense, and how the lower jaws protrude.  Protrude the lower jaw yourself, and you’ll see it looks like anger.   Cry a bit, and you’ll feel the upper pallet raise.

A gravelly voice is a result of these emotions suppressed as forms of muscular tension in the mouth and jaws.   Thus Joe Cocker’s singing sounds just like these emotions, with a lot of boldness added.

To gain a gravelly voice, then, is done, in part, by protruding out the jaws a bit, and then tensing the upper pallet such that it drops down a bit.  This is bad melodic singing technique.  Also, if you force it, it’s more difficult.  Try, somehow to see if you have such suppressed emotions and express these into the singing–then everything will be very natural.

Vocalposture says that the entire body is actually involved, such that the jaw and upper pallet changes are only partial.  

On the mentioned Bonnie Tyler’s video, one can even see how she does the gravelly and raspy.  When she wants this effect, her mouth frequently forms into a slight anger emotion shape.

The elder Joe Cocker no longer appears as angry as my recollection of the younger Joe.   Nevertheless, even in this video, observe that his mouth is not a melodic, but anger shaped (wheras the chorus women are very melodic happy mouth shaped, and sound just as).

These videos also illustrate the Zen concept– when you see Buddha, kill him.  Observe the women chorus in Cocker video– standard melodic pretty voices, and possibly well trained.  Cocker– non-standard.  What this means is that the Buddha is initially socially perceived as “correct, melodic singing”.   To kill the Buddha means, to bypass society’s norm of “correct, melodic singing”, and to express one’s own emotions and voice (thereby attaining the true Buddha).

What I noticed in your posting was all kinds of “singing techniques” to achieve the effect.  These two, I believe, are using emotions coupled with, suppressed emotions, and then singing techniques to achieve the effect.

how to sing aggressive highs

July 13, 2010

from discussion forum

I posted one of my original songs on that thread….
I was told by Guitartrek that I use falsetto to get higher notes, when I always believed it was my head voice, as I have a whole other voice that is lighter and more girly sounding.
So how do I access my head voice? Newb question!

I am completely baffled as to how to get powerful high notes with any aggression…at present my high notes are very gentle and soft.
Even “pulling chest” I top out early, around E4 I think….surely that’s not right?

Aggression is done primarily by the throat and mouth muscles.    See a GRR on your face and you’ll see how the outer throat, lips, and mouth show the aggression.

Highs is done by the vocal cords.  

Power in the highs can be attained either by lung power or by greater resonance.   High-volume lung-powered-highs are difficult and tough on your vocal cords.   Highly resonance highs are not nearly as tough on the vocal cords and sound almost as aggressive as high volume lung-powered highs and can be greater in sound volume.

So, if you want high-power highs with aggression, the least harsh on your vocal cords is a highly resonanting high with some degree of throat and mouth musclar aggression and added with a bit of high volume lung aggression.   The difficulties involved are:

  1. Highs resonance can be challenging as it involves removing a lot of tensed muscles.
  2.  Ensuring that highs resonance control doesn’t conflict with the throat and muscles aggression controls.


All these flow smoothly if your vocal tract is in good muscle tone and with just a little practice—as in good tone means having good singing posture.

However, odds are overwhelming that your posture isn’t set up right yet, so it may then be difficult to do.


July 13, 2010

Getting back to this important topic, now that I’ve made several adjustments in my singing methods.  Man, this was a lot to read from this support group.

This makes more sense to me; and, to incorporate into my frame of reference:

“Support” as used in the above postings, other than Pete’s support as in meaning musical-hearing, is defined as mostly muscular power sources focusing on the lungs and vocal cords.   According to the above, these muscular sources can counterpose each other.   My opinion is that this approach misses several factors.

First, there’s the skeletal structural support, which supports all the other tissues.   If the skeletal system’s posture isn’t correct, there is continual tension on some muscles and excessive relaxation on others.   It is these muscles that then supports and then powers the air emitting organs, including the lungs and vocal cords.

Having correct posture results in the muscles stretched in tone; this is what is meant by good muscle tone, and I suggest that it might be more than coincidence that the word “tone” reflects both vocal and muscle states.  The ancients probably thought about this, and said of a singer with good tone meaning that he or she has good muscle tone.

With good muscle tone, the above-described counterposing muscles described work properly; without good muscle tone, the singer always has to consciously exert forces fighting muscle tensions.

We’re dealing with a lengthy resonance and sound emitting tract, and it is not only counterposing muscles on a specific organ, but also entire muscle groups.  The only way, it would seem to me, to attain good muscle tone is first attain good posture.

Also, I tend to believe in the above postings, there is too much focus on the vocal cords.   People are very good, in my opinion, at producing the right pitch with the vocal cords—because this is primarily a nerve channel from the brain to the vocal cords.   The evidence for this is overwhelming, as it is how children learn to talk.

What’s difficult about singing is how to amplify and control the resononance of the vocal cords’ pitch.   It is here that the quality of the voice is primarily assessed.   And because the vocal tract and head resonance involve so many points of muscular controls and, as stated above, having bad posture means there are innumerable unresolved muscular and skeletal tension areas.

Some have said the body is like a standing tuning resonance fork.   Proper support would then suggest to mean setting up the structural bones to resonate with the mood being expressed.   This means, if sad song, head tends to drop a bit; if rhythmical, body moves in rhythm; if strong, bold chested.   Not just for the visual effect, but because the resonance patterns and power sources immediately change to reflect the intended sound desired.

Having good posture means that the muscles are in tone; this is another way of saying relaxed yet being able to have power potential.   One can stiffen oneself into good posture, but this will tighten already taut muscles, and not produce desired sound effects.   Toned good posture is appropriate here. 

As it relates to what does support mean—my opinion would be:

  1. The tone of the muscles is a major influencer on the counterposing muscles sound effects.
  2. The tone of the muscles affect resonance.
  3. The structural support affect the tone of the muscles.
  4. Hence, a major part of singing boils down to in-tone posture, which is what is good support should mean.

Muscles questions

July 12, 2010

Very interesting post, Steve!  May I ask some questions?

[quote=Steven Fraser]  In singing, we train the enormously powerful #1 action of breathing to be more subtle, and we lessen (or eliminate) the motions of #2 and #3 so that they do not overpower the teeny, weenie laryngeal muscles.

How do these overpower the laryngeal muscles, and I don’t understand the singing-sound effects of all four.  What does, for example, laryngeal have to do with sound other than volume?

[quote=Steven Fraser]
In singing, the way that #2 and #3 are lessened is to make them part of the posture.  If you don’t move them much as you breathe in and out, they don’t add unwanted, or uncontrolled breath energy.  Its very hard to do either thing subtly.   Keeping the sternum in one place prevents gravity from powering air out of the body.  It does not necessarily have to be high… just not moving when you breathe in and out.   FYI, classical singers very often adopt a ‘high sternum’ chest position… and leave it there all the time.  It looks a bit better on stage 🙂

When #2 and #3 motions are stilled, breathing happens entirely by #1, the diaphragmatic action in coordination with the abdominal muscles.  This is very often called ‘belly breathing’, ‘low breathing’, ‘breathing from the diaphragm’, etc.  All those terms mean that only motions of the diaphragm and the abdominal muscles are involved in moving the air.   This takes us back to the kind of breathing your body does when you are asleep.  Same thing as a baby does.  You have breathed this way your whole life.


Also, very interesting.   My thinking is to be as natural as possible–that is, letting the lyric’s intended emotion drive the responding body posture.   Though most of the time, the body is stilled, I don’t understand how continually stilling helps to emit (create) the singing emotion.   I understand “it’s very hard to do either thing subtly.”, but what is difficult with deliberate action may not be nearly as difficult emotionally.  For example, deliberately crying is more difficult than emotionally crying.

Fundamentally, I don’t understand why stilling muscles is a good approach.

Technical training and dance

July 12, 2010

from [quote=ronws]I know this thread has aged a little bit. But I have thought about it some more. I think most any system of training, whether full of technical jargon or hokey imagery can benefit and expand a range and ability, primarily because it is offering some training and method by which to approach singing.
I still get plenty from technical descriptions. To me, knowledge is like a salad bar. Try the julienned carrots, they might be good.[/quote]

Can we learn dancing best by naming the muscles, explaining how ligaments worked, and  analyzing the physics of muscle contractions?  That is, instead of teaching steps and movements and interpretations, dance instructions becomes more anatomical, for example, contract the tibilias posterior slightly, tighten the peroneus brevis, set the rhomboideus major at 30 degrees, would dance teaching be served?

The ridiculous part of singing via SUBTLE anatomy descriptions is evident.   This isn’t to say anatomy descriptions can’t be used– just as in dance, one can say, move the calf half way forward, but the subtle anatomy descriptions such as accelerate the gastrocnemus while lengthening the peronus longus are inane. 

And worse yet, these subtle descriptions are 90% likely to be wrong.  I’ll bet the physics-physiology for even the simplest dance is extremely difficult, as the body is a vertical figure in balance, counter-balance, and doing all kinds of 3D, very complicated supports, contractions, and motions.

If we can’t even understand well the physics-physiology of dance, which we can see and uses the physics of better understood hard motions, what makes one think one can use physics-physiology for singing, which we can’t see and deal with lesser understood physics of soft tissues?

Temporary link to book review

July 11, 2010

Temporary link to book review.   Not relevant to this blog.