Archive for March, 2013

Head voice, frequency, bones, and power.

March 30, 2013

I’ve thought about the examples MDEW provided, and would like to propose these following experiments.  Most of these are “open” (not enclosed) acoustic explanations, and are incorrect for the vocal tract.  Enclosed system explanation must be explained, e.g. a guitar.

If one has two metal bars separated and suspended in air using strings, and one vibrates, the other only will vibrate only very, very slightly, and only after some time.  This is caused by air frequency pulsations.

If the two metal bars are connected at base using metal– a tuning fork– and one side vibrates, the other will vibrate strongly.  The sound heard is the two metals’ frequencies pulsating the air between the two metal stems.   The air pulsations generate sound and reinforces the metals’ frequencies, but the power remains with the metal frequencies.   Resonance is the metals’ and air-in-between common frequencies reinforcing each other.   This explains MDEW’s statement that a tuning fork is placed on a piano and not in the air contained with the piano–because the bulk of the frequency power is carried not by the air, but by hard surfaces.

In a bass drum, the large diaphragms provide not only a different natural frequency, but also more air power.   Is the bass drum’s vibrating resonating frequency’s power driven by the drum’s open space air or by the sides of the drums?    If we take a paper cup close to our ear, and hit the closed end, we would hear loudly the air power.   If we again take the paper cup and cup it to our ear and hit the closed end, we would not only hear a louder hit, but also feel the vibrations of the hit.    Thereby, I believe in the bass drum, most of the frequency power is still carried by the sides; the diaphragms’ do carry more air power and the air power do create the sound and reinforce the internal resonance, but the bulk of the power remains with the physical drums’ sides’ transmssions.

Another example shows this.   If we take two huge gongs, line these up separated, and hit first with force, will the second gong vibrate?  Yes, but very little.  Will the two resonate?  Yes, but very little, as air transmission transferring significant power is very slow.   Air power cause sound, can reinforce the frequencies when resonanting, but air power doesn’t carry sufficient power.

With the head, “sound” is created in the air filled empty cavities–the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, chest, and sinus.   But the bulk of the power of carrier of frequency is through the bones.    Soft tissues, such as the tongue, soft palate dampen the “air” sound and if obstructing, can muffle the sound.  Hard surfaces– the hard palate, all bony parts, carry the bulk of the frequencies’ power.  Hence, the analogy of the hard palate acting as a sound board is correct.

The power of the frequencies is carried by the bones, obstructed and dampened by soft tissues, propagated as sound by air space, and resonated by the bones and air as resonance.  The head voice is resonanted by both the sinuses and nasal cavity (because I don’t believe the nasal cavity is especially filled with soft tissues, like the tongue).


antihistamines, meds with side-effects of hoarseness, zyrtex–singing

March 29, 2013

I’ve avoided most antihistamines because they made me drowsy.   Zyrtex much less so, and it took less than 1/4 tablet per day to stop my runny nose and itchy eyes.  Recently, took an course (1/8 to 1/4 tablet daily) for only 20 days.

Zyrtex continued an ache in my nasal cavity, close to throat,  and felt a bit like sore throat.  The initial ache was result of a cold.

As zyrtex relates to singing, I did fine for about 12 days, except for the ache.   Then, one day as I yelled at someone, I felt my vocal cords became sore and a bit raspy, and my soft palate acted funny.   Rested a day, and everything remained fine.

Five days later, I lost power in my highs and control of subtle singing effects because my soft palate wasn’t moving right.   And, my singing simply sounded funny.    On 20th day, discontinued zyrtex.

Three days later, my singing has returned 90%.

My belief is that while zyrtex stopped the mucus in my nasal cavity, and it also dried out my soft palate and fluids for vocal cords.   Result was couldn’t control my singing voice.

So, in general, if a medication indicates a side effect may be hoarseness, this also says it probably hasn’t been tested solely on a group of singers, and to be very observant on its singing effects.

Raise soft palate or widen pillars of fauces?

March 28, 2013

Individuals are different, and in particular, vocal tension patterns can be very different.

I had read so often here to raise the soft palate. Yet, in Alan Greene’s book, the New Voice, he says– to billow out the pillars of fauces and RELAX the soft palate.

I’ve experimented with both and believe Alan Greene is right. Here’s why.

The pathways to the cavities that resonante high frequencies (nasal cavities and sinuses)–is through the nasal-pharynx pathway or through the bony part of the upper mouth (hard palate). The soft palate, together with the position of the throat-neck and larynx, control the “mix” of the sounds going out to the mouth, the hard palate, and nasal-pharynx.

Deliberately lifting my soft palate has consistently produced too bright of a sound.      When I tried to billow out the pillars of fauces (sides of soft palate) and relax the soft palate, this enabled the soft palate to freely move, providing a great deal subtly because the mix is now fast in emotional adjustments.   The widening of the pillars of fauces enables adequate air-sound to reach the nasal cavities.

I just don’t think this idea of raising the soft palate is right.  Even if someone has lots of downward tension in soft palate, the idea should be to get rid of  this tension to enable for a free soft palate, as its significant voice mix capabilities determine much of the vocal quality.

Unable to sing highs despite constricted abs

March 27, 2013


2. Breath support: My vocal coach tells me to constrict my abs when singing higher. However, no matter how hard I constrict them, I don’t feel any difference, high notes are still as hard as before. I don’t think that it’s about the strength of my abs, instead, I must be doing it incorrectly. Where should I feel tension when singing, upper/lower part of my belly? Do you have any other advice on finding the correct way to support my breath?

Thank you for any advice![/quote]

Constricting your abs does several things:

1. Provides stronger support to create a consistent posture that creates a consistent tone.
2. Pushes forward the lower back and then uplifts the chest, which then uplifts the throat and head, all of which facilitate the higher tones to resonante more in the head.
3. I don’t understand why this is so, but when the throat-neck is set more backwards (because stronger abdominal constriction sets posture more aligned), the vocal apparatus is more relaxed to emit higher pitched sounds. This vocal apparatus includes the soft palate and pillars of fasces, and these two enable the transmission through the nasal-area to enable high resonance.
4. Many other things as well.

So, you may be constricting your abs support, yet not activating all the other necessary items of the vocal tract. One likely area is lowering the larynx. If you’re raising the larynx, the tightening the abs won’t help much.

Voice changes after waking

March 25, 2013


My two cents worth.

Your vocal tract is relaxed when you wake up. It tenses throughout the day, due to a number of possible reasons, including, emotional tension, body cycles, bad posture, feelings and mood, type of food ingested, playing guitar, difficult tasks, etc., and gravity.

The vocal tract is attached to all other parts of one’s body, so tension arising from elsewhere can affect the vocal tract, reshaping your sound production methods.

Food, playing guitar, difficult tasks are easy to test, and emotional tension is easy to spot.   The others require more awareness–ergonomics, posture, feelings and moods.   These latter three can be fixed by ergonomics furniture and posture alignment (this is difficult to do though).  The feelings and moods are fixed via posture alignment, as described in meditation principles.

The question is less regarding why you’re tensioning when playing guitar, and instead, why your body doesn’t “detense” after playing the guitar and does so during your sleep.   In general, this is probably due to one’s posture alignment isn’t right, because if the posture is correct, then the counteracting muscles will pull and detense the tensed muscles when posture is straight.


>>>Hello, i have a problem with my voice. When i wake up my whole vocal system is very relaxed and i can hit from C2 to G6 and all the notes in between without any strain. My vocal fry is edgy and tone is clear, in short everything is perfect and i am really happy:D.

The bad news are that this quality and range (i dont care much about my whistle though its fun to have) is lost throughout the day and even within 1-2 hours without doing anything vocally… i mean not vocalizing at all. Vocal fry goes “bye bye” and i have to push to get the very high notes and i am limited from an F2 to a pushed G5 at best or ~G2 – ~D5 “solid” range. Also the quality degrades with little bit air, edge is greatly reduced. Only good thing is my highs E4-C5 become somewhat more powerful and easy to hit with fuller voice.

I think i am tensioning myself. Many times i find out i am tensioning especially when i play guitar or piano difficult exercises i am straining my jaw and probably my neck. This also happens without any activities, i mean doing nothing at all… :/

Any thoughts / advices?

Tilt the thyroid?

March 18, 2013

Well, I don’t know much about the thyroid, but my understanding is that it is a very well protected part of the throat.  I wasn’t even aware it could be tilted or felt.    Do they mean, tilt the larynx so that it feels like tilting the thyroid?

Here’s a video of a healthy neck-throat. Notice that it is convex in alignment!

So, in order to “tilt the thyroid”, it helps to get the neck-throat in convex alignment to start out with. Most people tilt head forward, and, as can be seen, there’s less larynx to “tilt” if one’s head (and chest) are already tilted forward (kyphosis).

This is actually a fairly difficult process, involving much with posture.    Tennelli also has some videos on larynx use in appoggio.   Tennelli somewhere says that if the diaphragm isn’t used properly, manipulations with the thyroid won’t work properly.

Well, I don’t know if this helps, but good luck!

>>>  I’ve heard of “tilting the thyroid” many, mnay times. I just… have no idea how to do it. Can somebody help me, or at least give me some advice? I have quite literally no idea what I’m doing- and my new vocal teacher, a baritone, isn’t much help either. I’ve tried crying, sobbing and whimpering my way past a G4- but it never works- I just slip right into falsetto.


March 18, 2013

Occlusion effect is a more bassy hearing of one’s own voice when something is in the ear. You can experiment with this yourself but simply pushing the ears shut with fingers and humming.

Most earplugs are not linear in frequency reception, so, yes with foam earplugs, you might sound flat. There are several products that will can solve this. The best I’ve seen are Etymotic’s–preferably custom Musician’s earplugs or the less costly Musicians earplugs.

With the standard Musicians earplugs ($15 US), these will not get rid of occlusion, but music will sound great.

If getting custom made ones, request deeply inserted custom made earplugs ($225). These come with different filter strengths (5, 15, 25 db). The deep insertions will significantly reduce occlusion (I believe by over 85%). When shopping for deeply inserted custom earplugs, find audiologist who really knows what he or she is doing. These go deep into the ear canal.

Hearing is mental as well as physical. So, for example, if one puts in earplugs for some time, surprisingly, the ears will actually want to hear better, so mentally amplifies sounds. The earplugs will protect much of the physical frequencies coming in from the direction of the ear canal (but not the bassy sounds coming in from the bones). But, the ears mentally wants to hear better still.  So, I guess it’s possible that you will hear tinnitus (mental) even after wearing earplugs.

Anyhow, the answer is custom made, deeply inserted earplugs.   You can also reduce tinnitus by using nature sound machines.

>>>>Basically, the occlusion effect as I understand it is the resonance that builds in the ear canal when plugs or in-ears are worn, as sound is plugged like a tub inside. This can cause flat pitch perception, but more frighteningly, hearing damage. As you can imagine, the very reason I would wear/do wear ear plugs is to protect my hearing, so thinking I may do the opposite is really scary.

My last band practice I started without plugs (we don’t play that loud, but I am pretty close to the drums) and then I switched to plugs (some ones I found in my house, silicon, with the spiral cones, no attenuation add on far as I could tell) which gave me a a significant DB reduction. On the outside anyway. The thing is, I don’t know how accurately I was singing. It felt a lot better, I wasn’t straining at all because I could hear exactly (or I thought exactly) what was coming out. I know there is no way besides asking my band members (who were also mostly plugged) and recording to hear if my pitch was compromised. I suppose I could crank the vocals so I can hear them better from the outside.

But even if I am singing as well as I thought, it does not ease my concerns of the other component of the occlusion effect, hearing damage. I felt like my ears might have been ringing later that night, which is something that never happens when I play unplugged. If I am damaging my hearing from the inside from the resonance of my own voice, that is no good. Though, I guess it means my technique is fairly good, haha!

I noticed a couple threads on this topic, but it related more to the pitch perception side of things than the hearing damage (which as a musician and music enjoyer) is higher priority.

What are the experiences and opinions of our very own Modern Vocalist Forum members? Maybe you have this figured out. Maybe have some plugs you could… plug. Or maybe you have further worries you could impart onto me about this seemingly unavoidable hearing damage.