Vocal Vocabulary And A Few Common Myths

Terms used in vocal tecnique are often non-univeral and non-specific, which creates huge problems. It is also an evolving science. A student might be learning from multiple teachers and hearing conflicting statements. The best teachers are those open to what is new based on the latest science, and are flexible to let go of outdated techniques which are no longer efficient. Here I have listed some terms you may have heard, what they mean, and if they are still valid based on current findings.

Fricative: a sound made by forcing air out of your mouth through a narrow opening that is made using the lips, teeth, or tongue. 

Plosive:  a consonant that is produced by stopping the airflow using the lips, teeth, or palate, followed by a sudden release of air.  tk, and p (voiceless) and dg, and b (voiced)

Valsalva maneuver: the action of attempting to exhale with the nostrils and mouth, or the glottis, closed. This increases pressure in the middle ear and the chest, as when bracing to lift heavy objects, and is used as a means of equalizing pressure in the ears.

Vibrato: a rapid, slight variation in pitch in singing or playing some musical instruments, producing a stronger or richer tone.

Knödel (Dumpling): A swallowed sound where the back of the tongue is holding a rasied larynx, like a Kermit the Frog sound.

Onset: Beginning of a phrase.

Offset: Ending of a phrase.

Breath Support: The physical resistance of the exhalation gesture using muscles of the torso. We hold back what we are blowing out. It is a gesture of less, not a gesture of more. (It is not a pushing gesture.)

Breathing System: a small steady stream of air that can only be created by holding back the exhale with muscles of the torso.

Diaphram: an inhalation muscle which devides the torso, front to back, and pulls air into the body. When the diaphram is passive, the air goes out.

Flageolet: Flute voice. A squeeky high register of the voice on an ee or oo sound,  like Mariah Carey's high pitch runs.

Common Myths:

You must sing from your diaphram!

This is based on a mistake in identity. The diaphram is an inhalation muscle only. The diaphram doesn't engage in the exhalation process. The goal of this myth is to get a singer to breath low in the body and use the muscles of the torso on the exhale, instead of using high breathing (Clavicular) which is harder to control. Technically wrong but with good intension.

Who I am not: I am not a singer who is teaching voice to make some extra money.

Private Lessons: Every singer is unique. Each voice is completely unique. Though there are similarities, every instrument works in a different way, every mind thinks in a different way, everybody's goals are a little bit different. As your teacher, I will design unique exercises specifically for you. I love teaching because every moment is different. I approach teaching voice like a new kind of art form, a new form of craft, and big part of that art is, "How do I make something just for this person."

The safe enviromnent I create for my singers is one where you can fail, where you can take risks, where you can make awful, flat, cracking, pitchy, ugly sounds, on your way to success.

The voice is something different from any other instrument because it is attached to the person we are and our identity. The voice is YOU. It is the person. Many singers come to me with scars and baggage and hang-ups about their singing: a negative message, a distructive comment, from their past, their childhood, from friends, parents, teachers. Somebody somewhere told them their singing is bad. Your voice is a big part of your identity. Those comments make it so that you have some negitivity attached to your sound, who you are as a person.

I personally had the opposite experience. I was always told I was a great singer, most likely because I had a good sense of rhythm and decent pitch and could put on a show. I was in every talent show and sang in choirs. I even did singing telegrams. I had zero stage fright. Until..... I became an adult and went to college. That is when I took music classes and discovered everything I had been doing incorrectly. Can you say: perfectionist. If it wasn't going to come out of my mouth perfectly, I wasn't going to let anyone hear it. Not good enough. Suddenly, I had horrible stage fright and when anyone would dare complement me, I thought they were "just being nice." I thought everyone who had ever complemented me my whole life had basically been lying to me. It went one step further: what else is wrong with me that people have been "too nice" about? 

My other non-singing experience: I have worked different careers in my life, all unique and creative with a touch of techinical thrown in. I attribute this to both nature and nurture: my mother being an Art & and Crafts Teacher who has won many blue ribbons for her unique quilts. And my father, an engineer for NASA and also a teacher of mathematics. So I'm a Right-Brain/Left-Brain person. I am know for "reading the manual" then making the darn thing do what it isn't supposed to do.

I had a clothing line in the 1980s called "Bizzare Creations" making custom bathingsuits and also silk screen t-shirts and stage attire for local rock bands. I was a hairstylist for many years. I own a wig salon and have created many unique items, including the clip-on bangs (which I should have patented.) I have designed wigs for many tribute bands, been featured on television, and also made custom designs for companies like L'oreal, Aspen and Wig America. I have always been interested in Multi-media, managed a web design company back in the mid 1990s (yes, there was the internet back then, barely) dabbled in graphic arts, and love video production. My 5 bedroom house has every room in a different theme, and I also have a few unique cars.