Recently, many singers
have written to me with questions about the middle voice or middle register.
Problems in this mid-range are quite common in both male and female voice. Many
female singers complain that their voice "cuts out" in the middle voice leaving
very little resonance or volume. However, male singers usually complain about
their high notes. It is interesting that the solution to both problems is found
in the same concept; lower larynx position.
singers allow their larynx to rise as they come down from the high range into
middle register. Most of the time, they concentrate on "low larynx" as they
go up. However, they do not concentrate on "low larynx" as they go down. (Low
larynx is NOT achieved by depressing the larynx with the root of the tongue.
It is a reflex action that is trained at inhalation.) This is critical for one
major reason: if the larynx is allowed to rise on a descending passage and the
singer then tries to go up, the high register will not coordinate properly.
A "squeezed tone" will occur in the upper register and often loss of high notes
altogether. I have found that singers must train the larynx not to go up as
they descend a scale. Often when a singer "listens instead of feels", the high-larynxed
throat position creates a deception that the singer is bringing "head resonance"
down. In actuality, if the larynx is allowed to rise, he/she is simply closing
the throat. Lower overtones are lost with a high-larynxed singing position.
Basically, pharyngeal vowels must be maintained in every register. Certainly
the larynx must be allowed to rise slightly in the higher register, however,
as William Vennard explains, the "pivot of the larynx" must occur going up AND
coming down. The pivot of the larynx is a gradual tilting down and forward as
the singer goes up in pitch. This is necessary for true "head voice" to occur.
Many singers use a "squeezed tone" thinking that it is authentic head voice.
The opposite extreme is a "depressed larynx" which is equally dangerous. I remember
a quote by Joan Sutherland: "I used to vocalize my middle register before a
performance while some of my colleagues wore out their high notes. I knew if
the middle register was vocalized properly, then the high notes would be there."
(Higher singers must beware of "weighting" the middle register by using too
much "cord mass"; this effects the upper register adversely.)
the larynx is trained to descend gently with inhalation (THE SINGER SHOULD NEVER
PUSH THE LARYNX DOWN WITH THE ROOT OF THE TONGUE), the back wall of the throat
is trained to open beyond the back of the tongue. The soft palate is trained
to lift and the result will be "pharyngeal vowels" or an open throat. Once this
space is achieved, it has been my experience that a perfect blending of the
registers is the result. Jussi Bjoerling is a great singer to study when considering
middle register. His voice never "thinned out" when going down into
HOW DOES A SINGER KEEP
THIS OPENING? The answer is in the open body and support system. (See articles
on breath and breathe management.) Open body is necessary for "open throat"
to be sustained. Authentic "head voice" has warmth and color. It is achieved
from a truly open acoustical space. Many young singers are allowed to sing with
a "high larynx" because it is heard as a way of "lightening" the voice. This
is a dangerous trap. High-larynxed singing over a period of time can create
permanent vocal damage.
(1) Breathe the larynx slightly down during the preparation breath. This can
be achieved by monitoring the larynx with the fingertips to see if it slightly
descends at inhalation. Also, one should monitor the root of the tongue to be
sure that it is not too stiff. The tongue must descend somewhat with the lowering
of the larynx, however, the tongue-muscle should not stiffen.
(2) Sing the Italian "u" sliding up and down on an ascending interval of a major
third. Think a slight "rocking" of the larynx down and forward as you ascend
through that interval. Take this up gradually through the middle register. You
will find that the "head voice" will come in naturally with this exercise.
(3) Learning correct laryngeal function applied to language: Sing the Italian
syllables da, me, ni, po, to, la in the middle register on a single repeated
pitch. Be sure that the "larynx descends" slightly after every consonant. This
will set up proper laryngeal function in preparation for repertoire. Alan Lindquest
strongly suggested the Sieber Vocalises published by Shirmer. The basic vocalises
are the perfect bridge between vocalizing and singing repertoire. Sieber was
an Italian-trained Viennese voice teacher who wrote these vocal exercises with
one very crucial idea in mind: to arrange the vowels so that proper vowel modification
can occur and a blending of the registers can be achieved. The result is a much
more open throat and more resonance in vocal production.
To teachers and singers
alike, I wish you the best luck in finding and executing healthy singing. Please
address any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org