Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Phonation and singing

As a teacher I always found that trying to encourage a singer who forces toward a more easy and healthy production was extremely difficult and often entangling task. 
Through years of such attempts I had the best success by describing the phonation versus breath relationship in this way.
Controlling the exhale is simply a matter of balancing the action of the exhaling abdominal muscles with the gentle resistance of the diaphragm. We have a sense of the movement of the abdominals but we do not have that same sense of the movement and resistance of the diaphragm. So some easy exercise to make one aware of the balancing between abdominal and diaphragm is necessary. I found that the act of gently expelling a small amount of warm, moist breath on my fingertips when placed at the lips of the open mouth did the trick. It is much the same action one uses to steam eye glasses for cleaning. During this process, if one pays special attention, it is possible to sense the gentle tension of the abdominals in the lower pelvic region and also sense of suspended breath in the epigastric region just below the breast bone while the gentle warm moist breath is being expelled.
This is the essence of the singer's breath. Now start a small, soft yet clearly attacked tone with this breath. In so doing the vocal folds are closing just firmly enough so that the expelling air must push them apart so they can close again. The is the only vocal fold pressure needed to produce tone. It is proper phonation. If you swell the tone louder, the vocal folds will simply close a bit more firmly and more breath pressure is needed to blow them apart but that slight increase in needed breath pressure is almost completely immeasurable and the singer's sensation is mostly that the tone is automatically louder. It is never necessary nor desirable to sense that the folds are holding back the breath. There should be no tension in the throat. There should be a slightly increased sense of tension in the abdominals as they act against the increased resistance of the diaphragm to control the breath, but the vocal folds are not the primary resistance to the exhale as is often imagined by the forced tone singer.
Lloyd W. Hanson

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